|Tuesday, 14 July 2020|
Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-03-12
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>
Tuesday, March 12, 2002
 New citizens will do army when they turn 18By George Psyllides
EIGHTEEN-year-old men who have just graduated and have automatically gained citizenship under a controversial amendment to the citizenship law will be called to armed service, a defence ministry official said yesterday.
Speaking before the House Internal Affairs Committee, the ministry's Permanent Secretary Christos Papadopoulos said that, according to the Attorney-general's ruling, the people affected by the law would have to serve in the armed forces.
The amendment, passed on December 31, 2000, provides that those born on or after August 16, 1960, automatically gain Cypriot citizenship if their mother is Cypriot.
Until then, the law granted automatic citizenship only to those born to a Cypriot father.
The amendment, which caught the Defence Ministry unawares, has provoked concern among Greeks living on the island, as they constitute the majority of foreigners affected.
Papadopoulos told the committee that 18-year-olds affected by the amendment would be called to armed service.
But, according to the letter of the law, people up to the age of 42 could also have to serve a 26-month stint in the National Guard.
Papadopoulos said the matter of older men would be studied by the ministry in order to find ways of resolving it.
The representative of the island's Greek Associations, Theodoros Tsioupis, said they never reacted to the island's right to legislate, but that the retroactive nature of the law had created huge problems for them.
He said that these problems would have been avoided if the law had simply come into force on the date it had been published, and revealed that many Greeks were now contemplating returning to Greece, which could mean divorcing their wives.
Greeks had been deprived of any citizenship right for so many years and now they were being forced to do the army, Tsioupis said.
But Greeks were also bitter about comments made by Defence Minister Socratis Hasikos, who said Greeks would not be allowed to dodge the army twice.
He said that no one was exempted from army service in Greece, adding that Hasikos could not call them draft dodgers as they had served in Cyprus and fought against the Turkish invasion of the island.
The Greek association said they had at least expected to be informed before the approval of the law. Instead, they were completely ignored and found out they had to do the army from the television.
They said that they had twice offered to join the National Guard reserves, but "if we said what the reply was in public everyone would be offended".
Deputy Attorney-general Petros Clerides said it was up to him to decide on the matter, adding that it was up to the House to decide whether they were going to stick with the law or discard it.
DIKO deputy Marios Matsakis pointed out the law effectively legalised thousands of Turkish settlers, an argument quickly refuted by Clerides, who said the citizenship law provided that the law could not apply in cases where any of the parents had entered the island illegally.
The Greek association suggested that there should be a transitional period like there had been in Greece when a similar law was passed in 1984.
Clerides said there was no problem with such an idea, as long as such a provision was not unconstitutional.
The committee will continue discussion of the issue on Tuesday in the presence of the Defence Minister.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Government concern over bases plansBy Jean Christou
THE GOVERNMENT is monitoring developments related to reports that the British bases plan to upgrade from a staging base to an operational base, spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said yesterday.
"We have not been formally informed about any plans to upgrade the British Bases
on the island," Papapetrou said. "Our long standing position is that we do not favour at all any move or activity in the area of the Bases which would put at risk either the Republic of Cyprus or its people."
Papapetrou was reiterating statements made to the Sunday Mail last week when the paper reported statements in the bases' Cyprus Lion. The report was later picked up by international agencies.
In an interview with the Lion last Friday, Lieutenant General John Reith, the chief of Joint Operations at the Permanent Joint Headquarters in Northwood, said during a fact finding visit to the Bases that he discussed plans to make the island "more useful than it is now" and to "develop Cyprus into a forward operating base."
"The entire matter is being monitored very carefully by the government," Papapetrou said. Asked if Britain could change the status of the Bases without consulting the government, he said Nicosia could not interfere with the way the Bases operated.
"Our interventions are of a political nature, in the sense that we try to convince of our views or exert some kind of influence in one or another direction," Papapetrou said.
Bases spokesman Robert Need told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) yesterday that Reith had been at the Bases last week on a "fact finding mission which had nothing to do with discussions US Vice President Dick Cheney was having in London" with regard to possible military action against Iraq.
"Nothing has changed since Reith made those statements," Need said.
"The Bases are used to stage military operations because this is what the Bases were retained for. Without military operations, we have no legitimacy."
Asked if the government would be informed of any decision regarding the status and role of the Bases, he said London did not have to inform the government of the Republic. "But out of courtesy we generally do," he said.
Cyprus tourism suffered an alarming drop in arrivals during the Gulf War in 1991, which took years to correct as tourists perceived the island to be close to the conflict.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Clerides off for EU Barcelona summitPRESIDENT Glafcos Clerides leaves on Thursday for Spain to take part in the Barcelona European Council, to be held on Friday and Saturday, Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said yesterday.
This is the first time the EU has invited candidate countries to participate in its deliberations.
Clerides will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides, Finance Minister Takis Klerides and Government Spokesman Papapetrou, and will participate in the Meeting of Heads of state and government of the EU member states and candidate countries to be held on March 15.
In Barcelona, Cassoulides will participate in the Meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers of EU member states and candidate countries and Takis Klerides will take part in the Meeting of Ministers for Economic Affairs of EU member states and candidate countries. Both meetings will take place on March 15.
Clerides will return to the island on March 16. He has suggested bringing forward to Thursday morning his meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, which had been scheduled for Friday. Clerides and Denktash began face-to-face talks in mid-January, aimed at find a comprehensive solution to the protracted Cyprus problem. Their next meeting is due to take place today.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Limassol police: 'We didn't fine tourists in smoking raid'By Alexia Saoulli
LIMASSOL police yesterday defended their actions in an anti-smoking raid that saw nightclub patrons fined £20 for having a puff.
But Health Minister Frixos Savvides expressed surprise at their actions, saying an anti-smoking bill invoked by police had not yet been passed, while existing legislation barring smoking in public places had never been enforced.
On Friday night, police entered Rosie O'Grady's in Limassol and started handing out £20 fines to a number of smoking patrons.
Club owner Stavros Christophorou said three officers from the crime prevention unit had raided the club and informed him that a month ago the law had been amended and that it was now illegal to smoke in public places.
Christophorou said tourists had been among those fined. Police denied this.
But Health Minister Savvides told the Cyprus Mail yesterday the amendment cited by police had not yet been passed and was still only at the committee stage.
"The new smoking law is still only in its preliminary stages," Savvides said. "It has not yet been voted on. We are looking over all the details and what allowances can be made and where".
He added that the current law might forbid smoking in nightclubs, but was not sure since it had never really been enforced. If it did, it would at least have provided legal justification for the fines.
Christophorou said he found himself watching his earnings dwindle as his customers got up to leave.
"How can I be expected to make a living when my clients are getting fined for smoking in a place they always have (smoked). This is bad for business and tourism," he said, adding that tourists expected to go on holiday and have fun, not go into a smoker-friendly club and get fined.
Christophorou said his customers had been very angry, but that most would probably not end up paying as he had told tourists to throw away the fines since they were leaving the country anyway.
The fine was written on a slip of paper and offenders had to go to the nearest police station to pay, he said.
A Limassol police spokesman yesterday defended his officers, saying they had been authorised to crack down on smoking in public places, but claimed only Cypriot customers had been fined, as well as the owner for allowing his customers to smoke.
"Of course we did not fine tourists," he said, "they don't know the law".
He accused the owner of the club of exaggerating the story to give the police would get bad press.
"We can tell the difference between tourists and locals," he said, "because we ask them where they are from. If they tell us United Kingdom or Holland, then they're tourists. If there is any doubt, we ask to see their passport".
A Nicosia police spokesman, however, said no campaign against smoking had been ordered.
"Under the existing law, smoking is not allowed in public places, but the law has never been enforced. I don't know if they've decided to implement it in Limassol or not, but in Nicosia we have had no such order. Although technically smoking in clubs is illegal, everyone does it, so we've always turned a blind eye," he said.
However, a senior political source yesterday cast doubt on why the club may have been raided in the first place: "I think this club hosts transvestite shows, so the police might just have wanted to cause some trouble and check up on the place. But not finding anything, decided to fine them for smoking instead."
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Authorities under fire for failure to co-operate with OmbudswomanBy George Psyllides
ONE of the biggest problems faced by the Ombudswoman is the refusal of government departments to co-operate or comply with her suggestions, the House Institutions Committee heard yesterday.
Ombudswoman Eliana Nicolaou told the committee that several government departments approached during investigations of complaints flagrantly delayed their replies, stalled the process or simply refused to co-operate or comply with suggestions.
Nicolaou said public authorities' accountability was one of the biggest problems faced by her service, adding it was they that were accountable to the ombudsman, not vice versa.
She said compliance with suggestions was not uniform and only around 65 per cent of them were actually put in effect.
Among the least co-operative were local authorities, although some progress had been made, Nicolaou said.
Presenting her annual report to the committee, Nicolaou said there had been 1,332 complaints last year, compared to1, 270 for 2000, and that the number was increasing steadily.
Complaints ranged from human right issues to education, town planning, etc.
Nicolaou added complaints were becoming more serious, and investigations therefore had to probe deeper.
"Naturally, this evokes reactions (from those under investigation) but we have to face them," she said.
Nicolaou said the increase in complaints could be put down to the Ombudsman's service becoming better known to the public, who were becoming more demanding as they gained new rights.
Complaints concerning human rights were high last year, but Nicolaou explained this was probably because her office had recently started looking into human rights issues.
The Ombudswoman refrained from naming the departments that created most problems, adding, however, that everything had been included in her report.
She did, however, note that in one case the University of Cyprus had held a news conference to say that it disagreed with the Ombudsman's report, instead of contacting her office directly.
One the other hand, she said, the immigration department fully co-operated with her office, but suggestions on one particular case were apparently not implemented across the board, resulting in identical complaints coming to her office.
"I don't think we are worse than last year but suggestions should apply to all cases and not individually," she said.
Nicolaou told the committee that her office needed more personnel in order to be able to work more efficiently and keep track of cases with regular follow-ups and intermediary reports.
DISY deputy Christos Pourgourides suggested that government departments that did not co-operate with the Ombudswoman should be brought before the committee to explain why.
The Chairman of the Committee, AKEL deputy Andreas Christou agreed, adding that the Ombudswoman should report such behaviour to the body.
DIKO deputy Marios Matsakis said that the Ombudsman's office should be staffed with personnel specialising in various areas like medicine to enable them to look into medical malpractice cases.
Nicolaou said her office did not look into such cases but welcomed the suggestion for scientific personnel to staff the office.
The Ombudswoman said her office was striving to achieve smooth operation of the administration, adding, however, that its suggestions were not binding.
"This is not something we pursue; the institution's nature is not binding," she said.
She added: "The Ombudsman appeals to the authorities' will, and tries to convince and not to force."
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Anger rises over old GSP plansBy George Psyllides
AN OLD football stadium in the heart of Nicosia has become the point of conflict between various groups after it emerged that the new stock exchange (CSE) building would be sited there in the near future.
The issue was raised by Green Party deputy George Perdikis, who accused the government of agreeing for the CSE building to be sited on the old GSP grounds, despite plans to develop the area in a different way.
Perdikis said the CSE would pose a heavy environmental burden in an already congested area and charged the government with not carrying out the necessary studies before deciding to give the land to CSE authorities, who have already announced a competition for the building's design.
Communications Minister Averoff Neophytou denied the charges, saying all the necessary studies had been completed.
The committee heard that during a public hearing held last year to decide whether town planning rules should be bent so the CSE could move to a building just outside Nicosia, one of the conditions set was that it would be relocated to the GSP in five to six years.
Government representative Stefos Papanicolaou defended the decision to move the CSE to its new location, saying most of the old GSP would be kept as a green area with facilities designed to draw the public and thus revitalise that part of Nicosia.
But the Chairman of the Football Federation, Costakis Koutsokoumnis, disagreed with the proposed changes.
"At the end of the day the GSP is a football ground; a ground serving people for over 100 years," he said.
He said it would be sacrilege to make any changes to the GSP that did not involve football and suggested it could be used to house the national youth teams.
"Planning should respect certain historical monuments," Koutsokoumnis said.
The Chairman of GSP, which is now housed in a new modern facility near Latsia, said the old stadium's character should be retained.
Rikkos Ioannides said the old GSP was not a place for the CSE, as gradually the whole area would be taken over by the stock market.
"We can't destroy it," Ioannides said.
Ioannides revealed there could be certain legal issues, implying the GSP authorities could have a say in any future plans about the field.
The representative of the environmentalists' federation argued that stock trading would be done through computers in the future and such a building would be unnecessary.
She said the stadium should be developed, but not by building the CSE or shops.
"Priority should be given to a park for the public," she said.
But the Chairman of the technical chamber (ETEK), Nicos Mesaritis, disagreed, saying it would not be the end of the world if the CSE moved to the area, but it would be a disaster if it did not.
Mesaritis charged there were private interests, which wanted the CSE to remain where it was now.
If that happened and the CSE stayed there for more than the agreed time, then there was a risk of changes in the town planning rules in the area.
Mesaritis stressed he was not arguing for or against the CSE moving to the old GSP, but added that the decision for the stock market to be built there had been in place since 1994.
He said only 3,000 square metres of the area would be taken up by the CSE, while the rest - around 16,000 - could be used for other purposes.
Mesaritis added that if there was any historical reason to spare the GSP, it was that this was the place where Archbishop Makarios had given his first anti-colonial speech to the Cypriot people, a fact now apparently forgotten in favour of football.
He also slammed GSP authorities for taking £8 million from the government to leave the area and move to Latsia, and now wanting to have a say in the stadium's future.
"And how can it serve as a football stadium?" he said.
"What about the traffic? Did the federation think of that?"
"We trust the feelings of the citizens and respect them but not when they are infiltrated by hijackers," Mesaritis said.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002