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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-06-04

Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>


Tuesday, June 4, 2002

CONTENTS

  • [01] Annan recommends renewal of UNFICYP mandate
  • [02] Refugees set to sue over sale of property in the north
  • [03] Bad weather and September 11 blamed for poor turnout at State Fair
  • [04] Tough warning on rear seat belts
  • [05] 'Turkey needs to make its mind up over Cyprus'
  • [06] Government carrying out broad review of contracts for foreigners
  • [07] Amateur fishermen furious over licensing policy
  • [08] Parents order indefinite school closure in pollution protest
  • [09] Road works misery gets under way

  • [01] Annan recommends renewal of UNFICYP mandate

    U.N. SECRETARY-general Kofi Annan has recommended that the Security Council extend the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for a further six months until December 15.

    According to the Secretary-general's report issued yesterday, Annan considers the continued presence of the force on the island as "essential to the maintenance of the ceasefire between the two sides".

    In his report on UNFICYP to the Security Council, covering the period from November 28 2001 to May 29 2002, Annan makes a brief reference to the direct talks between President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, which began in January.

    Annan also mentions his own visit to the island in mid-May, "to discuss with the two leaders ways in which they could move forward more effectively and to express my willingness to help them reach the goal they had set out to achieve at the end of last year".

    "As at May 29, in the course of four rounds of talks, a total of 35 direct meetings had been held," the report said.

    Annan also said that the military situation along the ceasefire lines remained calm in the last six months with only "a few incidents", mainly in Nicosia where the opposing forces are in close proximity.

    The incidents included the cocking and pointing of weapons at UNFICYP soldiers, stone throwing, temporary moves forward into unmanned positions and verbal abuse.

    UNFICYP's operations also continued to be impeded by the restrictions imposed on it by The Turkish Cypriot authorities and Turkish forces, Annan added.

    Air violations of the buffer zone decreased from 34 recorded in the last reporting period to 17. Seven were by National Guard aircraft, four by Turkish military aircraft, one by a civilian light aircraft from the south and five by civilian aircraft from the north, the report added.

    Annan noted that UNFICYP facilitated 39 events in the buffer zone between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, with an estimated participation of 6,600 people.

    Concerning the financing of the force, Annan said that an amount of $42.4 million had been appropriated by the UN General Assembly for the maintenance of UNFICYP for the period from July 1 2001 to June 30 2002. This amount includes the voluntary contribution of one third of the cost of the force, equivalent to $13.6 million, from the government of Cyprus, and the voluntary contribution of $6.5 million from the government of Greece.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [02] Refugees set to sue over sale of property in the north

    MAYORS of municipalities from the occupied areas said yesterday they were planning to sue British estate agents for advertising property for sale in the north.

    Athos Eleftheriou, Mayor of occupied Lapithos, said he had already discussed the issue with his colleagues and that a joint letter had been sent to the British High Commission to complain.

    "We would also like to hear what the Attorney-general has to say before taking further action," he said.

    The Bishop of Kyrenia said yesterday it was also likely that the Church would become involved in an effort to protect its property in the north, much of which has been destroyed or taken over.

    Last month, the government said it would step up its campaign to warn foreigners about the illegality of buying property in the north following an exposť in The Observer on an apparent rush by Britons to buy homes there.

    According to The Observer, the number of estate agents in the north has risen from three to 15 and there has been a rush to buy up homes ahead of a solution. British-owned estate agency Unwin told prospective buyers there should be no fears over legal ownership, the paper reported.

    There are four types of title deeds in the north: 'Foreign Title', 'Turkish Title', 'Turkish prior to 1974' and 'TRNC Title', i.e. previously Greek owned prior to 1974. Buyers wanting to purchase a Turkish or 'TRNC' title property face a number of checks carried out by the regime, and the property is usually leased to the 'buyer' for 49 years.

    The government has warned foreigners that anyone who buys property in the north illegally will lose their money.

    The rights of Greek Cypriot refugees to their property in the north have been formally established by the European Court of Human Rights, in the case brought by Titina Loizidou against the Turkish government.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [03] Bad weather and September 11 blamed for poor turnout at State Fair

    By Soteris Charalambous

    CHAIRMAN of Cyprus State Fairs Iakovos Demetriou insisted yesterday the 27th annual International Fair had been "a very successful event" though he admitted that attendances were probably about 20 per cent down on last year, blaming September 11 and the bad weather.

    No official figures have yet been released, although early estimates suggest that around 120,000 people attended this year, compared to 150,000 last year. However, Dimitriou was upbeat about the popularity of the event and believed that the lower figures should be seen in a positive light in the context of the global economic slowdown. He cited "the after-effects of September 11th" and the slowing of growth in the Cyprus economy in addition to fewer tourists and "reserved" market behaviour as contributing factors to the lower figures, while he added the poor weather on two days of the event also needed to be taken into consideration.

    Demetriou admitted they had been braced for lower attendances. However, he added that general feedback from exhibitors on numbers of visitors and the interest shown had been "good". He also confirmed that numbers for the first Sunday had been a record, with over 12,000 in ticket sales.

    A number of exhibitors had expressed dissatisfaction at the number of visitors this year, with many stating that they would be better served at specialised events. In general, car exhibitors expressed the most concerns, with the fewest number of visitors. However, Demetriou put this down to "uncertainty over future tax duties to be paid on cars leading to many people postponing their buying decisions."

    Duties on saloon cars are expected to be cut substantially as part of a wholesale fiscal overhaul form July 1.

    Demetriou also admitted that a number of motor exhibitors hadn't exhibited in this year's State Fair, waiting instead for the Motor Show later this year. He said there were other exhibitors who also preferred to be seen at the specialised fairs such as the technology exhibition Offitech, also taking place later this year. However, he believed the International State Fair would continue to attract significant numbers because it is "more of a family event for Cypriots".

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [04] Tough warning on rear seat belts

    By Soteris Charalambous

    A NEW law on wearing rear seat belts, set to come into effect from July 1st, is expected to cost motorists across Cyprus between £350-£400 million because an estimated 70,000 cars are not fitted with belts at the back.

    With police warning they will enforce the new law strictly and the £50 fine that accompanies failure to comply, drivers are being urged by the government not only to fit the seat belts, but to comply to the letter with the new safety measures.

    Communications Minister Averoff Neophytou, speaking from Athens, yesterday confirmed that the new law clearly stated that not only must cars be fitted with rear seat belts, but "all passengers must wear seat belts, and drivers are responsible for passengers under the age of 12 wearing them."

    Neophytou added he was planning to hold a news conference on his return to raise awareness about the new law.

    Asked about how he felt police would handle drivers and passengers who broke the new law, Neophytou replied: "If I were a policeman I would fine everybody."

    Assistant to the Chief of Traffic Police, Costas Kokkinolampos, explained that passengers, except those under the age of 12, would be fined £50 and would have between 2 and 4 points endorsed on their driving licence. Passengers under 12 caught not wearing a seat belt would earn the driver of the vehicle the fine and the points.

    He added there were some rare exceptions to the new law, for instance with vehicles that were too old or where belts could not be fitted, but warned otherwise the new rules would be strictly enforced.

    Various garages quoted prices around £60 to fit the necessary three rear seat belts but said the figure was dependent on the make and model of the vehicle and the availability of the right belts.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [05] 'Turkey needs to make its mind up over Cyprus'

    THE CHAIRMAN of the Danish parliamentary committee dealing with European Union affairs has called on Ankara to make up its mind over Cyprus if Turkey is serious about joining the EU.

    Committee chairman Claus Larsen-Jensen said yesterday that Denmark would like Cyprus to be part of the first wave of enlargement, and reiterated the EU position that a political settlement was not a precondition for Cyprus' accession.

    He expressed hope that Ankara would understand that Cyprus' accession would also benefit Turkey itself.

    Speaking after a 45-minute meeting with President Glafcos Clerides in Copenhagen, Jensen said: "what is very important for us during the Danish presidency (July-December) is what is going to be the solution of the Cyprus question."

    Asked what would happen if there was no settlement, he said the Helsinki summit had ruled it was not a precondition that there should be a solution, but that it would be best for if there was one.

    "I think the game is set already and we have to see how it is getting developed, we hope the two sides in Cyprus will be able to reach an agreement," he added.

    Commenting on Turkey's EU aspirations and possible pressure from Brussels over Cyprus, Jensen said: "Hopefully, Turkey will understand that it is in their interest too that Cyprus is becoming a part of the EU."

    He said that while on a visit to Turkey he had told the government there that if it wanted to join the EU, where there are no internal borders, it would have to make up its mind about the division of Cyprus.

    "It is a very important question for Turkey. If they want to join the EU, they also have to find out if there is any reason for having a very hot confrontation on the Cyprus issue, because if Turkey is joining, why maintain the division of Cyprus," he told CN?.

    He said Denmark was trying not to complicate the accession negotiations for Cyprus and added "everything seems to be ready on the Greek Cypriot side before December" when the EU presidency is expected formally to invite the newcomers to join the Union.

    "We still have the strong hope that a solution will be found on the Cyprus question," he said. Asked if he was optimistic or pessimistic, he said he was a realist.

    "If you are too pessimistic, you do not find a resolution and there are some ways and means of finding solutions but I think it is better to be realistic," he said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [06] Government carrying out broad review of contracts for foreigners

    By Alexia Saoulli

    A STUDY covering all aspects of foreign workers' employment in Cyprus will be ready by mid-July, the Interior Minister said yesterday.

    Andreas Panayiotou was speaking after chairing a ministerial committee convened to address the matter, with Justice Minister Nicos Koshis, Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas and Trade and Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis.

    Once the study is complete, the ministers will meet again and examine the report's suggestions and decide which ones to adopt. Panayiotou said these proposals would cover a host of general criteria concerning foreign workers, outlining what areas of employment they could be hired in and defining the duration of their residency contracts.

    With reference to the length of time foreign workers could stay in Cyprus, Panayiotou said: "Only housemaids are given a four-year residency permit to begin with. All other foreign workers are only given annual contracts."

    But, he said, yearly residency permits had led to complaints from employers, who argued the procedures to renew employment permits were extremely time consuming.

    In fact, industrial employers, who hired specialised foreign personnel, had also complained on numerous occasions that four years was not long enough, because by the time that period had lapsed, they were forced to try and find more expert staff.

    However, Panayiotou said the decision to reduce or increase housemaids' permits was not solely up to the government. Instead, the matter had to be examined broadly, based on decisions by the European Union and European court.

    He said he did not believe the present four-year contracts would be reduced, but added that "unconstrained residency permits cannot be handed out, nor can we increase their stay on the island to a period of eight to 10 years, because the matter of naturalisation will then become an issue".

    "Anyone who lives in Cyprus for a period of seven years is allowed to apply for naturalisation," Panayiotou pointed out.

    "In other words, you have to consider that with 10,000 housemaids currently on the island, if we give each one permission to stay in Cyprus for seven years, a great portion of them will apply for naturalisation," he said.

    Yesterday's committee also discussed increasing foreign housemaids' minimum monthly wage from £250 to £300.

    "We are considering setting the minimum wage at £300, which is the same amount that shop assistants receive," said Panayiotou, adding this sum had been reached in collaboration with the Labour Ministry and would include their salary, social insurance, room and board. The previous minimum monthly wage for housemaids had been £150, but this had "been decided somewhat arbitrarily and no study had been carried out before it was determined," he said.

    The ministerial committee also examined the employment of foreign workers at offshore companies turned local.

    Currently, offshore companies have the right to hire foreigners for a period of five years, with a further five-year renewal allowed, he said. But in situations where they have become local companies, they are only allowed residency of four years, which can then be renewed on an annual basis.

    "However, to help facilitate these companies," said Panayiotou, "it was agreed that they will be given permission to employee foreigners for four continuous years with a further two-year extension. Naturally this will be based on the prerequisite that they have already secured permission from the Labour Ministry determining to what extent the specific foreigner's expertise and knowledge is needed for a relevant position".

    The creation of high technology industrial incubators was also touched upon during the meeting and how foreign workers would help in their initial introduction and efficiency.

    "In such cases, foreigners can come to Cyprus as visitors and apply for employment at the incubators immediately," something that had thus far not been allowed, "except in very few cases".

    Another aspect the four ministers touched upon yesterday was the matter of foreign investors in Cyprus.

    Panayiotou said that until recently, interested parties had to make a minimum down-payment of £100,000.

    But many considered this sum steep, he said, and it discouraged prospective investors who wanted to invest tens of thousands of pounds, but not as much as £100,000.

    With this in mind, Panayiotou said: "In co-operation with the Central Bank, we have decided that this initial investor down-payment sum can be reduced, but only under the Bank's discretion and control."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [07] Amateur fishermen furious over licensing policy

    By Alex Mita

    AMATEUR fishermen have slammed the Department of Fisheries for revoking amateur licences while issuing 500 professional fishing permits, claiming there were only 50 professional fishermen, with the rest being restaurant owners and doctors.

    The Pancyprian Association of Amateur Fishermen (PAAF) also raised questions on a Fisheries Department study, which reports a significant fall in fish stocks.

    PAAF chairman Demetris Demetriou branded the Department of fisheries as the Fishing Stock Exchange. Speaking to the Cyprus Mail yesterday, he said that a lot of money was involved and scoffed at the reports of declining fish populations.

    "Millions of pounds are at stake here, and this is why they don't want to issue licences to amateurs," he said.

    "There are only 50 professional fishermen and we challenge anyone to prove us wrong."

    "Who are these 500 fishermen and what are their real jobs?" Demetriou asked.

    "We would even accept the Fisheries Department admitting there were 100 professionals, but no way are there 500 professional fishermen in Cyprus today."

    Demetriou added that far from being in decline, fish populations between 1980 and 2000 had shown a marked rise.

    He claimed professionals declared less fish than they caught, leading the Department of Fisheries to think the populations were on the decline.

    The PAAF has called on the Agriculture Minister to re-issue over 2,000 licences revoked after the Fisheries Department study.

    Demetriou said the Department was spreading unfounded rumours that the European Union forbade the use of methods like spear fishing, claiming they were inhumane and cruel, in order to stamp out amateur fishermen.

    Demetriou added he would present all relevant information and evidence in a news conference scheduled to take place today.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [08] Parents order indefinite school closure in pollution protest

    PARENTS and residents of the Chiflikoudia area of Limassol decided yesterday that they would hand in their voting books and close down the local primary school today until something was done to improve their living conditions.

    The Limassol school's Parents Association, as well as an active group of residents, agreed that the area's school would be closed down indefinitely, starting today, unless something was done about the chemical emissions released from the nearby Nemitsas foundry.

    The parents and residents have campaigned for a solution to the problem for several years now, but say no one in authority has taken any notice or done anything to ensure the locals' health.

    They say the foundry harms pupils' and residents' health and describe the foul-smelling fumes as unbearable.

    The frustrated locals yesterday called on deputies, mayors, municipal advisors, political parties and organised bodies to "come together in unison and demand a humane and healthy environment for the 5,000 residents living in the afflicted area".

    At 7.30am today residents and parents plan to gather outside the school in an act of protest. This is the second demonstration in less than a week and comes after children were forced to go to lessons wearing facemasks two weeks ago, due to "the foundry's hideous stench".

    The parents' association and residents yesterday expressed the hope that these strikes would sensitise those in authority to sit up and take notice of the problem in order to reach a solution.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [09] Road works misery gets under way

    DRIVERS in Nicosia were fuming yesterday after new works to transform Byron Avenue into a four-lane road got under way, causing traffic chaos.

    The works, expected to last a year, caused frayed nerves and frustration among drivers trying to get to work using the road, which is congested at the best of times, but was narrowed down to one lane from yesterday.

    Municipality traffic wardens were at hand, preventing people from parking their cars on the side of the road, while total confusion reigned at the narrowed entrance of the avenue as there were no traffic police to regulate the traffic.

    The road will be widened to accommodate its role as a key artery into the town centre and will act as the main exit towards Grivas Dighenis Avenue. A key feature of the project is to provide pavements for pedestrians from Grivas Dighenis Avenue right up to the hospital.

    But with no alternative parking spaces designed to provide for the multitude of government employees working at the Ministry of Labour and the lack of proper policing, people look destined to suffer until the road is finished next year.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002


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