|Tuesday, 28 November 2023|
Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-07-31
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>
Wednesday, July 31, 2002
 Farmers block roads in warning strikeBy Alex Mita
FARMERS staged a one-hour mass demonstration across the island yesterday causing traffic chaos after they blocked key routes with their combine harvesters and tractors.
The demonstrations, organised by the Farmers' Unions PEK and EKA and Agrotiki, were a warning to the government of more to come, unless the Ministry of Agriculture yields to their demands regarding diesel prices, as well as employee benefits and compensation.
Hundreds of police officers were mobilised to redirect the vast lines of traffic through other routes and to ease the growing tension between the demonstrators and impatient drivers.
In Paphos, farmers blocked the Mandria roundabout and refused access to all vehicles except one carrying a sick child to the Paphos hospital. Temper flared and police had to intervene to ease the tension when an angry motorist exchanged harsh words with the farmers.
Addressing the demonstrators, PEK General-secretary Michalis Lytras demanded that the government take action.
"We are not here to beg, but to demand that the government finally sits with us in a productive dialogue that will see an end to our problems, or else we have not choice but to stay on the streets and demand what we are entitled to."
The farmers shouted, "we are desperate," and "we are ruined," and demanded a lifeline from the government, which they accused of not taking them seriously.
Despite measures taken by police in Limassol to prevent the highway being blocked off, the farmers, using side streets, entered the highway and parked their tractors diagonally across the two lanes at the Avdimou flyover, causing a traffic jam many kilometres long.
In Famagusta, farmers blocked off the Larnaca to Ayia Napa road near the Liopetri River. Agrotiki president, Christos Mavrokordatos, said the one- hour demonstration was symbolic, but warned that more permanent and stricter measures would be adopted, should the government fail to take them seriously.
Representatives of the unions stressed the situation was critical, saying farmers faced annihilation if the government did not intervene.
In the Nicosia district near Peristerona, clashes broke out among demonstrators as tempers reached boiling point. Police had to intervene to stop a fight between two farmers.
A farmer's union spokesman, Nicos Kouzoupis, told the Cyprus Mail that the main demand the government was refusing to address was that of colouring diesel used for industrial purposes. With rising fuel prices - especially diesel - farmers demanded that the government subsidise diesel used for agricultural purposes by supplying farmers with coloured diesel at a lower price.
It had been planned for coloured diesel to be distributed through specially modified pumps that would fit only in agricultural vehicles, but the spokesman said the government had scrapped the plan as too expensive since new tanks would have to be constructed to store the coloured diesel.
"Before the tax package, diesel prices were as low as 12 cents, but now they say that with the EU harmonisation, the prices could reach up to 36 cents by January 2003," Kouzoupis said.
"They only accepted to see us after we announced that we would be demonstrating. This policy is unacceptable."
The farmers are also demanding that less social insurance be paid to seasonal workers and that farmers' debts to be written off because of damage caused by bad weather this year.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Woman found dead on roofA 50-year-old woman has been found dead on the roof of an apartment block in Limassol. Antastasia Soupidou was found at around 11am yesterday where she had been painting a water tank. She was rushed to Limassol hospital but was dead on arrival.
Doctors could find no indication that her death had been caused by a fall, which has led to suspicions that she may have died due to extensive sun exposure. An autopsy will be carried out today.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Strawberry vision hampered by bureaucracyBy Stefanos Evripidou
A BRITISH businessman plans to set up a new strawberry farm, the first of its kind in Cyprus, which will provide Europe with strawberries all year round.
Geoffrey Gunson, a resident of Cyprus for 11 years, said yesterday that starting up the project had proved difficult, and claimed his company - Straw Bear Ltd - faced considerable opposition from those who feared competition in the local market.
Gunson said the $500,000 agricultural project had been in the waiting for more than a year due to bureaucratic delays and procedures.
Gunson applied to buy 22 donums of land last year to produce hydroponically- grown strawberries. He needed special permission because the law currently limits foreign ownership of land to three donums. The Larnaca District Office finally rejected his application after much delay, stating that hydroponics was not an important technology for Cyprus.
Hydroponics is a semi-organic method of producing certain types of agricultural produce without using soil. Hydroponically-grown produce has a longer shelf life, and strawberries grown by this method can last up to a week in the fridge.
It is considered a 'hi-tech' form of production, which produces strawberries for 52 weeks of the year. The climate in Cyprus is ideal for hydroponics because the heating costs in winter are considerably less than in Europe, giving Cyprus an edge over its foreign competitors.
Undeterred, Gunson leased 40 donums of land near Kalavassos to set up the strawberry farm. The location is over 100 metres above sea level making it perfect for hydroponics. "I already have a special agreement with an Italian company giving me the licence for a wide variety of strawberries that have a richer taste and smell," he said. The company has secured agreements to export the strawberries to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam. "The farm poses no threat to the local market as only around 10 per cent of production will be sold in Cyprus."
Gunson also intends to export strawberry plants to clients in the Middle East. Within three years, he hopes to have 11 million plants growing on the land, a 2,000 square metre greenhouse producing strawberries for export and a turnover of up to £1.5 million.
"I have spent one year and $51,000 on legal fees and land surveys to get this thing going. I want to bring euros into the country, pay my taxes and hire many people but I'm getting no help from the government whatsoever," said Gunson.
The farm is currently waiting for a response from the water department as to whether it can use the water from the Kalavassos dam. If the department refuses, Gunson will have no choice but to supply water from a well on the land. As farm manager, Andreas Parmaxis explained, the well water does not cater for strawberry production, only plant production, making the dam water essential to the farm's plans. Parmaxis said it would be a great shame, due to the variety of hormone-free strawberries the farm had to offer.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Desalination plant can operate for 'a long time' without striking staffBy Soteris Charalambous
OPERATIONS Manager Gad Haran has been sent over by Israeli company IDE, the owners of the Pelagos desalination plant in Larnaca, in an effort to ensure production of water is not interrupted by the strike by PEO union members that started yesterday.
According to the union, approximately 75 per cent of the staff from the plant are members of PEO and were staging their action outside the gates yesterday.
"At the moment, including myself, there are seven of us running the plant and that is enough to keep the plant operational as long as no mischief is done," said Haran. He added that the company was prepared for trouble, "We hope that nothing will happen but you don't know how things might escalate."
He defined 'mischief' as industrial sabotage or any acts that would require more staff to be brought in to maintain production levels.
Haran said that under the present situation, normal production capacity could be maintained "for a long time". He said this was because the plant was fully automatic and many of the staff were employed to carry out maintenance procedures such as recharging of chemicals.
Essential maintenance operations will now be carried out by managers and those staff that have continued to work during the strike, while other less critical maintenance operations are being delayed.
Asked whether the company had considered bringing over staff from their plants in Israel, Haran said, "that is not an option."
In an effort to restart negotiations between the company and the union, Pelagos have called on Andy Apostolou from the Ministry of Labour mediating services to act as a mediator. Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous has already taken precautionary measures in the event of a drawn-out stand off between the two sides, replacing the plant's average daily output of around 50,000 cubic metres of water by tapping into the supply from the Kourris and Dipotamos dams which, will be processed at the Tersefanou and Kornos refineries.
The dispute has arisen over employees' reluctance to renew personal employment contracts rather than negotiating a collective agreement that would encompass all the staff. In response to the union's request, Haran said: "The company are not willing to force anyone to be a member of the union or sign a collective agreement." He added that he believed the employees at the plant were happy at the level of their salaries and working conditions and benefits.
"We hope that some of our boys come to their senses soon."
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 EU inspectors due in new bird-protection driveBy Alex Mita
THE European Union is tightening the noose on Cyprus over the illegal trapping of millions of endangered migratory birds by mist netting and lime sticking.
A Gaming Fund official yesterday confirmed that two EU watchdogs would be arriving on the island shortly to monitor efforts by the British Bases Police and the Game Fund to stamp out the cruel practice of setting lime sticks. The visits comes after international organisations such as Birdlife and the RSPCB launched scathing attacks on the Cyprus government for not combating mist netting and lime sticking, which results in an estimated 12 million birds being destroyed each year.
The banned bird trapping is most widespread in southeastern areas of Paralimni, Protaras and Ayia Napa,
Cyprus Ornithological Society spokesman Melis Charalambides told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that the two observers would spend two months with Game Fund officers in order to produce a report, which could see the EU filing a report against Cyprus should their conclusions be negative.
Mike Everet of the CSPCB told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that the organisation was appalled by the government's stance regarding bird trapping.
"There has been quite a lot of publicity in the UK about it and our view is that it's absolutely dreadful. It's an absolute scandal and it is to the great shame of Cyprus that this is being allowed to happen," he said.
Everet said the CSPCA had filed a complaint to the government but had not yet received a reply.
"They've acknowledged receipt of the complaint but there wasn't any reply as to what action they would take," Everet said.
Once a relatively small-scale traditional practice, bird trapping has now become a high-tech, multi-million-pound undercover industry fuelled by the high price the birds fetch as ambelopoulia delicacies in traditional restaurants on the island.
During the main autumn migration season, trappers home in on the southeastern corner of the island, where migrant birds congregate. At Cape Greco, Paralimni and Cape Pyla - within the Dhekelia British base - lime sticks and nets are set on a massive scale, making every bush a bird death trap in some areas.
Though the practice has been banned since 1974, trappers act with impunity, apparently confident they will never be prosecuted.
A joint campaign between the SBA and the Game Fund entitled 'Partnership against Poaching' last year resulted in the seizure of over £51,000 of mist nets and lime sticks, the arrest of 34 poachers.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 New power supply record as temperatures hit 43By Stefanos Evripidou
THE ELECTRICITY Authority (EAC) announced yesterday that electricity supply reached a new record high yesterday with 775MW. The last month saw the record high broken four times, with the last high of 773MW recorded on July 18. The EAC attributed the rise in supply to the escalating use of air conditioning units.
The increased supply hit dizzy heights on the day that unions representing EAC workers had threatened a 48-hour strike, which would have signified a cut in the supply by half. On the weekend, the government and unions broke the standoff and reached an agreement, avoiding any strike action.
Yesterday's highest temperatures reached 43 degrees on the central plain, causing locals and tourists alike to run for shade and water. Senior Meteorological officer Loizos Stephanou said July had been 'warm' but not one of the hottest, compared to temperatures recorded in past years. He acknowledged that the month had three isolated incidents where the temperature hit over 41 degrees, including yesterday, but overall had experienced normal temperatures. He said temperatures would stay at around 42 degrees today with a steady decline from Thursday and reaching 37 to 38 degrees by Friday.
Meanwhile, the Labour Ministry yesterday notified employers that workers should not be directly exposed to the sun between 12pm and 4pm due to the prevalent temperatures and humidity.
In a written announcement, the ministry said that light work could be carried out under shade, wearing light clothing and with a plentiful supply of cool fresh water.
Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas said on state radio yesterday, "It is the first time such an announcement has been made after the decision was taken to introduce guidelines on measures against heat waves. As part of the attempt to codify warning procedures, the Ministry is issuing announcements and working on new guidelines that will give instructions on how to deal with a heat wave."
Moushiouttas admitted that the limited number of ministry inspectors would not be able to guarantee implementation of the measures on the thousands of construction sites in Cyprus.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Israeli FA faces $300,000 security bill for Cyprus gameBy Soteris Charalambous
SAFETY issues seemed to have taken priority over tactics in the build-up to tonight's Champions League second round qualifying match at the GSP stadium in Nicosia between Israel's Maccabi Haifa and Belshina Bobrisk of Belarus.
The Israeli side practiced under tight security at Apoel's Nicosia training facilities last night in preparation for a game that has dragged politics into sport and produced a bitter cocktail.
Sources in Israel suggested yesterday the security cost to the Israeli football association would be somewhere between $100,000 and $300,000. This would encompass the use of Cypriot police in addition to the cost of bringing over members of their own armed guard to protect their footballers.
The same sources said the Israelis had on Monday been given permission to bring over armed guards as they had the last time an Israeli side played in Cyprus, but only after intervention by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. The protracted security negotiations saw the players miss their planned flight and have to wait until the evening before arriving in Larnaca.
In March, Hapoel Tel Aviv beat AC Milan 1-0 at the GSP in Nicosia, watched by nearly 5,000 supporters from Israel. Tonight's match is only expected to draw a few hundred fans, but security measures will be at a similarly high level.
An agreement exists between the Cypriot and Israeli FAs (ratified by the government) that if tonight's game is concluded safely and without any threat to security, Israel's other two teams (Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Tel Aviv) playing in the UEFA Cup will be permitted to stage their 'home' ties at the same venue.
However, according to the Israeli source, alternative venues at Riga in Latvia and Sofia in Bulgaria have already been mooted because of the costs involved in playing in Cyprus and because questions on the Israeli side have been raised over the level of co-operation offered by the Cypriot authorities for staging tonight's game.
Gavri Levi, Chairman of the Israeli FA, was quoted as saying the intervention of President Glafcos Clerides had been required in order for an agreement to be reached. The source believes the high level of concern on the part of the Cypriot authorities centres on the possibility of Palestinians in Cyprus targeting the match in the wake of continuing violence in the region.
UEFA, European soccer's governing body, has ordered all Israeli clubs to play their 'home' matches in Cyprus because of concerns over security in Israel.. Cyprus was chosen for its close proximity to Israel and the success of the clash between Hapoel Tel Aviv and AC Milan in last season's UEFA cup competition.
Maccabi Haifa are expected to defeat the team from Belarus, setting up a third round tie with Sturm Graz of Austria and the right to play in the group stages of the competition. However, security concerns will rise to an even greater level for that match, after scenes of violence by Austrian fans on Saturday. A friendly match played at Eisenstadt between Arsenal and Rapid Vienna had to be abandoned after 69 minutes when Rapid fans clashed with police, forcing the players to take cover and resulting in the Austrian authorities having to provide assurances on safety before Arsenal agreed to continue their tour.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 New Paphos airport operational by end of 2004THE NEW Paphos airport will start operating at the end of 2004, while Larnaca's new airport should be up and running at the beginning of 2005, Communications Minister Averoff Neophytou said yesterday.
Neophytou stressed that work on the airports would begin in the second semester of 2003, adding that the winning bid would be announced before the end of the year and no extension would be given to the deadline - October 25 -- for the submission of tenders.
"I would like to reassure you, once more, that during this period of preparation of your tenders, we will assist you at every stage in order to enable each one to submit the best possible bid.
"I would also like to make it clear and underline that he government does not intend to grant any extension of time, regarding the deadline of the submission of the tenders, because of the importance we attach to the early completion of this project," Neophytou said.
The five consortiums competing for the build, operate, transfer (BOT) contracts are Alterra Consortium, Cyprus Gateway Airports, Hermes Airports, Project Pegasus, and the J&P Led Consortium.
Speaking at a two-day seminar organised to brief the representatives of the consortiums, Neophytou noted that Cyprus' position offered great opportunities for Larnaca airport to become a regional, or sub-regional hub.
"On the crossroad of four different civilisations and cultures, it can easily become the hub to serve people travelling from Europe to Asia or the Middle East or from North Asia and Eastern Europe to the Middle East or Africa," Neophytou said.
The representatives are scheduled to visit the two airports today and have all necessary information at their disposal by August 19.
The consortiums are going to have a final meeting with the government early in September to iron out the details before they submit their bids, Neophytou said.
Neophytou said there was an unprecedented worldwide interest about the airports with the biggest "players" of the world construction industry as well as airport management participating in the consortiums.
"We are advancing with consistency and solid steps in carrying out this big programme of airport modernisation as well as turning into action the decades-old vision for Cyprus to have European airports," Neophytou said.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 US to crack down on illegal imports of Cyprus antiquitiesBy Stefanos Evripidou
THE UNITED States has introduced import restrictions on Cypriot antiquities after a bilateral agreement between the two countries, making Cyprus only the second country in Europe after Italy to sign such an agreement, the Head of the Antiquities Department, Sofoclis Hadjisavvas, said yesterday.
The agreement, signed with the US under the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the protection of cultural property, went into effect earlier this month. It obliges the US to restrict entry of Cypriot archaeological materials, representing its pre-Classical and Classical heritage, that do not have legal export documentation from Cyprus. Dating from approximately the eighth millennium BC to 330 AD, categories of restricted artefacts include ceramic vessels, sculpture, and inscriptions, stone vessels, mosaics, personal objects and others.
Hadjisavvas explained the US had signed the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the condition that it would have to enter into a separate agreement with each individual country for it to be binding. "Many countries in Europe, like Greece, have been after a bilateral agreement with the US for years, but now, only Italy and Cyprus have one," he said, adding, "Some countries where dealers and collectors of antiquities are rife, like Britain and Germany, are not even party to the Convention."
Hadjisavvas said this agreement added to the emergency import restrictions on Byzantine antiquities that were previously imposed in the US. "Any Cypriot antiquity on the list found by US Customs, will be seized and returned to Cyprus unless it is accompanied by government documentation, like for exhibitions," he said.
The Treasury Department said in its Federal Register Notice, "These (antiquity) materials are of cultural significance because Cypriot culture is among the oldest in the Mediterranean. While Cypriot culture derives from interactions with neighbouring societies, it is uniquely Cypriotic in character and represents the history and development of the island about which important information continues to be found through archaeological research."
The actual agreement calls for significant efforts on the Cypriot side to protect the cultural heritage on the island. It stipulates that the Cyprus government will make every effort to discourage the pillage of cultural resources, and the unauthorised export of such material, through public education programmes and the strengthened enforcement of its own cultural heritage protection laws.
Hadjisavvas maintained that such measures were already in place in Cyprus, conceding, however, that posting in public areas might need revamping to look more up to date.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Mud slinging again mars election debateBy George Psyllides
THE PRESIDENTIAL election race degenerated further yesterday, with the two biggest parties, AKEL and DISY, shying away from policy statements to engage in a bitter exchange concerning allegations of phone tapping and secret agents.
It all started on Saturday when DIKO deputy chairman Nicos Pittokopitis claimed an informant had briefed him on the contents of a telephone exchange between DISY and KISOS.
KISOS reacted angrily, accusing Pittokopitis of manufacturing lies. The DIKO deputy refused to comment any further on the matter.
But the issue was yesterday picked up by DISY Chairman Nicos Anastassiades who said he "expected those who for days on end spoke of ethics and political immorality to at least comment out of sensitivity".
"It looks like change is the slogan simply for those who would bug our offices and have agents so that they know everything," Anastassiades said.
He added: "It looks like some people are not working for change, but to create the conditions to come to power and satisfy the passion they seem to have."
Anastassiades wondered why AKEL Chairman Demetris Christofias did not say anything about political ethics, adding: "Imagine what would happen if I said I had bugs in the offices of anyone and especially those I seek to co- operate with."
"This is the real immorality and debasement of political life and those who tolerate and abet it are guilty," Anastassiades added.
AKEL's reply came shortly afterwards from its spokesman Nicos Katsourides, who condemned any kind of phone tapping, adding that Pittokopitis should not have said what he did on Saturday.
But Katsourides then counter-attacked, accusing Anastassiades of "selective sensitivity" and saying that the "DISY chairman's memory has a terrifying adaptability and selectivity".
"I haven't heard Mr. Anastassiades take a stance when (DISY deputy Christos) Pourgourides complained that a minister of the Clerides government was tapping phones.
"I haven't heard Mr. Anastassiades take a stance when (DISY deputy Eleni) Vrahimi reported that the DISY leadership was using KYP (intelligence service) and its potential to watch people and tap phones in past general elections.
"Nor have I heard Mr. Anastassiades take a stance when DISY deputy Nicos Tornaritis tabled the issue of phone tapping before the House," Katsourides said.
AKEL on Sunday officially endorsed DIKO Chairman Tassos Papadopoulos for presidential candidate, while, on the other side, DISY is looking to back KISOS Chairman Yiannakis Omirou to lead a government of wide approval.
KISOS, who had initially entered a coalition with AKEL and DIKO, is expected to contest the elections with Omirou as candidate. Its central committee will convene to discuss the issue today. The final say belongs to the party's national conference, which convenes on Sunday.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Fires break out in Nicosia and PaphosA FIRE broke out in Ayios Epifanios yesterday morning, threatening the 'Adelfi' state forest in the Nicosia district, the forestry department said. The blaze erupted at around 11am and took fire-fighters 45 minutes to bring under control.
Although the fire was not very large, the forestry department has urged people to be particularly careful during the increasingly hot summer months when visiting forests and the countryside in general, as the likelihood of fires erupting is very high. The Agriculture Ministry is investigating the cause of the fire.
A second fire broke out yesterday afternoon at Coral Bay in Paphos. Three fire engines and two fire-fighting helicopters were used to extinguish the blaze, which was brought under control shortly before 8pm. No houses in the area were damaged.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002