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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-09-06
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>
Friday, September 6, 2002
 'Annan to tell Clerides and Denktash to get down to business'U.N. SECRETARY-general Kofi Annan is expected to urge President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to get down to real business when he meets to the two veteran leaders in Paris today.
Annan was yesterday conferring with his special advisor Alvaro de Soto in an effort to fine-tune what to tell the two leaders today in a last-ditch effort to make headway in the stalled Cyprus peace process.
According to diplomatic sources quoted by the Cyprus News Agency (CNA), the Secretary-general was expected to give Clerides and Denktash "specific but different" messages and to emphasise that they "have to engage in some serious negotiations and get down to real business" in the weeks ahead.
Annan is expected to stress the imperative to reach a settlement at this juncture when a real window of opportunity exists, and is set to underscore the negative repercussions of failure to do so.
He will also reiterate to Clerides and Denktash that they should at least crack the four main issues under discussion (governance, security, territory and property), bearing in mind the timeframe of Cyprus' EU accession course, and the December EU decision on enlargement, which is set to include Cyprus.
The same sources told CNA that Annan was expected once again to express to Denktash his concern about the lack of progress and to remind him that the issue of sovereignty, although an element of the discussions, could not prejudge the conclusion of the negotiations.
Sovereignty - on which Denktash insists as a starting point for talks - has been a major stumbling block in the eight-month talks process conducted under the auspices of Annan's special adviser on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto.
It is thought the Secretary-general might try to circumvent the issue by stressing the distinction between the powers of the component states and the sovereignty of the state of Cyprus.
CNA quoted a senior diplomat as saying the exercise of authority on a regional level should not be interpreted as an infringement on the sovereignty of the state, a notion which he said Denktash did not appear to understand.
The same source said the vast gap separating the positions of the two sides on sovereignty could be narrowed by applying EU norms, something that could give Annan a way out of the impasse.
Foreign policy, defence as well as monetary and fiscal policies would rest with the central government, which would take its cue from Brussels, whereas other areas such as education, health, agriculture, fisheries would be decided, with respect to EU rules, by the authorities of the two component states.
Today's meetings will take place at the Bristol Hotel in Paris.
The Secretary-general is likely to make a statement after the working lunch.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 New ambulance control centre will be ready by end of yearBy George Psyllides
A NEW independent ambulance service would be up and running by the end of the year, Health Minister Frixos Savvides said yesterday.
Speaking before the House Health Committee, which met to discuss the poor state of the ambulance service, Savvides said he would tabling a proposal before the Cabinet on Wednesday concerning the funding of an ambulance control centre.
Savvides said the government had decided to make the service independent and centrally co-ordinated with the knowledge and expertise to provide rapid response in emergency situations.
"We hope that by the end of the year we will be ready, at least concerning centralised co-ordination on an island-wide basis," Savvides said.
Committee chairman Antonis Karas said an independent service for handling emergencies was necessary as well as providing doctors and medical personnel with the specialisation needed to deal with such incidents.
DISY deputy Eleni Theocharous agreed with Karas, but stressed that the service would be ineffective if there was no provision for intensive care units spread in all rural medical centres to cover all the free areas.
Savvides also mooted the procurement of a helicopter equipped to transport patients and injured people.
He said the matter had been discussed in the past but was dropped because "things were different then" and the proposal had been deemed uneconomical.
Savvides said that back then incidents requiring emergency air transport were much less common than today.
The minister said he would table the issue again to the Finance Ministry's planning bureau.
Concerning new delays in the completion of the new Nicosia general hospital, Savvides said his ministry was very concerned, adding that President Glafcos Clerides would be heading a meeting on September 19 to discuss the matter with all those involved.
"The (old) Nicosia general hospital is ready to collapse," Savvides said.
"We don't have time."
Savvides said the government should move fast and find ways to expedite work on the project so that the new hospital can become operational as soon as possible.
He stressed that apart from the many problems at the current hospital, there was concern about the expensive state of the art equipment, which would probably stay in storage awaiting the new hospital, and would be out of date by the time it was ready in two years' time.
The contractor has announced that the hospital will be ready by November 2004.
Construction of the new hospital began in 1996 and it had been due for completion by this past February.
In April, the deadline was pushed back to June 2003, though Communications Minister Averoff Neophytou pledged that every effort would be made for the hospital to be delivered by December 29, 2003.
The initial budget for the project was £38, million but with the delays and additions the amount has jumped to £50 million.
The cost of the medical equipment is currently estimated at £25 million, more than double initial estimates of £12 million.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 CyTA price cuts will 'kill competition'By Alex Mita
THE 'Association for Free Telecoms' yesterday slammed the Telecommunications Authority CyTA for "killing competition" by reducing their prices to just above cost, putting new smaller companies hoping to enter the market at a huge disadvantage.
Speaking to the Cyprus Mail yesterday, association president Anthony Voscarides said CyTA was taking advantage of its £20 million fine further to reduce international rates, adding their actions just showed they were deliberately trying to block any potential competition.
"There seems to be a lot of support and a lot of work going on in the background for CyTA to take advantage of the situation of the fine to reduce dramatically their international rates, only in the areas where competition exists and maybe do some token reductions where there is no competition, so they can say they that they are making across-the-board reductions," Voscarides said.
"Nobody is against a reduction of rates, but what will happen here is that you have CyTA, which has £500 million in the bank, the entire network paid off and the entire customer base, coming in to drop the rates."
Voscarides said a new competitor coming in would now have to make an investment of £100 million and two-three years of marketing if they were to stand a chance of taking 10 or 15 per cent of the market, and added that the new competitors would have to borrow that money.
"Why now, three months before the regulator takes control of the telecoms factor, are they rushing to reduce the cost? Because they want to do this before the regulator can take control and block this particular action," Voscarides said.
"The regulator regulates the cost, taking into consideration the competition."
Voscarides warned that if CyTA was allowed to turn the cost cutting into a marketing campaign they would have dealt such a heavy blow that competition would not be able to recover in the next year or even 18 months.
"Give the money back to the people you took it from, why are you using this against the competitors?" he said.
The Association president said CyTA had a costing structure that suited them.
"They have a costing structure from the sixties that they have been asked to upgrade on several occasions," Voscarides said.
"The real cost of a telecom operator varies. If I am a new operator I have to deal with £200 million of loans of interest.
"To operate, you need a market share. CyTA already has every single customer so what is their cost to win a new customer? There is no cost except to bill the customer, which is a few cents."
Voscarides said the Authority already had the billing system as well as the customers, the international fibre optics and every aspect paid for by the taxpayer.
"CyTA's only cost is maintenance and paying people salaries for the ongoing support of technology."
Voscarides also blasted the government for not having met EU directives, set to be implemented by January 1 next year.
"We are not ready. And what will happen then is the EU will give us a small grace period for the regulator to begin rapid harmonisation with EU directives.
"If this doesn't happen and it is virtually impossible and there is no significant effort demonstrated in practice, not in words - because they are telling the EU they are doing everything but they are not - the EU will order an audit for CyTA involving a significant number of specialists tearing everything to pieces and analysing the costs. If the results are negative then they will open a file of Telecommunications and block our entry until the issue is closed," he said.
"The good standing of Cyprus in the October report of the EU Commission is hurt as a result of Telecom monopoly and CyTA's tactics," Voscarides claimed.
But Communications Minister Averoff Neophytou said yesterday he had warned competitors that the fine imposed on CyTA would in the end have a dire effect on smaller competitors.
"When everybody was talking about lowering rates, I warned that this way they were giving the best present to CyTA because now they will do to them what Orphanides did to supermarkets," Neophytou said.
"Their stance on the matter has caused a problem. They have caused a euphoria that prices should fall, they also caused a euphoria by telling people they should be getting their money back, and CyTA will take advantage of this, lower its rates and sweep the rug from under the feet of the competition," he said.
Neophytou said the government had barred CyTA from lowering rates below cost, but that this means they could still reduce rates to a little over cost.
"CyTA can afford to do this," he said. "But how are smaller companies supposed to deal with such a blow?"
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Economy on the path of EU convergenceBy George Psyllides
GROWTH rates are expected to recover substantially between 2003 and 2005, while unemployment in the same period will fall slightly, Finance Minister Takis Klerides said yesterday.
He was speaking before a news conference at which he presented Cyprus' Pre- accession Economic Programme (POP), which the government is obliged to submit to the European Union on an annual basis.
Cyprus submitted its first POP in May last year.
The POP covers the period between 2002 and 2005 and includes an extensive analysis of the economy and a review of economic developments between 1997 and 2001.
The programme's main aim is to achieve further convergence with the EU, based on the Copenhagen criteria for candidate countries.
Based on the programme's forecast, the average rate of economic growth between 2002 and 2005 will reach 4.2 per cent.
"For the year 2002, the growth rate is expected to fluctuate near 2.5-3 per cent, mainly due to the fallout created by the tragic events of September 11 in the USA, which have affected tourism.
"In the period between 2003 and 2005, a substantial recovery of the growth rates is expected, which would reach 4.5 per cent on an annual basis," Klerides said.
Klerides said unemployment was expected to be three per cent, compared to the period between 1997 and 2001 when it fluctuated around 3.4 per cent.
He added that with the transfer of labour to more productive areas it was expected that the rate of productivity would reach 3.4 per cent, compared to 2.7 per cent between 1997 and 2001.
The POP forecasts that inflation will fluctuate around 2.7 per cent. If increases in indirect taxation required by the EU are taken out of the equation, the rate would fluctuate around two per cent, Klerides said.
The minister said the POP provided for the elimination of the public deficit by 2005, though the government had said it would try to achieve it by 2004.
"External factors and especially the effects on tourism and the growth rates that the September 11 events had, led to a slight deviation concerning the attainment of the set targets," Klerides said.
The POP further provides for a decrease in the public deficit as a percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP), from the current 56 per cent to 52.2 per cent by 2005.
To achieve these objectives, the government would have to promote specific measures, which include the business field, labour market and the public sector.
"The main goal is the creation and reinforcement of the conditions of healthy competition," Klerides said.
The programme's main objectives are to satisfy the economic criteria set in Copenhagen concerning the efficient operation of the market mechanism, mainly through liberalisation, he added.
On a macroeconomic level, the POP's priorities would be to maintain high growth rates and further converge with the EU, the minister said.
Asked whether big European companies might not move in and wipe out local businesses, Klerides said: "the prevalent impression that huge companies would come to Cyprus and wipe out our industry and economy is totally wrong".
But he admitted that competition was fierce and that some areas of the economy had already been affected.
Small and medium companies had been affected and had more or less faced up to the fierce competition, he said.
He added that there were areas in Cyprus, like the greater service section, "where we have advantages over the Europeans and can exploit them".
Concerning living standards on the island, Klerides said Cyprus was actually in a better position than many EU countries, which seem better off on the surface.
He said that in Cyprus, at least 81 per cent of households owned one car, compared to Europe's 73 per cent.
Around 14 per cent of households pay rent, compared to 35 per cent in Europe, though 31 in 100 citizens have a computer in Europe compared to the island's 25 for every 100.
According to Klerides, in 2001, there were 32 mobile phones for every 100 Cypriots, while the number has now reached 46.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Tennis Federation confident star youth will get army reprieveBy Soteris Charalambous
THE President of the Cyprus Tennis Federation (CTF) yesterday expressed confidence that a "positive" decision would soon be made by the Council of Ministers when an application for postponement of national service for Marcos Baghdatis, ranked three in the junior world tennis rankings, is heard this month.
"I have been in touch with the Ministry of Defence officer today regarding Marcos and have been assured that they are doing their best to get the proposal heard this month," said Philios Christodoulou. He expressed confidence that once the details of the Baghdatis case was heard, a decision to grant an exemption to national service until December 31 2004 would be given.
Asked what would happen should Baghdatis be given a postponement and his success continued on the men's tour beyond 2004, Christodoulou said, "If that was the case, we would ask for an extension."
Earlier in the year, conscription papers were sent detailing when the 17- year old tennis star was required to begin his National Guard duty. Fears that an interruption to his development as a player and the potential loss of a glittering career prompted the CTF to submit an application to the Defence Ministry in July asking for a postponement of national service following Baghdatis' spectacular rise up the world tennis rankings to number two this year.
Baghdatis has maintained his exceptional form at this year's US Open held at New York's Flushing Meadow. Seeded fifth, he conclusively dispatched Americans Travis Helgeson and Scoville Jenkins in the first two rounds with two-set victories. He now faces the ninth seed, Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga ranked fourteen in the world, for a place in the last eight.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 France arrive in Cyprus determined to restore damaged prideBy Soteris Charalambous
THE FRENCH national football team arrived at Larnaca airport last night with a point to prove when their Euro 2004 qualifying campaign starts against Cyprus on Saturday at Nicosia's GSP stadium.
'Les Bleus' lost their grip on the World Cup in June after a humiliating showing in Korea and Japan, tumbling out of the tournament at the first group stage and failing to score a goal. Roger Lemerre paid the price for his team's uninspiring displays, however, and expectations of a winning start against Cyprus are high in the French camp.
Former Lyon coach Jaques Santini, who guided his team to victory in 'Le Championat' last season is now at the helm, and got off to a modest start in the friendly against Tunisia where the hosts pulled a goal back to earn a 1-1 draw after France took the lead through Manchester United's Mikael Silvestre.
Santini rang the changes in his first squad but has kept faith with the experienced internationals including Zinedine Zidane, Patrick Vieira and Marcel Desailly, although he will have to do without Thierry Henry after the Arsenal striker failed to shake off an ankle injury.
France start as firm favourites tomorrow and should justify their odds of 4- 1 on to make a winning start to group A. But Cyprus have pulled off some shock results at home in recent years, including a 3-2 victory in their last Euro qualifying campaign over Spain, and in Panathinaikos's Michalis Constantinou they possess a striker of real class, although he is an injury doubt.
The match is set to kick off at 8.30pm, although French television company TF1, broadcaster of the national team's games, wants the game brought back to 7pm so it does not clash with its reality show, which draws a large audience. So far the French Football Federation have stood firm. A stadium official confirmed the original kick-off time still stands; tickets cost £12, £6 for students and children just 50 cents.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002