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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-09-21

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

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


Saturday, September 21, 2002

CONTENTS

  • [01] Archbishop to be brought home
  • [02] Competition concerns 'not our problem', says rate-slashing CyTA
  • [03] Turkish general threatens "permanent crisis" if divided Cyprus joins EU
  • [04] Britain could be forced to accept bases asylum seekers
  • [05] Poachers 'slaughter 8-12 million birds a year'
  • [06] Parents' fury at TV harassment over rape case
  • [07] Prices up 10 per cent in a year says Consumers Association

  • [01] Archbishop to be brought home

    By Jean Christou

    THE HOLY Synod and the Health Minister agreed yesterday that Archbishop Chrysostomos would be brought back to Cyprus where he would be given round the clock care.

    The Archbishop is currently being treated at a private clinic in Greece after being transferred there from a public hospital in Athens, where he has been for several months since sustaining injuries in a fall.

    Controversy has been raging about the true state of his health, fuelling speculation about a power struggle for his succession and resulting in a clash between bishops and Health Minister Frixos Savvides, who described the Archbishop's transfer from the Athens public hospital to the Igeia Clinic as a "kidnap".

    The family of the Archbishop has also become involved in the fray, saying they wanted him returned to Cyprus and be cared for here.

    Yesterday, it was unanimously decided that he would be brought back in the coming days and be cared for by state doctors, after Church leaders gave Savvides blanket approval to oversee the treatment of the Archbishop.

    Savvides recommended that doctors at the Igeia clinic be asked when it would be possible for the Archbishop to return to Cyprus and said it could be as early as next week.

    The Minister said it was pointless for Chrysostomos to stay in Greece, since doctors there had done everything they could for him.

    "Bringing him to a friendlier environment will help him to recuperate faster," Savvides said.

    A decision has yet to be taken on how the Archbishop will be transported back to the island, whether by commercial airline or charted private jet.

    Once back on the island, the government will bring specialists from abroad to examine the Archbishop. These specialists will then inform the medical council of his condition, the Minister said.

    "The medical council will be convened in Cyprus and the doctors who will check him will not necessarily be the same doctors as before," Savvides said. "We would prefer to bring world renowned scientists from abroad so no one can question their decisions."

    Bishop Chrysostomos of Paphos said the opinion of these scientists would be sought on whether the Archbishop was fit enough to resume his duties as head of the Church.

    The Archbishop's brother, Philippos Aristodemou, who was not present at the Holy Synod, said his brother was fully aware of his surroundings and had himself asked to be brought home on a number of occasions.

    Aristodemou, who was due to fly to Athens last night, said that today two Dutch specialists would be visiting the Archbishop.

    He said that depending on what the doctors said, he would try to bring his brother home on Sunday. "I'm going over there to bring him back," he said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [02] Competition concerns 'not our problem', says rate-slashing CyTA

    By Jean Christou

    THE CYPRUS Telecommunications Authority (CyTA) yesterday defended its decision to slash charges so much they had virtually strangled competition at birth, but the telecoms monopoly must now prove its price cuts were above board.

    The reductions came just before the Telecommunications Regulator is due to take over pricing and competition issues as part of the EU deregulation process, and within weeks of CyTA being fined 20 million by the Protection of Competition Committee for abusing its monopoly status to accrue "super profits" by overcharging the public.

    Under the terms of deregulation, CyTA must prove that its new rates are not below cost price plus "reasonable profit", an amount that will be determined by the Regulator, who has been waiting for almost three months for the figures from CyTA.

    Companies seeking to enter the market say CyTA's new rates are so low they cannot reasonably compete. They claim the cuts were a pre-emptive strike by CyTA to retain its monopoly and wipe them out, arguing companies starting out cannot compete with an established giant that has millions of pounds worth of equipment already in place and a 100 per cent customer base.

    With little in the way of costs and rock bottom rates, CyTA would have an overwhelming advantage over new competitors, they said. They suggested the regulator would, because of EU competition rules, be forced to make CyTA increase its charges again to ensure adequate competition existed.

    However, a CyTA spokesman yesterday hit back at the criticism, saying the only way the regulator could force them to raise prices to suit any potential competitors would be if the authority was charging at below cost, "which we are not".

    The spokesman confirmed that CyTA had been asked to submit figures to the regulator and said that they were in the process of doing so.

    "We have nothing to hide here," he said. "Everyone knows the profits were coming form mobile and international calls. There is no secret about it."

    Commenting on the plight of the competition, the spokesman questioned why they felt they could not compete.

    "If they are above cost why can't they offer the same as we do? It's not our problem, is it?" he said, adding, however, that any competitor would have to be good - "otherwise they won't stand a chance".

    He said there was no reason for CyTA to "feel guilty" for effectively wiping out the competition. "Should we feel guilty because we can offer better prices to customers? Why should we? It's not our job to worry about the competition's problems unless we're doing something illegal.

    "The Minister said clearly not to worry if prices go down, as long as they are not below cost. If we do that, they will come down on us like a ton of bricks and so they should," the spokesman added.

    He also said it would be odd if the Regulator came in and forced CyTA's prices back up to a level where competitors could come in.

    "This would be ridiculous. Think of the political cost," he said. "We are under threat of competition rules that say that if we don't reduce our profits, which come from mobile and international charges, not only do we have to pay 20 million, but 5,000 a day until we do. You can't have it both ways."

    Telecommunications Regulator Vassos Pyrgos told the Cyprus Mail that everything now depended now on whether CyTA was offering the new charges at cost plus reasonable profit.

    "Our concern is that we don't have the exact costs, so we cannot know. There is no way to know if this is a strategic move or something illegal or a decent readjustment of prices," he said. All the authorities currently have to go on is the word of the CyTA chairman, "so we are resting on that".

    Pyrgos said he had asked CyTA for the costings in July, but was confronted with a number of delaying tactics. He only received a letter from the Authority on Thursday, the day the massive cuts were announced, but the letter had been "evasive", he said.

    "Actually we don't yet have the power under the law to enforce anything and on the other hand we have no way to prove anything," he said.

    Pyrgos was adamant that he wouldn't raise prices just for the sake of competition, because that would not be in the interests of the consumer.

    "If CyTA is managing to make a profit on these prices, then anyone is welcome to compete on this basis," he said. "It's unreasonable to want higher prices than the consumer has to pay, just for the sake of competition."

    He admitted it could be tough for new competitors to take on an established incumbent.

    "When you open a supermarket and there is another supermarket there, it's the same thing. This is not the issue. The issue is whether CyTA is managing to make a profit on these prices. Then that is where the competition has to come in."

    Communications and Works Minister Averoff Neophytou had some sympathy for the competition, but said he had warned publicly several times that this would happen.

    "We tried our best as a Ministry to pass the message to the (CyTA) board that too many price cuts in this period may prohibit the competition and would create an unfair environment in the forthcoming liberalisation of the market," he said, adding that while waiting for the figures to be made available, he had asked the CyTA chairman to confirm in writing that the charges were above cost.

    "I understand (the competition's) position," he said. "I told the public that by criticising CyTA and creating the idea in the market that the consumer had to get better prices, we played into the hands of CyTA," Neophytou said. "I said we were not harming CyTA like this, but helping them and I share the worries of the competition."

    Anthony Voskarides, president of the Association for Free Telecommunications, has said that although they welcomed the new low charges for the consumer, it would have been proper to leave the rates to the mercy of an open competitive market.

    "The objective of deregulation is the reduction of cost to the consumer in a sustainable way using competition as the motive. The rate reductions announced by CyTA may be popular, but like tax cuts before an election, there is an ultimate price to pay - new barriers for new entrants," he said.

    "It seems that even the threat of deregulation has helped the consumer, but without competition the next step is back to a new monopoly, and you don't need a long memory to remember paying a pound a minute to call the USA."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [03] Turkish general threatens "permanent crisis" if divided Cyprus joins EU

    By Jean Christou

    THE GOVERNMENT yesterday dismissed threats by a Turkish general that the EU accession of a divided Cyprus would spark "permanent crisis" in the eastern Mediterranean.

    Turkish Ground Forces Commander General Aytac Yalman made the threat on Thursday during a visit to the north, where he met Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.

    According to reports in the Turkish press yesterday, Yalman said Turkey would not accept any solution that was not based on the equal sovereignty of the Turkish Cypriot people, and that it would not approve the unilateral accession of 'southern Cyprus' to the EU.

    He began his speech by saying: "The purpose of my visit is to conduct an on- the-spot inspection of the troops' readiness for war," Turkish press reports said.

    He also said the 35,000 Turkish troops in the north had "the strength and determination to counter any kind of crisis".

    After their meeting, Denktash said that, as an officer who served in Cyprus in the 1980s, Yalman was well acquainted with the Turkish Cypriot people and their cause.

    Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou, however, dismissed the threats, saying that nothing could stop Cyprus' EU accession course. He said the Turks were "hostage to their own arguments and phraseology".

    "They know that on a government and military level, their threats to halt the island's accession course have failed," Papapetrou added.

    "Nothing can stop our accession and this message should go in all directions in Cyprus and abroad."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [04] Britain could be forced to accept bases asylum seekers

    By Jean Christou

    THE BRITISH Home Office has said it may have to let in some of the asylum seekers on the British bases who have been granted refugee status, a British tabloid has said.

    A report in the Daily Mail said the case of the 75 Kurdish refugees on the bases had sparked fears that Cyprus could become a "backdoor to Britain".

    The refugees shipwrecked off the island four years ago have been living in the Sovereign Bases Area (SBA) of Dhekelia, where British authorities have housed them at a cost to the British taxpayer of 1.4 million a year.

    It said the refuges are now claiming the right to be transferred to the UK, saying they can't live forever in an old army barracks.

    The paper said the case had serious implications for Britain's asylum policy if the refuges were accepted, as it could open the door for asylum seekers to target British bases elsewhere as an easy route to Britain.

    The paper said that although the Home Office had turned down their appeals to go to Britain, it had been forced to reconsider after the refugees launched a legal challenge. The Daily Mail said that under UN rules they were the responsibility of Britain as they had shipwrecked off British sovereign territory.

    The bases have so far given refugee status to 22 of the 75.

    "Home Office officials admit they may have to let some of those granted refugee status move to Britain. But they insist they are determined to close loopholes that could undermine border controls," the Daily Mail said.

    A Home Office spokesman told the paper: "We are anxious that any solution to the ongoing problem does not create a back door to the UK."

    Bases spokesman Tony Brumwell told the Cyprus Mail yesterday he could not speak on behalf of the Home Office. He said the policy had always been not to allow the bases to be used to get into Britain.

    He said it was the bases' intention to either repatriate the immigrants or to have them moved to third countries. "That was always going to be our intention," he said.

    "At the moment there is a stalemate and we have them indefinitely. We're not established to keep them here for a prolonged period of time and a lot of them want to go to the UK. This is their aim, but our aim is to be clear that this is not a back door to the UK."

    Last month, the immigrants held demonstrations on the bases to protest against their situation. Brumwell said they agreed to call off the protest after the bases said they would look into their demands for increased welfare, the suspension of the need to sign on three times a week, retrospective payments for the protestors and freedom of movement within the Republic of Cyprus.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [05] Poachers 'slaughter 8-12 million birds a year'

    By Alex Mita

    POACHERS slaughter over eight million birds in Cyprus each year, the Green Party said yesterday.

    At a news conference, Greens deputy George Perdikis blasted Larnaca district residents for demanding that the government lift a ban on bird trapping by lime-sticks.

    Perdikis said the Berne convention had taken seven years to be passed at the House of Representatives and that throughout that period, not one deputy had requested that ambelopoulia be excluded from the convention.

    "The birds have been classed as an endangered species in the convention due to the decrease in their population," Perdikis said.

    "The European Council in Strasbourg has stated that 8-12 million birds are killed in Cyprus each year, a fact that is confirmed by the large number of people taking part in this so called tradition."

    The Greens said BirdLife International, a prominent international organisation often called in as expert witnesses by courts worldwide in cases involving birds had verified the number of birds killed.

    "These numbers are also verified by the poachers themselves," Perdikis said.

    "They boast that they trap 500 birds a day. That means each poacher catches 30,000 birds a year. If we multiply that by the number of residents that handed in their election booklets (7,000), the number reaches 210 million potentially killed in the three-month period during which they migrate."

    Perdikis said lime-sticks were indiscriminate bird killers.

    "They catch birds of all sorts, most of which are not edible, so they just kill them," he said.

    "They say that in other countries people are allowed to kill animals in bull fights and that they allow fox hunting, but the numbers killed are far lower than those of migratory birds.

    "They call it a sport. A sport is an activity in which an individual strives to achieve a goal, like for instance in hunting, which I am also against. In hunting, the animal has a chance to escape. How can a bird escape lime-sticks?" Perdikis asked.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [06] Parents' fury at TV harassment over rape case

    By Alex Mita

    THE PARENTS of a British tourist recovering in Larnaca hospital after being brutally raped earlier this week yesterday expressed their outrage at the behaviour of journalists trying to get into the clinic to interview their daughter.

    The 22-year-old woman from Blackburn in Lancashire was said yesterday to be in a stable condition. She is recovering from surgery after her ordeal in the early hours of Tuesday.

    A hospital supervisor was unwilling to say more on the woman's condition and expressed her indignation at the antics of television crews.

    "A group of TV journalists evaded the receptionist and attempted to find the ward where the woman is staying so they would ask questions on her condition," she said.

    The supervisor said the woman's parents were furious with the insensitivity the media had shown, and had apparently reported the incident to the British High Commission.

    The British High Commission said yesterday they were in constant contact with the family and were offering them full assistance, but a spokesman was unwilling to comment further.

    The tourist told CID she had been forced into a car by three men and taken to a remote location where she was beaten and raped by one of the men. She was abandoned and found by locals around noon the following day.

    A 27-year-old diver from Liopetri was arrested in connection with the case on Wednesday and remanded in custody for eight days. He denies raping the woman, though he is reported to have told police he had met the woman at a club in Ayia Napa.

    The suspect claims the woman willingly went with him to a remote location, where they had sex.

    Yesterday, he led CID police to a shed next to a construction site, where he clamed he had sex with the girl.

    He denied raping the woman and using any objects to injure her.

    The woman has required two separate operations for serious internal injuries she sustained in the attack. State Pathologist Eleni Antoniou, who examined the victim, has described the attack as the most vicious attacks she had ever come across in Cyprus.

    A forensic examination carried out on the suspect revealed he had abrasions on his chest and legs that appeared to have been caused by the tourist in defence. DNA samples have been taken from the suspect for further examination. Results are expected next week.

    The suspect denied that he and two other men had kidnapped the woman, saying he was with her alone the entire time.

    Famagusta district CID yesterday interrogated two men in connection with the attack, but no arrests were made.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [07] Prices up 10 per cent in a year says Consumers Association

    By Elias Hazou

    RETAIL prices have gone by 10 per cent in the past year, according to a survey carried out by the Consumers Association.

    The news came in a report published yesterday comparing prices charged for a range of household products in different supermarkets in a bid to highlight over-pricing over the past few months.

    According to chairman Petros Markou, the association was prompted to conduct the survey after a number of consumers called in to complain about excessively high prices for certain goods on the market, especially fruit and vegetables; these have shot up by up to 40 per cent in August alone, according to some estimates.

    In an attempt to isolate the problem and put some pressure on retailers and wholesalers, the report gathered information on the price of 20 consumer goods offered by 12 major supermarket chains, comparing figures for March 2001 and September 2002.

    Previously, the association had hinted that it might encourage consumers to boycott supermarkets, following the example of Greece and Italy after the introduction of the euro there.

    Although somewhat limited in scope, the report came up with some impressive findings. Doing the maths, it turns out that average market prices have gone up by 10 per cent since March last year. A closer look shows that consumers' pockets have been most hard-hit by price hikes for local beer brands, corn oil, shampoo and soap. One product -- Johnson's Baby Shampoo 500ml -- had shot up by almost 19 per cent.

    By contrast, official statistics cite only a 3 per cent rise in the consumer price index for the same time period.

    As Markou clarified, all of the goods listed were VAT-free, so no connection could be made between the price hikes and the fact VAT rose by two points July last.

    One of the report's drawbacks, it was pointed out to Markou, was that it named specific supermarkets and quoted their prices, something that might be interpreted as urging consumers to favour one chain over another. Markou said this was perfectly legitimate, adding that in this way supermarkets would be forced to become more competitive, to consumers' benefit. But he conceded that there was nothing the association could do about price collusion among supermarkets.

    Markou said that it was the middlemen who benefited from these price rises and not producers, thereby partly addressing the issue that the hikes result from a number of factors, not just profiteering by supermarkets.

    He added this report would be followed up by others, so that consumers would be constantly updated about market prices, thereby putting pressure on supermarkets and retailers to maintain reasonable pricing. The association said a more detailed report would be ready in one to two weeks' time.

    At a news conference yesterday, the association reiterated that it would not hesitate urging a consumer boycott, but added this would be as a "last resort" if the situation did not improve or at least stabilise.

    Markou went on to criticise the government for failing to take action to protect consumers. In particular, he referred to the Commerce Ministry's Consumer Protection Commission, which he said has constantly waived responsibility by invoking understaffing.

    He conceded there were no laws, either local or of the EU, that set minimum and maximum prices for consumer goods, except for certain medicines. "But clearly there is something wrong with this picture. For instance, why is the price of electricity here in Cyprus so much higher than in Europe?"

    "Something needs to be done by the government," Markou went on. "For our part, we will wage a multi-frontal assault against these unacceptable inflated prices. We shall appeal to all quarters -- industrialists, businessmen, trade unions -- to work with us because, at the end of the day, we are all affected as consumers."

    One of the measures the association will be proposing to the government will be the setting up of arbitration panels trying complaints by consumers; if found guilty, supermarkets or any businesses would be saddled with a hefty fine. Markou said that a parliamentary committee would convene on Tuesday to discuss the issue.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002


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