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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-09-27

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

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


Friday, September 27, 2002

CONTENTS

  • [01] Ministry warns the time has come to crack down on poultry producers
  • [02] CyTA hopes Monday strike will not affect calls
  • [03] Officials dismiss Limassol flyover fears
  • [04] New efforts to avert hotels crisis
  • [05] EU to fund noise pollution project in Cyprus
  • [06] New minister sworn in as car scam spirals
  • [07] New remand for rape suspect pending results of DNA tests
  • [08] Man remanded over attempted rape of Russian

  • [01] Ministry warns the time has come to crack down on poultry producers

    By Soteris Charalambous

    TWO PIECES of harmonisation legislation, passed last year in accordance with the acquis communautaire to ensure that poultry meat and chicken eggs produced and sold meet European standards, could now result in large fines and prison sentences for those who fail to comply, the Agriculture Ministry said yesterday.

    Production practices for poultry (chicken, guinea foul, geese, duck and turkey) and chicken eggs have been changed to meet EU standards will now be strictly enforced after some flexibility had been previously exercised.

    "The rules regarding production of both poultry and chicken eggs have been in place for over a year; they differentiate between standard production practices and specialised products, for example free range or barn eggs," said Kyriacos Charalambous, head of Pigs and Poultry at the Agriculture Ministry.

    Producers are required to apply for special licences. Premises and facilities are inspected and once all requirements have been fulfilled the producers are registered and given a code number. Record keeping will be also be required at every stage of the consumer food chain, from the farmyard to the slaughterhouse to the supermarket, to ensure that numbers produced and sold are fully accounted for.

    "To pack chicken meat, a slaughterhouse will require first a licence from a veterinarian and second a licence from the municipality. Once these demands have been fulfilled and we are happy, a licence and code will be given entitling them the right to sell. To obtain permission to pack produce, another licence is required, for instance with eggs this will entail grading and labelling and producers are required to keep records of every step in the production process to ensure that the numbers they are allowed to produce are adhered to," he said.

    Charalambous was pleased to report that for egg production there was close to 100 per cent compliance, but for poultry, "because the demands of the legislation are quite high," this process has taken more time. He also admits that because of the costs involved in bringing in the new methods the Agriculture Ministry has adopted a "flexible" attitude.

    "We don't want to put people behind bars or impose big fines. We prefer to see people comply."

    But Charalambous feels the time has come for, "the strings to be tightened, " to ensure that all producers have complied. "We have decided that from now on the most serious cases will be taken to court," he said.

    For failure to comply, producers face fines of up to 2,000 with a second conviction resulting in a fine of 4,000 and/or a six-month custodial sentence.

    An amendment to the legislation was introduced in May, allowing producers to continue production who had applied for a licence. "For producers who were operating on or before October 1, 2001 and had obtained a veterinary licence but had not yet been granted a licence by the municipality, but submitted evidence they had applied for the licence and had put forward architectural plans to the proper authorities, a temporary licence and code number can be granted for six months," said Charalambous, "and if after the six months their case is still being studied, the temporary licence can be renewed," although the grace period could not be granted beyond March 2004.

    But for those who attempt to "cheat the system through false labelling, no flexibility will be show at all," he warned. To date, nobody has been taken to court, even though a large number of warnings have been issued. Others had been issued, with more than one warning and in the event that a producer was taken to court, "the warnings would be used as evidence against them."

    According to Charalambous, consumers will benefit from the strict implementation of the law.

    "In the past, consumers would buy farm chickens that were being labelled village chickens. This practice has finished because there is no such thing under these regulations," said Charalambous: "Chickens were being bought that had been slaughtered anywhere. This is not only dangerous in terms of hygiene, but it also opened consumers up to being cheated as they could be passed off for something that they were not."

    A new European directive will also be introduced to ensure accountability by allowing products to be traced back to the producer. "Recently a directive has been implemented ensuring all egg farms have been issued with a code so that traceability can be enforced. This legislation will be implemented nationally next May, so that if any outbreak occurs such as salmonella it can be traced back to the producer."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [02] CyTA hopes Monday strike will not affect calls

    By Soteris Charalambous

    CYTA announced yesterday that its employees were planning a 24-hour strike on Monday to protest the Finance Ministry's refusal to approve new collective agreements, even though CyTA management, the unions and the Communications Ministry had already ratified it.

    CyTA spokesman Paris Menelaou confirmed the unions' announcement, but hoped the industrial action would not unduly affect normal telephony, though he admitted that additional services, such as repairs for reported faults would not be undertaken and customer services such as directory enquiries and applications for phones, would not be available.

    In an attempt to avert the industrial action, both the Communications Ministry and CyTA management are trying to convince the Finance Ministry that the proposals do not fall outside the prescribed formula for agreement. According to Menelaou, the issue of whether the collective bargain had gone beyond the framework for agreement had already been put before Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas, who found that they were within the guidelines.

    "Talks between management and the Unions resulted in an agreement some weeks ago and was subsequently ratified by the Communications and Public Works Ministry, but before coming into force it had to be agreed to by the Finance Ministry," explained the spokesman.

    According to Menelaou, the Finance Ministry feels that four specific areas are out of line.

    Firstly, CyTA has agreed with the unions that the retirement age could be extended to 63, from 60, to allow those who entered employment at a later age to accrue the 33 years of service necessary to become eligible for a full pension. The Finance Minister was unwilling to approve this change, but has offered the compromise of raising the age of retirement to 63 for all employees.

    The second point relates to combining scales for graduates in CyTA. Current practice allowed for the combined scales of up to A11 or A12, dependent on position. The agreement between CyTA and the unions enables all graduates to reach scale A13 without promotion on condition that a pre-determined number of years had be served. The Finance Ministry felt a dangerous precedent was being set by changing the existing practice because other sections of the civil service could ask for the a similar change to be applied to their employment, which could end up costing the government a lot of money. However, other semi-government organisations like the Electricity Authority have already implemented similar changes.

    The Finance Ministry was also unwilling to agree to an incentive scheme amounting to 250,000 that fell outside the parameters of the main financial agreement, which was agreed at an annual budget of 30 million.

    The final area of concern related to compensation for the change in practice towards public holidays. In the past, public holidays that fell on the weekend were taken on the following Monday. The new agreement proposed to add two extra days to the holiday calendar, Christmas Eve and Easter Tuesday with an additional day added to holiday entitlement.

    "This is not the classic industrial relations scenario where unions are in conflict with their employers, in fact an agreement exists between the two, but it has yet to be ratified by the Finance Ministry," said Menelaou.

    The spokesman added that he hoped intensive negotiations would result in an agreement that would avoid any inconvenience to the public.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [03] Officials dismiss Limassol flyover fears

    By Stefanos Evripidou

    LOCAL residents have joined forces with deputies and representatives of Polemidia municipality to demonstrate against plans to build a flyover between the Polemidia and Orphanides roundabouts in Limassol.

    On Wednesday protestors carried banners as they marched peacefully to the Polemidia roundabout, where they stayed for an hour before dispersing.

    Polemidia mayor Georgios Georgiou yesterday criticised the government for failing to conduct a mandatory environmental impact study on the project, expected to start next month, claiming it would have a negative impact on local quality of life.

    Georgiou told the Cyprus Mail the project had many shortcomings. These included plans for its construction, the aesthetics of the structure, land ownership around the proposed flyover, and above all, the claim that it would fail to solve the problem of traffic congestion.

    "We support the project, but first want to see a study conducted into the consequences of it on people and the environment," he said.

    Georgiou maintained that the flyover, as planned, would split the city into two, with social and economic consequences for residents.

    In defence, a Communications Ministry official pointed out that the current highway was already fenced off and had an underground pedestrian crossing and perpendicular roads leading to the roundabout; these would remain there to connect both sides of the city.

    Regarding the visual aspect of the flyover, the official said the bridge would only be raised seven metres above the roundabout and for the smallest possible distance. In an attempt to minimise additional land taken, the project will create an underground drainage system to avoid making ditches on either side of the flyover.

    He acknowledged that a comprehensive environmental study had not been conducted as required by a 2001law passed on the environment, but maintained that the project had been approved before that date and so was subject to the laws before its implementation.

    The official highlighted that all important factors such as sound management, traffic control and pollution had been taken into consideration and acted upon. Sound will be minimised in most places, and where it is not possible, sound barriers will be erected.

    "We have acted with complete transparency, displaying all our plans and studies to the public step by step. All interested parties were fully informed and involved in the process and were given the opportunity to study the Cabinet proposals which have been approved," he said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [04] New efforts to avert hotels crisis

    By Stefanos Evripidou

    NEGOTIATIONS to renew collective agreements in the tourism sector are under way under the mediation of the Labour Ministry amidst a climate of flagging tourism and steep competition.

    The mediators intervened after direct talks reached a deadlock between the Cyprus Hoteliers Association (PASYXE) and representatives of the two unions (PEO and SEK). A new date was agreed between the interested parties for continued discussions on October 9.

    The unions are scheduled to meet with the Association of Cyprus Tourist Enterprises (STEK), which represents four and five star hotels on the island today as part of parallel negotiations on collective agreements.

    PASYXE Director general Zacharias Ioannides told the Cyprus Mail yesterday, "The mere fact that a second meeting has been arranged and agreed upon to continue the discussions is verification that the mediator has been convinced that there are grounds to continue negotiations."

    The association's main intention, he said, was to safeguard the industrial peace that existed and facilitate their operations to overcome the present difficulties while maintaining satisfactory working conditions for hotel employees.

    According to PEO union representative, Lefteris Yioryatis, PASYXE backed out on a number of issues agreed on in the direct talks as a result of the looming tourism crisis. In a move to show their respect and understanding of the situation, the unions withdrew a number of their demands and agreed to sign a one-year collective agreement instead of a three-year contract, said Yioryatis.

    However, he insisted that concessions were made in the expectation that their core demands would be met. These include the establishment of performance-related wage increases, a social welfare fund and greater health coverage.

    Yioryatis maintained that labour costs were not to blame for the current crisis, adding that wages had dropped with many workers being laid off.

    "Cyprus has always been a more expensive holiday destination but lately it has been affected by world events and stagnant markets from main tourism sources. What sets us apart is the high level of service we offer and we need to concentrate on maintaining that quality," he said.

    In contrast, Ioannides said, "Everybody acknowledges that the basic problem of our tourism industry is our high package prices. This is an issue of competitiveness which we have an obligation to tackle and improve."

    Hotels argue that the high cost of labour in the sector, running at around 40-45 per cent of a hotel's annual revenue, is plaguing their profits and prompting tourists to head for cheaper destinations.

    Earlier in the week, Tourism Minister Nicos Rolandis made a plea for a restraint on wages and prices in the sector in an effort to become more competitive with regional competitors.

    Official estimates predict the effects of September 11 and the additional threat of war against Iraq are likely to add to the crisis bringing tourism down 12-13 per cent by the end of the year.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [05] EU to fund noise pollution project in Cyprus

    By Alex Mita

    THE GOVERNMENT is to measure noise levels around Cyprus in an EU-backed effort to cut down on noise pollution.

    The plan is one of two environmental projects for which the European Commission has approved co-funding for Cyprus, under its LIFE-Third Countries programme 2002.

    LIFE-Third countries is part of the overall LIFE programme - an EU scheme that provides financial support for environmental and nature conservation projects throughout the EU, in candidate countries and bordering regions.

    The general objective of LIFE is to contribute to the development and implementation of EU environmental policy through the financing of specific actions.

    The EU will inject a total of _698,080 for the projects, covering 70 per cent of eligible costs in each project.

    The noise pollution project will be carried out by the Environment Service and aims to create capabilities and infrastructure to enable the design and implementation of an environmental noise policy in accordance with EU specifications.

    Environment Service director Nicos Georgiades told the Cyprus Mail yesterday the government would measure noise levels in order to design and implement a policy on noise pollution. The EU will contribute _297,338.

    "The project involves measuring and assessment of the population's exposure to dangerous noise levels in different areas as the first step to form a policy on noise pollution," he said.

    "We will be measuring noise levels throughout the island with specialised equipment we will install in various areas over a period of two years.

    Georgiades said the Environment Service would take measurements around industrial, rural and urban areas during working hours and at night.

    The second project the EU are co-funding involves the development and implementation of an integrated system for the control and monitoring of urban waste water treatment in Cyprus

    The project would see the development of an Integrated Management System, concerning Urban Wastewater Treatment Plants in Cyprus.

    It will involve illustration of the current situation, development of guidelines as well as sampling, measurement and analyses, data recording, development and implementation of software system, dissemination and management.

    The EU will contribute _400,742 (68.9% of eligible costs).

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [06] New minister sworn in as car scam spirals

    By George Psyllides

    NEW Justice Minister Alecos Siambos yesterday appealed for everyone to help in overcoming the difficult period the ministry was going through in a week that saw his predecessor and the chief of police resign amid mounting allegations of police involvement in a car assembly scandal.

    Retired former foreign ministry permanent secretary Siambos was sworn in yesterday before President Glafcos Clerides.

    He takes over from Nicos Koshis, who resigned on Tuesday without revealing the reasons behind his decision.

    Chief of Police Andreas Angelides also resigned on Wednesday. His replacement has not yet been named.

    Clerides said yesterday he had someone in mind, but refused to reveal the name.

    Siambos assured the President that he would do everything in his power to do his duty and prove worthy of public expectations.

    Asked whether he felt pressure assuming a ministry under such circumstances, Siambos said it was not a matter of being under pressure.

    "(The matter is) to be able to do your duty knowing the problems at hand," Siambos said.

    "Wounds can be healed with understanding from all sides involved," he added.

    He said it was everybody's duty to assist in healing the wounds, especially at such a time.

    Siambos assumed his duties later in the afternoon in a ceremony during which Koshis officially handed over the ministry.

    "Bitterness and grievances are put aside and the country stands above all," Koshis said.

    The outgoing minister assured his successor that he would support him in his difficult task.

    Koshis said he knew Siambos personally and said he believed he would succeed where he had failed.

    Siambos said: "I will need everyone's help so that together we will tackle and overcome this difficult period that we are going through, not only concerning the ministry but in general."

    Meanwhile, investigations into the scandal continued yesterday. Reports said a Limassol customs officer had been questioned, though nothing was found against him.

    The scam is believed to have defrauded the government of millions of pounds in unpaid duty, with the suspects importing spare parts for luxury vehicles and assembling on the island, thus evading steep import taxes on luxury vehicles.

    Deputy Attorney-general Petros Clerides said yesterday customs had sealed several bonded warehouses suspected of releasing cars and spare parts without the necessary duties being paid.

    Clerides said the authorities were currently assessing a large number of documents while gathering evidence on several cases in order to bring them to court.

    "I think a lot of work is being done with the few people that we have," Clerides said.

    He insisted that all involved - including public officers - would receive equal treatment.

    "Be sure on that," Clerides said,

    He revealed that several documents showed which specific public officers might be involved in the case.

    In a related development, a 52-year-old car mechanic was yesterday remanded in custody for eight days on suspicion of involvement in the case.

    The court heard that Antonis Nikiforou kept a joint bank account with senior police officer Yiannakis Panayiotou, who is also being held for the same case.

    From the account, the two men allegedly paid for the purchase of a damaged car from Germany, which was subsequently sold for 24,000 to a person from the Famagusta district.

    Police said they discovered the account while examining documents seized at Panayiotou's home.

    When the car arrived on the island, it was valued at 3,000 and the duties paid were 4,680, the court heard.

    Police said the state was owed duties amounting to 31,000 just on that one vehicle.

    It was also determined that the engine serial number on the vehicle sold was different to the one on the import documents, while the car was also turned from a left hand to a right hand drive.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [07] New remand for rape suspect pending results of DNA tests

    A 26-YEAR-old diver suspected of kidnapping, beating and raping a 22-year- old British woman last week, was yesterday remanded in custody for a further six days pending the results of a DNA test.

    A police spokesman told the Cyprus Mail the suspected had not given the names of two other men who are thought to have assisted him in kidnapping the tourist.

    The tourist claimed she had lost her friend while they were out clubbing in Ayia Napa in the early hours of the morning. She said she sat on the pavement waiting for her when three men kidnapped her, took her to a remote location and raped her.

    The woman was found by locals just after midday and immediately taken to hospital, where she twice had to undergo surgery.

    Famagusta police Deputy Superintendent, Costas Melanides, said yesterday that in a few days the tourist would have to pick out her assailant in an identity parade.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [08] Man remanded over attempted rape of Russian

    A 40-YEAR-old man suspected of attempted rape, and beating and robbing two Russian tourists in Limassol three weeks ago, was yesterday remanded in custody for eight days.

    It had initially thought the suspect had fled to the occupied areas, but after a tip off, police yesterday found the man hiding at his sister's house in Trimiklini.

    The two victims, a 49-year-old woman and her daughter, 19, claimed they met the man in Limassol while they were walking and he had offered to show them the city. They got into his car and but he led them to a remote location where at gunpoint he took $500 from the mother's purse and attempted to rape her daughter.

    The tourists claimed the man had driven them back to Limassol and threatened he would kill them if they reported the incident to the police. In his statement to police, the man refused to comment on the allegations.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002


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