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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 03-05-17

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

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


Saturday, May 17, 2003

CONTENTS

  • [01] EU to ease trade with Turkish Cypriots, but says there is no embargo to lift
  • [02] CY facing massive debt after fleet renewal fiasco
  • [03] Shareholders vent their fury at BoC board
  • [04] EU fees for UK universities to kick in only from September 2004
  • [05] Oil spill exercise ‘a complete success’
  • [06] Papadopoulos ‘is sincere’ about peace talks
  • [07] House excludes foreign rally team from tobacco ad ban
  • [08] Doctors berate ministry over SARS precautions

  • [01] EU to ease trade with Turkish Cypriots, but says there is no embargo to lift

    By George Psyllides

    THE EUROPEAN Union yesterday rejected Turkish claims that it was maintaining an embargo against the occupied areas in Cyprus, reiterating that the European Court of Justice had refused to allow certificates of origin for goods from an unrecognised entity.

    “I reject the word embargo because no embargo has been imposed on Turkish Cypriot products,” European Commission enlargement spokesman Jean- Christophe Filori said yesterday.

    Filori added that the European Court in 1994 had refused to accept export certificates issued by the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state because the EU did not recognise it.

    Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said yesterday he expected the EU to take steps to end the ‘embargo’ on the Turkish Cypriots – a move he said would accelerate changes on the island.

    Filori confirmed the EU executive would make proposals on June 4 to ease Turkish Cypriot exports to the bloc.

    “In early June, the Commission will make proposals to favour a rapprochement between the north and the south, consisting among others of measures aiming in facilitating trade from the northern part of Cyprus to the rest of the EU,” Filori said.

    The proposals also include the funding – to the tune of €15 million – of various programmes.

    Gul, who was visiting Brussels for talks with the EU, told reporters steps would soon be taken to ease the ‘trade embargo’ on the occupied north.

    “Both Turkey and Turkish Cyprus are about to take important steps in the issue;

    “You will learn from the EU in the coming days about their extent, how they will work, what they will be,” Gul told a news conference.

    Meanwhile the Greek Foreign Ministry yesterday categorically rejected Turkish wire reports that the Foreign Ministers of Greek and Turkey had agreed to co-operate in lifting the ‘embargo’ on the occupied part of the island.

    Ministry Spokesman Panayiotis Beglitis said the “Turkish mass media continue their favourite tactic of manufacturing information, twisting and misinforming, in an effort to impose their own reality.”

    Beglitis said the Union’s position was clear.

    “Turkey and the Denktash regime should respect it, as they should contribute in the solution of Cyprus’ political problem within the United Nations framework and on the basis of the Annan plan,” Beglitis said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Saturday, May 17, 2003

    [02] CY facing massive debt after fleet renewal fiasco

    By Jean Christou

    CYPRUS Airways (CY) is looking at losses of between six and 10 million pounds for this year following the fiasco over the renewal of the fleet, which has plunged the airline over $350 million into debt for the next 10 years.

    The saga ended in Los Angeles on Tuesday when CY reached a new agreement with American leasing company ILFC, with which they were in dispute over the sale of four Airbus A310s.

    The sale of the four A310s for $43.5 million was to offset some of the costs involved in the fleet renewal, but after wrangling with ILFC over delays and conditions of the planes, CY will now receive only $31 million for the four A310s.

    The total investment in the renewal of the fleet comes to over $380 million, the Cyprus Mail has learned. It includes the purchase of two A319s for $64 million and the leasing of two A330s for $118 million. It also includes the leasing of four Boeing 737s for CY’s charter firm Eurocypria at a cost of $120 million, and $25 million to lease three Airbus A320s for HellasJet, the national carrier’s venture into Greece, which is due to launch next month. In addition, extra engines and hangars for the new planes will cost around $50 million.

    When the $31 million from the sale of the A310s is deducted, CY’s debt will be left at well over $350 million. “If you take into account that this is one of the worst periods ever in airline history, Cyprus Airways can expect to lose between six and 10 million this year alone,” a source said.

    CY is expected to finalise the new deal with ILFC for the sale of the A310s on Monday after shelling out $10.5 million to repair them to the American company’s specifications, plus paying $2 million in compensation for failure to deliver the aircraft on time.

    Last month, the government launched an investigation into the problems arising from the renewal of the fleet, a move taken after the issue was tabled at the House Watchdog Committee, and shortly after then chairman Haris Loizides, who was appointed by the previous government, resigned.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Saturday, May 17, 2003

    [03] Shareholders vent their fury at BoC board

    By Sofia Kannas

    A BANK of Cyprus shareholder yesterday accused the Bank’s directorate of evading its responsibility towards BoC shareholders.

    The accusations follow Wednesday’s BoC Annual General Meeting (AGM), when hundreds of disgruntled shareholders gathered to express their dissatisfaction at the way the Board of Directors has handled shareholders’ money.

    Speaking to the Cyprus Mail yesterday, one shareholder said the Board had failed to answer a series of questions put to the Board on behalf of shareholders by the Bank of Cyprus Shareholders’ and Customers’ Association.

    “We got no answer to any of our questions. Both the Chairman and Vice- Chairman said they would reply (to our questions) later, or even said they did not want to answer these questions,” the shareholder said.

    “This indicates that they have things to hide -- it was obvious.”

    One of the questions shareholders demanded an answer to was why valuable plots of coastal land belonging to the bank were allegedly sold to senior bank officials and land registry employees for just £300 or £600 per donum.

    “We want to know how come such prime land was sold to relatives of senior BoC officials,” he said, adding that the bank was already facing a court case regarding the issue. “The BoC legal adviser Mr Polyviou interfered, saying that he didn’t want to reply as the case was pending.

    “We also asked who was going to pay for the penalties that the Central Bank imposed on the BoC, the shareholders or the Board of Directors? And again they tried to avoid giving an answer.”

    The shareholder stressed that the Board neglected to give answers to eight other questions drawn up by the support group.

    “They were very evasive regarding the other questions,” he said, adding that the Board did admit they would cut senior directors’ earnings by 18 per cent, to £100,000 each per annum. “Mr Triantafillides, Mr Pantzaris and Mr Xenophontos are (currently) earning more than half a million a year,” he said.

    The Board also failed to secure approval for Board members’ annual expenses, which amount to £15,000 for the President and £6,800 per annum for each Board member.

    “The shareholders shouted ‘No!’ when asked if they approved,” the shareholder said. “It was a riotous atmosphere -- I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing: for the first time the shareholders were in a state of revolution.”

    The expenses were approved, however, despite the opposition.

    “Of course it was carried through, because they (the Board) have proxy votes so they had the majority. It was the first time shareholders expressed their dissatisfaction in this way, though.”

    Shareholders were also outraged when the directorate announced the decision not to take to court customers who were unable to pay off loans taken from investors’ accounts to buy shares.

    “It was an incredible statement to make in front of Central Bank Governor Christodoulos Christodoulou,” the shareholder said. “Where do you draw the line? If somebody comes and says I don’t have the money to pay off my building loan, what do you say now?

    “One shareholder stood up and said ‘you should all step down’.”

    Asked whether shareholders expected the directorate to resign, he said: “It would be very difficult for them to carry on in this way. It was made very clear to them (at the AGM) that they have to change. In view of the fact that they know there is legal action against them I don’t think they can carry on. There really has to be some drastic action. They cannot be so arrogant.”

    He added that Board members convicted of mishandling BoC affairs would have no alternative but to step down.

    “If a Board member is found guilty of a criminal offence then by law, he can no longer hold his post as director in a public company. So there may be some changes forced upon them anyway.”

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Saturday, May 17, 2003

    [04] EU fees for UK universities to kick in only from September 2004

    By Alexia Saoulli

    OVERSEAS fee-paying Cypriot students studying at UK universities will be reclassified as home students at the beginning of the 2004 academic year, reducing their tuition by as much as £19,000, the British Council confirmed yesterday. This change will take effect as soon as the island joins the European Union in May next year.

    Until that date, however, students will continue to pay full fees, said Anthi Panayidou.

    The difference in price for home and overseas student is vast. According to the Kings College London website, “the (British) government asks that home (UK/EU) students contribute towards their tuition costs, depending on personal circumstances. For the academic year 2002-2003, this is up to a maximum of £1,100.”

    The website added that tuition costs for full-time overseas students for the academic year 2001-2002 were: classroom-based subjects, £8,800; laboratory-based subjects, £10,950; and clinically based subjects, £20,450. These fees are only given as a guide and the fees for the academic year 2003-2004 will be available in June.

    “Cypriot students will pay full fees until the beginning of the academic year in 2004, whereby the Department for Education and Skills (DFES) will reclassify their status to an EU student,” said Panayidou.

    Although the island would join the bloc in May next year, parents would not receive a refund for the months of May and June 2004. Instead, “the new fees will be enforced from the next fee-paying period after accession,” which begins in September.

    Panayidou advised any student currently at university or about to start this year to remind their institution, before paying their September 2004 fees, that their fee-paying status had changed. New students would already be registered as EU students.

    Asked whether any students’ places would be jeopardised if their status were reclassified, Panayidou said: “You can’t throw someone out. Once you’re in, you’re in. It would be unethical to do such a thing (over fees).”

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Saturday, May 17, 2003

    [05] Oil spill exercise ‘a complete success’

    By Alex Mita

    EXXONMobil and the Ministries of Agriculture and Commerce yesterday announced the completion of a two-day annual exercise, which focused on dealing with a possible major incident such as an oil spill.

    The exercise, codenamed Kathari, was held in Cyprus for the first time, and involved 65 people, including an ExxonMobil Regional Response Team and local government officials from the Ministry of Agriculture (Department of Fisheries), the Ministry of Commerce and the Cyprus Ports Authority.

    Other participants included representatives from the Cyprus Petroleum Refinery, the International Marine Transportation and Oil Spill Response Ltd. from Southampton in the UK.

    Participants worked on a scenario of a tanker explosion while discharging products to ExxonMobile in Larnaca.

    The explosion resulted in an oil spill of around 200 tons of crude oil approaching the coastline, while the ship’s personnel and those who responded to the explosion were in grave danger.

    The exercise focused on the co-operation between ExxonMobil and local authorities in dealing with potential problems that would have resulted from the explosion, such as environmental pollution, continuity of fuel supply, damage to tourism, impact on amenities and community and impact on commerce, desalination plants and power stations.

    The objectives of the exercise were to enhance competence and experience of the Regional Response Team, and to practice working together with the local ExxonMobil response team while deploying the Cyprus National Plan for Combating Oil Pollution.

    Speaking at a news conference yesterday, ExxonMobil Chairman and Managing Director Richard Shute said he had been impressed with the enthusiasm and professionalism shown during the exercise, which he branded a complete success.

    “All the team members have demonstrated a true commitment to the purpose of the exercise, carrying out the roles assigned to them with seriousness and professionalism,” Shute said.

    “At the conclusion of the exercise, we knew that the Regional Response Team would be able to handle a serious incident responsibly and comprehensively.”

    Shute said the company’s efforts for the prevention of a major incident had resulted in the acquisition of a double-hulled vessel used for the import of crude oil to Cyprus since February.

    Fisheries Department official Loizos Loizides said the National Plan for Combating Oil Pollution was within the framework of an agreement between Cyprus and Egypt for dealing with incidents of sea pollution.

    “The plan was designed for the rapid and effective control of oil spills sot that the effects on the environment and tourism would be minimised,” Loizides said.

    ExxonMobil Emergency Response Advisor Mike Cowan said the company was able to deal with any incident.

    “If the unthinkable happens and it gets worse, then the team that I co- ordinate can make available a large number of experts and technical input very quickly,” he said.

    “The first few hours of an incident could be very difficult as no regional response team is based on the island but we can be in pretty quickly, technically between five and 12 hours.”

    Cowan said that despite Cyprus being one of the safest marine destinations for crude oil, regular maintenance and operational standards were always being carried out in order to make sure everything was working normally.

    “The team is made up of a large number of people with different skills who can deal with anything from a panic situation to a less critical incident and bring things under control quickly in order to prevent damage to the environment.”

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Saturday, May 17, 2003

    [06] Papadopoulos ‘is sincere’ about peace talks

    By a Staff Reporter

    THE GOVERNMENT yesterday dismissed claims by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash that President Tassos Papadopoulos was not sincere in his wish to resume negotiations on the basis of a UN peace proposal.

    Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said Denktash must be feeling the international isolation he had led himself into, and sense the pressure he was under to end the Turkish occupation of part of Cyprus.

    “Denktash’s claims are an attempt to cover up his own sins, this is just a pretext he is using. The entire international community is well aware of his negative, monolithic and fanatical position, which everybody witnessed at the talks in The Hague in March,” he told the Cyprus News Agency.

    The spokesman reiterated that the President’s positions were well known in the international community.

    “His positions are genuine and they have not changed, the President is not tired of repeating his views to all directions,” Chrysostomides said.

    Replying to questions, he said that both the UN and the European Union believed Papadopoulos was sincere in his resolve to work for a settlement based on the Annan plan. He added the President had said the plan should be adjusted to fit in with the new developments since the collapse of the talks in March – namely the signing of the EU Accession Treaty.

    The spokesman also said that a constructive approach by Ankara on the Cyprus issue would help Turkey’s European aspirations and contribute to a political settlement.

    He said Turkey had a long way to go to prove that it respected human rights and met European Union criteria.

    “If Turkey displays genuine political will to solve a problem of gross human rights violations, such as the question of Cyprus, it will contribute positively to a decision by the EU in December 2004 on the start of accession negotiations and in general to a more positive approach towards Turkey’s European course,” Chrysostomides said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Saturday, May 17, 2003

    [07] House excludes foreign rally team from tobacco ad ban

    By Alex Mita

    THE CYPRUS Rally has almost certainly been rescued from the axe for at least a year after the plenum amended the law in order to exclude non- Cypriot teams from a tobacco advertising ban on their cars.

    There were fears that the Cyprus Rally was in danger of being axed by the FIA due to House plans to enforce an EU ban on tobacco advertising. The loss of the event would cost the economy an estimated £12 million brought in by WRC enthusiasts.

    An EU Directive requires a ban on tobacco advertising in all member states. It was implemented in July 2001 with an extension to October 2006 for sponsorship of world level events such as Formula One.

    And with the ruthless axing of great Formula 1 circuits enforcing the ban by F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, fears were raised that the WRC Cyprus Rally would follow suit to make way for other events where tobacco advertising would be allowed.

    Deputies Zacharias Koulias and Marinos Sizopoulos maintained that by allowing tobacco advertising on foreign teams, the island’s economy would receive a financial and political boost, as well as a rise in tourism.

    Around £13 million are injected into the economy during the event, with £10 million spent by tourists in Limassol.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Saturday, May 17, 2003

    [08] Doctors berate ministry over SARS precautions

    By Alexia Saoulli

    THE Cyprus Medical Association said yesterday that measures taken by the Health Ministry to handle possible cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) were still weak and imperfect.

    But Health Minister Dina Akkelidou denied the claims and said the state health services were equipped to handle any SARS cases, having implemented all World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines to deal with deadly flu-like virus, which has infected just under 8,000 people and left 600 dead, mainly in Asia.

    “As we said we are prepared to handle a problem if there is one and we are sure of this because we’ve confirmed it with the WHO,” she said.

    Although Medical Association President Antonis Vassiliou was quick to point out he was not criticising the ministry, merely making suggestions, he said the special ward on Limassol hospital’s fifth floor was not adequately equipped for SARS patients.

    “Opening windows to ventilate the rooms is not effective. We need a negative-pressure system,” he said. This is a vacuum that sucks up the infected air in the SARS ward, and then once it’s sterilised, transports it outside into the atmosphere. One is expected at the hospital within 15 days, he said.

    The medical association also called for stricter measures at all points of entry into the island, including the occupied areas. Although a health status questionnaire was already being handed out to travellers entering Cyprus from affected areas and their temperatures were being taken, “we must put thermo-cameras in Larnaca airport so that we can check the temperature of all incoming passengers.” One SARS symptom is a temperature of over 38 degrees centigrade. Respiratory difficulties and a cough are another two.

    He said although Paphos airport should also have stricter SARS measures in place, planes from affected areas (China) did not land there, therefore it was not such a problem.

    “Entry points to the occupied areas must also be checked. If the Turkish Cypriot ‘authorities’ are not carrying out serious, effective, tough measures at their points of entry, then we must do so from our side to avoid the virus crossing the Green Line,” he said.

    Meanwhile the 80-year-old man who was admitted to Limassol hospital on Thursday night with suspected SARS symptoms is “probably suffering from an infection that is unrelated to the virus but to other bacteria,” Akkelidou said yesterday. His temperature had dropped, his cough was no longer dry and he was responding to antibiotics, she said. At present he was being kept in for observation. But, she criticised doctors for the false alarm and causing unnecessary panic.

    Vassiliou replied it was better to “ring the warning bell 1,000 times and be wrong, than to let one infected person slip through the net and infect the entire population. Where there is a suspect case we must implement all precautionary measures, instead of waiting to make sure the patient has SARS before we do anything, by which time it has spread.”

    But the fact that the patient’s private doctor had referred him to hospital and he did not go directly to the special SARS ward, concerned the medical association.

    Patients that have suspect symptoms should not go to their private doctor, hospital outpatient clinics or emergency departments. Instead they should go straight to Limassol hospital, where they will be taken up to the special unit by a separate entrance, avoiding contact with other patients, said Vassiliou.

    Vassiliou said the chances were that SARS would most an appearance in Cyprus at some stage.

    “We need to stress that there is no need to panic, because we do not have a problem here yet, as far as we know. However, it will be very difficult to shut out the problem in Cyprus and so we must be able to deal with it effectively,” he said.

    “We are worried. This is something new and we are going to have to learn to live with it… It reminds us of AIDS in the 90s, but in those cases you could protect yourself and feel relatively safe. Here it’s not a matter of personal care, but prevention measures.”

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003


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