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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 03-05-28

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

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

Wednesday, May 28, 2003


  • [01] Most Cypriots jailed are debt convicts, Ministry admits
  • [02] Cyprus falling behind in EU duties
  • [03] Hotel unions set to strike next month
  • [04] Crunch time for billboard law
  • [05] Is the government doing enough to tackle smoking?
  • [06] Oncology Centre pledges continuous improvement of services
  • [07] Ministry under fire for SARS visa ban
  • [08] Poll shows mixed feelings about crossings

  • [01] Most Cypriots jailed are debt convicts, Ministry admits

    By Sofia Kannas

    A SIGNIFICANT percentage of Cypriots going to prison are being imprisoned for debts, Permanent Secretary at the Justice Ministry Lazaros Savvides said yesterday.

    Savvides’ comments followed warnings from Justice Minister Doros Theodorou on Monday of an influx of inmates to the island’s central prisons after new Attorney-general Solon Nikitas ruled last week that individuals convicted for debt offences could no longer have their prison sentences suspended. Nikitas’ interpretation put an end to the practice followed by his predecessor Alecos Markides of suspending prison sentences for debtors through Presidential pardons.

    Speaking to the Cyprus Mail yesterday, Savvides said that the number of debtors sent to prison since the Attorney-general’s decision was announced last Wednesday was not very large, but warned that by the end of the year, the picture could be different.

    “The number (of debtors imprisoned) since last Wednesday is not that great, ” he said. “But as far as the numbers are concerned, it’s not so much what the figures are in the short term, but what the figures are in a year -- that is what’s important.

    “If you consider that around 40-45 per cent of people in prison are foreigners, this shows how big a problem it is if the majority of Cypriots going to jail do so for not paying their debts. You’ll see that a big percentage of Cypriots going to prison belong to this category (of debtors).”

    Director of Prisons Panicos Kyriacou confirmed that a large number of Cypriots were jailed for failing to pay off debts, adding that foreign inmates were imprisoned for different offences such as entering the country illegally.

    The latest prison figures for 2001 and 2002 show that around 48 per cent of Cypriots jailed during these two years were imprisoned for debt offences. Figures for this year are likely to be significantly higher; it is estimated that in the first five months of 2003 alone, up to 80 per cent of Cypriot inmates were jailed for debts.

    “With this interpretation, the figures will remain very, very high and that automatically means that all the estimations and calculations we carried out for the building of new (prison) wings will be obsolete and we will have to consider very carefully what we are going to do,” Savvides said.

    Kyriacou confirmed that a proposal for releasing foreign inmates to free up space for debtors had been submitted to Nikitas for consideration.

    “Seventy-three foreigners may be released,” he said. “This is under examination by the Attorney-general.” He noted that since last Wednesday 26 people had been imprisoned for various debt offences, but said four had been released, including the former lawyer for Archbishop Makarios, 84-year- old Michalakis Pissas.

    Kyriacou also acknowledged that prison overcrowding was currently a great concern. “At the moment, there are 372 people in prison and the maximum recommended capacity is 220-30 people,” he said. “We expect the problem to be approached positively. The Ministry has responded dynamically due to the fact that at the moment correct conditions of cohabitation, discipline and safety are under threat. There is also the danger of transmittable diseases to consider, as we have two inmates with HIV and Hepatitis. We are fighting to become more human within the framework of the laws and regulations of the European Union.”

    Former Justice Minister Alecos Siambos yesterday voiced his disagreement with the Attorney-general’s interpretation of the law.

    “I am in complete disagreement with the decision, not (just) because of the situation in the prisons, but because it’s inhuman (to imprison debtors),” he said. “Just because you owe money, do you have to be put in prison? To me, this is a violation of basic human rights.”

    He added that the situation required a change in the law.

    “This is an obsolete piece of legislation dating from last century,” he said. “The law has to be changed.”

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Wednesday, May 28, 2003

    [02] Cyprus falling behind in EU duties

    By Stefanos Evripidou

    THE PRESSURE is on for Cyprus either to harmonise fully with the immense body of EU laws before the European Commission concludes its final progress report in November, or face the imposition of aid and trade penalties after accession.

    In almost every chapter covering EU accession, laws remain which need to be transposed into national legislation or measures exist that need implementation. Cyprus was considered first in its class when accession negotiations were completed in December 2002, but since then, it has fallen behind in the harmonisation process.

    A confidential interim report sent to the government on May 23 highlighted a number of delays in 13 chapters of the accession negotiations. The report singled out energy policy (transposition of the electricity directive) and financial control (the new Internal Audit Act) as the chapters needing most urgent attention. According to reports, Cyprus will soon receive warning letters from the Commission on these two chapters.

    Government and EU officials acknowledge that much valuable time was spent on the presidential elections in February and on legal analysis after the introduction of the UN-brokered peace plan for Cyprus.

    However, according to EU sources, Cyprus is no worse off in the harmonisation process then the other nine countries joining in May 2004. “We got used to Cyprus doing things on time. Now, they are seen to be seriously lagging behind. I think this is a bit over-exaggerated. But, if they fail to meet their commitments then they may face penalties and trade restrictions,” said one EU official.

    Overall, Cyprus is on track in its preparations for membership. However, attention must be given to a number of important remaining issues in most chapters of the acquis.

    The areas of most concern are energy and financial control. Cyprus needs to transpose the electricity directive, thereby freeing up 33 per cent of the electricity market by accession, and also secure 90 days’ worth of fuel stocks.

    Also, a number of delays have occurred in the areas of free movement of goods, free movement of persons, freedom to provide services, company law, fisheries, transport policy, social policy and employment, energy, telecommunications, culture and audio-visual policy, regional policy and environment.

    Head of the negotiating team for Cyprus’s accession to the EU, Takis Hadjidemetriou, told the Cyprus News Agency yesterday that the interim report did not affect Cyprus’s accession to the EU, but merely stated that if it didn’t act on the points highlighted, it would face measures.

    He maintained that the directive on energy would be submitted to parliament shortly. Regarding telecommunications, Hadjidemetriou said a public offering for a second mobile phone licence would be held in October.

    If any of the 10 acceding countries, including Cyprus, fail to meet their commitments undertaken in accession negotiations, the Commission may begin infringement procedures in order to safeguard the smooth running of its internal market.

    According to Dow Jones wire, the Commission can block exports for up to three years from members distorting trade in the bloc and has the power to withhold billions of euros in aid. Dow Jones also reported on an internal letter drafted by EU Commissioner for Enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, which stated that the new members are “generally on track” in the enlargement process.

    However, Verheugen reportedly singled out the largest acceding country, Poland, for criticism over failure to enact legislation on the free movement of capital and services and on the independence of its Central Bank. Hungary was mentioned for its lax financial controls, while the Czech Republic had to comply with rules allowing nurses and doctors to work abroad. Malta was noted for its need to progress on competition in the shipbuilding industry and Slovakia had to work on its service industry.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Wednesday, May 28, 2003

    [03] Hotel unions set to strike next month

    By Sofia Kannas

    HOTEL employees’ unions yesterday agreed to go on strike next month, after the continuing refusal of the island’s hoteliers to accept a collective agreement already approved by hotel workers earlier this year.

    In January, members of the Cyprus Hoteliers’ Association (PASYXE) were presented with a proposal drafted by the Labour Ministry, but rebuffed it, saying it did not safeguard concessions gained by hoteliers in a 1998 collective agreement.

    Following a meeting of union executive committees yesterday afternoon, General Secretary of the Cyprus Hotel Employees’ Federation (SEK), Nicos Epistithiou, told the Cyprus Mail that hotel employees would be striking on June 24.

    “The two major unions met to discuss the attitude of PASYXE and STEK (Cyprus Tourist Business Association) concerning the acceptance and the implementation of the proposal put forward by the Ministry of Labour,” he said. “Until now PASYXE has not accepted the proposal and even though STEK accepted and signed the agreement, they haven’t implemented it yet. They refer to problems arising from the Iraq war - but this is not an excuse as far as we are concerned,” he added.

    Epistithiou said the form and length of the strike would be decided closer to the time. “It’s up to us to decide where and how long the actions will last. Maybe we will have a general strike.”

    He reiterated that he hoped PASYXE would alter its stance before June 24, to avert the need for strike action.

    “We will give this period of time to PASYXE, especially, to change their attitude and accept the Labour Ministy’s proposal. PASYXE are going to elect a new leadership on June 2, so maybe they will change their mind,” he added.

    PASYXE President Zacharias Ioannides said in response that hoteliers were always hopeful that the strike would be called off. He warned, however, that the Association would not be reconsidering its position.

    “We are always optimistic and we are of the opinion that the best for all concerned would be not to take any action, (but) our position is very clear, and this was repeated before the Mediation Committee and the department of the Ministry of Labour.”

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Wednesday, May 28, 2003

    [04] Crunch time for billboard law

    By Alex Mita

    THE DISPUTE over controversial legislation to regulate roadside billboards is expected to be settled at the plenum tomorrow.

    The bill, which aimed to clear the island’s roads of thousands of advertising billboards that police say pose a danger to motorists, was withdrawn last year, after it was so heavily amended that then Communications Minister Averoff Neophytou described it as “unrecognisable.”

    In the committee’s meeting this week, Perdikis managed to include four provisions in the bill, which include a proposal to ban mobile advertising units, including buses, because they are dangerously distracting to motorists.

    Perdikis also suggested that floodlights be forbidden for lighting billboards, saying they should be self-lit, as well as banning billboards closer than three metres from urban streets and 40 metres from highways.

    City billboards should be no bigger than 3x4 metres and highway hoardings no bigger than 6x3 metres. Existing billboards that do not comply with the regulations will be torn down if the bill is passed.

    But in an open letter on Monday, the Pancyprian Association of Outdoor Advertising (PAOA) launched a scathing attack against Perdikis, saying he owed his election to billboards. “Is it a coincidence that the colour of money is also green?” PAOA asked.

    But speaking to the Cyprus Mail yesterday, Perdikis scoffed at PAOA’s comments, saying the Greens had always been against billboard advertising.

    “I forgive them for their comments since they are new in the market and they don’t know that the Greens were against billboard advertising since 1996,” he said.

    “But I am hopeful that the plenum will once and for all put an end to this billboard littering around the island that is so dangerous to drivers.”

    George Havadjias, a spokesman for billboard advertising company AdBoard Ltd, told they Cyprus Mail yesterday there were other interests involved in the suggestions.

    “If the billboards are polluting the environment, then by putting them 40 metres away from roadsides do they become environmentally friendly?” he said. “What’s the difference?

    “The fact of the matter is the television channels and newspapers feel threatened by us because they believe we have taken a larger piece off the advertising cake than they did. But that’s wrong because our advertising is more about awareness. We don’t go into detail about the product like they do on television and newspapers.”

    Havadjias admitted that if the bill was passed then billboard companies would suffer.

    “What is the point of people advertising with us if the driver can’t see the billboard because it’s too far away?” he said.

    “And apart from that, all our contracts will be affected since we will have to move all our billboards in the city and on the highways further away from where they are effective.”

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Wednesday, May 28, 2003

    [05] Is the government doing enough to tackle smoking?

    By Tania Khadder

    HEALTH Minister Dina Akkelidou yesterday urged the entertainment industry not to glamorise smoking, ahead of world No Smoking Day on Saturday.

    The theme of this year’s event, organised by the World Health Organisation, is “tobacco-free film, tobacco-free fashion, Action!”

    “I ask Cypriot citizens to raise their voice in protest to free cinema, television and fashion from the promotion of smoking,” Akkelidou said yesterday.

    On May 21, the Health Minister was one of 192 ministers worldwide who voted on an initiative to confront the risk that smoking poses worldwide.

    Akkelidou said “a lot” of progress had been made locally to pass legislation aimed at curbing smoking in Cyprus.

    She pointed to the ban on tobacco advertising, which is to be enforced May 31. The ban, which adheres to European Union standards, prohibits tobacco advertising of any kind, including free giveaways of cigarettes at bars and clubs.

    But with less than a week to go before the ban is imposed, tobacco advertisements are still dotted all over the island.

    Green Party member George Perdikis told the Cyprus Mail yesterday he was hopeful the May 31 deadline would still be honoured and that the existing advertisements would be eliminated. If not, he said, his group “will start shouting and we will take the suitable legal steps.”

    In addition to the advertising ban, Akkelidou discussed legislation passed last year to protect smokers in public areas from second-hand smoke. The law prohibits smoking within the premises of government and semi-government organisations, banks, and entertainment establishments.

    But DIKO deputy and anti-smoking campaigner Marios Matsakis told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that while progress had been made to relieve non-smokers from exposure to second-hand smoke, “a lot of work still needs to be done”.

    “The worst places, unfortunately, are in hospitals, courthouses and police stations. Those areas should be an example of upholding the law, and yet that is where it is not obeyed,” he said. “I urge the new ministers to take stiff action to uphold the law and stop smoking in these places.

    “I’m sure they will take the necessary actions that their predecessors didn’t take despite my numerous complaints.”

    According to Matsakis, smoking claims the lives of about 1,000 people every year in Cyprus and four million people worldwide.

    “The irony is that there have been 300-400 deaths from SARS, and the world has panicked, but with smoking, the world just accepts it,” he said.

    “I don’t know what the ministry’s goal is, but my goal is to see a reduction in smokers by 10 per cent a year - if that was achieved it would be tremendous.”

    To make that happen, Matsakis suggests providing more education on the dangers of smoking and raising the prices of cigarettes.

    “Right now, we have the cheapest cigarettes in Europe. A packet of cigarettes in England is about three to four times more expensive.”

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Wednesday, May 28, 2003

    [06] Oncology Centre pledges continuous improvement of services

    By Alexia Saoulli

    BANK of Cyprus Oncology Centre President Androulla Vassiliou yesterday outlined plans for improvements at the centre and said it has already begun expanding its services.

    She said the Centre’s goals during her presidency were six-fold. These included the uninterrupted improvement of its services, including the continuous modernisation of its technology and equipment, the continuous training and development of its staff, periodical evaluations by an international scientific committee, extending the Centre so it could meet the needs of the growing number of patients, the completion of the renegotiated agreement between the BoC and the government, which is vital to the Centre’s future, and better informing the public about its services in matters that are either directly or indirectly related to cancer.

    “By the end of 2002, the total number of patients registered at the Centre rose to 6,263,” Vassiliou said. “In that year, 1,189 new patients registered, which is estimated to represent 70 per cent of all new cancer patients island wide.” In recent months, she added, a growing number of Turkish Cypriot patients had also expressed an interest in its services and were being treated without discrimination.

    “The Bank of Cyprus Oncology Centre is one of the most modern in the Eastern Mediterranean. It is equipped with the latest technology and installations. It uses internationally recognised methods, systems and treatment and care procedures. It adopts scientifically proven treatment protocols. It co-operates with doctors from the private and public sector and our goal and wish is that this co-operation becomes more pronounced for the good of the patients,” said Vassiliou.

    “In light of the implementation of the National Health Scheme in a few years time, the agreement between the Bank of Cyprus and government is being renegotiated. The Centre has already prepared and sent the Health Ministry two documents that make up the basis for its concluded agreement on its sale of services,” she said. She said this included the functional budget costs for 2003, as well as the preliminary agreement plan for oncology services between the Centre and the Health Ministry. Once the renegotiation process was completed, the Centre would then begin building its second floor and improving and upgrading its equipment.

    The Oncology Centre is an autonomous non-profitable institution, which offers free medical care to Cypriot cancer patients. It is governed by a six-member council: three members are appointed by the Bank of Cyprus and the remainder are government appointed.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Wednesday, May 28, 2003

    [07] Ministry under fire for SARS visa ban

    By Alexia Saoulli

    THE HOUSE Human Rights Committee yesterday slammed the government’s decision to go bar nationals of China and Singapore from entering Cyprus for fear of abetting the spread of SARS.

    The ban is the latest of the Health Ministry’s precautions to prevent an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in Cyprus. Others include screening at Paphos and Larnaca airports, questionnaires and taking temperatures from travellers from affected areas and banning new students from affected areas.

    “This measure is racist, unacceptable and foolish,” said DISY deputy Eleni Theocharous, calling on the government to withdraw it immediately.

    She pointed out Canada had also displayed numerous SARS cases and was listed on the WHO list of affected areas, yet Canadian residents were not being forbidden entrance to the island.

    The deputies also pointed out that a large number of foreigners from China and other affected Asian countries were studying or working in the occupied areas, raising the risk of an outbreak on the island.

    But Committee Chairman Sophoclis Fittis said that, despite this risk, no one had proposed forbidding anyone’s entrance from the occupied areas or carrying out strict health checks at crossing points.

    The chairman of the Association of Private Tertiary Education Schools (PASISTE), Andreas Eleftheriades, reacted angrily to Theocharous’ criticism of colleges for barring new Chinese students and advising those already here to avoid travelling home during the summer holidays.

    Elftheriades said although PASISTE had been present at a special SARS meeting at the Health Ministry on May 5, they had not been informed or consented to the measures ordered by Health Minister Dina Akkelidou. The responsibility of the state should not be passed on to private educational institutions, he told deputies.

    Health Ministry medical officer Chrystalla Hadjianastasiou said there had been 700 new applications from Chinese students, who, under normal circumstances, would have arrived in Cyprus at the beginning of the summer for preliminary lessons, mainly in English language.

    “For these students,” said Hadjianastasiou, “there is an entrance ban which will be re-examined in September. If the status quo as far as the disease is concerned has changed, the ban will be lifted”.

    There are around 6,000 foreign students in Cyprus, 1,300 of them Chinese.

    Hadjianastasiou added that the Health Ministry had decided to ask colleges to hand over personal details of all students from affected areas to the immigration authorities. The colleges had been told to inform their students that they would need their passports validated before re-entry if they went home this summer.

    Over 700 people have died of SARS across the world, with 8,000 people infected. Symptoms include high temperature, cough, shortness of breath or breathing difficulties.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Wednesday, May 28, 2003

    [08] Poll shows mixed feelings about crossings

    By Alexia Saoulli

    MORE THAN 50 per cent of Greek Cypriots recently polled in a questionnaire said Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots could live together happily. However only 10 per cent out of those asked said they had visited the occupied areas more than twice, since the checkpoints were opened last month.

    The telephone interview poll was carried out by Larnaca’s Intercollege on behalf of Antenna and took pace between May 13 and 21. It included a random sample of 1174 people from around the island and covered men and women aged between 18 and 55.

    Forty per cent of the sample said they had visited the occupied north and six per cent said they might visit it in future. Of this 40 per cent, 87 per cent had been once or twice, 10 per cent had been three or four times, two per cent had been five or six times and only one per cent had been across more than seven times.

    Over two-thirds polled said they felt like strangers in their own country and 22 per cent admitted feelings unsure in the north. Despite these feelings, 93 per cent of those who had crossed said Turkish Cypriots were friendly.

    Of the 54 per cent who had not been to the occupied part of the island, over half said the reason was because it “isn’t right”, 32 per cent they hadn’t found the time and 10 per cent said they felt scared.

    Meanwhile, 52 per cent of those asked said they wanted to maintain the image of the occupied areas the way it had been before the 1974 Turkish Invasion.

    The poll also highlighted Greek Cypriots’ distrust of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash’s regime, with 68 per cent saying they believed this development (of free movement) was a “political trap”

    Two thirds of those who crossed said they believed showing passports to cross the Green Line was a recognition of the Denktash regime.

    And even though 55 per cent said both communities could live together again of the nine per cent who said they were living in a Turkish Cypriot’s home, only 52 per cent said they would return it they were compensated by the government.

    Despite waiting to return to their homes for 29 years, only 42 per cent of Greek Cypriots said they would return to live in the place they or their parents were born.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

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