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Cyprus News Agency: News in English, 07-07-04

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From: The Cyprus News Agency at <>




    Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos announced on Tuesday the third package of social cohesion measures, worth about 100 million Cyprus pounds (approximately 170 million euros), noting that the accession of Cyprus to the Eurozone gave the government the potential to proceed with a different and broader package of social measures.

    President Papadopoulos said this was a broader package because the social measures addressed over 112,000 Cypriots, about a seventh of the population, while the taxation measures affected all Cypriot citizens.

    He added that the package was different from previous ones because everything contained therein were permanent provisions, and that the social measures adopted took into consideration and integrated most of the proposals put forward by the political parties participating in the government and the trade unions.

    The President said that the announcement of the package ``affirms in practice that for the government the achievement of economic goals and convergence with the EU is not an end in itself but a means to offer the citizens the standard of living they are entitled to in an environment of economic stability and increased possibilities for progress.``

    ``As I have assured in the past, we were not going to sacrifice the welfare state or restrict the breadth of our social policy for the sake of our accession to the Eurozone,`` President Papadopoulos said, noting that social expenditure has more than doubled and no new taxes were introduced, while duty on cars, income tax and to some extent VAT have been reduced.

    President Papadopoulos said the package contained a combination of six central and parallel directions.

    The first has to do with increasing low pensions and the subsequent improvement of the quality of life for 56,000 pensioners, adding that pensions up to 200 Cyprus pounds would increase by 13.4%, from 201 to 250 pounds by 11.3% and from 251 to 310 pounds by 5.1%.

    The second concerns further financial assistance to vulnerable groups of the population, such as single parent families, persons with special needs and those suffering from chronic illness or handicap.

    The third has to do with encouraging an increase in the birth rate with measures for 17,000 families with three children, additional maternity leave and a rise in the allowance for soldiers, and subsidies to cover costs for a second effort for in vitro fertilisation.

    President Papadopoulos said further measures to encourage an increase of the birth rate were being examined and will be announced at a later stage.

    The fourth direction concerns the reduction of taxation burdens with the increase of the tax-free annual income ceiling to 10,750 pounds in 2007 and 11,350 in 2008.

    The fifth has to do with the reduction of VAT from 15% to 5% for a large number of products and services, with the consent of the EU.

    Finally, the sixth provides for the strengthening of the protection of the environment with measures to withdraw old cars and tax-free biofuel.

    President Papadopoulos said ``we have achieved much`` and assured that more was on the way.

    He pointed out that during his term in office the deficit has dropped from 6.3% to 1.5%, the public debt from 70% of GDP to 1.5%, inflation is below the lowest European levels and unemployment is low, approaching full employment standards.

    President Papadopoulos said ``we have achieved our aim, we have completed a fundamental economic reform and change,`` adding that ``the decision of the European Council for Cyprus to join the Eurozone, apart from being a very big achievement, is a just vindication of the efforts of the people of Cyprus and the financial policy we have followed.``

    Cyprus, which became a member of the EU in 2004, is set to join the Eurozone on 1 January 2008.


    Greek Americans will always stand by the Church and people of Cyprus, pledged Wednesday Archbishop of America Demetrios, adding that he is looking forward to the day he will visit Cyprus when a fair, correct and functional solution to the Cyprus problem will exist.

    Speaking after a meeting with Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in Cyprus, Archbishop Chrysostomos II, he said that Cypriots living in the US and the Orthodox church of America stand by the Church of Cyprus and its people with deeds and not words, noting we look forward to the day when we can visit and enjoy a fair, correct and functional solution to the Cyprus issue.

    He said that for the Greek diaspora, the Cyprus problem is clear, non-negotiable and the entire orthodox Hellenism is united on this.


    The Republic of Cyprus has completed the programme for the destruction of stored anti-personnel mines, thus fulfilling its obligations emanating from the Ottawa Convention.

    To mark this occasion, the government will be holding a special ceremony on July 10, at the National Guard shooting range near the village of Tseri, south of the capital Nicosia.

    The ceremony will be under the auspices of Minister of Foreign Affairs George Lillikas, Minister of Defence Christodoulos Pashiardis and National Guard Chief Lieutenant General Nicolaos Bisbikas.


    Cyprus Foreign Minister George Lillikas leaves Thursday for Slovenia to attend the 4th Informal Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Mediterranean EU member states.

    An official press release said the Meeting is looking into issues of European interest and Mediterranean regional issues. The Meeting is attended by ten Foreign Ministers.

    In the framework of the Meeting, France will present for the first time its initiative for the establishment of a ``Mediterranean Union``.

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