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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 00-06-29

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

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


Thursday, June 29, 2000

CONTENTS

  • [01] Local call rates set to spiral by October
  • [02] Police insist rear seat belts will save lives
  • [03] Motorist back higher fines but question rear seat belt law
  • [04] Petrol price deal could go through tonight
  • [05] Ports are sinking, Minister warns
  • [06] Pilots’ union to elect new committee in wake of resignations
  • [07] Blazes highlight bizarre fire fighting arrangement
  • [08] New heat warning as temperatures soar
  • [09] Market in search of a boost
  • [10] Time for the Turkish Cypriots to make concessions

  • [01] Local call rates set to spiral by October

    By Jennie Matthew

    THE CYPRUS Telecommunications Authority (CyTA) is optimistic that the House of Representatives will approve its plans to overhaul the way it charges for calls, which could come into affect by the end of October this year.

    The cost of international calls will fall, while local rates are expected to rise. At present, expensive international calls subsidise local rates that are the cheapest in Europe.

    European Union directives do not permit subsidisation, and for Cyprus to join the EU, the imbalance must be corrected. The telecommunications industry must also be liberalised from January 1, 2003, ending CyTA’s semi- governmental status.

    Prices also need to be brought into line with the cost of living allowance, which, since subscription rates were last altered in 1972, has risen by 330 per cent.

    "The £15 subscription, is in reality equivalent to £64 today," pointed out Glafcos Houtris, Head of Business Management Support at CyTA.

    But liberalisation means that CyTA may be hard pushed to hang on to its current market stranglehold on 431,000 landline subscribers, if costs do not stay competitive.

    Local call hikes will also blight Cytanet subscribers, particularly as the Internet becomes more central to homes and offices. But CyTA insisted that local rates would remain the lowest in Europe, despite the increases.

    Houtris also pointed out that off peak periods -- between 8pm and 7 am, on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays -- amounted to "a third of the year".

    Tariff alterations are to be implemented in a gradual, three-wave process. The original target dates were April 1 2000, October 1 2000 and April 1 2001.

    Given that the first deadline has already been missed and the second could well go by before the changes get House approval, the dates will be re- scheduled.

    Trunk and local calls will be made uniform. Local call charges will rise from 1.3 cents per four minutes to 2 cents per two minutes of peak time talk and 2 cents per four minutes at off peak times, by the third phase. District calls will follow suit, dropping from £0.031 per minute at peak times and from £0.022 per minute at reduced times.

    Off peak international talk time is set to fall from 4.1 cents a minute to 3 cents a minute, although peak time international calls will increase slightly from 5.7 cents to 6 cents a minute.

    Landline connection costs are set to mount, but special services, such as call wake up will be free. The £14 connection fee will rise to £20 in the first phase, to £25 in the second and to £30 in the third.

    Subscribers will be forced to choose between two monthly rental packages. The first, designed to suit those who make few calls, charges monthly line rental at £1.25, £2 and £2.50 for each of the three phases respectively. For every connected call, there will be an additional charge of 2 cents. The second leaves out extra costs, but pits monthly charges at £3, £4 and £5 for each phase.

    Directory enquiry calls to 192 will rise from 5.2 cents per call to 18 cents per call by the third phase, justified on the grounds that telephone directories are distributed free to all subscribers.

    GSM costs, however, will fall, again to ensure competitiveness in a liberal and popular market. The £25 installation fee could fall to £20, with subscription rates falling from £10 to £8. GSM talk time will get cheaper, falling from 4.1 cents a minute to 3 cents a minute.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000

    Thursday, June 29, 2000

    [02] Police insist rear seat belts will save lives

    By Noah Haglund

    HARSHER penalties for traffic violations are set to be passed by the House of Representatives next week, with police insisting they will help save lives on the island’s roads.

    The Ministry of Communications wants to push new laws through parliament that would make wearing rear seat belts obligatory. They have proposed to increase fines for failure to wear a seat belt, for using a mobile phone at the wheel, and for riding a motorbike without a helmet, from the current £30 to £50.

    Many European countries are currently experiencing significant falls in road fatalities, put down to a crackdown on seat belt use. In the UK, a 20 per cent drop in road-related deaths over the last few years has been largely attributed to tougher seat belt regulations.

    With 56 deaths on the roads in Cyprus this year alone, the island has the third most dangerous roads in Europe, tailed by only Portugal and Greece. The police hope that tougher measures in Cyprus will help cure drivers of bad habits and greatly improve road safety.

    Nevertheless, police statistics show that however beneficial safety precautions may be, Cypriot motorists often fail to adhere to them.

    Eighty seven per cent of those killed in road accidents were not wearing seat belts and 91 per cent of motorbike riders killed were not wearing a helmet.

    Traffic Police Inspector Demetris Demetriou, who heads statistical research on these issues, believes that the increased fines will bring down the number of recorded offences.

    Each week, police book about 600 people for not wearing seat belts and 40 motorcyclists for not wearing a helmet, he told the Cyprus Mail.

    "In my opinion, there has been a criminal delay by the government to bring in new traffic safety legislation, which has cost the lives of many people as a result," said another advocate of the new legislation, Diko deputy Dr Marios Matsakis.

    Matsakis, a former state pathologist who has carried out countless autopsies on road traffic victims, affirmed that rear seat passengers usually died after being thrown out of windows in an accident – much more likely if they do not wear a belt.

    "As a pathologist, I have no hesitation to say that rear seat belts will save lives," he concluded.

    The bill enforcing rear-seat safety belts is expected to be approved by the Cabinet and go before the House plenum on July 6.

    Matsakis submitted legislation to ensure motorists put children in appropriate child seats to the Parliamentary Committee on public transport this spring.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Thursday, June 29, 2000

    [03] Motorist back higher fines but question rear seat belt law

    By Noah Haglund

    MOST Cypriot motorists favour the expected increases in fines for not wearing seat belts or helmets and using a mobile phone whilst driving, according to an informal poll carried out by the Cyprus Mail in Nicosia yesterday.

    Most felt that bumping up fines from £30 to £50 would act as an effective deterrent, although there was some disagreement about the importance of rear seat belts, and scepticism about how effectively police would enforce the new set of laws.

    Legal advisor Zeda Nicolaou’s opinion was typical of those questioned by Cyprus Mail. "Of course it is good, the increase is very good," she said referring to the seat belt stringency. She also supports stiffer helmet fines, as "very, very good", given the danger of motorcycle riding.

    Lawyer Doros Vrahimis also praised the instructive nature of the penalties. "It’s not the amount of the fine that matters, it’s to make people realise that it is for their benefit. The fine increase to make people wear helmets is very good, it will save lives," he said.

    Nevertheless, some people questioned the higher fines for rear seat passengers, although citing the changes as good in principle. "The fine increase is a good thing, but for the people who are sitting behind, I don’t think the law is so necessary… £50 is too much, £30 would be better," said builder Prokopis Kashis.

    "It’s OK for the front seat fines to be high, especially on the motorway, but the back seats are not as important, £30 would be enough," said Nicos Voyias, a Senior Associate at PriceWaterhouseCoopers

    On the helmet question, he thought it was "very important and if the increased fine will make people wear helmets, then it is a good thing."

    But Yionis Achilleos, who works for the Greek Embassy, doubted that the laws would be enforced fairly. "Whatever laws they pass, we’ll have to accept them. Unfortunately, our laws are only for the few, they don’t stop people with big bikes and the police won’t give tickets to their friends."

    As an embassy employee, however, Achilleos’ moped sports ‘CD’ plates, indicating diplomatic immunity and therefore exemption from the proposed changes to the law.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Thursday, June 29, 2000

    [04] Petrol price deal could go through tonight

    By Martin Hellicar

    PETROL pump prices could go up this evening if the government feels it has secured enough support for its compromise fuel prices package.

    A relevant amendment could be tabled before the House of Representatives plenum when it convenes at 4 pm today. The bill would be voted on in the same session to avoid profiteering, though there is no guarantee it would pass.

    If tabled and approved, pump price rises would be less than the 10 per cent what the government tried unsuccessfully to push through parliament earlier this year.

    The government has been trying all year to get parliamentary parties to agree to pump price hikes to offset the effects of expensive crude and a weak Cyprus pound.

    With oil importing companies threatening not to renew fast-disappearing fuel stocks unless their income is supplemented in some way, the government has little time to waste.

    The government was yesterday waiting to hear the final positions of the parliamentary parties on a new fuel prices proposal put to them by President Clerides earlier this month. The government thrashed out the compromise proposal after parliamentary parties twice refused to approve petrol pump rises.

    Details of Clerides’ package have not been announced, but reports suggest it provides for a smaller pump price rise than was first proposed by the government. At the same time, the President apparently also wants the way fuel prices are set to be changed so that pump prices reflect fluctuations in the price of crude. The compromise package would also commit the government to liberalising the fuel market in the near future. The last proposal aims at appeasing criticism of the current system, which guarantees oil importers a certain profit margin.

    Parties have so far kept their cards close to their chests on Clerides’ proposal. Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis was, according to reports, yesterday doing the rounds of parliamentary parties in a further bid to convince them of the merits of Clerides’ proposals.

    The government is desperate to get out of a real tight spot on fuel.

    With parties refusing to approve unpopular petrol pump price hikes, the government has had no option but to subsidise oil imports. But this practice has cost already depleted state coffers some £14 million since the turn of the year and would cost an estimated £50 million by the end of the year if continued.

    Oil importers say their income has been down by, on average, £5 million a month since January and that they cannot afford to continue importing at a loss.

    International crude oil prices are set to remain sky high in months to come and the Cyprus pound shows no immediate signs of recovery.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Thursday, June 29, 2000

    [05] Ports are sinking, Minister warns

    COMMUNICATIONS Minister Averoff Neophytou yesterday issued a stark warning to the island’s port workers: accept change or have change forced upon you.

    The Minister said local ports were "sinking" and the government was not about to let port workers’ refusal to change work practices stand in the way of its rescue package.

    "We would like to move forward through consensus. But if some parties take advantage of the protectionism provided by colonial legislation, then they should know that the government has other choices," Neophytou told a Nicosia workshop of port industry workers and bosses.

    His warning was directed at harbour stevedores, who are baulking at government plans to introduce 24-hour service at ports.

    The port porters say they are allowed, by law, to clock off at 2.30 pm and should be paid overtime for any work after this hour.

    Neophytou made clear the government would not hesitate, if pushed, to amend the relevant law, which dates from the days of British rule. "Laws are not gospel and they can be changed," he said.

    The government has a four-part plan for revitalising ports.

    These four parts are modernisation, 24-hour service, cost reduction and more efficient service.

    Limassol and, in particular, Larnaca ports have suffered badly in recent years due to competition from cheaper, more efficient East Mediterranean ports offering 24-hour loading and unloading services.

    Things at Larnaca port have got so bad that the government now wants to turn it into a cruise ship terminal.

    "The chronic problems of our port industry are well known. The ship of our port industries is sinking," Neophytou told yesterday’s workshop.

    The aim of the workshop, organised by the Communications Ministry, is to arrive at some form of consensus on action to save ports.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Thursday, June 29, 2000

    [06] Pilots’ union to elect new committee in wake of resignations

    Jean Christou

    CYPRUS Airways (CY) pilots union Pasipy will begin elections today to appoint a new executive committee, but the agreement giving them promotions in Eurocypria is expected to stand.

    Former Pasipy chairman Chris Christodoulou told the Cyprus Mail yesterday he had resigned from the committee for personal reasons, despite rumours that other issues were at stake.

    "I had enough. It was a lot of work and it was time to move on," Christodoulou said. "And after I resigned some of the committee members followed as well."

    Pasipy recently sealed a deal with CY management giving them the lion’s share of captain vacancies in charter firm Eurocypria in return for concessions on wage levels for new-entry pilots in the national carrier.

    Eurocypria pilots have been attempting to fight the move, which they believe is designed to prevent Pasipy from grounding CY in the crucial summer months.

    The collective agreement with Eurocypria provides that captain promotions go to co-pilots who have three years experience within the charter firm, a provision that should automatically exclude CY pilots.

    Eurocypria have already threatened to strike over CY’s deal with Pasipy, which bypasses their collective agreement, while there is a strong likelihood that Pasipy will strike if they don’t get the promotions. A large majority of CY co-pilots have held the same position for up to 15 years with little chance of promotion within a national carrier already top- heavy with captains.

    Christodoulou said the agreement on the promotions would still stand as far as the new Pasipy committee is concerned.

    In an attack on his Eurocypria counterparts, he said the charter firm’s pilots spent too much time talking about their collective agreement and not enough on safety.

    Christodoulou implied Eurocypria pilots did not have enough flying experience to navigate difficult and busy airports and bad weather. "They have four new captains and five brand new co-pilots," he said. "It seems they want to wear the full stripes at any cost."

    Eurocypria pilots hit back yesterday, saying Pasipy always brought up the issue of safety. "We have a team of safety pilots and people responsible for this area," said one Eurocypria source.

    Eurocypria believes CY will try to put off implementation of the agreement with Pasipy until after the summer season for fear of a strike in either company.

    The Eurocypria source also said the Labour Ministry had failed to respond to their request for mediation in the issue, which they filed on June 5. The industrial relations code provides that the Ministry must respond within 15 days.

    CY spokesman Tassos Angelis, responding to Pasipy’s accusations against Eurocypria, told the Cyprus Mail the company would not make any move or decision which would jeopardise passenger safety. "Safety is a priority for us and we comply with international regulations," he said. "Just because Pasipy says safety is as stake does not mean it’s true."

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Thursday, June 29, 2000

    [07] Blazes highlight bizarre fire fighting arrangement

    LOCAL authorities have responsibility for battling any fires breaking out more than 13 kilometres from a fire station, but possess no fire-fighting equipment whatsoever.

    Interior Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou yesterday identified this discrepancy as one of the aspects of the island’s fire-fighting policy to be changed in the wake of devastating forest fires in the southeastern Troodos foothills between June 13 and 16.

    The Minister made clear that this odd fire-fighting arrangement did not mean forest fires more than 13 kilometres from a fire station did not get tackled -- it just meant the fire brigade had to be called out every time.

    The Minister was talking after the first meeting of a special government review committee set up after the devastating fires earlier this month. The fires, which the Minister yesterday described as "the worst in 100 years", burnt about 50 square kilometres of scrub and trees and threatened several villages in the area.

    The review committee has been given three months in which to come up with a plan to revamp fire-fighting policy, though Christodoulou insisted yesterday that this did not mean current practice was not up to scratch. "We are ready to deal with fires and indeed we proved this in the case of the recent fire," he said.

    The government had to draft National Guardsmen and ask for help from Israel and Greece before the Troodos fire was finally put out on June 16.

    One aspect of the fire-battling review will be to try to agree permanent mutual assistance deals with both Israel and Greece.

    Another proposal being looked at, Christodoulou said, is the introduction of tougher sentences for arson.

    Though no hard evidence has been found so far, arsonists are suspected to be behind the Troodos fires. This suspicion is based on the fact that on June 13, 45 fires broke out in four different districts in the space of four hours.

    As things stand, arson is punishable by a fine of £1,000 or a year’s imprisonment, or both. Christodoulou said such sentences were not enough of a deterrent.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Thursday, June 29, 2000

    [08] New heat warning as temperatures soar

    THE FORESTRY Department yesterday warned there was a high risk of forest fires because of consistent high temperatures in recent days.

    In a written statement, the department urged the public to be extra careful, especially in forest areas.

    The penalty for causing a fire is one year in jail, or £1,000 fine, or both.

    Meanwhile, with the current heat wave showing no sign of relenting, the public is advised to take every caution to avoid heat stroke.

    To minimise risks, people should avoid long exposure to direct sunlight and hard physical labour.

    Light-coloured clothing is advised, while consumption of plenty of liquid is a must.

    Fatty foods should be avoided, while fruit and vegetables are recommended.

    Young children, the elderly, overweight persons and those with heart or kidney problems, diabetics, or people with respiratory trouble are the most susceptible to heat-related risks.

    In 1998, around 60 people died from heat related complications.

    Health experts say symptoms for heat exhaustion and sunstroke include paleness, cold skin, restlessness, headaches, nausea, leg and stomach cramps, palpitations and fainting.

    People thought to have suffered heatstroke should immediately be taken to a cool place. They should drink a lot of liquid, preferably water with salt, to counter the effects of dehydration.

    Sunstroke victims should change out of their clothes, wrap up in a wet blanket and be allowed to lie in a well-ventilated location.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Thursday, June 29, 2000

    [09] Market in search of a boost

    By Michael Ioannou

    THE STOCKMARKET emerged 0.7 per cent weaker yesterday on generally flat- footed trading, which chipped away points from most sectors.

    The bourse lacked sparkle as it limply moved in a thin range of 10 points, settling at 492.09 and on traded value of £33.4 million pounds.

    Marginal gains at the beginning of the session could not be sustained.

    Banking shares absorbed 20 per cent of total trading volume, followed closely by industrial stocks with a 19.5 per cent share.

    Insurance shares led losses with a 1.8 per cent drop as all three companies in the category headed south.

    Declines were not significant netwise, but the relatively small capitalisation of the sector gives a higher impact in percentage terms.

    Banking shares underperformed the broad downtrend with a 0.5 per cent drop, pulled down by further weakness on Bank of Cyprus and Laiki.

    Laiki were down 13 cents to £11.95 on 228,000 shares changing hands worth £2.7 million, while Bank of Cyprus lost two cents to a close of £7.78 and on a turnover valued at £2.6 million.

    "The market needs something to give it a direction, a catalyst to get it unstuck from its present range of 490-510 points," said Yiannos Christodoulides of Parma Brokerage.

    In the net gainers category medium chip shares, Astarti Development climbed 43 cents to £5.45 on three block trades, while Agros Proodos followed with a 22 cent jump to £5.25.

    CAC Papantoniou Supermarkets, which floated on the market yesterday, opened at £1.50 and briefly lurched to a high of £1.55 before retreating on selling to a close of £1.41.

    Of 108 shares traded, 63 retreated, 35 rose and eight were unchanged. There were 11,189 transactions.

    By George Psyllides

    THE spat over the allegations of a ‘paramilitary’ group operating in the National Guard picked up speed yesterday with Akel and Disy exchanging bitter accusations alluding back to the 1974 coup.

    The issue first emerged late in May after Akel deputy Costas Papacostas accused Disy of creating a ‘paramilitary’ group tasked with keeping tabs on the political persuasions of National Guard officers.

    On Tuesday, Attorney-general Alecos Markides announced that a criminal investigation into the existence of such a group had failed to find any compelling evidence --.echoing the findings of a Defence Ministry inquiry last month.

    The police investigation focused on documents that National Guard Colonel Avraam Marangos said were left on his desk by Colonel Loizos Fessas.

    The documents are understood to have outlined the structure of the alleged paramilitary general staff, and named several of its high-ranking members, including two retired generals, who are Disy members.

    But Markides said the criminal inquiry had not been able to prove there was any connection between the officers the documents name as members of the group and such an organisation.

    However, an internal military investigation will examine anew the role played by Fessas and Marangos, the Attorney-general said.

    Yesterday, Markides repeated the police had exhausted their investigation on the issue, unless new testimony should arise.

    Markides said Papacostas’ informants should come forward and testify if the investigation were to continue.

    But the investigation’s findings sparked a new round of bitter exchanges between Disy deputy Andreas Karas and Akel’s Papacostas.

    Amid the heated debate over the ‘paramilitary’ group, Karas accused Papacostas of abandoning his whole company in the hands of the coupists in the Panayia village of the Paphos district.

    A furious Papacostas retaliated, saying Karas had carried out interrogations and mock executions during the coup.

    On the paramilitary issue, Papacostas insisted that even if no criminal offence could be proved, it did not mean the group did not exist.

    He said the investigation had just begun and the documents spoke for themselves: the group had been created, and given instructions, Papacostas said.

    Karas countered that Papacostas could insist as much as he wanted to.

    "What matters is what the state institutions have decided: the Attorney- general found there was no criminal responsibility, and no group," Karas said.

    "What counts is the Attorney-general’s decision and not what Papacostas and his party believe," he added.

    Karas further critisised Papacostas for launching unfounded allegations against Disy.

    He urged Akel and Papacostas to apologise for the unfair, unfounded charges against his party.

    "Even after the Attorney-general’s findings Mr. Papacostas insists Disy is responsible. I think it is a shame," Karas said.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail

    Thursday, June 29, 2000

    [10] Time for the Turkish Cypriots to make concessions

    THERE was still no indication yesterday of whether Rauf Denktash would attend the Geneva talks, as the government called on the Turkish Cypriot side to make concessions.

    Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou told his daily press briefing that the Greek Cypriot side had made many concessions to date, while the Turkish side had maintained its position.

    "If we want to look forward to a compromise in the Cyprus question, the other side must make many concessions," he said, adding that if the government were to take the same stance as the Turkish side, it would be issuing ultimatums instead of talking about negotiations.

    "When one is engaged in negotiations, one must be ready to give and take. We have come a long way as far as compromise and concessions are concerned."

    With the third round of proximity talks only six days away, Denktash said on Tuesday that he was not yet sure if there would be any talks, although it is generally accepted that he is unlikely to refuse the invitation of the UN Secretary-General.

    Denktash is angry at the UN Security Council’s decision to drop an addendum to the Unficyp renewal mandate registering the Turkish Cypriot’s approval of the force.

    If Denktash does attend the talks, he has made it clear he will return to the island for celebrations of the 1974 invasion. Papapetrou said yesterday this was unacceptable to the Greek Cypriot side.

    "If Mr Denktash interrupts the talks for any reason, but particularly to return to Cyprus to celebrate something the UN has condemned, this will be unacceptable and as such no political cover of any kind should be offered to him."

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail


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