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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-02-02
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>
Saturday, February 2, 2002
 State lab in urgent EU pleaBy Jennie Matthew
THE director of the General State Laboratory yesterday launched an urgent appeal to the government to act swiftly over the building of new premises, without which the lab will be unable to get EU accreditation.
The laboratory first initiated negotiations for a new building in 1995, but nearly seven years later nothing has happened.
Working conditions are painfully cramped and will only worsen as the laboratory battles to implement a staggering array of new regulations from Brussels.
"This is a big problem and we need to move as quickly as possible. Staff and management are doing more than expected - painting the walls and even doing construction work ourselves. We've done everything we can. It should now be a priority for the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Communications and Public Works and the Ministry of Finance," director Dina Akkelidou told the Cyprus Mail.
The Ministry of Finance rejected an initial blueprint from Health Minister Frixos Savvides for temporary accommodation until a new lab could be built.
The enormity of building a £1 million, 8,000 square metre lab from scratch is the root cause of resistance.
But Savvides denies doing less than his best to help.
"According to the Minister of Health, it's a top priority and he's trying his best efforts to accommodate it," the minister told the Cyprus Mail.
Savvides wants the current lab demolished and the new one erected in front of the old one, on land owned by his Ministry.
"It would be a waste of money to add on to the old building. It's in poor condition and it doesn't have the appropriate configuration. It wasn't built to be a state lab," he said.
"I visited the grounds about a month ago with officials from the Department of Public Works to try and find some solutions," he said.
Although the lab will meet the deadline of getting food, bottled water and drug control accredited by February, lack of space and staffing constraints will jeopardise future accreditations needed on a minimum of 80 per cent of analyses.
"It's not the confidence and quality that are missing, but the bureaucracy and expansion. Even if our standards are equal to the EU, if we don't have the necessary space then we can't apply for accreditation," said Akkelidou.
A suitable authority must accredit the laboratory and because there isn't one in Cyprus yet, that means Greece.
"Hopefully, by the end of February we will have the first labs and methods accredited, but it'll take two years to complete the procedure with an 80 per cent accreditation," she said.
Of the state's 18 laboratories, 10 deal with food and water control and one with drugs; the others are concerned with forensic chemistry and the environment.
In practice, the lab has been adopting EU standards well before Nicosia decided to proceed with EU membership in order to safeguard the quality of imports and ensure that Cypriot exports could compete in the competitive international market.
If they don't keep pace, then that's likely to have a knock-on effect on import and export industries, damage consumer confidence and make them unable to enforce harmonised legislation.
In addition, the lab has just applied to employ 15 new chemists, which Akkelidou doesn't expect to get for another two years, despite a promise from Savvides that they'll be hired by June.
Another way to lift the workload is by farming some work out to the private sector. According to the director, two private labs are in the process of applying for accreditation from Greece.
"I think it's necessary not to have just the public sector carrying out all the analysis requested by law. The private sector has a lot of services to offer, to factories, exporters and also to the government," she said.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 What caused Nicosia fire?By Alexia Saoulli
INVESTIGATIONS were under way yesterday into the fire that broke out in old Nicosia on Thursday night, trapping six people in an apartment block.
The cause of the blaze has not yet been determined, but fire officials and police said yesterday they had collected substantial evidence from the scene.
The fire broke out at around 6.10pm on the building's ground floor, in the 'Bali' nightclub, police said yesterday, spreading to the first floor of the three-storey Fisis apartment building, which is owned by Savvas Mouzakis.
Fire Service Chief George Hadjigeorgiou said his department's response to the emergency had been prompt and that fire fighters were on the scene within two minutes. It took around one and a half hours to bring the blaze under control, but by that time it had gutted an adjacent flat, destroyed the ground floor and substantially damaged the first and second floor, said police.
The total amount of damage has not yet been calculated, although police said the nightclub's damages were estimated at £10,000, and Mouzakis said that due to the extensive damage within the building, the entire cost could rise to half a million pounds.
All six people trapped within the building were rescued and escaped unharmed, but the scale of the fire and the dangers it posed brought to light the severe lack of safety measures protecting the area's residents.
Fire department spokesman Giorgos Nicolaou said that a door leading on to the staircase had thwarted the residents escape, as it had caught fire and filled the area with smoke, making the staircase impassable.
"This door should not have been there," he said, but would not confirm whether its presence was illegal. He added that investigations were still being carried out, and that only when scientific results came back could they ascertain what had started the fire.
One of those trapped was doctor Marios Smirniou, whose practice is on the second floor of the building.
"We were trapped in," he said. "I tried to get us all down the stairs safely, but when I opened the door I found it was already on fire, and the smoke was blinding. Our only way out was onto the back veranda, where I had to concentrate on keeping people safe and calm. Panicking would only have been more dangerous," he said yesterday.
But neighbours are concerned, saying the whole area is a fire hazard.
"If a fire breaks out, the narrow roads will only make it spread. It's so dangerous," said one.
Mayor Michalakis Zampelas said he would see to it that the area was improved in order to protect its residents.
"What is important here is that people are kept safe," he stressed. "On Thursday, people were trapped, but thanks to the rapid response of the police and fire department, no one was hurt."
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 LEADERS EIGHTH MEETING LASTS 90 MINUTESBy a Staff Reporter
PRESIDENT GLAFCOS Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash held their eighth meeting since the resumption of face-to-face talks yesterday afternoon in the UN-controlled buffer zone.
The meeting lasted 90 minutes and the two leaders were joined by UN Special Envoy Alvaro de Soto.
Reports said the talks centred around measures of how to guarantee the security of both communities on the island.
Their next objective was reaching an agreement on the distribution of powers and the administration of territories by each community.
Both have agreed to pick up the pace and meet more often than originally planned within the next two weeks, before the talks end on February 19, in an effort to pinpoint the differences in each side's basic positions.
De Soto is expected to return to New York at the end of the current talks to brief UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan and the Security Council before returning to commence the second round of talks sometime in March.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Rauf Denktash and the two-inch cucumberBy a Staff Reporter
TURKISH Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has discovered one of the basic rules of EU membership: size does matter - at least as far as cucumbers are concerned.
Denktash left Thursday's meeting with President Glafcos Clerides in high spirits, Turkish Cypriot papers reported yesterday.
"Today, I've learned something I did not know before," he said. "I've found out that in order to qualify for the EU, your cucumbers should not exceed two inches in length. And they should all be of the same length, each and every one of them.
"This is very interesting. I learned about this when it was being explained to me that I should not worry too much over internal administration. So vegetable growers should be aware. And they should find a remedy."
According to EU regulations, a cucumber - or any other vegetable or fruit - must comply with a number of specifications regarding colour, maturity, appearance, shape and quality. Therefore you cannot have a one-foot cucumber next to a three-inch one, or a bent one next to a straight one.
Certain fruits and vegetables are classified according to quality and size to facilitate international trading. This stops some member states from fixing their own standards and using them as technical barriers to trade, thus affecting competition.
But the regulations also ensure that the consumer buys products that meet minimal standards of freshness and fitness for consumption, considering that the size of the product in relation to the growing season can determinate their quality.
The Cyprus government has already set certain criteria regarding the export of goods to the EU in order to harmonise its policies with the acquis communautaire.
The EU specifications will have to be met by goods on the domestic market by next year.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Private stabilisation fund for market?By Jean Christou
SIX public companies, including the three main banks, were yesterday silent in the face of reports that they would set up a £40 million stabilisation fund to prop up the ailing stock market.
Sources at Laiki, one of the six companies named, said the report in Politis newspaper was groundless, while the others failed to make any public statements on the issue.
Other sources said the idea had been thrown out without discussion at a routine meeting of the stockbrokers' association earlier in the week, while Securities and Exchange Commission chief Marios Clerides could not be reached for comment.
In a front-page story yesterday, Politis reported that, following parliament's rejection of a government proposal to set up a £100 stabilisation fund for the market last year, private enterprise had decided to take up the issue themselves.
According to Politis the six "rescuers" were the three main banks - Bank of Cyprus, Laiki Bank and Hellenic Bank - and three of the country's biggest brokerages - Sharelink Financial Services, Lefkoniko and CLR Financial Services.
Politis said the companies were reportedly prepared to sink £40 million into the market in an attempt to boost trading and flagging investor confidence.
The paper said the companies wanted the government to guarantee the starting capital or promise legal changes, which would have to be made to realise the proposal.
Finance Minister Takis Klerides said yesterday he was unaware of the proposal but did not dismiss it as unfeasible.
Reaction among brokers was also thin on the ground.
However, the analyst on the xak.com website, said in an in-depth article that the issue was a legal minefield and probably unworkable.
"This is something positive and obviously demonstrates good will. However, the legal aspects of such a move would be at the least tremendously complicating," the analyst said.
"Additionally, shareholders of each participant would have to vote for such a decision. Unfortunately, almost all listed companies control the majority of the votes and therefore even if shareholders might not agree, they will lose."
The analyst also said it would be interesting to see what guidelines the companies would set themselves. "Six listed companies creating a fund? Surely they will use it to influence their own shares," he said.
"The legal aspects of this are tremendous and it will definitely distort the market."
He added such a move would have to be very carefully planned and co- ordinated. "Just the news of this being implemented would very likely pump the share prices of these companies, since it is a given that the £40 million will go into their own shares," he said.
"Who would want to give money from their own pocket towards buying shares of other companies or their competitors? None of these guys, not in a million years... Which company would perform the transactions? Who will get the commission, the market share, is a new company going to be formed for this? Too many questions..."
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Moushiouttas meets mother at centre of child neglect caseBy a Staff Reporter
LABOUR MINISTER Andreas Moushiouttas yesterday met with the mother of the five young children taken into the Social Welfare Department's care on Tuesday.
The five siblings - aged between four months and five years old - had been left without food or care for three days and were taken to Makarios Hospital when social workers secured a court order to remove them from their home.
Moushiouttas yesterday insisted the Department's goal was to ensure the best possible environment for the children and to give them the care they deserved.
"I have requested that they (the mother and social workers) co-operate in a calm and orderly manner, so that we make the right decision concerning the children's welfare," he said.
He said that he had met with the children's mother and that she had expressed the desire to see her children and wanted them back.
The Minister added that she had agreed to a solution of proposed programmed visits with her children in the home environment they had been placed in, but told her it would be impossible to reach a decision within the next few days until all aspects of the case were examined.
Programmed visits are the primary stage in the Welfare Department's programme to re-integrate children into the family environment. Social workers say that if the visits run smoothly and parents do not violate set visiting times, then they increase over a period of time until it considered safe for the children to return home.
This recent case has highlighted the need for more staff within the department because of the increasing workload that social workers are being forced to handle.
The Ministry of Finance said yesterday it was carrying out a study in collaboration with the Civil Management and Personnel service in order to see how best to meet these staffing needs.
The Ministry announced that 15 social worker positions had already been approved, and that the Council of Ministers had approved 63 temporary places for psychologists and clinical psychologists within the service.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Defence expert slams demining decisionBy Melina Demetriou
THE GOVERNMENT'S decision to remove landmines in and around the buffer zone could harm its defence, the chairman of the Centre of Strategic Studies warned yesterday.
Dr. Aristos Aristotelous was speaking at a news conference called to present a report on the balance of power between Cyprus and Turkey in the past year.
Cyprus had come under fire for its failure to ratify the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, but the government confirmed last week it had submitted a proposal to the UN providing for demining in and around the buffer zone.
"This move is unwise and harmful to our defence. We are the weak party and landmines are considered to be the weapon of the weak and the poor," Aristotelous argued, adding Turkey had not signed the anti-mine treaty.
He stressed that Greek Cypriot defences along the ceasefire line needed "enormous improvement".
"If you walk along the line you will see what I mean," he said without elaborating.
Defence Minister Socratis Hasikos this week admitted that the ceasefire line was undermanned.
Aristotelous put the decision to demine down to government efforts to demonstrate good will in the light of the resumed Cyprus negotiations.
"The move to reduce the annual budget for defence and the decision to train operators of certain military systems abroad are both in line with this policy," he said.
Presenting the results of his centre's most recent study, Aristotelous said that there had been no significant changes in the military balance since 2000.
"But in 2000 Turkey upset the balance of power like never before," he said.
Aristotelous said that for every Creek Cypriot soldier there were 3.6 Turkish soldiers on the island, compared to one to three in 1999.
He added the National Guard had only one tank for every 2.7 tanks that Turkey had in Cyprus while in 1999 it was one for every two.
"At first glance, it seems that the balance shift does not affect the talks on Cyprus but it might do at the end of the day," said Aristotelous, citing Turkish threats to annex the occupied areas if the island joins the EU before the Cyprus Problem is solved.
Aristotelous also referred to the role of Cyprus in the new geopolitical environment after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US, noting that American foreign policy had started to focus on the Middle East.
"The new world order will have a direct effect on the balance of power between Cyprus and Turkey and the government should examine the situation very carefully and think of a strategic plan of action to face the challenges ahead," he suggested.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Shares up on the day, down on the weekBy a Staff Reporter
SHARES ended marginally down on the week, with an upturn checked by concerns that corporate results which will flow in over the next two months will disappoint investors.
The benchmark index rebounded from early lows to add 0.21 per cent yesterday at 124.61 points, 0.3 per cent softer on the week.
Turnover at yesterday's session slipped to £2.74 million on 10.6 million shares traded, retaining Thursday's 2.86 per cent gain and reversing early- week losses.
Blue chips, particularly banks - regarded as a safe haven after the week's volatility - gave the FTSE/CySE index a 0.81 per cent boost.
Bank of Cyprus led banking gains with a three cent climb to £1.92, while two other heavyweights in the sector, Laiki and Hellenic Bank were unchanged.
"I think that after so many days of going down even a couple of cents (gained on a share) can make a one to two per cent difference in the index, " said head broker Stavros Agrotis at CISCO, commenting on yesterday's and Thursday's gains.
"It is not something you can put your finger on," he said.
Sentiment on the bourse has been subdued in the wake of a 2000 crash of 1999 prices, when the market rallied by 688 per cent.
A parliamentary inquiry last week into the rally - which culminated in an unprecedented ill-tempered grilling of the Central Bank governor Afxentis Afxentiou for buying stocks - and expectations of poor corporate results kept the majority of investors at bay.
"There is the perception that results of a number of companies will not be so good but we don't have numbers," said Agrotis. To a large extent those perceptions had already been priced in, he said.
During yesterday's session advancing issues narrowly beat declining ones 58 to 55 with 24 unchanged on 137 traded. There were 3,398 deals. (R)
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 New stage opens in old NicosiaBy Agnieszka Rakoczy
THEATRICAL life in Nicosia is blossoming. Only a few months ago, The Cyprus Theatre Organisation (THOC) opened a new Experimental Stage at the Ayios Andreas Theatre. And yesterday another new theatre raised its curtains when well-known TV director Alexia Papalazarou launched the Open Theatre in old Nicosia.
"I think Nicosia needs places where young people connected with the theatre can meet and work together," says Papalazarou, mostly known from her co- operation with Sigma Television. "I hope that the Open Theatre will be such a place. The aim of the stage will be to help young people to start their theatrical careers.
"Of course, the idea is not to separate the young from the old, but to mix them and give the public the best possible flavour of both. The place where the theatre is located, in the heart of the old town and next to the Green Line, is the best advocate of our aims."
Xenia Agrotis, whose father owns the building where the Open Theatre is based, agrees with Papalazarou.
"The building has been in my family for many years. Several times in the past we have hired out its basement as a theatre. Recently, it has been used as a club and an Internet café. Somehow it did not satisfy us. We love the area and want to see more things happening there. The theatre is exactly what the place needs to get some new life in."
The season at the Open Theatre started yesterday with Eliza, a play by Greek writer Xenia Kalogeropoulou that should be equally enjoyed by children and adults.
"It is a story of love and adventure," says Papalazarou's assistant Eleftheria Christou. "Eliza is a young girl very much in love with her fiancé Patrick, who is a sailor. When she learns that he got lost in far away places she decides to organise an expedition in order to save him."
Does she succeed?
If you want to know, pay a call on the theatre and find out for yourself.
Open Theatre (Anichto Teatro): 15A Vassiliou Voulgaroctonou Street, Nicosia.
The play is showing every Saturday at 3pm and Sunday at 11am. Tickets: £3.
For more information call: 22-818290.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002