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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-02-20

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

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


Wednesday, February 20, 2002

CONTENTS

  • [01] Clerides and Denktash hold last meeting
  • [02] Extra flights for holiday weekends
  • [03] 326 Chechen pilgrims stranded at Larnaca airport
  • [04] CY plans to start Greek operation next year
  • [05] Don't build a marble Parthenon for the stock exchange
  • [06] Paphos road contractor 'blackmailed government with extra cash demand'
  • [07] Government under fire over efforts to recover stolen antiquities
  • [08] Drugs will rise if we don't act now
  • [09] Beware rogue traders as liberalisation takes another step
  • [10] Maid who robbed employers goes to jail

  • [01] Clerides and Denktash hold last meeting

    President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash held their last meeting yesterday before the break for a brief period of reflection.

    It was the last meeting of the first round of the UN-led talks and will resume on March 1, with fewer but longer meetings.

    During this break, the UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto will travel to New York to report to the Secretary General and to brief the members of the Security Council.

    According to Government Spokesman, Michalis Papapetrou the Cabinet is scheduled to meet on February 25 to 'evaluate developments so far in the direct talks', which began under UN auspices in mid January.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [02] Extra flights for holiday weekends

    CYPRUS Airways (CY) has laid on 17 extra flights to take an additional 3, 000 passengers to Athens over the three holiday weekends in March.

    CY spokesman Tassos Angelis said yesterday that in addition to its four daily flights to Athens, the company had laid on another three each weekend for the three holiday weekends.

    March 18 is Green Monday, March 25 marks Greek Independence Day and April 1 is the anniversary of the beginning of the 1955-1959 EOKA struggle. Angelis said two extra flights had been laid on for March 15 and three on March 18. The same would apply for the other two weekends, he said.

    "We have planned lot of extra flights and there is lot of demand," he said. "All the flights are full and there are still waiting lists. The message is: Cypriots are travelling."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [03] 326 Chechen pilgrims stranded at Larnaca airport

    A tour group of Chechens left the island yesterday after being stranded on the island overnight.

    The group of 326 Chechens Muslims, from Moscow, were stopped on the island on their way to Mecca when Cypriot authorities discovered that their chartered flight did not have permission to land in Mecca and prevented the flight from leaving on Monday.

    The Muslims were on their way to the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which their religion encourages them to attend at least once in their lives.

    They were placed in hotels and tourist apartments overnight while the Russian Embassy in Nicosia intervened and organised their visas so they could continue their journey.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [04] CY plans to start Greek operation next year

    By Jean Christou

    CYPRUS Airways (CY) hopes to have its new operation in Greece in place by the end of the year and to commence flights in 2003, the company said yesterday.

    CY spokesman Tassos Angelis told the Cyprus Mail that the company was expecting by next month the results of a study into the type of airline it would create.

    The new airline will operate flights from Athens to the rest of Europe, but CY has not decided yet if it will be a charter or scheduled airline. The national carrier plans to seize a gap in the Greek market created by problems with the sale of Greece's national carrier Olympic and the recent collapse of private airline Axon.

    Axon beat Cyprus Airways in the bidding war for Olympic, but negotiations with the small Greek airline faltered late last year. By then, CY had lost interest because the delay had jeopardised its own business plan for Olympic, and the airline industry was suffering the impact of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US.

    Instead, CY decided to branch out into a completely new operation in Greece. The closing of Axon and the collapse last week of the Greek government's negotiations with third Olympic bidder, Integrated Airline Solutions (IAS), has left the market wide open for CY.

    "We are convinced there is room for another airline in Greece, particularly in view of the situation with Olympic. The timing is very convenient," Angelis said. "Olympic is in trouble and there is only one private airline left, Cronus, and they have problems too."

    Angelis was adamant that CY no longer had any interest in Olympic or in purchasing any aircraft or departments of the Greek national carrier if it was broken up for sale by the Greek government.

    "We have a timetable that we are pursuing and we want to have everything in place by the end of the year," Angelis said, adding they hoped to have flights up and running in early 2003. The new company will not be operating in Cyprus but will focus on using Athens as a hub to the rest of Europe.

    "We are not going to compete with ourselves," Angelis said.

    CY initially plans to lease new planes for the airline. "We want a small flexible airline but the character of the airline has not been decided yet, " he said. "We are carrying out a survey with consultants to decide if it will be low-cost or no-frills or just a normal airline. That's what we are trying to find out now, the best option."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [05] Don't build a marble Parthenon for the stock exchange

    By Jean Christou

    A LEADING Nicosia broker yesterday warned the Cyprus Stock Exchange (CSE) against going overboard in its plans to build new premises.

    The CSE board is shortly expected to announce tenders for the architectural competition for the design of the building, which will be constructed at the old GSP stadium in the heart of Nicosia.

    The CSE is currently housed at the former International Merchandising Centre (IMC), a huge complex on the outskirts of the capital, meant as a stopgap measure until new premises could be constructed.

    According to reports, the cost of a new building has been estimated at 10 million plus another 6-7 million for IT equipment and other fittings.

    But concerns have been raised that the cost of the building would use up a substantial portion of the CSE's reserves in a declining market situation, while others have warned of possible traffic problems in the GSP area, which is also the site for a new complex of ministries and the future House of Representatives.

    Some have even suggested that the construction be delayed until the market's future was clearer. However, one Nicosia broker believes that if the CSE plans with foresight, none of the problems need arise. He said there should be no need for a trading floor in the new building and that brokers should be able to work from remote locations.

    This option would also cut the cost of construction by one fifth, said the broker, who wished to remain anonymous.

    "Most modern stock exchanges don't have a trading floor," he said, adding that the ones who still did were moving towards their elimination.

    "By the time the building is finished, there should be no floor. If they intend to include a trading floor then they should resign today."

    The broker said that modern stock exchanges simply comprised two underground floors, which housed the computers, and one level above ground, which was manned by a skeleton staff.

    "Huge spaces are no longer necessary," he said. "If the CSE intends to build Parthenon pillars then I think we are doomed. They should have been ready by now to introduce the technology of the future."

    He said that if the CSE had the foresight to plan for the future, the physical location of the stock market was irrelevant. "There should be very little need for brokers or people to go to this building," he said, adding he believed the CSE was looking at a construction similar to the existing Central Bank, with "pillars and white marble".

    "They cannot afford to build such a big building unless they increase the fees they collect from the brokers, which are already illogically high looking at what's done abroad," the broker said. "They should be reducing the fee to make the CSE more competitive. Instead of doing that, they are increasing it."

    He added the CSE was in a battle for survival and that even the current building was too big for its needs. "If they were a privatised organisation they would have been laying people off by now," he said.

    "They are not looking to the future. Not only that but they are looking at things with a typical Cypriot mentality wanting to build Parthenon-type buildings."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [06] Paphos road contractor 'blackmailed government with extra cash demand'

    By Melina Demetriou

    THE CONTRACTOR of a major roadwork plan in Paphos has threatened not to finish the project before the peak summer season unless the government hands him an extra 1,3 million, the House Communications Committee charged yesterday.

    Hoteliers attending a Committee meeting on the matter yesterday said the industry would face dire consequences if the road works on Poseidon Avenue were not completed in time.

    The area under construction covers a 1.5 kilometre strip from the Rania Hotel as far as the CTO in Yeroskipou.

    Deputies said seven hotels faced ruin, warning that the area's tourism flow would go down by 10 per cent compared to last year if road works were delayed into the summer season.

    Lefteris Stylianides of the Public Works Department told the Committee that the contractor of the project had "blackmailed the government, asking for 1,3 million in addition to his agreed payment in order to finish road works in time."

    "He threatened to work the drill outside the hotels if his demand was not met," AKEL deputy George Hadjigeorgiou added.

    The agreement reached between the Communications Ministry and the contractor rules that the construction must be completed by June 16, while work causing noise and pollution must finish by April 30, the end of the winter season.

    "We didn't give in to his threats, we made it clear that he would suffer legal consequences if he violated his contract," Stylianides said, adding that the contractor had eventually promised to comply with the agreement's provisions.

    However, Stylianides noted that work would still continue on the second phase of the project, supposed to finish by the end of October.

    "We are talking about another 300 square metres," he complained.

    Zacharias Koullias of DIKO argued the Department's handling of the matter was not paying off.

    "You need to fire this man and get another one to do the job because bureaucratic procedures won't get you anywhere," he said.

    Committee chairman Nicos Pittokopitis described the construction site as "a curse", charging that the area was anything but safe and that there wasn't even a temporary pavement for people to use when leaving the Rania hotel.

    "There is a path taking people across the site through construction materials," Stylianides added.

    Pittokopitis lashed out at Stylianides for failing to submit a copy of the contractor's working schedule to the Committee as asked.

    Stylianides promised to do so as soon as possible.

    Koullias said hotels in the area attracted 180,000 tourists between February and July.

    "Tourism flow in the area equivalent to 35 per cent of Paphos' tourism will go down by 10 per cent compared to last year if the plan is delayed," Koullias warned.

    The latest blow comes as the industry is struggling to overcome the effects on tourism of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

    Plans to widen the road along the coastal strip have been on the cards for 10 years, and had finally got the go-ahead last year.

    The Committee is expected to reconvene on the matter in two weeks.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [07] Government under fire over efforts to recover stolen antiquities

    By Melina Demetriou

    CYPRUS is mounting a legal campaign in Germany to recover some 300 religious treasures pillaged from the north, the House Education Committee heard yesterday.

    The issue was raised by Trimithounta Bishop Vassilios, who attended the meeting.

    He said the treasures, including icons, church mosaics and frescoes, were found in the possession of a Turkish smuggler in Germany in 1997 after they had gone missing from the occupied areas.

    "The Legal Service, in co-operation with the Church, four years ago submitted evidence to the German authorities proving that half of those objects belong to the Cyprus government and the Church," said Christodoulos Taramountas of DISY, the acting chairman of the Committee, adding that the remaining 150 antiquities could not be claimed by Cyprus due to a lack of proof that they had been stolen from the island.

    "Cyprus has taken legal action to regain only those objects that can be proved to be of Cypriot origin," the deputy stressed.

    A German court is expected to decide in about a year whether to give the antiquities to Cyprus or one of the other countries claiming the treasures - one of which is Turkey.

    Taramountas echoed Church representatives in blaming the state for its failure to establish an archive centre listing information about ancient objects.

    "We can't blame Turkey for claiming the antiquities, we should have an archive that would enable us to prove the objects' origin," Taramountas charged, calling on the government to set up such a centre as soon as possible.

    Taramountas is nevertheless optimistic that Cyprus will win back half of the 300 antiquities.

    He noted that a large number of antiquities had been smuggled to other countries from the north.

    Androulla Vassiliou of the United Democrats complained that the state was taking too long to address the situation.

    "Four years ago, we discussed the affair at the House and we received reassurances from the government that the matter was being taken care of. But it has not been resolved yet and Turkey is after the treasures," she said.

    Bishop Vassilios further spoke of a clash between the Attorney-general's office and the Church over efforts to get the stolen objects back.

    "A German lawyer appointed by the state a few years ago to handle the affair quit the case because of a conflict of interests between the Legal Service and the Church. The lawyer had been earlier instructed by the Service not to brief the Church on any developments," Vassilios claimed.

    Church representative Tasoulla Hadjitofi lashed out at the government, charging officials with indifference about the matter.

    Taramountas argued that Hadjitofi did not need to be "so passionate".

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [08] Drugs will rise if we don't act now

    By Alexia Saoulli

    HARD drugs will rise dramatically in Cyprus in the next three years if significant steps aren't taken in prevention and treatment, a visiting American addiction specialist warned yesterday.

    "Cyprus has a growing drug addiction problem and I can forecast that it's going to be a huge problem within the next few years," Roxanne Kibben, a former cocaine and alcohol addict, told the Cyprus Mail.

    Fifty-year-old Kibben has been clean for 23 years now and has worked with and counselled addicts for over two decades.

    She was invited to Cyprus on a seven-month residence by the Fulbright Commission to help promote bi-communal alcohol and drug addiction prevention efforts.

    Working with both communities across the Green Line, Kibben teaches three drugs prevention programmes, which are designed to help people prevent today's Cypriot youth from the increasing risks of drug addiction.

    Two of the groups are open to the public and to teachers, and the third is directed at drug addiction specialists.

    Based on research by the island's drug specialists, Kibben believes that Cyprus' isolation from drugs will soon be a thing of the past.

    "Therefore, I believe it is wise to pay attention to the problem now before it really gets out of hand. The government must find the money to spend on prevention and treatment programmes," she warned.

    What concerned her most, she said, was how vulnerable young people were.

    "Most people want to focus on ecstasy and heroine, and yet they don't look at how many young people smoke and drink," Kibben said. "The two are related."

    She said someone who started smoking or drinking before the age of 14 had a 65 per cent greater chance of becoming addicted to other drugs by 21.

    "This is what occurs when you introduce alcohol into a developing brain," she said. "Couple that with isolation from the family, and an opportunity to try new things, and you've got a possible addict on your hands."

    For every year that a person delays the onset of smoking or drinking, the likelihood of addiction is reduced by 18 per cent, she said.

    Although not all smokers or drinkers necessarily become addicts, she said, they move into addictive patterns very early. In fact, as far as she is concerned, nicotine is not a soft drug and kills more people than all other drugs combined.

    People wanted to focus on "hard, clearly illegal drugs", she said, yet the most damaging were those drugs that were socially acceptable.

    "My hope is that I can help people see that addiction impacts all of us, both socially and economically," she said, pointing out that attendant health problems cost governments millions in hospital bills.

    Prevention campaigns are not simple, but multi-dimensional, she said.

    "In other words, you must implement a strategy that is going to be educationally, family and community based," Kibben explained.

    "We have to start getting out the message that it is not 'cool' to use drugs, and to use 'cool' teen role models to promote this new image."

    The same messages needed to come from different arenas, for preventive measures to have a serious impact, she added.

    Parents should also listen to their children more and keep discussions open and frank, reserving judgement till later. They should also make time to have meals together as a family and spend time together.

    "No one is to blame, but we should all take responsibility," she said. "Even teenagers."

    Kibben would also like to see more enforcement on tobacco and alcohol sales to youth.

    She added that the Education Ministry should implement a mandatory curriculum that encouraged prevention and taught the physical effects of addiction, and suggested that cigarettes should be taxed more since research showed cost did reduce consumption.

    There should also be more exposure to the dangers of drugs and people should be kept informed.

    Kibben cited two reasons for the increasing problem.

    "Families are not as close knit anymore and increasing globalisation."

    She said that with the introduction of the Internet, studying abroad, both parents having to work, increasing high school dropout rates, and three million tourists annually, you were looking at major contribution factors.

    "I cannot stress enough that you cannot simplify the problem. It is multi- dimensional. I have been studying the issue for 22 years and am just beginning to understand it. Drugs are a worldwide issue not just a US issue any more. Maybe you could even learn from our mistakes."

    You can contact Roxanne Kibben at roxannekibben@yahoo.com or at KENTHEA on 24-531818.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [09] Beware rogue traders as liberalisation takes another step

    By Jennie Matthew

    ECONOMISTS yesterday described the Central Bank's decision to legalise foreign investments of up to 20,000 per year from March 1 as a rushed job that could allow rogue traders to manipulated a fresh, unregulated market.

    Last month, Central Bank Governor Afxentis Afxentiou was grilled on three separate occasions by the House Watchdog Committee investigating reports that profits from shares worth millions of pounds disappeared abroad. One of the Governor's main defences was the European Union commitment to liberalising capital flows before membership.

    Commentators said yesterday that the intense pressure he had been subjected to had kick-started the hierarchy at the Central Bank into pushing through the measure after years of promises.

    Cyprus has to abolish all exchange controls before joining the European Union, a process that bureaucrats expect to finish by the end of 2002 or mid-2003.

    The latest move allows Cypriots over the age of 18 to deposit up to 20,000 per year in bank accounts, buy title deeds, invest in European Union stock markets and purchase insurance packages from foreign companies.

    The amended Currency Control Law will come into effect on March 1.

    "There are different schools of thought within the bank. Some say we should have done it a long time ago, or some time ago, others say that now is the right time, that we are not late with this," said the Bank's general manager Philippos Philippou.

    Nevertheless, he was forced to admit that the practicalities of fixing up 20,000 worth of foreign investment still have to be worked out.

    The holes and lack of regulation have provoked fears that unsuspecting Cypriots could fall foul to rogue traders, offering foreign investment to the fresh Cypriot market.

    "There is no law regulating who can sell investment, meaning that rogue traders could come and take advantage of an unregulated market," said one economist.

    Moreover, the issue of whether offshore banks should be able to service the local market has not yet been studied.

    Unless the law is amended to allow locals to access the offshore sector, the Central Bank will be endorsing a situation where a Cypriot is allowed to take out a pension plan with HSBC in London, but not at its Limassol branch.

    "We don't yet know how to tackle the issue, whether Cypriots would bank directly in Greece or the UK. Obviously, it would be easier for people to take advantage of the freedom here and go to branches in Cyprus," said Philippou.

    But the fact is that the bank doesn't want to make it easier for people to invest abroad by opening the floodgates on access to international banks at home.

    "Although we are required under EU law to do this, we wouldn't like a massive outflow of capital. Why should we promote it? We've told people they can invest and we'll also tell them about the risks of foreign investment, particularly in foreign stocks and shares, where the inherent risk of prices going up and down is compounded by the exchange risk. We owe it to the public to acquaint people with the risks, so if they take a chance, their gain is their gain and their tears are their tears," said Philippou.

    But the chairman of the Cyprus International Business Association Mehran Eftekhar, said it was just a matter of time for restrictions to be lifted.

    "In the next 12 to 18 months all exchange control will be removed. There won't be any offshore, onshore. The Central Bank is being cautious, going step by step towards implementing the EU requests. It does look silly but you can't blame them for their approach and if offshore banks are not yet able to deal with local people," he said.

    But the Bank's previous concessions to abolishing exchange control have so far met with little response.

    Last year the ban on Cypriots buying houses abroad was lifted, but only three or four people have so far taken advantage of it.

    "I don't think there will be a lot of interest. There's no black market for the Cyprus pound against foreign currencies. The official exchange rates and street rates don't differ a lot. Basically, Cypriots have always managed to have money abroad if they wanted," said the economist.

    In terms of the subsequent steps and pace of liberalisation, Philippou said officials would wait to gauge public reaction, before deciding when and how to progress.

    "We're at the very early stages of liberalisation. We have to see what kind of demand this new freedom will bring," he said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [10] Maid who robbed employers goes to jail

    A SRI Lankan housemaid was yesterday sentenced to two years in prison on four counts of theft.

    Thirty-year-old migrant worker Anna Rasainka was arrested earlier this month after she stole 92,000 worth of jewellery, money and electric appliances from the couple who employed her.

    Rasainka was working for Nina and Pavlos Pastidou, both doctors, when she snatched the valuables from the family's home in Arsos village on February 1. Shortly afterwards, Rasainka asked her employers to fund her ticket back to Sri Lanka, saying she'd had enough of life in Cyprus.

    But travel plans were put on hold when taxi driver Tassos Andreou went to police, telling them he'd taken her to Limassol on the day of the burglary, where he waited 40 minutes before driving her back.

    He became suspicious three days later when she called and asked him to keep the taxi ride a secret.

    The maid initially denied all knowledge of the theft, but later allegedly confessed and led officers to a building near her work, where most of the valuables were stashed.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002


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