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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-02-27

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

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


Wednesday, February 27, 2002

CONTENTS

  • [01] D-Day for 500,000 strawberry project
  • [02] Bank of Cyprus profits up 8.8pc, and big expansion in Greece
  • [03] Cyprus lends Turkey 8 million
  • [04] 1,000 fine and jail sentence for parking offenders? Deputies slam crackdown
  • [05] Probe into cartels
  • [06] EU to decide on Cyprus irrespective of talks, says Aznar
  • [07] Dying fish cause a stink
  • [08] No gag on prison boss, says Koshis
  • [09] Cyprus gets good marks for economic freedom
  • [10] Holiday firm denies any 'link' with north
  • [11] Banks save the day on stock market

  • [01] D-Day for 500,000 strawberry project

    By Jean Christou

    LARNACA District Office says it will today issue its decision on whether to allow a British businessman to set up a $500,000 agricultural project in Kalavasos.

    Geoffrey Gunson, who plans to produce hydroponically-grown strawberries, was initially told that it would take six to eight weeks for approval to buy the 22 donums of land needed. He warned at the weekend that if he did not get the go-ahead within ten days he would have to call off the whole project because of the 'seasonal' nature of the business and the work which has to be done after purchase of the land.

    Gunson said his company also has future expansion plans and would be exporting at least 50 per cent of its production to Northern Europe. It will also create jobs locally and benefit Cypriot suppliers, he said.

    Gunson, who used to own an offshore company on the island which he has now sold, said he decided last year set up an agribusiness project using state- of-the-art technology and producing a high value product both for export to northern Europe and for sale on the local market.

    He said that in October last year, with everything in place at that stage, applied to the Central Bank to register a Cyprus company 100 per cent owned by himself, and it was registered within two weeks.

    The only stumbling block was that as a foreigner Gunson was not allowed to purchase more than three donums and he needed 22.

    Larnaca District Officer Kypros Matheou said yesterday that Gunson would have his reply today. "I have already had a first report from the assistant district inspector and this is now being processed by my deputy in order to see there is if any chance, according to the law, that this can be approved in order to give a final answer and let him know what his chances are," Matheou said yesterday.

    "He will receive an answer tomorrow and I'm forwarding a separate letter to the Interior Ministry to notify them of my decision and the justification for that decision."

    Gunson said yesterday he was awaiting the decision and hoped it would be favourable. "If not, it's their loss and mine," he said.

    Hydroponics is a semi-organic method of producing certain types of agricultural produce, which does not involve growing in the soil -- it is a well-established practice in the commercial tomato business. Gunson said that produce grown in this way has a longer shelf life and strawberries can last up to a week in the fridge.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [02] Bank of Cyprus profits up 8.8pc, and big expansion in Greece

    By George Psyllides

    THE BANK of Cyprus (BoC) yesterday announced an 8.8 per cent increase in profits for 2001 and an impressive expansion in the Greek market, with customer deposits there rising by 82 per cent to reach 1.5 billion.

    Presenting the results at a news conference yesterday, the group's Chairman Solon Tryantafillides said that BoC's profits after tax amounted to 46.5 million, compared to 42.8 million for 2000.

    Pre-tax profits for 2001 were 66.4 million, marking a 4.9 per cent decrease from the 69.9 million in the previous year.

    Tryantafyllides said a series of factors had adversely affected the group's results but overall they were considered satisfactory.

    Among others, the results were affected by the reduction of interest rates in Cyprus, which led to lower net interest income and global interest rate cuts that resulted in lower profit margins on foreign currency deposits.

    Tryantayllides said the introduction of the euro in Greece had a negative impact on foreign exchange commissions and dealing profits, while the group's accelerated expansion of its branches in Greece was another factor affecting the company's profits. BoC doubled the number of its branches in Greece last year, reaching 60 from 31.

    But, said Tryantafyllides, Greece had been a success story and the group's expansion there continued unabated.

    "Despite the fact that the bank's profits in Greece were negatively affected by the introduction of the euro and by the significant set-up costs associated with the opening of new branches, the bank's profitability was satisfactory and prospects for future growth are excellent," Tryantafyllides said.

    Customer deposits grew by 82 per cent, reaching 1.5 billion in 2001, up from 800 million in 2000.

    Deposits fully covered total advances, providing the bank with very good liquidity. Advances grew by 25 per cent, reaching 1.2 billion compared to 1 billion in 2000.

    Trynatafyllides said the group had now realised its vision of creating in Greece a parallel organisation to the one on the island, and was now focusing on furthering its overseas operations having Greece as the main axis.

    The group's strategic objective in Greece was to further expand its branch network, aiming to reach 120 outlets by 2004, while increasing its market share accordingly.

    The bank currently holds three per cent of the Greek market but its objective is to reach five per cent by the end of 2004.

    Kyprou Leasing is now the fourth largest leasing company in Greece in terms of market share, after only five years of operation. The company's market share has increased significantly during 2001, reaching 11 per cent compared to seven in 2000.

    Tryantafyllides said the prospects for 2002 were difficult to predict, considering the ongoing talks on the Cyprus problem as well as the external developments after September 11.

    He added, however, that he viewed the future with optimism, as the island's accession to the EU would have a crucial influence the economy.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [03] Cyprus lends Turkey 8 million

    CYPRUS has loaned millions of pounds to Turkey through the IMF, officials said yesterday.

    The reason? Cyprus was one of 30 countries picked by the IMF to contribute towards a $12 billion loan increase to Turkey, which was made in early February. The Cyprus contribution was some 8 million.

    "Turkey was in a difficult position and Cyprus has certain obligations through its IMF membership," Finance Minister Takis Klerides told reporters.

    Turkey does not recognise the Cyprus government and has no diplomatic relations with the Greek Cypriots. It is the only country to recognise the breakaway 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus'.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [04] 1,000 fine and jail sentence for parking offenders? Deputies slam crackdown

    By Melina Demetriou

    A BID to charge parking offenders who fail to pay a 50 fine up to 1,000 and/or sentence them to six months in prison was yesterday slammed by deputies.

    The contentious Bill had been drafted by the Communications and Works Ministry, in co-operation with the Union of Municipalities, to solve traffic congestion problems. It calls for an increase of on-the-spot fines from 15 to 50, and for drastic measures to combat illegal parking on busy roads.

    Legislature Commissioner Georgios Stavrinakis, who attended a Communications Committee meeting on the issue yesterday, briefed deputies on the provisions of the Bill. "Vehicles that are found parked illegally on central roads will be immobilised by chaining for an hour to give their owners the chance to submit an amount (of money) and get their car back.

    "But if no one claims the car within an hour it will be removed and stored at a special place. The owner will have two months to claim his car before it goes on sale," Stavrinakis explained.

    The proposal also provides that offenders who fail to pay the 50 fine will be tried in court and face six months' imprisonment and/or be fined up to 1,000.

    Committee chairman Nicos Pittokopitis of DIKO, who is vehemently opposed to the proposal, accused the ministry of introducing "unreasonably high penalties instead of increasing the number of parking lots".

    "Commercial and financial activities are conducted in city centres where there are neither adequate parking places nor public transport facilities. Where do you expect people to park?" Pittokopitis asked ministry and municipal officials.

    DIKO deputy Zacharias Koullias described the bill as "authoritarian and Islamic", making clear he would vote against it. Koullias further charged that existing traffic laws were not being put into effect -- if they were, he said, there would be no need for stronger measures.

    "We deputies are all committing an offence by parking our cars on the road where the parliament lies," he said.

    Pittokopitis was quick to warn police at the meeting that "you cannot fine us, because we have immunity for this kind of offence". "But what about journalists and guests," he asked. "Where did you park this morning?"

    "We came on foot," replied Athos Yiermanos, secretary of the Union of Municipalities, who reassured deputies that the police would always be flexible when it came to parking outside parliament.

    Pittokopitis insisted, however, that "if there was dedicated parking space we would not be forced to park on the pavement and violate pedestrians' rights."

    George Georgiou of DISY shared the view that Draconian measures would not solve traffic congestion problems. "All you must do is implement the existing law. Larnaca residents have accepted that they cannot park along the Phinikoudes beach road because there is a strong police presence in the area," he said.

    Georgiou further accused municipalities of failing to set up parking places as the law provides.

    "According to the law, each municipality receives 5,000 every year, gathered from traffic fines, to set up funds and sponsor the establishment and operation of parking lots," he said. "But the Auditor-general said in her latest report that such funds don't exist." He wondered what local authorities had done with the money in question.

    Pittokopitis asked Yiermanos to submit the necessary information to the committee for investigation.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [05] Probe into cartels

    By Melina Demetriou

    A WATCHDOG committee is investigating allegations that certain professional groups like bankers and aluminium producers have formed cartels to control the market.

    Lakis Chelepos, head of the Committee for the Protection of Competition, told the House Commerce Committee yesterday about the probe. Its chairman, Lefteris Christoforou of DISY, raised the alarm about "monopolies and oligopolies which harm consumers' interests and the economy".

    He cited information according to which cement factories and supermarkets had also monopolised the market. Chelepos complained that his department, operating under the Commerce Ministry, was understaffed and could not exercise adequate control on companies.

    "However, our legislation has been fully harmonised with the EU law which is totally against market monopolies," he noted. "The law in Cyprus is like a diet. We are happy to announce it to enjoy breaking it later," George Lillikas of AKEL said.

    DIKO's Aristos Chrysostomou claimed that a ceramics factory had been paid by other ceramics factories to suspend its operation for some time. "We are already investigating the allegations in question as well as claims that banks and aluminium production factories have formed cartels," Chelepos said.

    The Committee's head noted, however, that cases of alleged illegalities involving supermarkets could not easily be examined. "Under the law supermarkets are allowed to sell below the cost but are forbidden to abuse their dominant position to make profits," he explained.

    Christoforou vowed that the Parliamentary committee would deal with the situation "ruthlessly."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [06] EU to decide on Cyprus irrespective of talks, says Aznar

    By Michele Kambas

    SPAIN, which holds the presidency of the European Union, said yesterday the EU would decide whether to admit divided Cyprus irrespective of the outcome of reunification talks currently under way.

    Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said Cyprus was making good progress in its European Union accession negotiations and said settlement talks would further spur the process along.

    He added through an interpreter: "But I want to make clear that the decision of the EU (on enlargement) will be taken irrespective of the outcome or progress of these negotiations."

    The settlement talks started under a press black-out in January, but media leaks suggest the two sides have made little progress in resolving a raft of thorny issues. The talks resume on March 1 after a 10-day break.

    Aznar was on a brief visit to Cyprus where he met President Glafcos Clerides. He was to travel on to Malta.

    Clerides is holding settlement talks with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. Both sides have said June is a reasonable time to expect any sort of progress.

    Turkey has said it could "annex" the occupied areas if a divided Cyprus joins the EU. Any annexation could end Turkey's own decades-old bid to join the EU, since it might be viewed as an occupation of EU territory, and sour relations with EU member and NATO ally Greece.

    Clerides wants a settlement based on a federated state of two regions, one Greek and the other Turkish, with territorial adjustments which would allow a large number of Greek Cypriot refugees back to homes now in Turkish- controlled territory.

    Greek Cypriot newspapers reported yesterday that Denktash wants 30 per cent- plus of Cyprus under Turkish Cypriot control, as opposed to the Greek Cypriots' position that he retain only 24 per cent.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [07] Dying fish cause a stink

    By Rita Kyriakides

    OFFICIALS of the forestry and fisheries departments are investigating a phenomenon that leaves thousands of fish dead every year.

    Authorities have seen a pattern where thousands of fish, called tilapia, are found dead in the reservoir at Ayios Georgios dam near the University of Cyprus in Nicosia.

    Regional Forestry Official for Nicosia, Larnaca and Famagusta, Giorgos Pattichis said the government was trying to solve the problem because the stench caused by the thousands of dead fish caused health problems in the area every year.

    "We have considered removing the tilapia from the reservoir because they cause serious problems every year during winter," said Pattichis.

    Officials have discovered that the tilapia die because they are very sensitive to changes in water temperature. But since they reproduce rapidly, the breed does not disappear completely.

    Experts from the two departments are working to find a solution which might include improving the ecosystem.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [08] No gag on prison boss, says Koshis

    By Jean Christou

    THE Justice Ministry yesterday denied placing a gag order on prison governor Haris Themistocleous.

    In a written statement, Justice Minister Nicos Koshis said there was no banning and no gagging of the prison director.

    The Cyprus Mail published a report on the 'gagging order' last Saturday following a routine enquiry. The normally outspoken Themistocleous, brother of Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous, said he had received a letter from the ministry forbidding him to speak to the press unless he had its permission.

    Koshis said that as the relevant authority, and "repeating a previous letter', the ministry had pointed out to the prison director the procedures that should be followed when speaking to the media.

    "It is stressed that based on current laws, public servants like the governor cannot, without prior permission, in this case of the Justice Ministry, publish or transmit by radio or television, or any other means, material pertinent to their duties," the statement said.

    "It is obvious that prior permission of the authorities does not aim at gagging any state official but aims towards the prior briefing of superiors on serious issues."

    Asked last week how he felt about the ministry letter, Themistocleous said: "No comment". "I can't comment on the decision. I don't like to violate the law. If you want information you can ask through the ministry or directly to me but you have to send written questions. I will answer and clear the answers with the ministry."

    Since he took over as prison director in January 2000, Themistocleous has not shied away from the press or tried to keep a lid on social and other issues that concern prisoners.

    He said from the beginning that the present prison system was lacking in several respects, including matters such as after care for released inmates and parole officers to help them re-integrate into society.

    Since then he has commented publicly on such topics as the treatment of psychiatric patients in the prison, sex in prison and other issues of concern.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [09] Cyprus gets good marks for economic freedom

    CYPRUS has come in 23rd place out of 156 countries in the 2002 Index of Economic Freedoms, scoring 2.15 points based on a number of criteria which give it the rank of 'mostly free'.

    Hong Kong tops the list of 71 countries with a 'free' economy.

    According to the report, Cyprus is among the wealthier of the states involved in EU negotiations. The island's geographical location, tax incentives and modern infrastructure make it a natural hub for businesses looking to expand into the Middle East, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet states and North Africa, it said.

    Since the last report, in which Cyprus also came 23rd, its trade policy, fiscal debt, capital flow and foreign investment, wages and prices are regarded as stable. The 'black market' aspect of the economy has improved and now scores "low level of activity' with the implementation of copyright laws.

    The only sector to have fared worse than last year, losing one point is the government's monetary policies due to the increase in inflation from 2.09 per cent to 3.33 per cent.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [10] Holiday firm denies any 'link' with north

    Maxima hits back as 'what is timeshare?' debate rumbles on

    A COMPANY dealing in long-term holidays yesterday categorically denied that its parent company had any links with hotels in the Turkish occupied areas.

    A Sunday Mail reader had alleged that Maxima Marketing Ltd was "part of (Israel-based) Poalim Investments who operated a company specialising in timeshares and holiday exchanges, including two hotels in the Cyprus occupied areas".

    Director of Maxima Elias Stamatopoulos yesterday emphatically denied that his company or Poalim had any connection with the north. "We have nothing to do with the north; Poalim has nothing to do with the north," Stamatopoulos told the Cyprus Mail.

    The issue emerged after several readers told the Cyprus Mail that they had signed long-term holiday contracts with Maxima but could not get out of the deal after changing their minds. A Ministry of Commerce and Tourism official has claimed that any deal which is for more than a one-off holiday falls into the timeshare category and is covered by Cyprus legislation to protect consumers.

    But this is fiercely disputed by Maxima Marketing. Stamatopoulos said the law was not at all clear, a point echoed by the company's lawyer Dinos Erotocritou.

    "The situation is somewhat confused because unfortunately our law is inadequate," Erotocritou said.

    Stamatopoulos said that when the company started its operation in Paphos, in November last year, the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) told them that what they were selling was not timeshare and that they needed a tour operator's licence to be able to market their packages.

    Three months later, Stamatopoulos said, and after being told to get the operator's licence, with all the costs that included, the ministry said their product was timeshare.

    "So what do they expect us to do?" said Stamatopoulos. "On one hand the CTO says get a tour operator licence and three months later the ministry says it is not OK."

    According to Erotocritou, the company had obtained a permit from the Central Bank in 1999, with the restriction that it could only be involved in timeshare services. But with European Union harmonisation, the Central Bank had to relax the restrictions since the company's shareholders were "100 per cent European," Erotocritou said.

    Technically, the company has not yet acquired the tour operator's permit but, according to Erotocritou, all the paperwork was in the hands of the CTO and issuing the licence was just a matter of time.

    He gave an assurance, however, that the company had been given the go- ahead to operate, pending the issue of its permit.

    The definition of timeshare is still unresolved. According to the ministry, the "holiday packages" sold by the company are timeshare, but Erotocritou suggested the situation was very vague.

    "I think the ministry's position is wrong; the law does not include any definition of timesharing," Erotocritou said.

    He claimed the Cyprus law copied parts from the EU directive but did not really cover all the bases. "And that's why there is a Bill that will amend the law," he said.

    He suggested the Attorney-general should provide a ruling on the matter, reiterating that Maxima operated within the law. He conceded that there could have been sales representatives going overboard with their pitch but said the company would get rid of anyone caught harassing people.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [11] Banks save the day on stock market

    STOCKS rose 0.95 per cent yesterday after investor interest in banking shares ended a selling frenzy in the first half of the session.

    The all-share index ended at 113.8 points, while the blue chip FTSE/CySE index closed at 470 points, an increase of 1.48 per cent.

    Trading opened on a positive note and hit an intraday high of 114 points before sellers stepped in sensing a quick profit. It was the banks that saved the day, despite investors` apprehension over the forthcoming annual results of the main three banks.

    The banking sector outperformed both the general and blue chips index, rising 1.55 per cent. Bank of Cyprus and Laiki both gained three cents to close at 1.79 and 1.33 respectively while Hellenic added one cent to 0.84.

    Other sub-sectors trailed behind the banks with marginal increases while four ended in the red. Worst hit were fish culture companies, losing over four per cent.

    Overall, 51 titles gained compared to 33 decliners and 62 that remained unchanged.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002


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