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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-07-05
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>
Friday, July 5, 2002
 Clerides calls National Council meeting on talksBy Jean Christou
THE NATIONAL Council will convene on July 12 to evaluate the fourth round of UN-led direct talks between President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, which ended on Tuesday.
Government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said yesterday Clerides had called the National Council meeting to "evaluate what has or has not emerged from the fourth round of talks".
UN envoy for Cyprus Alvaro de Soto said on Wednesday he was disappointed that the leaders of the two communities had not cracked the four core issues of the Cyprus problem by the end-June target date.
Speaking before his departure for Vienna to brief UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan, de Soto said the framework for a solution, as envisaged when the direct talks began in mid-January, was not yet ready.
Denktash had proposed the June target date and Clerides had agreed. It was then adopted by the UN as an achievable goal but the talks have achieved little, if any, progress over the past six months. They will resume on July 16.
De Soto had a 40-minute meeting with Annan in Vienna on Wednesday night."De Soto briefed the Secretary-general and heard his input about how to move forward" with the negotiations, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said yesterday.
He said the UN did not intend to issue a statement on the meeting.Replying to questions, Eckhard said he was not aware of any plans for another meeting early next week between de Soto and the Secretary-general.De Soto will now head for New York via Paris, where Britain's envoy on Cyprus, Lord Hannay, is meeting heads of departments at the French foreign ministry dealing with EU enlargement and Eastern Mediterranean affairs.The two envoys, who have been engaged in the Cyprus peace effort for a number of years, may meet in the French capital as part of their regular exchanges of views on the peace process.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Cabinet row over EAC bidding for place in the mobile marketBy Jean Christou
THE GOVERNMENT will decide next week whether to allow the semi-government Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) to compete in the telecommunications bidding war following a rift between two cabinet ministers at Wednesday's session over the issue.
Yesterday the two Ministers, Communications and Works Minister Averoff Neophytou and Commerce, Industry and Tourism Minister Nicos Rolandis, who supports the EAC bid, defended their opposing views.
Neophytou said the EAC should not participate in the process of liberalising the mobile phone market because it is a semi-government organisation. He said this would not constitute liberalising the market should the licence end up being granted to the EAC: it would result in the further nationalisation of the sector, since one semi-government organisation (CyTA) already holds the monopoly on telecommunications.
"I don't see this as a positive development," Neophytou said, adding that he thought the EU would not view it favourably either.
"There is a political difference of opinion towards semi-government organisations becoming involved in everything and prolonging state participation," he said. "Another school of thought believes that state- owned enterprises are anachronistic and should be free to compete on the market."
Rolandis, however, said that the EAC should be allowed to bid for a licence because it has the necessary infrastructure to do so. He said it would be unfair for the EAC to have to face liberalisation of its own sector without having the opportunity to diversify and expand into other areas to offset competition in the electricity sector.
"We shouldn't close the window of competition for the EAC,' he said. "On the one hand say why it should be fair to let competition into the electricity market but on the hand close the doors of competition to the EAC."
The government has received 20 replies from local and international telecoms giants in response to its invitation earlier this year to submit expressions of interest in the island's deregulation of the telecommunications sector.
Those said to have submitted responses to the public consultation paper issued by the government include Vodafone, Telestet and Greece's CosmOTE, which are interested in GSM licences. The list also includes other companies from the YS, France, Germany, the UK, Scandinavia and Russia.
Cypriot telecoms monopoly CyTA and the EAC also submitted expressions of interest. After the responses have been examined in detail a decision will be made on how to proceed.
The 28-page consultation paper sought the advice of interested parties, domestic and international, on the technical, commercial, economic and regulatory issues associated with licensing additional providers to compete with CyTA.
The government plans later this year to offer UMTS -- Universal Mobile Telecommunications System, a member of the IMT-2000 global family of 'third generation' mobile communications systems. UMTS will play a key role in creating the future mass market for high-quality wireless multimedia communications that will have two billion users worldwide by the year 2010.
Third generation devices, in addition to conventional voice, data and fax services, will allow multimedia services, mobile office, virtual banking and Internet access.
The EU's Licensing Directive provides that there should be no limitations on the number of licences granted, but the public consultation document said there could be exceptions to this rule, one of which applies to wireless systems where there may be a physical limitation within a frequency band.
The government is keen to issue licences for up to 15 years with a high expectation of renewal and public consultation being held two years before the licensing term ends.
Competition for the licensing of additional providers is expected to begin in October.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 House plans new anti-corruption billBy George Psyllides
MINISTERS AND deputies would have to submit a capital statement within two months of assuming their position and two months after leaving, according to a proposed bill submitted by the Chairman of the House Legal Affairs Committee, Panayiotis Demetriou, yesterday.
The proposed legislation, which is complemented by an anti-graft bill, comes to replace a similar bill passed by the House in 1999, which later turned out to be unconstitutional.
After that development the House was heavily criticised and accused of knowingly passing an unconstitutional law.
"With the submission of this proposal we are carrying out our commitment and reply to those who systematically and repeatedly accuse members of the House of passing an unconstitutional law to avoid scrutiny," Demetriou said in the proposal.
The capital statement bill only covers ministers and deputies while the illicit gain of wealth scrutinises a long list of state officials from the President and House president, the Attorney-general, ministers, judges, the Central Bank governor, mayors, police and National Guard chiefs, chairmen of semi-governmental organisations, etc.
Under the first bill, ministers and deputies would be obliged to submit a capital statement two months after assuming their position and two months after leaving it.
They would also have to submit a statement every three years they spent in their position.
The bill provides that if any minister or deputy omits to submit a statement then they would be reported to the President and House president respectively who would deal with them according to their authorities.
A three-member council made up from the internal revenue officer, the auditor-general, and a prominent retired judge who would preside would be authorised to look into any irregularities and forward its findings to the attorney-general, the President, and the House president.
But the law does not provide for criminal charges to be brought against offenders and only aims in political scrutiny.
The capital statements would not be made public unless the concerned ministers or deputies give their authorisation for it to be published in the government gazette and any unauthorised reproduction of a statement or part thereof would constitute an offence punishable with a fine not exceeding £3,000 or up to one year imprisonment or both.
Under the bill the council is authorised, within the framework of an investigation, to request bank and tax confidentiality to be lifted.
Any assets belonging to the ministers' or deputies' spouses could only be included in the capital statement only with their written authorisation, the bill says.
The anti-graft bill however empowers the attorney-general to bring criminal charges against anyone suspected of committing the offence though deputies, who have immunity, could only be prosecuted after permission from the Supreme Court.
Penalties range from up to seven years in prison or not more than £25,000 fine or both while the court could seize any wealth proven to have been gained unlawfully.
The court could also order the spouse or every minor child to submit capital statements including every detail on when and how it had been gained.
According to the bill such an order could be extended to anyone who is suspected to be involved in the offence.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Cautious welcome for Akamas zoning decisionBy Jean Christou
GREENS were yesterday cautiously optimistic over the cabinet's decision on Wednesday to protect specific areas of the environmentally sensitive Akamas peninsula from development.
George Perdikis, chairman of the green party, said it was too early to make an official statement since the various environmental groups affiliated to the party have not yet had a chance to sit down and examine the decision in detail.
"It's an old story and many environmental groups are involved," Perdikis said, adding that the decision involved a lot of complex issues.
"What we want to see is whether there is a map which will show exactly which areas are for development and which are protected," he said. "There are so many gaps which are a mystery to us."
The cabinet on Wednesday voted to protect three specific areas in the Akamas -- Lara, Toxeftra and Fontana Amorosa -- but said it would allow "mild and controlled" development in other parts of the peninsula.
The decision follows through and expands on earlier cabinet decisions to allow 'mild and controlled' development in the region, which ministers approved in 2000.
Private landowners, particularly big businessmen such as the Bishop of Paphos and Carlsberg magnate Photos Photiades, are among those who own property in the designated areas and have been pushing for development.
The government said it would exchange forest land that they own with state land in a different area or compensate owners in cash.
A spokesperson for Photiades told he Cyprus Mail yesterday that the businessman was not ready to comment just yet.
"We want to know what the exchanges will be,'"Perdikis said. "There will be some kind of development, but what kind?"
"If they dropped plans to develop Fontana Amorosa where will that development be in the end?" Perdikis asked. He said the party would try to arrange a meeting with Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous to obtain more details.
"We have some questions but the decision is not entirely bad," Perdikis said. "There are some good points, especially about Fontana Amorosa, but there are others which are questionable," he added.
The cabinet decision also includes a freeze on new 'safari' licences to the Akamas and to review all existing licences, which involve using forest tracks. The Akamas will also be out of bounds to the Cyprus Rally and a sum of £50,000 was approved to clean up the forest areas. The government is also preparing a reforestation programme.
Residents of the remote area who have long been seeking development in the Akamas were delighted with the cabinet decision.Sophocles Pittokopitis, leader of Inia village, said yesterday the decision was a positive one for local residents who would now "be able to stay in the villages where they were born" instead of leaving the sparsely populated area to make a living.
He said the idea to consolidate the privately owned forest land into a state-owned national park had been the idea of the local communities, who he said would pledge to protect the Akamas from uncontrolled development. "We will make sure not to repeat the mistakes of what has happened in the rest of Cyprus," Pittokopitis said. "If the government is determined to give incentives for the residents of the area we will see a development which is in true harmony with the environment."
House Environment Committee chairman George Lillikas said the decision was a step in the right direction.
"But I can't judge or give value to the minister's statement because as yet we haven't got the documentation in front of us," he said. "Small print and little lines can make a big difference so we will wait and see."
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Government agrees to diesel subsidies for farmersBy a Staff Reporter
FINANCE Minister Takis Klerides said yesterday that the Cabinet had approved a subsidy on diesel for agricultural purposes, the setting up of a technical committee for farming debts, and a £500,000 cash injection into the farmers' social insurance fund.
Announcing the decision, Klerides said the decisions had been taken under the special agricultural policy being adopted by the government as of January 1, 2003.
Klerides said that according to the plan the government would return to the farmers any taxes on petrol and essential agricultural items as much as the cabinet can within their powers.
"With this arrangement farmers will be paying a reduced price for the diesel they will be using in agriculture," Klerides said.
On the farming debts, Klerides said after fully studying the issue the cabinet came to the conclusion that it was not possible to identify which of the farmers' loans had been given and used for agriculture.
He said that a technical committee had been set up to study the matter and would issue a report before the end of the year to the ministerial committee for agriculture, which comprises the ministers of Finance, Commerce and Agriculture, who will give their findings to the cabinet for a final decision.
The cabinet also decided to allow foreign farm workers who have completed four years in Cyprus to extend by a further two years provided they go through official channels.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 House moves to lower age of consent for gay menBy George Psyllides
THE HOUSE is expected next week to discuss the reduction in the age of consent of homosexual males from 18 down to 16 in line with European Union human rights provisions.
Chairman of the House Legal Affairs Committee Panayiotis Demetriou requested that the plenum discuss and vote for the issue during yesterday's plenary session but House President Demetris Christofias told him it would be discussed next Thursday.
The sudden urgency of the matter is certainly linked to the island's European accession course as the EU has clearly stressed that it would not tolerate inequalities between the treatment of homosexuals and heterosexuals.
Cyprus only decriminalised homosexuality in 1998, five years after gay activist Alecos Modinos won his battle at the European Court of Human Rights, and is now coming under pressure on issues such as age of consent and even gay partnerships rights.
But judging from the way the age of consent was treated among deputies yesterday, it is certain that such would only be passed just to be in line with the EU and not on human rights premises.
Discussions on the matter gave the impression that this was something Cyprus was obliged to do and nothing else.
"What is expected from the House is to act and comply with Europe's recommendation," Demetriou said.
The proposed amendment, which was discussed behind closed doors earlier yesterday, provides that the age of consent for homosexual males to be reduced to 16, from the current 18, in line with legislation concerning heterosexuals.
It should be noted that the age of consent for homosexual females is already 16.
"There is a one-way road called EU accession course; travelling down this road cannot be reversed or blocked by details, with all due respect to the existing sensitivities over this matter," Demetriou said.
Asked whether the Church had tabled its position before the committee, Demetriou said: "This state is obliged to comply with legislation in force in the EU, towards which clerics and laymen say we are heading."
It would be doubtful if the Church, an ardent opponent of homosexuality, would react to reducing the age of consent, but after the legalisation of homosexuality four years ago it is certain that the all-mighty Church would fiercely react to further 'concessions' such as gay marriages.
The gay Euro lobby has identified eight human rights issues that should concern member states and candidate countries, including unequal legislation, gay marriages, adoption and the rights of discrimination, so homosexuals can enjoy the same rights as heterosexuals.
But when the matter had been mooted last year, Archbishop Chrysostomos had vowed to fight any moves by Europe, which would allow gay marriage, characterising homosexuals as depraved sinners and calling on the women of Cyprus to revolt against them.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002
 Police arrest suspected illegal immigrantsBy a Staff Reporter
FOURTEEN Syrian immigrants suspected of trying to enter the country illegally were intercepted off the coast of Protaras yesterday morning by Famagusta police.
Their boat was seen on radar two and a half nautical miles off the coast.
They were picked up and taken to the local police station.
Investigations revealed the immigrants had paid up to £1,000 each to the captain of the ship who sailed from Beirut and then dropped them off in a small boat off the coast of Protaras.
Famagusta Chief of Police Savvas Chailis said the case was under investigation and a decision would be taken as to whether they would face charges in court or be sent back to Lebanon.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002