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Cyprus News Agency: News in English, 11-04-05
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From: The Cyprus News Agency at <http://www.cyna.org.cy>
 PRESIDENT - INTERNAL GOVERNANCE - PRESS CONFERENCESignificant work has been achieved during the past three years, with the government implementing its programme steadily and with consistency, amidst adverse conditions, the President of the Republic Demetris Christofias stressed, speaking during a televised press conference here today which focused on internal affairs, to mark his third year in office.
The President pointed out that his government was called to deal with the fallout of the global financial crisis, a job which, he said, was done efficiently, despite criticism to the contrary.
We have never maintained that all is well or a bed of roses. It is this government which has highlighted problems and stressed the need to tackle structural problems of the economy. We ask to be compared with others in an objective manner, President Christofias said in his opening remarks, adding that Cyprus needs a positive approach and not constant negative comments which provoke unjustified panic.
He said the government is not exclusively charged with dealing with the crisis, although it has the primary responsibility in this respect. The contribution of social partners and political forces is also essential, describing the economy as a national concern which warrants responsible handling.
I cannot promise to solve all the problems, what I can assure you of is that I will continue to work with all my associates to solve the daily problems of the people, he added.
The President noted that, despite the great hardships caused by the global financial crisis, a lot of work has been done by the government to benefit the people and society in general. The government, he added, was forced to readjust its goals and priorities in the realm of socio-economic policies, but not to the detriment of socially-oriented policies.
Speaking on the repercussions of the financial crisis, the President said that it resulted in the deterioration of financial indexes, not just in Cyprus but throughout Europe, and led to a public deficit. The deficit, he explained, was caused by reduced state revenue, due to stagnation in the construction and tourist sectors. Revenue, he added, dropped by 1,2 million euros annually, in a state budget worth 8 million euros.
He said that the crisis forced the government to support important economic sectors, worth half a billion euros.
During the first year of his term in office, the President said that his administration spent 120 million euros, of which 50 million went to water transportation from Greece and the rest was given as compensation to farmers and livestock breeders, who suffered from extensive drought.
This combination of reduced revenue and increased spending led to a public deficit, which in April 2010 stood at 6,1%, the President said, who fended off criticism from the opposition relating to the governments fiscal policy by saying that the European Commission has described the measures taken by the government as timely and targeted. The outlook for 2012 and 2013 is also positive, according to the Commission, President Christofias noted.
Public deficit was contained to below 6%, and stood at 5,3% at the end of 2010, he pointed out. He added that Cyprus growth rate ranged at 1%, by supporting development, reducing operating costs and decreasing the number of public servants.
The President said that the government has submitted to the EU a three-year-long Stability and Growth Programme, which foresees limiting public deficit to 6% in 2010, 4.5% in 2011 and 3% in 2012.
Government strategy aimed at easing the impact of the financial crisis in 2009 and leading the country out of the crisis in 2010, and both goals have been achieved, the President underlined.
President Christofias noted that the increase in operating costs foreseen in the 2011 state budget stood at 0,5% only, when the increase usually ranged at 7,5-8% annually. Moreover, he said that the number of public servants decreased by 1240 persons by December 2010, something he described as an unprecedented move.
The package of financial measures the government unveiled last December, he continued, aimed at solving a range of structural problems, like the pension scheme, the interchange of public servants, a fairer adjustment of the cost of living allowance, further reduction in the number of public servants, combating tax evasion and promoting urban planning arrangements.
On the pension system, the President said that the government has already appointed an actuary, who has completed his report, due to be discussed with the social partners.
Concerning tax evasion, the President said that six relevant draft bills have been recently approved by the House.
He added that the December 2010 package of measures also foresees an immediate increase in state revenue and a parallel decrease in expenditure. Incoming revenue is estimated at 120 million euros for the next two years, by the imposition of a special levy on the banks, the President said, expressing his expectation that the relevant draft bill will not be rejected.
The President named unemployment and immigration as the top two challenges the government has to tackle. As he said, unemployment in Cyprus has reached very high levels, a problem that is being exacerbated, due to the presence of many EU nationals seeking work in Cyprus. However, he pointed out that, even with existing problems, Cyprus still retains the 6th lowest position amongst EU member states, a position which, nonetheless, cannot be reassuring, he said.
He added that in 2010 employment increase by 1% or 3.829 people and in October 2008, the National Committee on Employment adopted a series of measures to combat unemployment, including monitoring the market, supporting enterprises to retain employees, providing incentives to hire unemployed people and applying a restrictive policy vis-a-vis the workforce coming from third countries. Moreover, he added that the government applies very strict policies to combat illegal and unregistered employment.
Speaking on the governments immigration policy, President Christofias said that Cyprus is facing a serious problem concerning illegal immigration. Due to the lack of a comprehensive policy, he said, asylum seekers in 2005 numbered 11.300 individuals and there were no shelters to accommodate immigrants, as the EU foresees.
The government applies a comprehensive immigration policy, President Christofias said and added that the uncontrolled situation of the past no longer exists.
Furthermore, he said that the Minister of Interior has undertaken a series of initiatives with his counterparts from Mediterranean EU member states, in order to exert pressure on the EU to assume its share of responsibility in sheltering immigrants from the region.
The number of asylum seekers has dropped to 1.400, and monitoring of the coast has improved. In addition, the cease-fire line is also more efficiently monitored, reducing the number of illegal immigrants coming from the islands northern Turkish occupied areas from 5.200 in 2008 to 1.857 in 2010.
Concerning the governments social policy, the President noted that Cyprus is an exception amidst EU member states, which were forced to cut wages, benefits and pensions. The social state in Cyprus has been reinforced during this period, he said and added that social benefits have increased by 25% since 2008, excluding spending for Education and health. The total figure rose from 1 billion euros to 1.2 billion euros, the President noted.
Speaking on the policies in this domain, the President highlighted the increase by 30% of pensions for low-income pensioners, the rise in public benefits by 12% in 2008 and 6,3% in 2009, the hiring of disabled people in the public service, a 12 million euros-worth student care scheme and a comprehensive housing policy, providing significant benefits and grants to beneficiaries.
President Christofias referred to the restructuring of public transport, the solution of the problem of water shortage, with the conclusion of the construction of desalination plants by the end of the year. The President also referred to educational reforms, the sustainability of the Social Insurance Fund until 2048, with the deposit of 200 million euros each year to the fund and amendments to local administration.
On the energy field, the President noted that the government is promoting the transformation of Cyprus to a regional energy hub, by taking advantage of the countrys strategic position and its EU membership.
The President said that the signing of a series of agreements with neighboring countries to exploit underwater natural resources is a basic aspect of government planning and added that a joint committee between Cyprus and Israel will commence soon a detailed dialogue on this issue.
 FRENCH SENATORS - CYPRUS - TURKEYChairman of the France-Cyprus Inter-parliamentary Group of Friendship in the French Senate has reiterated the firm position of France on the Cyprus problem, noting that EU-Turkey relations should be reassessed on the basis of the progress Turkey will make on the Cyprus issue, the implementation of the Ankara Protocol and its EU accession course.
According to an official announcement, Cyprus House President Marios Garoyian met on Tuesday with the Chairman of the France-Cyprus Inter-parliamentary Group of Friendship Marc Massion and the two Vice Chairmen of the Group Jean-Patrick Courtois and Simon Sutour. Garoyian has briefed the French Senators on the latest developments in the ongoing direct negotiation process between President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu.
The House President expressed his gratitude to the members of the Group and his appreciation for the firm position of principle that France adopts on the Cyprus problem and on the solution effort, as a permanent members of the UN Security Council and a European power.
Garoyian expressed disappointment on the lack of progress on the peace process, due to the fact that Turkey submits proposals outside the agreed framework for a solution of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. He added that Turkeys proposals refer to a confederal solution.
 FOREIGN MINISTER - LIBYA - OPERATIONSEvery country assesses, with its own criteria, whether the operations in Libya were the appropriate course of action to take to deal with the situation, Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou pointed out, noting that Berlin had also adopted a similar stance to that of Nicosia. In statements at the House of Representatives, the Minister said that at present, the government does not intend to close its Tripoli embassy.
There is no reason at present to close our embassy, especially since we have Cypriots who want to stay in Libya, he explained, adding that there are between 20-25 Cypriot nationals in Libya. Responding to press questions on Cyprus position on the Libyan crisis, Kyprianou said that every country determines, by its own criteria, whether these operations are the right way to handle the problem. From then on, Cyprus, as an EU member, is cooperating fully with the EU on issues relating to humanitarian aid.
He also said that Cyprus, as a UN and EU member, is ready to support the implementation of the relevant Security Council resolution without necessarily have an active involvement. Neither the conclusions of the EU Council of Ministers, nor the UN resolution bind member states to be actively involved. Only those who want to can get involved, he added.
 COMMUNICATION MINISTER - IT - SHIPPING INDUSTRYMinister of Communication and Works Erato Kozakou Markoullis addressing the Digital Ship Cyprus Conference 2011, in Limassol, organized for the eighth consecutive year in Cyprus, pointed out the importance of the operation of advanced information technology and communication systems for the shipping sector.
Markoulli stressed that advanced information technology and communication systems is essential for the safe and secure operation of the ships, as well as for the protection of the environment and life at sea. It is also an indispensable tool for sound financial management which is of vital importance especially during periods of economic crisis such as the one we are going through now.
As she said, the already in operation Vessel Traffic Monitoring and Information System in Cyprus provides valuable information about maritime traffic in the eastern Mediterranean, leading to the prevention of marine casualties, improved protection of the marine environment and prevention of trafficking of illegal immigrants.
Referring to the problem of piracy, Markoulli stressed that the Ministry is taking initiatives to face the problem. As a leading flag we will also take an active role in urging the European Union and the IMO to take all those legal and practical measures that will result in making the worlds sea lanes and corridors safe for international shipping she added.
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