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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-12-29

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>


Wednesday, December 29, 1999

CONTENTS

  • [01] Holger: solution could be on its way
  • [02] Market bounces back despite bomb scare and computer glitch
  • [03] Government pledges £3 million for air raid shelters
  • [04] Axed civil servants consider European court appeal
  • [05] Ergates residents call on Moushiouttas to resign
  • [06] Tekke ‘corpse’ wakes up
  • [07] Consensus reached on market tax bill
  • [08] Interest rate ceiling to be scrapped

  • [01] Holger: solution could be on its way

    By Jean Christou

    FOR THE first time ever, there are indications that a solution to the Cyprus problem could be on the way, Unficyp's Chief of Mission James Holger said yesterday.

    Speaking after a meeting with President Clerides, Holger said the talks were "on the right track", and added that for the first time there were elements pointing in the direction of a settlement.

    "I think there is greater hope than we had in the past," Holger said, but cautioned that the process would probably be a long one.

    President Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash recently completed a first round of proximity talks on the Cyprus issue in New York.

    The second round is due to begin in Geneva at the end of next month. Holger said yesterday the UN was considering a one-day delay in the proceedings. He said UN headquarters would clarify the dates within the next few days.

    A third round is also in the offing. The government last week spoke of a decisive third round, while Denktash on Monday referred to "give and take" around June next year.

    Holger, who has served as a UN official in Cyprus in the past, said that, throughout the years, he has seen little change in the political situation until now.

    "I think there are elements now for the first time in many years that point in the opposite direction," Holger said.

    He added that he did "not mean to be cynical or negative".

    "I think we have to be realistic. It's bad to be a pessimist, but equally bad to set one's expectations too high," he said.

    Denktash said on Monday the two sides were likely to tackle the "nuts and bolts" of the Cyprus problem around June next year.

    "According to what everyone says, give and take positions will begin in June at a third round," Denktash said.

    "I hope we are on a positive and hopeful path. Everyone is now saying the Cyprus problem must be resolved."

    Responding to Denktash's comments, government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said yesterday the reference by the Turkish Cypriot leader to "give and take" would allow the talks to continue "and have meaning".

    "But we'll see in practice whether Denktash and the Turkish side are preparing to get involved in a substantiative dialogue," Papapetrou said.

    "Our side is ready to negotiate substantially to get results."

    But the spokesman warned the Greek Cypriot side should not expect anything concrete from the second round because of `presidential' elections in the north in April.

    Papapetrou denied reports in the Cyprus Mail last week that both leaders had come close to walking out of the first round of talks at various stages. He said he was unaware of any such actions.

    However, separate diplomatic sources told the Cyprus Mail that both sides had had "tantrums" over various issues and had to be "slapped back into place" in order to stay in New York.

    Wednesday, December 29, 1999

    [02] Market bounces back despite bomb scare and computer glitch

    THE Cyprus bourse ended firmer yesterday after a problem-riddled session that began with a bomb threat, a two-hour delay to the start of trading and computers which wouldn't work.

    The session was marred by a hoax call from a prankster who rang the bourse five minutes before the start of morning trading to warn that two bombs had been planted at the exchange.

    Similar threats were also made to the Finance Ministry and the Registrar of Companies, just hours before parliament was due to debate a controversial government bill slapping a five per cent tax on bourse profits, which has angered brokers and investors alike.

    Yesterday’s was the second bomb threat to disrupt trading in two months.

    "The caller said one bomb had been placed in the building and one outside," a bourse employee said yesterday as she and dozens of others stood on the pavement outside waiting for police.

    Police sniffer dogs searching the premises did not find anything suspicious.

    But things went from bad to worse as the hour's delay caused by the bomb scare stretched to two with a technical glitch in posting orders and indices.

    When trading finally began, investors shrugged aside the disruption to push the all-share index up 7.34 points, or 1.05 per cent, to end at 688.44, the highest intraday level.

    The session had opened lower, but investor sentiment was on the mend as bargain hunters entered the fray in the final minutes of trading after shares got a 5.08 per cent pounding on Monday, when the bourse plunged below the 700 point support level to settle at 681.10 points.

    Yesterday's turnover reached £23.2 million on 3,548 trades, compared to a volume of £19.5 million on Monday.

    Blue-chip banks were marginally down at 749.92 points, but commercial, tourism, investment and industry shares climbed after being hammered in the recent correction.

    Brokers said it was too early to speak of a broad-based rebound, which would halt December's 20 per cent dive in prices, but there were signs the slide was running out of steam.

    "Prices are levelling out. I think we are entering a period where prices will consolidate at present levels," said stockbrokers' union chairman Christodoulos Ellinas of Sharelink.

    Analysts said that even though prices remained under pressure from liquidity-starved investors wanting to stay afloat over the holiday season, the falls could be absorbed by the market.

    "We are still seeing huge interest in initial public offerings," said George Xydas of Severis and Athienitis Financial Services. "That (liquidity) will inevitably come back to the market."

    He said that was also evidenced by new debuts, such as a Glory Betting on Monday and Blue Island Fish Farm yesterday, which both soared, bucking the general trend.

    Blue Island opened at £3.15 and closed at £4.00 yesterday on a 280,013 share volume, while Glory was off 70 cents to £4.80 pounds on a turnover of 43,229.

    Wednesday, December 29, 1999

    [03] Government pledges £3 million for air raid shelters

    By Anthony O. Miller

    THE GOVERNMENT plans to spend £3 million to bring more air raid shelters on- line early in 2000, while relying mainly on volunteers to flesh-out its promised earthquake emergency response teams, officials indicated yesterday.

    Of some 6,000 bomb shelters identified between April 1 and July 1, about half - enough for 53 per cent of Republic's population - were considered immediately useable, Interior Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou said at the time.

    Christodoulou said on Monday that work would begin on January 3 to spruce up the remaining 3,000 shelters, would cost about £3 million, and be finished by December 31, 2000.

    Cyprus has three categories of bomb shelters: private, common and public. Christodoulou said a shelter's category determined the size of its state spruce-up subsidy.

    Private shelters - those in single homes that are not open to outsiders - will receive a £200 subsidy.

    Common shelters, which are associated with apartment buildings, will receive £150 for each flat in the building.

    Public shelters, which can be private or common but which are open to neighbourhood residents, will receive £150 per flat in the building, plus an extra £20 for every person using it who is not a resident of the building.

    However, apartment buildings with over 20 flats get £150 per flat for the first 20 flats, and £100 for every flat over 20.

    The refurbishment programme, which got Cabinet approval early this year, aims at ensuring safety inside, entering and leaving the shelters and the basic sanitary needs of water and toilet facilities.

    Acting Civil Defence Director Michael Antoniou said yesterday the search for and refurbishment of bomb shelters did not mean Cyprus was preparing for war.

    "No, no," he said. "We are preparing for any kind of event in which a need for using these shelters will arise." But that does not include earthquake rescue, he added.

    "They don't help in quakes and civil defence rescue," Antoniou said. "The shelters don't have anything to do with earthquakes. The shelters are only for war action."

    Antoniou said he was not prepared to discuss the earthquake rescue teams that Christodoulou pledged to create on September 9 after catastrophic earthquakes rocked Turkey and Greece in August.

    But he did say that some quake-rescue teams, made up of paid civil servants, were being organised "with the co-operation of the fire brigade. Parallel with them, we are preparing some additional teams, which will consist of volunteers," he added.

    On December 15, Christodoulou said he expected volunteer quake-response teams that would include doctors, engineers, architects and construction experts to be organised and ready by March for drills with police and fire personnel.

    Wednesday, December 29, 1999

    [04] Axed civil servants consider European court appeal

    By Martin Hellicar

    CIVIL servants axed by a Supreme Court decision are considering appealing to the European Court of Human Rights.

    The 169 jobless public servants - represented by the Pasidy union - claim the island's top court had no authority to declare their appointments unconstitutional.

    Two days before Christmas, the Supreme Court ruled that a 1996 law giving permanent jobs to 1,080 public sector contract workers was unconstitutional. The court stated that the 1996 law had violated equal opportunity laws, because it had not given other candidates a chance to apply for the permanent civil service positions.

    The ruling led to 169 civil servants losing their jobs immediately, while the fate of the other 911 remains in the balance.

    The ousted civil servants yesterday vowed to contest the ruling.

    Pasidy man Andreas Economides argued that the Supreme Court had no authority to adjudicate in a matter which he said boiled down to "worker relations" between state and civil servants.

    He attacked the court for its decision not to permit appeals against its ruling.

    "We believe the decision not to allow appeals contravenes the human rights of workers," Economides said. "There is no excuse for the right honourable judges doing this," he added.

    He said the 169 would be seeking Pasidy support for an appeal against the decision to the European Court of Human Rights.

    Attorney-general Alecos Markides did not hide his exasperation with the whole contract civil servants issue yesterday, describing it as "trying to square a circle."

    The problem, as Markides sees it, is that such temporary civil servants are never, in practice, temporary. Their contracts are invariably renewed every time they expire.

    He said the 1996 law had been part of an effort to sort out the whole matter.

    "In 1996, the House Ethics committee decided this issue of temporary civil servants had to end. A new law on contract workers was passed, which provided for six-month contracts and no renewals, so that a temporary worker became a true temporary worker and there would be no claims for permanent status," Markides said. "At the same time, they tried to be fair to those temporary civil servants who had been there for 10, eight or seven years - that's why they (deputies) passed the law (making them permanent)," the Attorney-general added.

    But, Markides said, the new law stipulating a maximum of six-months' employment for contract civil servants was never implemented.

    "Every time the six months runs out they all give in to pressures - government and deputies - with the result that the six-month periods are extended," he said.

    Wednesday, December 29, 1999

    [05] Ergates residents call on Moushiouttas to resign

    ERGATES villagers descended on the Labour Ministry yesterday morning to demand the immediate closure of a foundry linked to high cancer levels in their village.

    The protesters also called on Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas to resign, claiming he was directly responsible for the continued operation of the Marios & Andreas foundry outside their Nicosia district village.

    Moushiouttas received a deputation from the protesters. He told them they were "knocking on the wrong door," as the issue had now been forwarded to the Attorney-general's office.

    Earlier this month, after Labour Ministry checks showed the foundry was again exceeding emissions limits, Moushiouttas asked for a closure order to be served on the metal works.

    Moushiouttas said he had sent a letter to the Attorney-general's office seeking a temporary closure order for the foundry.

    The minister said all he could now do was bring the matter up at today's cabinet meeting.

    Attorney-general Alecos Markides last week said he had received no emissions readings from the Labour Ministry to prove the foundry was exceeding legal limits. He could therefore not proceed with issuing a closure order, Markides insisted.

    The chairman of the House environment committee, Demetris Eliades, said he had faxed Markides a letter detailing the ministry emission measurements and demanding action over the foundry.

    Three separate measurements of foundry smoke taken earlier this month showed particulate levels of 366, 500 and 399 mg per cubic metre of air. The limit set by the ministry is 300 mg.

    The Labour Ministry has tried before to secure a closure order for the Marios & Andreas foundry, after earlier measurements carried out by its officers again showed it was exceeding legal emissions limits.

    But Attorney-general Alecos Markides decided not to approve a the request for a closure order, saying the foundry was making efforts to clean up its act and that the results of new measurements should be awaited.

    Ergates residents blame lead and cadmium in foundry smoke for the high incidence of cancer and breathing problems in their village.

    Studies by epidemiologist Dr Michalis Voniatis have lent weight to their claims. Voniatis found alarmingly high levels of cancer and breathing complaints among village residents and high concentrations of lead and cadmium in Ergates soil. More recently, Voniatis has found blood lead levels and blood cadmium levels in Ergates residents to be two-and-a-half and five times higher than the national average respectively.

    Moushiouttas has pledged to force both foundries to comply with the tougher EU emissions limits of 50 mg per cubic metre by the end of the year.

    Wednesday, December 29, 1999

    [06] Tekke ‘corpse’ wakes up

    A POLICE helicopter was mobilised yesterday after a report that a corpse had been spotted at the Tekke forest near Larnaca airport.

    Police and camera crews immediately rushed to the scene only to discover that the corpse was very much alive.

    The ‘corpse’ belonged to a nature-loving tourist who had decided to sleep out in the forest, using a blue blanket to keep warm.

    Sepan Koprelamine, 54, from Finland, was woken up as police and camera crews crowded around him after being tipped off about a corpse covered with a blue blanket.

    After the misunderstanding had been settled, the smiling Finn told police: "I never imagined my habit of sleeping in the forest would cause such a commotion."

    Wednesday, December 29, 1999

    [07] Consensus reached on market tax bill

    By Jean Christou

    After weeks of wrangling, parliament yesterday reached an uneasy consensus on the controversial issue of taxing stock market profits.

    Following day-long discussions behind the scenes, deputies unanimously agreed to tax those stock market profits for 1999 which exceed £35,000.

    Individuals will be taxed at a rate of five per cent and companies at the 20-25 per cent corporate rate. Profits of up to £35,000 will be exempt.

    For 2000/2001 deputies agreed, instead of taxing profits, to impose a levy of 0.6 per cent on transactions for individuals and one per cent on companies.

    The issue of capital gains tax will be discussed at later date, Diko deputy Markos Kyprianou told Cyprus Mail after parliament ended. He said the issue of capital gains tax which currently only applies to property is very complex.

    The Diko deputy said the agreed formula constituted "good money for the government, it was easy to collect and there was little administration cost involved".

    The ease with which the new measures were passed belied the weeks of public debate on the issue and the uncertainty and anxiety felt by thousands of investors.

    House President Spyros Kyprianou hailed the final consensus saying it had come about as the result of a "lot of hard work". "We managed to achieve consensus which is very positive," he said.

    However Socialist Edek leader Vassos Lyssarides, who along with communist Akel believed a tax should be imposed, said his party would have preferred a £10,000 ceiling on tax-free profits rather than the £35,000 approved.

    Lyssarides said it was mistakes by the government which has let the situation develop. "The government and parliament should have drummed it into the consciousness of the public that the Cyprus Stock Exchange (CSE) is not a gambling den or a casino," he said. "Some have made profits but some went beyond their capabilities and there are bound to be repercussions".

    The Edek leader said however it is not too late for the government and parliament to regulate the market properly and hopes an overall system could be put in place for the CSE.

    Akel deputy Kikis Kazamias said achieving a consensus had been a wise move but added that tax on anything which gives profit to the state is a constitutional duty.

    Disy leader Nicos Anastassiades also expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the long-running saga and stressed the importance of the stock market to the economy. The final measures had been close to those proposed last week by Disy which had opposed the initial 40 per cent tax sought by the government.

    Anastassiades said that for the first time the private sector had breached the gap between its earnings and those of the government. "Today's consensus is a sign of support for the CSE," he said.

    Wednesday, December 29, 1999

    [08] Interest rate ceiling to be scrapped

    By Jean Christou

    PARLIAMENT yesterday approved legislation to scrap the nine per cent interest rate ceiling from January 1, 2001 to comply with EU harmonisation directives.

    However the new law to liberalise interest rates does give the Central Bank the power to intervene in the event of any sharp rise in rates. The legislation was passed with 30 votes to 16.

    But some deputies are also seeking further safeguards for small companies and students who could be adversely affected by major swings in the rates.

    Communist Akel, concerned about the impact on the man in the street, had tabled a counter-proposal to have the new legislation come into effect from January 1, 2002 which was shot down in the voting.

    Ruling party Disy deputy Prodromos Prodromou said implementing the new law in 2001 gave ample time for society's adjustment. "We've been talking about it for ten years," he said adding that markets must be opened up and an end put to protectionism.

    Socialist Edek deputy Doros Theodorou said a special monetary committee be set up to monitor the entire issue. "We are not sure this process will be so painless," he said.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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