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Cyprus Mail News and More

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    Poly Pantelides

    RESIDENTS living in the Dromolaxia-Meneou municipality are being assaulted by “swarms of mosquitoes” and are concerned their health may be at risk due to the lack of a sewage system. 

    A resident got in touch after the Larnaca Mayor Andreas Louroudjiadis fulfilled a promise to visit and clean up the Kamares area at the north end of the Salt Lake. 

    In that case, residents had protested over the accumulation of waste seeping into the soil and contaminating the area for years. 

    The area will not be served by a sewage system for another two years. 

    “A similar situation has arisen near the Salt Lake at Meneou, to the east of the new airport terminal, which has now turned a virulent green colour on the shore of the lake. There are sewage pipes running in this area to transfer waste between separate housing estates for joint treatment,” resident Ian Lyall-Jack said in his letter. 

    That area is at opposite ends of the Salt Lake and will not be served by a sewerage system for over two years. Lyall-Jack said he was worried over the “millions of mosquitoes breeding in the polluted water”. 

    “I live between the Salt Lake and the sea and we, and our neighbours, are unable to sit outside in the evenings...” he said.

    Dromolaxia mayor Kypros Andronikou confirmed mosquitoes were a problem this year because of increased rainfall.

    “We’ve been spraying ten times as much – and I mean this literally – but the spraying has not been effective,” he said.

    Other officials have said that the area, because of its proximity to marshy land, is teeming with mosquitoes. But they added that the issue of the mosquitoes was not necessarily related to the issue of waste. 

    The latter is worrying some of the residents of four seaside complexes - including Lyall-Jack - because the waste processing plant that is meant to service 168 housing units has not been operating since last August. 

    The administrator of the biggest complex, the Spyros Seaside Complex, Doros Fantousis said that they wanted to see the processing plant up and running as soon as possible. “It’s a health risk,” he said. 

    Although the waste is being collected at regular intervals, Fantousis said it was not enough and referred to hosepipe damage “bringing out the filth and creating a health hazard”. 

    Others have said that maintaining and running the processing plant was too costly, especially for residents who only visited for holidays.

    The Dromolaxia Mayor said he had asked the residents to start running the processing plant again since it was part of the town planning agreement granted in 2001. 

    However, the Larnaca sewage board has said it was willing to allow that the complexes “temporarily hook up to the Larnaca waste processing station,” said its head, Evi Theopemptou.  “There was a worry that there would be pollution in the sea and the Salt Lake,” she said.

    “I hope this letter will act as a timely reminder to the relevant authorities to take the same action in the Meneou area [as they did in Kamares],” Lyall-Jack said. 

    However, what was repeatedly made clear to the Cyprus Mail was that the issue is ongoing. Speaking about Kamares, Environment Commissioner Charalambos Theopemptou said there were almost identical problems being faced elsewhere in Cyprus. 



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    Stefanos Evripidou

    THE BUZZ around the efforts of the minority opposition parties to field a common candidate in next year’s presidential elections finally fizzled out yesterday after the four parties conceded defeat. 

    EVROKO leader Demetris Syllouris announced to the press after a final meeting of the heads of DIKO, EDEK, EVROKO and the Greens that the effort had failed.  

    “The parties have decided to go back to their collective organs and re-evaluate whether there is any scope for further work in the efforts of the in-between space,” he said, referring to the moniker adopted by the four parties to describe their political leanings between the dominant left and right-wing parties in Cyprus. 

    Asked when the parties would conclude their period of reflection, he clarified that the project can be considered a failure: “We must assume that the effort which began with a deadline to reach a conclusion by the end of May did not work.”

    Syllouris made a final appeal to all parties to consider his proposal to change the procedure and either back a candidate jointly agreed between DIKO and EDEK or else produce a list of potential candidates, and let the followers and friends of the four parties vote for one name on that list.

    EDEK leader Yiannakis Omirou expressed regret that “critical differences” on matters of principles regarding the character of the candidate and procedure for choosing them as well as “the continuous introduction of new terms and conditions about the candidate” obstructed efforts to reach a positive conclusion.  

    Asked if EDEK will now seek to collaborate with EVROKO, Omirou said he won’t rule anything out, but will wait to consult with his party in the coming days before commenting.  

    DIKO leader Marios Garoyian put the failure to form a ‘third way’ in Cypriot politics down to different approaches and different interpretations of principle and political ethics. 

    “DIKO does not intend to support a candidate who has an expiry date on the first Sunday of the presidential elections,” he said, hinting that his party wanted to get the next president elected, not garner enough votes to haggle for power in a second round of voting between the two finalist candidates. 

    Greens leader Ioanna Panaoyiotou also expressed regret at the collapse of efforts, saying the Greens supported a more democratic process of choosing a candidate and refused to enter the game of submitting and withdrawing potential candidate names which led to the failure.  

    All four parties will hold internal discussions to decide the next step forward. 

    According to state broadcaster CyBC, Garoyian had set three preconditions to choosing a potential candidate in yesterday’s meeting. He ruled out the prospect of choosing a party leader, effectively excluding Omirou’s reported candidacy. He said no candidate who has already announced his intention to run should be chosen by the ‘in-between’ space, ruling out former minister Giorgos Lillikas who has already entered the race as an independent, along with DISY’s Nicos Anastassiades. A final condition was that any candidate should come from DIKO, which is the biggest of the minority parties. 

    Based on numerous press reports, EDEK’s next move could be to team up with EVROKO and support Lillikas’ bid or else field their own leader at least for the first round of voting. 

    EVROKO will likely wait to see what EDEK will do, while the Greens will choose who to support once all names are on the table.  

    As for DIKO, Garoyian will have to explain to his party why the efforts of the in-betweeners failed. A meeting with AKEL in the near future should not be ruled out. 

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    At around 7am in Nicosia yesterday a handful of people on a rooftop were looking at a dot in the sun slowly moving as the planet Venus was passing directly between the sun and the earth. 

    Their counterparts are as yet unborn. The next Venus transit will occur in 2117.

    Several people showed up at various points in the early morning at the Fakas Institute to take advantage of an offer to look at the sun and the spot that is Venus.

    A telescope was set up to project an image of the sun on a sheet of paper and people also used special glasses to protect their eyes when looking at the sun. 

    And to reward the early risers, there were treats and coffees for everyone.  The previous transit was in 2004. 

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    THE number of registered jobless persons rose 31.1 per cent year-on-year in May, reaching 34,162, the statistical services said yesterday.

    Compared with May 2011, there was an increase of 8,112 people, mainly observed in the sectors of construction, trade, manufacture, public administration, accommodation and food services, as well as newcomers in the labour market.

    Most of the people without jobs were between the ages of 30 and 39 – 7,881, followed by 40 and 49 – 6,972.

    Third, but not far behind were those between 50 to 59 with 6,923.

    The number of registered unemployed women was 16,138.

    Most of the jobless were in the Nicosia district – 11,918, followed by Limassol with 9,303.

    Most people, 11,648, have been unemployed between 15 days and three months.

    Around 8,000 have been unemployed for three to six months while some 7,000 have remained without a job for six months to a year.

    The number of unemployed beyond 12 months was 3,443, the statistical services said.

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    George Psyllides

    THE Cyprus Airways (CY) restructuring plan does not even meet the basic criteria and is “light and flimsy,” an aviation consultant hired by the airline’s pilots has said.

    “The Plan as currently presented barely meets the basic criteria but is rather a list of cost-cutting and some revenue-generating activity, “ said UK-based Lowedexxaviation. “Whilst this is useful for short-term expediency it is probably sub-optimal as a blueprint for long-term direction.”

    Pilots have rejected the latest plan to rescue the ailing national carrier, saying it was inadequate.

    “It does not have a business plan to rescue the company, it does not have offsetting measures for the workers and most importantly it is without prospects for tomorrow,” the pilot’s union PASYPI said last week.

    This is rejected by the company.

    Lowedexxaviation said the document is quite light and flimsy for a plan that is meant to guide the restructuring of a business with a near €200 million turnover.

    It did not contain passenger or route data or long-term projections but it did include “a great number of unsupported assumptions, particularly with regard to revenues and some costs.”

    The firm said there was an absence of historic and projected data on passenger numbers, available seat kilometres, flights, aircraft hours, load factor and average fare.

    “Whilst we recognise that this is a Restructuring rather than a Business Plan its results must surely be drawn upon a production-based model and it would have been very helpful if this data had been included,” the consultant said.

    It also provided scant information regarding the development of the network and the routes the airline proposed to fly in its restructured form.

    There is an absence of forecasts of production – financial projections only extend to 2014 -- and how the resources meet the needs, Lowedexxaviation said.

    The four-page review concluded that the plan, as presented, “is not strategic in nature and is in reality an emergency cost-cutting programme.”

    Pilots said the findings were a slap in the face for the creators and supporters of the plan as they reiterated their demand that the airline’s management be replaced.

    “We have first-hand experience of the handling of problems by the people who manage us and we do not expect anything better.” PASYPI said. “All this, which constitutes a crime against the company, the workers and the public in general, comes as no surprise to us.”


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    Michele Kambas

    CYPRUS is worried its EU partners could impose prohibitive conditions on any offer of aid, Finance Minister Vassos Shiarly said yesterday.

    Speculation is growing that Cyprus, the eurozone's third-smallest economy, could become the bloc's fourth recipient of aid as a deadline looms to recapitalise the island's second-largest bank.

    "It's clear to us that, if we did proceed through the EFSF (European Financial Stability Fund), there are certain conditionalities which might not be acceptable to us," Shiarly told Reuters. 

    "We had the experience of Ireland, and therefore we are a little bit wary in case conditions are applied," he added.

    But Cypriot officials have repeatedly said any assistance  should not compromise the island's low-tax status which has propped up the island economically for decades.

    Popular Bank requires €1.8 billion in fresh capital to meet European regulators' conditions by June 30. If the bank cannot raise the funds privately, the government, itself cash-strapped by its exclusion from international capital markets, will have to step in.

    Asked if an EU bailout could be avoided, Shiarly said: "Yes, it’s possible, but I'm not suggesting that it is something that we are trying to avoid." Cyprus was not engaged in discussions with the EU about financial assistance, he said.

    The island could not exclude bilateral borrowing either, even though, he said, it was not the "preferred option", but rather a fallback option. Cyprus acquired a €2.5 billion loan from Russia in late 2011, funding which is covering deficit shortfalls this year.

    "We will never exclude any possibility so if and when we apply to the EFSF at least we will know that, if we are pressed too hard through the EFSF, we do always have an alternative, if an alternative is available," he said.

    With the Greek election on June 17 hanging in the balance, and scenarios mounting about the possible exit of Greece from the eurozone, bankers say that this is discouraging potential investors in Popular.

    "That is the single most important factor that is keeping people, strategic investors, funds and others, from investing in the Group," Michael Sarris, Popular Bank's non-executive chairman, told Reuters in an interview.

    "They (investors) are comfortable in helping cover the existing capital requirements, but they are not comfortable at the idea that it may end up being a lot more."

    Popular has floated the idea of bundling its Greek assets under one of its Greek subsidiaries, which could make it eligible to take part in the recapitalisation planned under that country's financial rescue by international parties.

    "We have to sever the Greek operations of the Cypriot banks. The Cypriot banking system has a gangrene. You have to sever the part that is dangerous and grow it again," said economist Stelios Platis.

    So far, the numbers show that foreigners aren't worried. Central Bank data for April shows a 0.5 per cent year-on-year increase in total deposits in Cyprus to €71.6 billion. Of that figure, there was a 29 per cent increase in deposits by other eurozone residents.

    Of the Cypriot banks, Popular is the most heavily exposed to Greek government debt, though the island's largest lender, Bank of Cyprus used to hold a hefty slice of Greek sovereign debt too, totalling €2.0 billion.

    But Bank of Cyprus has whittled down its own capital shortfall of €1.57 billion to just €200 million, and plans to sell two insurance divisions to bridge the rest.

    Hellenic seems to be escaping relatively unscathed, holding only €100 million in Greek sovereign debt, which it has already written down.

    But economists fret that damage from Greek government debt may be the tip of the iceberg, as Cypriot banks also have up to €23 billion worth of loans outstanding to companies and individuals in Greece.

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    Natalie Hami

    CONVICTED murderer and rapist Antonis Prokopiou Kitas told Paphos Criminal Court yesterday how the 29-year-old hairdresser accused of murdering his pregnant girlfriend and her three-year-old daughter Victoria late last year, revealed intimate details of how and why he allegedly did it. 

    Julia Oborok, 24, was found shot dead, four months into her pregnancy, in her rental car along a beach in Yeroskipou last December, while her daughter was found strangled 50m away.

    Kitas, who was heavily guarded, told the court that his decision to reveal every detail that the accused hairdresser confided in him was because every time he looked at his own three-year-old, he felt that he was concealing a massive crime.

    He also said that he was carrying a whole truck full of sins, weighing him down, and could not carry this one too.

    According to Kitas, also known as Al Capone, the hairdresser who has been sharing the same wing as him in the Central Prisons allegeldy decided to share details of the murder.

    Kitas said the hairdresser had started to feel the strain after a witness testified that he had seen the number plates of the car used on the night of the murder. 

    The convict told the court the hairdresser’s plan was to allegedly murder Oborok’s ex-husband, Odysseas Pozides, with his help, allegedly for a fee.  Under the alleged plan, authorities would retrieve the murder weapon and the hairdresser – already in jail - would be off the hook for the murder of the entire family.  

    Instead almost two months ago, Kitas led police to what turned out to be the murder weapon, hidden in a family gravestone in a cemetery in Athienou. Several weeks later police arrested the 32-year-old brother of the hairdresser allegedly tasked with transporting the gun from Paphos to the Athienou cemetery.

    All of the details, were recorded in a diary Kitas kept. According to Kitas, once the hairdresser made the alleged decision to murder Oborok, he allegedly bought two guns and some drugs from a 29-year-old mechanic – police arrested him last month - who also helped him set fire to his hair salon, as he was having problems with his business partner at the time.

    Kitas said the hairdresser allegedly asked Oborok to meet him where they first met, along the Yeroskipou beach front so they could work things out. But he asked her not to bring Victoria.

    Kitas then demonstrated in court how the hairdresser allegedly shot Oborok in the head through the closed window of the car, and then emptied the remaining bullets in her chest. He then took the crying child, according to Kitas, who was clutching her mother, to the small pool of water on the beachfront and held her head down until she stopped moving. But when he realised that Victoria still had a pulse he pushed her head down into the water again and then threw her into the sea, the court heard. 

    According to Kitas’ descriptions the hairdresser passionately loved Oborok but suffered from extreme jealousy. He had also forbidden her from having any contact with her ex-husband, something she did not stick to which led the hairdresser to viciously beating her on several occasions. He also felt that Oborok led him to believe that the child she was having was not even his, said Kitas.

    Cross-examination by the prosecution in the afternoon did not take place as Kitas did not feel well and asked to be taken back to the Central Prisons. The trial will continue on June 8.

    Kitas was found guilty of masterminding the theft of the remains of former President Tassos Papadopoulos in December 2009. He was already serving life for the murder of two women in 1993.

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    George Psyllides

    LIMASSOL police are investigating a series of arson attacks against agents of gaming company OPAP, which could be linked with a bill regulating gambling currently being discussed in parliament.

    The latest attack took place at 4.20am, causing extensive damage to the establishment on the corner of Gladstone and Christodoulos Karydis Streets.

    It was the third arson of an OPAP agent – there was also a failed attempt – inside a week.

    “The manner of operation looks to be the same and that is why we are looking for certain individuals,” said Limassol CID chief Yiannis Georgiou.

    OPAP Cyprus general director Michalis Himonas told the Cyprus Mail that his outfit wants the state to provide protection.

    He said he had warned authorities that OPAP was being targeted after the first two arsons.

    Himonas said OPAP has been operating in Cyprus since 1969 with not a single problem and now in one week there have been three arsons and one attempted arson against their agents.

    “This is saddening and it worries us a lot,” he said, adding that it was unacceptable for a country that was assuming the EU presidency next month.

    OPAP is a private Greek gaming company in which the Greek state is a shareholder.

    It started its operation on the island following a bilateral agreement in 1969, which was renewed in 2003.

    Asked if the motive could be the gambling bill, which some suggested favoured OPAP,  Himonas said he had nothing concrete on that.

    “The bill concerns state and illegal betting facilities,” he said. “There is no reason to target OPAP.”

    The chairman of the House Legal Affairs Committee was not immediately available for comment.

    Last year, lawmakers said OPAP was be excluded from the bill that among other things bans online gambling.

    OPAP offers games of chance such as Lotto, Proto, Joker and Kino and football betting.

    Attorney-general Petros Clerides said last year the OPAP games were completely different, as they operate under an inter-state agreement – between Cyprus and Greece -- and are not played by the player directly over the internet.

    Under the agreement, most of OPAP’s  Cyprus revenues remain on the island through winnings, taxes, sponsorships and commissions.

    DIKO vice-chairman Nicolas Papadopoulos charged at the time that approval of the bill would effectively make OPAP a monopoly

    Members of the committee had been handed a letter signed by eight companies offering online casino games, alleging that the bill favoured OPAP. 

    “The unfavourable provisions of the bill concern the ban on Cypriot companies, except OPAP, to freely provide online games of chance, even if they have secured a legal permit from an EU member-state,” the letter said.

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    IN AN INTERVIEW published in the last edition of the Sunday Mail, Dervis Eroglu’s advisor Kudret Ozersay expressed the view that the Turkish Cypriots had “turned into less than a community.” This was the reason he is currently leading an effort to organise a social movement, the aim of which “is for the Turkish Cypriots to start becoming a community again.”

    His remedy envisages the Turkish Cypriots uniting and taking the control of the north which they had surrendered to Ankara many years ago. Ozersay believes that only if the Turkish Cypriots “act together” would they be able to “convince Turkey” to pursue policies that were in line with the community’s interests and not just Ankara’s. Being an academic he chooses his words carefully, not wanting to make enemies before his social movement has even been established, but he does not hide the fact that time is running out. “This is the last chance for the Turkish Cypriots,” he told the Sunday Mail, adding that “it is a struggle for existence.”

    Ozersay’s fears are clear, even though he avoids spelling them out. The uncontrolled Turkish immigration to the north has turned the Turkish Cypriots into a shrinking community that will eventually be swallowed up by the settlers from Turkey and have no say in their future. It would be only a matter of time before they lost the hold on power they still enjoy and become an inconsequential minority of the north’s constantly growing Turkish population. How can the tide of immigration be stopped?

    The idea that Ankara could be convinced to change its policies towards the north, by a well-supported social movement, seems rather wishful, considering the north’s total financial dependency on Turkey. If Ankara does not release funds the pseudo-state would not be able to pay the many thousands of public sector workers it employs. The bloated and inefficient public sector was cited as one of the big problems faced,  Ozersay noting that even if the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots was lifted, it was questionable whether the north would be able to take advantage of it.

    This is inevitable after decades of dependence on Turkey, which always picked up the bill in the north. This practice may have suited the Turkish Cypriot politicians, giving more and more public sector jobs to voters, but it cultivated a dependency culture which has prevented society from progressing economically. Being an academic, Ozersay knows that only by changing this culture, can the north hope to reduce its dependence on Turkey. But such an undertaking could take years before producing results, by which time it could be too late for Ozersay’s social movement.

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    Poly Pantelides

    CONSUMERS are paying through the nose for the second most expensive medicines in the EU partly in order to support the plethora of private pharmacies on the island, Health Minister Stavros Malas said yesterday.  

    He was commenting on an internal report compiled by the pharmaceutical services - leaked in the press - placing Cyprus second to Sweden in terms of drugs’ retail prices, alongside Denmark and Germany. Cyprus came up fifth in wholesale price behind the UK, Austria, Romania and Holland  in ascending order. 

    “It is a fact that the study has shown that Cyprus is relatively very high (up the list) in relation to other countries,” Malas said. He was referring to the private sector.

    Private pharmacies’ profit margin – at 37 per cent of wholesale price - is the second highest in the EU, Malas said. He said Cyprus had the second-highest ratio of pharmacies to customers in the EU, creating a “distortion” in the market. 

    According to Malas there are 468 private pharmacies catering to a 20 to 25 per cent of the population, given that the rest use state services. This places the upper limit of the market size at 210,000 and the lower limit at less than 170,000 people. 

    “The potential clientele of each pharmacy amounts to [only] 300 to 500 members of the public,” he said.  “According to our calculations and given the current pricing of drugs, the average gross profit of a private pharmacy is not more than €85,000 per annum,” Malas added.

    “You understand this creates a viability problem because we have so many pharmacies.”

     “This is also a factor (contributing to high prices) and was presumably factored in when the pharmacies’ profit margin was set,” Malas said.

    Under the pricing system introduced in March 2005, Cyprus sets a wholesale price on four-year cycles, based on the average wholesale price of four EU member states.

    Under the 2009 price scheme, Sweden was selected as the expensive country, Austria and France as the mid-priced ones, and Greece as the cheap country. 

    Most of the profit is made by pharmacies which use the 37 per cent mark-up on wholesale price. Five per cent VAT is then added and a drugs distributor also adds 3.0 per cent on the wholesale price, “and this is the price the consumer ends up with,” Malas said. 

    When the government changed its pricing policy for medicines in March 2005, many importers and retailers said it was no longer profitable for them to sell cheaper products. The pharmacists’ association even said that two-thirds of medicines which used to be available on the market two years previously were no longer in circulation. 

    Drugs manufacturers usually look to make a 10 per cent profit and will not make the drug if they cannot meet their profit margin within the wholesale price set by the government. 

    Malas said that the study had exposed a number of weaknesses in the system setting the cost and price of drugs, and said it would be revised.

    The Cyprus Association of Pharmaceutical Research and Development Companies (KEFEA) has requested a copy of the report “forms a position based on the complete picture and not just a few excerpts of the research findings”.

    The head of the pharmaceutical association, Nicos Nouris, said he was surprised at the report’s finding “given how just a few days ago in public discussion of the same topic, the pharmaceutical services defended the existing pricing system” and placed Cyprus’ prices significantly lower.

    “Of course the consumer understands the final figure - what they pay -  but what we need to bear in mind is whether there is the possibility of lowering prices,” Nouris said.

    He said that a small internal market and a lack of a National Health System (NHS) could not be overlooked. 

    Malas also referred to the lack of an NHS which could regulate the cost of medicines and make all of the market available to pharmacies. But until then, “we cannot reduce the number of pharmacies,” he said. 

    Malas said that the pricing policy would be changed within the summer.


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    Poly Pantelides

    ALMOST four years to the day since the roof of the Nicosia Municipal theatre collapsed, and two years after the municipality first sued for negligence, the building is still standing derelict and not one of the three lawsuits taken out has been resolved. 

    The municipality had spent €5.6 million refurbishing the building only two-and-a-half years before the roof collapsed on June 11, 2008, just a day before hundreds of school children were to use the space for an end-of-year performance. 

    By chance, the national theatre company THOK which used the building was away for rehearsals and on one was harmed. 

    The fact the theatre was empty was unusual as it was booked to host events almost every night that month.

    The lawyers representing the Nicosia municipality told the Sunday Mail this week they believe it will be another two years before any of the three cases are near completion. 

    The municipality hopes to get €3.0 million in compensation.

    A fact-finding report on the collapse said that the roof could have given way at any moment because the steel substructure of the roof could not take even “a relatively minor additional load”. It had been renovated two and a half years before it caved in.

    Nicosia mayor at the time, Eleni Mavrou had said that to her knowledge no structural work had been done on the roof itself save to replace the false ceiling.

    The report said the steel structure “left no margin of difference between strain and resistance,” a fact which could be considered as “the main cause for the collapse”.

    Nicosia municipality proceeded with three separate law suits against the architectural surveyor, civil engineers and the contractor commissioned to do the refurbishment, A. Panayides company.

    The Attorney-general Petros Clerides said that no criminal liability could be established from the report and Nicosia municipality proceeded on its own to take legal action.

    In the meantime, the building which lies just across the municipal museum and is next door to the House of Representatives, stands empty and no plans for its future have been taken.

    “The municipal council will examine all facts and decide,” Nicosia’s communications officer, Makis Nicolaides, said this week. 

    Although THOK has its theatre building now, the municipality is still considering using the building as a municipal theatre – as it was used before the roof’s collapse.

    In addition to THOK’s new theatre, there are the on-going plans for the Cyprus Cultural Centre which critics have said has too large a capacity for Nicosia.

    Another possibility, which had been favoured by Mavrou, the previous mayor, is to transform the space into an open air auditorium for performances and screenings. 

    The theatre building extends into the public park behind the House and could serve as a focal point in the event that Nicosia is chosen as the European Cultural Capital in 2017.

    By then, perhaps, all legal cases surrounding the building will be concluded. 

    Nicosia municipal theatre just after its roof collapsed in June 2008

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    Stefanos Evripidou


    THE WORLD is in constant flux. Adaptability is key to survival. 

    For years, Cyprus fed off the golden goose of tourism until its coasts resembled harsh outlines of a concrete tapestry, hospitality became a byword for a long-gone era, and cheap budget airlines took the tourists away. 

    The break-up of the Soviet Union sent shockwaves throughout the world, releasing endless wads of cash to Cyprus’ shores. The island’s surplus of lawyers and accountants helped develop its financial services to a level that challenged tourism’s dominance. 

    And then the economic crisis came. Europe stuttered, Greece happened and our much-respected banking system committed hara-kiri. 

    So, what next? 

    In a word, energy. 

    Last December, US company Noble Energy announced a sizeable offshore gas find in Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), stimulating an overnight flurry of excitement with everyone wanting to know when Cyprus will benefit from the discovery.

    One foreign energy expert complained that he suddenly started receiving daily lunch invites from prominent figures, all wanting to know how they could get in on the act.

    At some point, in one fantastic wave of osmosis, the vast majority of the population, from politicians to journalists and coffee-drinkers, became experts on gas exploration, extraction and commercialisation. 

    The results of the second round of licencing for Cyprus’ remaining blocks in its EEZ gave more reason for hope as reputable medium-to-large-sized companies registered interest in the country’s ultra-deep deposits.  

    All this in stark contrast to the mood in 2007, when Cyprus launched its first licensing round and only one medium to small-sized international player, Noble, showed interest, winning the offshore concession for Block 12.

    In recent months, the bursting enthusiasm has settled somewhat, with a more realistic understanding that heavy issues require weighty decisions and time.

    What will Cyprus do with its gas? How soon can it get it onshore? What are the interim options for importing gas to help curb soaring electricity prices? What is the potential for energy partnerships with neighbouring countries?

    These questions remain unanswered. However, the prospect of developing an energy industry in Cyprus, combined with the parallel gas potential in neighbouring Israel has made energy the buzzword in the corridors of Nicosia’s business hotels. 

    Cyprus has a small market and its energy needs are not sufficient to warrant the level of investment needed for deep water extraction. The only way for Noble to consider Block 12 viable is if it gets to export the gas. The Houston-based company has pretty much dismissed pipeline options to Greece or Turkey, preferring instead to follow the path of liquefied natural gas (LNG).  

    This, in turn, requires a costly liquefaction terminal, to the tune of €10 billion, to prepare the gas for export. Can the estimated seven trillion cubic feet of gas in Noble’s Aphrodite field justify such a huge investment? Noble and the government’s Energy Service director Solon Kassinis seem to think so. The latter is more than confident that Cyprus’ remaining blocks have substantial reserves to offer, with a twinkle in his eye on the mention of Block 9. 

    Last Thursday, Commerce Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis revealed that the government has taken the decision to build a liquefaction plant for natural gas on the island, sending a clear message that Cyprus is getting into the export market, with or without new gas fields or Israeli collaboration. Talks with Noble on the finer details of the terminal should make headway in the coming months.  

    Israel, which has made significant gas discoveries in recent years, has yet to officially decide whether it will even export its natural asset. An interim report commissioned by the Israeli government suggests it will but advises against sending gas abroad for liquefaction. There is talk of an LNG terminal being built in Eilat on the Red Sea, to be used for export to Asia while bypassing the Suez Canal.   

    Speaking to the Sunday Mail, Kassinis said things should be much clearer when Sylikiotis returns from his trip to Israel where he is due to meet with Energy Minister Uzi Landau tomorrow. 

    Last year, Kassinis proposed five collaborative projects to Israel: building a 2000MW power plant in Cyprus to enhance the security of supply for Israel; joint pipelines to Cyprus from Israeli and Cypriot offshore fields; joint use of an LNG terminal in Cyprus; and the construction of methanol and petrochemical plants on the island.  

    “No political decisions have been taken yet. I hope that when the minister goes, it will clear up the scene,” he said, betraying a tinge of impatience. 

    The energy director seems to think that Israel’s fixation on national security prevents it from appreciating the opportunities for peaceful energy collaboration in the wider region.  

    Regardless of what Israel does, Cyprus wants to forge ahead with its new burgeoning industry. 

    Kassinis already has an idea on where at least some of the gas should go when it is finally extracted: “We are a member of the European family and need to contribute to the security of supply of Europe. It’s a must.”

    He takes pride in noting that Cyprus has a larger energy administration than Israel: “They came to us and we showed them what we’re doing in the data room downstairs, how we evaluate the data, the environmental aspects in the region and so on.” 

    He further notes that Cyprus was the first country in the region to make a strategic environmental impact assessment in 2008, before the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and relevant EU directive. 

    When the first drilling started in Block 12, Kassinis had a contingency response plan in case of spillage that went up to Tel Aviv. He questions whether Egypt, Libya or Israel ever had a drilling response plan for an oil spill reaching Limassol. 

    “We’re taking the lead in that respect to disseminate this knowledge and create this infrastructure, and exchange views and ideas.”  

    At an energy conference last week, Kassinis’ personal role and contribution to the birth of the Cyprus energy industry was widely acknowledged by a number of speakers. One moderator called him “Mr Energy”, another described him as a “significant and influential figure”, while a third said he was a “real visionary and believer”. 

    It’s not hard to see why. When Noble’s representative gave a rather sedate response to the prospects of finding oil, Kassinis butted in to stress in no uncertain terms: “The geophysical data indicates there is oil and we shall find it.” 

    He told the Sunday Mail: “My dream was to find hydrocarbons in the sea. Nobody believed me. Now I’m quite happy because they honour me in many places in the world. I feel happy that one dream became a reality but the real dream will be when we have gas contributing to Cyprus’ economy onshore.”  

    A towering figure with oodles of confidence, the question comes to mind: what is your biggest fear? 

    “My fear is that a lot of people who are not involved in the oil and gas business might create delays and mismanagement. The proper management of this resource and blessing is very crucial for today and future generations.”

    Which people? 

    “The people that might be involved... politicians, parties. A lot of people are talking. A lot of people became experts...”

    Asked how he’s getting on with his new boss Sylikiotis – the third commerce minister appointed during this administration- Kassinis replies their relations are “very good”, much better than with the last one. 



    Energy chief Solon Kassinis

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    Natalie Hami

    An American in search of his grandparents’ mining roots in 1920s Cyprus

    “They used to be here on this very spot,” William Everett told me, as he stood just outside the tiny mediaeval church of Panagia tis Skouriotissa, visibly moved by the realisation he was quite literally following in the footsteps of his grandparents who had made the nearby mining compound their home way back in the early 1920s.

    Armed with copies of precious photos of his American grandparents, his mother and uncle when they lived near the isolated copper mine of Skouriotissa between 1923 and 1925, Everett and his wife Sylvia recently made a family pilgrimage from the US to visit the mine and see what, if anything, remained.

    Everett’s grandfather, Charles Jackson, was a mining engineer who played a significant role in reopening the Skouriotissa mine, considered the world’s longest producing copper mine but which had been defunct since the fall of the Roman Empire.

    Jackson was hired by the Cyprus Mines Corporation (CMC), the American mining company based on the island, to supervise the rebuilding of the mine and to find the veins of copper. 

    In 1914, prospector Charles Gunther had excavated the mine after studying a Latin manuscript in a New York library that referred to the ancient mines in Cyprus that were rich in copper and ancient Roman slag heaps in the area. Through the Roman era Cyprus was the main supplier of copper to the world, but after the fall of the Roman Empire there was a hiatus in the nation’s copper mining activity until the 19th century. Excited by what Gunther had found, one Colonel Seeley Mudd and his son, Harvey Seeley Mudd founded CMC in 1916, appointing Jackson to Skouriotissa near Morphou Bay in 1923.

    It was a challenging task. Nowadays Skouriotissa is an open pit mine, but back in the 1920s the emphasis was on shaft mining so Jackson had to oversee the building of deep tunnels underground from which ore was extracted and hoisted to the surface. It was a brutal job under harsh, dangerous conditions with miners expected to spend long periods underground.

    But for the Jackson family it was a life-changing, fulfilling time.

    “My mother’s memory was a happy one, but then there was always her pet dove,” laughed Everett, adding that his mother was only nine years old when they arrived on the island through Famagusta port.

    “When you’re growing up it’s funny the little fragments that you remember. My sister told me that our mother kept talking about the fleas,” he said. “There were other things too like my grandmother would say that the children were not to leave the compound on payday because the miners would get drunk.”

    Everett, 71, a writer and woodworker, and his wife Sylvia, have made the long-overdue journey to Cyprus for their 30th wedding anniversary to finally explore places that he heard so much about as a child. He is the first one of his family to ever come back since they left in 1925. Even though Everett’s grandfather died when he was five, he heard plenty about the years spent in Cyprus from his mother, Elizabeth, and grandmother, Ruby.

    “It must have been pleasant because William’s grandmother preserved a tablecloth and rug that she gave to us,” said Sylvia, describing the tablecloth as a beautifully crafted piece of ‘Lefkaritiko’ lace, that only comes out on very special occasions.

    The Jacksons’ trip to Cyprus in 1923 had not been easy. They had set sail from New York, when their ship collided with another and they had to go back to port and start again. They finally landed in Port Said, Egypt, travelled overland through Palestine to the coast and from there, on to Famagusta.

    They arrived at Skouriotissa mine to find that the nearby living quarters were centred on the ancient church of Panagia tis Skouriotissa, next to which were the remains of a monastery complete with long-empty monks’ cells. During the Jacksons’ time these rooms were used to accommodate foremen and visitors. The Jacksons had their own house nearby.

    After their stay in Cyprus, the Jacksons returned to the United States where they spent the rest of their days within North America with Jackson’s job taking them to Minnesota, Arizona, Montana and Canada.

    Although 1920s Cyprus must have seemed totally alien to the family, the photos that Everett brought with him depict a family comfortable in their surroundings, enjoying the island with trips to Troodos and donkeys rides and determined to get the most out of an adventure that had taken them so far from home.

    But how much actually remains of the original compound where the family lived? As always with Cyprus, recent politics gets in the way. What were the living quarters is now a UN barracks with an Argentinean guard at the entrance. The compound is in the buffer zone while the mine itself, just down the road, is within the Republic. The church is still used and this part of the former compound is open to visitors. 

    The mine is on a hill in Katydata village positioned between the Troodos range and Morphou Bay, and it was there where the offices of the mine’s current owner, Hellenic Copper Mines Ltd, are situated that we made our first stop.

    When Everett pulled out his trusty photo album, the head of the company was quick to respond with tales of his own family’s long involvement in the mine.

    “My grandfather used to work in the mines and on one occasion his lamp went out and in these mines you can’t see anything and you can easily fall down a mine shaft,” said 60-year-old Constantinos Xydas, adding that the experience scared his grandfather so much he decided never to go down a mine again.

    A long conversation with Xydas revealed his own interest in the history of the mine. “I have literature piled this high (pointing to a cupboard),” he said, pulling out a book, The story of the Cyprus Mines Corporation by David Lavender.

    He handed it to Everett who quickly found a reference to his grandfather and grandmother. “It says here that she was the only foreign woman in the area,” said Everett laughing at the fact that the family’s British governess, Mrs Buckley who schooled Everett’s mother and uncle during their time here, was not mentioned

    Our next stop was the site of the old compound just down the road. After much ado with the Argentinean UN guard, we were let through and directed towards the general vicinity of the church.

    There we found Achilleas who takes care of the tiny church and was quick to tell us that both his father and grandfather used to work at the mine. 

    During Jackson’s time the mining industry offered work to thousands of people, both Turkish and Greek Cypriots, from the surrounding villages of Linou, Flassou and Katydata and from all around the island. 

    Achilleas reassured us that the church, which features in many of Everett’s photos, is still in use and just five years ago he baptised his son there.

    But of the house where the Jacksons once lived, we could find no trace though the hunt was complicated by so much of the area being out of bounds. Aside from the church, the only other recognisable building from the treasured photos is the once-elegant monastery with its distinct neo-classical columns. The building has been crudely fixed and is now used by the UN. 

    For William Everett, however, the existing evidence of his family’s life here nearly one hundred years ago, the stories he heard and the trips he took have answered many of his questions.

    “Was it worth it? Many times over (and) while we are in our sunset times, we can’t rule out coming again,” said Everett, adding that there was lots still that they did not get to see and people they still want to talk to. “The trip may have even inspired a book in me.”

    Read the blog of the trip at 




    Skouriotissa’s recent history

    The Cyprus Mining Company worked the mine at Skouriotissa, along with a number of other mines until 1974, when one of their mines and their processing plant ended up in the occupied part of the island after the invasion. As a result they pulled out of Cyprus. Then in 1977 the rights of the company was given to a Greek mining company, who restarted copper production. In 1994 a sister company along with a foreign company - Oxiana - took over using new technology.

     Hellenic Copper Mines was the independent company, solely consisting of Cypriot shareholders, that was born out of the Greek mining company and Oxiana. They are the only metal-producing company in Cyprus involved in copper production. Just last month they marked the production of 50,000 tonnes of copper.

    They revived the mine at Skouriotissa in 1996 and implemented, for the first time in Europe, the practice of hydrometallurgy.

     Copper is also mined differently now. Whereas during Everett’s grandfather’s time they needed thousands of miners, working in tough conditions, the company now consists of 20 engineers. Skouriotissa is now a surface mine as opposed to underground and furnaces  are no longer used to extract the metal from its ore.


    Charles and Ruby Jackson in 1923
    The monastery courtyard with church where the living quarters were
    Jacksons' home at the mine
    Betty, William Everett's mother, with her pet dove
    William Everett outside the church in the grounds of the mine's compound
    William and Sylvia Everett with the help of a UN soldier try to match the present day buildings with their photos
    Skouriotissa mine today

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    THE CHURCH of Cyprus believes that the assumption of the Presidency of the Council of the EU by Cyprus in July is an opportunity for the country to present itself to its European partners and make them aware of the Christian Orthodox tradition in the EU, head of the Representation of the Church of Cyprus to the European Union, Bishop of Neapolis Porphyrios has stressed.

    Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency, the Bishop said the Church firmly supports the Cypriot EU presidency and is preparing a series of events partly in cooperation with the Republic of Cyprus that will be held during the six-monthly rotating EU Presidency.

    A significant number of Orthodox icons will be displayed at the exhibition on Cyprus, that will begin on June 21, at the Bozar museum in Brussels, he said. 

    On July 1, the day the presidency begins, the Church will organise a special symbolic ceremony at St John’s Cathedral in Nicosia.

    Among other events, in October an exhibition will take place in Prague on the destruction of religious heritage in the north.

    The Church will also participate in an exhibition, in October, on the Byzantine and Medieval Cyprus at the Louvre in Paris.

    In addition, on October 5, in cooperation with the Conference of European Churches, a conference will take place in Nicosia on religious freedom. The conference will be attended by representatives of Christians in Cyprus as well as European officials from the Commission and the European Parliament. 

    In November, a concert of Byzantine music will take place at the Church of St Sophia in Nicosia, and in December a concert of Byzantine music with hymns and traditional Christmas songs will be held in Brussels.



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    MTN, as part of its corporate social responsibility programme is launching Y'ello Lessons, a series of training courses to help consumers familiarise themselves with digital technology and utilise it in their daily lives. 

    The courses will be held in selected MTN stores. Admission is free for all. “Digital technology has entered our lives. We are surrounded by laptops, tablets and smartphones but many of us do not know how to make the most of them,” said an announcement from MTN.

    Y'ello lessons are open seminars designed to boost awareness, knowledge and usage of smart devices. The theme of the first sessions is; ‘What is the smart devices and how technology can make our daily lives more simple and easy?’ During the lessons, MTN experts will explain how every device is used and will answer to the audience’s questions.

    The meetings are open to all. The Y'ello Lessons’ program is:

    Wednesday, June 13, 6pm-7pm:

    87, Kennedy Avenue, Nicosia

    80B, Makarios Avenue, Limassol

    1, Zenon Pierides str., Larnaca

    Wednesday, June 20, 6pm to 7pm:

    4D-E, October 28 Avenue, Nicosia

    55, Venizelos Avenue, Paphos

    109, Griva Digenis Str., Paralimni

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    PATRIARCH of Moscow and all Russia Kirill yesterday visited the Constantia- Famagusta Metropolis.

    Patriarch Kirill visited the Cultural Centre in Dherynia, where he looked over the fenced-off ghost town of Varosha. He was welcomed by the mayors and members of Famagusta and Dherynia Municipal Councils.

    Famagusta Deputy Mayor Simo Ioannou gave the Patriarch two gifts, an icon of Saint Nicholas and a clay amphora vase. 

    Patriarch Kirill also visited Ayios Georgios square in Paralimni. Mayor of Paralimni Theodoros Pirrilis welcomed the Patriarch and asked him to support the Cypriot Greek Orthodox people and the refugees of Famagusta in their struggle to return to their homes and their properties.

    Following the welcoming ceremony, Patriarch Kirill and Bishop of Constantia and Famagusta Vassilios officiated a service at the Metropolitan Church of Ayios Georgios in Paralimni. In his speech, Bishop Vassilios referred to the close relations between the people of Cyprus and the people of Russia. He also referred to the Turkish occupation and the destruction of the cultural and orthodox heritage in the occupied areas.

    In his speech, Patriarch Kirill said that he vividly remembered the beautiful city of Famagusta, when he visited Cyprus in 1970. 

    He wished that during his next visit to Cyprus he would be able to officiate a service at the occupied Cathedral Church of Ayios Nikolaos, in a free Famagusta.

    After the service, Patriarch Kirill attended a lunch, hosted by Bishop Vassilios.

    Today, Archbishop Chrysostomos and Patriarch Kirill will officiate at a service at Ayia Sofia Church in Nicosia and on Monday at a liturgy at the Apostle Varnavas Church in Dasoupoli. 

    The Patriarch will meet President Demetris Christofias tomorrow before departing in the afternoon. 

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    A TOTAL of 321 identifications of missing persons in Cyprus have been completed since 2007, out of which 66 were Turkish Cypriots, the Greek Cypriot member of the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) Aristos Aristotelous said yesterday.

    To date, the remains of 853 individuals have been exhumed from different burial sites located across the island.

    Over 588 burial sites have been visited and opened by the CMP, including 350 that contained no human remains. 

    Aristotelous was speaking at an extraordinary meeting of the Pancyprian Committee of Relatives of Undeclared Prisoners and Missing Persons which convened to discuss the latest developments in the issue, following a decision by the CMP to terminate its cooperation with the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics (CING) and to conclude a contract with the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) bases in Bosnia.

    Aristodelous said that in 2007 56 identifications were confirmed, 53 in 2008, 83 in 2009, 71 in 2010, 51 in 2011, but only seven this year due to the dispute with CING.

    Presidential Commissioner George Iacovou who was also at the meeting yesterday, expressed the conviction that the problem which arose with regard to the identification process after the termination of the cooperation between the CMP and the Institute would ultimately be resolved.

    He also said that the fact that the project for identifying the remains would be carried out by a foreign lab was “a traumatic experience” for him as he was the one in the middle of the dispute trying to sort it out.

    The issue of a new contract between CING and the CMP was on the table for at least three years. 

    The CMP started discussions with the institute on introducing new, stricter standards in the identification process from 2008. While some demands were met, disagreement remained on a large number, including the requirement to hand over copies of the genetic profiles of relatives of the missing, and carry out “blind testing” in the DNA matching process. 

    In May 2011, the contract between the UNDP and CING expired. It was renewed for two more months, after which, no more remains were sent to the institute. Since then, CING had been working on identifying the backlog of remains sent before the contract’s expiration.

    During the next six months, further negotiations were held to reach an agreement that would keep the programme in Cyprus, a target for which the three-member CMP unanimously agrees on.  

    After failing to make progress, the UN decided to invite bids in an international tender process for the identification of the remains in February. A month later the UN awarded the project to a lab in Bosnia. 

    According to the CMP website there are 1,464 Greek Cypriots listed as missing persons and another 703 additional cases from the other categories, which were not specified.

    The official number of Turkish Cypriot missing persons is 494, and another 33 from other categories. The majority of Turkish Cypriot missing persons date from the intercommunal trouble in 1963-1974.


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    WHEN the comrade presidente announced, a few weeks ago, he would not be seeking re-election because of the lack of progress in the Cytalks, and his fellow mukhtar in the north Eroglu spoke about the end of the procedure, our establishment decided to write an extended obituary for the Cyprob.

    It was the least it deserved after making such a colossal contribution to public life, enhancing the careers of hundreds of mediocre politicians, creating thousands of jobs (even for old-age pensioners), helping newspapers sell millions of copies over the years, inspiring decades’ worth of debate and patriotism competitions, not to mention the raising of our country’s profile internationally.

    But other more important events came up over the weeks and we had to put the obituary on hold, which in theory was not an issue as the deceased problem was not going to go anywhere. This delay, however, was the salvation of our establishment’s reputation, because the Cyprob, it turns out, is not dead, but just in poor health, which it has been on countless occasions in the past, before making a remarkable recovery.

    This is at least what Big Bad Al has been saying. He acknowledges that the problem is unwell but appears committed to visiting its bedside every two months and, with the help of his many advisors nursing it back to good health by the end of February, when there could be a tiny chance of the procedure resuming. 

    Medical experts, we contacted, informed us that what saved the problem’s life were the convergences reached during the failed procedure.


    ANOTHER factor for saving the problem from the clutches of death may have been that Big Bad Al had no job to go back to Down Under or at the UN.

    How things change. Al is the same man who had been constantly warning us that if this procedure failed, it would be the end of the UN’s involvement in the Cyprob. The UN Good Offices mission would have closed down, UNFICYP would have been withdrawn and there would be no other attempt by the UN to solve the Cyprob. 

    Some of us fools even thought the brash Aussie was being serious and not just trying to frighten the pig-headed natives into reaching an agreement. We thought he meant it when he threatened he would write a damning report to Ban Ki-moon urging the UN to end its involvement with Kyproulla, on the grounds that the political will for a settlement did not exist.

    There was an obvious lack of political will and the failure of the procedure was triumphantly realised, but nobody is budging. But mysteriously, Al did not propose the closing down of the UN mission and withdrawal of UNFICYP when he met Ban in the Big Apple last month to assess the latest failure.

    On the contrary and managed to have his contract extended to 2013, presumably, persuading the SG that “it makes no sense to throw away all the work that has been done,” as “many convergences” had been reached. It would be a shame for all the convergences to go to waste, when they could be used as the basis for reaching a deadlock in the future.


    BY FAR and away, the most important convergence was reached by Al and Ban in the Big Apple – to keep the UN mission going, despite the fact it would have nothing to do for at least the next eight months. 


    Thanks to the convergences, Al will stay on the Cyprob gravy train and continue to earn his fat UN salary without having anything demanding to do. He has secured what everyone dreams of – a long-term vacation contract, with the option of an extension for another year after February, when a new president will be elected. 

    As we reported a fortnight ago, he will visit Kyproulla for a few days every two months to have a coffee with the two leaders, check the unproductive work of the technical committees and play a few rounds of golf.

    In other words Al will carry on receiving his big fat salary plus 10 first-class tickets from Oz to Europe in order to guard the convergences and make sure they do not escape. And if it is too hot for golf when he visits in the summer months he could use his spare time to keep company with the convergences, which might start to feel lonely.


    THE RESCUE of the Cyprob must have come as music to the Dumbo ears of presidential commissioner Yiorkos Iacovou, who faced the devastating prospect of being without a job when he celebrated his 74th birthday next month. 

    With the technical committees still meeting he could carry on collecting his salary without feelings of guilt, related to taking the taxpayer’s money (if it was the UN money it would have been different) for doing nothing. 

    We are happy for him because at his age, in this economic climate, it would have been impossible to find a job that paid so much for so little work. And Yiorkos deserves another year on the Cyprob gravy train after everything he has done, in his long and undistinguished career, to keep it alive.


    PART-TIME Cyprob warriors of the Greek diaspora gathered in Washington DC last week for the 28 Annual Cyprus and Hellenic Leadership Conference which was attended by Congressmen, Senators and the Mayor of Famagusta.

    The Cypriot taxpayer pays millions of bucks every year funding the organisations set up in the US and UK by Greek Cypriots, with the aim of lobbying politicians and policy-makers in those countries. The Cyprob gravy train operates abroad as well.

    Despite collecting millions of greenbacks over the years, these organizations have conclusively failed to change the Cyprob policies of the Brits and the Yanks on the Cyprob, so why are we still funding them with money we do not have.

    These small-time lobbyists use our money to play the movers and shakers in DC, but have about as much influence on US policy as pretzel street vendors. They can still come up with pompously self-important statements, like the comment made to Tass news agency by the President of the International Coordinating Committee ‘Justice for Cyprus’ (PSEKA), Phillip Christopher.

    “We are very disappointed with the (Obama-Biden) administration. It has basically maintained the status quo; they have offered the same rhetoric,” lamented Christopher. After this admission of PSEKA’s failure do we get a refund? Or are we paying Christopher even better rates than Iacovou, for his astute analyses of the US Cyprob policy. 


    WAS IT a coincidence that one day before the start of the conference, one of our most prominent movers and shakers in the US – Supreme President of the Cyprus Federation of America Panicos Papanicolaou – appeared in court facing charges of allegedly bribing a top official of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD)?

    Papanicolaou, whose contracting company had received several HPD contracts, had allegedly paid for the Department’s top official to go on honeymoon in Greece. Hardly a big deal – three years ago he took Mr and Mrs Tof on holiday to the Greek island of Astypalea, as his guests, because he is a generous guy and likes the world to know he counts important heads of state among his friends.

    We would not be surprised if Panicos’ arrest and appearance in court, on the eve of the Annual Cyprus Hellenic Conference, was a CIA/FBI conspiracy aimed at discrediting the invaluable work he does for Kyproulla in the US. And we would not be surprised to hear that some big-wig FBI agent is currently on an all expenses-paid holiday in Antalya, for the services rendered to Turkish lobbyists.


    A GREAT shame that the Inbetweeners efforts to set up an alliance for the presidential elections collapsed on Wednesday, because the leaders of EDEK, EUROKO and Greens did not share the high ethical standards and principles DIKO chief Garoyian wanted to introduce to the process for the selection of candidate.

    “Different approaches, even different interpretations of the principles of political morality and ethics did not allow the completion of the effort,” said the idealistic DIKO chief, who never compromises his principles. The following day media reports said that DIKO would have contacts with AKEL and DISY to explore all the possibilities regarding presidential election alliances.

    It was as if DIKO was inviting tenders for its support. Garoyian’s uncompromising adherence to principles of political morality and ethics would ensure his party’s support would go to the highest bidder, regardless of his political beliefs or designs. The commies could in fact still seal a deal with DIKO if they agreed to make Ethician their candidate.


    THE DEMISE of the Inbetweeners was bad news for the independent candidacy of Yiorkos Lillikas who had been hoping he would be their man in the elections. 

    With DIKO seeking quotations on the share of the spoils the two big parties would offer it, Yiorkos could only rely on the support of the Eurococks and turtle-lovers, which would give him no more than six per cent of the vote.

    This would be well above the minimum three per cent of the vote Lillikas set himself in order not to emigrate. He still has not told us which country he would emigrate to (would it be to Paphos?) if less than three per cent of Cypriot voters were smart enough to appreciate what a great president he would make and back his charismatic candidacy.


    ONE OF THE reasons for the collapse of the Inbetweeners initiative was Cyprob-related. With the talks deadlocked and no chance of a settlement, their alliance, which was set up, at behest of the Archbishop, to oppose any Cy-deal had no real reason of existence. 

    What would their candidate campaign against? The convergences are too trivial an issue to inspire the electorate’s hostility, as is Big Bad Al’s pro-Turkish bias. Al’s convergences may have kept the Cyprob alive, for the duration of his new contract, but as an electoral issue it is dead, finished, kaput.


    A COUPLE of weeks had barely passed since his official visit to Austria and comrade Tof was off to Malta for another official visit. The man just loves the pomp and ceremony of these official visits which make him feel very important and re-affirm his superiority complex.  

    And when he is not on official visits he is out and about opening schools, child-care centres, homes for the elderly, exhibitions etc. He never turns down an invitation to be the guest of honour at an opening ceremony, because he loves to be applauded and grovelled to by an admiring public.

    The guy was cut out to be a benevolent mukhtar, but the smallness of Kyproulla and our democratic maturity enable mukhtar material to become world statesmen.


    THE COMRADE took finance minister Vassos Shiarly with him on the Malta visit. This was not because any financial matters would have been discussed, reported the CyBC hack covering the visit. Tof subsequently explained why Shiarly had accompanied him.

    “The main reason that my friend Vassos is here with me is because of his Maltese roots. That was why I suggested to him to come when I heard that he hails from the Knights of Malta.” 

    It was the second time in a week he had patronisingly referred to the finance minister as “my friend Vassos”. He had also referred to him as “my friend Vassos,” during his news conference 10 days ago, while rubbishing Shiarly’s measures for the economy and telling us that he was politically clueless. 

    In Malta, he rather coarsely advertised his generosity of spirit in taking his friend Vassos on a free trip, despite his nasty economic proposals. This is what I call mukhtaric magnanimity.







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    EVER SINCE its establishment, the Cyprus Republic offered protection to suppliers of goods. It was easy to slip into this practice as the economy’s main output was agricultural products and policy-makers protected this sector through subsidies and minimum prices. 

    But as the economy grew the practice of protecting suppliers was extended to other sectors in order to help local production. There were high import duties on manufactured goods such as clothes, shoes, furniture etc in order to protect local manufacturers as well as import quotas and, for some products, import bans to safeguard big investments made by local businesses; there were also import licences granted by the government to select businesses, which constituted state-regulated monopoly.

    Manufacturing eventually lost its export markets because it could not compete with other countries while lower-priced imports took over the local market. The benefits of protectionism were short-lived even though some of its elements remained in place until we joined the EU in 2004. The Price Commission, which supposedly protected the consumer by setting ceiling prices on essential goods, may have been scrapped but its practices are still resorted to, when possible, by government policy-makers.

    This was evident in the report released this week about the high prices of drugs in Cyprus, which are the second most expensive in the EU. And the reason for this is the high profit margin guaranteed to pharmacies, by the state when prices are calculated. Once the manufacturer and wholesaler take their profit, pharmacies add a staggering 37 per cent on the price, a scandalously excessive profit margin guaranteed by legislation. How many other businesses are guaranteed such a high profit margin?

    This was how the old Price Commission operated. It set ceiling prices only after it incorporated a healthy profit margin for producers and retailers in the price and then claimed it was protecting the consumer. The only thing it was doing was ensuring there was no competition, by fixing prices in a way that guaranteed healthy margins to suppliers, with no obvious benefit to consumers. The Commission’s practice continues to this day with regard to the prices of drugs and the only beneficiaries are the pharmacies – the suppliers.

    The Pharmaceutical Services report noted that Cyprus had the fifth highest wholesale drug prices, but climbed to second position on retail prices, once the pharmacy profit was added. Commenting on the report, Health Minister Stavros Malas said that part of the problem was the large number of pharmacies – 468 – the second-highest ratio of pharmacies to customers in the EU. In short, in order to keep the excessive number of pharmacies in business, people have to pay through the nose for medicines. 

    If the legislated profit margin was reduced to 25 or 20 per cent, a number of pharmacies would be forced to close down, but consumers would be paying significantly less for drugs. But the authorities would rather consumers paid the second highest prices in the EU for drugs so that the suppliers would be protected. The old principle of ‘protect the suppliers and to hell with the consumers’ is still alive in Cyprus eight years after it joined the EU. Officialdom and the political system are not keen on competition as it diminishes their control and power of dispensing favours like offering protection to interest groups.

    Nothing illustrates this tendency better than the government’s decision to impose extortionate fines of shops that violate the sales law and advertise price cuts, outside the government-designated periods. In effect it wants to protect the owners of small shops (tough regulation was the demand of this interest group) by depriving consumers of the benefit of price competition among shops all year round. The politicians believe they can win more votes by supporting organised interest groups than by protecting the disorganised mass of consumers. This is also the reason why our Commission for the Protection of Competition is so embarrassingly ineffective – the authorities want it to be toothless.

    We need to break with the attitudes of past which placed the interests of the suppliers above those of the consumer. It is high time the politicians left the age of protectionism and put the interests of the consumer first. Instead of guaranteeing suppliers big profits they should be ensuring competitive prices for the rest of the people who can no longer afford to pay rip-off prices, to keep uneconomical enterprises in business. We have suffered enough from this antiquated practice. 











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    Stefanos Evripidou


    AN EGYPTIAN delegation is in Cyprus as part of a worldwide effort to find and recover millions of euros worth of assets siphoned from the state under the 30-year regime of ex-president Hosni Mubarak. 

    The four-member delegation met with officials from the Justice Ministry and Unit for Combatting Money Laundering (MOKAS) on Friday while spending yesterday with lawyers handling local court cases on their behalf. They are due to return today to a waiting Egyptian media that has been following their efforts intensely since the search began a year ago for Egypt’s missing millions.

    Proceedings have already been launched in Cyprus against four companies, with the Egyptian authorities seeking disclosure of documents that could help them identify any links to key figures of the former regime and of course, any recoverable assets. 

    “Right after the toppling of the regime there has been a mass demand by Egyptians for asset recovery of the previous regime’s president and other top officials in the country,” said Egyptian Ambassador to Cyprus Menha Mahrous Bakhoum told the Sunday Mail yesterday.  

    The aim is to find, freeze and return all assets belonging to top members and families of the former dictatorship. 

    “This is a very top priority topic among the masses and Egyptian population. They have been protesting for days and months for this. Even in the early weeks of the revolution, recovering those assets was a demand of all the revolutionaries in the street,” said Bakhoum.

    “And everybody in Egypt is waiting to see the results of this trip to Cyprus and to what extent we moved forward in the file of recovering those assets. It’s been highly covered by the media,” she said, noting that all Egyptians were following closely the pursuit of Mubarak’s millions.  

    Delegation member Ahmed Saad who works for Egyptian Illicit Gains Department said investigators carried a huge responsibility to the people to find these assets. 

    “People know are names, our faces. They know everything about us. They want a result. So, it’s a big responsibility,” he said. 

    Public prosecutor Mohamed Habib added: “Also, it’s something important for our country. The money from corruption could help in infrastructure projects, help our economy.” 

    Cyprus is the fifth European country visited, after Spain, Switzerland, UK and the Netherlands. In February 2011, just a month after the revolution that toppled Mubarak, the Egyptian Justice Ministry set up the Judicial Committee of Asset Recovery to start work tracing the foreign assets of 19 key figures in the regime.

    Already, Switzerland has frozen around 410 million Swiss Francs (over €340m), which Egypt is in the process of getting back while a further £85m Sterling (€105m) has been frozen in the UK. The aim now is to recover those assets and find the rest.  

    Ironically, the recent trial of Mubarak saw him sentenced to life in prison for not stopping the killing of protestors in last year’s uprising, but also saw him and his two sons cleared of separate corruption charges, causing public uproar. 

    Asked whether any assets have been found in Cyprus, the ambassador said the process was still at a very early stage. “There is nothing concrete yet. We are investigating,” said Bakhoum. 

    The Egyptian diplomat expressed satisfaction with the Cypriot authorities’ level of cooperation at Friday’s meeting.  

    “The meeting went very well. It was very productive. The Cyprus government is giving full support,” she said. 

    The delegation is due back in Cyprus in the coming months after further consultations that should bring “more concrete results”, said Bakhoum. 

    Committee member and Assistant Minister of Justice Adel Fahmy told the Sunday Mail that the committee used a combination of tools to carry out the rather daunting task of identifying the exact number of assets and their location around the world. 

    “Some of the difficulties and obstacles we and other countries are facing is that we don’t know the exact place where the money is, in which bank and in whose name?” he said. 

    Fahmy noted that Egypt issued a request for Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) to all countries around the world in February 2011. It also successfully lobbied for an EU Regulation calling on all member states to freeze the assets of those identified to the regime by the Egyptian authorities. A further tool is reference to the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), though most of its provisions relating to asset recovery are of a voluntary nature. 

    “The most important thing here is the political will,” said Fahmy. 

    And where national authorities are unable to provide assistance due to their respective legal systems, the committee goes the way of the courts to get hold of valuable financial documents, as it has done in Cyprus and the UK. 

    Saad added the hope that Cyprus will take advantage of its EU Presidency this July to remind EU member states to enforce the regulation on freezing assets.

    “You will have the presidency, you can help us,” he said.   


    Hosni Mubarak

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