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Cyprus report Cyprus report
by Euro Reporter
2010-07-16 09:01:32
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Angry residents call for end to exercises

Tempers flared at the National Guard’s (NG) Kalo Chorio firing range in Larnaca yesterday, after dozens of nearby residents demanded an end to military exercises until after the summer. The residents’ plea follows a series of incidents and fires caused by stray shells. The angry mob – comprising of around 100 residents from the villages Pyrga, Kalo Chorio, Agia Anna and Klavdia - successfully interrupted a military exercise that began on Tuesday and was meant to wrap up on Thursday.

The demonstration started off peacefully at a little after 4pm, when the affected communities’ leaders and a number of residents arrived at the firing range and sought to speak to an NG officer over the issue. While the residents’ spokesmen were explaining their views to the on-duty officers, a shot was fired from a nearby tank, provoking heated reactions from the residents. The residents then stormed onto the range in a bid to prevent the exercise from being carried out. The residents started nearing the NG camp’s watchtower, resulting in surrounding conscripts having to take their positions to avert the residents from going any further. After spirits had calmed, the residents received assurances from the NG officers that the specific military exercise would not continue.

One resident said: “The officer in charge of the exercise, instead of waiting for orders to speak to us; he started the tanks’ shooting exercise while there were people there. I think this is unacceptable; it shows how much they respect us and how little they take us into consideration.” “They need to understand the residents’ concerns,” another added. “The constant damages from fires; bullets that fall in the area; these are all reasons why we are asking for at least the summer period to interrupt the exercises.” He continued, “You can’t have a commander here ordering shooting exercises, with 100 to 200 people standing behind him. This is inexcusable. And it is prohibited globally; it isn’t just us saying it.”

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Kazakhstan meeting


Foreign Minister Marcos Kyprianou will participate in the Informal Ministerial Meeting of the Cooperation for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which will take place in Kazakhstan Friday and Saturday. Foreign Ministers and other high-level representatives from the 56 OSCE participating states will consider matters related to security in Europe and the OSCE role.

According to an official news release, the main issue of the meeting will be the next steps in the dialogue for the Euroatlantic and Euroasian dimension of security and cooperation. Participants will discuss the most important challenges in the above framework and exchange views on drafting a new common strategy. On the sidelines of the meeting, Kyprianou will meet the Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan and hold a series of bilateral meetings with his other counterparts.

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EU pressure is a blessing for the economy


EVERYONE knew that the EU would eventually place Cyprus under supervision for its excessive budget deficit but nobody expected it to happen so soon. Under the circumstances, it is just as well this has happened now as it may instill a sense of urgency in the Christofias government which has been unwilling to take the tough measures needed to reduce the deficit. Last week’s rejection of the bills that would have increased corporate and property tax, by the legislature, meant that the EU’s Economic and Financial Affairs council (ECOFIN) needed to step in as there was no way the government would raise the cash to meet the targets it had set for 2010. The European Commission considered the stability programme submitted by the government in March inadequate and conveyed the need for additional measures; it had noted that it was unwise to try to reduce the deficit by raising revenue instead of by cutting expenses.

ECOFIN was correct to apply pressure on the indecisive Christofias government. It has given it until the end of the year to prepare corrective measures and rejected Cyprus’ proposal to bring the deficit down to three per cent of GDP by the end of 2013. This target has to be met by the end of 2012 and the government can no longer put off the tough measures in the hope that the economic recovery would arrive and generate enough revenue to reduce the deficit. Failure to meet the targets set by ECOFIN, would lead to severe penalties for Cyprus, warned the Finance Minister Charilaos Stavrakis, pointing out that we could be deprived of hundreds of millions of Euros in structural funds. “It will be a big blow to the pocket of the taxpayer,” he said. But what the government proposed to do to protect the taxpayer, Stavrakis, understandably, did not say, as the president could veto his proposals as he had done in the past.

Now there can be no more procrastination by the government, which has run out of options. The only way it can reduce the deficit now is by cutting the state pay-roll, even though the public sector unions are unlikely to accept such a move without a fight. Cuts could be imposed if the finance minister invites the political parties to draft cost-cutting measures collectively with the government. All parties agree with the idea that the public sector-payroll should be reduced and would vote through such measures, despite the opposition of the unions. President Christofias had the opportunity to do this several months ago, when Stavrakis arranged meetings with the parties, but the president completely ignored their proposals and adopted the idiotic suggestions for tax increases by the public sector unions. We hope that that the pressure from the EU, which is a blessing for the economy, will persuade him to seek the help of the political parties in preparing a rescue package. And he would not be lumbered with the political cost if decisions are taken collectively.


        
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