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Daily Press Review – 17/2/2020

In the press over the weekend and today:

AstroBank moving forward with National Bank of Greece (Cyprus) acquisition

The procedures for the acquisition of the National Bank of Greece (Cyprus) by AstroBank are moving along. The Commission for the Protection of Competition published a merger notification regarding AstroBank’s acquisition of the share capital of the National Bank of Greece (Cyprus) Ltd on the basis of the provisions of article 10 (4) of the Control of Concentrations Between Undertakings Law of 2014. It mentions that AstroBank Public Company Limited is a licensed credit institution supervised by the Central Bank of Cyprus. The company’s main activity is the provision of banking and insurance intermediary services. The National Bank of Greece (Cyprus) Ltd is a licensed credit institution supervised by the Central Bank of Cyprus. The company’s main activity is the provision of banking and insurance intermediary services. At the same time, the process for the share capital increase of the Bank are also moving along. Already, the bank’s authorised share capital increased from €24m to €41.2m. Essentially, ordinary shares increased from 22,750,000 to 40,000,000, while the allocation of shares to current and new shareholders is currently underway. Already, ETYK announced that the Single Provident Fund of Bank Employees as well as TYETYK will participate in the bank’s share capital increase.

 

The steady reduction of NPLs

Phileleftheros reports that while the NPL rate is dropping steadily every quarter, if we compare their reduction over time, the change is spectacular. In the end of the third quarter of 2019, there was a €175m reduction or 1.8% of total NPEs compared to June 2019. At the end of 2019, there was also a €17.8b or 65.1% reduction compared to in the end of September 2014. Total exposures increased from €32.598m in the of June 2019, to €33.04 in the end of September 2019, recording a €449m or 1.4% increase. As a result, the NPE to total exposures ratio reduced from 29.8% in the end of June 2019, to 28.8% in the end of September 2019. The coverage ratio increased from 52.4% in the end of September 2019, compared to 51.1% in the end of June 2019. Total restructured exposures stood at €5.872m in the end of September 2019, of which €4.249m are still included in NPEs partially due to the relevant definition. In the end of September 2019, there was a reduction of €241m in gross restructured exposures, compared with end of June 2019. The Central Bank has said that the downward course of NPEs in the third quarter of 2019 is mainly due to loan repayments, loans that have been successfully restructured and reintroduced to the performing category after the end of a monitoring period as well as debt-to-asset swaps. Moreover, the reduction of NPEs was also due to increased exposure write-offs in the framework of restructuring processes and usually related to sums for which there are provisions for impaired exposures.

 

AKEL searches for new economic model

AKEL is looking to find an economic model for the new decade, supporting that the neo-liberal productive model that prevailed in the previous decades is exhausting its sustainability limits. This was AKEL’s message through the 1st Economic Policy Forum entitled: “Building the economy of the next decade”. In his welcome address, the Secretary General of AKEL, Andros Kyprianou was very critical of the government, saying that the measures they are taking are short-term. He said that they are cultivating reassurance for the sustainability of the current productive model, while what we have to do is change it before we are led to insurmountable dead-ends. “This is the reason we have decided to organise the Economic Forum”, he said. In a speech at the conference, Head of AKEL’s Economic Research Bureau, Charis Polykarpou said “Cyprus needs an alternative development model which focuses on people and their needs, providing employees and businesses with safety and dignity”. He also referred to a development model that maintains the dynamic of the services sector, by enhancing Cyprus’ role as an international services centre, tackling corruption and enhancing transparency and the justice system. It is a development model that enhances the productive capacity of the economy, by establishing a new contemporary industrial policy with a view to eliminate structural deficiencies and modernising the Cypriot manufacturing sector, while also supporting the primary production sector and the development of agricultural economy. The Forum also referred to the digital challenge that Cyprus banks are faced with and mentioned that international tech giants like Google can very easily penetrate the banking sector, since these companies have a lot of information about the consumers’ habits and the consumers trust them.

 

New economic model

Cyprus Economy and Competitiveness Council will present a new development model for the Cyprus economy, until the second quarter of 2021, the Council’s Chairman Takis Clerides said in his address at the Economic Policy Forum organised by AKEL. The Council’s initiative has been adopted by the government and has been submitted to the Structural Reform Support Service of the European Commission so as to safeguard funding and technical support to implement structural reforms.

 

CySEC: Still room to improve AML measures

Moneyval’s report demonstrates the progress that the Republic of Cyprus has made, CySEC said in an announcement. CySEC’s Chairwoman, Demetra Kalogirou has said that The assessment’s findings should be seen as a vote of confidence to Cyprus, but that there is a lot more work to be done. As the announcement says that its supervision has had a positive impact on the compliance of regulated entities. “The competent authorities, including CySEC, have clearly promoted the obligations of the obliged entities, with a greater emphasis on AML”, the announcement mentions. According to CySEC “there are several areas requiring improvement, so as to strengthen the effectiveness and technical compliance of all competent authorities, including CySEC. These areas are the following: Cyprus should ensure that trust and corporate services providers (TCSPs) take action to enhance their ML/TF risk understanding and implement preventive measures commensurate with the risks, including by providing more guidance, training and feedback; The policies, supervision and monitoring processes of the TCSPs sector’s supervisors should be sufficiently harmonised to ensure consistency in the implementation of preventive measures by the sector as a whole; The supervisors’ shortfalls in staff resources, are limiting the efficiency of the licensing process (but not its quality beyond this), the volume of supervision, linked work on risk assessment, and sanctioning that can be undertaken. CySEC expresses its satisfaction that Cyprus’ MER, reflects the efforts made by CySEC and all the regulated entities in the investment industry, to support the international community’s fight against money laundering and terrorist financing.

€1.35m of debts written-off by Treasury Technical Committee

The Treasury’s Technical Committee for write-offs, wrote off €1.35m of uncollectible public money, investments and equipment in 2018. These are public money, investments and equipment that were lost, while other write-offs concern debts which cannot be recovered. €1.14m concerns losses of revenue, €54.5K concerned equipment write-offs and €139.2K concerned thefts. According to the Treasury, €1.33m write-offs concerned write-offs of over €1,000. Compared with the previous years, the write-off sum has dropped significantly.

 

Roundtable Discussion by IDEK

The Research and Innovation Institute (IDEK) and the Chief Scientist are organising a roundtable discussion in cooperation with the Israeli Embassy regarding the completion of three educational programmes for innovative entrepreneurship that were completed by the MASHAV Israel Agency for International Development Cooperation, in the framework of the Cyprus-Israel cooperation on research and innovation. The discussion will take place on Monday, 17 February 2020 at 10:30 at the Pralina Experience café-restaurant in Nicosia.

 

President open to abolishing 12% penalty on people retiring at 63

The president appears to be open to the possibility of abolishing the 12% penalty imposed on people who retire at 63, according to the President of the Greens, Giorgos Perdikis following a meeting with the President. He said that himself and the President discussed matters of internal governance, environmental and economic issues as well as the Cyprus Problem.

 

Productivity increased by more than 9 percentage points than wages in Cyprus

Productivity increased more than wages in most EU member states, according to the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC).  Specifically, from 2010 to 2019 wages increased less than labour productivity in 15 EU member states according to new calculations by the European Trade Union Institute. Wage growth lagged behind productivity increases by: 35 percentage points in Ireland, 17 percentage points in Croatia, 11 percentage points in Spain, 9 percentage points in Greece and Cyprus, 7 percentage points in Portugal, 3 percentage points in Belgium, the Netherlands and Finland, 2 percentage points in Italy, 1 percentage point in Austria, Denmark, France, 0.5 percentage points in Slovenia and 0.2 percentage points in Malta.

 

Inextricably linked with contribution to society

More and more businesses understand that through their social actions, they can have a positive impact on local society, proving their empathy and care to the society, while at the same time in this way the enhance their competitiveness and effort for sustainable development. At Hellenic Bank, considering that the Bank’s development relies on the well-being of the Cypriot society they have developed a comprehensive Corporate Social Responsibility programme, which has managed to stand out and be awarded in this year’s In Business Awards in the CSR category. This is an award, which Hellenic Bank believes to be especially laudable, while at the same time they understand it as a challenge. According to Hellenic Bank press release, the bank is implementing a comprehensive CSR strategy, which is based on four pillars: environment, society, people, market. Especially, as part of its effort to mitigate its environmental imprint, the Bank has established an Environmental Policy with actions, including being certified with the Energy Management Systems (ISO 50001). Through loans the group has supported many businesses with a positive environmental and social imprint in sectors such as health and Renewable Energy Sources. At the same time, it actively contributes to environmental and volunteering actions such as Let’s Do it Cyprus and tree-planting, while aiming to support the Cypriot society and especially youth, Hellenic Bank financially supports more than 80 students in need, through the Jumpstart scholarship programme. One of the  most important social actions through which it supported vulnerable groups of the population was the “Stories of Strength” campaign, whose impact exceeded all expectations. Simultaneously, the Bank emphasises on educating its clients on digital services and provides people in remote areas with access to its services, through its social banking units.

 

Charges for foreclosure notices and Land Registry Department visits

Borrowers even have to pay for the foreclosure notices they receive from the banks, through which they receive information about the procedures relating to their property. Even the banking employee’s unscheduled visits to the Land Registry Department for cases that have to do with their loan, they are charged by the banks. The banks’ pricing policies include a wide range of services. According to Phileleftheros’ information, Hellenic Bank charges €75 for unscheduled visits to the Land Registry Department for the registration/transfer of a mortgage. At Hellenic Bank, there are fees for visits to the Land Registry Department outside of normal banking hours and there is a €100 fees in the cases where the clients wish to go to the Land Registry Department outside of normal operating hours. The client is informed about the charge before going to the Land Registry Department. Hellenic Bank charges clients €50 for the preparation of each Consent/Confirmation letter. Moreover it charges clients €8.50 for each letter of redemption and/or the release of the insurance contract and the letter for the release of guarantors/security providers. Hellenic Bank charges borrowers and guarantors for warning letters and letters of final demand. Specifically, for the 1st–3rd Warning Letter it charges clients €2 per letter, while it charges €10 per letter for each 4th Warning Letter and €29 for each letter of Final Demand. Bank of Cyprus does not charge borrowers and guarantors for warning letters. The article goes on to say that banks continue to send hundreds of warning letters to borrowers, but the percentage of successful foreclosures is still limited. Out of a total of 10,590 letters for foreclosures that the banks sent between 2015 and the third quarter of 2019, only 557 have been successfully completed (5.3%). According to banking sources, the important thing is the leverage they exert over borrowers so that they sit on the negotiating table in order to find a solution. However, there are cases where borrowers brought cash to the bank to reduce their outstanding amount due and then continued to a debt restructuring. There have been cases where the property is prepared for foreclosure and then borrowers rush to repay their loan.

 

The conspiracy of silence and concealment

In an opinion article, former Minister of Justice and Public Order, Doros Theodorou, argues that Phileleftheros is the only paper to objectively present news and analyse them in depth. He argues that other media channels often present one-sided views and don’t present both sides of the story. As it comes to the Cyprus Problem, he argues that the proponents of a bi-zonal bi-communal federation as a solution, are promoted more by the mainstream media, leaving all other opinions outside of the public debate. He argues that this also happens as it comes to social and economic matters. He refers to an article by Michalis Ignatiou in Phileleftheros on the PEP loans debate, which highlighted the cooperation between the political parties in all the big economic and social scandals of the 2008-2020 period. In 2013, the one side destroyed the economy, while the other built a neo-liberal development model on its rubble. He argues that this is a model that continuously increases the gap between the rich and the poor, destroys the middle class and impoverishes the masses. This was the case for the Focus case, the CSE crash and the destruction of the greatest social achievement of our people: the Cyprus Cooperative Bank. According to him, the one side destroyed it and the other privatised it. The author argues that the situation is even worse. One may realise it by looking up and studying the shareholder structure of Hellenic Bank. If one wants to know the truth, they should look up the Boards of investment firms and then they will realise what kind of games were played at the expense of the Cypriot people.

 

Innovative cybersecurity ideas

The IDEA Innovation Centre, Defence Ministry, Education Ministry, US Embassy in Cyprus and Israeli Embassy successfully organised the 1st Cybersecurity – Cyberdefence Hackathon 1.0. Its aim was to promote technological and business innovation in the Cybersecurity sector, defence applications, security applications as well as the detection of fake news in social media. The hackathon took place from 31 January until 2 February, at the IDEA and Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation premises in Nicosia. In the context of the Marathon 14 teams comprised by highly-specialised participants presented their ideas and created innovative MVPs and comprehensive proposals to implement their idea. Two teams won the 1st prize of €3,000.

 

“ourlife” Rewards Scheme by Eurolife

Eurolife recently presented its Rewards Scheme ourlife at a Press Conference in the presence of journalists and media professionals. According to the announcement, recognising the client’s trust and investing in the long-term relationship that is created, Eurolife presented the unique rewards scheme ourlife. What is really important and was highlighted in the speech of Louis Pochanis, Executive Director of the Insurance Business of Bank of Cyprus Group, said that this is an innovative scheme that rewards clients with practical benefits that multiply the value of their insurance.

 

Young people create a future without cancer

On the occasion of the World Cancer Day on 4 February as well as the International Childhood Cancer Day on 15 February, the Cyprus Student Competition was oraganised for the first time under the theme: “I am young and I’m creating a future without cancer”. The cash prizes of €300 (1st place), €200 (2nd place) and €100 (3rd place), were given at a special event at Bank of Cyprus’ headquarters. The initiative’s primary goal is to raise public awareness and especially young people as it comes to cancer and its prevention.

 

Archival research skills and methodology workshop

An innovative skills and methodology workshop for archival research is organised by the Cultural Centre of Bank of Cyprus on 22 February. The workshop aims to develop the knowledge and the expertise of professionals and non-professionals who study archives pertaining to international and military history from 1782 up until today. This ambitious undertaking is taking place for the first time in Cyprus, in cooperation with national archive experts Dr Juliette Desplat, Head of Modern Overseas, Intelligence and Security Records at The National Archives, and Dr George Hay, Official Historian at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

 

€5.3b loans are at risk of immediate foreclosure

Loans worth €5.3b are at risk of immediate foreclosure as they are categorised as non-performing and are not covered by any restructuring agreement, according to the Central Bank. This is only one side of the problem, apart from the abovementioned loans, there are €10b loans in credit acquiring companies, where the situation is even worse.

 

$53 billion for fintech startups in 2019

According to Accenture, investors poured more than $53 billion into fintech startups worldwide in 2019. Forbes reports that with entrepreneurs staging a frontal assault on centuries-old financial institutions, more of the pot than in years past went to digital-first banks and insurtechs. One example is MoneyLion, a “neobank” whose app offers not only free checking accounts, debit cards and paycheck advances, but also managed ETF portfolios. With more than six million users, it’s making a first appearance on the Fintech 50 this year. Another one to watch is Dave, a $1-a-month app whose five million-plus users get help building their credit scores, plus checking accounts with no minimums or overdraft fees. Investors, including billionaire Mark Cuban, have put $76 million into Dave, and it’s already valued at $1.2 billion. In insurtech, there are four new companies to break into the ranks, including Ethos, which uses predictive technology to quote term life insurance prices in 10 minutes and verifies applicants’ self-reported data with their medical and pharmacy records, so that most are approved without a medical exam. Investors, including VC firms and Jay-Z, Robert Downey Jr., Kevin Durant and Will Smith, have put $107 million into Ethos, which is now valued at $450 million, according to PitchBook.

 

UniCredit to cut 6,000 jobs

UniCredit confirmed plans to cut 6,000 jobs in Italy over the next four years as the country’s biggest bank began the negotiation process with unions on Monday over layoffs and branch closures. In December UniCredit (CRDI.MI) unveiled a new plan to 2023, under which it would cut 8,000 jobs and close 500 branches, angering Italian unions, which said then that they expected 5,500 layoffs in Italy and up to 450 branch closures. In a letter to unions, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, the bank said that there would be 5,500 cuts in Italy under the new plan, plus a further 500 that it has yet to deliver under its previous plan to 2019. The Milan-based lender, which also confirmed the 450 planned branch closures in the letter, declined to comment.

 

CySEC issues progress report on Innovation Hub

The Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC) issued a progress report on the Innovation Hub’s activities since its launch in October 2018. The Innovation Hub serves as a knowledge-sharing platform for both supervised and non-supervised entities to enhance understanding about new and evolving financial and regulatory technologies.

 

Professions with two-speed wages

There has been a lot of discussion about the average gross salary in Cyprus which stands at €1,939. Political parties have debated on this issue, with DISY celebrating about the increase of the average salary in Cyprus and AKEL referring to large-scale social and wage inequality. Going back to the statistical service data, one can see the average salary per economic activity and draw their own conclusions. The most highly-paid groups are employees working in the financial and insurance sector with an average salary of €3,271 followed by the mining and hydrocarbons industry with €3,196. The professional group with the lowest wage is agriculture, hunting and forestry with an average salary €853. The categories attracting the most employees i.e. retail, hotels and restauration pay employees with salaries below the average of €1,939. Four professional groups employ 30% employees (125,388 out of 417,118). In fact, workers in retail, manufacturing, agriculture, hotels and restauration get less than €1,400.

 

Moneyval recorded various money-laundering crimes

Moneyval’s report on Cyprus refers to cases of money laundering through the sale of drugs, tampered evidence, vehicles, hiding illegal money in a teddy bear, fake property sales, participation of natural and legal persons in “ghost” companies registered in different countries, foreign money as a product of fraud and forgery, fall guys from Malaysia and other countries among others. Most of these cases have closed, have been convicted while others are pending. Phileleftheros presents the biggest money laundering cases that were identified, for which the cooperated with counterparts in Russia, France, Switzerland. There is a case where the mastermind was a woman and her partners were involved in cases with drugs, contract killings, arsons and financial crimes.

 

Cyprus as a top headquartering destination

The list of companies that chose to transfer their headquarters or part of their international activities to Cyprus is not only long, but also impressive. Wargaming, Amdocs, Sykes, Thomson Reuters, Nielsen, 3CX, eToro, NCR, VTTI are some of the large foreign companies who have an office in Cyprus in the past few years. These are companies operating in many different sectors of the economy, the presence of whom undoubtedly helped the Cypriot economy. Despite, the challenges of the past few years, Cyprus has managed to maintain its comparative advantages as a financial hub, while at the same time it was careful to develop new sectors, counting on the huge importance of attracting foreign investments so as to further develop the economy. Cyprus has a series of characteristics that make it a competitive business centre. First and foremost, the country offers an extensive network of Double Taxation Treaties which is constantly expanding, as well as an attractive taxation system. At the same time, it offers high-quality and low-cost supporting services, while another advantage is its geographic position and the fact that it can offer access to developed markets in the Middle East and the European market.

 

Huge changes in the works

2020 could be the year of employees’ rights, as there are a lot of issues which relate to safeguarding them. These are changes relating to salaries, benefits, rights and the employees’ terms of employment. During this period, what is also discussed is the establishment of a national minimum wage for all professions, abolishing the respective pension reduction (12% penalty) and the renewal of collective contracts. What will also be discussed is Automatic Indexing (ATA), the provident fund, pension system reform, the single service for labour inspection and the scheme for early retirement from the public and wider public sector.

 

Authorities showed their reflexes with Moneyval

Moneyval’s report was published on Wednesday and the positive points were more than negative points, while the government will reportedly make a huge effort to adopt them. Generally, Cyprus was found to be clean as it comes to money laundering, having made huge strides since the last evaluation by the Council of Europe. The crucial point however is somewhere else: it was one of the few times that Cyprus had properly prepared so as to get this result, while demonstrating quick reflexes. The result which was published on Wednesday was completely different from the drafts that the authorities had received in December 2019. Both the Cypriot authorities and the private sector demonstrated their intention to cooperate with Moneyval and work in concert for a good result. Cyprus achieved full compliance or great compliance ratings in most of the 40 parameters, with only two partially compliant rating and zero non-compliant ratings.

 

AKEL invites country’s productive forces to dialogue

AKEL believes that it is imperative to change course in the economy for a different Europe and its priority is not to let the Cypriot economy get distorted by the big interests of the small minority. This was the message sent by Andros Kyprianou from the stage of the 1st Economic Policy Forum that was organised by AKEL in Nicosia. The Secretary-General of the leftist party condemned the policy and management by the government. He stressed that AKEL’s biggest priority is to not let the economy get distorted by the big interests of the small minority, to not let the society become disconnected from its dreams, and not to let the Republic be discredited due to the corruption. AKEL is attempting to start a dialogue under the condition that what will be tabled will be compatible to the common national and public interest. This is the only condition that AKEL has posed for a dialogue with all the productive forces of the market, society and politics.

 

Dramatic shrinkage of banks’ revenue

The banks have been paying a hefty price since 2016 due to interest rates remaining fixed at historically low levels and their operations shirking. This has led to a significant reduction of the banks’ revenue. Data announced by the Central Bank show the extent of the banks’ losses amid an environment of low interest rates and deleveraging. The banks’ net proceeds from interest in the first nine months of 2019 were €785.39m, which was slightly up from €745.16m in the corresponding period of 2018 but significantly lower than the €1.12b of the first nine months of 2017. The data show that the banks’ revenue from interest has reached a record low since 2010 when there is available data. Back then the proceeds were €2.94b. In 2011 they were €3.30b while they started following a downward course as of 2012, starting from €2.81b, reaching €2.20b in 2013, €2.12b in 2014 and €2b in 2015. In 2016 they reached €1.66b, then dropped to €1.45b in 2017 and €1b in 2018. The difference compared with 2010 is 65.9%. The low interest rates are shrinking the banks’ net interest margin, while NPLs are limiting the banks’ number of potential borrowers, which leaves the banks with a lot of excess liquidity.

 

Foreclosure of plots for debts

Plots of land, with or without residences, will be put to foreclosure by the banks in March. The plots area in well-known areas of Nicosia, mainly Strovolos and Engomi. Citing the Interior Ministry’s website, Phileleftheros presents details of all the plots that are up for sale by state asset management company SEDIPES, Gordian, Bank of Cyprus, Alpha Bank Cyprus and Societe Generale.

 

Central Bank staff express concerns

Central Bank staff have expressed serious concern over potential political party related recruitments at the CBC, as part of plans to hire six new members of staff. The branch committee issued an announcement warning over the possible dangers of managerial positions being filled by individuals who are not existing members of the CBC. They said that due to the nature of the business, the CPC consists of a large number of qualified executives who are trained on a continuous basis through systematic attendance at specialised workshops and seminars, as well as committees and task groups of the Euro-system

 

Cyprus first in EU in non-performing loans

In 2018, Cyprus became the country with the highest rate of NPLs to general government assets, with 32.4% of the GDP, which was much higher than the rest of the EU member states. According to Eurostat, three other EU states recorded a rate higher than 1% of GDP: Slovenia (3.3%), Portugal (1.5%) and Croatia (1.2%).

 

Land Registry: cheque payments

The Land Registry Department announced that it will no longer accept personal cheques for payment of fees and rights as of 2 April 2020. It will continue to accept “good for payment” bank cheques. The Department also announced that the implementation of the procedure for the electronic relief of simple mortgages by mortgaged borrowers, through the new online platform DLS PORTAL has been a great success. In the first week of its operation, 234 cases have been handled.

 

Petrides in Brussels for the Eurogroup

Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides is in Brussels today to attend the Eurogroup meeting. During the meeting the Commission will present its priorities for the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). Eurozone finance ministers will exchange views on the economic situation of the eurozone on the basis of the Commission’s Winter 2019 Forecast and will discuss the draft 2020 recommendations addressed to the euro area, ahead of their approval at the Economic and Financial Affairs Council. The Commission will also present the main points of its communication on the economic governance review, focusing on those that are relevant for the eurozone. As part of the thematic discussions on growth and jobs, the Eurogroup “will continue to exchange views on the tax wedge on labour, focusing on a shift from labour to other forms of taxation,” a statement said.

 

Implications and US pressure for facilities

According to the international press, Cypriot ports are linked with efforts from Russia to either reinforce its activities in Syria or its own presence in the area. There are references that since January 2012, Russia used the Limassol port in various ways and managed to reach Syrian ports with the aim of reinforcing Syrians with ammunition. This of course is not confirmed by the government, and even if it did, it did not have the consent of Nicosia. Publications in the international press leave suspicions that via ports in Greece and Cyprus the Russians moved tonnes of fuel in 2016 which was used for air operations in Syria. These are the suspicions which as we said they are not confirmed, because they give the US the necessary arguments to in turn exert pressure to Cyprus for granting facilities to the USA as well.

 

MSC 8-day cruises

MSC Cruises and Top Kinisis Travel, MSC’s main sale representative in Cyprus, announced 8-day cruises in the Eastern Mediterranean leaving from Limassol port in the summer 2021. During an event held on January 21 at the amphitheater of MSC cruise ship Opera in the presence of ministers, shipping and tourism industry stakeholders and other guests, Akis Kelepeshis, Executive Chairman of Top Kinisis Travel Public Limited and Angelo Cappuro, MSC Cruises Global Executive Director, made the above announcement. During his speech Akis Kelepeshis explained the significance for the Limassol port and said that MSC Lirica’s 8-day cruises Cyprus-Israel-Greece-Turkey cruises will transport to Limassol 55,000 tourists in 2021. MSC Lirica will run the cruises from May to October 2021.

 

Larnaca CCCI: Seeking a smooth course of investment in

The local chamber of commerce and industry, looks forward to the smooth implementation of the grand project of single port development for the Larnaca Port and Marina and hopes that there will be no further problems and delays in proceeding with the start of the construction. On the occasion of the recent announcement by the Minister of Transport, Communications, and Works, Yiannis Karousos, for the final agreement with Kition Ocean Holdings on the management and development of the port and, CCCI issued an announcement welcoming the reaching of the agreement which as it is noted, it justifies the many years of efforts in carrying out the project which is considered to be the largest development project ever been done in Larnaca. At the same time, CCCI notes that the commercial world of Larnaca will closely monitor the progress of the project along with other agencies and local authorities in the city expecting a smooth implementation without serious obstacles and further delays. This work is already long overdue, and the years of delay has cost a lot of money to Larnaca and its economy.

 

 

 

Andros’ Forum and Averof’s march to the people

The Government invests a lot in the arrival of warships that will be accommodated in the ports of Larnaca and Limassol in the following days. The impressive Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier accompanied of four frigates one by one coming from Greece to take part in common exercises in the marine area around Cyprus. The presence of the aircraft carrier and frigates and defense cooperation of France with Cyprus and Greece sends clear messages to Turkey but also internally. This time, these are not some policies statements and support from within. The EU ‘s obvious military presence in common exercises and the Cypriot army’s equipment, French missiles, clearly show the French support is secured. More is expected following the upcoming meeting of the Minister of Defense Savvas Angelides with his French counterpart.

 

Eight boreholes by the end of 2020

The prevailing climate of tension in the Cyprus EEZ, and beyond in the Eastern Mediterranean, because of Turkey’s actions, for the time being do not seem to alter the energy plans of the Republic of Cyprus. According to President of the Republic Nicos Anastasiades’ statements last Sunday, the energy program is proceeding normally and consequently companies many proceed to implement what they have planned for without further delay. At the political level, as it was correctly pointed out by President Anastasiades, a different move would appear as abandoning the sovereign of the Republic and acknowledging Turkey’s pursuits. The energy program is expected to restart at the end of March – beginning of April with 2020 being called the year of drillings. The main activities by the French-Italian consortium will kick off the program with the American ExxonMobil expected to take action in the beginning of the second half of the year. By the end of the year a total of 8 drillings are expected, confirmatory and research. The first scheduled drilling by the French-Italian consortium in Block 6 in early April, is considered a decisive sign and is expected with particular interest. Beginning of the second half of the year the consortium ExxonMobil – Qatar Petroleum will return which as announced it will carry out two confirmatory drillings in Block 10.

 

Cyprus Casinos promoted in Israel

Melco Cyprus participated in the 26th International Mediterranean Tourism Market (IMTM) Conference and Exhibition which was held a few days ago in in Tel Aviv, presenting the highly anticipated City of Dreams Mediterranean Integrated Casino Resort (ICR) to Israeli tour operators and other tourism stakeholders. Melco Cyprus also participated in an event entitled “Limassol Reborn”, which was organised by the Tel Aviv office of Cyprus’ Deputy Ministry of Tourism in cooperation with the Limassol Tourism Board. The event aimed at presenting exciting new additions to the city of Limassol that will enhance the overall tourism experience. City of Dreams Mediterranean was also represented in the Deputy Ministry of Tourism’s pavilion at the Exhibition. Melco Cyprus’ Marketing Manager, Ms. Skevi Vasiliou, gave a presentation showcasing the unique paradigm shifting entertainment experience of City of Dreams Mediterranean as well as the ICR’s luxurious facilities and services. Speaking from the expo, Ms. Vasiliou saying that Israel is an important target market for Cyprus and City of Dreams Mediterranean. City of Dreams Mediterranean will be located in Zakaki, Limassol. It will feature a sixteen-story Five-Star hotel with 500 guest rooms and suites as well as MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Exhibitions) facilities covering 9,600 sq. meters. The gaming area covers a total 7,500 sq. meters and will include over 100 tables and 1,000 state-of-the-art gaming machines.

 

€150m worth of sales in Trilogy

In an interview to Phileleftheros, the CEO of Cybarco Development, Michalis Chadjipanayiotou says that Trilogy is a special project located on the biggest plot of the Limassol coast. He also reports that more than 200 employees and 16 subcontractors are currently working for the completion of the project. The West and East Towers are expected to be completed in the start of 2022, while the North Tower and the entire project will be delivered in the end of 2023. The sales and offers for the luxury apartments and offices in the two beachfront towers have exceeded €150m. He stressed that the company aims to start selling the apartments of the North Tower in 2020. He says that the project has set new standards for high-rise developments in the Mediterranean. The development takes up only 12% of the total plot, which covers an area of 21,500sqm. It is located in an excellent location close to the centre of the city, the Limassol Marina and the integrated casino-resort. The three impressive high-rises of 36, 37 and 39 stories, include luxury apartments while the West Tower has state-of-the-art spacious offices spaces with sea view. Each tower is complete with private facilities, a spa and a gym. The three towers also share a private exterior space of 7,500sqm with small and large pools, a pool-bar, a tennis court, a playground and beautiful gardens. It will also have a public square with high-quality restaurants and shops and a parking lot for residents and visitors.

 

Rushing for the completion of Akamas Park in 2022

The goal for the completion of the Akamas National Forest Park before the end of 2022 is achievable, as evidenced by the progress report on the Sustainable Development Plan to be presented tomorrow at the Presidential Palace in the presence of President Anastasiadis. Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment, Costas Kadis will present the progress of the project implementation. Before the presentation of the results of the survey on the visitors’ traffic of the Akamas National Forest Park to be presented by a RAI Consultants, the President of the Republic will give a welcoming speech. The progress achieved seems to be in line with the timetable approved by the Council of Ministers at its meeting on November 1, 2018. So far, among other things, the seven entry points to the Park have been finalized, the architectural competition for the 14 infrastructure landmarks of the Park has been successfully completed, a visitor traffic study has been completed, the results of which will be presented, and two more studies are underway. This is the ECO Study (Due Diligence), which is expected to be completed in March, and the Road Network Improvement Study which will be completed in April 2021. Also, the work on the general operation of the Park and its staffing needs have been finalized.

 

Curbing use of mercury in thermometers and in dentistry

Cyprus is heading towards abolishing the use of a range of mercury-based products, including mercury thermometers, by the end of this year. With the ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury in 2018, Cyprus is required to limit the use of mercury and compounds products from this metal. Cyprus is in the third worst position regarding mercury levels, among the 17 countries which participated. The high levels of mercury may be a result of EAC’s power plants, landfills, waste water that reach groundwater and then the sea.

 

Innovative epilepsy treatment methods

According to the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics (CING), innovative epilepsy treatment methods are taking place in Cyprus. The Institute is contributing in the efforts of the global scientific community to tackle the disease through a specialised epilepsy unit, which has been operating for the past 18 years. The Institute was the first to introduce treatments for this neurological condition in Cyprus, since the first surgical operations to treat epilepsies resilient to medication were performed by a team of Cypriot and American scientists in 2004. The Institute also introduced other treatment methods to patients who could not or refused to undergo surgical operation.

 

Two-month deadline by pathologists of Limassol state hospital

The pathologists working in the Limassol state hospital have given the State Health Services Organisation (OKYPY), a two-month deadline to support their Department with additional medical staff so that they are able to meet the increased needs that have emerged after the closure of the pneumology clinic and the hospitalisation of patients with respiratory conditions. In a letter to OKYPY, the pathologists support that they never participated in any consultation for this specific decision by the Organisation and warn that with the current working conditions and if the clinic is not supported, then the situation will be precarious. They stress that OKYPY, should have taken the responsibility for any problem that comes up during the implementation of the specific regulation, with a special announcement. Moreover, they make themselves available to patients for the next two months, since they will be obliged to work more shifts voluntarily and support that a pneumologist should be continuously available. The letter which is co-signed by the Director of the Department of Pathology of the Limassol hospital, and shared to the three state doctors unions, was sent to OKYPY last Wednesday and pathologists declare their protest as well as the conditions they are setting so that they can agree with the decision that was taken after the mass resignation of a the hospital’s pneumologists, which had resulted in the closure of the Pneumology Department. The pathological clinic has not been asked or participated in the negotiation for the support to the pneumology clinic, the letter reports, adding that the clinic is already understaffed following the retirement of three colleagues and the long-term sick leave of another employee.

 

Race for the second phase of the GHS

The HIO is rushing for the second phase of the GHS. There are many issues still pending as it comes to inpatient care and the Organisation is rushing to meet all the deadlines so that everything is ready by 1 June 2020 for the smooth introduction of inpatient care. The biggest bet for the Organisation is facing an increased flow of patients to the private sector. This is a matter that worries clinic-owners, since they see that in the past few months, many appointments that mostly concern scheduled operations have been cancelled. This week, the HIO starts talks with more than 40 hospitals that expressed their interest to participate in the second phase of the GHS. This is the most important negotiation phase between the HIO and the clinics, since it will determine the compensation of each hospital for the services they will offer in the GHS. As the Director of HIO, Andreas Papaconstantinou has said, another chapter that will be discussed in the framework of this negotiation, will be the work volume of each hospital, in relation to the participation that was expressed and the needs that come up.

 

Posthumous sperm donation should be allowed

Men in Britain should be able to donate their sperm after death, according to ethicists who argue that posthumous contributions would help infertile couples and relieve the pressure on living donors. The shortage of sperm donors in the UK has led to at least 7,000 samples being imported each year, primarily from Denmark and the US, to keep up with the demand from fertility clinics. Under the new proposal published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, men would be allowed to give consent for their sperm to be extracted when they die and then used to help couples have families. “We know there is a shortage of sperm donors in the UK and this is one way to address the problem,” said Joshua Parker, a doctor and ethicist at Wythenshawe hospital in Manchester, who makes the case with Nathan Hodson, a doctor at the University of Leicester. “We think it would be ethical to allow men to voluntarily donate their sperm to be used by strangers after they have died,” Parker said. In their article, the doctors describe how they believe dead donations are not only “technically feasible”, but “ethically permissible”. On the technical side, there are two procedures that may prove unappealing in life. One requires the insertion of a rectal probe that electrocutes the prostate to stimulate ejaculation. The other calls for the scrotum to be cut open to gain direct access to the cells.

 

The impact of pollution on human evolution

Air pollution terrifies us even more when we look at the clouds of smoke from Australia’s fires that are now visible from space, or the poisonous smog that covers New Delhi in the winter. We are rightly afraid as pollution harms billions of people. Outdoors, we breathe in the toxins of coal-fired cars and refineries. Indoors, the fires from heating and cooking pollute the air of billions of people in poorest states. In addition, more than a billion people are filling their lungs with toxins by smoking cigarettes, and more recently because of vaping. Air pollution is responsible for 20 million premature deaths per year. Beyond its proven association to lung cancer and heart disease, researchers are now linking it to Alzheimer’s and diabetes. However, researchers are trying to identify the reasons of some people’s resilience to this modern threat, or how air pollution causes specific diseases. Many believe that the answer lies in our evolutionary past, millions of years before the first cigarette lit up or the first car appeared. Our ancestors developed defences against pollutants, however, genetic adaptation offers limited protection against cigarette smoke and other pollutants. Some genetic mutations may even have made us more susceptible to air pollution-related diseases.

 

 

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