Gesy row deepens, parties cry foul

Opposition parties Diko and Edek on Friday dismissed as slander claims that they launched last-minute attempts to wreck the national health scheme (Gesy) and that, on the contrary, it was the last two governments which had stalled reforms.

The two parties came under fire from ruling Disy and main opposition Akel MPs on Thursday who accused their colleagues from Diko and Edek of seeking to torpedo Gesy at the last minute.

The stir was caused after the head of the House health committee, Disy’s Costas Constantinou revealed on Thursday that Diko planned to table an amendment proposing to suspend for three years the autonomy of state hospitals.

 

This, followed the announcement by Edek leader Marinos Sizopoulos that his party would table an amending legislative proposal, ensuring patients’ right to choose their physician under the new regime.

Constantinou also told state broadcaster CyBC on Friday that Diko and Edek had enlisted the head of the medical association (Cyma) Petros Agathangelou, to persuade Akel, but without any success, to back this as well.

In an announcement, Diko’s parliamentary representative, Christiana Erotokritou on Friday denounced Health Minister Giorgos Pamboridis for attacking political leaders following his comments that a Judas was among them when it came to Gesy.

Parliament last week signed off on three bills that would enable the roll-out of Gesy providing (mandatory) universal healthcare coverage. The bills are scheduled to be voted by parliament on June 16.

Diko’s daggers were also turned against Constantinou, for “slanderous attacks”.

The party said that it had long ago decided to vote the Gesy bills as is.

“Our party had taken the lead in the effort to create Gesy in our country,” it said. It added that they have concerns about the implementation of Gesy and the autonomy of state hospitals and that it is for this reason that Diko will closely monitor its implementation process and intervene to resolve problems that will emerge along the way.

Diko said that the delays in voting the three bills were due to “systematic attempts” of health ministry officials and Disy members to obstruct the process.

“That is where Mr Pamporidis has to look for those responsible, not in the New Testament”.

Diko also called on President Nicos Anastasiades and Disy head Averof Neophytou to call Pamporidis and the ruling party’s MPs to order.

Diko chief Nicolas Papadopoulos, speaking to Active Radio on Friday said that this was an election ploy of Disy and Akel to blame Diko for the non-implementation of Gesy.

He added that Pamboridis told him during a telephone conversation they had, who he was referring to as Judas. The minister, he said, named another political leader.

But Pamporidis, according to the radio station, said that the last time he spoke with Papadopoulos was last month, at the Pride Parade, and it was just to say hello.

In his turn, Sizopoulos, speaking to CyBC, called Constantinou “a cheap slanderer,” as to the latter’s claims that Diko and Edek are scheming to scupper Gesy.

“Regardless of our disagreements with provisions of the two bills, Edek will vote them,” Sizopoulos said in an announcement.

He added that what took place the past 24 hours was “unnecessary and excessive” and was that this “so-called cooperation with Nicolas Papadopoulos for the three-year postponement of hospital autonomy is fictitious and slandering”.

Regardless of any disagreements as to the bills, he said, Edek will back them because Gesy is his party’s “political child and will not give it up for anyone else to adopt”. He added that it was on his insistence, with numerous letters to Anastasiades, that discussion on Gesy among parties had begun.

Some, he said, “shed crocodile tears for Gesy” despite that they bear responsibilities.

“The Akel government had put Gesy on hold for five years. Today’s government has had monumental regressions in its positions,” Sizopoulos said.

“This government cannot even if it wants to, to implement Gesy,” he said, as it has done nothing the past four and a half years to improve the rapidly deteriorating situation in state hospitals, there are still serious medical staff shortages, while shortages in medicines and supplies were alarming.

Agathangelou dismissed any claims that he and Cyma had any involvement in any scheming against Gesy.

Cyma, he said, “had visited all parties with transparency” during its campaign to make its positions on the Gesy known.

He added however, that when the bills are voted by parliament, Cyma would begin a dialogue with the Health Insurance Organisation as to protocols and doctors’ fees.

Cyprus makes Cyta privatisation move

The Finance Ministry has prepared a legislative draft as well as a proposal outlining regulatory guidelines that will denationalise Cyprus Telecommunications Authority (Cyta).

The two draft proposals were sent to the Cyta board on Monday night as well as to the relative unions representing the workers at the semi-governmental organisation. Cyprus has been attempting to sell a stake in Cyta as part of a sweeping privatisation programme that was part of an EU/IMF bail-in in 2013.

In the first phase, the bill calls for the creation of a successor company that – pending a date issued by a cabinet decree – will be a private entity tasked with running the authority.

Finance Minister Harris Georgiades had previously stated that his government was struggling to find suitors to take over Cyta.

“We are finding it difficult (to privatise Cyta)…”, Georgiades said at an event at the London School of Economics. “But we will have another go.”

Unions, along with opposition party Akel, have opposed the move to privatise Cyta  as it will mean that it will operate under private laws and will force the government to a surrender a large chunk of its stake to private investors.

Cyta workers had threatened strike action if the government didn’t hold back from moving ahead with its plans. A Joint Advisory Committee had been established to oversee the privatisation plans across the island.

Meanwhile, Georgiades added that the Larnaca port should also be privatised this year and that plans to sell the country’s state lottery were progressing.

Russian involvement in Cyprus energy ‘will be beneficial’ to all

CYPRUS supports involvement of Russian companies in its energy market, the Cypriot ambassador to Russia has said.

Ambassador George Kasoulides told Sputnik:

“As far as the energy sector is concerned…we are more than eager to have Russian involvement in those activities and we encourage Russian companies to compete for a fair share of the Cypriot market.

 

“We also believe that Russian involvement will be beneficial for all countries in our region.”

Cyprus is reliant on fossil fuel imports for its electricity needs. The country spends over 8 per cent of its GDP to cover the costs.

To date, no oil or gas exploration concessions have been awarded to Russian companies during three licensing rounds in Cyprus.

Courts issue 56 debt release orders

The Insolvency Service has managed to secure fifty six debt release orders (DRO) for debtors who were unable to repay dues of up to twenty five thousand euro, as a result of the economic crisis. 

So far 1,019 applications have been submitted from citizens who request a debt write off, head of the Insolvency Service Costas Karotsakis has told the CNA. 

“Consequently, fifty six families without income or important assets that could be used to repay their debt, have been rid of unsecured debts of up to twenty five thousand euro, both them and their guarantors” Karotsakis noted. 

As a result of the implementation of the insolvency framework, the economy of Cyprus is placed at the 16th position by the World Bank in terms of insolvency matters, whereas Cyprus ranks 9th among the EU member states. 

He also said that several cases are pending before the district courts and as a result it is expected that the number of the rulings will increase. 

However, according to Karotsakis the number of companies making use of the debt restructuring tool is low and as a result only three cases have been led before the courts and one of them has been withdrawn. 

In addition, he said that the Insolvency Service has received thirty eight applications for personal insolvency arrangements, noting that “restructuring a debt through a personal insolvency arrangement can secure the repayment of the creditors and maintain, where that is possible, the primary residence”. 

According to Karotsakis more than 8,600 persons have been removed from the bankruptcy record with the aim of re-integrating them into economic activity.

 

 

Determination of land ownership rights

THE Department of Lands and Surveys must avoid the registration of immovable property from the name of a deceased to a person claiming ownership of same, except if a duly notarised written consent of the heirs is filed with the department. The determination of land ownership rights is within the jurisdiction of the court and not within the powers of the Director of the Department of Lands and Surveys. Such actions end up in court, especially when one relative, without providing the duly notarised written consents of the heirs alleges that a piece of land was given to him/her gratuitously by the deceased, or that he/she has ownership rights over the land through hostile possession or through succession.

 

Information contained in certificates issued by Community Councils or Mukhtars regarding ownership of land by deceased persons or its possession, for the purpose of being presented before the Department of Lands and Surveys, has to be personally known to the Mukhtar or the person authorised by the Community Council to issue the certificate. If the information contained in the certificate are not personally known to him but instead they are based on information and statements obtained by third parties, the Mukhtar has to mention this in the said certificate naming the persons who provided him with the relevant information.

The aforesaid was raised by the President of Larnaca court in a recent judgment after heirs demanded the annulment of a transfer of land in the name of other heirs of a deceased person through fraud, misrepresentation or illegal and irregular procedures. The facts of the case regarded the actions of an heir who secured the consent of his siblings to register the estate of their deceased parents in his name and then to transfer to each one of them his/her share in the estate. When the heir passed away, his wife made use of certificates issued by a Community Council and registered the land firstly in her name in her capacity as the heir of her deceased husband and then to their children. The remaining heirs brought an action before the court and requested the annulment of the said transfers. The court decided in favour of the heirs, holding that the notarisation of the signatures of the affected persons in the said consents was void since they didn’t sign the consents in the presence of the mukhtar.

As to the officer of the Land Registry, he was held to have acted act ultra vires or in violation of the law or incorrectly under the circumstances and his actions should be annulled, since he allowed the use of a power of attorney with which no power was given to her appointed representative (the dead man) to register in his name property belonging to his sister. Regarding the transfers of land in the name of his children, the court found severe failures on behalf of the Director of the Lands and Surveys since the procedure which was followed and his decision to register the land in the name of his wife, essentially determined the ownership of the land, determining at the same time the ownership rights over it.

The Director neither had the right to proceed with the registration of the land in the name of the deceased heir’s wife by means of inheritance and succession nor could he allow the previous transfers of land in the name of the deceased. Nevertheless, without checking the material irregularities and illegalities, he proceeded with the determination of ownership rights over the land.

Simultaneously, the court dismissed the allegation of the children of the deceased heir that they acquired rights over the land through hostile possession, since it contradicted their allegation that the ownership of the land was acquired with the consent of the other heirs. Hence, the court ordered the registration of the land in the name of the deceased parents.

Courtesy of:

 George Coucounis is a lawyer specialising in the Immovable Property Law, based in Larnaca, Tel: 24 818288,  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. www.coucounislaw.com

UK could slash corporation tax to 10 pct if EU blocks trade deal in Brexit

Britain could slash corporation tax to 10 percent if the European Union refuses to agree a post-Brexit free trade deal or blocks UK-based banks from accessing its market, the Sunday Times reported, citing an unidentified source.

The newspaper said the idea of halving the headline rate from 20 percent had been put forward by Prime Minister Theresa May’s advisers amid growing fears other EU member states will take a hard line in Brexit negotiations.

The tax cut would be used to try and persuade the EU to grant “passporting” rights for financial services firms to continue operating across the EU, the newspaper said, in a sign of the likely animosity of the upcoming divorce talks.

At a Brussels summit last week EU leaders were clear they would not allow Britain to “cherry pick” things such as free access to the market for certain sectors without taking on the full responsibilities of EU membership.

“People say we have not got any cards,” the newspaper quoted an unidentified source familiar with the British government’s thinking as saying.

“We have some quite good cards we can play if they start getting difficult with us. If they’re saying no passporting and high trade tariffs we can cut corporation tax to 10 percent,” the newspaper quoted an anonymous source as saying,” the source was quoted as saying.

Cutting corporation tax could attract companies away from the EU to Britain, boosting its economy and challenging Ireland’s preeminence as Europe’s low tax home for large international companies.

EU leaders have warned that if Britain places limits on the free movement people it will lose its preferential access to the single market, leaving London-based international banks worried they could lose their right to sell services across Europe.

Writing in the Observer newspaper, the chief executive of the British Bankers’ Association said the uncertainty over Britain’s future relationship with the EU meant most international banks were already looking at which operations they would need to move out of the UK.

“Their hands are quivering over the relocate button. Many smaller banks plan to start relocations before Christmas; bigger banks are expected to start in the first quarter of next year,” Anthony Browne wrote.

Japanese carmaker Nissan, whose Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn met May this month to discuss his concerns over Brexit, on Sunday denied a story in the Telegraph newspaper that it had decided to make its new Qashqai model in Britain.

Nissan’s CEO has warned he could scrap potential new investment in Britain’s biggest car plant unless the government pledges compensation for any increased tax costs resulting from Brexit.

“No decision has yet been taken. That decision making process concludes next month,” a spokesman at Nissan told Reuters.

BOC contests court ruling banning application of new foreclosure law

Bank of Cyprus has filed an appeal against the ruling of the Larnaca district court, which banned it from applying the modernised foreclosure law in disposing a collateral for which a court ruling existed based on the previous legislation.

The Cyprus Business Mail understands that the appeal was filed on Thursday. Bank of Cyprus declined to comment.

In its September 12 ruling concerning a 2007 mortgage deal, the court ruled that Bank of Cyprus had to proceed to the foreclosure of the property based on a 2006 court order and had therefore no right to send a “type I” note to the owner. The ruling caused perplexity in Cyprus’s banking system.

The Association of Cyprus Banks said in a statement “it has reservations about the ruling” concerning its legal drafting and therefore intended to study the underlying legislation in-depth.

The modernisation of the foreclosure law was part of Cyprus’s bailout terms, aiming at helping speed up foreclosure procedures, which under the old law took ten years or longer, thus helping reduce the non-performing loan portfolio of Cypriot banks.

By Stelios Orphanides

In an interview to Inbusiness.com, finance minister Harris Georgiades said that he was not in favour of changing the law as it would cause uncertainty. Still, government agencies monitor the situation waiting for banks to evaluate the ruling to determine which old cases are affected, he said

PDMO to buy back €258m in government bonds

Cyprus’s government decided to buy back up to €258.5m of outstanding domestic government securities maturing between April 20, 2020 and July 1, 2021, the finance ministry said.

“The Public Debt Management Office announces that it accepts bids from security holders for a complete or partial buyback by the government,” the PDMO, a division of the finance ministry, said in an emailed statement on Tuesday.

The offer applies to the bonds with the serial number CY0049570811, CY0049630813, CY0143830814 and CY0143790810, the PDMO said. All securities, which carry an annual interest rate ranging from 4.75 per cent to 6.1 per cent are traded at the Cyprus Stock Exchange. Two of the bonds were issued in 2005 while the rest in 2013.

The deadline for applications is September 6, while the buybacks will become effective three days later, the PDMO said. The government is facing debt maturities totalling almost €4bn in 2019 and 2020, which account for almost one quarter of the economy.

The Cyprus Business Mail understands that the government is currently focusing on buying back domestically traded bonds because of the simpler procedures compared to buying back internationally traded bonds and the higher interest rates domestic bonds carry.

On Wednesday, roughly a month after the government issued a €1bn 7-year bond, the PDMO said that it decided to deposit €430m at Cypriot banks after receiving bids..

By Stelios Orphanides

 

ICC ruling cannot stop FBME liquidation, says CBC

THE Arbitral Tribunal of the International Chamber of Commerce may have ruled to allow the conditional access of FBME Bank’s owners to the lender’s premises, but it denied their request for the immediate cessation of all actions toward its liquidation, the Central Bank of Cyprus said in a statement on Friday.

It was responding to a statement by FBME on Tuesday, which claimed that the ICC had ordered that the embattled bank’s two shareholders be granted unfettered access to the premises, from which they had been excluded on March 31.

FBME was placed in administration in July 2014 by the CBC, after the Financial Crime Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a division of the US Treasury, designated the Tanzania-based bank as “of primary money-laundering concern” with links to Hezbollah.

Last December, the CBC revoked its banking licence, and ordered its liquidation.

FBME’s owners resorted to the ICC for arbitration in the second half of 2014, demanding compensation from the Republic of Cyprus under the terms of a 2003 international agreement between Cyprus and Lebanon that protects investor rights in each other’s country.

“On April 25, Messrs Farid and Fadi Saab filed for an injunction with the Paris Arbitral Tribunal, in order to order that the CBC: (a) immediately ceases all action for the liquidation of the Cyprus branch until a final ruling has been issued by the Cypriot courts, and (b) allows the shareholders full access to the offices, archives, and personnel of FBME’s branch,” the central bank’s statement said.

“In its May 27 and July 26 rulings, the Arbitral Tribunal fully denied the request for an order to cease all action by the CBC with regard to the branch’s liquidation.”

With regard to the issue of access to the offices, archives and personnel of the branch, the tribunal “ruled only that Messrs Farid and Fadi Saab be allowed access to the branch’s office in the presence of their lawyer, and on condition of practical arrangements made between the lawyers of both sides”.

“To date, no agreement on such practical arrangements has been reached,” the oversight authority said.

“It is noted that the court came to the aforementioned decision after judging that the presence of these individuals at the offices of the FBME branch could impact the smooth operation of the branch, which is under the administration of the Special Administrator appointed by the CBC.”

Therefore, the central bank added, the Arbitral Tribunal’s ruling “in no way overrules the Special Administrator’s decision to end the employment of Messrs Farid and Fadi Saab, nor does it allow them any rights of management or interference in the operation of the branch”.

The Cyprus Mail asked an FBME spokesman for a copy of the ruling in question, but was told that the ICC does not release them.

A source from the Special Administrator’s office, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the matter at hand is not really whether the owners are allowed physical entry to the building or not, but rather whether the right to such access would be unfettered and permanent.

“I’m sure the administrator is open to agreeing to let them into the premises if they want to retrieve something,” the Mail was told.

“But what he won’t allow is them being there all the time, terrorising the employees.”

Courtesy by ANGELOS ANASTASIOU

BREXIT: Implications for Cyprus

How quickly the unthinkable became the irreversible

The United Kingdom European Union membership referendum took place on 23rd of June 2016 and Pandora’s Box has been opened. The sterling posted its worst week in more than seven years as anxiety that the UK will leave the EU pushed the currency to its lowest level since 2009. The consequences of this historical decision are numerous and momentous. Voters ignored the warnings of economists, allies and their own government and, after more than four decades in the EU, are about to step boldly into the unknown. However, as Green mentioned “a vote for Brexit will not be determinative of whether the UK will leave the EU”, since the referendum result is not binding for the Parliament.

Implications for Cyprus
Cyprus is one of the countries that the UK has strong bilateral relations, reflecting the historical ties between the two countries. Brexit has dimensions that raise many concerns for Cyprus, especially given the fact that Cyprus is still recovering from the crisis. The depreciation of the British pound will certainly have an impact on tourist arrivals as well as trade between the two counties. Additionally, the purchasing power of British foreigners that live in Cyprus has been significantly reduced. The effect on tourism for 2016 will likely go unnoticed, especially given the strong numbers achieved this year. However, should the British pound weakness persist and given that arrivals from the UK comprised 39% of total arrivals last year, the impact on the economy can be significant.

Tourism
The tourism sector in Cyprus plays a significant role in the economy. According to WTTC, the direct contribution of Travel & Tourism to GDP in 2015 was approximately 7.6% of GDP. This is forecast to rise by 4.3% in 2016. Meanwhile, British citizens keep a leading position in the number of arrivals for holidays. Most visitors (1.041 mn.) in Cyprus in 2015 were from the United Kingdom. Following the announcement of the referendum result and subsequent depreciation of the British pound, it is much more expensive for British people to travel to Cyprus and any other EU countries. In addition, possible changes to the current free movement of people between the two countries might cause a negative effect on tourist arrivals/departures from/to the UK.

Trade Sector
The UK and Cyprus have close economic relationship. UK is one of the main partners of Cyprus, together with Greece, Israel, Germany and France. Exports of Cyprus to the UK comprise 10% of the total exports of the country and trade in services between countries equals to 20%. UK’s decision to leave EU will certainly affect Cyprus’ exports both in the long and short term. “Brexit could pose unpredictability in the trade sector and negative consequences on trade agreements”, Cyprus High Commissioner to the UK, Euripides Evriviades, had said before the referendum

Interpersonal relations

It is estimated that around 270,000 Cypriots currently live in the UK and approximately 12,000 Cypriot students are currently enrolled in British universities. At the same time, there are between 60,000 and 70,000 British people living in Cyprus. Restrictions on the free movement of EU citizens from and to the UK may arise, depending on the UK’s exit negotiations. Implications will be greater for people who plan to permanently stay and work in the UK. Cypriot students in the UK will be called to pay the increased tuition fees to their colleges/ universities, with a direct impact on their households.

Cyprus Problem

In addition to the above, while the Cyprus problem still remains and is currently under negotiation, the UK and the EU seem powerless, fearful and concentrated more on the Brexit issue and Britain is looking for a new leader since the prime minister resigned and the country is divided by the referendum.

With an eye to the future

The UK has not invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, i.e. the formal announcement of its intention to leave the EU. The Brexit will be in process and will not conclude earlier than 2019 according to the Lisbon treaty.

While the UK wishes to maintain free trade and free movement deals with Europe, it is unlikely that the EU will offer easy access to the free market. EU is set on making an example out of the UK, partly to deter other countries from considering an exit. As such, the UK will face difficulties maintaining its current trading status with the EU.

Published in  Delfi Partners

   

 

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