Application of EU rules beneficial to Cyprus, says Minister
by Costas Stavrinos
Nicosia, May 9 (CNA) -- Implementation of European Union rules and regulations has had an immediate and direct impact on Cyprus and brought benefits to Cypriot citizens, Communications and Works Minister Haris Thrasou has said, adding that a year after accession e-communications has been liberalised, so has air transport to and from Europe and legislation governing merchant shipping has been modernised.
In an interview with CNA to mark one year since the Republic along with another nine countries joined the Union, he said a study on the road network management system has been completed and efforts are underway to review the regulations governing the operation of the Telecommunications Authority and upgrade postal services.
The Minister said he expects Turkey to end its blockage of Cyprus-flagged ships, to see the Cyprus flag be removed from the black list and to have the EU endorse funding of specific projects.
''The ministry has a wide-ranging scope of responsibilities. EU membership defines changes in policy matters in that decision must be in line with the acquis communautaire and the possibility to draft national policy on secondary sectors is very limited,'' he said.
Referring to air transport, he said since accession passengers have a big choice in terms of airlines, destinations, frequency of flights and air fares, noting that for Cyprus the most popular destinations (Greece and Britain) have benefited a great deal.
Thrasou said passengers now has the right to compensation in case of delays or flight cancellation.
With regard to e-communications, he said all networks and services are subject to competition now and noted the license given to a private company for mobile telephony with the same terms as those afforded to the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority.
He said initial decisions have also been taken for fixed wireless access and digital TV (DVB-T ), a development that would offer consumers advanced services.
The Authority, he explained, continues to conduct studies to stop interference in radio frequencies and measures regularly electromagnetic radiation to protect the public.
Referring to commercial shipping, he said Cyprus has the third largest fleet among EU members with 17 per cent of the entire EU fleet and that the government has signed all fundamental international shipping conventions.
''We are harmonised with EU directives, especially those relating to safety at sea and protection of the seas. The Commercial Shipping Department has additional staff, with 43 inspectors at 29 ports around the world, automation of the department is underway and stricter regulations for the registration of vessels on the Cyprus ship registry are now in place,'' he told CNA.
He said the most pressing issue in the Cyprus shipping industry is the restrictions Ankara imposes on Cyprus-flagged vessels, which has forced many ships to change flags to be able to approach Turkish ports.
''Many partners in the EU have told us that such restrictions cannot continue as this kind of discrimination tarnishes Turkey's European aspirations,'' the Minister pointed out.
He said there has been a marked drop in the number of Cyprus-flagged ships detained at ports members of Paris MOU (Paris Memorandum of Understanding on port state control).
Responding to questions, the Minister said he expects the approval of funds from the EU Cohesion Fund for roadworks worth 25 million pounds, with some 60 per cent of the expenditure coming the Union.
Such an infrastructure project will ease public finances and help alleviate traffic congestion, he said, noting that another one million pounds has been secured for a new passenger terminal at Limassol port.
On future plans for CYTA, he said discussions are underway to give the Authority more autonomy without changing its ownership status to help the organisation become more flexible and effective in an increasingly competitive market.
The government is trying to transform the postal services into an independent organisation, as is the normal practice in EU members.
Concluding, he said legislation governing contract agreements provides for a supervising authority to monitor procedures in order to ensure compliance with the law.