Labour Minister: EU accession has secured much for Cyprus
by Demetra Nikolaou
Nicosia, May 12 (CNA) -- Accession to the European Union has consolidated even further the territorial integrity and independence of the Republic, according to Labour and Social Insurance Minister Christos Taliadoros, who says that a great effort was made to align legislation with the acquis communautaire and an even greater effort is continuing to implement it, within the financial restraints of the country.
''I believe we are doing fine within the EU and we feel very confident that accession has secured the future of our country and the future of the generations to come,'' he told CNA in an interview, to mark one year since EU membership.
He said initial reaction and criticism of the changes that accession has brought was normal, adding that the end result of EU membership would be of great benefit to Cyprus.
On the labour force, he said the ministry encourages employers to seek employment first from within the country and then from acceding countries such as Romania and Bulgaria.
The average number of foreign workers has reached 49,000, he said, amounting to about 14,6 per cent of the total workforce of 323,000.
''In 2005, we expect to have a 2,5 per cent increase in employment, if the rate of economic growth stands at 4 per cent. This translates into a 7,500 - 8,000 more workers, many of whom will come from abroad, either Europe or third countries, '' he told CNA.
He said at present some 4,500 Turkish Cypriots are employed in the southern government controlled part of the country, and about 3,000 are registered with the social security department.
The government, he explained, has taken many measures to facilitate employment of Turkish Cypriots, living in the northern Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus, in the south. Most of them work in the capital Nicosia.
Taliadoros said he had met on several occasions with representatives of the Turkish Cypriot trade unions to discuss work related issues.
On the country's effort to harmonise with the acquis communautaire, he said about 120 bills have been adopted, changing the social and labour policy.
He noted that a lot of what needs to be adopted is decided in Brussels.
''Changes have certain ramifications and imposes specific obligations on those participating in the drafting of social and labour policy in Cyprus, including the state, the government, social partners and non governmental organizations,'' he added.
He explained that implementation of passed bills is very difficult because of limited resources in manpower and finances and the workload very heavy.
''There is room for improvement, there are gaps which need to be filled but we are doing our best within the capabilities of the state,'' he said, giving the appointment of inspectors to oversee employment-related issues and as one example of moves to help implement EU legislation.
Responding to questions, he said there have been some complaints from workers about non compliance of employers with contracts or legislation but these are increasing fading out.
On unemployment, he said the number of registered unemployed is 3,6 per cent of the workforce, much lower than last year's figures.