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Fighting the dark side

Fighting the dark side

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Published by Paul Burgess

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Published by: Paul Burgess on Oct 05, 2012
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An 8-page guide to some of your options in changing times

Universities are tapping into gas with energy industry related degrees

TV and lifestyle supplements to see you through the coming week

pages 21-28

Page 8

September 30, 2012



Cyprus Vouni donkeys forced to move to new home

VAT office goes after charities
Second-hand shops told to stump up thousands in VAT
By Bejay Browne

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HE cash-strapped government has begun to chase down charity shops who fail to collect VAT, and will not hesitate to penalise those who have not complied. The move has left at least one charity, the Paphiakos animal shelter - which runs two shops in Paphos to augment its fund raising - facing a late registration penalty, late submission of tax returns, arrears in payment of VAT on sales that should have been declared, interest and a penalty of 10 per cent on tax due. The fines could run into thousands. Unlike their UK counterparts, charity shops in Cyprus, which mainly deal in second-hand goods, are liable to collect 17 per cent VAT, on most items if their turnover exceeds €15,600 a year. Nayia Symeonidou, from the VAT office said there were no special concessions for charity shops: “As provided by the VAT legislation applied in Cyprus, the supply of goods and services by philanthropic organisations is exempt when carried out

on the occasion of their financial support, provided that the exemption does not cause distortion of competition to the disadvantage of commercial enterprises subject to VAT.” In other words a cake bake stand raising money for charity would not be liable for VAT, as it is not viewed as being ‘competitive’ in the market. But a charity shop acting like a commercial enterprise would be seen as distorting the market. Symeonidou added: “Charity shops in Cyprus selling goods [commercially], the value of which exceeds €15,600 in 12 months, are liable to register for VAT and account for VAT on their sales.” Symeonidou said if a charity shop fails to register for VAT, it is liable to “late registration penalty, late submission of tax returns, retrospective payment of VAT on sales that should have been declared, interest and a penalty of 10 per cent on tax due, as any other taxable person.” According to one of the legal advisers for Paphiakos and CCP animal welfare


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Alpha Bank seeking to repossess British-owned homes in Cyprus
OVER a thousand Britons who bought holiday homes in Cyprus face repossession as one of Greece’s major lenders, Alpha Bank, has launched legal procedures against them, The Times reported yesterday. The Times said that hundreds of Britons stopped paying their mortgage as a direct result of an ongoing debt crisis and the changes this brought upon their mortgage terms. The borrowers bought property in Cyprus in 2007 and 2008 on Swiss francs denominated mortgages, an advantageous agreement at the time because Swiss franc loans offered a much better interest rate, the Times said. Instead of an 8 per cent interest rate available in the Cyprus pound (prior to the euro’s introduction) or sterling, borrowers could get half of that. But since the credit crisis, the Swiss franc has been appreciating against currencies because of a solid reputation and Britons repaying mortgages in sterling now need to pay significantly more. On September 1, 2012, 1.51 Swiss francs was equivalent to £1.0, but in September 1, 2007 it took 2.43 to get £1.0. A British owner who had paid £424 a month in 2007 now has to pay £658 a month. Alpha Bank Cyprus, a subsidiary of Greece’s third biggest bank, has been serving writs demanding borrowers, or a legal representative, to appear in the District Court of



Cyprus Friendship Programme
THE Cyprus Friendship Programme (CFP) brings together Greek and Turkish Cypriot teenagers to promote peaceful interaction and understanding between the two groups. CFP is a year-long peace-building and leadership training programme in Cyprus, with a four week cultural exchange component in the United States in the summer. The programme is modelled on a similar project that successfully brought more than 2,000 Protestant and Catholic teens in Northern Ireland together throughout its 21 year existence. The CFP started in 2009 as an initiative of HasNa, a small US non-profit organisation in cooperation with a Cypriot team of coordinators.

September 30, 2012 • SUNDAY MAIL

Fighting the

HOW the CFP works
FIRST, Turkish Cypriot teens and Greek Cypriot teens (ages 15-17) are selected by CFP coordinators and are paired together, one teen from each community. The goal is for the pairs to establish friendships with one another that will grow and strengthen throughout the programme. Maintaining these friendships is essential for realising the full potential of CFP They meet each others’ . families and friends and learn about themselves and one another in trust and team-building activities. They have group activities in Cyprus before and after the summer. Then for four weeks in the summer, the pairs of teenagers are hosted by American families, with several pairs hosted in the same area of the US (30 pairs in four different US states in 2012). On their return, the Cypriot coordinators and the teens begin organising their graduation ceremony, which this year takes place on October 6. From November through January, the groundwork for the next year’s programme begins. By early February, the interviews are held, and the cycle begins anew. The graduation ceremony takes place on Saturday, October 6 at 5:00 pm at the Cultural Centre of the European University Cyprus in Nicosia and is open to the public

Lessons learnt from a group of teenagers’ enthusiasm
By Rachael Gillett
EENAGERS come in two packages. There is the lethargic, cynical type who favours the dark side. And there’s the one who believes with bouncing enthusiasm that youth can


change the world and insists on trying to do precisely that. I’m in the not-so-enviable position of being the mother of teenagers at the extreme end of each type. Dealing with the first entails endless and exhausting dead-end arguments. School is pointless. So is studying. Why should I work hard just to go to university only to get a rubbish job and end up like you, slaving away and never even managing to pay the bills? Coping with the second type is nowhere near as tiring. But it’s certainly overwhelming. I didn’t realise by how much, though, until my daughter was selected for the Cyprus Friendship Programme (CFP) this year. To be chosen meant my daughter, who is partially Greek Cypriot, had shown her eagerness to forge binding links with Turkish Cypriot teenagers. After being treated to a life-changing month in the United States and living day in day out with their chosen partner from the other community, she and the other Cypriot teens are expected to return to Cyprus determined to spread the message that Greek and Turkish Cypriots can indeed live together.

At heart, the CFP is about hope and enthusiasm, and yet disillusioned cynicism long became the default position when discussing the Cyprus problem. Years of endless grandstanding negotiations have ground us all down. The Annan Plan disaster was merely the final nail in the coffin. Increasing numbers see Cyprus’ future as very much like our divided present, and look at the hard-working, bi-communal, grassroots organisations like the CFP which aim , to show a different way, as worthwhile, well-intentioned but powerless. Certainly, that was my view. And when you add energetic ‘want-to-change-the-world’ teens to that mix, you can see my conundrum. What to do with my daughter’s wellmeaning energy when it flies in the face of those brutal facts on the ground? Is it possible to nurture such drive when all circumstances are doing their best to grind it down to nothing? Yes, it is. I’m now a convert. Firstly, most of those CFP teens are far from naïve. Many knew enough of the nitty-gritty details of their history, and of the countless

rounds of failed negotiations to satisfy even those ancient politicians of ours who took part in them and failed us all so spectacularly. My daughter was in awe of the knowledge of some of her peers. Others were burdened by the past because they come from families who lost relatives in the 1960s and 70s, yet they still bravely took part in the programme. Still others were simply decent, well-intentioned and committed. Without exception, they have come back from the United States bowled over by their experience: the kindnesses shown, the camping, the stunning scenery, the concerts, the group meetings, the charity events, the relationships forged with both their partners and their host families. They have stayed with people they never met before, people who donated their money and time and who opened their doors to children from a country 5,000 miles away. Each family provided a neutral place for two teenagers - who perhaps only live 20 miles from each other at home - to do what should be the simplest thing in the world: to learn how to live

kayaking in the San Juan islands. Someone was making a campfire. The smell of that particular wood burning was something I’d only ever experienced in Cyprus and at the same time, me and Buse looked at each other and said, “That reminds me of Cyprus and it’s making me miss it.” It hit me then that I’m not just Greek, and she’s not simply Turkish, but we’re both Cypriots. It was as simple as that. Grace Theodoulou (left), age 15, Nicosia I DON’T want my first language to define who others think I am. This is why I and my friends are here. CFP has made us see we have more similarities than differences. How can two different languages have so many words in common? How can two different communities have the same customs? These are what they cannot separate by putting the Buffer Zone in the middle of the island. Maybe I seem like I’ve always been aware of all these things I have just said. But, no. I wasn’t aware of any of

THROUGHOUT this experience that the CFP has given me, I’ve realised that if I were somewhere far from home, I would be much more excited to come across someone who was Turkish Cypriot rather than someone who was a mainland Greek. Being able to talk to someone in the same language doesn’t compare to being able to share your likes and dislikes about Cyprus and most of all your homesickness with another Cypriot. I first understood this when we went

SUNDAY MAIL • September 30, 2012


dark side

Date finally set for meeting on economy
A MEETING between the government and political parties on the Cyprus economy will take place next Friday afternoon, it was announced yesterday. According to an official press release, President Demetris Christofias will hold a meeting with parliamentary parties’ leaders which will focus on the economy and the government’s counter-proposals to the troika’s package of austerity measures put forward as part of the island’s bailout programme. The Cabinet is also due to meet tomorrow afternoon to discuss the package, the 2013 budget and the on-going efforts to secure a loan from Russia. Russian Finance Minister Anon Siluanov told Reuters this week that Russia was considering a request by Cyprus for a €5.0 billion loan but only as part of a coordinated rescue with the European Union. Siluanov said that Cyprus was seeking a further €15 billion from the EU. There has been no official response from Cyprus though a source said that it would be correct to say Cyprus has applied for a bailout loan from Russia and has got no response yet. The government was hoping to secure a loan from Russia to fund part of its needs and mitigate bailout conditions. Cyprus previously received €2.5 billion bailout from Russia in 2011. But in June it was forced to seek international aid to support its banks that incurred massive losses because of their exposure to Greek debt. The second biggest lender alone, Popular Bank, had said at the time it needed to raise €1.8 billion to replenish its capital, about 10 per cent of Cyprus’ GDP . The government has been looking for ways to raise revenue without cutting the 13th salary but reforming wage indexation, or CoLA, both of which the troika suggested scrapping altogether. Negotiations with the troika - the World Bank, the IMF and EU - are expected to kick off within the first ten days of October and be concluded by the end of the month.

for change
together. That was the point, and it worked. These teenagers have returned fired with the very enthusiasm they were sent to find. Where now can it go? Will it help solve the Cyprus problem? Among these bright teenagers, there are probably some potential political leaders, though only if they can stay the long and tortuous course of the petty party compromises Cypriot politics will demand they make. One can be certain such former CFP teens would then remember the role their friends from the ‘other side’ played during a shared summer of their youth. And of course, that would help. More realistically, these teenagers face huge challenges. They are up against the widespread lethargy of my daughter’s sibling and his friends. (Maybe she can finally get even that rock to move!) They are up against a discredited political establishment that might smile patronisingly on their efforts, flatter them with encouraging words, but then ignore every single last one of them. More sinisterly, they may even face the outright opposition of hard line elements on both

Clockwise from left: CFP teenagers attempt to brave the chilly Pacific ocean in Oregon. A Greek and Turkish Cypriot pair use team work on a ropes course high up in the forest. CFP teenagers at work on a housing project
sides of the divide. This depressing view, though, ignores something much more optimistic and fundamental. It doesn’t necessarily matter what form a Cyprus solution takes when it finally comes. Whether it’s a negotiated partition or the tightest of federations, to a lesser or greater degree workable contacts between Turkish and Greek Cypriots will be essential. The CFP teens, and the people they have influenced, will help oil the creaky mechanisms of any settlement. They have shown that these contacts can be natural, without fanfare, and all part of the simple business of living. And in the meantime, they have a lot of work to do.

these. I wasn’t aware of how serious the situation is. I feel like I’ve slept for the first 16 years of my life, then I woke up. Buse Koroglu (right), age 17, Lapithos I WILL never forget our first meeting in Cyprus. Almost 200 teenagers hanging out together breaking all the stereotypes that have overwhelmed our societies. Two hundred teenagers that were prepared to replace, as Mahatma Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye” situation that would lead to a blind Cyprus, with “we must become the change we want to see in the world”. Another thing that I will never forget is my hope for peace after we all shouted, “In a country divided, people united”. Marios Lagou (left), age 17, Larnaca Of course the Cyprus Friendship Programme brought a lot of things to me and also other teenagers who take part. I know lots of young people from the north side whose perspective and

views on Greek Cypriots have changed and are still changing because of our programme. I believe that the rest of Cypriots who live on the south of Cyprus are the same as us. We are all Cypriots.. Meric Avunduk (right), age 17, Nicosia Excerpts from speeches made in Portland, Oregon by some of the teenagers from the Cyprus Friendship Programme

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