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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 9 January 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 9 JANUARY 2016 17 GREECE Greek employers back government in pension reform plans Increased contribution to social security funds aims to avert pension cuts The Greek government acquired its first real ally in its proposal for pension reform on Thursday, after representatives of employers' associations agreed with a suggestion that they pay increased social security contributions in a bid to avert further pension cuts. The representatives of the employers' groups signalled their backing for the government's proposals following a meeting with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The move is regarded as a welcome boost of confidence ahead of Mr Tsipras' meetings with representatives of the 'troika' of the country's creditors, expected to take place in Athens next week, strengthening the government’s position. The fact that Greek employers have agreed to pay a one percentage point increase in their contributions to social security funds is a significant win for the government, as it will undermine the objection creditors are expected to underline: that higher employer contributions will burden businesses that are already struggling. It appears Greek employers, or at least the groups that represent them, are prepared to shoulder the additional cost to boost the government's dual aim of bolstering the social security system and averting yet another round of cuts to pensions. The proposal was also, understandably, welcomed with relief by the workers unions, after GSEE, Greece's leading union, representing private sector workers, labelled pension cuts as "slaughter". However, there is still a lot of ground to be covered, as the government's suggestion sees employees facing a 0.5 per cent increase in the contributions they pay. A new round of protests is expected next week, involving GSEE, ADEDY (the civil servants union) and PAME (the Communist Party-affiliated workers' union). GREEK HEADLINES DIMOKRATIA: DARK BACKGROUND EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: EMPLOYERS SAY ‘YES’ UNDER CONDITIONS ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: 20 PER CENT CUT IN PENSIONS ESTIA: A STRATEGIC SOLUTION FOR THE SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM ETHNOS: HARSH NEGOTIATIONS INSIDE AND OUTSIDE BORDERS Turkish Cypriot leader discusses compensations Estimating the total sum at around $40b, Akinci asks for help from the international community One of the most sensitive issues of the Cyprus problem has been raised by the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akinci. In his first live televised interview since the elections, Akinci discussed the progress made so far at the negotiations between the Greek Cypriot state and the Turkish Cypriot community. Although relations between the two sides have never been better, raising hopes for a mutually satisfactory solution that might put an end on decades of animosity, there are still matters of extreme sensitivity, such as political equality, power sharing and the issue of Greek properties in the northern part of the country, stolen from the Greek Cypriots after the Turkish invasion and the settlement of Turkish population. In his interview, the Turkish Cypriot leader estimated that total compensation for the Greek properties could amount to $40 billion. According to Akinci, it has been agreed that properties will belong to one of 22 categories, but work on the categories' criteria is still ongoing. He stated that through the proposed course of action, properties might be returned to their previous owners, "but not on a large scale", and said that his principle is for as few people as possible to be forced to leave their homes, as the pre-1974 status quo is unattainable. "In these 41 years life has changed significantly, both here and in the south," Akinci said. "If there is a belief that the people who lived here 41 years ago will be brought back en masse, that will not happen. It's not just about these people's lives; it's also about their children, who have started new lives." Akinci said that reports of agreement that legal owners of properties will have first say post-solution are false. "The owner will be the first to claim the property from the Property Commission within one year, saying ‘I want to live there, or be compensated, or exchange it with land elsewhere’," Akinci explained. "Then, the person living in said property will examine the situation. The owner will have the right to stake his claim first, but the person living there will also have rights. These matters have not yet been agreed - they are still under discussion." The property criteria should be clear, the Turkish Cypriot leader said, so that property commissions are able to close the issue quickly, adding that no one can be asked to leave without being offered alternative accommodation. According to a series of surveys done within the Greek Cypriots in the south, very few of them are willing to return to the north, which means that the Turkish Cypriot community will have to offer more compensation to them. With regard to funding for compensation, Akinci said the issue is in the international arena, expressing hope that the international community will help and noted that there are "positive messages" over this matter. A SOLUTION BY SPRINGTIME Appearing as a pragmatist willing to look into reason- able suggestions for a realistic solution, the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community admitted that the fact that Turkey is the only country to have recognised the illegal breakaway regime has not been helpful. Turkey is unable to support such recognition, said Akinci, citing sporting events as an example. "Even as it does not recognise the south, Turkey is unable to meet the obligations of non-recognition," he added. With negotiations continuing at the current pace, Akinci is optimistic that a solution by springtime could be possible. Source: Cyprus Mail Epiphany Day celebrated in Smyrni and Famagusta For the first time in 94 and 41 years respectively The international Greek Orthodox community rejoiced at the news that Epiphany Day was celebrated in two regions still bearing the wounds of decades-old conflict and violent deportation. The Holy Blessing of the Waters, one of the core ceremonies in the Christian Orthodox religion, took place in Izmir (Smyrna) and Famagusta for the first time since 1922 and 1974 respectively. The Greek Orthodox community of Izmir (which consists of about 300 Greeks, Russians, Georgians and other Orthodox ethnicities) attended the ceremony, celebrated by Father Kyrillos Sykis, in the church of Agia Fotini on the waterfront of the city, opposite the historical building of the old Greek consulate, after receiving permission from the Turkish authorities to perform the Diving for the Holy Cross ceremony on the local pier. It was the first time such an event took place, after the Asia Minor Catastrophe of 1922. EPIPHANY DAY IN FAMAGUSTA Of equal significance is the celebration of Epiphany Day by the Greek Cypriots on the northern side of the ethnically-divided country, for the first time since the Turkish invasion of 1974. Greek Cypriots have been permitted to cross to the north since 2003, but conducting events of a religious nature has required advanced permission. This year, for the first time since the war, Turkish Cypriot authorities approved the Epiphany celebrations to take place on a beach at Famagusta. "This is a very moving moment for me ... our presence here means we haven't forgotten, and we still believe one day we will return," said Greek Cypriot Philippos Yiapanis. One of hundreds present to observe the ritual, now aged 59, Mr Yiapanis was 17 when he left the area, living the bulk of his life in a divided country. The Christian Orthodox community gathered at the pier of Izmir. Hundreds gathered in what is now being referred to as a ghost town, with abandoned hotels and houses guarded by barbed wire, to observe the blessing of the waters. Some 15 young men took part in the tradition, diving into the cold waters in a bid to retrieve the blessed cross. While there are still issues to be resolved, Wednesday's celebrations have been seen as a positive reflection on the state of affairs as peace talks continue into 2016 between Cypriot leaders Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akinci.
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