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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 00-12-06

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] President briefed on EU Accession Partnership Agreement for Turkey
  • [02] Athens satisfied with text in EU-Turkey partnership agreement
  • [03] Bulgarian president says Athens talks "very substantive"
  • [04] NATO session confirms EU autonomy on European defense
  • [05] Greek prime minister, foreign minister discuss strategy in view of Nice summit
  • [06] Stephanopoulos inaugurates exhibition on Thrace
  • [07] Simitis defends gov't economic policies
  • [08] Council of Industry and Energy Ministers discusses unfair competition
  • [09] Portfolio investment firms show asset drop
  • [10] Central bank to release mandatory deposits
  • [11] Three Euro-MPs, two of them Greek, propose EU subsidies for plant-based cattle fodder
  • [12] Vast majority of Greek businesses use IT technology
  • [13] Athens' first tram lines due end-2003
  • [14] Greek stocks end lower on profit-taking
  • [15] Kyriakidis Marble buys producer in FYROM
  • [16] Venizelos reiterates call for the return of the Parthenon Marbles
  • [17] Interior minister announces new 'volunteering committee' at prize-giving event for distinguished volunteers
  • [18] Conference on Thessaloniki, Plovdiv historical common course on Wednesday
  • [19] UN envoy to return to Cyprus early next year
  • [20] UN chief recommends as "essential" the extension of UNFICYP's mandate
  • [21] Spokesman comments on EU-Turkey partnership agreement

  • [01] President briefed on EU Accession Partnership Agreement for Turkey

    Athens, 06/12/2000 (ANA)

    Prime minister Costas Simitis on Tuesday briefed President Costis Stephanopoulos on the text of the EU-Turkey partnership agreement agreed by EU foreign ministers the preceding day.

    The EU Council of Foreign Ministers-General Affairs meeting in Brussels on Monday approved the "EU Accession Partnership Agreement", which is a political and economic plan, or "roadmap" for Turkey to follow if it is to join the EU.

    The ministers also endorsed the 15-naton bloc's ambitious plan to admit a dozen new members during their last meeting before the December 7-9 summit in the French resort town of Nice, as well as a text on setting up permanent security and military structures under the EU's new common foreign and security policy.

    After his half-hour meeting with the President, Simitis told reporters that from a study of the partnership text it arose that Turkey must make every effort towards resolution of the Cyprus issue and must try to overcome its differences with other countries.

    The text, he added, provided that if Turkey failed to live up to its obligations, then the EU could stop allocating funding to the country.

    Simitis described the Accession Partnership Agreement as an "operational text" that sets out the road that must be followed in Turkey's relations with the EU and other countries.

    "We believe that, between the Helsinki agreement and the Partnership Agreement, a framework has been created that obliges Turkey to adapt to the international norms, to international law, and to develop good neighborly relations with all its neighbors," the premier said.

    He said that the partnership accord was "a further step forward from the Helsinki agreement", adding that "there are neither losers nor winners".

    [02] Athens satisfied with text in EU-Turkey partnership agreement

    Athens, 06/12/2000 (ANA)

    An initial deal on Monday regarding the crucial EU-Turkey partnership agreement continued to cause mostly positive reverberations among local and foreign political circles on Tuesday, the same day as Ankara's emergency talks with the IMF over a financial crisis in the neighboring country and a related multi-billion-dollar loan entered their "final phase".

    Immediately after the announcement by French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine that the EU's "15" member-states have tentatively approved of the text, Greek FM George Papandreou cited what he called a "historic moment" in Turkey's relations with the EU as well as with Greece.

    "There are no victors and vanquished, but partners who cooperate," he said, adding that the text on the partnership agreement should not only be accepted but the preconditions should also constitute an "acquired right" for Turkey as well to leading Ankara towards a "minor revolution" to which Athens could also contribute.

    On Tuesday, Cyprus' foreign minister appeared satisfied with the development, saying after the conclusion of a EU-Cyprus accession council meeting that the agreement fully reflects the Helsinki summit decisions.

    "Turkey's recent threats and efforts to delete references to the Cyprus problem from the political criteria chapter effectively proved" that it was much ado about nothing, Cypriot FM Ioannis Kasoulides said.

    He also stressed that any vague points regarding Turkey's interpretation of the "Lipponen letter" were completely dissolved by the text approved on Monday.

    Karamanlis: Conversely, main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis voiced his opposition to the approved text, saying it weakens the "deficient and vague Helsinki conditions, and rather than committing Turkey it invites that country to express its opinions as an equal member."

    The ND president also emphasized that what he termed as Turkey's aggressiveness increased after last December's Helsinki summit, while he added that "what's celebrated as conditions" in the end turned into objects of dialogue.

    Gov't spokesman: Greek government spokesman Dimitris Reppas, meanwhile, echoed statements by Papandreou and Kasoulides, stressing Athens' satisfaction with the text.

    He added that the agreement was both in the Union and Greece's interests, as well as those of Turkey.

    "It's in Turkey's interests, as far as it meets and adapts those items envisioned in the text..." he added.

    The agreement: The agreement reached during an EU foreign ministers council meeting has two references of direct interest to Greece -- The first concerns Turkey's short-term commitments and anticipates that in 2001 the neighboring country, in the framework of political dialogue with the Union, must back the UN chief's efforts for a solution to the protracted Cyprus problem. This reference is in a paragraph entitled "short-term commitments" and "strengthened political dialogue and political criteria."

    The second is included in a paragraph entitled "mid-term commitments" and "strengthened political dialogue and political criteria" and focuses on Turkey's commitment to resolve, in the medium term, its potential border differences with Greece in a peaceful way and based on decisions taken at the EU Helsinki summit, once again through resorting to the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

    On his part, Papandreou attributed the agreement reached concerning Turkey's degree of commitment in solving the Cyprus issue and Greek-Turkish differences to the "ingenuity" of the European Union's French presidency, which included "controversial" issues in short-term and mid-term criteria, thereby satisfying Athens' demand for commitments with a timetable.

    "The partnership relation, as a road map for Turkey's pre-accession course, constitutes a continuation and consequence of Helsinki," Papandreou said, adding that "a new era is also opening for Greek-Turkish relations" and the Cyprus issue.

    Yilmaz on Cyprus: Finally, Turkey Deputy PM Mesut Yilmaz reportedly told his party's parliament group of deputies that on Tuesday that "the Greek side must not even think that the Cyprus problem can be solved by Turkey's unilateral retreat."

    In an ANA dispatch from Ankara, the former Turkish FM also claimed that there are circles in "Turkey and in Europe that do not desire Turkey's EU accession... the (accession) procedure will be led to an impasse in the event that emotional reactions are used against the accession processes as a means of internal policy..." he claimed.

    In airing Ankara's standing threats over the Cyprus Republic's bright accession prospects, Yilmaz warned that "Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration must abandon the dream of a Greek Cypriot accession in the European Union ... before solving the Cyprus issue it is not possible for the island to accede as a unified entity in the EU."

    Papandreou telephone discussion with Cem: Foreign minister George Papandreou reaffirmed Greece's willingness to help neighboring Turkey in its prospects for EU membership and to provide know-how, in a late-night telephone discussion with his Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem, ministry officials said Tuesday in Athens.

    Papandreou spoke with Cem late Monday, after the EU Council of Foreign Ministers approved in Brussels the text of the EU Accession Partnership Agreement for Turkey.

    Papandreou reaffirmed Greece's "willingness to contribute in the best possible way to the new framework in EU-Turkish relations through enhanced cooperation", and also to provide know-how to the neighboring Balkan country.

    In that context, the next meeting of Greek and Turkish delegations will be held in the Turkish town of Antalya on December 18, with the ministry's general secretary for European Affairs Elias Plaskovitis heading the Greek delegation.

    Foreign ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis told a press briefing that Greece was "completely satisfied" with the result of the "difficult negotiations" among the 15-nation bloc's foreign ministers in Brussels.

    He said a "cycle" had been completed and a new one was commencing in EU-Turkey relations that would give Ankara all the prospects to face major issues and effect major changes internally.

    Beglitis further noted that the conclusions of the EU Helsinki summit had "political strength" and concerned not only Turkey but all the EU candidate countries, while the political agreement reached by the foreign ministers' council on Monday -- at their final session before the December 17 summit in Nice -- would be formally adopted at the next ministerial council following approval in early January by the European Parliament.

    [03] Bulgarian president says Athens talks "very substantive"

    SOFIA, 06/12/2000 (ANA - B. Borisov)

    Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov on Tuesday and said talks with Greek political leaders were "very friendly, open and very substantive," upon his arrival here, following a two-day visit to Greece, at the invitation of his Greek counterpart Kostis Stephanopoulos.

    "We never forget the fact that Greece is our sole neighboring member-state of the European Union and NATO. This alone is enough to determine our relations as strategic relations," Stoyanov told the Athens News Agency (ANA).

    "Relations with a European model" exist between the two neighboring countries, he said, adding that frequent contacts between senior political and government officials, as well as experts, of the two countries have become a daily phenomenon at all levels.

    "It is about frequent and practical contacts where protocol gives way to essence," Stoyanov said on arrival at Sofia airport.

    A meeting of relevant officials from Greece, Bulgaria and Russia will be held in Athens on December 20-21, during which the entire spectrum of issues concerning the further course of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline will be examined.

    A car belonging to the "European Air Transport" (EAT) company driving on the tarmac at the eastern airport in Athens crashed into a wing of the aircraft which had brought Stoyanov to Athens, causing slight damage to the aircraft which will be repaired by Olympic Airways.

    President Stoyanov's program was not affected and he left with another aircraft belonging to the same company.

    [04] NATO session confirms EU autonomy on European defense

    BRUSSELS, 06/12/2000 (ANA - Y. Zitouniati)

    NATO's ministerial session convened here on Tuesday and confirmed the European Union's autonomy regarding European defense and the taking of decisions exclusively by its members.

    Turkey is obtrusively raising again the issue of NATO member-states, which are not EU, member-states participating in decisions on European defense, although the question is considered "settled" at European level.

    The issue was handled by the alliance's Defense Planning Committee where, a proposal by Greece's ambassador at NATO Vassilis Kaskarelis, to "respect for the autonomy of decisions taken by NATO and EU" was included in the final communique, while there was a special provision for "privileged briefing for certain countries afterwards", primarily when NATO infrastructures will be used for possible EU operations.

    NATO's defense ministers discussed the modernization of allied armaments to enable NATO to meet its new role and needs, but ascertained that "a great deal of time will be required" due to economic difficulties faced by member-states. However, they noted that more and more countries are increasing their defense expenditures.

    Greek National Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said Greece, which has the "unfavorable privilege" of having 2.5 times more defense expenditures than NATO member-states' average, is acquiring a comparative advantage highlighting it as a decisive factor.

    On the other hand, US Defense Secretary William Cohen ex-pressed concern over the creation of a European military infra-structure, saying that "NATO could become a remnant of the past if the '15' do not develop open and transparent relations with it in the framework of the new common defense policy."

    [05] Greek prime minister, foreign minister discuss strategy in view of Nice summit

    Athens, 06/12/2000 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis met Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Alternate Foreign Minister Elisavet Papazoi on Tuesday to discuss Greece's positions at the upcoming EU Summit in Nice.

    The meeting focused on the completion of negotiations to revise the Amsterdam Treaty.

    Also present at the meeting was Greece's representative at the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) and members of the premier's staff.

    In statements afterward, Papandreou underlined that Greece's goal was that both itself and the EU should emerge stronger from the union's institutional reforms.

    [06] Stephanopoulos inaugurates exhibition on Thrace

    Athens, 06/12/2000 (ANA)

    President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos on Tuesday inaugurated the "Thrace 2000: 80 years of incorporation into Greece" at the Eleftherios Venizelos hall of the Parliament building.

    The exhibition showcases items borrowed from museums and personals collections, providing the visitor with a historical promenade of the region of Thrace since the ancient times, commemorating the region's incorporation into Greece.

    [07] Simitis defends gov't economic policies

    Athens, 06/12/2000 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Tuesday rebutted criticism of the government's policies, following the country's accession to the Economic Monetary Union and said that Greece was in the throes of an economic boom.

    Addressing a Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce conference, he outlined the economic indicators, which have improved over the past few years, stressing that this success was not achieved at the expense of public investment in infrastructure or in sensitive social sectors.

    He pointed out the recent positive reports on the Greek economy, published by the European Commission, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Inter-national Monetary Fund (IMF), saying that they have never reported such a positive outlook for the Greek economy.

    He added that the government's economic policy has long-term goals and is ambitious, stable and is not affected by changing conditions.

    "We should stop judging the development of the economy based on the mentality of a gambler ... our guide should not be the everyday conditions, but our aims," Simitis said.

    He rebutted criticism from social groups, the opposition and from within the ruling PASOK party cadres, saying that there will not be a collapse of the Greek economy once Greece enters the EMU.

    Simitis also accused his critics, saying that social partners were not active, but considered them selves taken care off, thus they did not want the changes.

    In closing his remarks he called for a change in attitudes, aiming at long term stability via the establishment of priorities that would create "those conditions, which will aid the real convergence (with the rest of the European Union) on a national, regional and social levels".

    Inner cabinet debates economic policy: Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Tuesday chaired a meeting of the inner cabinet to discuss the government's economic policy.

    Simitis reportedly underlined the importance of accelerating preparations for the absorption of European Union funds under the third Community Support Framework.

    He also told ministers that the pace of privatization and structural change was according to schedule.

    [08] Council of Industry and Energy Ministers discusses unfair competition

    BRUSSELS, 06/12/2000 (ANA - V. Demiris)

    The Council of Industry and Energy Ministers convened here on Tuesday and discussed support for the European Union's shipyards and the policy of unfair competition applied by South Korea. Greece's positions were set out by Development Minister Nikos Christodoulakis and industry secretary general Yiannis Kalogirou.

    It was agreed that if an agreement were not reached until May 2001, the Council would examine the creation of a suitable apparatus to support the EU's shipbuilding industries, which are being harmed by the unfair practice of Korean shipyards.

    The Council also ratified the European Commission's proposal on decentralizing the system of implementing EU competition rules for businesses with the creation of a network, which will also involve national authorities.

    Christodoulakis said Greece supports the need for modernizing rules and coordinating their implementation, adding that the recent upgrade and increase in the duties of the Greek Competition Committee finds the country ready to implement the system of the decentralized application of competition rules for businesses.

    In a discussion on the oil crisis, Christodoulakis stressed the need for greater activation by the EU in adopting a policy, which will safeguard greater stability in the oil market and more competitive conditions of operation for the fuel market and added that the EU should have direct dialogue with oil-producing countries.

    Christodoulakis also briefed the Council on important steps taken in Greece in the direction of deregulating the electric power market, the promotion of natural gas and the development of the regional energy market with a Balkan dimension.

    In a meeting he had with Transport and Energy Commissioner Loyola de Palazio, latest developments in the deregulation of the energy market and the new regulation on licenses for the production and procurement of electric power were examined.

    [09] Portfolio investment firms show asset drop

    Athens, 06/12/2000 (ANA)

    The country's 17 portfolio investment firms showed a decline in their net asset value of 16 billion drachmas to 980 billion drachmas on December 1 from 996 billion drachmas on November 17, the Union of Institutional Investors said on Tuesday.

    Of all the firms, six showed a premium and the remainder a discount, the union said in a statement.

    [10] Central bank to release mandatory deposits

    Athens, 06/12/2000 (ANA)

    The Bank of Greece, or central bank, on Tuesday announced that it would gradually release liquidity of 5-6 billion US dollars (around 2.4 trillion drachmas) by March 2002.

    It said in a statement that the amount corresponded to the mandatory deposits held by the central bank, placed there by commercial banks, as a proportion of their drachma deposits.

    The move is an adaptation to monetary policy in the euro zone, which Greece joins on January 1, 2001.

    Under the new ruling, in effect from Tuesday, commercial banks will only have to deposit 2.0 percent of total deposits in euros or euro-zone currencies, as they are no longer classed as foreign currency.

    [11] Three Euro-MPs, two of them Greek, propose EU subsidies for plant-based cattle fodder

    BRUSSELS, 06/12/2000 (ANA - V. Demiris)

    A proposal that the European Union subsidies the cultivation of crops for use as animal feed, in view of the ban on feeds made of animal by-products, was presented to the European Commission and the EU agriculture ministers' council on Tuesday by two Greek Euro-MPs belonging to PASOK.

    The two Euro-MPs, Meni Malliori and Yiannis Souladakis, couched the proposal in the form of a question to the two bodies, which is also signed by Europarliament member from Portugal.

    Pointing out that 'mad cow' disease, or BSE, had brought the issue of the quality and composition of cattle feed in Europe into the spotlight, they stressed that the gradual shift in the composition of animal feed from plant-based to meat-based products has created hazards for the health of Europe's citizens.

    They ask that the diet of Europe's cattle be changed despite the conflicting interests of the animal-feed industry, and therefore call on the ministers' council and the Commission whether they are considering subsidies for the cultivation of fodder crops.

    [12] Vast majority of Greek businesses use IT technology

    Athens, 06/12/2000 (ANA)

    A vast majority of Greek businesses use the latest information technology and communication systems in managing their businesses, a survey by the Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) showed on Tuesday.

    Presenting the survey, in the second day of a conference on the Greek economy in Athens, SEB's chairman Eleftherios Antonakopoulos said that 86 percent of surveyed Greek companies said they used new IT and communication technologies, while more than 70 percent used new technology to increase productivity.

    An 83 percent of businesses were educating their staff in new technologies and another 64 percent have implemented restructuring plans to achieve speedier decision-making.

    "These figures show that a significant part of Greece's private sector has acknowledged the demands created by increased competition," Antonakopoulos said.

    "Greek businesses need a strong and competitive economy to promote more drastic restructuring programs," he noted.

    Addressing the conference, Yiannis Kapralos, president in the Union of Industry and Commerce Chambers of Athens, said that small- and medium-sized enterprises were playing an equally important role in the country's economic activity and urged the state to take further supportive measures.

    Kapralos urged for the immediate increase in productivity of manufacturing companies and export-boosting measures.

    Michael Cleverley, charge d' affair in the US embassy in Greece, addressing the conference said that healthy competition and good economic relations between the US and Europe would benefit the world economy.

    "We expect prosperity and peace from both sides," he said.

    "Transatlantic economic relations are vital. American investments in Europe are growing at an annual rate of 10 percent, which European companies have invested in 41 of the total 50 states in the US. Total trade and investment between the US and Europe exceed one trillion dollars," Cleverley said.

    He said that trade relations between Greece and the United States were also vital. "Bilateral trade has increased in 2000, a trend likely to accelerate following National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou's economic measures, announced on Monday," Cleverley said.

    [13] Athens' first tram lines due end-2003

    Athens, 06/12/2000 (ANA)

    Athens expects to introduce its first two tramlines linking the city center with the coastal suburbs of Neo Faliro and Glyfada in late 2003, transport and communications minister Christos Verelis said Tuesday.

    The first two lines, linking Zappeion off Syntagma Square with the suburbs of Neo Faliro and Glyfada will commence operation at the end of 2003, provided the relevant timetables were adhered to, Verelis told a presentation at the Zappeion Hall.

    Verelis said that the trams, the completion of the Athens Metro, and the introduction of additional bus lines, would substantially facilitate commuting in the Greek capital.

    According to data presented by Athens Polytechnic University professor Antonis Stathopoulos, an estimated 1,500-5,000 commuters would be served per hour and per each direction by the trams, while double trams would be placed on routes showing excessive demand.

    He said that during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, for example, double trams capable of carrying 10,000 passengers per hour per each direction could be placed on the lines.

    The project is estimated to cost 100 billion dr., of which the 60 billion dr. required to lay the tram lines had already been secured from the state budget and the Third Community Support Framework (CSF).

    The rest of the funds would come from the private sector, and would be used to purchase the trams.

    The planning and construction of the project will be undertaken by a subsidiary of Attiko Metro company, which manages the Athens Metro, due to the experience it has acquired from the operation of the Metro.

    [14] Greek stocks end lower on profit-taking

    Athens, 06/12/2000 (ANA)

    A wave of profit taking pushed equity prices lower on the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, reversing a four-day rally, which pushed the general index 10.20 percent higher.

    Traders said market sentiment remained fragile because of worries over the course of inflation and the outlook of international bourses.

    The general index ended at 3,531.07 points, off 0.29 percent, with turnover a moderate 88.63 billion drachmas.

    The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks fell 0.06 percent to 2,009.28 points, and the FTSE/ASE 40 index dropped 2.32 percent to 428.59 points.

    Sector indices ended as follows: Banks: 7,407.57 +0.39% Leasing: 671.79 -5.50% Insurance: 1,650.82 +0.63% Investment: 1,344.92 +1.13% Construction: 1,406.88 -3.95% Industrials: 2,166.97 -0.47% Miscellaneous: 3,174.71 -2.65% Holding: 4,252.54 -1.96%

    The parallel market index for smaller capitalization stocks ended 3.42 percent lower at 367.27 points.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 271 to 74 with another 12 issues unchanged.

    National Bank, Hellenic Bottling, Alpha Bank, Commercial Bank and Piraeus Bank were the most heavily traded stocks.

    Leading shares' closing prices (in Drs): National Bank: 13,900 Alpha Bank: 12,565 Commercial Bank: 18,000 Eurobank: 9,495 Piraeus Bank: 5,725 Lambrakis Press: 5,700 Altec: 3,230 Titan Cement (c): 4,660 Hellenic Telecoms: 5,740 Panafon: 2,925 Hellenic Petroleum: 3,770 Attica Enterprises: 3,090 Intracom: 8,900 Viohalco: 4,505 Hellenic Bottling: 5,860

    Equity futures end mixed, tracking Athens bourse: Equity futures traded on the Athens Derivatives Ex-change finished mixed on Tuesday, in line with the bourse indices on which they are based.

    The FTSE/ASE 20 index closed 0.06 percent down, and the FTSE/ASE 40 ended 2.32 percent higher.

    Turnover was 26.0 billion drachmas.

    A total of 6,738 contracts were traded on the FTSE/ASE 20 with turnover at 21.5 billion drachmas.

    On the FTSE/ASE 40 index, 2,533 contracts changed hands on turnover of 4.4 billion drachmas.

    Bond prices close down in brisk trade: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market on Tuesday finished lower in light to heavy trade.

    The Greek benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 5.650 percent from 5.615 percent in the previous session.

    The Greek paper's yield spread over German bunds was 68 basis points from 67 basis points a day earlier.

    Turnover through the central bank's electronic system totalled 122 billion drachmas from 260 billion drachmas in the session before.

    Sell orders accounted for around 86 billion drachmas of trade.

    Drachma/dollar rate eases back a little: The drachma eased slightly against the US dollar in the domestic foreign exchange market following a decline in the euro/dollar rate in international markets on Tuesday.

    The Greek currency fell to 386.300 drachmas per US dollar at the day's fixing, from 383.580 on Monday.

    The drachmas moved closer to its central parity against the euro currency at 340.640 drachmas per euro.

    [15] Kyriakidis Marble buys producer in FYROM

    Athens, 06/12/2000 (ANA)

    FHL Kyriakidis Marble & Granite announced on Tuesday that it had acquired 90 percent of Mermeren Kombinat, a marble manufacturer in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Yugoslavia.

    The share buyout for 3.5 billion drachmas was completed last week under supervision of FYROM's regulatory stock market authorities, Kyriakidis said in a statement.

    It formerly owned 20 percent of the company, which is located in Prilep.

    [16] Venizelos reiterates call for the return of the Parthenon Marbles

    Athens, 06/12/2000 (ANA)

    Greek Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Tuesday called once again for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece in light of the announced renovation of the British Museum.

    "The renovation of a great museum, such as the British Museum, is an important event and we welcome it, but of greater importance would be the symbolic and ideological renovation of the British Museum and this could only be done via the grand gesture of the return of the Parthenon Marbles to their natural place, that is Athens, in the new museum of Acropolis, so as to reconstitute the amputated monument," Venizelos said.

    [17] Interior minister announces new 'volunteering committee' at prize-giving event for distinguished volunteers

    Athens, 06/12/2000 (ANA)

    Interior Minister Vasso Papandreou announced on Tuesday that the government would create a National Committee for Volunteer issues, in view of the official declaration of 2001 by the UN as Volunteering Year.

    Speaking at an awards ceremony for Greek volunteer organizations being held in Athens, she said that participation in the committee would be open to all those who wanted to contribute, such as ministries, NGO's, voluntary associations and others. According to Papandreou, it already had two secretariats, one governmental and the other non-governmental, that cooperated with the local UN office and whose aim was to start up initiatives for volunteering and prepare a legislative framework.

    Regarding volunteering in Greece, the minister quoted a survey by the Citizens Advice Bureau, which showed that only 3.8 per cent of Greek households are involved in some kind of volunteer organization and 66.4 per cent were not informed on these issues. Education Minister Petros Efthymiou, who was also present, said that Greek citizens were much less involved in volunteering than their western European counterparts.

    Both ministers and other government officials were speaking at a prize-giving ceremony for distinguished volunteer organizations held this afternoon at the Grande Bretagne Hotel in Athens. The first prize was awarded to a Greek-American groups of volunteers working with Greek children receiving treatment at a Boston children's hospital, while the second was given to a blood-donor's group in Aetoloakarnania.

    The states Hellenic Radio organization and the Health and Welfare ministry organized the award ceremony.

    [18] Conference on Thessaloniki, Plovdiv historical common course on Wednesday

    Athens, 06/12/2000 (ANA)

    Thessaloniki and Plovdiv will be the focus of a conference of more than 50 scientists from Greece and Bulgaria scheduled to begin on Wednesday in Thessaloniki.

    The "Thessaloniki-Plovdiv on parallel courses 18th-20th centuries" conference will focus on the similarities of the two cities in architecture, culture and religion over time.

    The city of Plovdiv was first established in the 12th century BC and has been inhabited continually by Greeks up to the early 20th century, its historical course has been similar to that of Thessaloniki.

    [19] UN envoy to return to Cyprus early next year

    NICOSIA, 06/12/2000 (CNA/ANA)

    Alvaro de Soto, the UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Cyprus, told a press conference here on Tuesday he would be returning to the island early in the new year for consultations with the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides in a bid to prepare the resumption of proximity talks.

    De Soto, speaking after separate meetings with President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, said the invitation to talks still stands and noted that he could not foresee any change in the parameters within which the UN-led talks are being conducted.

    The UN top envoy on Cyprus also expressed fundamental disagreement with some remarks Denktash has made on oral remarks UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan made to the two sides in the latest round of talks in November.

    He said he did not come to Cyprus with high expectations but instead to "take the pulse of where the parties are just now" and cautioned against hopes of major developments every time he visits the island, trips which would be intensified in the future.

    Describing his discussions as "thorough", he said these covered "the state of play and the way ahead", noting that his interlocutors are understandably preoccupied with other matters, which though not part of the negotiations as such, nevertheless have a bearing on them.

    Reiterating Annan's invitation to talks, he said he could not announce a precise date and none of the two parties have responded to the invitation, nor did he seek to get a reply.

    "They (the parties) must agree, he (Annan) can only assist," in the effort to reach a comprehensive settlement, de Soto said very clearly, having explained again that Annan's oral remarks were not a proposal but his own vision of issues to be discussed for a fair compromise solution.

    Asked if the UN would make such moves as to accommodate Denktash's demands for talks between "two states", de Soto replied "the talks are convened within a certain framework laid down in November last year."

    "I cannot foresee a variation as to those parameters," he said, adding that both parties are well aware of the procedure and the framework of the talks and that he is aware of Denktash's misgivings on this.

    He said Denktash had encouraged him to return to the island frequently and in this sense consultations would continue, not only here but also in Turkey.

    Replying to questions, he said he came here to "consult with the parties where we stand and how we can move ahead, to take the pulse of where the parties are just now, I did not come here with high expectations" and warned that one should not expect major developments or sensational announcements by him whenever he visits.

    Asked if there would be increased European Union involvement, de Soto was clear that Turkey's accession and other matters before the EU "are the responsibility of the EU and talks carried out under the auspices of the Secretary-General are conducted by the UN."

    Alvaro de Soto said it was possible to find a solution through proximity talks, as it has happened with other conflicts, and repeated that "face-to-face talks do not seem to be in the cards at this moment."

    Questioned on the different strategic objectives of the two sides, he expressed hope that the two shared the goal of finding a comprehensive settlement.

    The Greek Cypriot side, in line with UN resolutions, is seeking to establish a bicommunal, bizonal federation but the Turkish Cypriot side insists on a confederation of two separate states.

    Commenting on Denktash's approach to Annan's oral remarks, he said this was part of his discussions with Denktash and added "I have expressed to him my fundamental disagreement with his characterization of some of the questions that are addressed in the oral remarks," but would not elaborate.

    De Soto was critical once more about leaks to the press of UN non-papers, which he said hampered the peace effort and were a bad development but he stopped short of calling those who leak papers "saboteurs", even though as he admitted the word did spring to mind.

    The new UN effort for a settlement in Cyprus opened in December last year and aims at reaching a comprehensive agreement to end the divide on the island since Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 percent of its territory in 1974.

    [20] UN chief recommends as "essential" the extension of UNFICYP's mandate

    NICOSIA, 06/12/2000 (CNA/ANA)

    UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has said his urgent call to the Turkish Cypriot side and the Turkish forces to restore the military status quo ante at the village of Strovilia, on the south east, has not been heeded so far, noting at the same time that the impact of restrictions imposed by the Turkish Cypriots on UN peacekeeping forces in Cyprus (UNFICYP) movement has been significant.

    Annan, in his report on the UN operations in Cyprus for the past six months, acknowledges unilateral measures the Greek Cypriot side has taken in connection with the issue of missing persons, and notes the exhumations and identification of remains.

    The UN chief recommends as "essential" the extension of UNFICYP's mandate but draws attention to the shortfall in the funding of the force.

    The report, released on Tuesday, notes increased air violations by the Turkish military and a drop in military and civilian aircraft violations by the Greek Cypriot side.

    "The situation along the ceasefire lines in Cyprus has remained generally stable. However, the conditions in which UNFICYP operates have become more difficult, owing to the restrictions imposed on it by the Turkish Cypriot authorities and the Turkish forces," the five-page report said in the seventh part under the title "Observations".

    "My urgent call to rescind the restrictions and to restore the military status quo ante at Strovilia has not, so far, met with a positive response," he says.

    He therefore considers the presence of UNFICYP "essential for the maintenance of the ceasefire on the island" and recommends that the Security Council extends the mandate of the force for a further period of six months until 15 June 2001.

    "I am consulting with the parties about the extension and shall inform the Council in due course," he adds.

    On the financial predicament of the force, he says unpaid assessments amount to some 22,5 million dollars, a sum that represents money owed to the member states that contribute the troops who make up the 1.210 strong force.

    In the part on the question of missing persons, Annan notes the work done by the first assistant to the third member of the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) with the two sides to overcome existing obstacles and enable the Committee to reach binding decisions and resume its activities.

    He said the first assistant was at the disposal of both sides to assist them as necessary with the implementation of the July 31 1997 agreement, which he describes as "an important guarantee for the families of the missing persons."

    "The two sides which are solely responsible for its implementation in 1998 provided each other with information already at their disposal on the location of graves of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot missing persons," the report adds.

    Annan makes a special reference to the process of exhumation and identification of remains, unearthed in the summer of 1999 from two cemeteries near Nicosia, a move initiated by the government of the Republic.

    "In addition to other unilateral measures, the Greek Cypriot side has undertaken exhumations as well as identification of remains," the Secretary General says, adding that the two sides have not yet been able to work out ad hoc arrangements for the exchange of the remains.

    On the situation in Strovilia, he says the Turkish forces and Turkish Cypriot security forces moved forward of their ceasefire line and have since controlled access of UNFICYP to its post in this small hamlet, inhabited by Greek Cypriots.

    The significant impact of restrictions in the movement of UNFICYP means much longer trips and long detours, the report reads, adding that "the operational effectiveness of UNFICYP has suffered."

    The report notes also the imposing of mandatory additional insurance for UN vehicles and the requirement to pay for electricity and other utilities used by the force.

    The status quo in the fenced area of Varosha, on the east, continued to change, Annan says, stressing that he continues to hold the government of Turkey responsible for maintaining the status quo in Varosha.

    The report notes the frequent crossings of the maritime security line by Greek Cypriot fishing and tourist boats, in the eastern part of the island.

    It also says UNFICYP is aware "of some new acquisitions and replacement of older equipment during the period" in the paragraph about armaments on the island.

    Annan notes increased contacts between the two communities, saying that more than 30 events were held in the period under review in the buffer zone.

    On his good offices mission, Annan outlines developments during the proximity talks, conducted by his Special Adviser Alvaro de Soto and notes the invitation he has already extended to the two sides for further talks in late January.

    [21] Spokesman comments on EU-Turkey partnership agreement

    NICOSIA, 06/12/2000 (CNA/ANA)

    The text of Turkey's partnership agreement with the European Union (EU) is a very important tool which would enable the government to monitor Ankara's moves with regard to Cyprus and demand from Turkey as much cooperation as possible with the UN in their attempts to find a comprehensive settlement, government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said here on Tuesday.

    "Should Turkey fail to meet the terms of the agreement, it will find itself in conflict with it and will have to bear the consequences", he said, adding that "for the first time Turkey is faced with dilemmas and can no longer handle matters at will".

    The EU-Turkey agreement sets out terms for Turkey, in the context of the political dialogue, to strongly support UN efforts for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus question.

    The new UN effort for a settlement in Cyprus opened in December last year and aims at reaching a comprehensive agreement to end the divide on the island since Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 percent of its territory in 1974.

    Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot side have said they back the UN latest initiative to find a settlement but announced Monday that the process of proximity talks had run its course and come to an end. Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash is seeking recognition of his puppet regime in Turkish occupied Cyprus before he returns to the negotiating table.

    "I would like to point out that the provision relating to Turkey's obligations as far as Cyprus is concerned are included in Ankara's short-term obligations", Papapetrou said, noting that Turkish moves to avert any reference to Cyprus did not bear fruit.

    He said the text of the agreement is neither the best possible document nor the ideal one but explained that "this process is being used as a catalyst that can create a momentum towards a settlement in Cyprus".

    "This is the first time EU decisions, which place Turkey before dilemmas (Helsinki), become official in a practical manner, outlining a time table and with the consent of Ankara, the first time ever", the spokesman said.

    The spokesman was referring to the EU summit conclusions in December last year in Helsinki when Turkey was formally declared an EU candidate country but was told to put its house in order, resolve border disputes and contribute towards a Cyprus settlement.

    The Helsinki decisions have now multiplied, are more specific and have a time limit, he said, noting though that the Cyprus reference is only one of many relating to Turkey's obligations.

    "If Turkey fulfills its promises and cooperates to carry out what the agreement says, then we shall be dealing with a different Turkey, which unquestionably will be an easier factor to deal with when it comes to the solution of the Cyprus issue", Papapetrou said.

    Commenting on the reaction of the Turkish side to the agreement, the spokesman said it has "every reason to distort the text of the agreement and say it does not set out Ankara's obligations".

    "Such an interpretation of the agreement would facilitate Turkey to slip away from its obligations, especially if this kind of interpretation comes from us", Papapetrou added.

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