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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 00-12-08

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM Simitis hails decision for inclusion of Balkan and European Economic Zone countries in European conference
  • [02] Greece supports the speedy accession of candidates to EU
  • [03] European Conference discusses Turkey's EU prospects
  • [04] Interior minister, Athens mayor and ATHOC chairwoman address seminar on 2004 Olympics and local communities
  • [05] Phanar says the Ecumenical Patriarch is not planning to visit Skopje or meet the Pope
  • [06] Public order minister, UK ambassador to attend memorial service for slain British military attache
  • [07] Defense minister to attend event for addition of new training planes to Greek Air Force
  • [08] Development minister says the negative international conjuncture will not stop Greek economy
  • [09] Merchant marine minister discusses with Syrian counterpart transport issues
  • [10] Unions call Thursday strike a success
  • [11] Commercial Bank transfers 6.7 per cent of shares to Credit Agricole on ASE
  • [12] Lavipharm group buys out 30 percent of Phasex company's share capital
  • [13] Athens bourse absorbs supply to end 0.22 per cent higher
  • [14] District attorney asks for the conviction of air-traffic controllers accused of having caused air accident
  • [15] Dozens of homes, shops and schools flooded by torrential rains on Crete
  • [16] Poetry night on work of Constantine Cavafy organized by Greek Institute of Culture in US
  • [17] President Clerides underlines importance of conclusion of Intergovernmental Conference

  • [01] PM Simitis hails decision for inclusion of Balkan and European Economic Zone countries in European conference

    NICE, 08/12/2000 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis / V. Demiris)

    European Union leaders decided, during their afternoon session here on Thursday, that the European conference, in the framework of which EU member-states and candidates countries deliberate, should develop and expand.

    Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, speaking at a press conference, hailed the decision and, primarily, the fact that Balkan countries and countries of the so-called European Economic zone will participate in the European conference from now on.

    "It is an important event and a new period of continuous discussion with these countries is starting," he said, adding that for the first time all European countries will discuss political problems and will develop forms of cooperation in a unified framework.

    Referring to the issue of the candidacy of Cyprus, Simitis said Cyprus fulfills all preconditions for its accession to the EU and that it is in the top rank of candidate countries. He added that all the preconditions exist now for Cyprus' speedy accession to the EU.

    Commenting on the presence of Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit in Nice, where he participated in the European conference, Simitis expressed the hope that Turkey will show a constructive stance and will cooperate in the framework set by its partnership agreement with the EU.

    He said that despite the skirmishes of the past, Turkey ultimately accepted the text of the partnership agreement, adding that without the possibility of skirmishes taking place in the future being ruled out, what matters is the existence of constructive cooperation and dialogue.

    Simitis also focused on other issues preoccupying the EU member-states, starting with the human rights charter signed in Nice on Thursday, saying that Greece wanted, and will pursue in the future as well, the inclusion of the human rights charter in EU treaties to enable it to acquire a legal character and not constitute a political commitment alone.

    He underlined the importance of the Social Agenda, which the EU member-states agreed to on Thursday, saying that the issues of employment, social cohesion and vocational training top EU interest. He further said that the member-states agreed to achieve certain targets and that Greece intends to make all the necessary efforts.

    Issues concerning consumer protection, and the issue of the "mad cow" disease in particular, were also discussed during Thursday's session.

    Simitis said Greece, as well as the other member-states, agrees that the temporary (for six months) ban on animal feed decided by agriculture ministers on Monday, should be in effect indefinitely.

    On the question of convening a new intergovern-mental conference in 2004, when issues remaining unresolved after the Nice summit will be examined, Simitis said Greece is in favor, but believes that the conditions and terms under which this conference will take place should be examined.

    [02] Greece supports the speedy accession of candidates to EU

    NICE, 08/12/2000 (ANA - S. Sideris)

    Greece supports the speedy accession to the European Union of those candidate member-states that have assimilated the principles and rules of the Union, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said on Friday.

    Papandreou's statements came after the meeting of the European Conference of the Union member-states and the 13 candidate member-states leaderships, where Germany and Italy proposed that a new European Conference begin at 2004.

    Papandreou noted that this proposal raised concern among the leaders of the 13 candidate member-states, since it could mean the postponement of their accession to the Union.

    On her part, Alternate Foreign Minister Elizabeth Papazoi, who also participated in the Conference, said that the candidate member-states argue that there should not be additional terms for their accession to the EU during a new Intergovernmental Conference and that they should also be called upon to formulate the agenda of such a conference.

    Regarding Cyprus, a candidate member-state, Papandreou said that the island republic is the most advanced of all other candidates for accession to the Union, adding that the opinions of the candidates would be heard and taken into account.

    He clarified that the call for a new Intergovernmental Conference was not connected with the accession of new countries, adding, however, that Balkan countries that have signed association agreements with the Union, such as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), should be included in the European Conference.

    According to reports, the Union will decide on the timetable for candidate member-states' accession to the Union and will release relevant information at the end of the Summit, in the early hours of Sunday.

    [03] European Conference discusses Turkey's EU prospects

    NICE, 08/12/2000 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)

    The European conference, which comprises the 15 European Union member-states, the 13 candidate countries and Switzerland with observer status, was held in Nice on Thursday, with the participation of Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit.

    Ecevit, visibly tired, gave no press conference but preferred to speak exclusively to Turkish journalists in a downtown hotel in Nice where the Turkish delegation is staying.

    Turkey's relations with the EU are not at the best possible level and this was indicated by two developments taking place on Wednesday.

    The first development was a categorical denial by French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine who reportedly, in an interview with the Turkish economic newspaper "Dunia" doubted if and to what degree a solution to the Cyprus issue and the settlement of Greek-Turkish differences are linked with Turkey's accession course to the EU. French diplomacy was pressured by Greece on Wednesday to clarify the French minister's statement and the French embassy in Ankara issued an announcement on Thursday stressing that the French minister never gave such an interview.

    The embassy's announcement said that the text of the EU-Turkey partnership agreement, adopted in Brussels on Monday, sets the Cyprus issue and a solution to Greek-Turkish differences in the front line regarding EU interest, as did the EU Helsinki summit.

    Turkey also experienced another unpleasant surprise from the French National Assembly's Foreign Relations Committee President, Socialist Deputy Francois Loncle. In an announcement issued in Paris on Thursday, Loncle terms Turkey's presence at the Nice summit hypocrisy, adding that the Foreign Relations Committee will reconsider the issue of Turkey's candidacy.

    In a statement in Nice on the issue of Cyprus and Turkey, EU Commissioner responsible for enlargement Gunter Verheugen said the presence of Turkey in Nice was a "positive event", adding that it is up to Turkey to take all necessary measures to enable it to join the EU at some time.

    Verheugen said this prospect is quite distant and that Turkey should take many important steps to be able sometime to start substantive negotiations for EU accession.

    Referring to Cyprus, the German Commissioner appeared optimistic that despite recent statements by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash (he described proximity talks "a waste of time") he will ultimately participate in proximity talks.

    Verheugen also said accession negotiations between the EU and Cyprus are proceeding very satisfactorily, adding that if they continue at the same rate they will be completed by 2002.

    He said that if the political problem of Cyprus is not solved by then all those who "are currently dragging their feet in finding a solution to the Cyprus issue will regret it". He further said that if the Cyprus issue has not been resolved by then, he will propose Cyprus' accession to the EU.

    Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides also held a bilateral meeting with Commission President Romano Prodi in Nice on Thursday. The meeting was held in a very positive climate.

    European institutions should maintain balance, Greek main opposition leader says: The European Peoples' Party (EPP) is in support of the institutional balance between small and big European Union member-states, Greek main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Costas Karamanlis said on Thursday.

    Karamanlis, who was participating at the EPP's summit in Nice, France, said "the EPP supports the maintenance of institutional balance between the smaller and bigger countries, an issue of great importance for Greece, as well as the other small countries."

    "There should be a result in Nice. At long last, the political leaderships of Europe should move with greater decisiveness toward the European unification course, that is the political unification," Karamanlis added.

    "The Greek citizens should feel safe, as every other European citizen. The borders of Greece should be jointly protected. This means that the EU should show substantial and not obligatory solidarity and should not equalize and maintain equal distance between a member-state and a candidate member-state," he added.

    Karamanlis is also scheduled to visit Cyprus next Thursday, for a one-day visit, and meet with the island republic's President Glafcos Clerides.

    [04] Interior minister, Athens mayor and ATHOC chairwoman address seminar on 2004 Olympics and local communities

    Athens, 08/12/2000 (ANA)

    Interior Minister Vasso Papandreou and Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos were both guest speakers at a seminar organized by the Maroussi municipality on Thursday, focusing on "The Olympic Games and Local Communities" that was also attending by Athens 2004 Olympics Organizing Committee (ATHOC) chairwoman Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki.

    In her address, Papandreou said that 2004 Olympics were a great challenge for a country like Greece, the smallest-ever country to undertake to organize Olympic Games.

    While outlining the benefits that would accrue from public works related to the Games, she stressed the need for unity and cooperation in successfully carrying off the Games' organization.

    Avramopoulos was more critical in his speech, noting the serious problems that still plagued the capital and reduced quality of life and the delays in improving these. He also charged that local government had not been involved, unlike in other European countries.

    The important role of local communities was stressed by ATHOC's chairwoman, who said that the Olympic Games demanded widespread mobilization on all levels, including that of local communities.

    [05] Phanar says the Ecumenical Patriarch is not planning to visit Skopje or meet the Pope

    ISTANBUL, 08/12/2000 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)

    Reports in Athens newspapers that the Ecumenical Patriarch will visit Skopje, in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), and meet Pope John Paul caused surprise at the Phanar, sources said on Thursday.

    Well-informed sources at the Phanar told the Athens News Agency (ANA) there was no plan for a visit to Skopje by the Ecumenical Patriarch and nor was the question raised of him meeting the Pope.

    [06] Public order minister, UK ambassador to attend memorial service for slain British military attache

    Athens, 08/12/2000 (ANA)

    A memorial service for slain British military attache Brigadier Stephen Saunders will be held on Friday on a side-street off Kifissias Avenue, near the place where Saunders was brutally murdered by members of the terrorist organization "November 17" last June, while driving to work.

    According to a British Embassy press release, the service will be held on the corner of Valaoritou Street and Streit Street in Filothei at 7:45 a.m., with prayers being read by Reverend Malcolm Bradshaw, while a representative of Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos will be in attendance.

    Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysohoidis and British Ambassador will lay wreaths to Athens Sir David Madden, while the Mayor of Filothei will also attend the service.

    Saunders was killed while driving to work down the traffic-laden Kifissias Avenue on June 8 by two men on a motorbike. The terrorist organization "November 17" claimed responsibility for the shooting and several other attacks during the previous year in a proclamation sent to the newspaper "Eleftherotypia". They said the shooting of the military attache was retribution for his role in the bombing of Serbia by NATO forces.

    For further information on the memorial service, those interested can call 7272651 or 7272654. The confidential police lines for witnesses who may have information about the Stephen Saunders' murder are 1964 and 170.

    [07] Defense minister to attend event for addition of new training planes to Greek Air Force

    Athens, 08/12/2000 (ANA)

    Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos will visit Kalamata on Friday to attend an event for the addition of the new T6-A training aircraft to Greece's Air Force fleet.

    [08] Development minister says the negative international conjuncture will not stop Greek economy

    Athens, 08/12/2000 (ANA)

    Development Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said on Thursday the course of the Greek economy will not be stopped despite the relatively unfavorable international conjuncture, adding that this is so because development in Greece was supported and will continue to be supported by indigenous factors, whose reserves have not yet been fully developed.

    Christodoulakis, who was addressing a dinner organized by the Federation of Retail Sales Enterprises of Greece (SELPE), said trade occupies a considerable part of economic activity in the European Union, representing 30 percent of enterprises, 16 percent of employment and over 13 percent of its GDP. In the middle of the '90s, about five million enterprises produced 640 billion ecu and provided 21.5 million jobs in the sector.

    [09] Merchant marine minister discusses with Syrian counterpart transport issues

    Athens, 08/12/2000 (ANA)

    Merchant Marine Minister Christos Papoutsis received Syrian Transport Minister Maktam Obeid on Thursday for talks on shipping issues that are of interest to the two countries.

    The two men reiterated their countries' wish for the further development of bilateral relations in maritime transport and agreed to initiate talks for the striking of a maritime agreement as soon as possible.

    They also examined the possibility of the re-opening of the Volos, Greece-Syria marine line, which the Syrian minister said could prove more competitive than the land transport, in the event that private investors may be interested in such a venture.

    [10] Unions call Thursday strike a success

    Athens, 08/12/2000 (ANA)

    The General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE), called its Thursday strike a success, saying that air, rail and road transport ground to a halt as public servants and private sector workers protested against planned labor reforms being discussed in parliament.

    The strike begun on after midnight Wednesday and its public sector sister ADEDY joined in Thursday morning to protest changes in labor relations introduced in the bill drafted by Labor Minister Tassos Giannitsis.

    ADEDY's action amounted to a work stoppage that begun at 11 am to the end of the workday.

    The unions also organized a rally in central Athens that was followed by a march to the Parliament building, where a delegation handed their demands to Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis.

    [11] Commercial Bank transfers 6.7 per cent of shares to Credit Agricole on ASE

    Athens, 08/12/2000 (ANA)

    The transfer of 6.7 per cent of the Commercial Bank of Greece shares to France's Credit Agricole was carried out on Thursday via a block trade on the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE).

    The 5.7 million shares transferred belonged to Commercial Bank subsidiaries Phoenix and Commercial Capital, who received roughly 94 billion drachmas.

    In addition, the board of Commercial Bank convened to discuss its reconstitution. All board members tendered their resignations and four were accepted. Credit Agricole representatives Jacques Luc Perron and Christian Besse will sit on the new board, along with OGA director George Moutsopoulos and Commercial Bank general director Dimitris Fraggetis.

    The strategic deal between the two banks was concluded in June.

    [12] Lavipharm group buys out 30 percent of Phasex company's share capital

    Athens, 08/12/2000 (ANA)

    The Lavipharm group has bought out 30 percent of the American Phasex company's share capital. In parallel, it has bought out the exclusive rights to use supercritical fluids technology, in which Phasex is specialized, as well as its patents, trade signs and know-how.

    The Lavipharm group is already cooperating with multinational companies such as Novartis, Knoll, SmithKline Beecham and Chattem.

    [13] Athens bourse absorbs supply to end 0.22 per cent higher

    Athens, 08/12/2000 (ANA)

    Equity prices on the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) continued to rise on Thursday and supply was absorbed after a sharp rise the previous day.

    The general index fluctuated between 3,759.04 and 3,660.37 points to close 0.22 per cent higher at 3,741.86 points, with turnover at 169.903 billion drachmas - fuelled by a 90-billion-drachmas block trade in Commercial Bank, representing the transfer of 6.7 per cent of Commercial Bank of Greece shares to Credit Agricole at 16,450 drachmas per share.

    The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks closed at 2,138.07 points, with a marginal increase of 0.05 per cent, while the FTSE/ASE 40 index rose 0.39 per cent to close at 449.39 points.

    Sector indices ended as follows: Banks: 7,926.05 +6.88% Leasing: 689.10 -1.17% Insurance: 1,733.78 +0.88% Investment: 1,471.77 +1.78% Construction: 1,459.80 -0.81% Industrials: 2,278.60 +1.04% Miscellaneous: 3,274.68 - unchanged Holding: 4,367.24 +2.70

    The parallel market for smaller capitalization stocks ended 0.17 percent higher at 381.86 points.

    A total of 357 issues were traded, with 128 advancers, 209 decliners and 20 issues unchanged.

    Apart from Commercial Bank, whose stock transactions came to 97.7 billion drachmas, the most heavily traded stocks were National Bank of Greece, Hellenic Telecoms, Alpha Bank, Greek Stock Exchanges and Piraeus Bank.

    Trading of Minoan Lines stock also resumed on Thursday, to end 11.83 per cent up at 1,890 drachmas per share.

    Leading shares' closing prices (in Drs): Alpha Bank: 13,985 Eurobank: 10,145 Panafon: 3,245 Viohalko: 4,570 Lambrakis Press: 6,100 National Bank: 14,970

    Hellenic Petroleum: 3,950 Commercial Bank: 18,780 Attica Enterprises: 3,200 Intracom: 9,600 Hellenic Telecoms: 5,900 Piraeus Bank: 5,800 Titan Cement (c): 14,915 Hellenic Bottling: 6,305 Altec: 3,390

    Equity futures end up, tracking Athens bourse: Equity futures traded on the Athens Derivatives Exchange finished higher on Thursday, in line with the bourse indices on which they are based.

    The FTSE/ASE 20 index closed 0.05 percent up, and the FTSE/ASE 40 ended 0.39 percent higher.

    Turnover was 25.5 billion drachmas.

    A total of 4,680 contracts were traded on the FTSE/ASE 20 with turnover at 20.2 billion drachmas.

    On the FTSE/ASE 40 index, 2,899 contracts changed hands on turnover of 5.2 billion drachmas.

    Secondary bond market almost record turnover: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market on Thursday finished higher in heavy trade, close to Wednesday record turnover.

    The Greek benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 5.607 percent from 5.610 percent in the previous session.

    The Greek paper's yield spread over German bunds was 66 basis points, down from 68 a day earlier.

    Turnover through the central bank's electronic system totalled 282 billion drachmas from 292 billion drachmas in the session before.

    Buy orders accounted for around 95 billion drachmas of trade.

    Dollar's slide against drachma and euro accelerates: Piggy-backing on a rising euro, which climbed just short of 89 cents against the dollar in international money markets on Thursday, the drachma ended higher against the US currency for the second consecutive day.

    The Greek currency ended at 385.18 drachmas per dollar at the day's fixing, from 380.18 on Wednesday.

    The drachma was essentially unchanged against the euro, rising marginally to 340.66 drachmas per euro from 340.64 on Wednesday.

    [14] District attorney asks for the conviction of air-traffic controllers accused of having caused air accident

    Athens, 08/12/2000 (ANA)

    The Thessaloniki district attorney on Thursday asked for the conviction of the two air-traffic controllers accused of having caused the 1997 crash of a Ukrainian passenger airliner, in which 73 people lost their lives, during the trial in the Thessaloniki misdemeanors court.

    The Ukrainian airliner had crashed into the Pieria mountain range on the night of December 17, 1997, after going off course during its descent onto Thessaloniki's Macedonia Airport.

    The decision of the court is expected to be handed down next week.

    The two men charged, who were on duty at the airport's control tower on the night of the accident, are accused of manslaughter through negligence and disrupting flight safety through negligence.

    Testifying against them are some eighty witnesses, most of them relatives of the victims, while three colleagues are testifying in their defense.

    At the time of the accident, many press reports had blamed the disaster on the fact that a new radar system acquired by the airport had not been installed and put into operation because of the objections of local residents. Then transport minister Tassos Mantelis, in fact, had admitted that the system might have helped avert the disaster:

    "The assessment is that if the airport had the special LRS radar system to facilitate approach, we would have had an additional tool at our disposal. No one can say for sure but it is possible that it would have helped to avert (the accident)," he had said a few days afterward.

    According to a report by the Civil Aviation Authority, the Ukrainian plane was using the ILS system to land and had already made one failed attempt before the accident. At some point during its second attempt, the pilot had requested assistance from the control tower but this had no way of ascertaining the plane's position. Radio contact was lost a few minutes later.

    Mantelis had said that it was highly likely that the pilot became disorientated and from some point onwards was incorrectly reporting his position.

    The Thessaloniki airport has since installed the ILS2 radar approach system.

    [15] Dozens of homes, shops and schools flooded by torrential rains on Crete

    Athens, 08/12/2000 (ANA)

    Heavy rains caused severe problems to the city of Iraklion on Crete on Thursday morning, which flooded dozens of homes, shops and several schools.

    The fire brigade received 50 calls for assistance, while roads were made impassable by torrents of floodwater, trapping two women in their cars in the city center and causing traffic chaos.

    Problems also arose at the city's 2nd primary school, the 37th and 5th kindergartens and the 5th Lyceum, where flooded classrooms disrupted lessons.

    There were also problems with the electricity and telephone networks, which have now been restored.

    [16] Poetry night on work of Constantine Cavafy organized by Greek Institute of Culture in US

    Athens, 08/12/2000 (ANA)

    A poetry night featuring the work of Greek poet Constantine Cavafy is being organized by the Greek Institute of Culture at the Donnel library in New York on Friday night.

    The evening coincides with the publication of a book by the Greek Language Center, entitled "Talking with Cavafy - an anthology of foreign Cavafogenic poems".

    [17] President Clerides underlines importance of conclusion of Intergovernmental Conference

    NICE, 08/12/2000 (CNA/ANA)

    Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides on Thursday underlined the importance Cyprus attaches to the conclusion of the Intergovernmental Conference and stressed that an ambitious agreement, giving new impetus and force to the European Union and its institutions should be reached, as opposed to a minimum agreement just for the sake of concluding the Conference.

    Speaking at the European Conference, President Clerides said reform coupled with enlargement will make the EU the largest single market for trade and investment, one of the most important political actors in the international scene and will safeguard democracy.

    President Clerides expressed the government's appreciation to the French EU presidency "for its initiative to hold this summit meeting of the European Conference at this opportune time".

    He said, "Cyprus attaches great importance to the conclusion of the Intergovernmental Conference on Institutional Reforms", adding, "the EU is a living institution which has to be able to effectively function within the surrounding international environment".

    The President noted that "a timely and successful conclusion of the Conference will render an enlarged EU able to effectively cope with the challenges of the future in a rapidly changing European and international environment" and that "it will send a clear and unequivocal message to the candidate countries of the Union's commitment to enlarge as from the end of 2002 as provided for in the Helsinki conclusions of 1999".

    President Clerides said "reform coupled with enlargement will make the EU the largest single market for trade and investment, one of the most important political actors in the international scene, safeguard democracy, respect of human rights and the rule of law and create an environment of peace, safety, stability and security for the European citizens" and will also "reconcile Europe with its own past and prepare it for a much better future".

    Having said that "the positions of the member states and of the candidate countries are well known", President Clerides noted, "what remains now to be done is a synthesis of the positions and opinions expressed".

    "This synthesis", he said, "should be aiming not at reaching a minimum agreement just for the sake of concluding the Inter-governmental Conference", but "should be a forward-looking, ambitious agreement, giving new impetus and new force to the Union and its institutions".

    He said "effectiveness is one of the aims sought after by the Intergovernmental Conference, effectiveness should therefore be the sought after requirement for the European Commission together with the legitimacy of its composition".

    The Cyprus president added "the special role of the European Commission as a motor for European integration and as a balance-maintaining instrument between larger and smaller states should be safeguarded".

    "The rationale behind each member state having a Commissioner is that the Commissioner acts as a conduit between the Commission and the European citizens, thus increasing the visibility, transparency and collective legitimacy of the Union to its citizens", he said.

    President Clerides pointed out that "one should not underestimate the importance of the role of the Commissioner as the incarnation of the European Commission in the Commissioner's own country at a time when the legitimacy of Brussels is being questioned".

    "On the issue of weighting of votes within the Council the aim should be the enhancement of the legitimacy of decisions taken and therefore the formula to be devised should respond to the double need of taking into account the democracy of people and the demography of nations", he said.

    Lastly, the president wished every success to the forthcoming European Council, noting that this success would be "beneficial not only to the Union and its member states, but to the candidate countries themselves".

    Foreign Minister: Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides described Thursday's European Conference as very helpful for the Republic's European Union (EU) accession course.

    Kasoulides told Cypriot journalists in Nice that Cyprus has opinions about the future of the EU and that the member states should view the Republic as one of their future partners.

    He said, "today's Conference was especially helpful for Cyprus' candidacy", adding that President of the Republic Glafcos Clerides, in his speech, dealt only with the topic of the Conference.

    The Minister noted that "Cyprus has views and ideas about the reforms in Europe and the future of the EU" and pointed out that "they (member states) must get used to seeing us as a future partner, that deals with all issues concerning the EU".

    Commenting on a meeting between President Clerides and European Commission President Romano Prodi, Kasoulides said the EU official reassured that the Commission's position was that decided at last December's Helsinki summit.

    In their conclusion in Helsinki, the EU leaders said Cyprus could join its ranks even if a settlement was not reached at the time.

    Cyprus has been divided since Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 percent of its territory in 1974.

    The Republic opened accession talks with the EU in 1998 and is considered to lead in the negotiating process.

    Kasoulides also mentioned a statement by European Commissioner responsible for enlargement Gunter Verheugen that Cyprus' accession negotiations must continue along the lines set out and that if by the year 2002, when the negotiations are wrapped up, the Cyprus problem has not been solved, then those stalling the process will have to be aware of the fact that Cyprus will join the Union anyway.

    Five rounds of UN-led talks to reach a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus have been held so far, but Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has described them as "a waste of time" and has not replied to an invitation by the Secretary - General to participate in a new round of proximity talks in January.


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