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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 01-02-13

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] ECOFIN Council ratifies Greece's first EMU stability program
  • [02] Greek and Jordanian foreign ministers discuss bilateral relations
  • [03] Public Works minister adamant over March opening for new airport
  • [04] ND points to attempted 'influence' of April 2000 poll
  • [05] Main opposition leader calls for combatting narcotics
  • [06] Clerides, Mitsotakis confer on Cyprus issue
  • [07] Gov't dismisses Ankara's criticism over genocide decree
  • [08] Greece is in no serious danger of inflationary pressures, central bank governor says
  • [09] ASE offers high volatility, return prospects, report shows
  • [10] Greek stocks move cautiously higher on ASE
  • [11] Capital market body says work intact despite court case
  • [12] Infacoma, Marmin twin trade fairs in Thessaloniki
  • [13] Greek non-listed investment funds' assets totals 200 billion drachmas
  • [14] Wholesale prices' index falls 1.0 percent in December
  • [15] European Commission earmarks extra 17.8 million euro in aid for war-torn Balkan countries
  • [16] Ex-pat Greeks support Australian companies' demand to bid in Olympics tenders in Greece
  • [17] Greek, Cypriot presidents inaugurate Cyprus antiquities exhibition
  • [18] Exhibition of European festivals and traditions at Benaki Museum
  • [19] UK diplomas given by Greece-based institutes rank as degrees, EU Commissioner says
  • [20] President Stephanopoulos receives 14 students from Australian universities
  • [21] Greek and Turkish Cypriot parties meet
  • [22] UNHCR official arrives in Cyprus on Wednesday

  • [01] ECOFIN Council ratifies Greece's first EMU stability program

    BRUSSELS, 13/02/2001 (ANA - V. Demiris / Y. Zitouniati)

    The EU's Council of Economic and Finance Ministers (ECOFIN) convened here on Monday and ratified Greece's first stability program for the 2000-2004 period since joining Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), while the avis it issued says "the ECOFIN Council believes Greece's stability program is consistent with the general orientations of economic policies."

    A speedup in structural reforms in the economy with "a more determined approach" is requested, while mention is made of the need to reshape the pensioning system and the possibility of an escalation of inflationary pressures is noted.

    The risk of the economy becoming overheated, the avis added, will be handled with cutbacks in current expenditures and limited salary increases.

    The avis issued by the Council on Greece's stability program for the above period says "the stability program foresees speedy increase rates for the real GDP, which from 4.1 percent in 2000 will increase to 5.5 percent in 2004 due to intense investment activity, strong exports and maintaining private consumption at high levels."

    Commenting on the Greek economy's targets in coming years, the Council said "the predictions of the stability program on the increase in GDP are ambitious at the higher levels of potential."

    Regarding developments in public finances, it says "the fiscal position anticipated provides adequate security margins for avoiding, under normal conditions, exceeding the 3 percent GDP limit on the deficit and is in line with the requirements of the Stability and Development Pact."

    The Council expresses satisfaction "for the strategy of the program's fiscal restructuring which focuses on achieving first stage surpluses contributing in a substantive way to a speedy decrease in the public debt indicator, which is still very high, and the handling of the fiscal burden resulting from the ageing of the population."

    According to the Council, this strategy should be based on containing the increase in first stage expenditures by determining specific and binding targets aimed at decreasing current expenditures.

    The avis further stresses that high development rates entail risks of maintaining inflationary pressures.

    "The Council warns that under conditions of high GDP rate increases, combined with a slackening of monetary conditions, inflationary pressures might be maintained," it said.

    It went on to say "the Council encourages the Greek government to speed up the implementation of necessary reforms, particularly in the labor market and the social insurance system to enable the strengthening of the economy's potential, an increase in its competitiveness and an improvement in conditions for permanent economic development and the creation of jobs."

    The Council also calls on the Greek authorities "to give particular attention to the need to reform the pensioning system and calls on them, during the future updating of the stability program, to take the fiscal consequences of the population's ageing into consideration."

    Papantoniou: Speaking at a press conference afterwards, National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said "if the Stability Program succeeds, Greece will develop into the most dynamic and fastest developing economy in the EU", referring to the Program's predictions for inflation amounting to 2.3 percent, a considerable surplus and a decrease in the public debt which constitute a "challenge", as he said, for Greek reality.

    On the question of remarks made by eurozone partners concerning "the determination Greece should show in taming inflationary pressures, strict observance of fiscal targets and structural reforms", he said "queries and uncertainty always exist."

    Papantoniou clarified that he endorses these remarks, adding that they back the government in handling internal reactions by opposing interests or trade unions, which are "inconvenienced" by the reforms.

    "I am also concerned about inflation," he said, but expressed optimism that with a great effort by all Greeks will meet "the development contract" which the first Stability Program constitutes.

    The ECOFIN Council also focused on preparation for the extraordinary spring summit in Stockholm on strengthening the competitiveness of the European economy through the deregulation of markets, the reforming of labor issues, education and technology.

    Papantoniou defended the "reasonable" request for an increase in social expenditures, adding that it should be combined with another evaluation and greater selectiveness in public expenditures since there is no alternative solution in finding necessary funds as neither can public expenditures be increased in their entirety nor can taxation.

    He said that on the part of Greece's preparation for the 3rd Community Support Framework (CSF) programs has been completed. The programs were discussed during a meeting held on Monday evening between Deputy National Economy Minister Christos Pachtas and relevant Commissioner Michel Barnier.

    The meeting was termed "constructive" by the Commissioner's spokeswoman, who said the aim is to have all the programs signed in the next few weeks.

    The Greek side committed itself that everything concerning management will be expedited soon to enable the relevant technical committee to visit Greece for the final check.

    [02] Greek and Jordanian foreign ministers discuss bilateral relations

    AMMAN, 13/02/2001 (ANA - M. Savva)

    Greece and Jordan enjoy excellent bilateral relations, Foreign Minister George Papandreou and his counterpart Abdul Ilah al-Khatib ascertained here on Monday.

    The two men discussed political, cultural, economic, educational, tourism and environmental issues.

    In a statement later, Papandreou placed emphasis on the foreign policy applied by the governments of the late Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, as well as the historic ties between the two countries.

    Papandreou briefed the Jordanian delegation on developments on the Cyprus issue and Greek-Turkish relations, while developments in the Middle East were also discussed. He said Greece supports the continuation of the peace process.

    Papandreou also held talks with Prime Minister Ali Abu al-Ragheb, but his scheduled meeting with King Abdallah II did not take place due to a delay in his return from abroad.

    On Tuesday, Papandreou will be making an official visit to Beirut.

    [03] Public Works minister adamant over March opening for new airport

    Athens, 13/02/2001 (ANA)

    The new international airport at Spata will be ready on time, complete with supporting infrastructure, Public Works minister Costas Laliotis said categorically on Monday, during a press conference in which he presented detailed plans of road access to the new airport.

    "We have an airport and roads. The Cassandras will be proved wrong," he said emphatically.

    Laliotis, whose ministry is also in charge of environment and town planning policy, said there were no problems and no weaknesses, and invited the "danger-mongers" to see this for themselves by the middle of next month.

    He continued the press conference at his ministry by presenting details of a traffic survey for road access to the new airport and the summary conclusions and maps drafted by a team of experts.

    The statements follow hard upon the heels of an IATA warning last Friday that the new airport's scheduled March opening might be premature and that several important factors had been overlooked or were simply not ready, ranging from primary and secondary road access to important support facilities such as catering, cargo and aircraft maintenance.

    IATA's report recommended delaying the opening and keeping airline operations at the old Hellenikon airport, rather than risk a problem-ridden start at Spata.

    Talking to reporters on Monday, however, Laliotis said that roads leading up to the airport - IATA's chief cause of concern - would be completed and turned over to public use next month, and access would be similar or better than for the Hellenikon airport.

    The situation would improve dramatically, he added, when the Athens ring road 'Attiki Odos' was completed in 2003.

    He said that crucial sections of this highway, totalling 22 kilometers in length, would be ready for use when the airport opened. At the same time, 32 kilometers of secondary roads leading to 'Attiki Odos' will have been widened, he added.

    The western Hymettos ring road, by contrast, is not due to be finished until June 2003, Laliotis said, because of the objections of local residents to the cutting down of trees along its route.

    The minister also presented a traffic burden survey, based on the 1991 census, according to which the majority of Athens residents will not need more than one hour to reach the airport. Average travel times he said would be just six minutes more than for the Hellenikon airport at this stage and up to 15 minutes less when the support infrastructure was fully completed.

    Gov't spokesman confirms March opening for Spata airport: Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas confirmed on Monday that the government intended to open the new international airport at Spata in March.

    Asked about relations between Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis, whose ministry is overseeing the construction of supporting infrastructure for the new airport, and Transport Minister Christos Verelis, Reppas said he "would not accept the term argument" to describe these.

    There is concern and cooperation, he said, in order for the new airport to operate in very high safety conditions.

    He concluded by saying that the new airport was the biggest developmental project in Greece and that the biggest project of its kind in Europe was being concluded.

    [04] ND points to attempted 'influence' of April 2000 poll

    Athens, 13/02/2001 (ANA)

    Eighty-three main opposition New Democracy MPs have called for a committee of inquiry to investigate charges that the previous PASOK government attempted to "influence" the April 2000 elections by illegally naturalizing thousands of would-be voters from former Soviet states.

    In a tabled Parliament resolution on Monday, the majority of ND's deputies stated that: "It is common knowledge that during the national elections of April 9, 2000, machinations, particularly by state services, were made in order to sway the constituency and affect the election result."

    In the resolution, the main opposition says improprieties mainly stem from illegal administrative acts of naturalization by relevant state services and subsequent falsification of election polls.

    ND also charges that billions of drachmas were allocated by the PASOK government between Jan. 1 and April 7 to influence voters, while thousands of people were hired by public sector-affiliated enterprises and organizations through temporary work contracts, mostly dolled out via programs run by the state-run Manpower Employment Organization (OAED).

    Besides laying the blame on various state agencies, ND also said the leaderships of the interior, foreign affairs and public order were responsible for the alleged improprieties.

    According to Article 144 of Parliament's code of procedures, the resolution must be signed by one-fifth of the legislature's 300 deputies (60 MPs). A decision allowing for the creation of a committee of inquiry is achieved by a majority vote, and only in case two-fifths of the plenum (not less than 120 MPs) is present.

    The first name on the resolution is that of ND leader Costas Karamanlis, followed by the party's two honorary presidents, Constantine Mitsotakis and Miltiades Evert.

    PASOK won a third-straight election in April 2000 when it outlasted New Democracy by 1 percentage point.

    Specifically, PASOK gained 43.79 percent of the general vote, namely, 3,007,947 votes that earned it 158 seats in Parliament. New Democracy earned 42.73 percent - 2,935,242 votes and 125 deputies.

    The Communist Party of Greece came in a distant third with 5.53 percent of the vote - 379,517 ballots cast in its favor and 11 deputies in Parliament. Finally, The Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) edged over the 3-percent mark needed for representation in Parliament by gaining 3.2 percent nation-wide - 219,918 votes and six deputies.

    Total voter turnout was 7,027,007, of which 6,868,484 ballots cast were valid. Votes left blank totalled 47,134.

    Gov't spokesman denounces main opposition claim of election fraud: Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas on Monday issued a terse response criticizing the main opposition New Democracy's (ND) call for the establishment of a Parliamentary committee of inquiry to investigate charges that the previous PASOK government attempted to "influence" the April 2000 elections by illegally naturalizing thousands of would-be foreign voters.

    "ND seems to have found an opposition method that best suits it, giving up every effort to state political positions and programs, it undertakes a non-ending tabling of proposals for the establishment of Parliamentary committees, to show that it has the initiative of political moves," Reppas said.

    "This choice of ND to table such an issue for discussion is a provocation toward the citizens, who ND with its proposal places in illegality and under persecution," he said, adding that this was true "much more so, since the false and unqualified claims of ND were answered and have been denied with evidence"

    [05] Main opposition leader calls for combatting narcotics

    Athens, 13/02/2001 (ANA)

    Main opposition New Democracy Party (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis on Monday said that it's not just the state that has the responsibility to combat the problem of narcotics but society at large and agencies as well.

    Karamanlis, closing the sessions of a ND conference on the confrontation of narcotics, said that his party has the political volition to decisively deal with the problem.

    He described narcotics as a plague of our times and the most dangerous illness, which "hides behind the cloak of fashion".

    "Above all else, narcotics constitutes a political, economic. social and cultural problem for every government and society," he said.

    Karamanlis noted that the state, justice and the police authorities must be ruthless in the struggle against the production of drugs and drug traffickers. "The hand of the state must be transformed into a punch," he said characteristically.

    ND regional organizations choose representatives for party conference: The first round of regional elections by main opposition New Democracy party, held to choose the delegates that will attend the upcoming party conference, has been completed and will continue the coming Sunday. This is the first time the party has used the single vote system and some expect that this will significantly alter balances within the party.

    A total of 1052 delegates are to be elected for the three-day conference, which will take place between March 30 and April 1, and is touted as an opportunity for radical reforms to the party's structure and operation.

    [06] Clerides, Mitsotakis confer on Cyprus issue

    Athens, 13/02/2001 (ANA)

    Main opposition New Democracy honorary leader and former premier Constantine Mitsotakis on Monday met with visiting Cyprus president Glafcos Clerides and exchanged views on the Cyprus issue.

    Mitsotakis told reporters after the meeting at a downtown Athens hotel that he had exchanges "with my old friend" Clerides "views on the course of the Cyprus issue and the more general problems of concern to us".

    The former premier declined further comment.

    [07] Gov't dismisses Ankara's criticism over genocide decree

    Athens, 13/02/2001 (ANA)

    The government on Monday dismissed recent criticism by Ankara over a decree establishing Sept. 14 as a day of remembrance for the genocide of thousands of ethnic Greeks in Asia Minor during the early 1920s.

    Turkey has vehemently complained to Athens about the passing of the decree accusing Turks of genocide against the ethnic Greek Orthodox communities in western Asia Minor, while Athens insists that the issue is historical and should have no bearing on current good relations. The decree was approved by Parliament two years ago and was signed last week by two relevant ministers.

    "This shouldn't affect the present in our bilateral relations with Turkey, but no one can ignore the fact that this (genocide) is a historical fact. There are no expediencies hidden behind this decision," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said.

    [08] Greece is in no serious danger of inflationary pressures, central bank governor says

    Athens, 13/02/2001 (ANA)

    The governor of Greece's central regulatory bank, the Bank of Greece, Loukas Papademos on Monday said that he did not expect inflation pressures to affect the Greek economy, after its euro-zone entry, as was done in Ireland.

    In statements to the Wall Street Journal, Papademos said: "I am somewhat concerned that if, during the year, there is a serious upset in supply or an unforeseen development in domestic demand, it may not be possible to exercise the fiscal policy with the necessary degree of prudence".

    Speaking on convergence with the other 11 euro-zone members in terms of living standards of citizens, he said "the improvement of the productivity index, should be the first priority, so as to achieve the aim of real convergence".

    [09] ASE offers high volatility, return prospects, report shows

    Athens, 13/02/2001 (ANA)

    "Greek equity could account for up to 10-20 percent of a conservative portfolio and up to 30 percent in an aggressive portfolio of European stocks," a report by the Athens Stock Exchange's research and development department said on Monday.

    The report, signed by Dr Ioannis Tsitsimis head of the department, also said that a high volatility rate in the general index under current conditions - and in contrary to a common view - was a strong incentive to include a significant percentage of Greek equities into a European investment fund.

    The Athens Stock Exchange presented the same high annual volatility also in the great bullish period of 1997-1999, it said.

    The report stressed that a comparison between the composite indexes of the UK, German, Italian, French and Greek bourses in the last 170 days showed that the Greek market was presenting a higher volatility rate but it offered more return prospects to investors.

    An anticipated upgrading of the Greek bourse to a mature market, expected this spring, would help in promoting the market's international image, the report said.

    [10] Greek stocks move cautiously higher on ASE

    Athens, 13/02/2001 (ANA)

    Selective buying in smaller capitalization stocks pushed the general index higher on Monday despite some selling pressure in bank shares on the Athens Stock Exchange.

    The general index ended 0.83 percent up at 3,195.89 points, near the day's highs of 3,198.24, with turnover 144.20 million euros, or 49.14 billion drachmas.

    The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks rose 0.27 percent to 1,850.28 points, and the FTSE/ASE 40 index jumped 3.52 percent to 348.35 points.

    Sector indices ended as follows: Banks: 6,917.04 -0.31% Leasing: 514.71 +4.55% Insurance: 1,255.82 +0.49% Investment: 1,283.75 +0.44% Construction: 1,370.69 +7.03% Industrials: 1,944.60 +1.28% Miscellaneous: 2,222.53 +3.82% Holding: 3,402.38 +2.69%

    The parallel market index for smaller capitalization stocks ended 3.84 percent higher at 265.19 points.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 312 to 40 with another 10 issues unchanged.

    Piraeus Bank, Alpha Bank, Aktor, Hellenic Telecoms, National Bank and AEGEK were the most heavily traded stocks.

    Leading shares' closing prices (in euros): National Bank: 38.54 Alpha Bank: 33.58 Commercial Bank: 50.02 Eurobank: 20.60 Piraeus Bank: 14.70 Lambrakis Press: 12.34 Altec: 6.32 Titan Cement (c):

    37.46 Hellenic Telecoms: 16.60 Panafon: 7.18 Hellenic Petroleum: 9.72 Attica Enterprises: 6.54 Intracom: 20.38 Minoan Lines: 5.04 Viohalco: 10.86 Coca Cola Bottling: 18.84

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

    The FTSE/ASE 20 index closed 0.27 percent up, and the FTSE/ASE 40 ended 3.52 percent higher.

    Turnover was 48.50 million euros on 7,774 contracts traded, the dealers said.

    Bond prices rise in light trade: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market on Monday finished higher in light trade focusing on 5-year paper, dealers said.

    The new Greek benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 5.32 percent from 5.34 percent a day earlier.

    The yield spread over German bunds was 56 basis points, the same as the day before.

    Turnover through the central bank's electronic system totalled 381 million euros (around 129.8 billion drachmas) from 545 million euros (about 185.7 billion drachmas) in the previous session.

    Buy orders accounted for the bulk of turnover.

    Euro/dollar reference rate set at 92.88 cents: The European Central Bank on Monday set its euro/dollar reference rate at 92.88 cents, slightly higher from 92.27 percent on Friday, pushing the US dollar/drachma rate to 366.87 drachmas.

    The ECB also set the euro/yen reference rate at 109.22 yen (3.11 drachmas), the euro/sterling at 63.98 pence (532.58 drachmas), the euro/Swiss franc rate at 1.5369 (221.71 drachmas) and the euro/Cyprus pound at 57.95 cents (588 drachmas).

    [11] Capital market body says work intact despite court case

    Athens, 13/02/2001 (ANA)

    The capital markets commission said in a statement on Monday that its regulatory work was unimpaired following allegations to the contrary about its operations in newspapers over the weekend.

    The allegations came after the commission's chairman, Stavros Thomadakis, and the former president of the Athens Stock Exchange, Spyros Kouniakis, and other senior officials were reportedly called to give evidence in proceedings brought against Thessaliki, a listed firm whose share was suspended in July 1999.

    The members of the bourse's board and capital markets commission at the time face misdemeanor charges of breach of duty.

    Facing criminal charges of fraud are the company's president, Frangiskos Ragousis and other senior executives.

    A stockbroker, Panayotis Kontalexis, has given evidence in the case.

    [12] Infacoma, Marmin twin trade fairs in Thessaloniki

    Athens, 13/02/2001 (ANA)

    Helexpo will organize a twin trade fair, Infacoma and Marmin, February 15-18 at its Thessaloniki International Exhibition Center.

    The twin fair, including the 18th Infacoma (an international building materials trade fair) and the 26th Marmin (an international marble-minerals-machinery fair), was given special attention due to a program for the Reconstruction of the Balkans and ahead of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

    Infacoma is the biggest building materials fair with 852 exhibitors occupying more than 21,700 square meters, exceeding last year's number of 740 exhibitors, of which 397 are Greek businesses and 455 foreigners, compared with 391 and 349 last year respectively.

    Marmin aims to establish the Greek marble producers sector's position in the domestic market and to facilitate international partnerships.

    A total of 108 exhibitors will participate in this year's fair, with 69 Greek and 39 foreign companies.

    [13] Greek non-listed investment funds' assets totals 200 billion drachmas

    Athens, 13/02/2001 (ANA)

    Greece's 23 non-listed investment funds' assets totalled 200 billion drachmas, while their paid equity capital totalled 257.4 billion drachmas, on January 31, 2001, the Union of Institutional Investors said on Monday.

    The Union said that seven more investment fund firms have not yet received approval from the country's development ministry and that more non-listed companies in the sector were preparing data to seek listing on the Athens bourse.

    [14] Wholesale prices' index falls 1.0 percent in December

    Athens, 13/02/2001 (ANA)

    Greece's wholesale prices' index fell 1.0 percent in December from the previous month, although it jumped 6.7 percent on a year-on-year basis, National Statistics Services said on Monday.

    The NSS said that the index had increased by 1.1 percent in December 1999 from the previous month, to a year-on-year increase of 5.6 percent.

    [15] European Commission earmarks extra 17.8 million euro in aid for war-torn Balkan countries

    BRUSSELS, 13/02/2001 (ANA - G. Zitouniati)

    The European Commission announced that it would send an additional 17.8 million euros (roughly six billion drachmas) humanitarian aid to the war-torn Balkan republics on Monday, to help them get through the winter.

    The aid will be sent to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Kosovo.

    The sum is included in the 2001 budget and supplements the 31.6 million euro (10.7 billion drachmas) earmarked for the region in December 2000.

    It is mainly targeted at "vulnerable" groups, such as refugees, and more than half will go to Serbia, where most refugees are. It will also be used to encourage refugees from Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina to return to their homes.

    [16] Ex-pat Greeks support Australian companies' demand to bid in Olympics tenders in Greece

    MELBOURNE, 13/02/2001 (ANA - S. Hatzimanolis)

    The World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) regional conference for Oceania has decided support a demand by Australian businesses that the Greek government allow them to participate in tenders for Athens 2004 Olympics projects.

    The weekend conference also approved a series of resolutions for the Cyprus issue, the dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia over the republic's name, the problems of the Greek minority in southern Albania, recognition of the Black Sea Greeks genocide, the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens and for reconciliation between Australia's white and aboriginal citizens.

    [17] Greek, Cypriot presidents inaugurate Cyprus antiquities exhibition

    Athens, 13/02/2001 (ANA)

    President Kostis Stephanopoulos and Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides inaugurated the Pierides Ancient Cypriot Art Museum on Monday evening.

    The antiquities from Cyprus, belong to the Greek-Cypriot antiquities collector Dimitris Pierides, who established the first Museum of Ancient Cypriot Art in Greece at the Athinais art center in Votanikos, Athens. The exhibition includes 153 terracotta, stone and pottery pieces of Pierides' vast collection, showcasing the 9,000-year-history of Cyprus.

    "I would be happier if Cyprus' culture had a greater presence in the Greek National Archaeological Museum," Clerides said, following the inauguration.

    On his part, Stephanopoulos said that the antiquities exhibited are works of great artistic and historical value that prove the common civilization, the common and parallel course of Greece and Cyprus.

    He also thanked Clerides for his "wise, cautious and tenacious efforts toward the resolution of the important issue of Cyprus".

    Pierides received a large portion of his collection from his great-grand father and added pieces to it himself, aiming "as he (his great grandfather), almost 150 years later at protecting them from the conqueror, who is exporting them illegally".

    [18] Exhibition of European festivals and traditions at Benaki Museum

    Athens, 13/02/2001 (ANA)

    An exhibition based on the festivals and ritual traditions of Europe at the Benaki Museum in Athens, that will run until March 5, brings together objects that marked the important stages of human life in four European countries and explores the European identity through their similarities and differences.

    Connected with the cycles of birth, death and marriage, authentic traditional objects from Alsace, Hungary, Greece and Austria are combined with modern constructions to replicate masquerade costumes, decorated trees, bridal gowns and other ritual objects.

    The idea for the exhibition was proposed by the Greek government to the Council of Europe (CoE) and is organized by the European Institute of Cultural Paths.

    Apart from the exhibits, there is also has a non-stop display of photographic material related to European festivals and cultural rituals, projected onto a suspended sphere that represents the earth.

    [19] UK diplomas given by Greece-based institutes rank as degrees, EU Commissioner says

    BRUSSELS, 13/02/2001 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)

    Diplomas awarded by British universities to students that studied at Greece-based private educational institutes awarded franchises by the former, constitute academic degrees, European Commissioner Frits Bolkestein said on Monday.

    Responding to a question tabled by Greek Eurodeputy Alekos Alavanos, Bolkestein -- responsible for educational affairs -- said "the legality of diplomas awarded by English universities as part of a franchise agreement with a Greek institution is established by the laws of the member-state in which the university that concluded the agreement is based.

    "The awarding of a diploma in this form does not violate the laws of the United Kingdom, thus it can be considered as a British degree," he said, adding: "If the diploma awarded to a student by a university, following a franchise agreement with Greek private educational institutes, is not recognized, he has no choice but to seek recourse in the Greek court system and request redress," he concluded.

    The controversial issue of recognizing degrees given to students that studied either in part or completely at private, for-profit institutes affiliated with UK universities and colleges has drawn its fair share of attention in Greece over the past few years.

    Greece's constitution expressly states that all higher education in the country will be conducted by state institutions free of charge to Greek citizens, effectively outlawing all private higher educational institutions -- including non-profit entities. Therefore, degrees offered through such Greece-based private institutions are not recognized as equivalent to university diplomas.

    [20] President Stephanopoulos receives 14 students from Australian universities

    Athens, 13/02/2001 (ANA)

    President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos received 14 students of Greek descent on Monday that are studying at Sydney, New South Wales and Macquarie universities in Australia.

    [21] Greek and Turkish Cypriot parties meet

    NICOSIA, 13/02/2001 (CNA/ANA)

    Delegations from the Greek Cypriot United Democrats and the Turkish Cypriot Republican Turkish Party met on Monday in Nicosia, to discuss the Cyprus problem and issues concerning the island.

    In a joint communique issued after the meeting, the two parties express their concern over stalemate in talks to solve the Cyprus problem and note that the viability of a federation settlement would depend on trust and cooperation between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

    The two parties add that "the vital interests of Greek and Turkish Cypriots require the continuation and intensification of efforts to achieve a solution to the Cyprus problem, in the context of relevant UN resolutions".

    They also express concern over the current stalemate in negotiations and support Cyprus' European Union accession prospect, noting that "it will contribute substantively to the development and welfare of all communities" on the island.

    The two parties reaffirmed their commitment to work towards building trust between the two communities.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. In December 1999, the UN embarked on a new effort to reach a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus, through what have been named proximity talks.

    Five rounds of proximity talks have taken place so far, but Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash is refusing to participate in another round of separate meetings with the UN officials unless the illegal regime in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus is recognized and there is a change in the procedure of the talks and their basis.

    [22] UNHCR official arrives in Cyprus on Wednesday

    NICOSIA, 13/02/2001 (CNA/ANA)

    Director of the UNHCR Europe Bureau Anne-Willem Bijleveld will be coming to Cyprus on Wednesday to discuss the implementation of the refugee law approved by the parliament in January last year, in view of the increase in the number of foreigners arriving here on boats, mainly from Syria and Lebanon.

    On Thursday morning Bijleveld will have talks with Interior Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou, in the presence of the Permanent Secretaries at the Foreign and Justice Ministries, and representatives from the Attorney General's office, the police Immigration Department and the newly established Refugee Authority.

    He will also hold a press conference, followed by a working lunch with all officials at the morning meeting as well as Attorney General Alekos Markides and Justice Minister Nicos Koshis.

    The talks will focus on the Cyprus law that incorporates the international convention on the status of refugees and the relevant protocol.

    The discussions Cyprus is having with neighboring countries to reach agreements on the issue will also be examined so that any agreement is in line with the international convention and protocol.

    The UNHCR official will be leaving the island later on Thursday.

    Foreigners leaving neighboring Arab states for European countries often end up on the island.

    They usually travel in old boats and are conned out of the money they pay. Many of them want to seek political asylum.

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