|Friday, 6 December 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 01-02-21
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Economy proceeding with firm steps, PM tells President
Athens, 21/02/2001 (ANA)The Greek economy was doing well and moving ahead with "firm steps", Prime Minister Costas Simitis said Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters after briefing President Costis Stephanopoulos on domestic and foreign affairs, Simitis added that foreign investors' interest in the Greek economy was reflected in the "active interest" displayed for the construction of electricity plants and major hotels here.
Simitis said he and the President had reviewed all the issues concerning the country's domestic and foreign policy during there more than hour-long meeting.
On foreign affairs, Simitis said Greece had "good relations" with all countries, adding that the priorities of Greece's foreign policy were advancing a solution to the Cyprus issue, improving relations with Turkey, lasting peace in the Balkans, and cooperation in the region.
Simitis further noted the importance of the Balkan summit to be held Thursday and Friday in the FYROM capital Skopje as it came at a time of "tension" between Albania and other countries in the region and the situation in Montenegro, adding that such meetings helped ease tensions to the benefit of peace in the Balkans.
The Balkan leaders will meet in Skopje on Thursday and Friday to discuss regional developments and cooperation, focusing on the latest developments in southeast Europe and particularly on the situation in southern Serbia and Kosovo.
Premier, Papantoniou discuss economy, CSF programs: Prime minister Costas Simitis and national economy and finance minister Yannos Papantoniou on Tuesday discussed the course of the Greek economy and programs slated for EU funding under the third Community Support Framework CSF.
Papantoniou told reporters after the meeting that he and the premier discussed the course of the Greek economy, with the focus on tax revenues and inflation.
The minister described both indices as "satisfactory", adding that March 15 would be the starting point for implementation of the programs incorporated under the third CSF, as a Cabinet meeting would be held exclusively on those projects, which in the meantime will have received final approval by the European Commission.
Replying to questions, Papantoniou said there were no "clouds" over the course of the economy, noting that the growth rate of the euro-zone member countries this year was anticipated at three percent.
 FM Papandreou to make official visit to Austria on March 4-5
Athens, 21/02/2001 (ANA)Foreign Minister George Papandreou is expected to discuss bilateral relations, the Cyprus issue, Greek-Turkish relations, developments in Yugoslavia and European Union enlargement in talks with Austrian leaders during his official visit to Vienna on March 4-5.
Talks Papandreou will be having with his Austrian counterpart Benita Ferero-Waldner, Austrian President Thomas Klestil and Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel are expected to focus, among others, on the further improvement of what have been termed excellent relations between Greece and Austria.
He is also expected to meet members of the historic Greek community in Vienna and visit the famous Vienna State Opera, accompanied by his Austrian counterpart.
Papandreou's visit to Vienna is the first official bilateral contact between a Greek minister and the new Austrian coalition government, composed of the conservative Popular Party and the nationalist Freedom Party, which came to power in February last year.
His visit also coincides with the upcoming assumption of the duties of the new Austrian Ambassador to Athens Rene Politzer.
 Papandreou to meet Constantopoulos on foreign policy issues
Athens, 21/02/2001 (ANA)Foreign Minister George Papandreou will meet with Coalition of the Left leader Nikos Constantopoulos on Wednesday, to discuss Greece's dispute with the neighboring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia regarding its adopted name.
The Coalition is in favor of a composite name for the republic.
Another issue that will be discussed is the decree on the genocide of Asia Minor Greeks, which the Coalition thinks should not be promoted in order to avoid problems in relations with Turkey.
The Coalition plans to organize a seminar on the situation in the Balkans on March 1, after which Constantopoulos will conduct a tour of Balkan countries.
 Premier calls for party renewal, continuation of present policies
Athens, 21/02/2001 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Tuesday declared his certainty that the government's policies will be successful and accused main opposition New Democracy (ND) of petty, non-constructive criticism of those policies.
During a meeting with ruling PASOK Parliament deputies, Simitis said that the current government policies would "secure the great achievements and success" of the recent past, adding that the "results of this policy will become apparent at the end of the four-year term" of the government.
He also said that there was resistance in implementing policies, which he explained as "inflexibility of the past and persistence to outmoded recipes, attitudes and practices".
The premier called for renewal of persons and ideas within the ruling party, stressing that "we should become disentangled from the past and the attitude of tradition, which views reality as unchanging".
Speaking on ND, he said that the main opposition party was undergoing a long-term, multi-faceted crisis, which it cannot overcome, while he accused it of "a policy of scandal mongering, populism and non-constructive negative attitude".
 ND denounces state of prison system, police force
Athens, 21/02/2001 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy clamored for government action to improve Greece's prison system and police force, after a meeting of ND section-heads on Tuesday to discuss the escape of prison inmate Costas Passaris.
Last Friday, Passaris had managed to shoot his way out of an Athens hospital, to which he had been transferred from Korydallos prison for medical tests, killing two police officers in the process.
Law enforcement section-head Theodoros Anagnostopoulos said that Greece had never before witnessed such forms of organized crime and that citizens in outlying districts felt a level of insecurity that was not matched even in times of political instability.
He also called for improvements in law enforcement before the Olympic Games come to Athens in 2004, while noting that the government's promises of a new legislative framework had come to nothing.
He criticized Justice Minister Michalis Stathopoulos of not devoting enough time to citizen safety and called for new laws on gun use and possession by the police.
ND spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, meanwhile, said that the main opposition would submit two questions in Parliament on security issues and the Passaris escape and stressed that many points needed clarification.
The spokesman also pointed out shortcomings within Korydallos prison, where the prisoners' infirmary was not operating and no distinctions were made between prisoners being held for serious and petty crimes. He also denounced the poor state of the prison's buildings, which he said were overcrowded.
He concluded by saying that ND was in favor of five-day leave for prisoners, provided both their conduct in prison and the seriousness of their crimes was taken into account.
 ND attacks government over EU event, party congress date clash
Athens, 21/02/2001 (ANA)Greece's main opposition New Democracy party attacked the government on Tuesday over its refusal to postpone an event to celebrate the 20th anniversary since Greece joined the European Union, which coincides with the start of ND's party congress in Thessaloniki.
ND spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos accused the government of trying to exclude ND from the event by adamantly insisting on the March 31 date for the celebrations, even though European Commission President Romano Prodi had understood when the opposition party requested a slight delay.
The spokesman also produced correspondence between the European Commission, its bureau in Greece, ND leader Costas Karamanlis and ND party secretary Dimitris Sioufas, according to which New Democracy had been informed about the EU event on January 16.
Roussopoulos also noted that the program sent to ND did not include an address by Karamanlis and that the date of ND's congress had been public knowledge. He concluded by saying that ND would not be sending any representative to the anniversary event.
 Press ministry's information secretary says Athens 2004 Olympiad will have integrated security plan
NEW YORK, 21/02/2001 (ANA)The Press and Media Ministry's Information Secretary General, Yiannis Nikolaou, told a press conference in New York on Monday an integrated security plan would be applied in Greece before, during and after the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
"Terrorism constitutes an international problem. Greece is cooperating with the US and other countries to eradicate it to the extent it exists, while the government will handle all issues related to the Olympiad with sobriety and diligence to enable the event to be crowned with success," he said.
Nikolaou said the purpose of his visit to the US was to cooperate with Greek communications professors and with the chiefs of press offices in the US and Canada on the issue of the country's image in the US and Canadian media.
 Christodoulos on ID issue, gov't says PM never ruled out meeting
Athens, 21/02/2001 (ANA)Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos gave an across-the-board television interview on Monday evening, where at one point he emphasized that the Church has repeatedly attempted to confer with Prime Minister Costas Simitis over the divisive identification cards furor.
While clarifying that he has never "picked up the phone to personally" call the premier, Christodoulos did stress that various government officials and ministers have over the past year publicly opined that the "ID issue" is permanently settled, whereas any other relevant Church-state matters should be taken up with the education and religious affairs minister.
On its part, the government on Tuesday responded that PM Simitis has never rejected a meeting the Greek Church's influential leadership.
The government's decision to issue new ID cards sans the religious affiliation on grounds that it constitutes a violation of citizens' privacy concerning personal data has caused a firestorm of opposition from the powerful Autocephalus Orthodox Church of Greece.
The Greek Church is at present collecting signatures nation-wide in order to force a referendum to give citizens in the predominately Orthodox country the option of listing their religious preference on new IDs.
The latest twist in the months-long ID card furor came last December with a recommendation by the Council of State against the listing of citizens' religious affiliation.
Greece highest administrative court heard opinions against the listing of religious affiliation and nationality on the new police identification cards.
A court spokesman, however, recommended that nationality be included on new IDs.
 New commander appointed for NATO post at Tyrnavos
Athens, 21/02/2001 (ANA)A new commander has been appointed for NATO's JC SOUTHCENT sub-headquarters, based in the central Greece town of Tyrnavos.
According to a press release, Greek Army Lt.-Gen. Panayiotis Harvalas will replace Lt.-Gen. Emmanuel Mantzanas.
The new JC SOUTHCENT commander was first in his class at the army's academy, graduating with honors in 1969 before subsequently serving at several national and NATO-level posts.
 Aegean Minister speaks on 'Cyprus in the European Union and the role of Greece'
NICOSIA, 210/02/2001 (ANA-G. Leonidas)Cyprus' candidacy for accession to the European Union is a choice of strategic importance and strengthens the Cypriot government's international presence and prestige and introduces a new dynamic parameter which can contribute positively to a settlement of the Cyprus problem which for years now is bogged down in a marsh, Greece's Aegean Minister Nicos Sifounakis said in a speech in Nicosia on Tuesday night.
Speaking on the theme "Cyprus in the European Union and the role of Greece", Sifounakis said that "another positive step was made" at the EU summit in Helsinki. He added, however that "the full implementation of its decisions requires an increase in our efforts and readiness."
He noted that Cyprus' accession to the EU will also be to the benefit of the Turkish Cypriots, underlining that Cyprus' European course "is linked with Greece's steadfast decision that the priority of Greek foreign policy is the finding of a permanent and just solution to the Cyprus problem within the framework of the United Nations resolutions, on the basis of the principles of a unified and sovereign state and territorial integrity".
Sifounakis is on a visit to Cyprus with Macedonia-Thrace Minister George Paschalidis.
They are on the island attending a meeting of the joint Greece-Cyprus evaluation committee of a program entitled "Thrace-Aegean-Cyprus" that is examining 330 proposals from 115 organizations relating to the promotion of education, culture, and the environment of Thrace, the Aegean and Cyprus.
 Greek trade unions in battle positions ahead of dialogue with the government
Athens, 21/02/2001 (ANA)Greece's two largest trade union umbrellas, GSEE and ADEDY representing the private and public sector respectively, looked set to take battle positions ahead of the beginning of talks with the government over a reform in the country's social security system.
The two unions and the Employment Institute presented on Tuesday, during a press conference, workers' negotiating position based on a report compiled by the institute.
GSEE chairman, Christos Polyzogopoulos, said that union members would participate in a dialogue with the government but that they would defend strongly workers', unemployed people and pensioners' interests.
He stressed that the country's social security system did not suffer from overheating because of increased social benefits but due to a large social shortfall and he accused the state of draining more than 15 trillion drachmas from the social insurance funds' money.
Polyzogopoulos also cited the significance of contribution evasion, currently totalling 25 percent, informal employment and the state's incoherence in meeting its financial support of the system.
GSEE dismissed any talk of extending the retirement age in Greece and accepting the participation of private insurance companies in the social insurance system.
ADEDY's chairman, Spyros Papaspyrou, stressed that civil servants would not accept any new burdens on their contribution payments, currently at 23.2 percent and said that there were not low retirement limits in the public sector.
Professor Savvas Robolis, head of the Labor Institute, said that social insurance funds' deficit could vary between 26-68 trillion drachmas in the next 50 years, according to the employment rate and the discount interest rate in the next decades.
He said that the state's contribution to the social security system was currently 2.0 percent, the lowest rate in Europe.
George Romanias, a Labor Institute expert, said that the state paid just 200 billion drachmas to the social security system in 2000, sharply down from its obligatory payment of one trillion drachmas.
 Workers have right to paid vacations irrespective of duration of employment; EU court may rule
BRUSSELS, 21/02/2001 (ANA - G. Zitouniati)The European Court's attorney general on Monday sided with a British workers' union which requested for a ruling on the right to paid annual vacation from the moment employees are hired and not after a minimum period of employment.
The High Court of Justice of Britain referred the case to the Court.
Antonio Ticano, the court's attorney general, argued for the union, saying that this right was based on a 1993 European Union directive and the non-binding Fundamental Rights Charter, as it was formulated during the Nice summit.
He said that the right to leave with pay is not only to the benefit of the employee, but it also is to the benefit of public health and safety in the work place. He added that this right is automatic and cannot be repealed, nor does it fall under the field of exceptions prescribed by the aforementioned Union directive.
 Greek stocks end higher for the 9th consecutive session
Athens, 21/02/2001 (ANA)Equity prices ended higher on Tuesday extending their gains for the ninth consecutive session on the Athens Stock Exchange with investors reappearing in strength opening new positions in the blue chip sector.
Traders said many investors preferred to take profits in the smaller capitalization stocks sector, which led the market's rally in the previous eight sessions.
The general index ended 0.94 percent higher at 3,271.14 points, off the day's highs of 3,319.61 points, with turnover a sharply improved 303.82 million euros, or 103.52 billion drachmas.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks ended 1.09 percent higher at 1,884.97 points, and the FTSE/ASE 40 index fell 0.97 percent to 377.65 points.
Sector indices ended as follows: Banks: 6,987.15 +1.44% Leasing: 543.53 -0.24% Insurance: 1,451.36 +7.05% Investment: 1,327.37 +1.89% Construction: 1,451.06 -3.01% Industrials: 2,017.38 +0.75% Miscellaneous: 2,469.74 -2.21% Holding: 3,560.15 -0.59%
The parallel market index for smaller capitalization stocks eased 1.75 percent to 308.08 points.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 218 to 131 with another 12 issues unchanged.
Panafon, Alpha Bank, National Bank, Hellenic Telecoms and Intracom were the most heavily traded stocks.
Leading shares' closing prices (in euros): National Bank: 39.02 Alpha Bank: 32.94 Commercial Bank: 52.08 Eurobank: 20.58 Piraeus Bank: 15.30 Lambrakis Press: 13.12 Altec: 7.48 Titan Cement (c): 38.76 Hellenic Telecoms: 16.58 Panafon: 7.02 Hellenic Petroleum: 9.80 Attica Enterprises: 7.28 Intracom: 21.12 Minoan Lines: 5.40 Viohalco: 10.90 Coca Cola Bottling: 19.38
Equity futures end mixed, tracking Athens bourse: Equity futures traded on the Athens Derivatives Exchange finished mixed on Tuesday, in line with the bourse indices on which they are based, traders said.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index closed 1.09 percent up, and the FTSE/ASE 40 ended 0.97 percent lower.
Turnover was 71.4 million euros on 11,225 contracts traded, the dealers said.
Bond prices end down in moderate trade: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market on Tuesday finished lower in moderate trade, dealers said.
The new Greek benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 5.39 percent from 5.37 percent a day earlier.
The yield spread over German bunds was 57 basis points from 56 basis points the day before.
Turnover through the central bank's electronic system totalled 625 million euros (around 212.9 billion drachmas) from 195 million euros (about 66.4 billion drachmas) in the previous session.
Sell orders accounted for the bulk of turnover.
Euro/dollar reference rate set at 90.70 cents: The European Central Bank on Tuesday set its euro/dollar reference rate at 90.70 cents, sharply off Monday's 92.13 cents, pushing the US dollar/drachma rate to 375.68 drachmas.
The ECB also set a euro/yen reference rate at 104.86 yen (3.24 drachmas), a euro/sterling at 63.14 pence (539.67 drachmas), a euro/Swiss franc rate at 1.5351 (221.97 drachmas) and a euro/Cyprus pound at 57.92 cents (588.31 drachmas).
 Greek inflation slows to 3.4 percent in January yr/yr
Athens, 21/02/2001 (ANA)Consumer price inflation eased to 3.4 percent in January year-on-year from 3.9 percent in December, the National Statistics Service (NSS) said on Tuesday.
The consumer price index dropped 1.6 percent from the previous month, compared with declines of 1.1 percent and 1.0 percent over the same periods in 2000 and 1999, respectively.
The NSS said the slower inflation figure in January, year-on-year, reflected a 1.9 percent increase in the food and non-alcoholic beverages index, a 15.7 percent jump in alcohol and tobacco index, a 4.6 percent increase in hotel-restaurant, and rises of 4.9 percent and 3.2 percent in transports and housing indexes, respectively.
The monthly consumer price index fall was attributed to a 10.1 percent fall in clothing and footwear because of the winter sales season, a 4.0 percent decline in housing and a 3.0 percent fall in durable goods' prices.
 Commercial Bank of Greece to give Dr 450 dividend
Athens, 21/02/2001 (ANA)State-owned Commercial Bank of Greece, which is quoted on the Athens bourse, will propose to shareholders a dividend of 450 drachmas per share on profits in 2000, banking sources said on Tuesday.
The dividend is up 50 percent on the previous year, and, so far, is the highest in numerical terms to be announced for a bank, the sources said.
Commercial's earnings before tax and after provisions in 2000 totalled about 115 billion drachmas, up 20 percent on a year earlier, they added.
The bank's chairman, Yiannis Stournaras, is to announce results formally at a news conference on Thursday.
 Average weighted yield drops in T-bill auctions
Athens, 21/02/2001 (ANA)The average weighted yield on treasury bills dropped in three auctions held by the finance ministry on Tuesday.
The ministry said in a statement that the yield to emerge was as follows:
On 13-week T-bills to 4.20 percent from 5.66 percent in the previous auction
On 26-week paper to 4.18 percent from 4.58 percent
On 52-week paper to 4.24 percent from 4.59 percent
 Greece's work force to rise until 2011, then decline
BRUSSELS, 21/02/2001 (ANA - B. Demiris)The work force in Greece will continue to increase until 2011, reaching a turning point where it will begin to decline, following a European Union wide pattern, a Eurostat report published on Monday said.
Some 4.7 million Greek citizens make up the work force of a nation of about 10 million residents a number that is expected to rise to 4.8 million by 2011 and then begin a slow decline.
Ireland will experience the highest increase, by 11.2 per cent, while Finland and Sweden the lowest in the Union, just a one per cent rise.
Between 2010 and 2025 the Greek workforce will decline by one percent, while only Luxembourg and Ireland will experience any increase, during that period.
 Report calls for liberalization of "closed-end" professions
Athens, 21/02/2001 (ANA)The liberalization of "closed-end" professions in Greece could lead to an increase in the country's gross domestic product by 0.8-1.6 percent annually, a report by the Programming and Economic Research Center said on Tuesday.
The report, due to be officially presented on Wednesday, on "Barriers in the free function of professions, in business initiatives and competitiveness" called for the liberalization of almost 90 professions, such as lawyers, notaries, pharmacists, engineers, cargo road-transport and taxis.
The report called for the abolishing of all limitations on notaries' profession and their fees in the next 5-7 years.
For pharmacists the report called for abolishing of an administrative limitation on profit margins, while it also urged for the full liberalization of the auditors' profession to allow the operation of foreign auditing businesses.
The report said that liberalizing "closed-end" professions was not an easy task, due to various particularities in each profession, but stressed the need to simplify procedures and to offer easier access to certain professions, resulting to lower costs, improved competition and higher economic output in the country.
 Tomi applies for power plant construction permits
Athens, 21/02/2001 (ANA)Engineering contractor Tomi SA said on Tuesday it had submitted 10 applications to the state's Regulatory Energy Authority for the construction of power plants under the market's new deregulated status.
Seven of the plants will employ renewable energy and the remaining three natural gas, Tomi said in a statement.
The projects' total capacity is 189.45 megawatts, the statement added.
 PriceWaterhouseCoopers to hold conference in Vouliagmeni
Athens, 21/02/2001 (ANA)PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the global auditing and consultancy firm, is to hold a conference in Vouliagmeni, near Athens on March 1 to debate human resources management in the new economy.
Beyond corporate leaders, speakers at the international forum are to include Athens Mayor Dimitris Avrampoulos and the leader of the Liberals Party, Stefanos Manos.
 Turkish Fashion Exhibition to be held in Athens
Athens, 21/02/2001 (ANA)"Today is better than yesterday in our relations," Turkish ambassador to Greece, Ali Tuygan, said on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters, during a press conference to present a Turkish Fashion 2001 Exhibition at an Athens hotel, Tuygan said that bilateral economic and commercial relations had significantly improved in the last few months.
Greek-Turkish trade volume increased by 20 percent in 2000, compared with the previous year, to 850 million US dollars, while business contacts have increased and investments were currently in the implementation stage, the Turkish ambassador said.
Mr. Tuygan said that Turkey also participated at the Poseidon Maritime Exhibition and the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair last year.
Turkey's textile and clothing sectors' output value totals an annual average of 20 billion US dollars, with half of the production exported. Turkey has a 12 percent market share in the European Union textiles and clothing market.
"Turkish enterprises are now trying to attract Greek consumers. We believe that we can meet the high criteria in taste and quality of the market. We have to do this to balance the volume of economic trade between the two countries. This balance, including bilateral trade, tourism, investment and shipping rates, is currently benefiting Greece," Mr. Tuygan said.
The first leather and clothing trade fair, organized by the Hellenic-Turkish Chamber of Commerce, will be held March 1-2 in Piraeus, with more than 70 Turkish brand names exhibiting their products.
The fair is organized by Turkcel, the Turkish telecommunications company.
 Increase in tourist arrivals from Italy last year
MILAN, 21/02/2001 (ANA - L. Hatzikyriakos)The number of tourist arrivals from neighboring Italy to Greece increased by 18 percent in the year 2000, according to statistics offered by the country's National Tourism Organization (EOT) during a trade show here.
Specifically, 724,000 Italian tourists arrived in Greece between January and September 2000. With the figures, Italy ranks third behind Germany and Britain in terms of tourist arrivals to Greece.
The most prolific months for Italian tourists are July (19 percent) and August (30 percent), although the latter month has been showing signs of decreasing popularity.
Meanwhile, in an attempt to attract more "off-season" tourists, EOT is considering offering Italian tour agencies a ?40 bonus per tourist arriving between November and March.
 European Socialist Party seminar in Athens on Feb. 23-24
Athens, 21/02/2001 (ANA)A European Socialist Party seminar on "The Knowledge Economy - Education and Employment" is to take place in Athens on Friday and Saturday. It is part of a series of seminars on various topics organized by the European Socialist Party before its conference in May.
Greek Euro-deputy for PASOK Anna Karamanou participated in an ESP seminar on "Emigration and Cultural Identity" in Spain on Tuesday.
 No plans to change site for Olympic rowing center, says gov't
Athens, 21/02/2001 (ANA)The government ruled out any change to its plans for an Olympic rowing and canoeing center in Schinias on Tuesday, overriding the objections of environmentalists and, recently, Greece's Archaeological Society. The rowing center is to be used when Athens hosts the Olympic Games in 2004.
"There is no reason to change the plans for the rowing center," Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis told reporters, while he accused the project's detractors of "wanting to project their egos."
"All those who had opposed [Greece's assumption of] the Olympic Games have now made Schinias and Marathon their banner. Have all these people been in Greece for the past 40 years? Did they live in Attica? Had they reported the degradation of that specific area?"
Referring to the obstacles raised by archaeological groups, in particular, who claim the site is historically significant because of its link with the ancient battlefield of Marathon, where the Athenians drove back a Persian invasion in the 5th century B.C., Laliotis asked what prompted them to speak up now, when the decline of the area has been going on for so many years.
He also referred to a study carried out by a Belgian historian, according to which the Schinias area was actually below sea level when the battle took place in 490 B.C.
The minister continued by saying that the ecosystem of the Schinias area has been ravaged for several decades by a number of activities that rendered the term ecosystem almost meaningless. Among these he listed the Marathon airfield, which served 10,000 flights a year and was the largest in Attica after Hellenikon, an American base that operated in the area for several years, a motor-cross route, rubbish dumps, rubble piles and widespread illegal construction. As for the forest that runs along the length of the beach, he added, this serves as a camping ground for thousands of excursionists each year.
Taken all together, he concluded, these constituted anything but an ecosystem.
According to Laliotis, a Presidential decree that the environment ministry has submitted to the Council of State will help redress the above situation by converting 1,300 hectares into a national park, removing the airfield, reclaiming the land occupied by the bases and demolishing buildings, as well as creating artificial lakes.
The minister also rejected a proposal to build the rowing center near Lake Yliki in Voeotia, saying that this had been designated a protected area and was included in the EU's NATURA 2000 program.
The proposed rowing and canoeing center in Schinias has been vehemently opposed by environmental groups, among them WWF-Hellas and the Greek Ornithological Society, who have denounced the environment ministry's "Schinias National Park" scheme as an attempt to deflect criticism and as an environmental "facade" for a major construction project that will irreversibly damage the region's environment. They also charge that the scheme allows uses that are incompatible with the protection of ecologically important regions and which create a bad precedent for every national park in Greece.
Environmental groups also accuse the ministry of having frozen a process to declare the region a national park begun in 1992 so that they could build installations for the Olympics and of refusing to include it in the "Natura 2000" list, which would again have blocked such large construction projects.
Most recently, Greece's Archaeological Society joined its voice to the naysayers, claiming the site and its landscape should be preserved as being of historic significance.
 Environment minister announces changes to Omonia Square
Athens, 21/02/2001 (ANA)Athens' historic Omonia Square is to get a radical face-lift that should make it more hospitable and transform it from a circle into a rectangle.
The square is in the heart of Athens, with a direct view of the Acropolis, and a crucial interchange for the new Athens metro and urban railway.
According to Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis, who presented plans for the changes on Tuesday, two billion drachmas are to be spent to convert street to pedestrian walks, landscaping and new traffic flow measures that will free up 1.5 hectares in the city center. The measures will also include restoration on buildings surrounding the square and the removal of illegal advertising billboards.
Changes to the surrounding road system, he said, would go into effect from the summer and should help relieve acute traffic congestion in the area. These include making Piraeus Street one-way between Omonia and Menandrou Street and Agios Constantinos Street up to Karaiskaki Square.
In addition, the section of Athinas Street from Omonia to Lykourgou Street will be converted to pedestrian walks, except for public transport vehicles and for use of car parks.
 Archbishop of America visits Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos
ISTANBUL, 21/02/2001 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos welcomed a delegation of the Archdiocese of America, headed by Archbishop Dimitrios, at the Phanar on Tuesday.
"The Archdiocese of America represents youth, spontaneity, boldness and, in general, all the characteristics of the struggling and progressive spirit and the Holy Mother of Christ and the Great Church is one of the oldest institutions in history and has accumulated the experience of centuries," the Ecumenical Patriarch said.
Referring to work starting at the Phanar on Tuesday on revising the Archdiocese of America's constitution, the Ecumenical Patriarch said "the Ecumenical Patriarchate desires the greatest possible cohesion, progress and development of the Archdiocese of America to enable it to serve the expatriate community in the best possible way."
 Greece's third Megaron concert hall slated for Laconia
Athens, 21/02/2001 (ANA)Greece's third Megaron concert hall will be built in Laconia prefecture, and will be called the "Niarchos Megaron-International Center", by decision of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
The concert hall, budgeted at 8.5 billion dr., is being funded by the Niarchos Foundation, which was set up in 1996 under an endowment in the will of the late shipping tycoon Stavros Niarchos, who was born in the Laconia village of Vamvakou.
The concert hall will be built on a tract of parkland along the Sparta-Mystras road donated for the purpose by oversees Greek Nikos Goudes.
The construction of the new Megaron will begin in the next few days and is expected to be completed in about one year. The concert hall will also operate as an international conference center.
Executives of a major hotel group were currently in Sparta to discuss the construction of a luxury hotel, while preliminary preparations had also been completed for the commencement of the process of study, approval and construction of an airport in the area to accommodate charter flights, local officials said.
Sparta mayor Demosthenes Matalas was due to meet with culture minister Evangelos Venizelos on Friday to discuss the final details of the Megaron project. He would also meet with transport and communications minister Christos Verelis later in the day to discuss the airport project.
 Only one of the three guards carried handgun during Passaris' escape from hospital
Athens, 21/02/2001 (ANA)Only one of the three police guards accompanying escaped felon Constantine Passaris carried his weapon during the escape that cost the lives of two of the guards, public order ministry sources and police union officials said on Tuesday.
Passaris escaped on Friday from an Athens hospital, when two gun-toting accomplices ambushed the three accompanying police guards, fatally wounding two of the men.
One of the victims died at Athens' General State Hospital, the same facility from where the 26-year-old inmate escaped only hours before.
Police said Sgt. Athanassios Drakopoulos died from gunshot wounds sustained in the shoot-out. Passaris was arrested one year ago after another shoot-out with police in a downtown Athens square.
The inmate, who is still at large, fled from the hospital just before 10 a.m.
The third guard, Andreas Phisekis, was injured but survived the attack and is reported to be recovering without complications.
Witnesses said the handcuffed Passaris and one of his accomplices headed towards an adjacent hospital facility, while the second gunman simply walked out of a main entrance before forcing a hospital employee at gunpoint to turn over the keys to his black "Lancia".
Passaris, a convicted robber, was incarcerated in the Korydallos prison after he and two Romanian outlaws opened fire on police with a submachine gun and handguns following a routine traffic stop near Vathis Square in late February 2000. One of the Romanians was killed and three police officers were wounded during the incident.
Patrol officers at the time escaped serious injury due to bulletproof vests they were wearing.
The second Romanian man was killed a few days later in yet another shoot-out with police in the western Petroupoli district.
 The British Embassy in Athens to make available a condolence book for Woodhouse
Athens, 21/02/2001 (ANA)The British Embassy in Athens announced on Tuesday that a condolence book would be available on Thursday for Christopher Montague Woodhouse, a distinguished historian and friend of Greece, who died last week at the age of 83 in Oxford, England.
The book signing will take place between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., coinciding with his funeral at the St. Mary's Church of Old Knebworth, Hertfordshire.
Woodhouse was the head of Britain's military mission in Nazi-occupied Greece and a prolific historian who focused on the Mediterranean ally he once served in.
The highlight of his military activity in wartime Greece was the 1942 Gorgopotamos Bridge sabotage -- which resulted in a temporary interruption of German supply lines to Rommel's Afrika Corps -- the pre-eminent example of joint action by rival partisan groups operating in the country.
Woodhouse remained a diehard friend of Greece after the war, often visiting the country. His last trip came in the summer of 2000.
A prolific writer of historical monographs, Woodhouse focused sharply on post-WWII Greek events, ranging from historical research on the Civil War of the late 1940s to his "Rise and Fall of the Greek Colonels" -- a brilliant 'autopsy' of the 1967-1974 military junta in Greece.
Greece awarded him the Medal of the Order of Phoenix for his actions during the occupation, while his homeland bestowed on him the Medal of the Order of the British Empire. Since the death of his brother in 1998 Woodhouse inherited the family title of Lord Terrington.
Woodhouse is survived by a daughter and two sons as his wife, Lady Davina, died in 1995.
 President arrives in Ioannina to attend celebrations marking 88th anniversary of city's liberation from Turkish rule
Athens, 21/02/2001 (ANA)President Kostis Stephanopoulos arrived in Ioannina, northern Greece, on Tuesday to attend celebrations marking the 88th anniversary of the city's liberation from Turkish rule.
National Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, Deputy Agriculture Minister Evangelos Argyris and local authorities met him at Ioannina airport.
President Stephanopoulos visited the municipal cultural center later where the city's mayor made an address and a concert was given by the municipal conservatory's orchestra and choir.
Celebrations will heighten on Wednesday with a parade by pupils, students, boy scouts and units of the armed forces and security forces.
 SAE presidium to meet in Thessaloniki on Wednesday
Athens, 21/02/2001 (ANA)The World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) presidium three-day conference begins on Wednesday in Thessaloniki, to discuss on proposals for the 2001 action plan of the non-governmental organization.
The agenda includes action the organization is planning to take during the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, especially concerning volunteer services, during the Games.
Greek Foreign Deputy Minister Grigoris Niotis and Secretary General of Expatriate Greek Affairs Dimitris Dollis will be present at the conference meetings.
 Bird hunting season curtailed to meet EU regulations
Athens, 21/02/2001 (ANA)The bird-hunting season will end on Jan. 31 from this year forward according to a new regulatory decision signed by Deputy Agriculture Minister Photis Hatzimichalis, the Greek Ornithology Society announced on Tuesday.
The regulation was signed on Feb. 15, six days before legal action against Greece was to begin on a European Union level, for non-compliance with the relevant Union regulations.
The action was taken to protect migratory birds traversing Greece to reach their lands of reproduction.
 Dutch State Secretary speaks on Cyprus' EU accession course
NICOSIA, 21/02/2001 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus is among the front-runners in the process of the harmonization with the acquis communautaire but still much has to be done, Dutch State Secretary for foreign affairs Dick Benschop said here on Tuesday after meeting George Vassiliou, Head of the negotiating team of Cyprus for the accession to the EU.
Vassiliou said he briefed the Dutch official on developments concerning Cyprus' progress at the membership negotiations and the efforts to keep the Turkish Cypriot community informed as to what is happening in Europe as well as for the efforts to reach a solution to the Cyprus problem.
Benschop said the negotiating process is now getting into a crucial phase this year and the beginning of next year noting that "you are really sitting down to do business and that is important."
He said after the EU Summit in Nice the Union is now really getting ready for enlargement "and we are really going to make it happen."
"We took stock of Cyprus progress towards the EU. In terms of the adoption of the acquis Cyprus is doing very well. It is indeed among the front-runners, that is very clear. But... much still has to be done and also modes on paper is one thing, implementing the EU aquis is a second thing and that needs attention as well... the Dutch official added.
He noted that "special attention has to be paid to the Cyprus question also in relationship to Cyprus' road towards the EU."
Vassiliou said he repeated to the Dutch State Secretary "the progress that we have made and the problems that we are facing".
He expressed satisfaction with the understanding he found "and for the feeling that Holland, which I must point out has always supported our efforts, is continuing to work in this direction."
Earlier on Tuesday Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides received the Dutch official. He also met Cyprus House of Representatives President Spyros Kyprianou and Social Democrats President Vassos Lyssarides.
On Monday, he crossed into the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus and had a meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. He was due to leave later on Tuesday.
 Cyprus government says premature to draw conclusions about situation in Turkey
NICOSIA, 21/02/2001 (CNA/ANA)The Cyprus government believes it is premature to draw any conclusions about the situation in Turkey but considers that it would be simplistic to assume that the crisis between the Turkish premier and president is a personal confrontation.
"It is too early for anybody to analyze the situation and come to some conclusions about what lies behind the political crisis in Turkey," Michalis Papapetrou, government spokesman, said here on Tuesday, invited by the press to comment on developments in Turkey, which continues to occupy 37 per cent of Cyprus' territory since its troops invaded in 1974.He said it would be too simplistic for somebody to consider that there is a personal confrontation between Bulent Ecevit and Ahmet Sezer and that Monday's developments were a manifestation of such a confrontation.
"The causes of this crisis are far deeper and one should not rule out the possibility that an artificial crisis was created, tactics which Turkey applied in the past," he said, stressing however that "this does not mean I share this consideration at this stage."