|Thursday, 12 December 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 01-02-24
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Simitis says Balkan Summit condemns ultra nationalism and terrorism
SKOPJE, 24/02/2001 (ANA - A. Podimata)Prime Minister Costas Simitis hailed the 4th Balkan Summit in Skopje as a success on Friday, saying that the leaders of southeast European countries had progressed beyond mere statements of intent to specifics.
Speaking during a press conference in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Simitis stressed that the summit "demonstrated the steadfast political will of Balkan countries for cooperation and understanding."
"We have moved on to much more specific issues, from how to deal with the crisis in southern Serbia to economic cooperation, energy issues and environmental protection," he said.
Reminding reporters that the process for Balkan cooperation had been begun on Crete after a Greek initiative, Simitis stressed that understanding, respect of international law and good neighborliness helped create a stable environment.
"Stability and cooperation arise when there is respect for international law, when the inviolability of borders is recognized and when human and minority rights are respected," he said.
Regarding the problems in Kosovo and southern Serbia, Simitis said he was encouraged to find that an effort was being made by everyone to work together and that "a common desire to deal with expressions of excessive nationalism and terrorism was shared by all."
Acknowledging that every country had its own positions and views on these issues, he said that everyone agreed, nevertheless, that those who resorted to ultra nationalism and terrorism were "playing with fire."
The Greek premier also hailed the fact that Albania would now be taking over the presidency of the Balkan Summit, saying that this alone indicated "the huge steps that have been made."
"When we began this process there were countries that had not communicated with each other for 10 years," he added.
Accession to and cooperation with Europe, he noted, was a goal shared by all the countries in the region, as was that of economic development. He said that Greece had worked out its own reconstruction plan, to which it had allocated significant sums, and he reiterated that both mutual cooperation and the European prospects of Balkan countries were strongly supported by Athens.
 Balkan leaders lay the groundwork for peace, stability and cooperation in the beleaguered region
SKOPJE, 24/02/2001 (ANA M. Vihou)The establishment of peace, stability and regional economic cooperation was the focus of the joint communique issued by the leaders of the nine countries participating in the Balkan Summit here, with special mention of the conditions in Kosovo and the future of that Yugoslav region.
"We have reaffirmed the commitments contained in the SEECP Summit and Ministerial Declarations and the Charter of Good-Neighborly Relations, Stability, Security and Cooperation in Southeastern Europe, based on the principles of the United Nations Charter, the Helsinki Final Act," they stressed in the Summit Declaration.
They included "all ten principles (of good-neighborly relations) ...namely sovereign equality, respect for rights inherent to sovereignty, refraining from the use of force, inviolability of frontiers, territorial integrity of the states, peaceful settlement of disputes, non-intervention in internal affairs, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, equal rights and self-determination of peoples."
Conditions in Kosovo also took a prominent position in the communique as the Balkan leaders stressed that "we have confirmed our support for the full and consistent implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244," which mandated that Kosovo should remain within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
"We underline our full support for UN Secretary General Special Representative for Kosovo" in preparing for elections in that region, strongly condemning "violence, terrorism and extremism and any act which makes the co-existence of communities more difficult and prevents the return of refugees and internally displaced persons," the statement read.
"Furthermore, we welcome the efforts of the International Community and Yugoslav initiative for the start of a positive and constructive political dialogue," they said.
They also condemned all "violent and illegal terrorist actions, by the ethnically motivated extremist armed groups in south Serbia".
The communique also included the decisions of the summit regarding regional economic cooperation, which in turn the Balkan leaders believe would lessen the impact of differences and promote stability.
"After a decade of wars and conflicts that affected the region, our countries have now a new opportunity to contribute with their resources to the common task of bringing enhanced economic and social progress in the entire South East European region," the statement said.
"We have adopted an Action Plan for Regional Economic Cooperation ... outlining priority areas for regional cooperation, where immediate progress is possible, addressing both reforms that our countries are undertaking and the faster economic development of the region," it added.
"The future of the countries in the region lies in their integration in the European and Euro-Atlantic structures," they said, and welcomed the settling of the Yugoslav-FYROM border issue.
The European Union was represented at the summit by External Affairs European Commissioner Chris Patten and by foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
Greece, EU candidate countries Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey and five Balkan countries wishing to apply for candidacy to the EU, participated in the summit, this time including Yugoslavia, which was shunned during the Milosevic era.
 Greece to undertake initiative on crisis in southern Serbia
BRUSSELS, 24/02/2001 (ANA - Y. Zitouniati)Greece will be undertaking an initiative on the crisis in southern Serbia and the handling of armed Albanian attacks, proposing a package of ideas and a plan of action both in the European Union, at the Council of EU Foreign Ministers on Monday, and NATO at the ministerial session in Brussels on Tuesday.
Foreign Minister George Papandreou, two days after his participation in the inter-Balkan Conference, will be the main rapporteur at the Council on the rapid deterioration of the situation in southern Serbia and will refer to the need for immediate and speedy action to coordinate all international organizations (EU, NATO, UN and OSCE).
Papandreou will also focus on a series of political measures in the framework of the Covic (the Serbian government's deputy prime minister) plan, such as the consolidation of the inviolability of borders, respect for Serbia's integrity, the incorporation of Albanians in southern Serbia and their participation in the region's local administration and social, economic and cultural development.
Greece has also tabled a draft announcement on the issue to be discussed at Monday's Council.
Papandreou will point out that the situation in the region is in danger of getting out of control soon if the reactions of international organizations remain at the level of announcements. He will also propose the sending of a strong "message" to all directions, and to the Kosovo Albanians in particular, that "they should cooperate with the international community and discourage all action aimed at a change in the region's borders."
Referring to the reasons for which stability in the region is being threatened, Papandreou will speak of "the risk of violence spreading in the region" due to the latest terrorist activities which harm "vital interests of European countries."
 Greek, Yugoslavian foreign minister discuss regional developments, bilateral issues
SKOPJE, 24/02/2001 (ANA - A. Podimata)Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou on Friday met with his counterpart of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Goran Svilanovic at the sidelines of the Balkan Summit here.
A joint statement to the press, following their meeting, noted that "they discussed the recent developments in the region and agreed to remain in close contact in light of the upcoming meetings of the European Union and NATO next week".
"They, also, agreed that the relevant authorities of the two countries will intensify the cooperation efforts to identify the products smuggled from Federal Republic of Yugoslavia under obscure conditions, taking into account the relevant decisions of the European Union," the statement said.
 Greek FM makes statements on his meeting with Cem on Thursday
SKOPJE, 24/02/2001 (ANA - A. Podimata)Foreign Minister George Papandreou confirmed reports that he and Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem had agreed to an exchange of visits, during brief statements to reporters in Skopje on Friday.
He and Cem had had a half-hour meeting on Thursday night, cut short by Cem's departure to greet Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit on his arrival at Skopje's airport, during which they had exchanged views on the progress in bilateral relations and a number of bilateral agreement awaiting ratification by their countries' respective parliaments.
The two men were both in Skopje to attend a meeting of Balkan foreign ministers, which paved the way for Friday's Balkan Summit in the FYROM capital.
According to Papandreou, a visit by him to Ankara was pending but no date had yet been set. He said he had agreed with Cem's proposal for a joint visit to the Aegean island of Samos and the Turkish coastal town of Kusadasi in May. According to the minister, the Samos-Kusadasi trip was a continuation of a planned Rhodes-Marmaris trip last year, which had been cancelled because of the events surrounding NATO exercise "Destined Glory 2000" in Turkey, which culminating in Greece withdrawing its forces.
Papandreou said his talks with Cem had not been completed and would be continued in Brussels on Tuesday, when he and Cem met on the sidelines of a NATO foreign ministers' meeting.
Spokesman comments on crisis in Turkey: Acting government spokesman Telemachos Hytiris expressed hope on Friday that Turkey would soon succeed in getting over the country's current crisis, so that it could more easily adapt to European conditions.
 Albanian FM comments on FYROM-Yugoslavia border deal to ANA
SKOPJE, 24/02/2001 (ANA - M. Vihou)Albanian Foreign Minister Pascal Milo, in an exclusive statement to the ANA on Friday, hailed the signing of a border demarcation deal between Federal Yugoslavia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on the same day as a major event.
The agreement between the two countries ends a 10-year dispute that began when FYROM first proclaimed its independence. Also included in the 330-km border is the borderline with the Serb province of Kosovo.
According to Milo, since Kosovo is now under international control, it was natural that Albanians did not participate in the negotiations to determine the border. Once general elections are held in the province , he added, Kosovars would then have their own legal representatives to send to the negotiations.
Regarding the violence in south Serbia, the Albanian minister said that Belgrade should begin talks with the Albanians there, including the extremists. The international community, he added, should find the best possible solution so that the Albanians in south Serbia could enjoy all their rights as a minority, with the aim of security and stability in the region.
 PM denies offering FYROM 'aid and cooperation package'
SKOPJE, 24/02/2001 (ANA - A. Podimata)Prime Minister Costas Simitis denied that Greece had offered the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia an "aid and cooperation package", in response to questions put during a Skopje press conference on Friday.
"I proposed no package to [FYROM Prime Minister Ljubco] Georgievski, I discussed no package, there is no package," he said.
Simitis said he had discussed and agreed to help the neighboring republic set up a university in Tetovo.
Asked about his Thursday meeting with FYROM's main opposition leader Branco Crvenkovski, and whether the latter agreed to a speedy resolution for the dispute between Greece and FYROM over the country's adopted name, Simitis confirmed that Crvenkovski had a expressed a desire for the issue to be resolved soon.
He was also asked whether he had met with his Turkish counter-part Bulent Ecevit, and replied that he had only met Ecevit in the framework of the Summit and that they had merely exchanged a few words and a handshake.
Talks on FYROM name continuing under UN auspices, Greece says: Asked if Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) were nearing a solution to the issue of FYROM's name, acting government spokesman Telemachos Hytiris confined himself on Friday to saying that UN-mediated talks on the problem were continuing in New York.
Asked to comment on a proposal by former foreign minister Karolos Papoulias, who has proposed a meeting of Greek party leaders to discuss the FYROM name issue, Hytiris answered that the first priority had to be reaching an agreement with the Skopje government.
 PM Simitis and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat discuss latest developments in Middle East
Athens, 24/02/2001 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat discussed latest developments in the Middle East on Friday night, while Simitis stressed that "we condemn the extortionary tactic of an economic blockade being applied. Solutions with poverty and misery cannot be found."
Arafat arrived in Athens from Vienna at noon and called on the Greek government to mediate to enable the European Union to play a more active role in Middle East peace processes.
Simitis and Arafat said later the situation in the Middle East is very dangerous and the Greek prime minister in particular spoke of a tragic situation in Palestine, adding that peace is an indisputable necessity.
The Greek premier said a resumption of talks is imperative to have normalcy restored in the region. He also called for an end to the economic blockade of Palestinian territory since escalation, as he said, does not benefit anyone.
The Greek side agreed to raise the Middle East issue as a top priority at the EU's Council of Foreign Ministers on Monday.
Simitis said views were exchanged between the two delegations on the tactics to be adopted to ensure that the EU's intervention in the Middle East issue will be more effective.
He further said that the Middle East issue would also be discussed during the meeting between Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and US Secretary of State Colin Powell, on the sidelines of the NATO ministerial session, in Brussels on February 27. Simitis said the change of climate in the Middle East is both humanitarian and political since, as he added, instability and violence might spread.
Arafat thanked the Greek side for the positive role it is playing and for the aid it has provided for the Palestinian people. He said the relationship between Greece and Palestine is historic and thanked the prime minister for his position.
Arafat also spoke of a worsening of the situation since the Palestinian Authority is facing very difficult problems due to the economic blockade imposed by Israel and has led it to deadlock.
He referred to a recent telephone conversation he had with US President George Bush, saying "we agreed it is important to safeguard the peace process started by his father in 1992 with the Madrid summit."
Arafat also said it is very important for the EU to develop a more active role in safeguarding peace.
Foreign Minister George Papandreou, the prime ministers diplomatic adviser Theodoros Sotiropoulos, Palestinian International Cooperation Minister Saeb Erekat and Palestinian press spokesman Abu Rudeina attended the meeting.
Earlier, Arafat attended a working luncheon with Alternate Foreign Minister Elizabeth Papazoi.
At 6 p.m. Arafat met with President Kostis Stephanopoulos.
Defense Minister calls for new effort for dialogue for peace in the Middle East: National Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos held talks in Athens on Friday afternoon with visiting Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.
In statements after the 40-minute meeting at the Grande Bretagne Hotel, Tsohatzopoulos described as "frightening and unacceptable the situation prevailing in the region of Palestine" and expressed the "evident concern" of the entire international community as the continuing crisis "places in danger the security of all the peoples of the region."
Tsohatzopoulos stressed the need for a new effort for dialogue to begin for peace in the Middle East and added that it was the responsibility of the European Union to undertake initiatives in this direction along with the rest of the international community.
 Labor minister supports overturning of historic static model of education
Athens, 24/02/2001 (ANA)Labor Minister Tassos Giannitsis on Friday expressed support for the overturning of the historic static model of education and its replacement by a system capable of being transformed rapidly and effectively to prevent the creation of considerable knowledge gaps between generations of young people.
Giannitsis was speaking on the first day of a two-day conference organized in Athens by PASOK and the European Socialist Party on "The economy of knowledge, education and employment in Europe" and attended by former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard, former Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema and former European Parliament President Enrique Baron Crespo.
Giannitsis further referred to necessary radical changes at institutional level in the education and training sector due to particular characteristics currently being obtained by production and the dissemination and utilization of knowledge.
He also said the safeguarding of education as a public commodity is another precondition to avert present-day changes from becoming traps excluding young people.
Rocard, currently a Eurodeputy and President of the European Parliament's Employment and Social Affairs Committee, referred is his address to the rapid development of the new economy, which should also lead to the development of a new social model.
"Many believe that the state has no usefulness in this new economy. For this reason, they are developing the idea that the less the state is so much the better," he said.
Rocard further said the socialdemocrat forces in Europe should ponder what model should be developed as a counterbalance to monetarism.
He said the new economy is increasing inequalities and there will be serious social malfunctions if its product is not controlled. Poverty, he added, is probably not the most serious problem being created, adding that what is a far greater problem is social violence and the restriction of the state's powers concerning entirety, such as the police, justice and defense.
Rocard said that for these reasons the target of socialist forces should be a welfare state with greater dynamism and that a different path should jointly be developed at European level to utilize the possibilities of knowledge, continuous training and new forms of labor organization, which will not isolate big groups of the population from wealth and prosperity.
Other speakers at the event were PASOK secretary Costas Skandalidis, National Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, Education Minister Petros Efthymiou and European Union Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou.
Prime Minister Costas Simitis will be addressing the conference on Saturday morning.
 Delegation of US Senators meets with main opposition party leader
Athens, 24/02/2001 (ANA)Greek main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Costas Karamanlis on Friday received a delegation of United States Senators, led by Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle and discussed Greece's regional leadership role, Greek- Turkish relations, the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, terrorism and the Cyprus problem.
Karamanlis stressed that existing borders must be respected and not be changed with the creation of new states, while on the Cyprus issue he called for the re-initiation of the dialogue between the two communities on the island republic and stressed that Cyprus' accession course to the European Union must continue.
He reiterated his party's position that Greece should not agree with the enlargement process if Cyprus is not included in the first wave of countries to enter the Union.
In his comments to the delegation, he also said that his party supports Turkey's European prospect, on condition that Ankara would harmonies its political life, diplomatic process and economy with the European Union's.
He finally underlined that terrorism should be vigorously confronted.
The visiting Senatorial delegation also includes Barbara Boxer, Kent Conrad, Tom Harkin and Harry Reid. Following their visit to Greece they will also visit Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
 'Control of Iraq's huge oil deposits' behind new air strikes on Iraq, KKE says
Athens, 24/02/2001 (ANA)The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Wednesday blasted last week's British and U.S. air strikes on Iraq as a bid for control of Iraq's immense oil deposits.
"Behind the pretexts regarding the Baghdad regime, a race for control of Iraq's huge oil deposits exists and is developing," a KKE announcement said.
The announcement also critiqued for ruling PASOK and main opposition New Democracy parties for "not taking a position on the new, nor on the previous, raid, a fact from which the people must draw numerous conclusions and mobilize in greater numbers against the forces of imperialism and the anti-popular policy in Greece".
 Government says pensioners can now collect money from banks
Athens, 24/02/2001 (ANA)Armed with an ID-card and a receipt showing they had received a pension in the past, some 28,000 pensioners who did not receive their pension money in February will now be able to collect it from authorized state banks.
This was announced on Friday by acting government spokesman Telemachos Hytiris, in response to questions on the problems in applying a new system for distributing pensions.
Hytiris said the problems should be ironed out eventually.
 Kouroupitos landfill will close on February 27
Athens, 24/02/2001 (ANA)The Kouroupitos landfill in the Cretan city of Hania, which provoked an unprecedented Eurocourt decision against EU member-state Greece in July, will close "permanently and irrevocably" on February 27, it was announced Friday.
Two lower court decisions in Hania in August paved the way for the closure of the notorious landfill, after the Eurocourt in early July imposed a daily fine of 20,000 euros on the Greek government over its failure to comply with a 1992 European Court decision to stop dumping toxic wastes at the Kouroupitos landfill near Hania.
That action marked the first time that the Eurocourt passed down such a ruling against an EU member-state for failing to implement one of its previous decisions. The daily fine was to be tacked on from the day of the second ruling -- July 4, 2000 -- and until the time the Greek government complied with the previous 1992 decision.
In August, a Hania first instance court accepted two requests by the prefecture's administration; one for use of a road at the Mesohori site in order to base a temporary refuse management landfill. More importantly, the other decision allowed for the appropriation of land at the "Korakia" site - south of Kouroupitos -- for the establishment of a permanent landfill and recycling plant.
The European Commission in late July had also announced that it was referring Greece to the Eurocourt over the latter's failure to implement Community standards regarding the safe disposal of waste in landfills.
Deputy prefect George Agorastakis, who is responsible for waste management in the prefecture, told ANA that a waste treatment plant at nearby Mesomouri site had for the past week been operating on a test basis, processing the entire volume of waste in the region, "and in the past four days no garbage has been taken to Kouroupitos".
The local prefecture was due to formally inform the environment, town planning and public works ministry later on Friday that the Kouroupitos side "will close permanently and irrevocably as of Tuesday, February 27".
Agorastakis said some minor problems had arisen in the first days of the plant's operation but they were quickly resolved, and that was why Kouroupitos had remained open, although the landfill was not used during that time.
 Greece leads EU member-states in poverty
BRUSSELS, 24/02/2001 (ANA - G. Zitouniati)Greece remains the poorest region of the European Union according to the Eurostat report on per capita income, based on 1998 data, which are the latest available.
According to the report, Epiros, northwestern Greece, is the poorest region of the European Union with the per capita income reaching only to 42 per cent of the Union median, compared with Inner London's 243 per cent and Hamburg's 186 per cent of the Union median.
The data published also show that 11 of the 46 regions with per capita income lower than 75 per cent of the Union's median belong to Greece.
 Greece most prepared and positive toward euro, among 11 other eurozone members
BRUSSELS, 24/02/2001 (ANA - B. Demiris)Greek small and medium businesses favor the euro to their national currency more than any others of the 12 member-eurozone bloc, according to a poll published by Euro barometer.
The survey, which included 2828 business executives throughout Europe, took place between Jan. 8 to 15 and included 200 Greeks.
According to the survey, scaled from -100 to +100 points, Greeks' support of the euro marked +31.2 points, noting that their businesses were ready to deal with competition and the euro in general.
Second in line was Ireland with +16.8 points and third was Luxembourg with 15.5 points, while Germans seemed less positive and ranking the positive effects of the euro lower than all others with -2.1 points and France with -2.3 points.
The Greek companies also ranked first in declaring ready for the euro by 30 percent, with Germany, Spain and Italy trailing with 29 percent, while Ireland was last with only 3 percent.
 Low level of vocational training, technology in N. Greece
Athens, 24/02/2001 (ANA)A survey of 241 business conducted in northern Greece found that the level of vocational training was low, along with the degree of adaptation to the new technologies.
Released on Friday, the survey was commissioned by the Association of Northern Greek Industrialists working with the Organization for Vocational Education and Training.
It also revealed that workers themselves felt that their technical knowledge of the positions they held was inadequate, mainly for the day-to-day mechanics of the job.
Although demand in the region for specialized staff was growing, supply was flat, according to the survey.
 National economy minister says government will resolve issue of penalty rates on overdue loans with balanced solution
Athens, 24/02/2001 (ANA)National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou on Friday said the government is determined to close the issue of penalty rates on overdue loans, by proceeding with a legislative clause improving and correcting previous settlements in a way fully safeguarding the interests of people owing loans and respecting the reasonable interests of banks.
Papantoniou was speaking to reporters during a visit to Tripolis, southern Greece, at the invitation of the Peloponnese Chamber of Finance.
He met with prefects, mayors and representatives of agencies, chambers of commerce and cooperatives, notifying them that the formal ratification of all regional programs by the relevant European Union bodies is a matter of days.
Referring to the taxation issue, Papantoniou reiterated the government's commitment that no new taxation settlement is anticipated in 2001, adding that new settlements will be included in the next taxation bill to be tabled in the autumn of 2002.
On the question of unemployment, he said two trillion drachmas will be provided from the 3rd Community Support Framework for education and training, while funds for new technologies will increase jobs.
 New oil deposit found in Prinos site
Athens, 24/02/2001 (ANA)A new oil field, of the highest quality, was found during underwater explorations 4-4.5 nautical miles off Prinos, an offshore oil drill in the island of Thassos, northern Greece.
Nicolaos Loutsigas, Kavala Oil's chairman, said on Friday, that oil exploration in the area has found a rich oil deposit capable to offer oil in steady flows, temperatures and pressures.
The oil's conciseness in hydrogene sulfide totals only 7.0 percent, sharply lower compared with other oil deposits in the area (approximately 60-65 percent). The oil deposit was found at a depth of 2,800-2,900 meters and it is 15 meters thick.
Loutsigas said he expected the oil deposit to last 10 to 15 years. Exploration and drilling costs totalled 7 million US dollars and Kavala Oil expects to produce 7,000-7,500 barrels of oil a day, ranking the Kavala region among the richest oil fields in the Balkans and southern Europe.
 Greece to announce tender for third generation mobile license in May
Athens, 24/02/2001 (ANA)Greece will announce a tender to auction third generation mobile telephone licenses in May and expect a procedure to offer licenses by early July, Emmanouel Yiakoumakis, head of the National Committee on Telecommunications and Posts, said on Friday.
Yiakoumakis said there were three probable scenario to sell these licenses: full payment, in tranches, or a down payment with the right to participate in turnover.
Hee said that these new advanced telecommunications services would benefit the citizen by offering him better and cheaper services.
Yiakoumakis said that the second and third generation mobile telephone systems could offer voice and Internet services, market access, entertainment and household services.
He said that a round of consultation with interest parties would precede the tender.
 Greece attracts 67 bids for hotel construction in Attica
Athens, 24/02/2001 (ANA)Greece's Development Minister, Nikos Christodoulakis, on Friday announced that a total of 67 proposals were submitted for the construction of new hotels, expanding existing units and reopening of others, of a total capacity of 15,000 beds, exclusively of the highest category, ahead of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
Christodoulakis said submitted proposals exceeded the government's initial planning and expectations for 8-9,000 new beds, fending off fears over lack of high-quality hotels in Athens during the Olympic Games.
He said that Hellenic Tourism Organization would begin a thorough examination of bids before approving any projects. He also pledged that the government would speed-up procedures and expressed the hope that businessmen would ensure a speedy completion of projects
The Greek Church, with three proposals, National Bank, Piraeus Port Organization, Electra SA, Kouloumvatos SA, and Sanyo Hellas Holding were among interested parties for the construction of new hotels.
Holiday Inn, Athens Hilton, Ledra Marriott, Estrelia, Apollon Beach Sounio, and Lagonissi Grand Resport applied for expansion of their units, while King George Syntagma requested a reopening.
 Bounced cheques decline in January, bankruptcies up
Athens, 24/02/2001 (ANA)The value of bounced cheques declined in January 2001 to 16.5 billion drachmas, down 29.16 percent from the same month a year earlier, Teiresias SA, a market data firm, said in a monthly report released on Friday.
However, a rise was reported in petitions for bankruptcy, which totalled 282 in January from 81 in the same month of 1999, up 248 percent, said Teiresias, which belongs to the Union of Greek Banks.
In the whole of 2000, the number and value of bounced cheques dropped by 27.24 percent to 85,794 in number and by 18.36 percent in value to 205.597 billion drachmas.
In December 2000, petitions for bankruptcy fell to 139, down 47.15 percent from December 1999; and declared bankruptcies dropped to 50, down 50.50 percent from the same month a year earlier.
 European Court issues criteria of open competition in passenger shipping
BRUSSELS, 24/02/2001 (ANA - B. Demiris)The European Court on Thursday issued a decision determining the criteria by which open competition would operate regarding services in domestic European Union passenger ship-ping markets, in accordance with the 1992 Union regulations.
Greece announced last year it will open domestic shipping markets to competition in 2002, but along with other Union member-states it requested that special conditions should apply in cases where the public interest demands it.
The court decided that it is acceptable, in accordance with the 1992 regulation, to provide special permission to national passenger shipping companies to serve non-commercially viable routes, which would not be served by open competition.
The court, however, clarified that the national regulations of each member-state should be based on objective criteria, announced to the interested parties before they are implemented.
The court also clarified that every member-state may examine the reliability of any Union shipping company, servicing routes in that member-state's market and control issues of tax payments and contributions to marine affair's insurance.
 Passenger shipping expert committee
Athens, 24/02/2001 (ANA)Greece's passenger shipping expert committee on Friday announced it had recommended to Merchant Marine Minister Christos Papoutsis not to recall shipping licenses in seven ferries "Jet Ferry I", "Kaviros", Santa III", "Kavala", "Thassos V", "N. Kythira" and "Elvira" despite the fact that they remained idle more than two months for their annual maintenance.
The committee also approved ANEK Lines' demand to modify the license of "Eleftherios Venizelos" ferry, operating in the Piraeus-Heraclion sea line, to cut the number of its passengers to 1,569 from 2,240.
It also recommended that "Apollon Hellas" and Poseidon Hellas" ferries, owned by MED, could approach the harbors in the islands of Hydra and Spetses.
The committee approved a demand by DANE Lines to recall the ferry "Ialysos" from operation and to withdraw the ferry "Phaedra", owned by MED, from the sea line Patras-Igoumenitsa-Corfu-Italy.
It also approved the operation of the ferry "Daedalos", owned by Minoan Lines, in the sea line Heraclion-Cyclades-Thessaloniki.
 Bourse chief sees market rising in the long term
Athens, 24/02/2001 (ANA)The chairman of the Athens Stock Exchange, Panayotis Alexakis, said on Friday that the ailing market would rise in the long term in the wake of a sharp decline in 2000 and excessive increase in 1999.
The long-term rise would be aided by institutional and regulatory reforms, Alexakis told a ceremony to mark the expansion of premises housing the Thessaloniki Stock Exchange Center.
Also at the ceremony, officials of the northern stock center forecast that its value of transactions would rise to 3.4 billion drachmas in 2001 from 3.0 billion a year earlier.
 Greek stocks end the week lower
Athens, 24/02/2001 (ANA)Equity prices ended the last trading session of an interesting week lower on the Athens Stock Exchange as profit taking on blue chip stocks overshadowed buying activity in smaller capitalization issues on Friday.
The general index ended 0.40 percent lower at 3,164.45 points, off the day's highs of 3,195.05 points, to show a net loss of 1.77 percent in the week.
Turnover was a low 127.44 million euros, or 43.427 billion drachmas. The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks ended 0.58 percent lower at 1,817.73 points, and the FTSE/ASE 40 index rose 0.16 percent to 363.20 points.
Sector indices ended as follows: Banks: 6,778.18 -0.83% Leasing: 526.41 -0.04% Insurance: 1,421.73 -0.26% Investment: 1,272.93 -0.33% Construction: 1,406.08 +0.37% Industrials: 1,948.65 -0.12% Miscellaneous: 2,388.32 +0.27% Holding: 3,435.19 -0.75%
The parallel market index for smaller capitalization stocks rose 1.60 percent to 304.04 points.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 198 to 41 with another 129 issues unchanged.
Alpha Bank, Hellenic Telecoms, National Bank, Spider and Eurobank were the most heavily traded stocks.
Leading shares' closing prices (in euros): National Bank: 38.02 Alpha Bank 31.40 Commercial Bank: 50.40 Eurobank: 20.18 Piraeus Bank: 14.98 Lambrakis Press: 12.88 Altec: 6.92 Titan Cement (c): 37.78 Hellenic Telecoms: 15.78 Panafon: 6.82 Hellenic Petroleum: 9.40 Attica Enterprises: 7.26 Intracom: 20.16 Minoan Lines: 5.30 Viohalco: 10.24 Coca Cola: 18.82
Bond prices drop in moderate trade: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market on Friday finished lower in moderate trade with selling seen mostly in long-term paper, dealers said.
The new Greek benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 5.37 percent from 5.43 percent a day earlier.
The yield spread over German bunds was 57 basis points, the same as the day before.
Turnover through the central bank's electronic system totalled 695 million euros (235 billion drachmas) from 752 million euros (257 billion drachmas) in the previous session.
Sell orders accounted for the bulk of turnover.
Equity futures end down, roughly tracking Athens bourse: Equity futures traded on the Athens Derivatives Exchange finished lower on Friday, roughly in line with the bourse indices on which they are based, traders said.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index closed 0.58 percent down, and the FTSE/ASE 40 ended 0.16 percent higher.
Turnover was 44.0 million euros on 7,070 contracts traded, the dealers said.
Euro/dollar reference rate set at 90.64 cents: The European Central Bank on Friday set its euro/dollar reference rate at 90.64 cents, slightly up from 90.56 cents the previous day, pushing the US dollar/drachma rate to 375.93 drachmas.
The ECB also set its euro/yen rate at 105.70 yen (3.22 drachmas), the euro/sterling at 62.65 pence (543.89 drachmas), the euro/Swiss franc at 1.5334 (222.21 drachmas) and the euro/Cyprus pound rate at 57.91 cents (588.41 drachmas).
 Patras Carnival to climax with 4km Sunday parade
Athens, 24/02/2001 (ANA)This year's Patras Carnival will close on Sunday with the customary parade through the city, which is expected to be more than four kilometers long and last for at least five hours.
Up to 35,000 people are participating as crew for the 'Hidden Treasure' floats, with Zeus being this year's Carnival King, and another 18 satirical and other floats in tow.
According to reports, hotels in Patras and the surrounding Achaia district are all fully booked for the weekend.
On Friday night there will be a smaller parade with floats, two municipal marching bands and other performers, such as people on stilts, clowns and actors.
Also on Friday night will be the famous Bourbouli dance of masked women, which will take place at the Municipal Theatre.
Events are also scheduled for Saturday, such as dress-up chess in Georgiou Square, a carnival parade, a concert of Latin music and a Philharmonic orchestra dance at the Municipal Theatre.
 SAE presidium to meet Culture minister, Health minister
Athens, 24/02/2001 (ANA)The presidium of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) will end its three-day conference in Thessaloniki on Saturday by meeting with government ministers.
Speaking on Friday, Deputy Foreign Minister Grigoris Niotis said that the SAE presidium would meet with Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Health Minister Alekos Papadopoulos to discuss SAE activities that concerned their two ministries, such as the Cultural Olympiad and health centers being set up in the Eastern Europe and the Balkans.
The three-day conference began on Wednesday in Thessaloniki, to discuss on proposals for the 2001 action plan of the non-governmental organization, particularly in relation to the 2004 Olympics in Athens and volunteer services during the Games.
Niotis and Secretary General of Expatriate Greek Affairs Dimitris Dollis were present at the conference meetings.
 Alleged Italian mob kingpin extradited to Italy
Athens, 24/02/2001 (ANA)Italy's most wanted smuggling ring suspect Francesco Prudentino, 52, was extradited to Italy on Friday to face criminal charges, as was requested by Italian authorities in December.
Prudentino, who was convicted to 19 months imprisonment by Greek authorities for possessing forged state documents about a month ago, is thought to be a member of the infamous Mafia organization Sacra Corona Unita and is wanted in many European states for murder and smuggling of guns and cigarettes, as well as other criminal activities.
Prudentino, who is accused of directing a cigarette smuggling ring across southeastern Europe, stretching from Italy to Bulgaria, was arrested in Thessaloniki on Dec. 22.
 Archaeologist arrested for smuggling antiquities
Athens, 24/02/2001 (ANA)Police in Irakleio, Crete, arrested archaeologist Nikolaos Panayiotakis, 40, on Friday after a large quantity of antiquities was found in his home.
Antiquities found and confiscated in his home are 7,000 ancient coins, thousands of ancient objects, most of them small, and parts of clay pots and urns.
Police are interrogating Panayiotakis and are examining the possibility of him being a member of a ring smuggling antiquities.
 Two riot policemen prosecuted for serious injury of youth after Thessaloniki soccer match
Athens, 24/02/2001 (ANA)Two riot policemen were prosecuted for "serious and intentional bodily injury" on Friday in connection with the serious injury of Yiannis Christakis, 17, outside Toumba stadium in Thessaloniki on January 31.
A prosecutor charged the two policemen, Nikolaos Taousanidis and Nikolaos Zefalis, on the basis of evidence revealed following a preliminary enquiry ordered into the incident.
Christakis had suffered head injuries, while leaving the stadium with other Aris Thessaloniki fans at the end of a soccer match between cross-town rivals PAOK and Aris. He stayed in a hospital intensive care unit for 16 days for treatment to his injuries.
 Government says has information about attempts to change UN-led format of Cyprus proximity talks
NICOSIA, 24/02/2001 (CNA/ANA)The UN have not expressed any intention to change the current procedure on which the Cyprus peace effort is based, the government believes, but acknowledges that it has some information about attempts to change the UN-led format of proximity talks.
"The government believes that the UN has not expressed such an intention and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan insists firmly to continue the current procedure and to see Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash return to the negotiating table to carry the talks forward," government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said here on Friday.
Annan, through his Special Adviser on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto, started proximity talks with the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides in December 1999. After five rounds of talks, Denktash announced last November the proximity talks have served their purpose and have come to an end.
He now demands state-to-state talks in a bid to gain recognition of his self-styled regime in the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus.
"The government has a firm and steady position that it will not consent to a change of procedure on the Cyprus question and has conveyed this message in a variety of methods, diplomatic and political," Papapetrou said.
Commenting on press reports, he said "there is information from various quarters for some time now to the effect that some are trying to change the procedure of the talks."
This kind of information, he stressed, has not been confirmed and nobody has put forward to the government in a concrete manner any suggestion in that direction.
"The ball is now in the Turkish side's court and it is up to the Turkish side to make some move and this is a message communicated to us as well," the spokesman added.
Asked why President Glafcos Clerides insists on this procedure, he explained that this is the view of the political leadership too.
"This process is the only one which links us to some momentum in the Cyprus problem and any attempt to change it would signal the start of a long period of deadlock in the problem and an absence of any move towards a solution," Papapetrou said, noting that such a development would jeopardize Cyprus' prospects for accession to the European Union.
Replying to questions, he said the government considers it would be logical to see the talks resume by mid-March.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory.