|Monday, 20 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 01-03-01
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Simitis, Persson prepare for Stockholm EU summit
Athens, 01/03/2001 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Wednesday met with visiting Swedish counterpart Goeran Persson, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, to discuss issues on the agenda of Marchs EU summit in Stockholm.
Earlier, Simitis and Persson met with Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan, who is in Athens on a two-day official visit, to discuss the situation in the Balkans and the Stabilization and Association Agreement between Croatia and the EU, expected to be signed in the next two months, which would provide closer political and economic ties between the two sides.
During their bilateral meeting, Simitis and Persson discussed ways of implementing the decisions of the Lisbon EU summit, which aims to render the EU the most competitive group worldwide by 2010.
More specifically, the two premiers discussed the need to link development with a deeper and more comprehensive approach to social policy, with emphasis on tackling the problem of ageing populations and its repercussions on social policy.
They also discussed inequality between EU regions and the need to take that into consideration in European policies.
The two premiers noted that despite a decline in unemployment in the EU, efforts still needed to be intensified to combat the problem.
They further examined ecological issues and the need to formulate a European policy on confronting the threat to the environment.
The Stockholm summit would be a way, a means, for modernizing Europe and creating a more equal Europe oriented towards research, education, growth and equality, Persson said after the meeting, stressing the need to combine development and equality.
"This is the modern conception of Europe," he said.
Persson outlined Stockholm's initiative to place emphasis on biotechnology, in tandem with Europe's effort for technological advancement, and ruled out the prospect of altering the EU budget over the 'mad cow' problem.
"The EU's budget has been drafted and does not provide supplementary funds for agriculture," Persson said, adding that the discussions on the 'mad cow' problem were better left to the Council of EU Agriculture Ministers.
Persson and Simitis further discussed international developments, with the focus on the Middle East and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's request that the problem be brought up in the EU, with which Athens agrees.
Simitis briefed Persson on the recent Balkan summit in Skopje, and the two also discussed EU relations with Russia.
Persson expressed hope that the situation in the Balkans was gradually being normalized and "Europeanized".
Greek foreign minister briefs Belgian defense minister ahead of Belgian EU presidency: Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou on Wednesday met with Belgian Defense Minister Andre Flahaut and discussed issues pertaining to the undertakings of the Belgian European Union presidency, due in the second half of 2001.
The two men focused on European Security and Defense as well as developments in the Balkans and Papandreou briefed Flahaut on discussions at the Balkan Summit.
 Athens comments on first Powell-Papandreou meeting
Athens, 01/03/2001 (ANA)Greece on Wednesday reiterated that Washington's positions over the long-standing Cyprus problem have not changed, while stressing once more that the issue is among Athens' foreign policy priorities.
A government spokesman made the comments in response to press questions focusing on the first official meeting recently between new US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou.
"Discussions were not very detailed," the government spokes-man said in Athens of the meeting, adding that Washington will from now on appoint only a US State Department special coordinator on the Cyprus issue and not special presidential envoys.
Spokesman Dimitris Reppas added that the Greek government considers bilateral cooperation with Washington as essential.
 US State Department spokesman says Powell discussed Cyprus and Greek-Turkish relations with Greek and Turkish counterparts
WASHINGTON, 01/03/2001 (ANA - T. Ellis)US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher on Wednesday said the Cyprus issue and, to a far lesser degree, Greek-Turkish relations were discussed during talks held in Brussels on Tuesday between US Secretary of State Colin Powell and his Greek and Turkish counterparts.
Boucher said both meetings were "useful and constructive", adding that on the question of Greek-Turkish relations Powell reiterated the known position of the US favoring the rapprochement between the two countries, without any detailed reference to the course of the relationship and to what the two countries are doing.
"They spoke a little more with (Greek Foreign Minister George) Mr. Papandreou on the useful role being played by Greece in the Balkans, and with (Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail) Cem they discussed Iraq a little more, although the issue was raised in all meetings," Boucher said.
He disclosed that Powell would receive Cem at the State Department on March 30, when the Turkish foreign minister will be visiting the US capital to participate in the annual conference of the Turkish-American Council.
According to diplomatic sources, a similar meeting is expected to take place with Papandreou soon, possibly in April, but without a final agreement having been made on this issue, as Boucher noted.
"I have no specific visit by Papandreou in mind at the moment. They discussed a meeting with Secretary of State Powell. I am not aware if something has been scheduled, but I am certain that they will have the opportunity of speaking in the coming weeks, or at least months," Boucher said.
Boucher stressed that one of the issues discussed with both ministers was European security, initiatives being developed in the defense sector in Europe and the European Union's relationship with Turkey.
"Of course, they discussed with the Turkish foreign minister some of the issues and the concerns he has in sectors concerning the EU's cooperation with NATO and we are talking with Turkey and other allies on how these issues can be resolved," Boucher added.
 Greek defense minister meets Belgian counterpart in Athens
Athens, 01/03/2001 (ANA)Preparing the European Union's military infrastructure so that a European army will be operational by 2003 was the focus of talks between Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and his Belgian counterpart Andre Flahaut in Athens on Wednesday.
Tsohatzopoulos said that developing an EU military force for-med part of the development of a European defense and security policy that would be complementary within a NATO framework.
Both ministers agreed that implementing the decisions of the EU summit in Nice were a reliable basis, which would allow the participation of all the parties involved in the European army - in other words the 15 EU member-states responsible for making decisions, the 15 EU candidate countries and six NATO members not in the EU.
The Belgian defense minister also stressed the need for clear explanations to the US government regarding the Nice Summit measures, so that there is full transparency surrounding the European Army.
Tsohatzopoulos said that Greece would fully support Belgium's efforts when it takes over the EU's rotating presidency after Sweden to inform the European public about the cost of the European army.
Other matters discussed during the meeting were the security situation in southeast Europe, particularly in Kosovo.
Tsohatzopoulos and Flahaut said they were in favor of NATO's decision for a gradual reduction of the demilitarized buffer zone in south Serbia, where Tsohatzopoulos said the situation was dangerous because of the activities of ethnic Albanian extremists.
The Greek minister called on the international community to show support for the government of President Vojislav Kostunica in its efforts to democratize Yugoslavia and bring it back into international organizations.
On his part, Flahaut stressed the need for absolute transparency as regards the health of soldiers serving with the Kosovo peacekeeping force KFOR.
 Zagreb's EU prospects, ties discussed in Athens
Athens, 01/03/2001 (ANA)Croatia's European Union prospects as well as bilateral relations were on the agenda on Wednesday during a meeting between a high-level Croatian government delegation and Greek ministers.
After a relevant meeting, Greek Alternate Foreign Minister Elisabeth Papazoi expressed a hope that implementation of a stability pact for an association agreement between the EU and Croatia is achieved within the next three months, along with 60 million in EU financing through the CARDS program.
On her part, Croatian Deputy FM Vesna Kurelec thanked Athens for its backing towards Zagreb's attempts to approach Euro-Atlantic institutions.
Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and visiting Croatian Minister of European Integration Ivan Jakovcic also participated in the talks.
Kurelac, who studied in Greece and teaches Greek at a Croatian university, also said she hoped that Zagreb's cooperation with the 15-member bloc would have been officially set down by the end of the current Swedish EU presidency.
Finally, she again reiterated Zagreb's support for the construction of a coastal highway along the Adriatic and Ionian seas, conceivably linking Trieste with western Greece.
 PM briefed over health care reform
Athens, 01/03/2001 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Tuesday received Health Minister Alekos Papadopoulos for a two-hour meeting.
The latter is expected to announce details during a press conference on Thursday.
According to reports, legislation regarding health care reform dominated the session.
 Parliament rejects ND motion on 'illegal naturalizations'
Athens, 01/03/2001 (ANA)Parliament early Wednesday defeated a main opposition motion for setting up a fact-finding committee to investigate claims of illegal naturalizations.
The New Democracy (ND) motion, calling for a House fact-finding committee to be set up "to investigate responsibilities in the issue of illegal administrative acts granting Greek citizen-ship" was defeated by 150 votes against and 115 for in the 300-member House.
MPs of the ruling PASOK, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Coalition of the Left and Progress (SYN), as well as independent MPs Stephanos Manos and George Psacharopoulos (the Liberals' leader and founding member, respectively, who were elected to parliament on ND tickets in an electoral collaboration with the main opposition party) voted against the motion.
Voting for the motion were the ND deputies and Independent MP George Karatzaferis (who recently resigned from ND).
 ND leader proposes creation of National Olympic Council under chairmanship of President of the Republic
Athens, 01/03/2001 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday proposed the creation of a National Olympic Council under the chairmanship of the President of the Republic and said "three-and-a-half years after the assumption of the Olympic Games by our country the challenge for 2004 has become a field of national skepticism."
Karamanlis was speaking at a pre-congress party conference on "The athletic ideal-Course towards 2004", held at a downtown Athens hotel in the presence of many party deputies and members, Athens 2004 Organizing Committee President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, Olympic medallists, sports officials and representatives from other parties.
Karamanlis said the Olympic sports ideal has started to fade due to excessive commercialization, big interests, supranational extortions and the scourge of doping.
"We are the cradle of world sports. We are the birthplace of the Olympic effort and cooperation. But we are quarrelling constantly in the effort to organize the Games," he said.
Karamanlis accused the government of inconsistency between words and deeds and spoke of "constant quarrels, frictions, delays and undermining", while adding that a feud exists between ministers and projects are announced which are not carried out and as a result "disappointment and cynicism are taking the place of vision and hope in the hearts of the Greeks."
In a brief address, Daskalaki said that for Greece the 2004 Olympic Games constitute the biggest peaceful challenge for the country and added that "the Games are a unique opportunity for us to promote everything Greek to 3.5 billion people in every corner of the earth" since so many people are expected to watch the Olympiad on television.
Daskalaki also referred to unbridled professionalism and doping prevailing in the world of sports in past years. She said the target is mass and healthy sports and infrastructures, equipment, coaches and sports venues are necessary for this to be achieved.
 KKE leader calls for resistance to social insurance reforms
Athens, 01/03/2001 (ANA)The changes planned by the government to the social insurance system were described as a "coming storm" by Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga, during a press conference held in Athens on Wednesday, who predicted a "bleak future" for the generations to come.
 Police involvement in prisoner transport to cease
Athens, 01/03/2001 (ANA)Police will no longer be involved in the transport of prisoners as of the end of the first half of the year, public order minister Michalis Chrysohoidis announced Wednesday in parliament.
He was replying to questions tabled by ruling PASOK deputy Evangelos Vlassopoulos and main opposition New Democracy MP Eleftherios Papanicolaou following the recent escape of convict Costas Passaris as he was being transported to the General State Hospital in Athens from Korydallos prison, where he was incarcerated, for medical tests. Two policemen escorting Passaris were fatally shot and an accompanying prison guard seriously injured in an ambush by two gun-toting accomplices of the convict inside the hospital.
He also said a 100 billion dr. armaments program for the Greek Police (ELAS) would be completed within 2001, which the minister said would assist in better policing.
Replying to criticism by Papanicolaou that the two policemen escorting Passaris had been sent "like lambs to the slaughter", that "phenomena of dissolution" were prevailing in ELAS and that the police's prisoner transports division was a "cesspool" to which policemen with unfavorable transfers were sent, Chrysohoidis retorted that the social problems that contribute to crime "are not confronted with rhetoric that costs nothing".
Chrysohoidis said Passaris' escape was the "result of omissions, slipshoddiness and thoughtlessness", adding that the urgent administrative investigation into the matter would be completed soon.
 Reppas denies plans for changing police leadership
Athens, 01/03/2001 (ANA)Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said on Wednesday that there were no plans to convene KYSEA, a government council for foreign policy and defense, to decide on changes to the leadership of Greece's police force.
Responding to questions, Reppas said that a bill on combatting organized crime was now in the process of being prepared and that it would address the use of weapons by members of the security forces.
 State prison located in Athens suburb to close by 2005
Athens, 01/03/2001 (ANA)The Korydallos State Prison facilities will be closed down and the 13 hectares of land they now occupy will be handed over to the municipality of Korydallos for public use by the 100,000 residents of the Athens suburb.
On Wednesday afternoon Justice Minister Michalis Stathopoulos and Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis signed the contract with Mayor of Korydallos Stephanos Christou in the presence of more than 2,000 residents of the municipality that hosted Greece's central prison facility since 1967.
 Greek flag hoisted on HUNT-type minesweeper in Portsmouth
Athens, 01/03/2001 (ANA)The Greek flag was hoisted on a HUNT-type minesweeper on Wednesday during a ceremony held in Portsmouth, Britain. It is the second minesweeper of this type provided for Greece in the framework of the program concerning the building of three new torpedo boats by the Vosper Thorrycroft company.
The new vessel was named "Kallisto" and is expected to sail for Greece on March 31. The first minesweeper, named "Evropi" (Europe), arrived in Greece in September last year.
 National Defense General Staff chief given honorary award at Polish embassy
Athens, 01/03/2001 (ANA)National Defense General Staff Chief Manousos Paragioudakis on Wednesday received an honorary medal at the Polish embassy in Athens. The president of the Polish Republic in exceptional cases awards the medal.
In this way, Poland honored Paragioudakis, and in his person the Greek armed forces, for their indefatigable efforts to build the excellent level of cooperation with the Polish armed forces.
 Ecumenical Patriarchate expresses full confidence in Bulgarian Church against separatists
ISTANBUL, 01/03/2001 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch Vartholomeos on Wednesday called on the Bulgarian faithful to unite under the auspices of the Orthodox Church of that country in an effort to end the division that developed in the past.
Initially, the issue was brought before the leader of all Orthodox Christianity, Patriarch Vartholomeos, in 1998 and at that time the Orthodox Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate called on the faithful and the clergy that split from the body of the Bulgarian Church to return.
Several bishops that split from the Church, however, did not return and requested state recognition while attempting to form a new church. The Bulgarian Church authorized Vartholomeos to act on the issue.
Meanwhile, according to an ANA dispatch from Sofia, the Ecumenical Patriarch expressed his full support toward the Bulgarian Patriarch Maximos, via emissaries who met with the Bulgarian prelate and Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov.
 Parliament passes amendment for majority-stake sale of OA
Athens, 01/03/2001 (ANA)With a vote of 138 for, 119 against and several abstentions on Wednesday, Greece's Parliament passed an amendment that abolishes the state's mandatory 51-per-cent share in national carrier Olympic Airways.
A number of high-ranking members from both governing PASOK and main opposition New Democracy were among those abstaining.
Meanwhile, as the vote was being held, OA staff staged a protest outside Parliament and a delegation from the civil aviation workers' union (OSPA) delivered a resolution against the airline's privatization to Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis.
Six non-binding offers for a majority package (51-65 per cent) of the airline have been received so far, according to a February 1 announcement by the Swiss bank Credit Suisse First Boston, which is acting as an adviser to the government for OA's privatization. It said that binding offers would probably be called by the end of March.
The six parties that showed interest (there has been no official announcement) are the private airline company AXON (a member of the Liakounakos group), Cyprus Airways (the only international airline company to submit an offer), shipowner St. Restis, the Japanese Sanwa bank, the American charter airline company "Chrysler Aviation" and the Australian Integrated Airlines Solutions.
 Airport employees' unions leader claims that new airport has deficiencies
Athens, 01/03/2001 (ANA)The new Athens airport has about 180 deficiencies according to a report presented by the civil aviation workers' union Federation of Civil Aviation Service Associations (OSYPA) president Vassilis Alevizopoulos, on Wednesday.
He said that the deficiencies could be ameliorated by October and not by March 28, the date announced by the government that the "Eleftherios Venizelos" airport would open.
He said that the report would be submitted to the prosecutor's office.
Deficiencies noted in the report ranged from proper light signaling outside the boundaries of the airport and deficiencies to the airplane refueling system to problems of the airplane maintenance facilities.
 Amendment ratified in Parliament regulates airport tax for domestic flights and flights to EU countries
Athens, 01/03/2001 (ANA)Airport tax will be readjusted to equate relevant dues for domestic flights with those for flights to European Union countries, according to an amendment by the transport ministry ratified in Parliament on Wednesday.
Consequently, airfares for domestic flights will be burdened with an extra 860 drachmas, while fares for EU countries will have a corresponding decrease.
A point drawing reaction from opposition parties and from former Transport and Communications Minister Tassos Mantelis was the extension of the payment of Airport Modernization and Development Dues to children over five years of age, while until recently children up to the age of 12 were excluded from payment.
According to Deputy Finance Minister Apostolos Fotiadis, the amendment was promoted to enable a "full compliance of Greek legislation with the clauses of the EU treaty and payment of the dues should not be based on the distance in kilometers because this constitutes discreet treatment of Greek citizens compared to Europeans."
 IKA head blames banks for pension accounts foul-up; minister apologizes
Athens, 01/03/2001 (ANA)Approximately 25,000 Social Security Foundation (IKA) pensioners failed to receive their monthly pension in a prearranged bank account this week, while more than 180,000 of those entitled reportedly did not provide information or incorrect facts.
Large-scale data entry errors, a computer network malfunction, inadequate briefing and poor organization spelled hours of waiting in lines for pensioners on Tuesday, and less on Wednesday, outside Agriculture Bank (ATE) branches as state-run IKA and the government attempted to institute a new pension payment regime. The new system deposits IKA pensions into ATM-accessible bank accounts, a development that effectively does away with the decades-old method of hand-to-hand payments by mail carriers.
Pensioners who haven't opened accounts in the participating bank of their preference are automatically given an account at an ATE branch.
On Tuesday, Labor and Social Securities Minister Tassos Yiannitsis publicly apologized for the situation, promising that all glitches will be eradicated by next month's payment date.
IKA head blames banks: On his part, IKA Governor Miltiades Nektarios placed the blame squarely on the banks -- excluding and at the same time praising ATE -- for the long delays and confusion of the last two days.
During a hastily announced press conference, Nektarios said IKA has purchased the service of depositing pensions into accounts from the banks through the DIAS S.A. company set up by the banks themselves.
He further said around 67,000 pensions were paid out on the first day and 55,000 on Wednesday, whereas pensioners whose last name begins with the Greeks letter "Ð" through "Ù" are due to be paid on Thursday.
"The problems that arose during the first application of the new system were caused by the irresponsible and unconventional behavior by some of the banks, which as we found out, had not updated the DIAS S.A. files with data for 60,000 pensioners that had opened accounts, in time, before Dec. 22, 2000," Nektarios said.
The IKA governor charged that the oversight caused the 60,000 or so pensioners to be classified as unregistered, thereby unduly placing them under Agriculture Bank's responsibility.
Pressed by reporters to name the banks chiefly responsible for the problems, Nektarios mentioned Alpha Credit Bank and Commercial Bank, saying he will unveil a full report on the matter on Monday and subsequently demand explanations.
Gov't: Finally, the government spokesman said the government was "upset over the problem that has arisen, regardless of the small number of pensioners who face it", while also promising that procedures will be normalized next month.
"ATE, on its own initiative and showing social sensitivity - without any benefit - undertook the hard work of payments of pensions to 185,000 persons, who did not register with the on line payment system," a bank press release said on Tuesday.
 Minister attributes excess costs in National Register project to mistaken assessments in initial study
Athens, 01/03/2001 (ANA)Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis on Wednesday attributed additional costs to the cost of implementing the first three programs contained in the National Register to mistaken assessments made in the initial study.
In a letter to the European Union, Laliotis said the European Commission "was fully aware from the start", while on the question of the Register SA company and the Registration and Mapping Organization he said "weaknesses and shortcomings were observed which will be overcome in a radical way."
According to Laliotis, the National Registry's first three programs cost about 27.4 billion drachmas more than had been initially estimated and 70 percent less work was accomplished with this amount.
The initial study had estimated the cost of the first three programs at 37.2 billion drachmas. However, when the mistake was ascertained a further 18.5 billion drachmas were required for the registration of new property. Additional work required a further 6.9 billion, while the creation of forest maps in a country not having even one, cost two billion. Consequently, the total cost of all three programs amounted to 64.6 billion drachmas.
Laliotis said the European Commission was aware both of the excess costs and the reasons causing them since its representatives are briefed on the progress of the project every six months, while they also conduct an additional check every two months.
 Greek business delegation holds talks with Yugoslav economic officials in Belgrade
BELGRADE, 01/03/2001 (ANA - M. Mouratidis)The Greek business delegation currently on a visit to Belgrade and headed by Minister of Macedonia and Thrace George Paschalidis on Wednesday had bilateral contacts with Yugoslav businessmen, while Greek businessmen were briefed by a representative of the European Reconstruction Service.
Paschalidis continued his contacts with Serbian government officials and held talks with Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic and Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Zarko Korac.
Talks between Paschalidis and Serbian government officials focused on the further development of economic cooperation and Yugoslavia's accession to programs included in the Greek plan for Balkan reconstruction.
Paschalidis termed his talks "successful and constructive" and reiterated the Greek government's support for reforms and democratic changes being scheduled in the country, while expressing Greece's readiness to provide any kind of assistance to enable Serbia to overcome problems it is facing temporarily.
 New business capital inflows exceed one trillion in 1995-99
Athens, 01/03/2001 (ANA)A total of 22,667 new businesses were set up in the period 1995-99 in Greece with a total capital of 1.003 trillion drachmas, a survey by ICAP said on Wednesday.
The survey said that 5,068 new companies were created in 1999, with a total capital of 291.2 billion drachmas.
New businesses in the commerce and other services sectors accounted for 36 percent and 37.7 percent of the total, followed by industrials (19.4 percent) during the five-year period.
The survey highlights the significant growth of the other services' sector in Greece in the last five years, with one in two new companies launching activity in the sector. The report said this trend reflected the course of the Greek economy and investment opportunities offered with the introduction of new products and technologies in the country.
ICAP said that capital inflows in the economy was steadily rising throughout the five-year period, and in the last two years in particular, mainly due to the creation of a few very large new enterprises, an improvement in business climate and economic stability ahead of the country's participation in EMU.
A protracted rally on the Athens Stock Exchange in 1999 was also cited as one of the reason for improved capital inflows in the economy.
Most newly created enterprises were based in the Attica prefect, followed by the Thessaloniki prefect, with a rate of 58.7 percent and 12.5 percent of the total, respectively in the period 1995-1999.
The report said that the average capital of industrial and tourist units was systematically larger than the total average, reflecting larger capital needs in an effort to achieve scale economics.
The average capital of new industrial units was 8.4 percent larger than the total average, while the tourism average was 33.2 percent bigger, the report said.
 European commission approves new strategy to open the Union's job market
BRUSSELS, 01/03/2001 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)The European Commission on Wednesday approved the new strategy of the European Union for the opening of the job market by 2005, at the initiative of Commission President Roma-no Prodi.
Prodi jointly with Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou, Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkenstein, Education and Culture Commissioner Viviane Re-ding, Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin and Justice Commissioner Antonio Vitorino, approved the new strategy.
This new initiative aims at tackling the problems of educational and training certification acceptance by all member-states, pension and insurance benefit transfer and information provision of jobs throughout the Union, while the second phase of the strategy will include the establishment of a task force to tackle problems as they arise.
"New European-wide job markets appear that are regulated by technological change and globalization, but they are still confronted by many barriers," Diamantopoulou said, adding "we wish to lift those barriers by 2005".
 Giannitsis urges social partners to make "simultaneous effort"
Athens, 01/03/2001 (ANA)Greece's Labor Minister Tassos Yiannitsis on Wednesday urged the government's social partners for a "simultaneous effort" with "mutual rewards" to reform the country's labor market.
Addressing a seminar on "The Challenge of Employment", organized by the Greek Industries Union, Yiannitsis said labor relations were the weak spot in the Greek economy.
He criticized employers' policy on the issue and urged them to take advantage of economic opportunities and begin investments.
"The country's social security system is deteriorating," Yiannitsis said.
"We must avoid impressive moves and seek long-term solutions," he said and noted that the country's participation in EMU was a big success for the economy "but Greece has a long way to go to achieve real convergence with other developed economies and societies."
Christos Polyzogopoulos, GSEE's president, said moves to lower labor costs, improve flexibility in labor relations and downgrade the welfare-state, were the wrong way to boost economic competitiveness and blamed employers for their reluctance to invest in new technologies.
The country's largest union umbrella's head said that social cohesion could not be achieved through a vertical increase in part-time employment and questioned the credibility of plans to deregulate the energy sector in the country, citing recent severe problems in California.
SEB's vice-president, N. Analytis, said that rising unemployment - exceeding certain limits, was a threat to social cohesion and to the economy as a whole.
"Greece's unemployment rate, currently at 12 percent, is the highest in the European Union, with an average rate of 9.0 percent, while back in 1993 the country's unemployment rate was 7.5 percent compared with an EU average of 8.3 percent," he said.
 General Bank announces takeover of Credit Commercial de France-Hellas
Athens, 01/03/2001 (ANA)General Bank on Wednesday announced the takeover of Credit Commercial de France-Hellas for an undisclosed sum and said it soon planned the acquisition of a securities firm.
Ioannis Manos, General Bank's chairman, said the bank planned to launch a leasing company and a mutual funds management company in the next three months. He said the bank also planned to expand into the real estate sector.
Manos said the acquisition of CCF, operating in Greece since 1981, covered all its business activities in the country and its two branches in Athens and Thessaloniki and was expected to strengthen General Bank's presence in the domestic banking market.
CCF's assets totalled 205 billion drachmas last year, with accumulated profits of 667 million drachmas. Lending totalled 87 billion drachmas and savings totalled 69 billion. The bank's comparative advantage was its strong client base in corporate banking, he said.
Manos also announced that General Bank's pre-tax, provisions and amortization earnings (EBITDA) totalled 11.9 billion drachmas in 2000, off 28 percent from the previous year. He attributed the decline in earnings to a negative trend in the Athens stock Exchange and the withdrawal of an institutional investor from its equity capital.
Manos said the bank would seek a restructuring of its portfolio this year and announced that the board would propose the freezing of dividend payment to shareholders in 2001.
The bank's assets totalled 724 billion drachmas, up 11 percent from 1999, while savings and lending rose 10 percent and 25 percent, respectively.
 The Hilton Rhodes Resort Hotel opening on April 1
Athens, 01/03/2001 (ANA)The Hilton Rhodes Resort Hotel, formerly the Rhodes Imperial, will open on the holiday island of Rhodes on April 1. It is located four kilometers away from the island's capital and nine kilometers from the airport.
The hotel is equipped with 404 rooms, convention facilities for up to 1,600 people and a full business center. It also has a center for water sports, a gym, tennis and squash courts and three swimming pools.
The management of the hotel has been undertaken by the international Hilton International chain on behalf of the owner, Ionian Hotel Enterprises SA, a member of the Alpha Bank group.
 Greek stocks continue moving lower on ASE
Athens, 01/03/2001 (ANA)Equity prices remained under pressure to end lower on Wednesday for the second consecutive session this week on the Athens Stock Exchange, with blue chip stocks like Hellenic Telecoms and Panafon leading the decline.
The general index ended 0.79 percent lower at 3,129.06 points, off the day's lows helped by a recovery of the banks sector.
Turnover was a low 206.92 million euros. The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks ended 0.84 percent lower and the FTSE/ASE 40 index dropped 1.30 percent.
Sector indices ended as follows: Banks: -0,11% Leasing: -0,39% Insurance: -2,61% Investment: -0,22% Construction: -2,50% Industrials: -0,20% Miscellaneous: -1,54% Holding: -1,99%
The parallel market index for smaller capitalization stocks fell 0.47 percent.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 245 to 91 with another 21 issues unchanged.
Leading shares' closing prices (in euros): National Bank: 37.76 Alpha Bank: 30.24 Commercial Bank: 49.66 Eurobank: 20.04 Piraeus Bank: 14.68 Lambrakis Press: 13.22 Titan Cement (c): 38.64 Hellenic Telecoms: 15.18 Panafon: 6.56 Hellenic Petroleum: 9.36 Attica Enterprises: 7.12 Intracom: 20.12 Mytinlineos: 9.04 Minoan Lines: 5.00 Viohalco: 10.06 Coca Cola Bottling: 18.50
Bond prices drop in sell-off: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market on Wednesday finished lower in moderate to heavy trade with players focusing on 20-year paper, dealers said.
The new Greek benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 5.33 percent from 5.35 percent a day earlier.
The yield spread over German bunds was 57 basis points from 58 basis points the session before.
Turnover through the central bank's electronic system totalled 835 million euros (about 284.5 billion drachmas).
Sell orders accounted for the bulk of turnover.
Equity futures end down, tracking Athens bourse: Equity futures traded on the Athens Derivatives Exchange finished lower on Wednesday, in line with the bourse indices on which they are based, traders said.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index closed 0.84 percent down, and the FTSE/ASE 40 ended 1.30 percent lower.
Turnover was 43.5 million euros on 7,770 contracts traded, the dealers said.
 Athens court sentences Pantelis Kazakos to life imprisonment for murder of two foreigners and injury of seven others
Athens, 01/03/2001 (ANA)An Athens court convicted Pantelis Kazakos, 25, to life imprisonment on two counts on Wednesday night for shoo-ting and killing two foreigners, who were unknown to him, and injuring seven others and after reaching its verdict with a majority vote. The shootings had taken place in downtown Athens between October 19-22, 1999.
The court found Kazakos guilty of two intentional homicides and seven attempted homicides with a four-to-three vote. The woman presiding judge and two women from the jury voted that the defendant had diminished capacity.
The court also deprived Kazakos of his civil rights for life and fined him 300,000 drachmas, while the other defendant, Apostolos Apostolou, was acquitted of simple complicity in one of the seven attempted homicides. However, he was found guilty of possessing drugs and ammunition (a small quantity of a drug substance and bullets from a firearm had been found in his home) and sentenced to eight months imprisonment with a three-year suspension.
The conviction was heard with satisfaction by victims present in the courtroom, while Kazakos remained indifferent as he had been throughout the entire duration of the trial.
A retrial will be taking place in a few months time and the court will either have to uphold Wednesday's verdict or decide otherwise.
 New National Contingency Plan for marine pollution unveiled
Athens, 01/03/2001 (ANA)The new National Contingency Plan to confront marine pollution was unveiled on Wednesday at the merchant marine ministry, dictating the new system of coordination of agencies involved in confronting such disasters.
This national plan for confronting incidents of pollution of the sea by petrol and other harmful substances aims to protect public health, the aesthetic value of Greece's coastline, the tourist industry, fisheries and bio-diversity.
The new plan secures the on time and effective prevention and successful confrontation of pollution at sea. In addition, every port authority of Greece has developed a Local Contingency Plan to deal with problems of specific regions, depending on local conditions and capabilities.
 US Embassy, AHEPA organize tree planting on Hymettus
Athens, 01/03/2001 (ANA)The US Embassy in Athens, in collaboration with the American Hellenic Educational and Progressive Association (AHEPA), are organizing a tree-planting project on Mt. Hymettus on Thursday.
US ambassador Nicholas Burns and AHEPA members will plant trees on Hymettus Thursday morning in a bid to "aid the environment and Hymettus", an embassy source told ANA.
Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos will also attend the event.
 Greek Olympic Committee has four new members
Athens, 01/03/2001 (ANA)The Greek Olympic Committee (GOC) acquired four new members on Wednesday. Weightlifter Pyrros Dimas and sprinter Voula Patoulidou, both Olympic gold medallists, became new members of the GOC in accordance with the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) new charter.
Two Parliament deputies and former deputy sports ministers, Andreas Fouras (PASOK) and Fani Palli Petralia (New Democracy), also became GOC members according to merit.
Wednesday's GOC plenary session was attended by 24 of its 32 members. Pyrros Dimas received 22 votes and Voula Patoulidou 21. All four new members have the right to vote.
 Government says not pleased with certain elements of US human rights report on Cyprus
NICOSIA, 01/03/2001 (CNA/ANA)The government intends to ask Washington to amend its approach on certain matters relating to a human rights report, issued by the State Department, on Cyprus.
Government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou, noting that there are some improvements in this year's report, said it is not pleased with the way information on human rights is presented, nor is it satisfied with the use of certain terms and the way the Republic of Cyprus is compared with the self-styled Turkish Cypriot regime in northern occupied Cyprus.
"We would like to note that some of our observations to last year's report were adopted this year. However, there exist some elements which do not please us and to which our reaction was not taken into consideration," Papapetrou said.
Asked to explain why many government observations were not taken into account, Papapetrou said "some steps were taken in the right direction but there are elements which do not satisfy us and we shall ask the American government to change its approach in relation to some issues."
The spokesman said the use of terms such as "authorities" on the island or "the two sides" do not please the government.
He said the report is inaccurate when it mentions that Greek Cypriots residing in occupied Cyprus may visit the monastery of Apostolos Andreas, also in the areas occupied by Turkey, "without restriction".
Papapetrou noted the reference in the report to the situation in the village of Strovilia, on the southeast, where the Turkish occupation forces moved forward and established a new checkpoint.
"The report says despite protests from UNFICYP and others, Turkish forces remained at the contested checkpoint in violation of the status quo," he said.
He said for the first time the report states that the US do not recognize the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime in occupied Cyprus, which is only recognized by Turkey.
The spokesman described as "a marked improvement" the reference to "restrictions" imposed by the government of Cyprus and other international institutions in replacement of last year's reference to "an economic embargo by the Greek Cypriots."
The government considers that the economic hardships the Turkish Cypriots are facing stem from the continuing occupation of part of Cyprus by Turkish troops since 1974 and not by a decision by the European Court of Justice forbidding European countries to import citrus and potatoes from occupied Cyprus, which are not accompanied by phytosanitary certificates issued by the government of the Republic.
The spokesman welcomed the paragraph on the case of Greek Cypriot Titina Loizidou, who won a legal battle against Turkey for violation of her human rights, and the reference to the fourth interstate application by Cyprus against Turkey for human rights violations.
The reference to the suppression of freedom of speech in occupied Cyprus, with specific information about the troubles Turkish Cypriot daily "Avrupa", was also noted by the spokesman.
 Cyprus, Russia to sign protocol of cooperation
NICOSIA, 01/03/2001 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus and Russia will sign here on Thursday a Protocol of Cooperation providing the indicative guidelines for the further development and enlargement of cooperation in the next years, Finance Minister Takis Klerides has said, speaking on the sidelines of the Second Conference of the Cyprus-Russian Inter-governmental Committee on Economic Cooperation, that started here on Wednesday.
Describing the Protocol as important, Klerides said he has agreed with the Russian First Deputy Minister of Finance Dr. Aleksei Ulyukaev, heading the Russian delegation, to enhance cooperation between the two countries "by implementing what we will be signing tomorrow."
They also examined the potentials for further cooperation in the fields of commerce, industry, investments, tourism, transport, science and technology and cooperation with the administrative areas of the Russian Federation. The Conference concludes on Thursday.