The proposal to set up a parliamentary committee for this purpose was tabled by main opposition leader Costas Karamanlis and backed by all 121 main opposition MPs.
First to speak was ND spokesman George Alogoskoufis, who accused the government and prime minister of interfering in the stock market with the complicity of DEKA's board, the president of the capital markets commission and National Bank of Greece governor Theodoros Karatzas.
He also said that this had been done with the express approval of Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, then deputy finance minister, and said that a compromised economy minister could not play his role.
Taking the stand later in the day, Karamanlis said the government was trying to play it both ways, on the one hand responding to allegations of corruption by telling its accusers to take their evidence to the courts and then refusing investigations by judicial officials and accusing them of "criminalizing" politics.
The charges made by the main opposition were rejected by ruling PASOK speakers, who accused ND of trying to milk the public prosecutor's report - which one described as frivolous and badly thought-out - for political profit.
Of the smaller opposition parties of the Left, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) supported the proposal for an investigation, while the Coalition of the Left and Progress was more hesitant.
KKE spokesman Antonis Skyllakos said the government was at fault for making statements that encouraged retail investors to dabble in the stock market, with tragic results for thousands of families. Without endorsing ND positions that there had been a scandal, Skyllakos said that questions remained about whether the government and institutions had functioned properly and played their role.
"We cannot ignore issues that come to Parliament in a legitimate way, especially when they concern acute social problems," he said.
Coalition leader Nikos Constantopoulos, meanwhile, said the government's responsibilities were self-evident but were linked to its slowness in instituting regulations to protect the bourse rather than any scandal.
It was obvious that there had been illegal gains that had drained national coffers, he said, but what took precedence was to adopt measures to prevent this happening again, such as making the capital markets commission a truly independent authority.
If the two major parties insisted, he added, the Coalition would agree to an investigation by parliamentary committee. He stressed, however, that the political responsibilities were much graver than any criminal liability that might be uncovered.
In a report sent to Parliament in early November, a prosecutor said that evidence from a preliminary inquiry pointed to a breach of duty and trust by government ministers.
The government members named were National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou (now defense minister), Development Minister Nikos Christodoulakis (now economy minister), and Deputy Finance Minister George Drys (now agriculture minister).
The prosecutor said the three were responsible for approving the decisions of DEKA's board during spring 2000 and recommended that Parliament vote on whether their immunity from prosecution as members of Parliament should be lifted.
He also said the evidence-supported charges of breach of duty and breach of faith involving members of DEKA's board and the capital markets commission.
The investigation focused on DEKA's activities from March 21 to April 10 2000, before Greek general elections on April 9 that year, during which the company bought stock in Hellenic Tele-communications Organization, Hellenic Petroleum, National Bank of Greece and Commercial Bank, representing an outlay of 250 billion drachmas in state funds.
The prosecutor's investigation was ordered following charges of malpractice filed against DEKA by ND MP Miltiades Evert last year.
He had accused the state-owned investment agency of bulling up the market through bulk buying in state-owned firms before the elections, and being responsible for losses suffered by retail investors in the subsequent artificial slide.
Papandreou said that they confirmed the two countries' very good relations and spoke of their cooperation in the Balkans and in the tripartite Greece-Bulgaria-Romania and Greece-Bulgaria-Turkey groupings and bilateral relations.
"In our bilateral issues we have excellent economic relations which are developing. We have trade amounting to 800 million dollars and we want it to reach up to one billion dollars. We want to strengthen tourism, cultural exchanges and, of course, there is also much greater contact now due to the abolition of visas," he said.
Papandreou said these issues were also discussed with President Kostis Stephanopoulos earlier in the day, and particular attention was paid to the issue of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline and to facilities Greece can provide for Bulgaria at the ports of Alexandroupolis and Thessaloniki.
Pasi thanked Greece for its support for Bulgaria's NATO candidacy, adding that Bulgaria will continue to hope for Greece's support in this respect and for Bulgaria to be invited to the NATO summit in 2002.
"We also give our thanks for support provided to us by Greece to have Bulgaria removed from the Schengen black list. We also discussed the proposal by the French foreign minister for a speedup and simultaneous accession of all 12 countries in the EU," he said.
Pasi said bilateral relations were discussed, the issue of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline and a speedup in the process of the opening of new border corridors between Greece and Bulgaria.
"I personally believe the opening of new corridors to be a practical measure to remove borders between countries in the near future and I shall be pleased if the first border to be removed for Bulgaria will be that between Bulgaria and Greece," he added.
Pasi also met with the main opposition New Democracy party's defense and foreign affairs coordinator Dora Bakoyianni and other ND officials for talks on the situation in the Balkans, bilateral relations, cross border cooperation and Bulgaria's course towards accession to NATO and the EU.
Foreign ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis said on Thursday that Simitis will meet with Slovenian President Milan Kucan and Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek during the visit and that Greece and Slovenia would sign three bilateral agreements dealing with air transport, agriculture, the economy and technology.
The meeting is to discuss the role of the OSCE in regional conflicts, developments in the Balkans and the organization’s role in efforts to combat international terrorism.
The position of the Greek government was clear, he added, and had been repeated many times by Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Foreign Minister George Papandreou.
He cautioned against readily accepting links to European defense in recent articles that speculated on visits to Ankara by US and British officials, as well as Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, head of the EU rotating presidency.
He said that the Greek foreign ministry had contacted the Belgian EU presidency, which denied that any such issues had been discussed during Verhofstadt's trip to Turkey.
The whole affair would finally be cleared up on Saturday, the spokesman added, when Verhofstadt visited Athens for talks with Simitis in view of the EU summit in Laeken in December.
Government spokesman Christos Protopappas made the statement in response to a question during his daily press briefing.
According to the latter, she briefed the Greek premier on three main issues, namely, the Commission’s recent announcements regarding its economic and employment forecasts for 2003; the Union’s expansion in light of the publication of candidate-country reports, and finally, the Commission’s contribution to talks on the future of Europe.
The last topic will be examined at the upcoming European Council meeting in Laeken next month.
Constantopoulos said Diamantopoulou's initiative to discuss EU issues with the political parties was very positive and added that "what we want is a course towards unified Europe with political specifications, social priorities and an autonomous foreign policy to enable deficits existing in these sectors to decrease and not increase."
Constantopoulos said his discussion with Diamantopoulou was important in view, as he said, of the next period's crucial issues such as the utilization of the 3rd Community Support Framework, the Olympic Games and the handling of major social problems such as unemployment and the social insurance issue.
On her part, Diamantopoulou said that with her initiative she wants to hear the political parties' views, while during her meeting with Constantopoulos she discussed EU enlargement and repercussions for Greece and issues concerning structural funds and employment.
The council also focused on the initiative by Greece, France and Germany on defending the public nature of higher education "which in no way can be considered a commercial commodity."
Education Minister Petros Efthymiou said the Council's position should also be shaped on the basis of the positions of European and American university unions, which include the most prestigious foundations, which are categorically opposed to the conception of education as a commercial commodity which could be regulated by market rules.
Efthymiou underlined the danger of a classification (and consequently downgrading) of certain foundations if the proposals by relevant commissioner Vivian Reding are adopted which speed up their classification.
He referred in his address to the target of the society of knowledge set by the EU for the coming years, clarifying that education should strengthen both development and employment, but its crucial content lies in the creation of a new generation of European citizens with the cultivation of common values which only strong general education secures.
"The EU's effort for a convergence of educational systems cannot be a bureaucratic process but constitutes in principle the affair of six million teachers and of the young people of Europe, whom we have the duty to fascinate with credibility and vision to enable them to participate actively in the process," he said.
Denktash, who heads a T/C pseudo-state in the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus that is, in fact, only recognized by Ankara, spoke only before a small gathering at Rome’s bar association.
Only two private meetings, with Italy foreign undersecretary and the vice-president of the country’s parliament, were scheduled -- contacts the Italian side emphasized were “of a private nature”.
A handful of other meetings, including one with Italian communications minister Maurizio Gasparri, were cancelled.
In statements to the Italian press, Denktash complained that “relations” between his pseudo-state and Italy were unsatisfactory, calling for better ties in the tourism and education fields.
“We import goods from your country (Italy) but we cannot export; airplanes fly to London and Germany, but not to Rome or Milan,” Denktash complained, adding:
“While we have adopted European values we are subject to discrimination … Would the same thing happen if we were Christians?”
Finally, the T/C leader repeated threats of a “danger of serious conflict” for Mediterranean and European security should the internationally recognized government of Glafcos Clerides accede to the European Union.
The island republic is among the front-runners for European accession in the next round of expansion, despite the fact that one-third of Cyprus’ territory is occupied by the Turkish military.
The report covers each EU member individually, while also offering advice on how each country will deal with its weaknesses.
Specifically, for Greece the reports states:
"Greece has been experiencing a positive economic and employment growth over recent years. In 2000 the Greek economy grew by 4.1 percent, faster than the EU average for a fifth consecutive year. Since 1 January 2001 Greece has been a full member of the Euro zone. Labor productivity improved, as did total employment growth and the overall employment rate.
However, the main structural problems of the Greek labor market persist: lower employment rate than the EU average and high unemployment rate which, despite a reduction for the first time in several years from 11.6% in 1999 to 11.1% in 2000, remains higher than the EU average (8.2%), in particular for young people. The gender gap in employment is still the highest in the EU (30.2 percentage points) and that in unemployment the second highest (9.4 percentage points).
Greece responded to the challenges with a National Action Plan on employment setting out a package of measures aiming at combating labor market rigidities, fostering entrepreneurship, encouraging adaptability, raising employment, reducing un-employment and modernizing work organization. Measures to improve individuals’ employability remain the most important, although there is also growing attention for the adaptability of businesses. The reform of the Public Employment Services (OAED) is underway but further efforts will be needed, notably to implement personalized services for job seekers. The social partners have participated actively in relevant discussions but their more constructive involvement could strengthen the impact of the government's action. The Structural Funds, in particular the ESF, play a key role in the development and implementation of policies in the framework of the European Employment Strategy.
The Commission suggests that Recommendations be issued to Greece in order to address these challenges effectively. Greece is encouraged to improve and better balance its policies in order to maximize their impact on employment, in particular for women and young people. The already mentioned restructuring of OAED should be speeded up.
A review of the tax system and of the rules on pension entitlements seems to be appropriate in order to improve incentives to work and increase labor supply; There is a clear need to improve skills and cover the changing needs of the labor market through the development and implementation of lifelong learning.
The recent labor market reform package should be fully implemented, which implies further commitments from the social partners on the modernization of work organization. The wide gender gaps in both employment and unemployment call for increased efforts towards providing much needed care facilities for children and other dependants"
The Commission's report was unveiled by Greek EU Commissioner Anna Diamantopou-lou.
Comprising the overhaul are privatization of the Athens Stock Exchange and strategic alliances with markets abroad; introduction of a distinction between criminal breaches and offences subject to disciplinary action; creation of a disciplinary council; introduction of regular reports to parliament by supervisory authorities; and creation of a judicial body specializing in market offences.
The Commission said creation of the joint venture did not hindered competition in the sector.
"PPC is a producer, transporter and distributor of electric power in Greece. It also operates some lignite mines in the country. It is a company fully controlled by the Greek state, but a partial flotation is expected in the near future. Wind is a joint company owned by Enel SpA and France Telecom SA. It offers a full range of fixed and wireless telecommunications services in Italy. Evergy will offer fixed telephony services, business data transfer, internet access and broadcast ability sales."
The Commission concluded that there was no case of business overlap between the three companies and the joint venture did not lead to a dominant player in these markets.
He told a corporate presentation ahead of an initial public offer (IPO) to be held on December 4-7 that the rise was warranted by the firm's viability and in order to encourage private producers enter the newly deregulated market.
The PPC is expected to start trading on December 12 after the IPO to be held at home and abroad, along with a private placement to company staff.
The IPO's main underwriters and advisers in the privatization of 15 percent of the PPC's stock are ABN-AMRO Rothschild, Alpha Finance, Goldman Sachs International and National Bank of Greece.
In a separate development, the main opposition New Democracy party said in a statement that the government was rushing the PPC's part privatization in order to fill state coffers, and in order to create an impression of action on the privatization front. The proceeds of the sale would help cover a shortfall in payment of the public debt, said Athanasios Nakos, a party spokesman.
A clear five-year pricing policy should have been set before bourse entry along with a concrete business plan, Nakos said.
The conference is organized by the Greek Network for Entrepreneurial Social Responsibility within the framework of the 1st European Entrepreneurial Marathon for Entrepreneurial Social Responsibility.
In her address, Diamantopoulou referred to the increased interest in social responsibility by enterprises in the U.S. and Europe which adopt codes of conduct and systems of certifications.
The reasons justifying the increased interest is the fact that consumers are more demanding and better informed on the repercussions of globalization and the power of multinational companies, she said.
Referring to the activities of the European Union with regard to entrepreneurial social responsibility, Diamantopoulou said that more than eight years have passed since then European Com-mission president Jacques Delors made a successful appeal to enterprises to combat social exclusion. However, the EU's commitment for entrepreneurial social responsibility was reinforced during the EU summit in Madrid in March last year when the heads of state and government called on enterprises to better organize labor, offer equal job opportunities and be more environment conscious.
On his part, Labor and Social Security Minister Dimitris Reppas referred to what he termed the Greek state's and that of his ministry's undivided support to the European campaign for entrepreneurial social responsibility. He noted that state agencies were observing with particular interest the social activities of the business world.
The creation of a better working environment, the commitment by working people to be more productive and their direct involvement in social issues was to the benefit of enterprises, he added.
The announcement follows a decision mandating that public establishments with Internet-linked computers pay a hefty special “games fee” for each of their PCs, a tax previously confined to mostly video arcades and pool halls.
According to a circular issued by the ministry on Wednesday, all computers set-up or operating in public venues for commercial use, such as hotels, cafes, clubs and others, will have to have a special tax sticker glued onto them.
In its Thursday announcement, the finance ministry clarified that “enterprises that totally focus on the use of the Internet, and that have not transformed their PCs into gaming units, do not pay any tax”.
Finance Deputy Minister Apostolos Fotiadis also stated separately that the ministry’s intent is to levy the fee on PCs used as a cover for on-line gambling.
However, as far as Internet cafes are concerned, Fotiadis merely noted that “it is the proprietor’s responsibility to request and acquire the sticker proving payment of the fee for the PC that’s based on its use”.
The fee is particularly exorbitant for urban areas.
Specifically, in municipalities with more than 1,000 residents each “computer fee sticker” will cost 900 euros; 1,200 euros a piece for recognized clubs, societies and organizations.
A fee of 300 euros for each computer is foreseen for municipalities or communities with up to 1,000 residents and in regions designated as tourist or archaeological sites, as well as aboard ferryboats sailing local routes.
A 90-euro fee is mandated for municipalities and communities with less than 1,000 residents; 430 euros for cities and towns of between 1,000 and 10,000 residents, and finally, 530 euros for PCs in cities of between 10,000 and 50,000 residents.
He said there had been tough negotiations in order to find a solution within the Domestic Passenger Shipping Council, in order to reconcile different views and interests. The final decision would be announced on Thursday, he added, after which the government would wait for the response.
He also said that problems occurring last summer in Greek harbors and ports would not be repeated in the coming year and that the privatization of the Piraeus Port Organization would go ahead as planned, after third quarter results were published and a series of meetings with the organization’s board.
The payment of deposits and last-minute bookings by package holiday operators had stopped, ticket cancellations had been reported, and no new bookings were being made, the travel operators said.
In addition, pre-bookings for 2002 had slowed considerably, accompanied by pressure for a renegotiation of prices, they added.
Speaking was Carl Axel Rheborg, the president of ECTAA, a European Union trade group of travel operators; and Yiannis Evangelou, president of HATTA, a domestic trade group.
The officials also said that a plan was in the pipeline to set up an assistance fund for customers and passengers in the event of airline bankruptcies.
The news conference was held at the end of ECTAA's two yearly meeting, which was arranged in Athens by HATTA.
The ambassador was escorted by the Counselor for Commercial Affairs, Walter Hage, and Nick Antonopoulos, specialist on commercial affairs.
Miller was briefed on HAI's core skills and activities as was given a tour of the company's production areas.
The U.S. ambassador's discussions with the Managing Director & CEO, George Goulios, members of the Board of Directors and other executives of the company addressed matters regarding ongoing programs and business partnerships of HAI, and their expansion prospective, especially with U.S. companies of the aerospace and defense industry.
INKA said that Greek citizens were largely ignorant over prices of consumer products and warned that large price differences from shop to shop (55 percent) and from city to city (87 percent) would be maximized from January 1, 2002.
The consumers group also said that several businesses have already readjusted their prices ahead of the official euro introduction.
An INKA survey this year showed that Greek citizens were largely ignorant over prices of consumer goods, with only 17 percent saying they have basic knowledge of prices, another 33 percent said they have some idea and only 16 percent saying they were satisfied with prices.
The conference is organized by the Association of Industries of Northern Greece (SBBE), in cooperation with the Dutch Embassy in Athens.
Among those attending will be Agriculture Minister George Drys and Macedonia-Thrace Minister George Paschalidis.
According to SBEE, the objective of the conference is to shape a development policy for Greek agriculture until 2010 with the help of Dutch know-how and experience.
The general index ended 0.02 percent lower at 2,698.61 points with turnover a moderate Dr 59 billion or 173.1 million euros.
Buying interest focused on smaller capitalization stocks. The Wholesale and Publication sectors scored the biggest percentage gains (2.07 percent and 1.83 percent, respectively), with the Banks and Cement sector suffered the heaviest losses (0.25 percent and 0.12 percent, respectively).
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks ended 0.29 percent lower, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index rose 0.83 percent and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index jumped 1.28 percent.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 236 to 93 with another 27 issues unchanged.
The most heavily traded shares were Hellenic Telecommunications Organization, Coca-Cola HBC, Spider, Sex Form, and National Bank of Greece.
Equity futures consolidate in low turnover: Equity futures on the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday consolidated in low turnover with investors taking a wait-and-see attitude, traders said.
Changing hands were 4,047 contracts on turnover of 24.1 million euros.
The underlying FTSE/ASE-20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips lost 0.29% percent; and the underlying FTSE/ASE-40 for medium capitalization stocks gained 0.83 percent.
Bond prices mixed in brisk trade: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market on Thursday finished mixed in moderate to heavy trade again focusing on ten-year paper.
The Greek benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 5.03 percent, and the yield spread over German bunds was 42 basis points.
Turnover through the central bank's electronic system totalled 2.5 billion euros.
Sell orders accounted for around half of turnover.
Angelopoulos-Daskalaki made the comments during the signing of a memorandum of cooperation between ATHOC and the municipality of Patra, held at the western port city’s town hall.
ATHOC’s head noted that the thousands of visitors in August 2004 will not just stay in Athens, but will be hosted in other nearby cities as well.
On the occasion of Rosandich's visit, the award ceremony will be held at the ministry's amphitheatre for Mina Valyraki who was unanimously selected by the U.S. Sports Academy as Sport Artist for the 2002-2004 period.
Works by Mina Valyraki will be used as official posters for the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City in the United States.
A state of emergency was declared on the eastern Aegean island early Thursday by the Civil Defense General Secretariat and a tank carrier carrying 15 fire engines and crews of firefighters was dispatched from the mainland after heavy rainfall throughout the night caused extensive damage throughout the entire road network, landslides and flooding.
A 50-member team of the EMAK emergency rescue unit was also sent to the island.
Landslides, which have cut off several roads, have been reported in the areas of Avlakia and Pyrgos, while serious damage to homes, shops and properties due to flooding have been reported in Marathokambos, Pyrgos, Iraion and other regions.
Since daybreak, prefectural and local contractors' vehicles and equipment, aided by local Armed Forces units, were working to open up blocked-off roads.
The situation was described as extremely difficult, and parents were initially advised not to send their children to school, and called on drivers to refrain from using their cars unless absolutely necessary, warning those who were on the road to be exceptionally cautious.
The local fire department was still being deluged Thursday by calls to rescue people trapped in basements and elevators, after rescuing tens of residents from flooded homes throughout the night.
Severe flooding was reported in shops and homes in Karlovasi, Marathokampos, Pythagorio and Vathy.
According to the local prefectural network of meteorological stations, rainfall reached an unprecedented 440 cm. at the Pandrossos checkpoint and 429 cm. at the Vourliotes checkpoint between midnight and 7:00 a.m.,
All services on the island were placed on alert, while special teams were ready to begin recording damages as soon as the weather abates.
At a special event beginning at 10:00 at the Spirer building in Volos, there will be the first public briefing on a full-scale experimental archaeology project to rebuild a 1500-BC galley, conducted by a scientific research team specializing in such reconstructions with the aid of the Volos Municipal Tourism Enterprise.
The research team is already involved in a project to reconstruct a Minoan ship in cooperation with the Nautical Museum of Crete.
The final form of the ship will be arrived at through painstaking research that combines archaeological finds, literary sources and experience from previous studies by the group.
When completed, the reconstructed model will conduct an experimental voyage, following the route of its legendary predecessor.
The spokesman also said that the UN have prepared an outline of an agreement for a comprehensive settlement, which will be presented to the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides at the appropriate time.
"For us the peace process and its basis is crystal clear, there is no question of trying to change either the process or the basis on which it is based," Papapetrou said, pointing out that statements by UN, US and other officials back the government position.
The spokesman was commenting on remarks by British special representative Lord David Hannay, who expressed hope that next week's meeting between President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash could signal the start of a new process, according to Athens News Agency dispatches from Ankara.
The government, as well as others, Papapetrou said, considers Tuesday's forthcoming face-to-face meeting as part of the good offices mission of the UN Secretary General, who is sending his
special adviser on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto to the island to attend the meeting.
The spokesman described as "positive" remarks by the Turkish Vice President who referred to a bizonal, bicommunal federation with regard to Cyprus. Papapetrou also underlined that the government opposes the idea of a rotating presidency, as part of a negotiated settlement.