|Wednesday, 23 September 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 02-02-13
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>February 13, 2002
 EU finance ministers welcome Greek stability plan
BRUSSELS, 13/02/2002 (ANA/G.Zitouniati)The European Union's finance ministers on Tuesday approved Greece's stability plan for 2001-2004, which was updated at the end of last year.
Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis told reporters after a meeting with his 15 counterparts in the Belgian capital that despite the endorsement, Greece needed to continue lowering its public debt and allocate more funds to social policy.
In the text of the approval, which is called an opinion, the ministers also warn that vigilance should be maintained over price shifts, especially in the context of wage negotiations.
The stability plan forecasts inflation of 2.8 percent in 2004 from 2.7 percent in 2003 and 2.8 percent in 2002. Growth is set in both 2004 and 2003 at 4.0 percent from 3.8 percent in 2002.
In addition, the budget surplus is seen at 1.2 percent of gross domestic product in 2004, 1.0 percent of GDP in 2003, and 0.8 percent of GDP in 2002.
Furthermore, unemployment is forecast at 9.0 percent in 2004, 9.8 percent in 2003, and 10.5 percent in 2002; and the plan contains real wage rises of 2.3 percent and 2.5 percent.
Policy will be based on curbing consumerist spending in the public sector, completing a tax overhaul in the second half of 2002, and advancing privatization that is expected to bring revenue of 1.7 trillion drachmas over the three-year period.
Finally, the plan contains a worst-case scenario to take adverse global conditions into account. The new computation envisages a rate of growth over the three-year period that will be an average of 0.6 percentage point lower, and an average rise in real wages of 2.1 percent against 2.4 percent in the main scenario.
The ministers also said that Greece needed to speed up structural reforms in products, services, labor and pensions.
The government had pledged to begin talks with the social partners on social insurance reform at the end of March, Christodoulakis said.
EU ministers reject Commission's gripe: Christodoulakis reported that the ministers had rejected a call from the EU's executive Commission for Greece to show more transparency in its financial reporting.
The ministers had accepted Greece's explanation that revenue from privatization had deliberately been left unstated as the category of funds was barred from inclusion in the budget by Eurostat, the EU's statistics agency.
"It would have benefited Greece if revenue from privatization had been taken into the calculation," Christodoulakis said.
Greece backs EU decision on Cyprus: The minister welcomed a decision by the Commission to provide funds of 206 million euros to the Turkish-occupied sector of Cyprus if a political solution is found to division of the island republic.
The funds would be used to spur growth in the area, the most disadvantaged in comparison with the EU.
"The Commission's decision gives impetus to the attainment of a political solution, so that a unified Cyprus may join the EU, as it deserves," Christodoulakis said.
Greek, Turkish FMs meet in Istanbul, discuss "exploratory contacts"
ISTANBUL, 13/02/2002 (ANA - D. Konstantakopoulos)Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou met his Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem on Tuesday on the sidelines of the European Union - Islamic Conference Organization joint forum taking place here.
The two men reasserted their willingness to begin exploratory contacts so as to find out if there is a framework for a wider dialogue.
Papandreou stressed that "we should not be afraid (of such a dialogue) based on the fact that we are securing our sovereign rights".
The European framework is an important guarantee, he added, expressing the hope for a common rapprochement.
In these exploratory contacts Greece will be represented by the foreign ministry's civil director ambassador Alexandros Skopelitis, while Turkey's representative has not yet been named.
During their hour-long meeting, the two ministers also discussed the progress of talks in Cyprus and exchanged views "with the hope that (these talks) will lead to a solution to the problem," Papandreou said.
The two ministers also discussed issues concerning the dialogue on civilizations that are on the agenda of the EU-Islamic Countries' forum.
FM Papandreou on Greek-Turkish exploratory talks: Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou stated here on Tuesday that "we will not discuss issues of sovereignty" at the impending "exploratory talks" between Greece and Turkey.
Replying to a reporter's question, he said that matters that could be discussed are the issues of the Patriarchate, the violations in the Aegean by Turkish warplanes and the Turkish practice of granting the so-called "five points", which he described as a positive step.
The five points concern basic information on the course of an aircraft and its identity without, however, it being identified absolutely with flight plans submitted to civil aviation authorities.
The Greek authorities, however, do not consider Turkish practice to be fully satisfactory so far, even if they consider it to be a first positive step. Papandreou said the issue will be discussed with the Greek defense ministry.
The Cyprus issue is not a Greek-Turkish bilateral issue "but it is first on the agenda of our discussions," Papandreou said, adding that he did not wish to comment on the ongoing direct talks in Cyprus between President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.
Papandreou agreed, however, with Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides, whom he met in Istanbul on the sidelines of the joint forum of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the European Union, on further gestures and movements on the Cyprus issue.
"Whether or not a solution is found, Cyprus will join the European Union," Papandreou added.
The Greek foreign minister reiterated that Greece wants a framework of dialogue which will include respect for international law and the principles of territorial integrity. He said he did not want to say which issues could be included in an agreement to refer the matter of the continental shelf to arbitrators. However, there will be no issue of rocky islets. "We do not discuss about rocky islets in the exploratory contacts," he clarified.
The foreign minister announced that the Greek foreign ministry's political affairs director Mr. Skopelitis will hold a meeting with his Spanish counterpart on issues concerning the "Euroarmy".
On Wednesday morning Papandreou will jointly meet his counterparts from Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey while he will also have contacts with his Iraqi and Iranian counterparts.
 Greek FM at EU-Islamic Conference forum in Istanbul
Athens, 13/02/2002 (ANA)Athens was in favor of dialogue between cultures and religions, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou told an Istanbul forum attended by representatives of over 70 European and Islamic countries on Tuesday.
Papandreou also linked this dialogue of cultures with a Greek proposal for an Olympic Truce, saying the dialogue could continue until the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004.
The joint European Union - Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) forum in Istanbul was designed to bridge cultural misunderstandings stemming from the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
In statements on the sidelines of the forum, Papandreou said that the September 11 terrorist strikes had highlighted the need for serious dialogue between the Moslem world and the countries of Europe and the West, which would cover issues such as poverty, human rights and democracy, the Middle East crisis and the Palestinian problem.
On the sidelines of the EU-OIC meeting, the Greek minister met his Libyan counterpart and the Algerian development minister, while he had talks with EU High Commissioner for Foreign Policy and Defense Javier Solana on the Mid-East crisis. Later on, Papandreou was due to meet the foreign ministers of Egypt, Ahmed Maher, Iraq, Naji Sabri Ahmad al-Hadithi, Iran, Dr. Kamal Kharazi and Turkey, Ismail Cem.
Regarding his meeting with Cem, Papandreou said the two sides had agreed to begin exploratory contacts and would confirm this agreement on Tuesday.
He noted that the process would be difficult and laborious and advised against high expectations, while stressing that there was nothing to fear.
Asked if he would raise the issue of a letter sent by Cem to the EU on the Cyprus issue, Papandreou replied that this was not a bilateral issue and that the EU had a clear-cut position on the solution of the Cyprus problem.
 Papandreou meets with Ecumenical Patriarch
ISTANBUL 13/02/2002 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)"We are inspired" by the initiatives of the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said on Tuesday here, following his meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos.
"These initiatives show the pioneering role of Orthodoxy in times of crisis," he said.
He spoke of the intra-religious conference organized at the initiative of the Patriarchate in Brussels, as well as the initiative in the current European Union - Islamic Conference meeting.
"This initiative Turkey undertook, for the meeting of the countries of the Islamic Conference with the countries of the EU is in a way a continuation of the initiatives we had undertaken earlier," Vartholomeos said, speaking to journalists after the meeting with Papandreou.
"In our discussions with the Turkish side we are not forgetting the issues that matter to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and especially the issues of the Theological School of Halki and those of the Greek community," Papandreou said.
"We hope that those issues will be confronted positively," Papandreou said, clarifying that these are not "bilateral issues, but international issues that concern the freedom of religion".
Vartholomeos thanked the Greek minister and the Greek government for the continual support they provide to the Patriarchate and expressed the hope that the promoted Greek-Turkish dialogue will contribute to the confrontation of problems, such as the re-opening of the Halki School.
"It is an issue of primary need, it is an issue for the present and the future of the Ecumenical Patriarchate," Vartholomeos said.
 Greece, Bulgaria sign defense cooperation pact
SOFIA 13/02/2002 (ANA – B. Borisov)Greece and Bulgaria on Tuesday signed a memorandum of cooperation in the defense sector, which foresees, among others, technology transfers and joint defense industry initiatives.
“I would like to express the Greek government’s desire to further strengthen this cooperation within the framework of further harmonizing the operation of the Bulgarian armed forces at the organizational level, as well as in terms of weaponry, to that of respective NATO models,” visiting Greek Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou told reporters here.
Papantoniou arrived in the Bulgarian capital for an official two-day visit and talks with Bulgaria’s leadership, including his counterpart Nikolayo Svinarov.
The Greek minister added that Athens wants to assist Sofia in meeting any and all criteria for NATO membership.
On his part, Svinarov noted that a Greek officer will be stationed as a permanent liaison at the Bulgarian defense ministry to assist with reforms currently being implemented by Bulgaria’s armed forces, all aimed at securing compatibility with NATO standards.
Both men also confirmed a common position by the two countries’ governments in the international campaign against terrorism, as both Greece and Bulgaria are dispatching troops to war-torn Afghanistan.
In terms of Balkan developments, Papantoniou said that despite significant progress in establishing democracy and stability in the region, flashpoints such as Kosovo and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia still exist.
He also called for better coordination amongst regional states to combat illegal immigration and organized crime.
Finally, he reiterated Athens’ standing position in favor of Bulgaria and Romania’s full and rapid accession to NATO.
“Greece backs and believes in NATO’s expansion, it doesn’t want other dividing lines between European states … Greece wants all European countries, and especially those in central and eastern Europe, to join the two major international organizations as soon as possible, whether they have a defensive orientation, such as NATO, or an economic and political orientation, such as the European Union,” Papantoniou said.
The Greek minister, who until recently held the national economy portfolio, is also scheduled to meet with Bulgarian Patriarch Maximos, Bulgarian President Georgi Purvanov and Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Additionally, he will speak on Tuesday evening at Sofia’s “Atlantic Club”.
A tour of the Plovdiv headquarters hosting a multinational brigade comprised of forces from several southeast European countries is on Papantoniou’s agenda for Wednesday.
DM discusses oil pipeline with Bulgarian leadership: Visiting Greek Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou held talks with Bulgaria's political leadership on Tuesday, focusing on the two countries' mutual will for completion of the strategic Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline as soon as possible.
"We ascertained our common desire to see this project becoming a reality," Papantoniou said after meeting Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxcoburgotski.
"The two countries have a strong interest in having this project being carried out for economic and wider geopolitical reasons," he added, provided the political cooperation memorandum is signed first.
Papantoniou added that after the recent visit to Athens by Russian President Vladimir Putin, very good prospects are appearing to secure adequate quantities of Russian oil for the project's substantive promotion.
Possibilities of cooperation between the two countries in the defense industry sector were also discussed in light of Bulgaria's hope of modernizing and adjusting its armed forces to NATO models.
Talks between Papantoniou and the Bulgarian prime minister, to whom he conveyed the compliments of Prime Minister Costas Simitis, confirmed the common intention of both countries to work with international organizations for stability and security in Kosovo and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and for the consolidation of peace in the entire region.
During his talks with the Bulgarian prime minister, Papantoniou confirmed Greece's will to encourage and facilitate Bulgaria's accession to NATO and the European Union.
Papantoniou also met with Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov, examining bilateral relations and the situation in the Balkans, while the need was underlined for respect for the inviolability of existing borders in the Balkans.
Papantoniou further met with Bulgarian Patriarch Maximos and Parliament President Ognian Jerzikov and completed his agenda on Tuesday with a lecture at the Atlantic Club in Sofia.
Defense minister speaks in Sofia on prospects in southeastern Europe: Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, within the framework of his visit here, spoke at Bulgaria's Atlantic Club on the theme "The new Euro-Atlantic Architectural Security and the prospects of South-Eastern Europe in the 21st Century".
He said Greece fully shares the difficulties which the neighboring peoples face daily, as well as their sincere wish for full incorporation in their natural space.
"This is why we are present and active in every sector which aims at convergence and stability. We believe that our stance, from the first moment of the cosmogonic changes of 1989-90 in Eastern Europe was and remains exemplary. We view our neighboring countries as friends and associates and that is why we warmly support their efforts for accession both to NATO and the EU," Papantoniou said.
Concerning Greek-Bulgarian bilateral relations, Papantoniou stressed that it was commonly accepted that for many years now these relations are developing on such a satisfactory level that they constitute an example of inter-state relations.
 PM meets Papoutsis, OKs his nomination for mayoral race
Athens, 13/02/2002 (ANA)The nomination of Christos Papoutsis as PASOK's candidate for Athens Mayor was made official on Tuesday, following a meeting between Papoutsis and Prime Minister Costas Simitis.
Papoutsis candidacy was announced on Monday by PASOK party secretary Costas Laliotis.
Departing from his meeting with the prime minister, Papoutsis said his strategy for Athens aimed to combine the twin goals of creating a modern European capital that was also humane.
This goal went beyond the narrow confines of party politics and for this reason he would seek meetings with the leaders of the opposition parties, apart from main opposition New Democracy, to explore the possibilities of working together to achieve them. Local gov't elections dominate Simitis-Laliotis meeting: Ruling PASOK party’s preparations in light of this October’s local government elections dominated a meeting here on Tuesday between Prime Minister and PASOK leader Costas Simitis and the party’s secretary, Costas Laliotis.
In statements to reporters afterwards, Laliotis – until recently the town planning and public works minister – said that although the municipal and prefectural elections were a “crucial political battle”, they are not a referendum over government policy nor are they a precursor for political developments.
He also said most candidacies -- following a press question regarding Thessaloniki and Piraeus -- will probably be announced by March 20. The ruling party announced on Monday that former EU Commissioner Christos Papoutsis would be its candidate for Athens, the largest municipality in the country.
 ND leader slams delay in passing media ownership laws; Protopapas responds
Athens, 13/02/2002 (ANA)Laws executing sections of the Constitution governing media ownership and the incompatibility clause for transactions with the state sector by media owners should be passed immediately, New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis said on Tuesday.
Emerging from a meeting with Parliament Speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis, the main opposition party leader slammed the government for delaying to implement the revised Constitution and said this should be done urgently in the immediate future.
Karamanlis also called for fuller coverage of Parliamentary proceedings by the media and measures to once again make the Greek assembly the centre of interest in public life. He said that article 15 of the Constitution provided for laws "dictating everything related to the mandatory and free broadcast of session of Parliament and its committees, as well as pre-electoral party political broadcasts," but this also required an executive law.
Finally, he said he asked Kaklamanis for his assistance so that the state television channel ERT would set aside analog television frequencies for the coverage of Parliamentary proceedings.
According to sources, Kaklamanis told the main opposition leader that the government was currently preparing a bill on media ownership issues, while the issue of free coverage of Parliamentary proceedings was one on which the parties had to cooperate and agree on a single position.
With respect to an analog channel exclusive to Parliament, Kaklamanis said that ERT had been contacted but had tied up all available frequencies in binding contracts with foreign networks.
Protopapas accuses ND leader resorting to spin tactics: Responding to Karamanlis, Press and Media minister Christos Protopapas accused the main opposition leader of resorting to tricks instead of mounting an effective and serious opposition.
"Mr. Karamanlis was well aware that the cabinet is due to discuss this very issue on Thursday, therefore his claim of a so-called delay was totally hypocritical," Protopapas said.
"The process was begun two weeks ago and there was no delay, since we had to first complete processes relating to Parliamentary law," he added.
He also slammed the main opposition for refusing to accept a government invitation to join in cross-party dialogue on media issues.
Regarding state TV's coverage of Parliament, Protopapas said the issue was technical and that the government was ready for talks provided the technical aspect was taken into account.
Similarly, he added, the government was more than ready to discuss the implementation of article 15 of the Constitution, provided ND participated in the dialogue and did not confine itself to communication stunts.
He also pointed out that several paragraphs of article 15 had been incorporated in an interior ministry bill on the pre-election period.
Copies of the bill being prepared by the media ministry, he said, would be made available to all interested parties for dialogue after it had been approved by the cabinet, while meetings had also been arranged with the main journalist unions ESHEA and POESY so that the whole process could be wrapped up in a reasonable space of time.
 Cyprus Parliament President to meet Greek premier
NICOSIA 13/02/2002 (ANA - G. Leonidas)Cyprus House of Representatives President Demetris Christofias will be in Athens until the end of the week and will be attending the 3rd Euro-Mediterranean Conference of Parliament Presidents during the week.
On the sidelines of the sessions, Christofias will have a separate meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis who is opening a new round of contacts with the Cypriot political leadership.
Within this framework, the Greek prime minister will meet with Democratic Party (DIKO) leader Tassos Papadopoulos.
It concerns the first meetings Simitis will be having with Cypriot politicians following the start of direct talks on the Cyprus issue between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash on January 16.
 Alternate FM hosts luncheon for Greek Euro-MPs in Athens
Athens, 13/02/2002 (ANA)Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis on Tuesday held a working luncheon at the ministry for the Greek Eurodeputies to brief them on recent developments regarding the European Union's enlargement process and Cyprus's accession course, as well as on the Greek government's preparations regarding the Greek EU Presidency in the first half of 2003.
Discussions with the Eurodeputies focused on the Common European Defense and Security Policy, since Greece may under-take the presidency of this new institution beginning July 1, 2002, as Denmark excluded itself from undertaking the role.
Yiannitsis also briefed the Greek Eurodeputies on results of the unofficial council of foreign ministers that took place in the city of Caceres in Spain.
 EU concerned over trafficking in human beings in Albania
BRUSSELS 13/02/2002 (ANA - B. Demiris)The phenomenon of trafficking in human beings is an issue of concern for the European Union, Commissioner for external affairs Christopher Patten said on Tuesday in response to a question tabled by Greek Eurodeputy Anna Karamanou.
Responding to the question of the ruling PASOK Eurodeputy, Patten said that despite the aid provided by the EU to Albania and the initiatives of the Albanian government, there still is a great margin in that country for the restriction of trafficking in human beings.
He stressed that the combatting of organized crime is a major priority for the EU financial support of Albania, while at the same time an aim of this action is the confrontation of the children's sexual exploitation problem.
 Bush extends invitation to Patriarch
ISTANBUL 13/02/2002 (ANA – A. Kourkoulas)Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos will be received by US President George W. Bush at the White House early next month, sources at the Patriarchate said on Tuesday.
The US leader’s invitation for March 5 comes in light of the Patriarch’s recent high-profile initiatives to counter perceptions and views that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States constitute a chapter in the so-called “clash of civilizations and religions” theory.
Vartholomeos, in fact, chaired an all-faiths meeting in Brussels in December, which was co-organized by European Commission President Romano Prodi. Some 80 high-ranking representatives from the world’s three major monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – attended that meeting.
Finally, the Patriarch officially visited Shiite-dominated Iran last month, where he reiterated his call for cooperation by the world’s religious faiths and a rejection of ideologies that blame various forms of violence on religion.
Vartholomeos is the “Primus inter pares” among Orthodox Patriarchs representing approximately 250 million Eastern Orthodox faithful around the world.
 PM and development minister discuss 3rd CSF, energy issues
Athens, 13/02/2002 (ANA)The progress in absorbing 3rd Community Support Frame-work (CSF) funds and energy issues were the main focus of a meeting on Tuesday between Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Development Ministers Akis Tsohatzopoulos.
Emerging from the meeting, Tsohatzopoulos stressed that it was now becoming urgent to make ever more effective use of 3rd CSF funds.
Regarding energy, he said that new measures regulating the market for electric power and the natural gas network would be announced soon.
Greece has high rate of absorbing EU funds, gov’t: Greece has won the battle in absorbing funds from a Third Community Support Framework program, Deputy Economy and Finance Minister Christos Pahtas said on Tuesday.
Commenting on the process of implementing a "third package" of EU funds in the country, Pahtas said that Greece has already absorbed 1.0 trillion drachmas, it has secured funds worth 2.4 trillion drachmas from the program, and that it would submit applications for funding of projects worth 341 billion drachmas by the end of February.
He noted that the satisfactory process of the Third Community Support Framework denied talk, that begun in 1999, over a loss in absorbing EU funds.
Pahtas said that a total of around 1,400 projects and actions, worth Dr 4.0 trillion, have been included in a government's public investments program.
Commenting on the budget of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games reassured that it will not surpass 1.5 trillion drachmas and that a draft legislation on the assignment of Olympic works would be ready by the end of February.
 ND Eurodeputy on funds Greece returned to EU
BRUSSELS 13/02/2002 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)Main opposition New Democracy party Eurodeputy Costas Hadzidakis said in an interview here on Tuesday that Greece returned 475 million euros to European Union funds over the 1997-2000 period. He was invoking a relevant reply given to him by EU Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler.
Hadzidakis said that "corrections" amounting to 155.5 billion drachmas (475.3 million euros) were imposed on Greece over the 1997-2000 period in the framework of the European Agricultural Orientation and Guarantees Fund.
He said that this happened due to weaknesses in the payments system (Integrated Check Managing System) or to general problems in the subsidy payments apparatus.
 Greek-Turkish economic cooperation interministerial talks commence
Athens, 13/02/2002 (ANA)The first Conference of the Greek-Turkish economic cooperation ministerial committee opened Tuesday in Athens, a continuation of the 9 economic and trade agreements signed between the two countries in recent years.
Heading the two delegations are Greece's deputy foreign minister Andreas Loverdos and Turkish deputy minister for external trade Kursad Tuzmen.
Opening the conference, Loverdos said this was the first such meeting in the history of economic relations between the two countries and an important milestone in the efforts initiated by foreign ministers George Papandreou and Ismail Cem in New York in 1999 for cooperation on "low-impact" issues such as economic and commercial matters.
Loverdos said this had proved to be very positive, as bilateral working groups had drawn up 9 studies which have since been signed, creating an "adequate institutional framework" that "facilities economic and commercial cooperation between the two countries".
Loverdos said that the goal of the present Conference was to expand this institutional framework, resolve unsolved problems in bilateral economic relations, and encourage businessmen of both countries to invest.
In that framework, he added, the signing of an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation of revenues would be advanced, while appropriate measures would also be taken to facilitate such cooperation.
Loverdos said that the Greek side, in that framework, proposed a "maritime link-up" between the two countries, which could take place as soon as this coming summer, so as to achieve better service for tourism.
Tuzmen, in turn, said that the conference topics were very important as they would contribute to further development of the commercial and economic relations between the two countries and would give greater incentives to foreign and Greek investors to invest in Turkey.
Today, he said, there were only 58 Greek businessmen active in Turkey, and Ankara desired expanded activity.
He said the overall volume of trade between the two countries was only one billion dollars, while the target of the two sides was to increase it to 5 billion dollars in the next few years.
Tuzmen referred in particular to the "activation" of construction companies of both countries for the joint assumption of projects in the Balkan countries and SE Europe countries. He also pushed the idea of activation of Turkish construction companies in Greece in view of the preparations for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
Turning to the energy sector, Tuzmen said the two countries could collaborate on the transport of natural gas from central and Eastern Europe to the western European countries, noting that such collaboration would be very significant.
The Turkish official further noted that all obstacles hindering the speedy development of economic and trade relations should be removed so that the relations could reach the rates desired by both countries.
The two ministers also discussed cooperation in view of the two countries' joint assumption of the 2008 European Soccer Championship. Loverdos noted that although this was not an issue falling under their authority, it was discussed with the aim of better organization and better financial success.
Senior officials from the foreign, transports, economy, agriculture and development ministries of the two countries are taking part in the conference.
 Greece to enforce cotton production reduction in 2002-2003
Athens, 13/02/2002 (ANA)Deputy Agriculture Minister Vangelis Argyris on Tuesday announced that the government would aim at a larger reduction in cotton production for the 2002-2003 growing period, by enforcing a program of cotton-field rest.
This program will allow farmers to grow other products on part of their cotton-dedicated land. Consequently, farmers with 10 hectares dedicated to cotton production in 2001-2002, will have to grow some other product on 10 per cent of their land, while for those with 10-20 hectares the percentage will have to be 15 per cent and for those dedicating more than 20 hectares the percentage will have to be 20 per cent.
Cotton growers participating in the "new farmers" program will be excluded from the cotton-field rest program.
 Conference to discuss tourism development in Greece
Athens, 13/02/2002 (ANA)The Federation of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE) is organizing a conference, to be held at the Astir Palace Vouliagmeni hotel in February 28, to discuss proposals and ways in an effort to draft a strategic development plan for Greek tourism, SETE said on Tuesday.
The conference, titled "Tourism and Development: a strategic approach", will bring together government officials, political party representatives and unions from the tourist industry.
Speaking to reporters, SETE members said that the conference would also examine a connection between business activity and tourist development in Greece, and any synergies between tourism and other economic activities, with focus on promoting tourism ahead of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
The conference will also present a survey by Andersen consultants on drafting of a strategy plan for Greek tourism.
 Greece helps Bulgaria to draft construction plan for EU
Athens, 13/02/2002 (ANA)Greece is helping Bulgaria to carry out a long-term survey of construction projects the country needs, Bulgarian Deputy Public Works Minister Ivan Saev said on Tuesday.
Sofia had faced major problems in organizing the project, and Greece's assistance would allow the compilation of an integrated dossier for the European Union in a bid to seek financing, Saev said.
He was addressing a conference on construction projects and real estate held in the northern port city of Thessaloniki.
 Greek firms may miss Balkan reconstruction-trade official
Athens, 13/02/2002 (ANA)An official of the Union of Northern Greek Industrialists said on Tuesday that Greek companies operating in the Balkans might miss the boat on Greek reconstruction for the region due to adverse terms in a law the government is revising.
Under the terms of the development law being reformulated that apply to reconstruction in southeastern Europe, newly created firms are to receive state backing, but not existing ones, said Anastasios Alexandridis, the trade group's executive deputy president.
Alexandridis also said that the revision excluded from reconstruction firms from key sectors including information technology, transport, health, construction, services and trade.
He was addressing a conference on construction projects and real estate in the northern port city of Thessaloniki.
 Trade unionists discuss new collective labor agreement
Athens, 13/02/2002 (ANA)The General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) held its first discussion with employers' organizations on Tuesday, in light of the new collective labor agreement's signing, and is seeking 6.7 percent increases in minimum salaries and wages.
GSEE President Christos Polyzogopoulos said negotiating should be concluded soon and increases for minimum salaries should be given swiftly since inflation is high and losses sustained by working people are great.
Greek Industries Federation (SEV) President Lefteris Antonakopoulos said he was satisfied with the discussion since a framework for discussion was set despite different viewpoints.
 FM to attend luncheon hosted by Arab-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce
Athens, 13/02/2002 (ANA)Foreign minister George Papandreou will attend a luncheon in his honor Wednesday hosted by the Arab-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce and Development, the foreign ministry said.
The luncheon will be held at 2:00 p.m. at the Athenaeum Intercontinental Hotel, on the theme "Building new bridges: Europe and the Arab world in the 21st century".
 Transport minister outlines taxi measures
Athens, 13/02/2002 (ANA)Transport and Communications Minister Christos Verelis, speaking during a meeting with taxi trade unionists on Tuesday, said his ministry is promoting the founding of companies or cooperative organizations, adding that the status governing licenses will not change, while the possibility will be provided for radio-taxi unions either to keep their present form or develop into a company.
Measures aimed at modernizing the sector will be included in a bill and tabled in parliament soon.
Verelis also said that problems noted in the provinces and in tourist regions should be tackled, particularly during peak periods, and emphasis is placed on modernizing cars.
 Foreign investors own 23.86 pct of ASE capitalization
Athens, 13/02/2002 (ANA)Greek investors hold 76.14 percent of the market's capitalization leaving the remaining 23.86 percent in the hands of foreigners, official figures from the Athens Stock Exchange showed on Tuesday.
An ASE report said that Greek investors owned stock shares worth 75.22 billion euros at the end January, or 76.14 percent of total market capitalization, of which 31.14 percent was in the hands of private investors, 28.12 percent in companies and 16.88 percent in institutional investors.
Foreign investors owned shares worth 23.57 billion euros, or 23.86 percent of total market capitalization, of which 14 percent was in the hands of institutional investors, 7.42 percent in companies and 0.49 percent in private investors.
These figures compare with a 78.38 percent rate owned by Greek investors and 21.62 percent by foreign investors at the end of May 2001.
ASE said that foreign investors owned 32 percent of total capitalization (16.75 billion euros) in the FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks, with the remaining 68 percent (35.58 billion euros) owned by Greek investors.
 Greek stocks fall for eighth consecutive session
Athens, 13/02/2002 (ANA)Equity prices ended lower for the eighth consecutive session on the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, undermined by lack of buying interest and a shortage of liquidity in the market.
The general index ended 0.35 percent lower at 2,502.40 points, with turnover a disappointing low Dr 29.5 billion, or 86.7 million euros. Traders said the market has found support at the 2,500 level in the short-term.
The Retail, Metals and Banks sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses (1.35 percent, 0.99 percent and 0.87 percent, respectively), while the Construction, Holdings and Textiles sectors scored gains (0.87 percent, 0.63 percent and 0.34 percent).
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks ended 0.42 percent lower, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index eased 0.23 percent and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index fell 0.10 percent.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 175 to 114 with another 73 issues unchanged.
The most heavily traded shares were Hellenic Telecommunications Organization, Commercial Bank of Greece, National Bank of Greece, Intracom, Alpha Bank, and Piraeus Bank
Equity index futures hold premium: Equity index futures on the Athens Derivatives Exchange retained their premium on Tuesday in higher turnover, traders said.
Changing hands were 7,938 contracts on turnover of 51.1 million euros.
The underlying FTSE/ASE-20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips shed 0.42 percent; and the underlying FTSE/ASE-40 for medium capitalization stocks lost 0.23 percent.
Bond prices drop in brisk trade: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market on Tuesday finished lower in active trade focusing on five-year paper.
The Greek benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 5.34 percent, and the spread over German bunds was 35 basis points.
Turnover through the central bank's electronic system totalled 2.726 billion euros.
Sell orders accounted for the lion's share of turnover.
 PM briefed on 2004-related projects
Athens, 13/02/2002 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis met with Deputy Culture Minister Nassos Alevras on Tuesday, with the latter briefing the premier on the progress of several 2004-related construction projects.
According to reports, Simitis called for an acceleration of work by all relevant ministers in regards to Olympic projects, as well as the strict adherence to construction deadlines.
 Culture minister details latest talks with IOC
Athens, 13/02/2002 (ANA)Greece's culture minister clarified on Tuesday that various ongoing infrastructure projects in the country in light of the 2004 Athens Olympics are taking place because the Greek people want them, and not because of IOC pressure.
During a press conference in the Greek capital, only days after his contacts with International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials on the sidelines of the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos spoke at length about his talks with IOC vice-president Denis Oswald.
Along those lines, Venizelos said Oswald informed him that the IOC’s focus will shift to overall 2004 preparations -- and away from venue construction and infrastructure projects -- after an upcoming visit by yet another IOC inspection team in April.
Venizelos' ministry has the overall supervision for various 2004-related preparations, while the Athens 2004 organizing committee (ATHOC) is the official host for the Games.
Asked about reports of IOC pressure on the Greek government to stick to deadlines, Venizelos said: “If pressure wasn’t exerted by the IOC there would be a danger of (preparation and construction) rates easing up.”
Additionally, the Greek minister said he promised Oswald – who heads an all-important IOC commission supervising preparations for the 2004 Games – that a new overpass bridge will be built on Kifissias Avenue at the ‘Pharos’ site, adding that “we’ll try to build as many projects as possible”.
The last statement comes in light of Oswald’s statements in Athens last month, where he said the IOC would like to see three such road projects built on heavily congested Kifissias Avenue, the primary traffic artery linking central Athens with the main Olympic complex of OAKA.
Finally, Venizelos said he also met with IOC President Jacques Rogge and United Nations chief Kofi Annan in Salt Lake City, with the latter accepting a proposal serve on an honorary committee for the “Cultural Olympiad”.
 Winter Olympics organizers apologies for omitting composer
Athens, 13/02/2002 (ANA)Organizers of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games have addressed a letter in which they apologies to the Greek government for the name of famous Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis being omitted from all official documents and by commentators during the Games' opening ceremony when a part of "Canto Olympico" was heard.
According to 2004 Athens Organizing Committee (ATHOC) sources, Prime Minister Costas Simitis, annoyed by the Americans' "impropriety", telephoned to ATHOC President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, who is currently in the state of Utah, to intervene and protest to Salt Lake City's Organizing Committee.
Nancy Wolmer, in charge of press, protocol and ceremonies issues in Salt Lake City, subsequently delivered a letter to Daskalaki for her to send it to the prime minister, admitting the organizers' mistake and apologizing.
 Cypriot foreign minister addresses conference in Turkey
ISTANBUL 13/02/2002 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides has called on mankind to put a halt to those using diversity to justify conflict, pointing out that dialogue can transcend discord, harmonies human relations and solve differences as well as sow the seeds of a culture of peace, but recognized that in many parts of the world there is systematic and atrocious violations of human rights.
In his address to the joint forum of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the European Union, which got underway here on Tuesday, the minister said Cyprus is a vivid example of a melting pot of civilizations and has an important role to play linking cultures, adding that dialogue is imperative among nations if human relations and differences are to be solved.
The minister's speech, though without any direct reference to the continuing occupation of Cyprus' northern areas by the host country (Turkey) for some 28 years, Kasoulides made it clear that Cyprus is also entitled to the enjoyment of every right that any other nation is, including the right to respect of its culture and civilization, pointing out that in Cyprus, where Greek and Turkish Cypriots have lived for centuries together until the Turkish invasion forcibly divided them, civilizations have coexisted and determined the island's history.
"We consider our role as a link of cultures of primal importance and we see this role as an obligation on our part to promote peace, stability, prosperity, within our region and to enhance awareness of each other's commonalities, bridging gaps that might separate us," the Cypriot minister said.
Each culture and civilization must be accorded the respect it deserves, Kasoulides said, stressing that the respect Cyprus affords each culture is "the benchmark by which our commitment to multicultural symbiosis will be judged and guaranteed."
Noting that systematic and atrocious violations of human rights are still perpetrated in many parts of the globe, the minister said promoting cooperation, tolerance, dialogue and mutual under-standing among peoples, countries, cultures and religions is "the imperative choice of survival." Referring to the fight against terrorism, he said Cyprus categorically rejects any attempt to allow nations to fall victim to "polarization and ephemeral considerations" by stressing the universal nature of the struggle against the terrorist assault against the US.
Concluding his remarks, he said "let us not forget that dialogue is a sine qua non for harmonizing human relations and solving differences amongst us, dialogue can triumph over discord and is capable of transforming heavy burdens of a culture of violence into the seeds of a culture of peace." Kasoulides thanked Turkey for hosting this conference.
 President of the European Council calls on Turkey to comply with EU criteria
ISTANBUL 13/02/2002 (CNA/ANA)Spanish Foreign Minister and current president of the European Council Josep Pique I Camps has said the EU wants to be successful with different things in its negotiations both with Cyprus and Turkey, and called on Ankara not only to introduce changes in its legislation and constitution but also to accomplish the political and economic criteria on the ground.
Speaking at a press conference here on Tuesday, the minister reiterated EU support to the peace talks between the two communities of Cyprus, as he said, which started in Nicosia on January 16, 2002, and added that Brussels would continue to back the negotiations but cautioned against any kind of provocation or increase of tension.
"There are different things we want to be successful in our negotiations with Cyprus and Turkey," he said replying to a CNA question on the role of the EU with regard to Cyprus' and Turkey's accession course, and noted that the EU will continue its accession negotiations with Cyprus "in the framework of the EU criteria for accession" as stipulated in EU Council decisions.
On Turkey's accession talks with the EU, he said "we have accepted the possibility to begin negotiations with Turkey according to accomplishing different criteria in the political and economic fields."
"We are advancing and want to continue our support for the Turkish government for changes and there are different things we want to be successful with in our negotiations with Cyprus and Turkey," he added.
Invited to comment on press reports that Cyprus intends to buy attack helicopters, when peace talks are underway, Pique said he was not aware of this information.
"My perception is very clear: we are supporting the process of negotiations between the two communities and will continue to support it," he said, adding that the EU "will insist on the convenience of reaching an agreement the sooner the better and to avoid any kind of provocation or any increase of the tension."
Replying to questions about Turkey's accession course, he called on Ankara to "continue the effort in the political and economic field."
"There is still a lot of work to do and it is important not only to change the law and the constitution but also it is very important to accomplish the criteria on the ground," he said.
Cyprus opened accession negotiations with the EU in 1998 and has so far provisionally closed 24 out of 29 chapters of the acquis communautaire.
It has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory.
 Cyprus and Greece protest to the EU presidency
ISTANBUL 13/02/2002 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus and Greece have protested to the EU presidency Spain and the host of the joint forum of the EU and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) about a reference to a Turkish Cypriot as "foreign minister" in a list of heads of delegations participating in the two-day meeting, which ends on Wednesday.
Ankara said it is using the term the OIC applies to T/K representatives, a position that did not find the Spanish EU presidency in agreement. Turkish Cypriots are participating in this forum as representatives of the Turkish Moslem community in Cyprus as far as the organizers of the conference are concerned.
Spain's foreign minister, Josep Pique I Camps addressed Kasoulides as foreign minister of Cyprus when he asked him to take the floor and Turkish Cypriot Tahsin Ertugruloglu as representing the Turkish Moslem community in Cyprus.
The reference in the list of heads of delegations reads "TMC Kibris", the name is then written and next to it, "minister of foreign affairs".
Ertugruloglu claims to represent the self-styled Turkish Cypriot regime in Turkish occupied Cyprus, which only Turkey recognizes as a so-called state.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 percent of its territory.
 British envoy hopes for Cyprus settlement this year
LARNACA 13/02/2002 (CNA/ANA)Britain's Special Representative Lord David Hannay arrived in Cyprus on Tuesday afternoon, stating that the purpose of his visit was to listen to the views of Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, currently engaged in direct talks to reach a Cyprus settlement, and those of the UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, on the process so far and on the immediate prospects for the future.
Speaking on his arrival at Larnaca Airport, Lord Hannay said the purpose of his visit was to reiterate the British government's support for the process and to encourage sustained progress towards a comprehensive agreement later this year, "which will enable Cyprus, following a settlement, to join the European Union."
Lord Hannay said "I am not here to interfere or intrude into the process that began January 16, which we, the British government, strongly support and which we believe is being handled in an extremely effective and positive way by all concerned, nor am I here because that process is in crisis or is stuck, because the process is not in crisis and the process is not stuck, so that is not a purpose or motive for my coming here now".
"Nor have I come here with ideas or proposals or plans or blueprints or suggestions or anything else. This is a negotiation between the two Cyprus leaders about the future of their country. This is their opportunity and my government at least hopes they will take it", Lord Hannay added. Regarding the reasons he is on the island, the British envoy said they were "to listen to the views of the two leaders and of the UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on the process so far and on the immediate prospects for the future".
Lord Hannay said "2002 can reasonably be described as a make-or-break year for Cyprus" and that "we, the British government, intend to do everything we can to ensure that it is a make year for Cyprus and we will do all we can and all that is in our power to make that happen".
Replying to questions, Lord Hannay said "the view of the British government is that negotiations are proceeding and should continue, and we hope they will be concluded by the end of this year".
"We also hope, of course, that the conclusion of those negotiations will enable Cyprus, following a settlement, to join the European Union", he said.
The British envoy noted that "the elements of the solution are present now, but there are substantial gaps between the points of view of the two sides, and the negotiating process that started on January 16 is designed to narrow those gaps".
He also expressed certainty that "a comprehensive settlement, which respects the vital interests of both sides, is obtainable and could be obtained within a reasonable frame of time".
Lord Hannay said he would not be making any other statement during his stay on the island. He leaves on Wednesday.