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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 02-02-21

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

February 21, 2002

CONTENTS

  • [01] Luxembourg PM backs unconditional EU membership for Cyprus
  • [02] PM chairs meeting on Greece's EU presidency in 2003
  • [03] Iranian President Khatami to visit in mid-March
  • [04] Cem letter had minimal impact, visiting Cyprus gov't spokesman says
  • [05] Ankara denies policy change vis-a-vis Cyprus due to Kasoulides visit
  • [06] Reaction to Kokkalis indictments continues
  • [07] Defense minister and US envoy discuss defense cooperation
  • [08] Greek deputy FM to visit Jerusalem, Protopapas says
  • [09] President of the Republic to visit Australia in June
  • [10] Protopapas: gov't has no reason to call early elections
  • [11] No evidence of US intervention in Greek media, Protopapas says
  • [12] Gov't on draft bill over ministers' liability
  • [13] Interior minister meets visiting Nicosia mayor in Athens
  • [14] Civil servants union calls new IKA doctors strike
  • [15] Journalists to stage 24-hour nationwide strike on March 6
  • [16] Paschalidis denies all financial ties with gambling venue owner
  • [17] Prominent KKE central committee member Kopsidis quits party
  • [18] European Commission recommends measures on social security
  • [19] Harmonized inflation jumps to 4.8 pct in January
  • [20] Minister discusses economy with OECD representatives
  • [21] Minister and merchants disagree on VAT evaluation
  • [22] Industrialists guardedly welcome gov't response on Balkan plan
  • [23] Greece, Luxembourg support EU single tourism policy
  • [24] GNTO satisfied with US contacts
  • [25] Report says Greek tourism's competitive-ness declining
  • [26] Greece, Cuba to sign shipping agreement
  • [27] Gov't moves to bring food safety at meat market in line with EU
  • [28] SSSB sees Alpha Bank wooing investors after merger collapse
  • [29] International 'Hermes' exhibition in Atlantic City
  • [30] KEP party calls for new action plan for Olympic Airways
  • [31] Greek stocks remain under pressure in ASE
  • [32] IOC's Rogge lauds Greece's interest in Olympiad security
  • [33] IOC Press Committee confident in ATHOC's services for press
  • [34] DM to represent government at Ioannina liberation events

  • [01] Luxembourg PM backs unconditional EU membership for Cyprus

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    Cyprus must become a member of the European Union without conditions and without a veto from any country, visiting Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said here on Wednesday after talks with his Greek counterpart Costas Simitis.

    Simitis, in turn, told reporters afterwards that Greece and Luxembourg agreed on a series of issues, including ones dealing with the EU's course.

    Antagonism among countries echoed views of the past, Simitis said, adding that Luxembourg was a proponent of Cyprus and the entire region.

    The two premiers discussed issues concerning European unification, particularly the need for coordination of economic policies in view of the 12 months during which Greece will coordinate monetary policy of 'euro-zone' member states.

    Juncker and Simitis also reaffirmed their countries' agreement with the initial decision to replace the current president of the European Central Bank with a French banker.

    The two premiers further discussed bilateral cooperation and agreed that efforts should be made to increase the "ridiculous", as Juncker described it, current volume of trade between the two countries.

    Juncker further expressed interest in collaboration with Greece in the Balkans.

    Meeting with Parliament President: In a later meeting with Greece’s Parliament president, Juncker reiterated Luxembourg’s position that Cyprus must be among the countries in the upcoming EU expansion.

    "... Turkey cannot use the solution of (the island republic's) political problem as a precondition (against) Cyprus' EU accession," he added.

    Additionally, the Luxembourg premier said any solution must respect the "dignity" of the Cypriot people, while stressing that a conditional political solution leading to accession would be tantamount to giving non-EU member Turkey a right of veto in the 15-member bloc.

    On his part, Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis thanked Juncker for what he called his unwavering stance regarding Cyprus' EU prospects.

    "It's not possible for a Europe of democratic principles and inviolable human rights, ones that its peoples envision, to retreat in the face of Turkish blackmail," Kaklamanis said.

    Meetings opposition party leaders: Visiting Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker had separate meetings Wednesday with main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Costas Karamanlis, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) secretary Aleka Papariga, and Coalition of the Left and Progress (SYN) leader Nikos Constantopoulos.

    Karamanlis said after his meeting with Juncker that he and the Luxembourg premier agreed that the smaller member countries of the European Union should have a role in the building of Europe after its enlargement.

    He also said that in a federal structure of the future Europe -- in which he said New Democracy and the political grouping of the European Parliament his party belongs to, the European Peoples Party (PPE) believe in -- the common position was that equal rights and opportunities should be provided for all the EU citizens, and that there should be "common and jointly-protected" borders.

    [02] PM chairs meeting on Greece's EU presidency in 2003

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    A meeting was held at the Maximos Mansion on Wednesday evening under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Costas Simitis to discuss Greece's EU rotating presidency in the first half of 2003.

    Present at the meeting were Foreign Minister George Papandreou, Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Giannitsis and other officials.

    In statements after the meeting, Papandreou said "an in-depth preparation for the presidency has been made, its aims and priorities. We had the opportunity to discuss tonight these priorities with the prime minister and to see the dates for important councils which will take place during the Greek presidency."

    Papandreou stressed that the Greek EU presidency will be important "because we have issues of major importance, such as the enlargement, the discussion on the future of Europe. Among other matters, there will also be meetings on a summit level with Russia and the Balkan countries."

    He said that "consequently, our presidency will have to handle issues which also concern us directly as a country, giving at the same time our European mark so that we contribute in a course of Europe, integrated and really that of the citizen, of Europe of citizens."

    [03] Iranian President Khatami to visit in mid-March

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    Iranian President Mohammad Khatami is to pay an official visit to Athens next month, it was announced on Wednesday.

    Visiting deputy speaker of the Iranian parliament, Mohammad-Reza Khatami, brother of President Mohammad Khatami, on Wednesday discussed bilateral cooperation issues and international developments with Greece's foreign minister George Papandreou, in view of President Khatami's forthcoming visit from March 13 to 15.

    Replying to press questions after the meeting, Khatami said that Athens and Teheran shared similar positions on the major issues concerning the region, and made special note of the developments in the Middle East.

    [04] Cem letter had minimal impact, visiting Cyprus gov't spokesman says

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    A letter sent by Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem to his European Union counterparts regarding Cyprus' EU accession course appeared to have had minimal impact, Cyprus government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou told reporters in Athens on Wednesday.

    On the contrary, he continued, the letter had had a negative reception in many European countries and the motive for sending it was probably linked to Turkish domestic issues.

    Commenting on talks underway between the Cyprus government and the Turkish-Cypriot side for a solution to the Cyprus problem, he said the Greek-Cypriot side had entered the negotiations with a sincere desire for a solution and was ready for "an honest give-and-take".

    Regarding the future of form of the Cypriot state, he said the Greek-Cypriot side would not accept anything other than a federation, which had also been an older proposal put forward by the Turkish side and had been accepted in the '70s by the Cyprus government for political reasons.

    Countering claims that Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides wanted to postpone a solution to the Cyprus problem until after the island republic had joined the EU, Papapetrou pointed out that if this was the case, Clerides could have simply left the proposal for talks made by Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash unanswered.

    "On the contrary, he accepted [the proposal] and asked only that a representative of the United Nations take part in [the talks]," he added.

    He said the prospects for a solution were not significantly improved at the end of the first round of talks, pointing to extremist statements made by Denktash and Turkish politicians.

    "We have stayed in the talks, however, because if these end in an impasse we must be able to prove that the side responsible is the Turkish side," he added.

    The Cyprus government was also very pleased with the "mature and responsible" reaction to the talks among the public in Cyprus and Greece, the spokesman noted, while he spoke of an "unprecedented" degree of agreement between Athens and Nicosia.

    Regarding the threats made by Turkey if Cyprus joined the EU, Papapetrou said that Cyprus was prepared but would not allow itself to become a conduit for Turkish propaganda.

    "No one has the right to underestimate these threats, particularly when part of the country is still under occupation. We are preparing to deal with them .. .we must not, however, broadcast the message that Ankara wants - namely, that if Cyprus joins the EU, then the EU will find itself in trouble over the crisis that breaks out in the eastern Mediterranean," he concluded.

    [05] Ankara denies policy change vis-a-vis Cyprus due to Kasoulides visit

    ISTANBUL, 21/02/2002 (ANA - A. Aretaios)

    Turkey's foreign ministry this week denied claims that the participation of Cyprus' foreign minister at the "Istanbul Forum" earlier in the month marked a change in Ankara's policy vis-a-vis the island republic.

    Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides represented the island republic - among the frontrunners for accession in the next wave of EU expansion -- at the forum of European Union states and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). One of the aims of the forum, as Turkish organizers had stated at the time, was to combat a growing impression that the Muslim world and the West are involved in a "clash of civilizations".

    During a weekly press briefing, a Turkish foreign ministry spokesman said Kasoulides' participation at the international meeting in no way marks a change in Ankara's policy.

    "Similar situations (of Cypriot officials in Turkey) existed in the past," spokesman Hussein Dirioz said, while adding: "... the only state Turkey recognizes on Cyprus is the 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus'."

    Only Turkey, in fact, recognizes the Turkish Cypriot pseudo-state illegally declared in 1983 on the roughly one-third of Cyprus' territory occupied by the Turkish military since 1974. Conversely, the Republic of Cyprus governing the unoccupied areas on the island enjoys wide-ranging international recognition and EU candidate-state status.

    Certain Turkish press reports had criticized the Cypriot delegation's participation at the "Istanbul Forum".

    [06] Reaction to Kokkalis indictments continues

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    Reverberations from Tuesday's filing of felony espionage charges, among others, against telecoms tycoon Socrates Kokkalis, the president of the Intracom group, continued on Wednesday as a special judicial magistrate said he plans to take statements from 35 witnesses in the case.

    The indictments, including felony charges of fraud, embezzlement, money laundering as well as two counts of misdemeanor bribery, follow an 11-month judicial investigation initially spurred by allegations from main opposition New Democracy deputy Panos Kammenos, who claimed that Kokkalis had served for the former East German intelligence agency, better known as "Stazi".

    The first instance court prosecutor, Dimitris Papaggelopoulos, also investigated the Kokkalis group's involvement with a project to launch a lottery in Russia, an issue that has repeatedly been the focus of several articles by the Athens daily "Kathimerini".

    Both investigation files have been forwarded to an investigating magistrate, the next step under Greece's criminal justice process.

    According to evidence listed in the indictments, and reportedly based on information gleaned from Stazi's files, Kokkalis was recruited by the East German agency to commit industrial and hi-tech espionage for the one-time Soviet bloc under the guise of normal trade and business activities.

    Another claim is that Kokkalis bribed members of the Russian National Olympic Committee in order to win the contract for the Russian "Lotto".

    Gov't spokesman: The high-profile indict-ments garnered a response on Wednesday by the government spokesman, who answered a question referring to the Intracom group's ties with the defense and armed forces sectors.

    "No one has access to the armed forces with the view of injuring (our) national interests," spokesman Christos Protopapas said in response to a press question.

    He also said Prime Minister Costas Simitis was informed about the Kokkalis affair in the same manner as was the entire nation, denying that the premier was briefed beforehand by a judicial official.

    Regarding the Intracom group's numerous public sector contracts, Protopapas said awarded tenders were gained via a "specific and secure framework... this procedure ensures the honesty and the reliability of public contracts."

    On his part, ND honorary leader Constantine Mitsotakis reiterated that the main opposition "backs and trusts" the Greek justice system.

    "I believe that we, the politicians, and the government especially, must leave it (the justice system) alone to fulfill its obligation, as foreseen by the Constitution," he said.

    ND leader Costas Karamanlis, meanwhile, declined to comment on Kokkalis indictments, whereas the party's spokesman and several high-ranking deputies stressed the notion that justice must be unhindered in the case.

    [07] Defense minister and US envoy discuss defense cooperation

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou on Wednesday met US Ambassador in Athens Thomas J. Miller to discuss issues pertaining to defense cooperation.

    Papantoniou described the meeting as routine and said it had not touched on the lawsuit filed against Greek businessman Socratis Kokkalis, head of the Intracom group of companies.

    [08] Greek deputy FM to visit Jerusalem, Protopapas says

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Magriotis will soon visit Jerusalem, where he will have meetings relating to the recognition of the Jerusalem Patriarchate, which is still outstanding.

    Government spokesman Christos Protopapas announced this on Wednesday.

    [09] President of the Republic to visit Australia in June

    MELBOURNE, 21/02/2002 (ANA - S. Hatzimanolis)

    President of the Hellenic Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos will pay an official visit to Australia in June, according to a statement by Greece's new ambassador to Canberra, G. Xydas, upon his arrival.

    Xydas, who arrived in Sydney on Wednesday appeared to be aware of the problems faced by the Greek Australian community and stated that "there are solutions to all (problems)."

    On the issue of the signing of an inter-state agreement on pensions between Greece and Australia, he noted that efforts are being made, expressing optimism of "a positive outcome."

    [10] Protopapas: gov't has no reason to call early elections

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    Government spokesman Christos Protopapas dismissed speculation about early elections as unrealistic on Wednesday and ruled out all chances of such an outcome.

    Attributing the early-election scenario to main opposition New Democracy, the spokesman said that ND might dream of early elections but this did not mean that the party's dreams would become reality.

    "At this juncture there is no reason for the government to go to the polls," he underlined.

    [11] No evidence of US intervention in Greek media, Protopapas says

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    There was no evidence of any sort of intervention by the United States in the Greek press, government spokesman Christos Proto-papas said on Wednesday in response to questions.

    The spokesman refused to comment on articles published in the US press regarding an organized national propaganda campaign on the part of the United States.

    [12] Gov't on draft bill over ministers' liability

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    The government announced on Wednesday that a draft bill covering ministers' legal liability along with bills establishing a special court and mandating the public sector's compliance with court decisions will be tabled in the next few weeks.

    [13] Interior minister meets visiting Nicosia mayor in Athens

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis on Wednesday received the newly elected mayor of Nicosia, Michalis Zambelas, who is currently on his first official visit to Greece.

    During the meeting, they discussed the Cyprus problem and Cyprus' prospective accession to the European Union, as well as the margins for cooperation between municipalities in the two countries to achieve common goals.

    [14] Civil servants union calls new IKA doctors strike

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    The Civil Servants Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY), following the decision taken by a court on Wednesday declaring the Social Security Foundation (IKA) doctors' five-day strike illegal and abusive, called a new four-day strike for the foundation's doctors on February 20,21, 22 and 25, demanding the granting of permanent status for 5,500 contractual employees, the granting once again of library benefits and the upgrading of treatment for people insured with IKA.

    In this way, ADEDY fully covers the foundation's doctors and provides them with the possibility of continuing their strike action.

    IKA's administration issued an announcement, calling on doctors to return to work and for dialogue to continue for a solution to be found on the foundation's problem.

    [15] Journalists to stage 24-hour nationwide strike on March 6

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    All the journalist unions in the press and mass media have declared a joint 24-hour strike on March 6, with a warning that if the stance of employers does not change the struggle will escalate.

    The strike action was decided on Wednesday by the Panhellenic Federation of Greek Journalists (POESY) following a meeting it had with the coordinating committees of unions in the press and mass media.

    The meeting discussed the situation following the negative, as POESY said, stance of employers and of the government during the negotiating stage for the demands of the unions to be met.

    Demands include an end to mass dismissals, the signing of a collective labor agreement, satisfactory salaries, better working conditions, an improvement of insurance rights and measures for a free, objective and better quality of information.

    [16] Paschalidis denies all financial ties with gambling venue owner

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    Macedonia-Thrace Minister George Paschalidis on Wednesday denied any financial ties whatsoever between himself and northern Greek businessman Giorgos Tekteridis, who has been accused of running illegal gambling venues.

    The minister made the statements after a photograph of himself and Tekteridis were broadcast on television over the weekend.

    Emerging from a government meeting to discuss a trip by Prime Minister Costas Simitis to the northern Greek prefectures of Pella and Imathia later this week, Paschalidis warned that he would speak out and defend his reputation after next Monday.

    "I have held back all these days because I want the prime minister's trip to Pella to go well," the minister said.

    In a message to those "that tried to raise their ratings by sacrificing my image", meanwhile, the minister noted that he was not just a lifeless image but "a person that has the right to try to de-fend his honor and dignity."

    The minister also admitted knowing Tekteridis and having met him in the past, while he said that the photograph shown on television was taken at the offices of a local paper owned by Tekteridis.

    [17] Prominent KKE central committee member Kopsidis quits party

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    Prominent Communist Party of Greece (KKE) central committee member Makis Kopsidis quit the party late Tuesday, citing disagreement with the "practices" of the KKE leadership.

    Kopsidis, who had for several years also served as the KKE press spokesman, severely criticized the party leadership and charged that the Central Committee had been turned into an "organ of validating the decisions of the leadership group" while "anyone in the Central Committee who disagrees with the practices of the leadership group is crushed by the party Secretariat".

    He further accused the KKE leadership of demanding absolute silence with respect to the leadership group's choices.

    Kopsidis warned that this practice of the KKE leadership "is leading us to the abnormal internal party regime of the '50s decade".

    Kopsidis' criticism encompassed all areas of the KKE's political activity, while he accused the KKE leadership of employing an "entrenchment policy" in the name of "ideological purity".

    The former KKE press spokesman further warned that the rationale and policy followed by the party would cut the KKE off from the popular forces.

    Regarding the KKE's policy on the farmers' mobilizations, Kopsidis said that the need for common action was converted into a "blind, unprincipled anti-government alliance, just as (main opposition party ) New Democracy desired it".

    The KKE leadership's target was not to combat the two-party system, but how the KKE would become the dominant force in the Left, how the Coalition of the Left and Progress (SYN) would lose its place in parliament, and how it could absorb the Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) party so that the KKE would become the only Left force, Kopsidis charged.

    Turning to issues of internal party democracy, Kopsidis claimed that the KKE charter was nothing more than "a document locked away in some drawer, which is used selectively".

    On the party's international activity, Kopsidis charged that the KKE's orientation was common action with sectarian groups, while he also criticized the KKE leadership over its stance on the problem of terrorism.

    Stressing his 26 years of service as an active KKE member, Kopsidis pledged that he was not leaving politics but would continue the struggle to lift the Left out of its current condition and bring it to the forefront of political developments.

    KKE criticizes central committee member's resignation: The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Wednesday criticized central committee member Makis Kopsidis, who quit the party late on Tuesday, saying that his letter of resignation contained false facts and evidence.

    KKE said in an announcement that Kopsidis' stance is not a militant one, not because he took the decision to quit in a short period of time but because of the specific method and practice he followed.

    KKE added that his act of sending a letter to the media on Wednesday (which he had delivered to the Central Committee's offices on the previous night) listing the reasons for his resignation showed that he had taken the decision to launch an attack on KKE beforehand.

    It further said that the fact that he was "not motivated by whatever concerns, as he had claimed, is evident by the fact that he included false facts and evidence in his letter and arguments which have become standardized in past years and are usually used against KKE."

    According to KKE, Kopsidis is presenting a "distorted view of decisions taken by the party, which he himself is fully aware of, since he had repeatedly voted in favor of them in party bodies and at the Central Committee".

    [18] European Commission recommends measures on social security

    BRUSSELS, 21/02/2002 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)

    The European Commission recommends once again to Greece to take measures to handle the social security and pensioning problem.

    The recommendation is contained in a report on the degree of implementation of European Union member-states' main economic policy targets in 2001, due to be publicized here on Thursday.

    In the section on Greece, the lack of new measures to tackle the problem of an ageing population is stressed and it is pointed out that Greece, as well as most EU members, might be faced in the future with the problem of covering pensioning and social security expenditures.

    The low productivity of labor, greatly due to the inadequacy of investments in human potential and in the research and techno-logy sectors, is regarded as a weakness of the Greek economy, while Greece is considered problematic regarding the development of business spirit.

    On the question of fiscal policy, Greece is ranked in a relatively good position since it achieved the creation of a fiscal surplus in 2001. With regard to the public debt, it is pointed out that its degree of de-escalation is less than what had been anticipated.

    According to the European Commission, progress was achieved in the labor market in Greece in 2001, where a series of structural measures were adopted, and in connection with the incorporation of EU legislation on a single market in national law.

    [19] Harmonized inflation jumps to 4.8 pct in January

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    Greece's harmonized consumer price index jumped to 4.8 percent in January from 3.5 percent in December, official figures showed on Wednesday.

    Harmonized inflation was 3.2 percent in January 2001, while the consumer price index recorded an average increase of 3.8 percent in the January 2001-January 2001 period.

    The harmonized CPI is used for international comparisons of the inflation rate and more specifically evaluating the convergence criterion in the eurozone, price stability and includes quality characteristics that usually lack national CPI figures.

    [20] Minister discusses economy with OECD representatives

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis met on Wednesday with representatives of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and briefed them on the state of the Greek economy and its prospects.

    The visit was part of the effort of collecting information on the economy to enable OECD representatives to prepare a relevant report to be publicized in June.

    The OECD's representatives also visited the Bank of Greece on Tuesday for a similar briefing.

    [21] Minister and merchants disagree on VAT evaluation

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis and representatives of merchants and handicraftsmen on Wednesday disagreed in talks on the presumed evaluation of value added tax (VAT) concerning the 1999-2001 period.

    Representatives of the merchant and handicraft union GSEVEE and the National Confederation of Greek Trade (ESEE) announced after the meeting that new action will be taken, the form of which will be examined by their relevant bodies.

    Christodoulakis said later the measure of the presumed evaluation of VAT over the 1999-2001 period will be optional.

    [22] Industrialists guardedly welcome gov't response on Balkan plan

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    The Association of Industrialists of Northern Greece (SEBE) on Wednesday welcomed the government's acceptance of some of its suggestions to improve a national reconstruction plan for the Balkans.

    "Although our comments were not accepted in their entirety, we find a number of points very positive in comparison with the first bill that was released," SEBE president Dimitris Symeonidis said in a letter to Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos.

    The points included the use of the foreign ministry's Thessaloniki-based international relations service as a technical adviser; and the participation of SEBE officials on a key advisory committee, the letter said.

    [23] Greece, Luxembourg support EU single tourism policy

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    Greece and Luxembourg agreed to support an effort by other European countries (Spain, Portugal) to promote a single tourism policy in the European Union, Development Deputy Minister Dimitris Georgakopoulos and visiting Luxembourg's Tourism Minister Fernand Boden said on Wednesday.

    The two ministers discussed bilateral tourism issues and the initiatives planned by Greece during its EU presidency (in the first half of 2003).

    They also discussed increasing Luxair's flights to the Greek islands.

    The ministers agreed that conditions in the world tourist market was stabilizing after the shock of the September 11th tragic events and noted that international tourism would not be hardly hit this year.

    [24] GNTO satisfied with US contacts

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    Americans continue to regard Greece as a favorite tourist destination and have not lost their wish for travel despite the September 11 terrorist attack against their country, Greek Tourism Organization (GNTO) said on Wednesday.

    This estimate was based on contacts made by Greek tourism officials during the annual Travel Show in Los Angeles, February 16-17.

    GNTO was a sponsor to this year's event and promoted the country's tourist attractions through advertorials with the Los Angeles Times, the organizer of Travel Show.

    [25] Report says Greek tourism's competitive-ness declining

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    Although tourist arrivals in Greece have grown steadily in long-term, more in the '80s and less in the '90s, the country's share in the European and international tourist market is declining in the last few years, an independent survey said on Wednesday. A report by the Institute of Tourist Research and Forecasts (ITEP) said that worsening competitiveness of the Greek tourism was a result of either service price level, or quality level, or both value for money.

    The report "The competitiveness of Greek tourism sector", written by professor V. Patsouratis, noted that Greece was threatened by other Mediterranean countries, both EU members (Italy, Portugal, Spain) and outsiders (Turkey, Israel, Croatia, Egypt, Cyprus) and particularly the latter's that offered the same tourist product at lower prices.

    Within the European Union, Spain was the biggest competitor, with Greece having an advantage over the others because of its natural resources and its archaeological and cultural heritage.

    ITEP's report said that the average size of Greek hotel units was small (76 beds) compared with Spain or Portugal (130 beds), the financial structure of Greek hotels was ill (lack of equity capital, heavy bank lending), the level of tourist management in Greece was low, the sector's human workforce was inadequately trained, and that the country's tourism product was burdened with a larger tax burden compared with other countries.

    The survey proposed four main strategic targets for Greek tourism: improving service quality, promoting the country's cultural heritage, expanding tourism season and implementing an integrated tourism policy.

    [26] Greece, Cuba to sign shipping agreement

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    Greece and Cuba are to sign an agreement on maritime transportation outstanding since 1996, the merchant marine ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

    The decision was taken at a meeting of Merchant Marine Minister George Anomeritis and the Cuban Ambassador in Athens, Jorge Quesada Conception, the statement said.

    [27] Gov't moves to bring food safety at meat market in line with EU

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos told journalists on Wednesday that tenders would be called for improvement projects at Rentis meat market, whose abattoir the European Union has cited as posing a threat to public health.

    Tsohatzopoulos also said that outstanding legal formalities concerning operation of the market would be resolved in coming days.

    A senior European Union official noted recently that despite progress Greece had made in improving overall food safety, it lacked qualified inspectors and should concentrate responsibility for the sector into fewer hands.

    Robert Coleman, general director of the EU Commission's health and consumer protection division, had told media that the government was given a report stating problems identified during inspections at Rentis market; and the government had 10 working days to reply to the report's conclusions.

    One problem was that Rentis' abattoir could not be modernized to meet specifications and should cease operations. The government had set in motion a plan for closure, Coleman said.

    He emphasized that the government had shown willingness to resolve the problems.

    As part of an attempt to improve food safety in Greece, a report would be given to the government that contained a detailed description of inadequacies, existing policy and proposals for action, and deadlines for solution of the problems.

    [28] SSSB sees Alpha Bank wooing investors after merger collapse

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    Alpha Bank, a blue chip on the Athens bourse, is likely to court investors in order to restore damaged confidence following the collapse of a merger plan with National Bank of Greece, Schroder Salomon Smith Barney (SSSB) said on Wednesday.

    "Alpha Bank and National Bank of Greece called off their merger on January 19. In our view, this represented a drawback in building international investors' confidence in Greece. We would expect Alpha Bank to make a considerable effort to restore confidence and show the market it can rely on the bank," SSSB said in a market report.

    "The merger cancellation should not affect Alpha's customer base, but it could delay investor appetite," the report said.

    The global investment house awarded Alpha Bank a 3M (Neutral, Medium Risk) rating and short-term negative outlook, and set a price target of 19.10 euros.

    It also said that the absorption of Ionian Bank had been slower than expected, but benefits should be exhibited in the medium term.

    "While we see Alpha Bank as a net winner in Greece, we believe a considerable cost saving exercise is still necessary to offset non-recurrent trading income and extraordinary income loss. We are currently underweight in Greek banks," SSSB said.

    "In the meantime, Alpha Bank is a leading force in Greek banking, in our view. The bank is set to benefit from growth in financial services in the country with the lowest bancarisation rate in the EMU," it noted.

    Although this growth was likely to take effect later than the market currently discounted, the bank's shares could suffer in the short term due to 2001 earnings disappointment, with earnings seen remaining subdued until the second half of 2002, the report said.

    [29] International 'Hermes' exhibition in Atlantic City

    MONTREAL, 21/02/2002 (ANA - I. Frangouli)

    The international exhibition "Hermes" will open its doors to Greek American trade and transactions for the 11th time at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Atlantic City on April 6-7.

    It will be providing an opportunity for an effective promotion of both Greek and Greek American products on the American business scene.

    It is a private initiative launched by the founder and publisher of the newspaper "Greek news of America" who has been successful in establishing a communications network bet-ween businessmen.

    [30] KEP party calls for new action plan for Olympic Airways

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    The Movement of Free Citizens party (KEP) on Wednesday called for a new operational action plan for national carrier Olympic Airways, after the latest failure of a government tender to sell the airline.

    KEP said the plan should highlight OA's strategic position in southeastern Europe and its equivalent role in the new European milieu for air transport.

    The party underlined that it was crucial to adopt a solution that would have the lowest possible cost for Greek citizens and would create a viable airline.

    [31] Greek stocks remain under pressure in ASE

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    Equity prices remained under pressure for one more session on the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday with the general index finding support at the 2,400 level.

    The index ended 0.37 percent down at 2,409.26 points, with turnover a low Dr 39.7 billion, or 116.5 million euros.

    Shares in Kokkalis Group's companies found support, the day after recording one of the biggest daily declines ever, with Intracom up 0.81 percent, Intralot gaining 5.71 percent, Intracat rising 0.47 percent, with only Panafon easing 0.69 percent.

    The IT Solutions index scored the biggest percentage gains of the day (1.73 percent) with the parallel market index for smaller capitalization stocks rising 1.81 percent. The Holding and Construction sectors suffered the heaviest losses (0.97 percent and 0.74 percent, respectively).

    The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks ended 0.31 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index fell 0.34 percent and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index rose 0.32 percent.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 176 to 136 with another 46 issues unchanged.

    The most heavily traded shares were Intracom, Intralot, Hellenic Telecommunications Organization, Panafon and Alpha Bank.

    Bond Market Close: Prices down in light to moderate trade: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market on Wednesday finished lower in light to moderate trade focusing on 10-year paper.

    The Greek benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 5.34 percent, and the spread over the corresponding German bund was 35 basis points.

    Turnover through the central bank's electronic system totalled 1.8 billion euros.

    Sell orders accounted for the bulk of turnover.

    Derivatives Market Close: Equity index futures end at premium: Equity index futures on the Athens Derivatives Exchange nosed up in jittery trade on Wednesday with contracts finally ending at a small premium.

    Turnover was sharply down at 28.1 million euros.

    The underlying FTSE/ASE-20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips shed 0.31 percent; and the underlying FTSE/ASE-40 for medium capitalization stocks lost 0.34 percent.

    [32] IOC's Rogge lauds Greece's interest in Olympiad security

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge lauded the Greek government's strong interest for the security measures at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games during a meeting he had on Wednesday with Public Order Deputy Minister Vangelis Malesios who is in Salt Lake City where the Winter Olympic Games are taking place.

    The IOC president viewed as particularly constructive the visit to Salt Lake City of three Greek police delegations who were briefed on the order, security and traffic measures being taken at the Winter Games.

    Rogge said "the organization in Athens will be much greater than that of Salt Lake but particular interest which Greece is showing indicates that all will be ready and that the security measures will be those befitting the holding of the Olympic Games."

    The security program of the 2004 Olympic Games constitutes a first priority both for the IOC and for the Greek government, while Prime Minister Costas Simitis has stated categorically that Greece will do everything possible to achieve the complete security of the Games.

    For this reason, three multi-member delegations of the Greek Police have gone to Salt Lake City in order to be briefed and to acquire know-how concerning the security measures taken by the Americans, measures which will constitute a pilot for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

    [33] IOC Press Committee confident in ATHOC's services for press

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    The services which the "Athens 2004" Olympic Organizing Committee (ATHOC) is expected to offer to the press during the Olympic Games was the basic issue discussed during the first working meeting of the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Press Committee at Salt Lake City where the Winter Olympic Games are being held.

    The president of the Press Committee and IOC Vice-President Kevan Gosper voiced confidence in the Greek organizers responsible for press issues and stressed their high level of professionalism and their efforts for securing excellent services for journalists, according to an "Athens 2004" announcement.

    The IOC Press Committee also decided to hold its first regular meeting under its new composition in Athens at the end of April when the IOC Coordinating Committee's check will be made under the leadership of its president Denis Oswald.

    [34] DM to represent government at Ioannina liberation events

    Athens, 21/02/2002 (ANA)

    Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou will represent the government at events celebrating the 89th anniversary of the city of Ioannina's liberation from Turkish rule. He arrived in the city on Wednesday, accompanied by the armed forces leadership.

    On the question of the abolition of certain military checkpoints and army camps in the Epirus region, in northern Greece, in the framework of changes planned by the defense ministry, he said "there should be no concern whatsoever. The new structure of forces we are promoting at the defense ministry fully meets the country's security needs, as well as of the region and area of Epirus."

    President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos who arrived later in Ioannina, will also attend the events.


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