|Saturday, 14 December 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 02-02-23
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>February 23, 2002
 PM calls for a Europe with a ‘unified social space’ in Veria speech
Athens, 23/02/2002 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Friday kicked off a tour of north-central Greece by inaugurating a new museum in Veria devoted to the Byzantine era and by addressing an audience of local officials.
Earlier on Friday he visited a canning cooperative in an Imathia prefecture village outside Veria, where he stressed that the Greek farm sector’s future lies in high-quality production and brand names.
“We want a more democratic Europe, with its agencies controlled by the peoples. We want a Europe with a ‘unified social space’. In this Europe we’re building a Greece of peace and stability, development and employment more rapidly,” Simitis told his audience
In differentiating ruling PASOK’s policy from main opposition New Democracy, Simitis said: “Do we impose on society the ‘automatic pilot’ of a neo-liberal economic outlook or do we create an economy aiming for progress and social cohesion?” he asked.
“The ‘automatic pilot’ approach wants the ‘invisible hand’ of the market free to shape society’s future. It wants to supposedly show that the future is predetermined, that prosperity is a given, that social cohesion is ensured independently of political choices. We’re against this approach. Society does not progress in its sleep,” he added.
“It is PASOK’s political decision to strengthen conditions for long-term stability, ones that favor the development of the economy, increase employment and shape the conditions for a society of prosperity for all ... It’s PASOK's political decision for a constant and real increase in wage-earners’ salaries and the safeguarding of the working family’s security amid the modern world.”
Simitis added that 5.8 billion euros out of the state budget for 2002 are funneled into the country’s agricultural sector, an increase of 4.5 percent from 2001. Moreover, he said 57 percent of the total farm sector allocations come from national coffers, namely, 3.3 billion euros.
In terms of the entire central Macedonia region, the Greek premier said 5.8 billion euros, both EU and national funds, will be allocated within the 2000-2006 period.
He also criticized main opposition ND, citing what he called its "avoidance of commitments, a rejection and lack of political proposals ... ND's stance offers no guarantee or insurance," he said.
"ND must decide: is it for 'clear solutions' of popular sovereignty or will it continue to fish in the murky waters of defamation, innuendoes, half-statements, intolerance and misery".
Commenting on the latest political turmoil apparent in the country of late, including an ongoing furor over illegal gambling arcades, Simitis said:
"No one can undermine, no one can divert, no one can forge the work, the values and our course ... Greece's 'beacon' is the deeply democratic and progressive conscience of its people" he stressed.
 FM obtains two more Olympic Truce signatures in Poland
WARSAW, 23/02/2002 (ANA - A. Makridis)Foreign Minister George Papandreou obtained two more signatures in support of the Olympic Truce and carried out a series of contacts in light of Greece's European Union presidency in the first half of 2003 and its participation in the European troika during his visit to Poland on Friday.
Both Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Prime Minister Leszek Miller added their signatures to those of supporters of the Greek proposal for an Olympic Truce to be observed during the Olympic Games.
Papandreou arrived in Warsaw in the morning and, after laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, visited President Kwasniewski and his Polish counterpart Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz.
His official visit ended with a meeting with Prime Minister Miller at noon.
Talks focused on EU enlargement since Poland is included in the first wave of candidate countries. However, there are some reactions in the country, primarily concerning repercussions for its agricultural economy.
Eurosceptic trends do not only characterize opposition parties, but also find ground in the Polish Agricultural Party as well, which is a partner in the government coalition.
In a statement after meeting his Polish counterpart, Papandreou expressed his desire to see Poland and the other candidate countries equal EU members.
He committed himself that Greece will work in the framework of the European troika, and in close cooperation with the Polish government, for a settlement of the last difficult issues characterizing the final phase of negotiations.
"All countries should pass difficult negotiations for their accession to the EU, fulfilling economic and other criteria. We need the support and understanding of our citizens and we should take into consideration the sensitivities and principles of candidate countries. However, we shall watch these issues closely," Papandreou said.
Speaking to the Greek media later, Papandreou said the Greek contribution to the final phase of negotiations is "valuable" and reminded that "Cyprus is also among the 10 candidate countries."
Papandreou, also desiring to attach some symbolic significance to his visit to Poland, publicly stated his father's partial Polish origin.
Later in the day, Papandreou was due to visit the Hainuvka region, the birthplace of his great grandfather, accompanied by Cimoszewicz and Swedish Overseas Trade Minister Pagrotsky.
On Sunday morning, he will be arriving in Lithuania on an official visit.
 PM did not have advance knowledge of Kokkalis indictment, spokesman says
Athens, 23/02/2002 (ANA)The government spokesman on Friday denied press allegations that the prime minister had known in advance that of the indictment of business tycoon Socrates Kokkalis.
The spokesman, Christos Protopapas, denied that premier Costas Simitis had been informed of the imminent indictment of Kokkalis by a judicial functionary.
An Athens first instance prosecutor on Tuesday filed felony espionage charges against telecoms tycoon Socrates Kokkalis, president of the Intracom group. The indictments, including felony charges of fraud, embezzlement, money laundering as well as two counts of misdemeanor bribery, followed 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 "Stasi".
PASOK derides press claims over 'Stasi' ties: The ruling PASOK party on Friday categorically denied certain same-day newspaper reports claiming that the party had at one time received "kick-backs" by the former East German state for bilateral trade deals involving Greece.
A press release distributed by PASOK's press office stressed that the reports are no more than an "uncritical espousal of baseless allegations by certain intelligence agents".
PASOK also referred to the claims as "ridiculous and sordid", saying they have been published in the past as well, and have been "categorically proved untrue".
Furthermore, the ruling party's statement cited what it called "certain centers attempting to slander PASOK and undermine the country's political life with affairs that have no relation to the truth and reality".
The press release was prompted by reports in the Athens dailies "Kathimerini" and "Hora" claiming that a reputed ex-agent for the now defunct East German spy agency - "Stasi" - told a German Bundestag inquiry committee that he "explored" the possibility in 1985 of "kicking-back" 2 percent of Greece-East German trade turnover into PASOK's coffers.
There was no reference in the published reports, however, over the outcome of the agent's - referred to as "Wiegler" - alleged initiative.
 Former Russian PM Primakov supports federation for Cyprus
Athens, 23/02/2002 (ANA)Former Russian Federation prime minister and foreign minister and current President of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Yevgeny Primakov on Friday expressed support for a federal solution in Cyprus and opposed a possible attack against Iraq by the United States.
Primakov was speaking during the presentation of his book "The Unknown Russia" in Athens in the presence of Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Magriotis and Russian Ambassador to Athens Mikhail Nikolaievich Bocharnikov.
Replying to questions Primakov said a confederation solution in Cyprus is not a constructive idea and that he knows of no confederation in the world, probably with the exception of Switzerland, while even there it is a formal situation since its cantons are not really independent, as he said.
Primakov said the Cyprus issue should be resolved with the creation of a federation, whose exact status will be determined with negotiations and respect for the territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus.
Referring to the ongoing trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic at the International Court at The Hague, Primakov said he will go to the court to contribute to the non-politicalisation of the trial and its objectiveness.
Primakov further said that after Milosevic's visit to Russia, the Yugoslav leader went to Geneva and agreed to the Vance-Owen plan on Bosnia.
He added that the Dayton agreement would have been impossible without Milosevic and reminded that the representatives of the U.S. thanked Milosevic for the Dayton agreement.
The Russian statesman and academic also referred to Kosovo, saying that Milosevic is not guilty of the bombing of Yugoslavia since Kosovo currently has, since the Serbs were forced to abandon it, a population composed of one ethnic entity.
Primakov went on to say that Milosevic is also not guilty of support for the Greater Albania plan which could also incorporate a part of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Sanjak, etc.
Referring to relations between his country and the United States, Primakov said Russia is aiming at the development of excellent relations with the United States, but at the same time it should follow a diverse foreign policy.
He also attributed great importance to the development of Russia's relations with Europe, China and India.
The development of multifaceted relations by both Russia and Europe, he added, will lead to a situation in which Russia and Europe will be able to make the United States realize in an amicable way how terrorism should be handled.
Primakov expressed support for Russia's relations with NATO, but noted that his country was neither invited nor will it be invited to become a NATO member.
He further stressed that an attack against Iraq will be a historical mistake on the part of the United States, adding that in such an event Russia will be unable to observe a position of support for American policy.
He also said that all should ask themselves at present about the basis of terrorism's development and, primarily, the need for a speedy solution to the Middle East question.
Primakov criticized the international community for failing to take decisive steps in this direction and the United States for abandoning the ABM treaty.
He said Russia fully supported the operations of the United States in Afghanistan, which was a wise stance since the Taliban regime was a threat for the countries of central Asia and maintained close relations with the Chechen rebels.
He also warned that he is not certain whether world public opinion will support in the same way attacks against countries which the Americans include in the "axis of evil."
Primakov also expressed the view that it would not have been possible for the Al Qaeda organization to have relations with whatever government without this being known by some intelligence services.
On the question of the Middle East, Primakov said the intervention of the United States has failed, but there is ground for a European and Russian intervention which could lead to a breakthrough from the present tragic deadlock.
He said he would be willing to undertake a mediating role provided, of course, that there are prospects of success.
Apart from Magriotis, addresses were also made during the book's presentation by international relations professor and ELIAMEP director Theodoros Kouloumbis, businessman Haralambos Vlachoutsikos and publisher Theodoros Benakis himself who has published several books of Balkan and international interest.
 Ban on video games will not block citizens' access to Internet, spokesman says
Athens, 23/02/2002 (ANA)Arrangements would be made to ensure the Greek citizens' access to the Internet while at the same time protecting them from "abusive phenomena", following its decision to ban video arcade games across the board in a bid to clamp down on illegal electronic gambling, government spokesman Christos Protopapas said Friday.
The government on Thursday announced it would outlaw "all forms" of video games from public places in an effort to eradicate scores of video arcades-turned-gambling parlors throughout Greece, in the wake of a national furor over rampant illegal gambling that continues to cause political reverberations.
"We're abolishing all forms of video games from public areas and establishments. A necessary legal provision (to implement the directive) will be tabled in Parliament in the next 15 days," Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis said after a highly anticipated Inner Cabinet meeting on Thursday.
The government added that it opted for a universal ban of video games instead of stiffer fines for violations in order to avoid giving proprietors any future "loopholes" for turning video games into electronic slot machines and "one-armed bandits" -- widely known in the country now as 'froutakia', Greek for "little fruit"
Protopapas said Friday in reply to press questions that the problems created by the ban on specific categories of games (such as Internet Cafe establishments) would be taken into account before the relevant draft law was tabled some two weeks from now, adding that the Inner Cabinet decision "formulated the policy framework of the government's intervention" given that the "huge spread of the machines throughout the country rendered it practically unfeasible" to carry out checks to ascertain whether they had been converted into illegal slot machines.
Consequently, the government was forced to take the "strictest solutions" in order to "protect the interests of the social whole", Protopapas said.
He added, however, that in the two weeks required for completion of the drafting of the relevant bill, "all the relevant arrangements will be made with particular caution so as to ensure the Greek citizen's access to the Internet while at the same time protecting him against abusive phenomena".
Commenting on the flurry of opinions on the government's decision appearing in the media, Protopapas wondered why all these different opinions had not been put forward "in the preceding days", and accused the main opposition New Democracy party of "engaging in criticism but without stating what it stands for" or presenting a proposal of its own on the matter.
He added that there would be ample opportunity for opinions to be aired after the finalized bill was made public.
ND attacks gov't over 'video-slots' gambling issue: Main opposition New Democracy on Friday lashed out at the government over the illegal "video slot machines" furor, a day after the Cabinet announced a total ban on "all electronic games" in public places and establishments - all following a month-long nation-wide debate over the issue.
ND spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos stressed that "what's truly a fact is the absence of any structured policy, as well as the government's inability to implement even the laws that have already been passed by the Greek Parliament."
"Those that have governed the country for 20 years shy away from the problem of illegal gambling, resulting in the country being turned, with their toleration, into an 'El Dorado' of illegal gambling," he charged.
Finally, Roussopoulos said it was "clear to all" that the Simitis government has only recorded failures in the major issues it has tackled, such as social security reform, ailing Olympic Airways, the national land registry and the stock market.
 Karamanlis continues Epirus tour for second day
Athens, 23/02/2002 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis began the second day of his tour of Epirus on Friday in Thesprotia.
Karamanlis had a meeting with Metropolitan Tito in Paramythia, after which he visited the Paramythia town hall and was briefed on the problems facing the region by town mayor Evangelos Katsios.
The main opposition leader next visited Filiates and afterward the 628 Infantry Battalion.
Karamanlis then made his way to the northwestern port city of Igoumenitsa, where he met representatives of the local business community at the city's Pantheon hall.
He is due to speak at an open meeting in Margariti on Friday evening.
ND leader says major infrastructure projects slow: Main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis, speaking in Paramythia on Friday as part of his tour of the northern region of Epirus, referred to problems currently being faced in the Greek countryside saying "the major infrastructure projects are proceeding, if they are proceeding, with very slow rates."
Karamanlis said the 3rd Community Support Framework (CPS) is the last opportunity and presented a series of principles governing his party's policy.
"We want development everywhere, all over the country and development for all," adding that "we consider as an inviolable precondition for a law-abiding state that it should give opportunities to all its citizens."
Karamanlis further said that the development of the Greek countryside will be a priority for his party when it comes to power and stressed the role local administration can play in this respect, given that the central state cannot do everything.
"Above all, however, stands confidence. And, indeed this confidence is not exhausted only towards those people in local administration who share the same political ideas as we do. In a free society, there will be different thoughts, different ideologies and different political preferences. However, the citizens' problems do not have a different color," Karamanlis added.
 ND delegation meets EU officials
BRUSSELS, 23/02/2002 (ANA - Y. Zitouniati)A main opposition New Democracy party delegation, headed by the party's economic affairs coordinator George Alogoskoufis, held talks with European Union commissioners and officials here on Friday "for a briefing on developments in the EU and to support Greece's positions."
Speaking to Greek reporters during a press conference, Alogoskoufis said "we came to Brussels for a briefing and an exchange of views on the EU's economic and social cohesion, its external economic relations, enlargement and the future of Europe."
Alogoskoufis also said that such contacts will be continued on a regular basis and in all cases ND's cadres supported national positions.
 Coalition accuses gov’t of 'talking social policy, acting neoliberal'
Athens, 23/02/2002 (ANA)Slamming the government's record on social policy, the Coalition of the Left and Progress on Friday accused it of breaking pre-election pledges for a 'social face' and acting neoliberal.
In a question for Labor Minister Dimitris Reppas in Parliament, Coalition leader Nikos Constantopoulos spoke about an "ever-increasing social deficit" and pointed to intractably high unemployment rates among young people, especially young graduates, which he said appeared little moved by the government's announcement of a four-year employment plan.
"Neither is unemployment falling nor is employment increasing," the Coalition leader said, while he also quoted Eurostat figures in which Greece topped European Union rankings for uninsured workers, private-sector health spending, regional inequality and the percentage of the population living on or below the poverty line (22 per cent).
Defending the government's record, Reppas said that the Eurostat figures were revealing and showed that Greece should be first in line for increasing social security spending. Full convergence with EU averages would be achieved within 2003, he said.
He also claimed that unemployment had dropped from 11.1 per cent in the second trimester of 2000 to 10.2 per cent in the same period of 2001, and predicted a further improvement to single-digit unemployment.
In response to a Coalition call for a 35-hour working week, the labor minister said the government was in favor of the measure, provided that employers and workers agreed.
"We have to take into account the peculiarities of the Greek market, with the large number of small and medium-sized enterprises," he said.
 Coalition leader meets Cyprus government spokesman
Athens, 23/02/2002 (ANA)Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos met in Athens on Friday with Cyprus government spokesman Mihalis Papapetrou and was briefed on the latest developments in the Cyprus issue.
Constantopoulos said Cyprus' EU accession course should be unimpeded, adding that the island republic should join Europe like all the other member-states "with one voice, one entity, with an international identity."
"The bizonal, bicommunal federation is the only viable solution and the European acquis communautaire and United Nations resolutions constitute the framework within which this just solution should be given," the Coalition leader said.
He added that "Turkey and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash are obliged to also take into account the European acquis communautaire and the UN decisions." "It is not conceivable for Cyprus to be continuously the exception, the exception from international law, the exception from the European acquis com-munautaire," he concluded.
On his part, Papapetrou said that the Cypriot people always recognized in Synaspismos a calm patriotic force "which offers and continues to offer substantial help to the struggle of our people for the reunification of the island."
 Airlift of Greek troops to Afghanistan to continue on Monday
Athens, 23/02/2002 (ANA)An operation to airlift a Greek peacekeeping contingent to Afghanistan will continue next week, the Greek armed forces general staff decided on Friday.
Sources said that 70 troops, along with equipment and supplies, would depart for the area in a Russian-made "Antonov" cargo plane on Monday, while the rest of the ordnance - originally scheduled to be sent to Karachi on Saturday - would leave at a later date.
The Greek force is expected to remain in the war-ravaged country for three months, participating both in security operations and infrastructure construction.
 Greek minister, Turkish envoy discuss Illegal migration issue
Athens, 23/02/2002 (ANA)Merchant Marine Minister George Anomeritis on Friday met with Turkish ambassador to Athens Yigit Alpogan, with a variety of issues up for discussion, including efforts to jointly combat illegal immigration and an agreement on eliminating double taxation in the shipping sector.
According to a press release, the two men also discussed issues related to protecting the marine environment and maritime safety in the Aegean as well as establishing sea routes between Greece and Turkey, among others.
The Greek minister also conveyed an invitation for his Turkish counterpart to visit Greece for the "Poseidonia 2002" trade show in Piraeus while also proposing a joint meeting between the coast guard leaderships of the two countries in the next few months for talks on security and illegal migration issues.
 Papadopoulos outlines gov’t plans for health sector at Athens event
Athens, 23/02/2002 (ANA)The government plans to hire 5,000 new nursing staff and spend 132 million euros on 16 large state hospitals in Athens and Thessaloniki, Health Minister Alekos Papadopoulos announced on Friday.
The hiring process was already underway, while a program for modifications to buildings and facilities would be completed by the end of 2003, he added.
Papadopoulos was speaking during an event entitled "Health World 2002" organized by the Greek-American Chamber of Commerce.
IKA doctors decide to call off strike: Doctors working for Greece's largest social security fund, the Social Insurance Foundation (IKA), decided to discontinue their strike on Friday following a labor ministry proposal for talks.
The strike called by IKA doctors had been declared illegal by the courts earlier this week but had continued via a strike called by the civil servants' union ADEDY.
On Friday, the IKA doctors' union federation proposed that ADEDY call off the strike in view of the ministry's proposal. The talks are to last until March 20, while the doctors main demands are that colleagues currently employed with fixed-term contracts be given permanent positions.
 Interior minister visits Samos to inspect flood damage
Athens, 23/02/2002 (ANA)Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis visited the island of Samos on Friday to inspect damage caused by recent flooding.
Accompanied by Deputy Environment Minister Yiannis Tsaklidis and Deputy Agriculture Minister Vangelis Argyris, the minister chaired a meeting with local authorities on speeding up the processes for dealing with the damage.
According to figures presented by local bodies, the damage totalled around 5.9 million euros.
 PASOK Secretary in Patras, talks on local gov't elections
Athens, 23/02/2002 (ANA)Ruling PASOK Central Committee Secretary Costas Laliotis on Friday described the local government elections which will be held in October as a politically and self-administratively crucial battle.
Laliotis visited Patras, in the Peloponnese, to participate in a meeting attended by deputies, members of the Prefectural Committee and party candidates on electoral procedures.
Laliotis said he supported cooperation, adding that the local elections do not constitute a test or a referendum on the government's policy.
He said that the decisions which determine the objectives and the priorities for dialogue and cooperation had been unanimously taken by the party's Central Committee a few weeks ago. He added that the electoral battle will be held with the best possible terms and these will arise through specific initiatives which will develop on a regional, prefectural and municipal level aimed at the rallying and unity of PASOK.
Asked on the eventuality of whether PASOK would support Communist Party of Greece (KKE) deputy Panagiotis Kosionis' candidacy for Patras mayor, within the framework of a general cooperation, Laliotis replied: "I am in Patras to discuss our frame-work of reference for the elections which is the decision of our collective organs and that of the Central Committee and there is no such decision just as there is no other decision taken in advance."
 Mitsotakis on broadcast licenses, gov't reaction
Athens, 23/02/2002 (ANA)Former prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis on Friday sternly criticized the government over what he charged was the biased allocation of broadcast licenses via a "partisan and one-sided Radio-Television Council (ERS)."
In a written statement, the honorary New Democracy president said that based on the revised Constitution the ERS should express an "expanded multi-party acquiescence" and also retain the exclusive right to grant licenses to television and radio stations. Among others, Mitsotakis called on the government to immediately proceed with a vote on a bill referring to the ERS board's composition, as well as legislation on the thorny subject of media ownership and transparency.
Gov't: In a later reaction, government spokesman Christos Protopapas - who also heads the press and mass media portfolio - said Mitsotakis is mistaken, because no law is necessary in order to form a new ERS council.
"Mr. Mitsotakis' proposals for an ERS that enjoys the trust of all of us; has prestige and is commonly accepted, find me in complete agreement," Protopapas said, adding that he hopes ND's representatives will contribute towards resolving the situation as soon as possible.
He also said the new board's composition and the length of time needed to fill the spots is a matter for Parliament to decide.
Finally, Protopapas dismissed Mitsotakis' remarks about "black-mail, threats and bargaining by the government" over the granting of licenses.
 Athens municipality refuse collectors rally in Athens
Athens, 23/02/2002 (ANA)Athens municipality refuse collectors staged a rally outside the Athens Town Hall in Kotzia Square on Friday, after a court declared a 48-hour strike they had called for Friday and Saturday illegal, while a delegation among their number met with Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos.
According to a representative of the nationwide municipal workers union POE-OTA, Avramopoulos declared his support for the refuse collectors' struggle and said he would send a letter to Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis explaining the situation and supporting the workers' demands.
Among these demands are permanent jobs for colleagues that have been employed by the municipality for the past five years on temporary contracts.
 Protopapas comments on new plan for Olympic Airways
Athens, 23/02/2002 (ANA)The government is determined to boldly find the right solution, so that Olympic Airways can operate viably without expense for the Greek people, government spokesman Christos Protopapas said on Friday.
The spokesman also noted that the issue had to be examined in the light of the crisis following the September 11 terror attacks.
He dismissed statements by main opposition New Democracy, which hailed the government's announcement regarding OA as the "epilogue of a preannounced crime," saying that the government's announcement marked the start of a new course for OA that would be speedily implemented.
Commenting on the government's announcement on Friday, the Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) opposed the privatization of the airline and said that it should be modernized and developed in cooperation with OA employees and operate for the benefit of the national economy.
 Commission approves Greek-Bulgarian program
BRUSSELS, 23/02/2002 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)EU Commissioner for regional policy, Michel Barnier, on Friday announced approval for a cross-border cooperation program between Greece and Bulgaria, envisaging EU funding totalling 170 million euros.
The program is funded by INTERREG III, a community initiative, and covers Greece's northern areas (eastern Macedonia, Thrace and western Macedonia) with south-western, south and central Bulgaria.
National and regional budgets will add 56.7 million euros to the EU funding, while another 20.5 million euros will be seeked by the private sector.
The priorities of the program are: - cross-border infrastructure, works to improve road and rail networks, customs control, - economic development and employment, by encouraging business cooperations and strengthening relations between universities and research centers, and - quality of living, environment and cultural workforce.
"I am satisfied that a second generation of INTERREG programs in Greece begins with approval of this significant program-me as Bulgaria is a candidate for EU accession," Mr. Barnier said.
 Greek tax reforms aim to converge with other EU states
Athens, 23/02/2002 (ANA)Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis on Friday said that a tax reform for 2003 planned by the government would aim to improve the tax system's competitiveness, to strengthen transparency and efficiency and to converge with the tax systems of other developed countries in the European Union.
With his comments, Christodoulakis announced in advance a cut in tax factors.
He also announced new, speedier, measures to close any out-standing tax cases with small- and medium-sized enterprises, totalling more than 3,500 cases for the period 1993-2001.
Christodoulakis announced a statute of limitations for businesses' past tax cases was reduced to five from 10 years, from January 1, 2003.
EU takes Greece to court over water quality BRUSSELS, 23/02/2002 (ANA - M. Spinthou-rakis)
The European Union's executive Commission is to take Greece to the European Court on two counts of failing to comply with EU regulations on water quality.
The Commission said in a statement on Friday that Greece had overstepped a 1998 deadline on installation of a wastewater processing unit for Elefsina, near Athens.
In addition, the country had failed to improve wastewater processing for Athens, which had brought a deterioration in the quality of waters of the Saronic Gulf, the statement said.
 Greek industry seeks closer cooperation with defense ministry
Athens, 23/02/2002 (ANA)Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and the Greek Industries' Union on Friday agreed to seek new cooperations in the supply of the Greek Armed Forces, and at the same time strengthen the country's industry.
Speaking to reporters, after a meeting with SEB's presidium Lefteris Antonakopoulos and Odysseas Kyriakopoulos, Papantoniou said that the two parties had an interesting and fundamental meeting, which covered not only economic matters in general, but also a closer cooperation between the defense ministry and Greek industries.
"We agreed to enhance this cooperation to boost supplies and equipment (to the Greek Armed Forces) and to strengthen Greek industry. I believe that this is a duty of the Armed Forces and as you well know we spend around 5.0 percent of our Gross Domestic Product on defense supplies each year. We have an ambitious weapon procurement program and I believe that Greek industry today can effectively contribute to implementing this vision, thus increasing its production, improving its competitiveness, upgrade its technology and create new jobs," Papantoniou said.
SEB's chairman, Lefteris Antonakopoulos said that Greek industry "must be competitive and play the role it can play."
 Merchant marine minister Anomeritis to inspect Lavrion port works
Athens, 23/02/2002 (ANA)Merchant marine minister George Anomeritis will on Saturday inspect progress on works currently taking place at Lavrion port aimed at upgrading it into a contemporary passenger port, it was made known on Friday.
During the visit to the port, Anomeritis will chair a meeting of ministry officials and the Lavrion town mayor to discuss the general planning for the Attica prefecture's ports in view of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
Anomeritis will also inspect the port of Rafina next week.
Under a recent decision of the inter-ministerial committee for the Olympic Games, the port of Rafina was exempted from the Olympic Projects and will remain a "port of national importance for limited routes to the islands", mainly the Cyclades, and only for passenger shipping.
The decision was discussed Friday between Anomeritis and Rafina Mayor Andreas Kechagioglou, and the minister promised to visit the port of Rafina next week to decide on and accelerate the new works on the port.
 Hydrofoils switch to port of Piraeus
Athens, 23/02/2002 (ANA)Hellas Flying Dolphins announced on Friday that all its hydrofoils will use the port of Piraeus for arrivals and departures effective on March 1.
Until now, the company has been using both Piraeus and Zea, a nearby marina, for its vessels, depending on destination.
Decided in December, the move follows a collapse in talks with the marina's managers, Hellenic Tourism Real Estate, on lifting a steep price hike in mooring fees imposed in June 2001, Hellas said in a statement.
Hellenic Tourism Real Estate is a subsidiary of the state-owned Greek National Tourism Organization.
 Greek weekly economic review
Athens, 23/02/2002 (ANA)The general index in the Athens Stock Exchange plunged near the 2,300 level during the week under review, undermined by news of a series of indictments against Socrates Kokkalis, chairman of Intracom Group, including charges of alleged espionage, embezzlement and bribery.
The Greek bourse has extended its fall to 15 out of the last 16 sessions, breaking a new 10-year record of continuous declines. More worrying is the fact that institutional investors continue to liquidate positions in the market while small investors have lost interest in the market entirely. The general index is now 10 percent down this year.
National Bank of Greece on Monday inaugurated its first branch in Yugoslavia, taking a first step in its drive to become a leader in the regional banking market. The opening ceremony attended Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis. National Bank plans to operate a network of at least 15 branches in the country.
Alpha Bank reported a 7.8 percent drop in its consolidated pre-tax and after minorities' rights profits to 344 million euros. The bank's strategic aim is to become a leader, in the long-term, in profitability without undermining the quality of its portfolio.
Finally, the government presented a new plan for the restructuring of Olympic Airways, that envisaged attracting private capital worth 100-150 million euros and the break-up of the airline in an effort for the national carrier to continue its operations.
Under the plan, the government will reduce its stake in Olympic Airways to 49 percent. The plan is expected to be completed in two years.
 Mutual fund assets drop in February
Athens, 23/02/2002 (ANA)Total assets of Greek mutual funds were 24.67 billion euros on February 20, down by 3.18 percent from February 1, the Union of Institutional Investors said in a monthly report released on Friday.
The union attributed the decline to outflows of 451.82 million euros, chiefly from domestic money market funds.
Greek stocks end 1.78 percent lower on Friday: Equity prices remained under heavy pressure for one more session on the Athens Stock Exchange on Friday, as investors continued liquidating positions in the market amid a climate of uncertainty over economic and political developments in the country.
The general index ended 1.78 percent lower at 2,351.66 points, with turnover a low Dr 34.5 billion, or 101.2 million euros.
The Retail, Holding, Publication and Wholesale sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses (5.01 percent, 3.24 percent, 2.90 percent and 2.69 percent, respectively).
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks ended 1.73 percent lower, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index dropped 2.27 percent and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index ended 2.22 percent down.
Kokkalis Group's share prices lost further substantial group. Intracom fell 6.71 percent, Intracat dropped 8.82 percent, Intralot eased 2.59 percent and Panafon fell 3.23 percent.
The general index ended the week 5.5 percent lower, for a net loss of 9.24 percent so far this year.
Of 360 shares traded, declines led advances at 298 to 33 with 29 stocks remaining unchanged.
The most heavily traded shares were Intracom, Hellenic Telecommunications Organization, Sex Form, and Public Power Corporation and Alpha Bank.
Bond Market Close: Prices drop in light to moderate trade: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market on Friday finished lower in light to moderate trade focusing on 10-year paper.
The Greek benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 5.35 percent, and the spread over the corresponding German bund was 34 basis points.
Turnover through the central bank's electronic system totalled 1.6 billion euros.
Sell orders accounted for the bulk of turnover.
Derivatives Market Close: Equity index futures down, tracking indices: Equity index futures on the Athens Derivatives Exchange dropped on Friday tracking their underlying indices after moving back into the red a session earlier, traders said.
Turnover was higher at 39.3 million euros.
The underlying FTSE/ASE-20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips shed 1.73 percent; and the underlying FTSE/ASE-40 for medium capitalization stocks lost 2.27 percent.
 SE Europe culture, sports officials meet in Thessaloniki
Athens, 23/02/2002 (ANA)Top culture and sports ministry officials from 10 southeast European states - including six ministers -- will gather in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki over the weekend for talks regarding the hosting of the "Cultural Olympiad", preparations for the 2004 Athens Games and common goals in the field of "cultural heritage".
Among others, the group will arrive in the city of Veria on Friday for the inauguration of the city's new Byzantine Museum.
 Deposits of diamonds, rubies located in northern Greece
Athens, 23/02/2002 (ANA)Deposits of diamonds, rubies and other precious stones have been located in various regions of northern Greece but the size of the deposits has not yet been determined.
Dimitris Kostopoulos, lecturer at Athens University's Geology Faculty, in research he conducted in eastern Macedonia and Thrace, located zones containing the valuable stones. He presented his findings on Friday at a meeting organized by the Geological and Minerals Research Institute (IGME).
He said his research is at an early stage but he ascertained that the diamonds are minute and cannot be used in making jewellery but can be used in industry.
Deposits of rubies have been located in Xanthi as well.
Other precious stones have also been located in such areas as Halkidiki, Drama, Sappes and Soufli.
 Study reveals high rate of smoking among medical students, doctors
Athens, 23/02/2002 (ANA)More than one third of medical students in Greece regularly smoke nearly a packet a day, despite claiming to be aware of the dangers of smoking, while smoking rates among doctors are even higher, according to a study to be presented on Saturday at the 1st Scientific Conference of Thessaloniki University's Medical Department in Thessaloniki.
Another part of the study among 17 and 18-year-olds in the upper classes of school, meanwhile, revealed that most of those who smoked had started at the age of 15.
A third research group investigating attitudes to smoking among doctors found that the great majority (81.5 per cent) devoted less than five minutes to informing smokers about the repercussions to their health, even though 74.1 per cent said that smokers needed to be informed.
A survey of 1803 school students with an average age of 17.5 years found the percentage of smokers to be 36.6 per cent among boys and 36.9 per cent among girls, with most starting smoking at 15.
Among students in higher education, 41.4 per cent of male and 39.6 per cent of female students were smokers, while the average age of starting smoking was 17.
A survey of 350 state hospital doctors showed that 44 per cent of men and 39.9 per cent of women smoked, and most had started at 20 years old.
Smokers were significantly fewer in a survey of 257 people with an average age of 29 exercising in private gyms, where 35.1 per cent of men and 30.3 per cent of women were smokers.
Of those surveyed, 18 per cent said they smoked because their role models did.
Another study conducted by a different group to compare smoking habits between medical students and polytechnic students found there was no significant difference between the two groups, while the most common cause for smoking cited was being with other smokers.
 EU delegation visits Cyprus to review harmonization process
NICOSIA, 23/02/2002 (CNA/ANA)A European Union delegation headed by the EU chief negotiator with Cyprus Leopold Maurer will visit the island, February 25 - 28 to review its harmonization with the acquis communautaire.
An official press release said the delegation would meet Monday morning with Cyprus chief negotiator with the EU George Vassiliou and other members of the negotiating team for a general briefing.
Afterwards the delegation will visit ministries and various departments to evaluate the work being done in different fields.
Some of the issues to be discussed are taxation, competition policy, agriculture, justice and home affairs, energy, freedom to provide services, transport policy, telecommunications, culture and audiovisual policy, financial cooperation, dual use goods, export controls, third country agreements and compatibility with the acquis communautaire. On February 27 and 28, members of the delegation will review with Vassiliou the conclusions drawn by the visit.
Maurer will have meetings with the President and members of the Supreme Court and will address a gathering organized by the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
 De Soto briefs UN Secretary General on Cyprus
NEW YORK, 23/02/2002 (CNA/ANA)UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus Alvaro De Soto briefed here on Thursday UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on the results of the first round of UN-led direct talks on Cyprus, which started in mid January in Cyprus.
On Monday de Soto will brief the five UN Security Council permanent members and on Tuesday he will talk to the 15 Council members.
UN Council sources have said that depending on the briefing they have, Council members will decide whether to issue a statement on Cyprus.
United Nations refrained from making any comment on Annan's meeting with de Soto.
Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash have been engaged in direct talks since January 16, 2002, in Nicosia. The last meeting of the first round of talks was held last Tuesday. Talks will resume March 1.