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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 02-03-15

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

March 15, 2002


  • [01] Greek premier participates in EU troika's social summit in Barcelona
  • [02] Iranian president calls for dialogue between cultures, lauds Greek civilization
  • [03] Gov't spokesman praises UN resolution in Middle East
  • [04] Interior minister outlines ministry's program for 2003 Greek EU presidency
  • [05] Parliament Speaker persuades MPs to stay protests against new rules
  • [06] President Stephanopoulos to visit Slovakia April 8-10
  • [07] Austria pays symbolic compensation to WWII-era forced laborers
  • [08] EU Commission calls on Greece to comply with air quality directive
  • [09] Ministry reports on extending 'Help at Home' program
  • [10] Archbishop Christodoulos says difficult days are coming
  • [11] Protest of Turkish labor party against Patriarch's request for U.S. aid
  • [12] Greek structural convergence improving, Christodoulakis says
  • [13] Govít unveils draft bill on economic development
  • [14] Greek banks' prospects remain positive despite share drop
  • [15] DM and Labor ministers discuss social security reforms
  • [16] Increased use leads to overload of Taxis net system
  • [17] OA on agenda of de Palacios-Verelis meeting in Brussels
  • [18] Europarliament approves beneficial settlements on tobacco
  • [19] Minister urges for speedier completion of Egnatia Road
  • [20] ASE ends flat on Thursday
  • [21] High-level meeting focuses on 2004 security
  • [22] University sounds alarm over Zakynthos Marine Park
  • [23] President Clerides leaves for Barcelona to attend an EU summit
  • [24] Kasoulides expresses reservations about a solution in 2002
  • [25] Kyprianou buried in his hometown

  • [01] Greek premier participates in EU troika's social summit in Barcelona

    BARCELONA, 15/03/2002 (ANA - Ch. Poulidou)

    Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Thursday participated in the social summit here, one day before the opening of the informal European Union summit.

    The leaders of the EU presiding troika, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and Simitis, along with EU labor ministers and social partners discussed social issues on the basis of the Lisbon strategy.

    ''There was total agreement regarding the need for promoting the strategy of Lisbon and there was total agreement regarding the need for the establishment of dialogue and divergence regarding the implementation of structural changes,'' Simitis said.

    The premier reiterated that the Lisbon strategy includes economic, labor and technological parameters and aims at making Europe a strong antagonistic power in the international community, allowing for high rates of development and maintaining the European social model, adding that in Greece many of these solid implementations of this strategy have been promoted.

    Aznar, whose country is currently holding the six-month EU rotating presidency, Rasmussen and Simitis presented their opinions regarding the goals set in Lisbon.

    In his presentation, Simitis stressed the need for establishing the institution of social dialogue to achieve consensus.

    The social partners also made the same statement, adding, however, that the dialogue has not moved forward to the employment phase, while it has covered the training and continued education phases.

    ''The state maintains the responsibility to secure a regulatory framework for the promotion of structural changes,'' Simitis said, an issue of disagreement between the representatives of employers and employees.

    Representatives of employees noted that care has to be exercised in implementing flexibility and structural changes in public utilities, saying that limits have to be placed in the deregulation of public utilities.

    Simitis said that in Greece's view there should be limits in the deregulation of air transport for example, where in the case of Greece the state must secure the access of all citizens to air transport.

    Responding to questions, Simitis commented on the condition in the Middle East - which will be discussed on Friday - noting that the plans that have been submitted should be examined, while their content may produce solutions.

    Regarding the ''Euro-force'', Simitis said that the issue is not characterized as a Greek-Turkish one, but rather as an issue that concerns the relations of the European Union with states that are not EU members but are NATO member-states.

    ND leader arrives in Spain for EPP summit on EU structural changes: The European Peoples' Party (EPP) summit will focus on the course of structural changes, Greek main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Costas Karamanlis said on Thursday on arrival at the summit, as his party is an EPP member.

    Karamanlis noted that the deregulation of the energy and telecommunications markets would be on the summit's agenda in efforts to promote competitiveness and decrease unemployment.

    These issues are especially important for Greece, because the country ''has higher unemployment and lags behind (the other EU members) in real convergence terms, since living standards are close to 70 per cent of the EU average,'' Karamanlis said.

    Europe should take more steps toward unification and the creation and operation of the conference on the future of Europe will provide another chance to move in that direction, he added.

    Karamanlis also spoke of the special importance of the EU security and defense policy which ''because of the government's failures did not have the best outcome. Valuable time was lost and the text of Istanbul cannot be accepted by us, since there was no Greek participation in its drafting''.

    ''On issues of principle we are steadfastly unyielding - Greece cannot be a second class country, especially on the issue of security, nor can Greece be put on the same scale with non-EU member-states,'' Karamanlis said.

    [02] Iranian president calls for dialogue between cultures, lauds Greek civilization

    Athens, 15/03/2002 (ANA)

    ''Authentic piety and true faith signal a willingness to learn and to hear,'' Iranian President Mohammad Ali Khatami-Ardakani said on Thursday in an address at the Athens Panteion University.

    Khatami, who is conducting a three-day official visit to Greece, stressed the necessity of dialogue between cultures and peoples, saying that ''we as Muslims had this ability in the past, because it is through dialogue that we reach a deeper level of culture and learning, we achieve a deep understanding of peace and security and ultimately we enjoy the most beautiful flowers of human existence''.

    The Iranian president underlined that the dogmas of Greek philosophy and culture, which Islam met in Alexandria, Iraq and Syria, were placed under systematic analysis that in essence aided the renaissance of Greek philosophy.

    ''You, people of Greece, nurtured the greatest poets and stated the deepest ideas on the nature of poetry,'' Khatami said in his speech, which was a hymn to the international importance of the ancient Greek civilization and its impact on both Christianity and Islam, stressing that both religions gained from the use of ancient Greek thought, but also from the dialogue between them.

    ''Despite the discord between the first Muslim and Christian theologians, which can be called dialogue only with difficulty, they enriched and expanded the extent of the theological dogmas of both Muslims and Christians,'' Khatami said.

    Parliament Speaker meets visiting Iranian President: Parliament Speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis on Thursday received visiting Iranian President Mohammad Khatami in Parliament and awarded him the Gold Medal of the Greek Parliament.

    During the meeting, Kaklamanis stressed that Iran could make a great contribution to peace, development and world prosperity due to its geopolitical position.

    He also expressed a desire for greater cooperation between the Greek and Iranian Parliaments on the highest possible level.

    Khatami also praised Greece as a factor for peace, cooperation, stability and progress in the modern world and agreed that relations between the parliaments of Greece and Iran should be developed.

    Meeting with Athens mayor: Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos honored Khatami with the medal of the city of Athens, during their meeting on Thursday at the Athens City Hall.

    Avramopoulos called Khatami a ''politician who thinks and philosophizes'', adding that under his guidance the Republic of Iran improved its relations with the Western World and moved to-ward democratization and development.

    ''The city is beautiful and joyous when wisdom dominates within it,'' Khatami responded, also mentioning the impact ancient Greek culture had on his country.

    Khatami on the Athens Acropolis: The president of the Republic of Iran spent part of his morning on Thursday visiting the Acropolis, accompanied by a delegation of Greek foreign ministry officials and an Iranian embassy delegation.

    Khatami declared his enthusiasm and requested to be photographed in front of the marvels of ancient Greek antiquity.

    [03] Gov't spokesman praises UN resolution in Middle East

    Athens, 15/03/2002 (ANA)

    Acting government spokesman Telemahos Chytiris on Thursday praised the UN's resolution on the Middle East issue as ''a good initiative'' and expressed the Greek government's hope that it will have a continuation.

    The UN's Security Council on Wednesday voted a resolution for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

    Chytiris also said that Prime Minister Costas Simitis will comment on the Middle East issue and present the Greek five-point proposal on pacification in the region, during the European Union's informal summit in Barcelona, Spain.

    The proposal was presented to the EU's General Affairs Council earlier this week by Foreign Minister George Papandreou.

    Chytiris said that Simitis will be referring to the European army issue and explaining Greek positions on the issue during Friday's dinner of EU leaders in Barcelona.

    Coalition urges PM to support EU Left's proposals for Mideast crisis: The Left in Europe wants the Community to organize an inter-national conference for peace in the Middle East and to link a solution of the Mideast crisis with Euro-Mediterranean cooperation, Coalition of the Left and Progress leader said on Thursday.

    Leaders of European left-wing parties meeting in Strasbourg decided to make the demands in a letter that would be sent to European Union authorities in the next few days, he said.

    Constantopoulos urged the Greek government and Prime Minister Costas Simitis to support these proposals and initiatives at the informal EU Summit in Barcelona, while he also asked Parliament Speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis to undertake initiatives for the Mideast crisis.

    The leaders of Europe's Left also decided to stage a series of protests in European capitals, beginning with a demonstration in Paris on March 23, while delegations from left-wing parties will visit Israel and the Palestinian territories.

    Constantopoulos said a delegation from the Coalition would be sent in the beginning of April.

    Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas, meanwhile, underlined the responsibility of the EU and the United Nations for the prolonged explosive situation in the Middle East.

    [04] Interior minister outlines ministry's program for 2003 Greek EU presidency

    Athens, 15/03/2002 (ANA)

    Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis on Thursday announced the program of his ministry's actions and priorities for the next period, noting as first priority the proposals of the ministry for the Greek European Union presidency scheduled for the first half of 2003.

    He said that other priorities are issues of civil security, a bill on volunteerism, administrational reforms and the establishment of centers for the facilitation of citizens' needs from the administration.

    The interior ministry's major European project, however, will be the drafting of a European Union charter for immigration, connected with Greece's effort to have the European Watch on immigration office established in Thessaloniki, Skandalidis said.

    He added that other projects include the organizing of an unofficial council on issues of public administration entitled ''Electronic Governance in the service of citizens''; the organizing of an international seminar on human rights and women; and the organizing of an international seminar regarding new forms of natural disasters.

    Skandalidis also announced the statistics of the internal affairs council of the public administration, regarding the combating of corruption in the public sector.

    [05] Parliament Speaker persuades MPs to stay protests against new rules

    Athens, 15/03/2002 (ANA)

    Parliament Speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis on Thursday managed to dampen the ire of MPs against new parliamentary rules that prevented the assembly from inserting changes to bills, promising to begin a debate on the issue himself after he had first consulted with Parliament's legal experts.

    He also distanced himself from the interpretation given to the revised Constitution by the Parliament presidency under Nikos Vrettos on Wednesday night, whose refusal to allow amendments to a bill on Greece's Balkan Reconstruction Plan had triggered the MPs' protests.

    The decision caused an uproar within the House, especially since Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos did not object to the changes, while MP Gerassimos Arsenis drafted a text of protest that was signed by 100 MPs on Thursday.

    Following Kaklamanis' announcement, Arsenis said he would freeze the collection of signatures but refused to withdraw the text.

    Kaklamanis urged the gathered deputies to show ''goodwill'' during the initial stages of implementing the new rules so that any problems that arose could be dealt with.

    He also explained that the aim of the new rules was to prevent the bad, old practice of ministers introducing last-minute changes to bills in the final stages. For this reason, the technical processing of bills was reserved for parliamentary committees, while the assembly had the job of ''high-level political discussion''.

    He conceded, however, that this discussion could not be without practical impact on individual issues and that there should be a way of incorporating suggestions or observations made during parliamentary debates into legislation.

    Under the revised Constitution, legislation is first considered in detail by six parliamentary committees comprised of 50 MPs, after which it is presented to the full assembly for a general overview.

    [06] President Stephanopoulos to visit Slovakia April 8-10

    Athens, 15/03/2002 (ANA)

    President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos is to visit Slovakia on April 8-10, accompanied by a delegation of business representatives.

    Slovakia, which has posted a high rate of growth in recent years, imports a range of Greek products.

    [07] Austria pays symbolic compensation to WWII-era forced laborers

    Athens, 15/03/2002 (ANA)

    Compensation to five Greek victims of forced labor camps in Nazi-occupied Austria during the Second World War was paid out during a ceremony at the Austrian embassy here on Thursday.

    The symbolic sum of 2,543 euros each was bestowed to the beneficiaries.

    Austrian ambassador to Athens Rene Pollitzer noted at the ceremony that the deadline for applications to the Austrian Reconciliation Fund is Nov. 27, whereas some 200 Greek citizens have so far have applied out of an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 eligible individuals.

    Pollitzer added that the significance of the symbolic compensation lies in its benefit towards friendship amongst peoples, while noting however, that "the tribulations and stolen time from one's life cannot be restored with any amount".

    The Fund was established for three years by the federal Austrian government in December 2000 with contributions emanating from Austrian firms and private citizens. To date almost 56,000 requests have been examined and processed, while slightly more than 127 million euros being paid out as compensation.

    According to the Fund's Fund secretary general, Amb. Rihard Wotawa, a total of 150,000 eligible individuals will be compensated.

    Applications should be mailed to the following address: Osterreichischer Versohnungsfonds

    postfach 44 A-1011 Wien Tel.: 0043-1-5136016

    Fax: 0043-1-513601615

    [08] EU Commission calls on Greece to comply with air quality directive

    BRUSSELS, 15/03/2002 (ANA - Y. Zitouniati)

    The European Commission reproached Greece, along with the majority of the EU member-states, for delays in harmonizing their legislation with the EU's relevant directives concerning air quality.

    Greece, Italy, Britain, Ireland, Denmark, Spain and Finland received a ''reasoned opinion'' - the last warning before legal action - for failing to incorporate in their national legislation the directive on ''COVs'' in atmospheric air, while France, Germany, Britain and Italy were taken to court for similar reasons.

    Commenting on the affair, European Commissioner Margot Wallstrom said that the relevant directives were adopted 3-4 years ago, calling the lack of the directives' incorporation disappointing.

    [09] Ministry reports on extending 'Help at Home' program

    Athens, 15/03/2002 (ANA)

    The Health and Welfare ministry announced on Thursday that it had received applications from 580 municipalities wanting to join the "Help at Home" program for aid to the elderly, funded under the 3rd Community Support Framework.

    The program is currently underway in 203 municipalities, with 284 teams providing support services to elderly people living alone and needing special care.

    The "Help at Home" program started up as a pilot project four years ago, initially funded by the government and local authorities and subsequently by the 2nd CSF.

    Its inclusion in the 3rd CSF is expected to increase the number of people receiving services under the program to 60,000 and to create 4,000 new jobs in the social services and domestic work sector.

    The program also has a significant impact on the people formerly burdened with the care of the incapacitated elderly, most of them women that were prevented from seeking work because of having to look after a dependent elderly person.

    The health and welfare ministry also intends to supply the "Help at Home" teams with 500 specially designed vehicles equipped with ramps and other special features that will be used to transport old people unable to travel and take staff to individual homes.

    [10] Archbishop Christodoulos says difficult days are coming

    Athens, 15/03/2002 (ANA)

    Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos, addressing an event organized by the Archdiocese at the Athens War Museum on Thursday in honor of people who survived the Greek-Italian war in 1940, said ''a big game of national independence or national subjugation is currently being played in Cyprus.''

    Archbishop Christodoulos complained why a monument has not been erected to honor those who were killed in the mountains of Albania during the war.

    He further said that the dilemma peace or war is a pseudo-dilemma, adding that it should be rephrased to ''peace with subjugation or war for independence.''

    [11] Protest of Turkish labor party against Patriarch's request for U.S. aid

    ISTANBUL, 15/03/2002 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)

    The Turkish labor party IP organized a rally on Thursday to protest against Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew's request of U.S. President George Bush to help him in the reopening of the Halki School of Theology.

    About 20 members of the party gathered near the Patriarchal residence and read their protest statement to the television channels that followed them.

    [12] Greek structural convergence improving, Christodoulakis says

    Athens, 15/03/2002 (ANA)

    Greece's more important structural indexes were showing a significant convergence with the European Union average, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said on Thursday.

    Speaking to reporters, on the eve of an EU summit in Barcelona, Christodoulakis said the convergence has still some way to go, but "it has already started."

    Greek per capita income is around 71 percent the EU average, while the country's performances were improving significantly in productivity and competitiveness, he said.

    Referring to employment, Christodoulakis said that job positions were rising in Greece, though the country still lagged behind the EU average. "The unemployment gap is shrinking but we still have some way to go," he said.

    Economy minister also noted a significant improvement in social spending, such as public education, research and technology.

    The EU summit in Barcelona, starting Friday, will discuss structural convergence in the European Union, in an effort to shape a convergence framework in the fields of employment, social protection, economic reforms, research and the environment.

    [13] Govít unveils draft bill on economic development

    Athens, 15/03/2002 (ANA)

    Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis on Thursday unveiled the government's plans for a new development legislation in the country and officially launched a dialogue with Greek businesses over the issue.

    Christodoulakis presented the draft bill envisaging: subsidies to new enterprises and to special forms of investments, simplifying of procedures to evaluating applications, interconnection of incentives with the creation of new jobs, participation of the banking sector in evaluating investment plans, restraining spending on subsidies and rating plans into three or four categories of investment areas.

    "The main target of a new development law is to preserve a framework of attractive incentives to make productive investments, mainly in manufacturing and tourism," Christodoulakis said. "This is necessary because there still are significant structural weaknesses in the country's less developed areas," he stressed.

    The draft bill envisages that the subsidy rate should reflect all positive changes in the country's business environment from 1998 onwards and specifically: a drastic reduction in the cost of money and more flexible money market products, lower business risks due to the country's participation in eurozone, multiple business opportunities in the coming years because of the implementation of a Third Community Support Framework Program by the EU and the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, and ensuring external conditions of competitiveness through completion of large projects and infrastructure works.

    The ministry concluded that these facts did not justify an increase in state subsidies to businesses. Higher subsidies to certain areas and investment categories will be decided, though, according to region or category specifications, Christodoulakis said. The government pledges to extend a 40 percent minimum company participation in investment plans.

    The government also plans to maintain incentives to new and old businesses and to offer more attractive tax cut incentives to existing companies willing to invest in new technology and in expansion plans.

    Incentives will be also be offered to productive investments in manufacturing and tourism, in certain categories of farm produce processing, and other environmental, energy and horizontal activities.

    Subsidies will be linked with the creation of new jobs, a plan supported by the European Union.

    [14] Greek banks' prospects remain positive despite share drop

    Athens, 15/03/2002 (ANA)

    Greece's five largest banking groups' shares are recording significant losses so far this year, with Piraeus Bank down 25.2 percent, Commercial Bank off 22.5 percent, Alpha Bank down 9.7 percent, EFG Eurobank Ergasias off 8.8 percent and National Bank down 5.8 percent.

    These losses occurred following announcement of 2001 results by the five groups, which in most cases reported significant slower profits in the previous year.

    All five bank stocks ended 2001 with significant losses on the Athens Stock Exchange, extending their decline from 2001, with investors with bank shares in their portfolios suffering heavy losses as a result.

    Analysts and bankers, however, noted that the fact that banks' organic revenues from sectors with high growth rates and high profit margins have not been hit by the current slowdown, was offering signs of hope for the future. At the same time, Greek banks have managed to contain spending and operating costs. Bankers attribute a decline in bank stock shares to a general negative climate in the Athens bourse and not to the sector's weakness.

    Analysts noted that the Greek banking system has great growth prospects. EFG Eurobank Ergasias' chief executive, Nikos Nanopoulos, said that banking loans to households (consumer and mortgage), as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product was 13.8 percent at the end of 2000 in Greece, compared with rates of 37 percent in Spain and 53 percent in Portugal.

    Retail banking fees are still low as a percentage of revenues in Greece, at 20 percent, compared with a European average of 30 percent, while cross sales in the country were still very low compared with other European Union states.

    Bankers say that high economic growth rates - more than double from the EU average - a steady macro-economic environment, inflows from a Third Community Support Framework, large infrastructure projects and the Athens 2004 Olympic Games were creating a positive climate for the country's banking sector.

    There are other factors, however, strengthening the system's positive prospects, bankers said. These are a promising regional market in the Balkans and southeastern Europe, where Greek banks have already begun expanding.

    Investments in new technology, reducing credit risk and creating customer management systems, are also contributing in keeping operating costs under control.

    The signing of strategic partnership agreements with foreign banking groups also help Greek banks to acquire international know-how from bank giants such as Deutsche Bank (a strategic ally of EFG Eurobank Ergasias), Credit Agricole (strategic ally of Commercial Bank) and ING (strategic ally of Piraeus Bank).

    Bank workers, employers in deadlock over pay: Bank workers and employers failed to reach agreement on Thursday in a third round of talks on pay and terms of employment.

    The Federation of Bank Employees of Greece turned down a pay offer of 2.0 percent and a 0.5 percent corrective amount for losses due to inflation last year.

    Negotiating for employers, the Union of Greek Banks said its below-inflation offer was due to a slump in earnings in the sector.

    To offset the pay offer, it proposed shortening the working week, accompanied by longer opening hours for the public.

    Rejecting the package, trade unionists said workers may resort to strike action if a new round of talks next Thursday falls flat.

    [15] DM and Labor ministers discuss social security reforms

    Athens, 15/03/2002 (ANA)

    Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and Labor Minister Dimitris Reppas on Thursday discussed reforms being promoted by the government on the social security issue, as well as current political developments.

    According to reports, the discussion on the current political situation focused on issues concerning the electoral law and transparency.

    Deputy Labor Minister Rovertos Spyropoulos also attended the discussion, while no statements were made afterwards.

    Opposition criticism of gov't social security proposals: Opposition criticism of the government's latest attempt at working out reforms for the country's bloated social security system continued on Thursday, days after the labor ministry began high-profile talks with largest trade umbrella organization (GSEE).

    Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos charged that the government is merely "dolling out promises to all" without assuming its own responsibilities for solving the problem.

    He also said the government's proposals do not ensure the establishment of a unified system or even define conditions for its viability.

    High-ranking main opposition New Democracy deputy George Souflias, meanwhile, sternly criticized the ruling PASOK government over its current handling of social security reform talks with the labor unions' leadership.

    Among others, the former ND minister charged that "this isn't reform but 'PASOKism', where populism and PR tricks are in excess, but where substance is lacking."

    "What credibility and what seriousness does the Simitis government have when only a year ago it said the (pension) funds' viability was in danger in order to announce cynical measures? And now it is proceeding with marginal changes along with minor bonuses," he stressed.

    Finally, Souflias said costs for the recently announced proposals by Labor and Social Insurances Minister Dimitris Reppas have not been estimated, while the government has also not said where the Greek state will find the roughly 5.8 billion euros it owes pension funds.

    Rally against government measures on social security issue: Trade unionists of the PAME labor group, who is affiliated to the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), held a rally in front of the offices of the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) in central Athens on Thursday and then marched to Parliament, rejecting the government's proposals on the social insurance issue and calling on GSEE to withdraw from the dialogue.

    They also called for the holding of a 24-hour nation-wide strike on April 3.

    Similar rallies were held simultaneously in 45 other towns of the country.

    The PAME trade unionists claim that from the government's measures, and from the dialogue with Labor Minister Dimitris Reppas as well, ''only the government wins and the working class loses.''

    [16] Increased use leads to overload of Taxis net system

    Athens, 15/03/2002 (ANA)

    Greek companies and taxpayers are increasingly using the internet for their dealings with the tax service leading to an overload of the TAXIS NET system run by the finance ministry, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said on Thursday.

    Christodoulakis said that a massive response by Greek enterprises in using the internet in their dealings with tax agencies forced the ministry to cancel an obligatory submission of value added tax reports.

    A total of 240,000 companies have submitted tax reports so far this month, from 62,000 the same month last year, an increase of 287 percent.

    Also, a total of 214,936 taxpayers have used the TAXIS NET system to submit their tax statements so far in March, from 46,794 in March 2001, an increase of 360 percent.

    Christodoulakis said the finance ministry would soon move to upgrade the Taxis net system to cope with increased interest by taxpayers and companies.

    [17] OA on agenda of de Palacios-Verelis meeting in Brussels

    BRUSSELS, 15/03/2002 (ANA - G. Daratos)

    Ailing Olympic Airways is expected to dominate a meeting here later this month between EU Commission vice-president and Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio and Greece's transport minister, Christos Verelis.

    A Commission spokesman said the two officials would meet on March 25 after a request by the Greek minister.

    The same spokesman denied press speculation citing strained relations between de Palacio and Verelis over a recently commenced investigation by the Commission into the Greek state's financial support of debt-ridden OA during the past decade, including a recent loan to the national carrier by state-run Commercial Bank of Greece.

    According to EU sources, moreover, the latest Greek government initiative to save OA by attracting tens of millions of euros from private investors will be covered.

    [18] Europarliament approves beneficial settlements on tobacco

    STRASBOURG, 15/03/2002 (ANA - O. Tsipira)

    Beneficial settlements on tobacco, of direct interest to Greece, were approved here on Thursday by the European Parliament's plenum through the approval of a special report on tobacco presented by Portuguese Eurodeputy Arlindo Conha.

    The report concerns the designation of the subsidization and guarantees for the harvesting of the years 2002, 2003 and 2004.

    The initial satisfaction of the Greek Eurodeputies who were active in this direction was the overturn of the gradual abolition of tobacco subsidies, which was provided by the European Commission's relevant proposal.

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) Eurodeputy Christos Folias, addressing the plenum, said that pharisaism should stop as the abolition of subsidies to tobacco producers will not contribute to a decrease in smoking but rather to an increase of tobacco imports from third countries, which will lead to the unemployment of a few thousand more farmers.

    In Athens, Agriculture Minister George Drys said that the first battle has been won on the issue of tobacco subsidies following the European Parliament's decision. However, he said a tough battle will be given next Monday at the Council of Agriculture Ministers in Brussels.

    Thanking the Greek Eurodeputies for their united stand, Drys noted the difficulties he will confront next week. The Council will determine the subsidies and guarantees for the three-year 2002-2004 period.

    [19] Minister urges for speedier completion of Egnatia Road

    Athens, 15/03/2002 (ANA)

    Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou on Thursday urged for speedier completion of works under construction in the Thessaloniki area, such as Egnatia Road, a new water-pipe system from the river Aliakmon and upgrading infrastructure at the Macedonia airport.

    After visiting construction sites, Mrs. Papandreou said she was not satisfied with progress made in Egnatia Road. "Our target is by the end of 2005 someone to enter Egnatia Road in Igoumenitsa and to exit in Alexandroupolis," Papandreou said.

    The minister noted that by 2006 Thessaloniki would have an airport with the same standards with that of Athens, making the city an international hub for southeastern Europe.

    Mrs. Papandreou said that a new water-pipe system from Aliakmon River would begin operating on a pilot base this summer and predicted that in less than a year it would be fully operational.

    [20] ASE ends flat on Thursday

    Athens, 15/03/2002 (ANA)

    Equity prices ended Thursday's session flat on the Athens Stock Exchange, as a late rise in bank shares helped in partly reversing an earlier decline in telecoms and IT stocks.

    The general index ended 0.08 percent higher at 2,386.33 points, with turnover a low 97.8 million euros.

    The Bank, Retail and Holding sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day (1.05 percent, 0.50 percent and 0.25 per-cent, respectively), while the Insurance, IT and Telecoms sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses (1.21 percent, 0.81 percent and 0.56 percent).

    The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks rose 0.48 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index eased 0.21 percent and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index fell 0.06 percent.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 148 to 136 with another 72 issues unchanged.

    The most heavily traded shares were Alsinco, Hellenic Telecoms, Alpha Bank, National Bank of Greece, and Q & R.

    Bond Market Close: Prices mixed in active trade: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market on Thursday finished mixed in heavy trade focusing on 10-year paper.

    The Greek benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 5.55 percent, and the spread over the corresponding German bund was 32 basis points.

    Turnover through the central bank's electronic system totalled 2.7 billion euros.

    Buy orders accounted for about half of turnover.

    Derivatives Market Close: Equity index futures retain premium: Equity index futures on the Athens Derivatives Exchange rose on Thursday, fuelled by a late surge in banks on the main market.

    Turnover was 66.5 million euros.

    The underlying FTSE/ASE-20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips gained 0.48 percent; and the underlying FTSE/ASE-40 for medium capitalization stocks lost 0.21 percent.

    [21] High-level meeting focuses on 2004 security

    Athens, 15/03/2002 (ANA)

    The government focused on the all-important issue of security for the upcoming 2004 Athens Games during an expanded meeting here on Thursday, chaired by the public order minister.

    Progress to date was discussed, with sector chiefs covering planning, infrastructure, personnel, training, funding and expenditures issues. Besides the ministry's leadership, military, police, coast guard and fire brigade officials participated in the meeting.

    To augment its own forces, the Greek government and the Athens 2004 organizing committee (ATHOC) have also established a "blue-ribbon" advisory committee of foreign consultants to focus on security preparations for the 2004 Games.

    [22] University sounds alarm over Zakynthos Marine Park

    Athens, 15/03/2002 (ANA)

    The Athens Agricultural University on Thursday called for immediate action to protect Zakynthos Marine Park, set up as a sanctuary for the rare Caretta caretta sea turtle, to stop its "systematic and unprecedented destruction".

    In its announcement, the university noted that the park is one of the more important conservation sites in the world and that failure to adequately protect it would be an embarrassment for Greece.

    It also emphasized that the lack of protective measures under-mined efforts by researchers to support the park and also reduced the island's ability to attract tourism and its prospects for economic growth.

    The university objects to the stripping of natural low-lying shrubbery and vegetation on sharply sloping ground that is prone to erosion, illegal tracks and roads opened up by local residents, a wildfire that incinerated 180 hectares of the park in October 2001, vandalism of a WWF Hellas guardhouse in November 2001, illegal hunting and grazing.

    [23] President Clerides leaves for Barcelona to attend an EU summit

    LARNACA, 15/03/2002 (CNA/ANA)

    Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides left on Thursday for Barcelona to participate in the European Union Council to be held on March 15 and 16, at the invitation of the Spanish presidency.

    Clerides is accompanied by Finance Minister Takis Klerides and Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides. The latter left for Barcelona on Thursday morning.

    This is the first time ever the EU has invited the candidate countries to participate in its deliberations.

    Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides will participate in the Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the 15 member states and their counterparts from the candidate countries while Finance Minister Takis Klerides will take part in the Meeting of Ministers for Economic Affairs of the EU member states and the candidate countries.

    President Clerides will return on Saturday.

    [24] Kasoulides expresses reservations about a solution in 2002

    LARNACA, 15/03/2002 (CNA/ANA)

    Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides expressed reservations about the prospects of a Cyprus settlement this year, saying that optimism at this stage is not justified.

    Speaking to the press prior to his departure for an EU summit in Barcelona, Kasoulides said he too wished to see a united Cyprus joining the EU, a view shaped by EU Commissioner for enlargement Gunther Verheugen.

    ''Allow me to continue to be somewhat reserved in my outlook with regard to a settlement because what is taking place in the UN-led talks does not justify any optimism,'' Kasoulides said, when invited to comment on Verheugen's optimistic remarks that the Cyprus problem can be solved in 2002.

    The minister said however that he would not rule out an optimistic outlook for a solution in the future.

    Replying to questions about the possibility of seeing minor concessions by the Turkish Cypriot side at the talks, to appear flexible, Kasoulides said that ''all those who are in a position to assess the state of play at the talks, and consequently follow the talks through in the future, they will be in a position to make a correct evaluation and decide whether something is a real concession or not.''

    He also said that mediators do not act on the basis of what the Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash says in his statements, but their moves depend on what goes on behind closed doors at the negotiating table.

    Referring to the Barcelona summit, Kasoulides welcomed the decision of the EU Spanish presidency to invite the candidate countries to air their views on various issues concerning the EU, in a bid to ease their integration into the big European family.

    ''We have to deal with other core European issues and not only with EU enlargement,'' Kasoulides said.

    [25] Kyprianou buried in his hometown

    NICOSIA, 15/03/2002 (CNA/ANA)

    Former President of Cyprus Spyros Kyprianou, who died of cancer on Tuesday, at the age of 69, was buried in his hometown Limassol on Thursday afternoon.

    Although it had been announced that the burial would be a family affair, hundreds of people broke the police cordon and entered the cemetery applauding and crying ''immortal'' and ''worthy'' for the deceased.

    The Municipal councils of Limassol and its suburbs, together with thousands of people lined up the street to the cemetery to pay their last respects, while Municipal bands played somber music.

    The funeral of veteran politician Kyprianou took place earlier on Thursday in Nicosia, at state expense. The Primate of Cyprus Archbishop Chrysostomos officiated.

    The political and religious leadership, foreign diplomats, representatives of the Greek government and Parliament and thou-sands of people were present at the funeral.

    The funeral oration was delivered by Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides a friend and associate of the deceased, who paid tribute to the hard work, consistency and wisdom of Kyprianou who served his country as President for 11 years, as President of the House of Representatives and as Foreign Minister.

    Before the funeral the body of Kyprianou was laid in state in the Church for three hours and hundreds of people lined past paying their last respects.

    Outside the Church a military guard of honor was stationed while the police band played somber music.

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