|Wednesday, 23 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 02-03-19
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 19, 2002
 PM welcomes outcome of EU summit
BARCELONA, 19/03/2002 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Saturday welcomed the outcome of a two-day European Union summit held in the middle of Spain's six-month rotating presidency of the 15-nation bloc.
Speaking to reporters, Simitis said that Greece wanted to see a compromise settlement emerge soon on ties between the EU and NATO on the operation of a European army.
The settlement on access to NATO facilities for a European rapid reaction force should neither hurt the EU's autonomy nor discriminate against member or candidate states, Simitis noted
''If guarantees are given to any third country, then the principle of reciprocity must be applied, that is to say analogous guarantees for each country involved,'' he said.
The Prime Minister added that he was pleased the issue was now being debated within existing EU structures, emplacing that any solution reached should be definitive, with no need of further procedures.
''The autonomy of the European Union must be ensured in terms of its decision-making processes as well as the EU's equal status with NATO within their cooperation,'' Simitis said.
Leaders at the summit also agreed that the EU should be ready in the near future to take over peacekeeping operations from NATO in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) if the mission needed to continue.
Simitis said that the EU could take over if the question of ties with NATO was resolved, and if a request for continuation of the operation was received from the government to emerge in FYROM after national elections, expected in the autumn of 2002.
In order to settle the issue, consultations would be held in coming weeks involving Greece, the EU's Spanish presidency and the bloc's defense representative, the prime minister added.
Energy pact to spur growth: Turning to a decision by EU leaders to back new rules allowing industry and business to choose among freely competing gas and electricity suppliers by 2004, Simitis welcomed the move as a spur to growth.
On EU economic and social policy, he said that Greece would use its rotating presidency of the EU next year to tackle delays in attaining real convergence in the bloc and coordinating policy among member states.
Greece had begun preparations for a spring summit during its presidency in the first half of 2003, Simitis added.
The Prime Minister also indicated that the government would pay special attention to assistance for small and medium sized enterprises, which are the backbone of Greek industry. Aid for the sector would help to boost growth and create jobs in the EU.
In addition, the Prime Minister welcomed the fact that the summit had not set 65 years as the minimum pension age, saying that retirement should depend on the number of years worked.
Furthermore, incentives should be offered for the relatively elderly to remain in the labor market, accompanied by disincentives to early retirement.
Other points at the summit backed by Simitis were setting a goal of a fully deregulated market in public utilities that would give retail consumers free choice with no geographical limits; a decision to sign the Kyoto environmental protection pact; a pledge to boost humanitarian aid to third countries; and a resolution backing the right of Palestinians to a state while guaranteeing the security of Israel.
 Main opposition chief wants to see greater European role in Balkans
Athens, 19/03/2002 (ANA)The leader of the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party, Costas Karamanlis, said in an interview released on Saturday that Europe should have a greater presence in the Balkans.
''In the final analysis, we're talking about territory that belongs to Europe,'' Karamanlis told the Spanish News Agency in an interview.
'We believe that Europe must step up its presence and take more decisive steps until a common foreign and defense policy emerges, both in this region and in other areas in conflict like the Middle East,'' said the ND leader, who is also vice president of the European People's Party (EPP).
Greece, a member of the European Union and NATO located at the Balkan crossroads, should also assume a more active and effective role in the region, Karamanlis noted.
He criticized the government for delays in activating its reconstruction plan for southeastern Europe, which had been announced two years ago but only now reached parliament.
Karamanlis was speaking before an EPP meeting he was due to attend in Barcelona.
 Minister of the Aegean to visit Australia
MELBOURNE, 19/03/2002 (ANA)Aegean Minister Nikos Sifounakis is to visit Australia at the beginning of April, invited by the National Center for Greek Studies and Research.
During the visit, which begins on April 6, Sifounakis will present his book, ''The Wanderings of Odysseus'' and hold talks with politicians in Melbourne.
 British minister sees Cyprus joining EU in two years
NICOSIA, 19/03/2002 (ANA)Cyprus' entry into the European Union is a one-way track and the island republic is likely to become a member of the 15-nation trade bloc in two years, regardless of whether its political problem is resolved, a British minister said at the weekend.
In an interview to RIK television in Barcelona during a two-day EU summit that ended on Saturday, the Minister of State for European affairs, Peter Hain, said he hoped that entry negotiations would be completed by the end of 2002, allowing membership in two years from now.
 Ruling party secretary scotches talk of early elections
Athens, 19/03/2002 (ANA)Costas Laliotis, the secretary of the ruling PASOK party's central committee, has precluded early national elections, saying that polls will be held as scheduled at the end of the government's term in the spring of 2004.
In an interview to the Athens News Agency released on Sunday, Laliotis also said that the Prime Minister, Costas Simitis, would remain at the helm.
He noted that an initiative for talks with parties of the left and center of the political spectrum, as well as public figures from the two spheres, would aim to create a ''majority, multi-party left-left'' in the election battle against the main opposition New Democracy party.
The bid for a left-left alliance could also produce consensus for the election of a new president of the republic in 2005, when the term of incumbent Costis Stephanopoulos comes to an end, Laliotis added.
Among groups PASOK planned to approach in order to forge common ground were alternative environmental and social critique movements, he said.
PASOK held the initiative for action, and had the ability to reverse a current adverse political climate if it rallied itself to do so, Laliotis emphasized.
The leaders of other parties should rise to the occasion, he added.
 Greece, Bulgaria to hold talks on pipeline project on Tuesday
SOFIA, 19/03/2002 (ANA - B. Borisov)Greek Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos is due to visit the Bulgarian capital on Tuesday for talks with the neighboring country's regional development minister on a project with Russia to build an oil pipeline.
Under the long-delayed scheme, Russian oil would be exported to Alexandroupolis, northeastern Greece, from the pipeline beginning in Burgas, Bulgaria.
The three countries are expected to sign a political memorandum of cooperation in the near future that would allow the project to start.
Bulgaria has said it will seek an equal holding for each country in the company that will undertake the project.
 Greece, Mediterranean countries wage struggle in support of tobacco subsidies
BRUSSELS, 19/03/2002 (ANA - Y. Zitouniati)Greece and the other Mediterranean countries (France, Italy, Spain and Portugal) are waging a tough battle in support of subsidies for tobacco, in contrast to Scandinavian countries and the United Kingdom which insist on the abolition of subsidies.
Greek Agriculture Minister George Drys, attending a meeting here of the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers on Monday, said that the European Commission has altered its stance - referring to article 52 of the Treaty, according to which every EU policy is obliged to be concerned about the protection of public health - ''thus opening through its proposal, a front against Mediterranean agriculture.''
Drys called on the Council of Agriculture Ministers and the European Commission ''to follow the example of the European Parliament, amending the regulation proposal which abolishes the subsidization of tobacco.''
It concerns the regulation proposal which determines the subsidization of tobacco in each member country for the harvests of the 2002, 2003 and 2004 period.
Drys termed as hypocritical the position that public health is safeguarded through the gradual abolition of tobacco subsidies.
He noted that for every 100 kilos of tobacco in the European Union, 70 kilos are imported from third countries (such as the U.S.) and that only 30 kilos is from Europe. Furthermore, he said the tobacco imported into Europe is of inferior quality and cheaper, resulting in industries benefiting the most. Studies also show that the number of smokers in Europe has increased these past years, and that the relevant measures have proved ineffective.
 Gov't backs quality in tourism, rather than price cuts
BERLIN, 19/03/2002 (ANA - P. Stangos)Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said on Monday that the government had placed emphasis on improving the quality of services offered in domestic tourism, rather than cutting prices
Measures to boost quality are contained in a three-year plan for tourism, which also promotes a cultural angle coupled with the 2004 Olympic Games to be hosted by Athens, Tsohatzopoulos told reporters at Berlin's International Tourism Fair.
Tourism sector executives in Greece, including hoteliers, have complained that large German tour operators have put pressure on them to offer discounts of up to 20 percent in order to channel their customers to Greek destinations.
''Greek businesses know what they should do, but it is clear that the difficulties that we are facing in toning up demand cannot be overcome through a drop in prices, but rather by means of a rise in the quality of supply, accompanied by a new communications policy,'' the minister said.
Tourist arrivals by air from Germany to Greece dropped in 2001 against 2000, but the decline was minor in the context of a wider slump in the airlines sector following terrorist attacks in the US on September 11 last year.
Tourism from Germany accounts for one fifth of the market in Greece.
 News of Hellenic Post Offices sale tender expected Tuesday
Athens, 19/03/2002 (ANA)News on progress in a tender to privatize 10 percent of Hellenic Post Offices (ELTA) is expected on Tuesday.
The deadline for short listed bidders to submit binding financial offers was on Friday.
The bidders are Deutsche Post of Germany; Netherlands Post Offices (TPG); and La Poste of France.
On the auction block is a strategic alliance with ELTA comprising the share holding and creation of a joint venture in speed deliveries.
In addition, the process will begin this year for Hellenic Post Offices to enter the Athens Stock Exchange.
 Greeks celebrate end of carnival, start of Lent
Athens, 19/03/2002 (ANA)Thousands of Athenians on Monday climbed Philopappou Hill near the Acropolis to celebrate the start of Lent with traditional delicacies and music.
Leading the annual municipally arranged event was Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos.
Children around Greece flew kites, another tradition that marks the end of the annual carnival season and the beginning of Lent, leading to Greek Orthodox Easter, which falls early in May this year.
In the capital for celebrations were the leader of the Coalition of the Left and Progress, Nikos Constantopoulos; and the head of the Communist Party of Greece, Aleka Papariga.
President of the Republic Costis Stephanopoulos spent the holiday in Rio, Achaia; Prime Minister Costas Simitis in Aghii Theodori, Attica; and the leader of the main opposition New Democracy party, Kostas Karamanlis, on the island of Evia.
On Saturday, thousands of visitors had poured into Patras in summer-like weather for the start of the western port city's annual carnival, the largest in Greece.
The carnival peaked on Sunday with a five kilometer long parade through the city center, this year featuring Poseidon, the sea god of ancient Greek mythology, as the carnival's traditional King of Laughter, whose effigy is burnt at the end of the event. The theme of the parade was the Mediterranean.
The carnival also includes a treasure hunt, enjoyed this year by about 35,000 children wearing masks and costumes.
Hoteliers reported that hotels in Patras were filled to capacity.
 Conference on five empires organized by SPGH at Georgetown University
WASHINGTON, 19/03/2002 (ANA - T. Ellis)A series of speeches on the rise and fall of five empires, which marked world history, was organized by the Society for the Preservation of the Greek Heritage at Georgetown University in Washington.
Mainly academics and people of letters attended the event. Among the distinguished guests present were Greek Ambassador to Washington Alexander Philon and Senator Paul Sarbanes.
The speeches were on the Athenian, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and British empires.
 Pylon for Greece-Italy power link destroyed in dynamite attack
Athens, 19/03/2002 (ANA)An electricity pylon that forms part of a future power link between Greece and Italy was destroyed in a dynamite explosion perpetrated by unknown attackers, police said on Monday.
Police have no clues about the identity of the attackers who planted the dynamite on Sunday under cover of darkness in Sayiada, Thesprotia.
The electricity link being built between the two countries will include power installations at either end, joined by an undersea cable.
The high-tension pylon, which belongs to the Athens-quoted Public Power Corporation, was due to carry 400,000 volts of power when connected.
 President Clerides: Ecevit told me it is time to solve Cyprus problem
LARNACA, 19/03/2002 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides said here on Saturday that Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit told him, when they accidentally met, at Barcelona's EU Summit premises that it is time for the Cyprus problem to be solved.
Speaking to the press on his arrival on Saturday from Barcelona, Clerides noted that Ecevit approached him and shook hands with him before entering the conference room where the 28 leaders of the EU member-states and candidate countries met. He noted that he did not discuss with Ecevit the Cyprus problem.
''He just expressed the view that it is time for the Cyprus problem to be solved,'' Clerides added.
He said that he could not interpret Turkish Prime Minister's gesture but noted that it is a must for two leaders to shake hands when they meet at such European meetings.
''If I got close to him first I would extend my hand to him, as he did, because it is not agreeable for Europe when state leaders meet and do not at least shake hands,'' Clerides said.
Referring to the summit, the president said that the meeting of the leaders of the member countries with their counterparts of the candidate countries addressed issues like the future of Europe,
Europe's economy, labor problems in Europe, development of new technology and other issues pertaining Europe's economic future.
Clerides also referred to his meeting on Friday, on the sidelines of the extraordinary Summit, with Greek Premier Costas Simitis and Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, noting that he briefed them in detail on the latest developments in the Cyprus question and more specifically on UN-led direct talks, that began in mid June between him and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.
''We exchanged views and made common assessments'' about the situation he added.
Clerides also said he had met in Barcelona with Greek main opposition New Democracy (ND) party, Costas Karamanlis, whom he also briefed on the latest developments in the peace talks for Cyprus and the positions expressed by the Turkish side.
Cyprus opened accession negotiations with the EU in 1998, and has provisionally closed 24 out of 29 chapters of the acquis communautaire.
The island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory. Ecevit was also then prime minister of Turkey.
 Greek FM Papandreou says historic opportunity to find a solution for Cyprus
BARCELONA, 19/03/2002 (CNA/ANA)There is a historic opportunity to find a solution to the Cyprus problem in line with the European norms, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou told CNA here on Saturday, stressing that Turkish support to the ongoing UN-led proximity talks between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash is considered to be important by the EU.
Papandreou said ''everyone should welcome the fact that the talks have began under the UN auspices and according to Security Council decisions,'' pointing out that Europe ''has set the support of the talks by Turkey as a basic condition for this country.''
He said that the outcome of these talks depends on the will of all sides and especially of the Turkish side ''that for 28 years now, shows that it does not wish for any sort of change on the Cyprus issue.''
Papandreou pointed out that there is a ''historic opportunity'' to find a solution to the Cyprus problem based on European norms.
Invited to say the Greek delegation, discussed in Barcelona the Cyprus question with the EU member countries delegations, the Greek minister said ''we always discuss'' the Cyprus problem.
 Verheugen: Nobody can stop European integration
BARCELONA, 19/03/2002 (CNA/ ANA)Nobody can stop the European integration process EU Com-missioner responsible for enlargement Gunter Verheugen said here on Friday, pointing out that the EU member states and the European Commission have created such a strong political momentum that the integration process cannot be delayed.
Speaking to journalists in the sidelines of the Barcelona EU extraordinary Summit, Verheugen said "delaying the process of integration would create disappointment and uncontrollable situations", pointing out that "the timetable must be maintained" and that new members will join the EU by 2004.
Replying to a question by CNA, the Commissioner said there is no chance for the integration process to be delayed, adding that, "on the contrary, the member states and the Commission have created such a strong political momentum" both at Goteborg and Laeken EU Summits that "nobody can change it".
Invited to say whether Cyprus' participation in the Barcelona Summit reinforces its position in the accession process, Verheugen said that this is the case for all candidate countries, adding that "accession will come".
Asked whether Turkey could veto Cyprus' accession to the EU, he said "nobody" could do that. Accession "cannot be stopped. It is too late", he added.
Cyprus opened accession negotiations with the EU in 1998 and has so far provisionally closed 24 out of 29 chapters of the acquis communautaire.
The island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory.