|Friday, 18 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 02-03-20
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 20, 2002
 Parliament plenum discusses Nice Treaty ratification
Athens, 20/03/2002 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis and main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis clashed in Parliament on Tuesday during a Parliament plenum debate on the ratification of the Nice Treaty, which anticipates the European Union's enlargement from 15 to 27 member-states. The vote is expected to take place on Wednesday.
The clash was on the issue of the European army, while Karamanlis accused the government of ''not only utilizing the principle of independence in European defense, but created an unfavorable situation for the country with its negligence and bad handling and despite our repeated warnings allowed an extra-institutional process to develop for a year and result in the text of Istanbul which is unacceptable.''
He added that there can be no discussion on the European army based on the text of Istanbul, which was shaped without Greek participation, while Greece cannot be handled as a second class country on the issue of security.
On his part, Simitis said the picture ND is trying to present is ''misleading'', adding that Greece supports the European Union's common foreign policy and security policy, it has a clear position on the European army and the issue existing concerns relations between NATO and the EU.
The text of Istanbul "was not accepted neither in Laeken nor in Barcelona and nor will it be accepted,'' Simitis said while clarifying the issue.
Simitis further said that, on the contrary, Greek positions are included in the conclusions drawn in Barcelona regarding two issues. Firstly, that whatever settlement in relations between NATO and the EU will be an overall settlement so as not to allow issues pending in the future and, secondly, whatever solution should be found in the EU's institutional framework.
''Settlements are necessary. A text is necessary. An agreement,'' Simitis said, adding that whatever text should safeguard Greek rights and the principles of international law, while accusing ND of ''offering shouts and fear and in this way not opening the European perspective.''
Karamanlis responded by saying that ''the fact that the issue was not solved but was referred to the future is an unfavorable development'' and claimed that fear is created by the handlings of the Greek government.
On the question of the Nice Treaty's ratification, Simitis said 2002 was a milestone for the EU and Greece, adding that a chapter of uncertainty, insecurity and the risk of marginalization closed for Greece since Greece now participates in the center where all decisions are taken and in whatever form of institutional unification.
Referring to the same issue, Karamanlis said ''we want a global Europe and not a regional force alone which will have common and jointly-protected borders which will consolidate the feeling of individual and collective security for all its peoples and citizens'' and added that ND will vote in favor of the agreement's ratification.
Communist party opposes Nice Treaty: Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday during a Parliamentary debate on the ratification of the Nice Treaty, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) secretary Aleka Papariga said her party will vote against it because ''only with the weakening of the European Union will the way to Europe of the peoples be paved.''
Papariga added that the Nice Treaty safeguards big capital, while the stronger countries are made even stronger at the expense of the weaker ones.
Referring to incidents, which occurred during the latest meeting of European leaders in Barcelona, Spain, Papariga said popular reactions are increasing continuously and ''it is an illusion that political unification will protect the rights of the working people.''
Papariga further said that ''we vote against Cyprus's accession to the European Union without remorse because we want the weakening of the European Union so that new countries will not join it'', adding that Cyprus's accession to the EU ''will be a step towards the burial of a just solution to the Cyprus issue.''
Coalition: On his part, Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos said that his party will declare ''present'' during the ratification process because the treaty is crippled and antiquated and has huge institutional, social and democratic deficits.
 Simitis briefs Stephanopoulos on Barcelona summit
Athens, 20/03/2002 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Tuesday briefed Greek President Kostis Stephanopoulos on the results of the weekend European Union summit in Barcelona, telling reporters afterwards that Greece's EU presidency in the first half of 2003 comes at a crucial point for the resolution of several economic and social issues in the 15-member EU.
Simitis also reiterated that the EU's expansion will proceed that same year, with specific accession agreements expected to be signed during the Greek presidency.
Finally, he again voiced his support for a Europe that emphasizes social policy rather than only a "market-oriented" Europe.
He added that several other important issues are assigned, which include economics and social issues, along with business problems in the EU.
Simitis also said that the Conference on the Future of Europe will be completed during the Greek presidency and Greece will be the member-state to formulate the scenarios on which the decision for the future of the EU will be taken.
Speaking on the discussions that took place during the informal Barcelona summit, Simitis said that they concerned the future of the European space, which, as he said, should be a social one and not a market.
 Athens wants 'social and democratic' Europe, gov't spokesman says
Athens, 20/03/2002 (ANA)Two different approaches to employment issues among European leaders were apparent at the European Union summit in Barcelona, government spokesman Christos Proto-papas said on Tuesday.
One group was opposed to a social model for Europe and favored a completely laissez-faire approach to labor markets, while the second wanted to promote a new European social model, full employment and society's involvement in deciding European policy. Greece, the spokesman added, wanted ''more Europe'' and a union that was more socially sensitive and democratic.
 Three-volume publication by the foreign ministry to be presented on Wednesday
Athens, 20/03/2002 (ANA)In the presence of President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos, the three-volume publication by the foreign ministry entitled ''Greece at the cutting edge of a new world, Cold War -Truman Dogma - Marshall Plan, through diplomatic and historic documents, 1943-1951'', will be presented at the foreign ministry's ''Yiannos Kranidiotis'' amphitheater on 1, Akademias Street at noon on Wednesday.
The three-volume publication will be presented by Foreign Minister George Papandreou, U.S. Ambassador to Athens Thomas Miller, the General Director of the Greek Foundation on European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP), Prof. Theodoros Kouloumbis and the head of the Diplomatic and Historic Archives Department, Fotini Tomai-Konstantopoulou.
 Alternate FM discusses EU enlargement in Sofia
SOFIA, 20/03/2002 (ANA - N. Melisova)Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Giannitsis discussed European Union enlargement, Bulgaria's accession to the EU, bilateral issues and the preparation of further mutual high-level visits with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi and Deputy Foreign Minister Magdalena Cuneva here on Tuesday.
Addressing the Wilton Park conference, Giannitsis spoke of solidarity and enlargement and sent candidate countries the message that the element of solidarity is very important and the success of enlargement depends on it.
He said that enlargement's successful process will also depend on candidate countries to enable the EU's aid to have a positive outcome.
Giannitsis was told that Bulgaria expects a great deal from the Greek EU presidency (in the first half of 2003) and replied that Greece will help the neighboring country's European integration.
Bilateral issues discussed included matters concerning infrastructure on the two country's borders (road crossings). The issue has been promoted on the part of Greece and the Bulgarian side should do likewise.
Giannitsis also said that Greece is interested in the Balkans and believes that peace, prosperity and stability in Balkan countries also depend on our efforts and the response of Europe.
 Athens promises new 'road map' for Bulgaria's EU accession
SOFIA, 20/03/2002 (ANA - N. Melisova)Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Giannitsis on Tuesday praised Bulgaria's efforts at effectively absorbing European Union funds and assistance, while promising that the Greek EU presidency in the first half of 2003 will implement a new "road map" for Bulgaria's EU accession prospects.
The relative timetable covering Bulgaria's EU "road map'' should be finalized in December during a Union summit in Copenhagen.
Giannitsis, along with Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, arrived in the Bulgarian capital for talks with the neighboring country's leadership.
Giannitsis also touched on the issue of Athens' aid to Sofia to the tune of 54 millions euros, part of the Greek government's recently approved Balkan Reconstruction Plan.
Finally, the issue of the long-delayed Burgas-Alexandroupoli pipeline, a project first envisioned in 1994, also dominated talks between the two Greek ministers and Bulgarian leadership.
According to reports here the previous day, Bulgarian Deputy PM Kostadin Paskalev recently tabled Sofia's latest demands over the project, including a mandatory and equal 33-percent share capital ownership by all three sides -- Russia, Bulgaria and Greece.
Another demand by Sofia calls for clauses in the pipeline company's charter forbidding decisions that 'go against the interests' of any of the three parties.
The projected pipeline will conceivably transport Russian crude oil, off-loaded at Bulgaria's Black Sea port of Burgas, overland to Greece's NE Aegean port of Alexandroupoli, thereby precluding transport by tankers via the congested Bosporus and Dardanelles straits separating Europe from Asia Minor.
 Govít spokesman announces PM's agenda for the week
Athens, 20/03/2002 (ANA)Following a meeting on Tuesday morning with President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos to discuss the results of the European Union Summit in Barcelona, Prime Minister Costas Simitis is due to speak in Parliament during a debate on ratifying the Nice Treaty later in the afternoon, government spokesman Christos Protopapas announced.
On Wednesday, Simitis will meet National Bank of Greece governor Theodoros Karatzas at 10:00 in the morning, while at 10:30 the same day he is to chair a meeting of ministers involved in the preparations for the 2004 Olympics, including Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou, Transport Minister Christos Verelis, Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and Deputy Media Minister Telemachos Chytiris. This will prepare for a meeting of the full Olympics ministerial committee at noon on Wednesday.
The following day, Thursday, the prime minister will head a joint meeting of the cabinet and ruling PASOK's Executive Bureau on Thursday to discuss planned reforms to the social insurance system.
At noon on Friday, Simitis is to meet EU Commissioner for enlargement Guenter Verheugen.
Among the prime minister's engagements for the following week is a visit to the Acropolis and the new museum site, meeting with his Latvian counterpart on March 27, and a visit to Tirana to attend the Balkan Summit on March 28.
 Greek MAP slams govít indifference to political refugee pension rights
Athens, 20/03/2002 (ANA)A Greek Euro-Parliament deputy on Tuesday accused the government of being ''criminally negligent'' in its stance toward political refugees and noted its failure to ensure their rights to adequate pensions and social security.
Coalition of the Left and Progress Alekos Alavanos held a press conference on the issue on Tuesday at the European Com-mission's offices in Athens.
Alavanos said political refugees in Greece commonly faced problems such as their contributions and years of work abroad, or the type of work (heavy labor, hazardous to health etc) they had done not being taken into account by Greek authorities in calculating their pensions, compounded by the abolition in 1985 of laws allowing the payment and recognition of 15-plus working years worth of pension contributions.
Many political refugees in Greece were currently receiving the minimum pension (roughly 350 euros a month) or forced to continue working past pension age, he noted, while they would qualify for more than triple that amount if the years they had worked abroad were taken into account.
Alavanos said that political refugees and their families that came from countries that were about to join the European Union were asking that their years and type of work in these countries be used alongside their other contributions to calculate the size of pension they should receive.
 EU court rules Greece contravenes directive on capital taxes
BRUSSELS, 20/03/2002 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)Special contributions that Greek companies were obliged to pay to the Lawyers' Fund and the Lawyers Welfare Fund contravened community law, the European Court of Justice ruled on Tuesday.
The contributions were levied as a proportion of company capital on certain company transactions requiring a lawyer or solicitor, such as when new companies were founded, when they first published their articles of association and each time they modified these, and by limited liability companies when they increased their company capital.
The case was brought against Greece by the European Commission, which argued that the contributions to the lawyers' funds were a form of indirect tax on capital levied in addition to legitimate taxes and that the total amount levied exceeded an EU-imposed limit by 2.8 per cent.
The Commission also argued that the charges did not constitute payment for services rendered by lawyers and solicitors, since they received a separate fee for their services and there was no reference in any Greek legislation that the charges levied were in any way connected to the fees paid to legal counsel.
The court agreed that Greece had contravened a 1969 community directive on the taxation of capital, which sought to ensure the free movement of capital within the EU and to limit indirect taxation such as stamp duty and other forms of tax, to 1 per cent of the transaction value.
 Gov't reaction to 'reality shows'
Athens, 20/03/2002 (ANA)The latest criticism of two sensationalist "reality game shows" currently airing head-to-head on competing Greek television stations was expressed by the government spokesman on Tuesday, following Archbishop Christodoulos' branding of the programs as "morally decadent" over the weekend.
"Personally, I am not in agreement with the television practice that adopts the 'keyhole' mentality," government spokesman and Mass Media Minister Christos Protopapas said during his daily press briefing on Tuesday.
He nevertheless clarified that the entire issue falls within the National Radio-TV Council's (ERS) jurisdiction, while reiterating that based on Article XV of Greece's Constitution, "all the rules of decency and respect for television viewers must be adhered to".
"There is enough time for the self-regulation on the part of television stations towards the direction of respecting human dignity," he added.
Christodoulos -- the outspoken head of the Greek Church -- urged the faithful to turn off their TV sets, while warning that "as long as his tongue was in place", he would continue to rail against the corruption of such so-called ''reality shows''.
The Archbishop of Athens and All Greece launched his stinging attack from the pulpit of a church in the Athens suburb of Zografou on Sunday, a day before Shrove Monday, the beginning of Orthodox Lent.
The second edition of the Greek version of the controversial 'Big Brother' program is currently broadcast on prime time by the Antenna station, only a few months after its inaugural run successfully debuted on Greek TV amid a chorus of derision by media critics, community leaders and intellectuals.
Antenna's competitor, Mega, is currently airing its "Bar" show, combining the 24-hour surveillance concept with contestants' work at a nightclub especially set-up for the program.
Media minister denies ESR delay in issuing TV licenses: Press and Media Minister Christos Protopapas on Tuesday denied that the National Radio and Television Council (ESR) had delayed in issuing licenses for new TV stations, saying that ESR was now preparing its recommendations after examining the applicants' means declarations.
Commenting on reactions on this issue from various quarters, the minister said that these came from those whose hopes of getting a license had been thwarted.
 ND event in Athens on 'Women and Politics'
Athens, 20/03/2002 (ANA)Democracy is healthy when women and men have equal opportunities in life, the president of the International Democratic Union of Women, Joy Main, said at an event organized in Athens on Tuesday evening by the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party's secretariat on women's issues on the theme women and politics.
She said that a change is needed in the mentality and culture of political parties in order for women to get involved in politics. The women's section of political parties should deal with the training of women for participation in politics from a young age and not simply on a level of volunteerism. Main also referred at length to the role women can play for the improvement of the quality of life.
The head of ND's secretariat for women's issues Fani Pali-Petralia referred to the situation of women in many parts of the world where they lack not only political but also fundamental human rights. She also spoke on problems faced by women in developed countries such as unemployment in Europe and the trafficking of young women, particularly from eastern European countries to the West.
Main met earlier in the day with ND leader Costas Karamanlis.
 Schroeder backs Greek central banker as next ECB vice-president
Athens, 20/03/2002 (ANA)German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder indicated Tuesday he backed Greek central bank governor Loukas Papademos as the next European Central Bank (ECB) vice-president, the German DPA news agency reported from Munich.
''I believe the Greek name is top-ranked and brings excellent qualifications,'' said Schroeder speaking after a meeting with Ger-man industrialists in Munich.
''My view is that the quality of the Greek candidate is without question,'' he added.
Schroeder did not actually name Papademos but the central bank chief is the only Greek candidate for the post.
Papademos would replace Frenchman Christian Noyer whose mandate expires at the end of May.
Appointment of Papademos would help clear the way for France to nominate the next ECB chief to replace Wim Duisenberg in July 2003.
Paris is expected to put forward Bank of France governor Jean-Claude Trichet for the top ECB post.
 Greece, Bulgaria to build regional Balkan energy market with EU's support
SOFIA, 20/03/2002 (ANA - B. Borisov)''Greece and Bulgaria will cooperate to built the European Union's regional energy market in the Balkans,'' Greek Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said here on Tuesday.
Following a meeting with Bulgaria's Minister of Regional Development and Public Works Kostadin Paskalev in Sofia, Tsohatzopoulos also said that ''we had very constructive cooperation. We worked well. We agreed on two major issues.''
''We agreed on a common model with the minister based on which three countries, Greece, Bulgaria and Russia, will participate. A model of state agreement and cooperation on a common equal basis, which will formulate the preconditions so as to base a cooperation of oil and construction firms which will undertake the corresponding correlation of participation, on which we will agree, the execution of the project,'' Tsohatzopoulos said.
According to the minister, the two countries will cooperate both in the electric energy market sector, where the European Union will support efforts for the restructuring of grids.
The speeding up of the course of the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil-pipeline was the major issue on the two ministers' agenda.
''In this direction we assigned our associates with making the necessary preparations within two weeks, so as to be able to conclude a final agreement by the beginning of April for the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil-pipeline,'' he said.
On his part, Paskalev thanked Tsohatzopoulos for Greece's unwavering support for Bulgaria's bid to join NATO and the European Union, adding that both countries have shown a clear political will regarding the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil-pipeline.
 Financial companies receive institutional go-ahead
Athens, 20/03/2002 (ANA)The Bank of Greece, the country's regulatory bank and reserve, on Tuesday announced the framework for the operation of financial companies in Greece, which will be allowed to offer consumer and personal loans.
The initial minimum share capital of these companies was set at 6 million euros until the end of December and from then on 9 million euros.
The guarantee factor of these companies was set at 10 per cent, compared to 8 per cent that is in force for banking institutions.
 Greece to further reduce stakes in National Bank, Commercial Bank
Athens, 20/03/2002 (ANA)Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis on Monday announced that the government was planning to further reduce its stakes in National Bank and Commercial Bank, to transform Post Savings Bank into a societe anonyme leading to its flotation this year, speedier procedures to privatize Agricultural Bank of Greece and a final sale of a 57.8 percent equity stake in ETBAbank to Piraeus Bank.
Addressing a general assembly of Greek Banks' Union, Christodoulakis reiterated his decision not to seek a new adjustment solution to a problem with overdue penalty rates and urged Greek banks for a swift end of all such cases with customers.
He called on commercial banks to offer more financing opportunities to small- and medium-sized enterprises and to design modern investment products to satisfy the demands of small depositors in the wake of a sharp fall in interest rates.
Christodoulakis noted that the Greek economy's performance in the last few years was "hard to find", although he acknowledged there were significant and unjustified delays.
Theodore Karatzas, the union's chairman, told the assembly that Greek banks needed to acquire the minimum of all common characteristics of financial institutions operating in European and international level.
 Gov't seeks fair and viable pension system, Protopapas says
Athens, 20/03/2002 (ANA)The government seeks to adopt a social insurance system that is viable and fair, government spokesman Christos Protopapas said on Tuesday in response to questions.
Commenting on the stance of main opposition New Democracy, Protopapas hinted that ND did not want substantial progress on this issue and rejected its call for a return to the system introduced by the latest ND government of 1990-1993.
The spokesman particularly emphasized the fact that trade union organizations were participating in the latest efforts to modify the pension system, saying this was now on a "good path".
 Tsohatzopoulos says "prospects are good" for Greek tourism
Athens, 20/03/2002 (ANA)Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos sent a clear message to German tour operators that Greek tourist enterprises would not succumb to pressure from a crisis in the international tourist market and lower their prices.
This message was delivered during the Greek minister's visit to the international tourism trade fair ITB in Berlin.
Tsohatzopoulos said that Greek tourist enterprises should act to upgrade quality of their services in order to maintain prices at satisfactory levels and urged for closer cooperation with German tour operators and for a more aggressive communication policy by Greek tourist authorities.
Development minister said that prospects were good for the arrival of German tourists in Greece this year.
Speaking to reporters, during a news conference in Berlin, Tsohatzopoulos said that the government's three-year tourism development program would be based, among others, to cooperation with other European Union member-states in determining a joint tourism policy. He said that the Greek EU presidency in 2003 would also contribute to achieve this goal.
He urged for more efforts to boost this year's tourist arrivals, by promoting alternative forms of tourism, such as eco-tourism, religious and sports tourism.
"Greece has a strong interest in the German tourist market because German tourists accounted for 2.5 million out of a total 12.5 million tourist in the country last year," Tsohatzopoulos said.
German tour operators said they were cautiously optimistic over this year's tourist season.
During talks with the Greek delegation representatives from TO Thomas Cook (Neckermann) and TO Seetours announced the start of a cruise program from May 21 in Greece, based in Heraclion, Crete.
Greece had a strong presence in this year's ITB trade fair. Its official pavilion covered 1,900 square meters and included the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee, the Cultural Olympics, the Athens Festival and the Hellenic Tourist Real Estate SA.
Greece also presented its GTNO's advertising campaign in Germany.
 International conference on water management in Athens
Athens, 20/03/2002 (ANA)An international two-day conference opened in Athens on Tuesday, focusing on ''Effective governance on water management in the Mediterranean.'' It is attended by 160 representatives from 24 countries.
Officials from ministries, local administration, water institutes, water supply companies and universities will be making specific proposals on the dialogue process for the issue and determining a strategic framework.
An international dialogue is currently underway in light of the 3rd World Conference on water to be held in Kyoto in March 2003 and coordinated by the Global Water Partnership, the United Nations Development Program and the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives.
 Intracom's chairman hits back at critics
Athens, 20/03/2002 (ANA)Intracom's chairman Socrates Kokkalis on Tuesday hit back at critics of both the group and himself personally, all but naming the owner of Kathimerini newspaper A. Alafouzos as attempting to undermine Intracom's activities.
Addressing an extraordinary general shareholders' meeting, he openly accused certain media groups of trying to implicate both Intracom and himself in unlawful activities.
"Kathimerini's owner has admitted to depositing several million US dollars to a Liberian company's bank account that recently was revealed to belong to New Democracy party," Kokkalis charged.
He urged for a simultaneous opening of all bank accounts, both his and of the Liberian offshore company's (Mayo).
He also denounced the role of some politicians, "only few" as he claimed, who "have lost their way and pretend to be persecutors of the group in the service of other interests."
Kokkalis said he and the Intracom Group have been a target of more than 20 criminal prosecutions so far, while noting that all have officially fizzled in the courts.
He also said that money raised from capital markets by the group was either invested in fully transparent ways, or remained as the group's reserves.
The shareholders' meeting approved a board plan for a share buyback program of up to 10 percent of Intracom's equity capital at a price range of 4-18 euros per share.
 Greek stocks end 1.10 percent down in ASE
Athens, 20/03/2002 (ANA)Equity prices ended Tuesday's session sharply lower on the Athens Stock Exchange with very thin trading conditions exacerbating price moves in the market.
The general index fell 1.10 percent to 2,358.08 points, with turnover a low 104.3 million euros.
Only the Telecommunications sector scored gains (+0.02 per-cent), while the Holding, Banks, IT Solutions and Retail sectors suffering the heaviest percentage losses (3.40 percent, 2.02 per-cent, 1.78 percent and 1.43 percent).
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks ended 1.44 percent lower, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index fell 1.33 percent and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index eased 0.82 percent.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 239 to 72 with another 43 issues unchanged.
The most heavily traded shares were Hellenic Telecoms, National Bank, Intralot, Yiannousis and Ellenika Hrimatistiria.
Derivatives Market Close: Equity index futures finish lower: Equity index futures on the Athens Derivatives Exchange finished lower on Tuesday, traders said.
Turnover was 34.4 million euros.
The underlying FTSE/ASE-20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips dropped by 1.44 percent; and the underlying FTSE/ASE-40 for medium capitalization stocks dropped by 1.33 percent.
Bond Market Close: Prices drop in heavy trade: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market on Tuesday finished lower in heavy trade focusing on three-year paper.
The Greek benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 5.53 percent, and the spread over the corresponding German bund was 31 basis points.
Turnover through the central bank's electronic system totalled 1.98 billion euros.
Sell orders accounted over half of turnover.
 OEK to spend Dr 56.5 bln in Olympic Village project in 2002
Athens, 20/03/2002 (ANA)The Workers' Housing Organization (OEK) on Tuesday announced that it would spend 56.5 billion drachmas this year for the construction of the Olympic Village site and another 44.5 billion drachmas for building 3,390 new houses to be auctioned with its members.
Deputy Labor and Social Affairs Minister Lefteris Tziollas, presenting OEK's new programs, said that the organization also planned to subsidise house rentals with a total 14 billion drachmas and to extend a housing loans program in which OEK subsidized interest rates by 27 to 66 percent.
 Allianz Hellas announces contract for new Olympic projects
Athens, 20/03/2002 (ANA)Allianz Hellas, a subsidiary of Allianz Group in Greece, on Tuesday announced the signing of an insurance contract, worth 182,680,000 euros, for a new Olympic Equestrian Center and a new Athens Horse Racing Center.
Allianz will be a leader insurer in the contract.
The company is also participating as co-insurer in two other insurance contracts, the Olympic Radio and Television Center (worth 100,000,000 euros) and the extended metro line of Attico Metro from Dafni to Elioupoli (worth 52,560,000 euros).
 UNICEF releases study on racism conducted in Greece
Athens, 20/03/2002 (ANA)Women and children often become victims of racial prejudice, UNICEF said in a press release in light of the March 21 International Day for the eradication of racial discrimination.
In its press release, UNICEF made mention of the results of the International Conference against Racism that took place last September in Durban, South Africa.
In Greece, a UNICEF commissioned study, showed that 51.7 per cent of parents declared that the presence of immigrants in Greece is a cause of concern for them, while 16.2 per cent of those that responded to the study said that they were bothered by the presence of immigrants.
Only 11.6 per cent of the respondents said that they found the new multicultural reality interesting.
Students showed less concerned as 71.8 per cent said that they had a positive opinion of foreign students, while to the contrary only 38.1 per cent of educators believe that immigrant children should enroll in just any school.
 Traffic accidents on long weekend down 45 percent, police say
Athens, 20/03/2002 (ANA)Traffic accidents over the four-day weekend marking the end of the carnival and the start of Lent were down 45 per cent relative to 2001 according to figures released by traffic police on Tuesday.
There was also a significant drop in the number of people injured (139 less than last year) and killed (22 fewer than in 2001).
Total traffic accidents between March 15-18 throughout Greece numbered 125, of which 14 were fatal, 17 resulted in serious injuries and 94 in minor injuries. Fourteen people were killed in traffic accidents during the same period, 27 sustained serious injuries and 157 sustained minor injuries.
During the same period last year there were 226 traffic accidents, of which 28 were fatal, 24 involved serious injuries and 174 involved minor injuries and in which 36 people died, 36 people were seriously injured and 287 sustained minor injuries.
Traffic police said measures to increase road safety would also be applied during the next long weekend to celebrate the 25th March national holiday.
 Clerides and Denktash continue direct talks
NICOSIA, 20/03/2002 (CNA/ANA)UN-led direct talks between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash continued here on Tuesday with a view to finding a comprehensive solution to the protracted Cyprus problem.
This was the fifth meeting of the second round of the UN-sponsored direct talks, which started in mid January.
 Kofi Annan to review progress in Cyprus talks at mid-point
NICOSIA, 20/03/2002 (CNA/ANA)UN Secretary General Kofi Annan will review progress in talks on Cyprus during the first week in April, mid-point between the start of direct talks and the June target for significant progress, a UN spokeswoman announced in New York on Tuesday.
Annan's Special Adviser on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto will go to UN headquarters to review progress, after visits to Ankara and Athens at the end of this month and while in New York he will brief the Security Council.
UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe told journalists in New York that the review will be carried out ''approximately at the mid-point between the start of direct talks between the Cypriot leaders in January and the June target for significant progress on the issue.''
Alvaro de Soto, who has been in Cyprus conducting the talks, will go to New York to review progress with Annan, after visiting Ankara on March 28 and Athens on March 29 for consultations, Okabe said.
''While he is here in New York, Mr. de Soto will brief the members of the Security Council,'' she said.
 Government welcomes support for bizonal, bicommunal federation
NICOSIA, 20/03/2002 (CNA/ANA)Government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said here on Tuesday that support for a bizonal, bicommunal federal solution in Cyprus, contributes positively to the peace effort.
The spokesman expressed hope that such support, expressed through the positions of interested parties, should be accompanied by deeds to encourage the Turkish side to change its tune on Cyprus.
Papapetrou was commenting on statements by US State Department Special Coordinator for Cyprus Thomas Weston, who arrives here on Wednesday for meetings with President Glafcos Clerides, Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and UN Secretary General's Special Adviser for Cyprus Alvaro de Soto, in whose presence the UN-led direct talks are taking place.
Weston reiterated Washington's backing for a bizonal, bicommunal federation, a solution, which Denktash does not favor, in spite of the fact that he agreed to it in the 1970s.
''I would like to hope that this kind of statement will be accompanied by such moves that would make the Turkish side finally decide to accept the compromise the two sides have reached, as this is set out in the High Level Agreements of 1977 and 1979,'' Papapetrou said.
 Majority of Cypriots support the island's accession to the EU
BRUSSELS, 20/03/2002 (CNA/ANA)The majority of the people of Cyprus support accession of their country to the European Union while only one in four are against.
According to an opinion poll carried out on behalf of the European Commission in all candidate countries, last October, 62% of the Cypriots would vote for entry into the EU, if there was a referendum.
The poll also showed that Cypriots trust their Parliament and government more than citizens of other candidate countries do. They also trust their political parties and public services.
The three institutions Cypriots trust more are the Army, the Church and the Police.
Results of the opinion poll were released in Brussels on Monday and apart from the question whether people support accession of their country to the EU there were also many other questions about the way of life in candidate countries, their expectations and their concerns.
The opinion poll showed that 62% of the Cypriots opted for accession, 25% were against, 11% did not answer while 2% abstained. Abstentions carried the lowest percentage in all 13 candidate countries.
The most ardent supporters of entry of their country into the EU were the citizens of the poorer countries like Romania with 85% for and Bulgaria with 80%. Turks were in fourth position with 68%.
People of the three Baltic countries, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia as well as the Maltese were the lesser supporters with percentages ranging from 38 to 50.
Replying to another question 45% of the Cypriots said they would benefit personally from accession, while 39% expressed the opposite view.
Turks look forward to accession for the improvement of their every day life and they showed it by voting for it by 58%.
Cypriots appear in general to be among the most satisfied persons from their every day life and only 23% state that they are not satisfied with their life.
A 78% of Cypriots said they are well satisfied or very satisfied. In Bulgaria and Turkey 67% and 63% respectively said that they are not satisfied with their life, while in Slovenia only 14% are not satisfied.
Cyprus has the greatest percentage (49%) among all candidate countries, of people who think that their life has improved since the last five years. The answers of Cypriots regarding trust of politicians and institutions are of special interest. 71% said they trust the House of Representatives and 65% trust the government. These are the highest percentages among candidate countries.
Cypriots come second in their trust of political parties with 29% with the Maltese in the first place with 31%.
50% of Cypriots have confidence in public services, the highest percentage among all candidate countries, while they appear to have complete trust in the Army (86%), the Church (80%) and the Police(66%).
Cypriots are concerned that after their entry to the EU there may be an increase in crime (79%), they may lose their language (60%) and their national identity and heritage (59%).
 FM to participate in conference on EU enlargement
NICOSIA, 20/03/2002 (CNA/ANA)Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides leaves for Bulgaria on Wednesday to participate in a conference on ''Enlarging the European Union'', organized from Wednesday to Thursday by Wilton Park, an executive agency of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Kasoulides will address the conference on Thursday on the prospects for enlarging the EU in the Mediterranean.
Adviser to Britain's Prime Minister Roger Liddell will address the conference on ''Prospects for enlarging the EU: A member state perspective'' and Director at the Directorate for enlargement of the EU Commission Michael Leigh will speak on ''The EU and its enlargement: The progress to date''.
Turkey's Head of Department on European Union Affairs at the Foreign Ministry Reha Keskintepe will speak on ''Prospects for Turkey's Accession to the EU.''
Bulgaria's Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi and Greece's Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Giannitsis will also address the meeting.
Kasoulides returns home on Thursday.
 US Ambassador: we concentrate on June for a comprehensive solution
NICOSIA, 20/03/2002 (CNA/ANA)The US concentrate on June, the time framework chosen by Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Dentkash to get a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus question, US Ambassador Donald Bandler said here on Tuesday.
''We think that was a well chosen time framework and that is what we would like to see happen, that is what we are concentrating on'', Bandler told the press after a meeting with President Clerides.
''I had a good meeting with the President today, it was a very useful discussion and we covered the Cyprus problem and other things''.
Asked whether he is optimistic or pessimistic about the outcome of the ongoing direct talks, Bandler said that the basic point is ''what we have to do today to get there'', adding that ''as a diplomat you have to have a vision and a goal of what you want to achieve.''