|Tuesday, 15 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 02-03-21
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 21, 2002
 Inter-ministerial meeting on 2004 Games held prior to April IOC visit
Athens, 21/03/2002 (ANA)The latest inter-ministerial meeting focusing on preparations for the 2004 Olympics concluded here on Wednesday, roughly two weeks before another high-ranking International Olympic Committee (IOC) delegation arrives in Athens to gauge progress.
The meeting – chaired by Prime Minister Costas Simitis -- focused on relevant ministries’ responsibility vis-a-vis a variety of on going 2004-related projects as well as the all-important issue of security for the Games.
According to reports, Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou expressed concern over certain projects overseen by her ministry, particularly delayed road works leading to Olympic venues. Sources said Papandreou also called for necessary funding for projects in order for them to be completed on time. Conversely, she noted that work on the venue sites is proceeding as planned, cautioning however, that no delays are possible.
Deputy Press Minister Telemahos Chytiris, meanwhile, said the inter-ministerial meeting covered a series of issues brought up in recent months by IOC vice-president Denis Oswald – who also serves as the head of a commission supervising progress for the Athens Games – including rolling stock for a planned suburban rail line, a tram network in southern Athens, traffic studies as well as the Olympic hospitality program.
Chytiris said lodgings in private homes and rooms will be considered for the 80,000 to 150,000 spectators that Athens 2004 organizers (ATHOC) expect for the Games on a daily basis. He added that a new unified agency will be created to survey and inspect such accommodations prior to the 2004 Games.
PM discusses 2004 Olympiad programs with ATHOC president: Prime Minister Costas Simitis received Athens 2004 Organizing Committee (ATHOC) President Gianna Angelopoulos Daskalaki on Wednesday, immediately after an Interministerial Committee meeting, who briefed him on the course of Athens 2004 Olympiad programs and meetings she had recently with local and overseas officials.
Daskalaki also briefed Simitis on the program of the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) delegation, which will be in Athens on April 3-5, which includes an inspection of all sectors of preparation.
On its part, the Interministerial Committee examined all pending issues and problems concerning the preparation of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos said ''15 days before the IOC's arrival, we examined all the issues concerning the preparation of the Olympic Games and we are ready to present a clear and tangible progress, 30 workshops and another 10 contractors. We are in full control of the situation, we are resolving all problems and now we shall begin to preoccupy ourselves with the intangible programs since constructions are on their way.''
Referring to the meeting chaired by Simitis earlier, with the participation of himself and the transport, development, public order and public works ministers, as well as the deputy press minister, Venizelos said ''the meeting concerned projects of governmental responsibility related to the Olympic projects, while a discussion was also held on the issue of the Games' security.''
 Greek Parliament ratifies Nice Treaty
Athens, 21/03/2002 (ANA)Greece's 300-member Parliament on Wednesday overwhelmingly ratified the Nice Treaty, which among others, outlines conditions for the European Union's upcoming expansion.
Two hundred and fifty-three deputies from ruling PASOK and the main opposition New Democracy party voted in favor of the treaty, whereas the Communist Party of Greece's MPs voted against. Deputies belonging to the Coalition of the Left simply voted present.
Closing out deliberations before the vote, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said the Nice Treaty was not a "major step, but a step forward."
Deflecting criticism from the main opposition party, Papandreou called on ND not to "misinform" the Greek people, as he said, because "there's no issue of protection for Greece's borders by the European Union being tabled at the moment".
He emphasized that the country's defense and the protection of its sovereignty depends on "our own means".
"The substantial issue that exists is institutional, and deals with relations between the European Union and NATO; it is not a Greek-Turkish issue and its resolution must be based on the principles of safeguarding peace in the region and good neighborly relations," Papandreou said.
On his part, honorary ND president and former premier Constantine Mitsotakis called on the government to "observe its commitment vis-a-vis the Greek people and not retreat on the issue of the 'Euro-Army', no matter what pressures it may face".
He also criticized the government and the prime minister personally over what he termed "negligence" on the issue, charging that they failed to take steps in the face of the so-called "Istanbul text", an Anglo-American compromise with non-EU member Turkey over the "Euro-Army's" scope and jurisdiction.
Former PASOK minister Yiannis Kapsis, meanwhile, proposed a general referendum on the Nice Treaty, before casting his vote in favor due to Cyprus' inclusion in a group of EU candidate-states expected to participate in the next wave of expansion.
 Defense minister says Greece will stand firm regarding EU army
Athens, 21/03/2002 (ANA)Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou on Wednesday said that Athens will steadfastly support its positions on relations between the European Union and NATO with respect to the European Army during a meeting of EU defense ministers in Saragosa on Friday and Saturday.
While in Saragosa, Papantoniou will discuss the issue with his Spanish counterpart and with EU Foreign and Security Policy chief Javier Solana.
Greece considers the Euro-army to be an issue for the EU and NATO not an issue concerning Greece and Turkey, Papantoniou said, while Athens would not allow dysfunctions within NATO to be passed on to the EU, especially by a country that was not an EU member.
Athens was also against consultation mechanisms between the EU and NATO, especially when the Alliance did not participate in the exercises and operations of the EU army, since this would make the EU just a section of NATO.
Regarding dialogue on the level of Greek and Turkish foreign ministry officials, Papantoniou said that it was positive for there to be dialogue with Turkey and stressed that this did not involve negotiation of sovereign rights.
The defense minister also announced that a meeting of the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA) on a strategic defense review would take place on March 29 with Prime Minister Costas Simitis in the chair.
Papantoniou is also due to depart on an official visit to the United Kingdom on May 9, to discuss bilateral defense relations.
The minister denied that the British side had been dissatisfied with a recent KYSEA decision to purchase new tanks for the Greek army from a German firm
 Gov’t begins to brief opposition on social security reforms; reacts to critics
Athens, 21/03/2002 (ANA)Labor Minister Dimitris Reppas on Wednesday met Coalition of the Left and Progress leader Nikos Constantopoulos to outline the government's proposals for reforming the social insurance system, beginning a series of government contacts with opposition parties on this issue.
Emerging from the meeting, Reppas said the government's aim was a social security system that was both financially viable and socially sensitive.
The minister noted that achieving substantial and stable reforms in social insurance was a major undertaking for society, requiring dialogue and a quest for consensus.
He said the Coalition party's proposals had been interesting and their suggestions and approaches would be used where possible.
Constantopoulos, however, rejected the government's measures and said they could not form the basis for the progressive reforms sought by trade unions and the Left.
He particularly stressed three-way funding (workers, employers and government) for the social security system and called for ''progressive tax reforms'' to raise additional funds.
A policy of redistributing spending within the system just simply wouldn't cut it, Constantopoulos emphasized.
The Coalition leader also noted that previous reforms suggested by former labor minister Tassos Giannitsis and the laws passed by New Democracy in 1990-1993 on the issue had been vociferously rejected by society and that it would be wrong to attempt to bring these back through the back door.
Earlier on Wednesday, meanwhile, former prime minister and honorary ND president Constantine Mitsotakis said the government's attempt to take the ''soft option'' in reforming the social insurance system was doomed to failure and would simply make the inevitable true reforms that would have to follow that much harder.
Mitsotakis said the government's approach of first deciding what to do and then deciding how to pay for it smacked of irresponsibility, while he dismissed talk of a government ''dowry'' to the social insurance system as sheer nonsense, pointing out that the government's debt to state insurance funds was now just shy of two trillion drachmas (5.89 billion euros) and rising.
ND's stance as expressed by George Souflias was the correct position on the issue and the party would only accept dialogue if the government was prepared to talk seriously, he concluded.
Responding to Mitsotakis' statements, government spokesman Christos Protopapas said that the main opposition did not want a fair and viable solution to the social insurance issue, either because it needed grist for its populist mill or because it wanted a return to the ''doomed'' measures of 1990-1993.
Regarding the proposals made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which called for rapid and deep reforms to the pension system, the spokesman said that every international organization was entitled to put forward its proposals but it was the government's inalienable right to make the final choice.
 Greek FM delegation meets with Clerides
NICOSIA, 21/03/2002 (ANA)Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides received a nine-member delegation from Greece’s foreign ministry here on Wednesday morning.
No statements were issued following the one-hour meeting.
As expected, the Greek delegation's contacts on the island republic will focus mainly on Cyprus' EU accession course, whereas a meeting with the president of the Cyprus' House of Representatives, Demetris Christofias, is also planned.
Amb. George Savvaidis heads the foreign ministry delegation.
 Turkish PM says Ankara briefed Cheney on Cyprus
ISTANBUL, 21/03/2002 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said on Wednesday that Ankara briefed U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney on developments on the Cyprus issue and Greek-Turkish relations.
Speaking to the NTV television network, Ecevit said ''we explained to Mr. Cheney that the reality in Cyprus should be accepted to enable a solution satisfying both sides on the island.''
Ecevit said he reiterated to Cheney the positions concerning ''the existence of two independent states and two different peoples in Cyprus.''
He also told Cheney that the European Union should not get involved in the Cyprus issue and that the Greek Cypriot side has no reason to pursue some solution for as long as it is certain of its accession to the EU.
Ecevit further said that Cheney ''listened without making any comment.''
Referring to Greek-Turkish relations, Ecevit said that thanks to mutual trust between Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and his Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem dialogue has begun.
Ecevit claimed that Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis ''did not want to hear the word 'dialogue' until recently.''
The beginning of Greek-Turkish dialogue, as well as the dialogue between the two sides in Cyprus constitute an ''encouraging message'', Ecevit said and added that time is still needed to "resolve Greek-Turkish problems".
 Karamanlis congratulations to Portugal's Durao Barroso
Athens, 21/03/2002 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday sent congratulations to the winner of recent elections in Portugal, Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, the head of the center-right Social Democrats (PSD).
According to a ND press release, Karamanlis noted that the PSD's election success is yet another indication that European citizens "demand more and quicker structural changes in the European Union."
"That is why your victory marks a significant event, not only for the future of Portugal, but for our common European future," the ND leader's message reads.
 Extraterritoriality convention ratification by Greek Parliament postponed
Athens, 21/03/2002 (ANA)The Greek Parliament's national defense and foreign policy committee on Wednesday decided to propose to the plenum the postponement of the ratification of the European convention on judicial extraterritoriality for countries.
Ruling PASOK and main opposition New Democracy (ND) backed the postponement, while the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) disagreed with the decision.
Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Giannitsis, who was present during the committee's debate, said that there is need for further thought and discussion of the convention's articles, as only eight of the 43 Council of Europe member-states have ratified the convention.
The ratification of the convention would have facilitated civil action by Greeks against Germany for reparations based on Nazi wartime atrocities.
 European Commission ratifies employee protection plan
BRUSSELS, 21/03/2002 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)The European Commission ratified a draft legislation plan on Wednesday, presented by Social Affairs Commissioner Anna Diamanto-poulou, which is aimed at providing a minimum level of protection for people employed through, primarily private, companies (agencies) responsible for finding temporary employment.
The draft directive raises the general principle of forbidding discriminations through a temporary employment company, including remuneration.
 Gov't comments on Kokkalis charges, ND reaction
Athens, 21/03/2002 (ANA)The government on Wednesday laconically dismissed and countered a stinging attack by New Democracy a day earlier, following a high-profile fray between telecoms magnate Socrates Kokkalis, the founder of the Intracom group, and the main opposition party.
Speaking at an Intracom shareholders' general assembly on Tuesday, Kokkalis charged that specific media groups - one of which he claimed is a major ND backer -- are behind an extended smear campaign against his companies' activities and against himself personally.
"The government is neither identified with, nor does it hound businessmen," spokesman Christos Protopapas said during his regular press briefing on Wednesday, before he also called ND's reaction to Kokkalis' comments "unprecedented" in haste.
"I leave that to your judgment," he said in reference to the Intracom chairman's charges as well as to the rebuff by the main opposition's spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos.
Kokkalis' criticism of ND resulted in an immediate reply from Roussopoulos, with a relevant press release issued early Tuesday afternoon.
"New Democracy has stated that it does not personalize issues. It is interested in rules and principles. However, today (Tuesday) the president of Intracom referred to the main opposition. Regarding those (statements), we would like to point out:
"As far as Mr. Kokkalis' personal track record is concerned we have nothing to say, justice is already dealing with this. Regarding the others, it is particularly revealing that Mr. Kokkalis' claims completely concur with what the Simitis-Laliotis government says on occasion," Roussopoulos said.
Kokkalis counter attack: Kokkalis hit back on Tuesday at critics of both his companies - the largest IT and telecoms group in SE Europe - and himself personally, all but naming the owner of the Athens daily "Kathimerini", shipping entrepreneur Aristides Alafouzos, as attempting to undermine Intracom's activities.
Kokkalis 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 the New Democracy party,'' he charged.
Additionally, he urged for a simultaneous opening of all bank accounts, both his and of the Liberian offshore company's, the Mayo Corp.
Finally, he 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 noted that he and the Intracom group have been the target of more than 20 criminal prosecutions so far, all of which have officially fizzled out in the courts.
An Athens first instance prosecutor in late February filed felony espionage charges, among others, against Kokkalis, one of the most influential businessmen in SE Europe.
The indictments, including felony charges of fraud, embezzlement, money laundering as well as two counts of misdemeanor bribery, followed an 11-month judicial investigation initially spurred by allegations from main opposition New Democracy deputy Panos Kammenos, who claimed that Kokkalis served for the former East German intelligence agency, better known as "Stasi".
The same prosecutor, Dimitris Papaggelopou-los, also investigated the Intracom group's involvement with a project to launch a lottery in Russia, an issue that has repeatedly been the focus of several articles by "Kathimerini".
Both investigation files were forwarded to an investigating magistrate, the next step under Greece's criminal justice process.
According to evidence listed in the indictments, and reportedly based on information gleaned from Stasi's files, Kokkalis was recruited by the East German agency to commit industrial and hi-tech espionage for the one-time Soviet bloc under the guise of normal trade and business activities.
Another charge is that Kokkalis bribed members of the Russian National Olympic Committee in order to win the tender for the Russian "Lotto".
 Foreign ministry presents three-volume publication on Marshall Plan
Athens, 21/03/2002 (ANA)The three-volume publication by the foreign ministry entitled ''Greece at the cutting edge of a new world, Cold War -Truman Doctrine - Marshall Plan, through diplomatic and historic documents, 1943-1951'', was presented at the foreign ministry's ''Yiannos Kranidiotis'' amphitheatre on Wednesday, in the presence of President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos.
Foreign Minister George Papandreou, U.S. Ambassador to Athens Thomas Miller, the General Director of the Greek Foundation on Defense and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP), Prof. Theodoros Couloumbis and the head of the Diplomatic and Historic Archives Department, Fotini Tomai-Konstantopoulou, presented the publication.
The publication refers to the efforts of the whole of Europe and Greece to recover from World War Two through the help of the European Reconstruction Plan, known as the Marshall Plan.
The second and third volumes of the publication, which contain 188 diplomatic and historic documents on the 1943-51 period, describe the Greek requests in the 1943-46 period for the supply of military equipment, food and other urgent economic needs as well as to the reactions in 1947 in Greece and Europe to the announcement of the Truman Doctrine and to Marshall's speech on the reconstruction of Europe, and to Russia's stance.
Referring to the publication, Foreign Minister George Papandreou said that ''the Marshall Plan and its importance is imprinted in the conscience of the international community until today.'' He explained that ''a few years ago we spoke of a Marshall Plan for the Balkans as we are doing today of a possible Marshall Plan for the Middle East. At the same time what comes to mind is that through the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine, Europe was divided in two and the Cold War started.''
Papandreou said that ''we are rid of the Cold War logic and now have unprecedented challenges to face through the globalization of the economy, the strength of the mass media, the society of informatics, the new technologies. And for all these we aim at a new cooperation and relation with the United States as well.''
He added that ''we have shaped this new relation,'' expressing his satisfaction for Ambassador Miller's presence at the event.
''We are at a period of great decisions and new challenges, among these being a new phenomenon, such as terrorism, which threatens to undermine democratic institutions. Greece was always a country which attempted to overcome divisions either in Europe, the Balkans or the Middle East, a country which views itself as a bridge and crossroad of dialogue among cultures,'' the minister said.
Ambassador Miller described the three-volume publication as a great opportunity, expressing his gratitude to the Greek government and the foreign ministry, as well as his congratulations to the group of scientists for the hard work needed for the publication.
He added that following the terrorist attack in the U.S. on September 11 last year, ''we asked our allies to stand by our side and I feel great honor and satisfaction that Greece stood by our side.'' Furthermore, the ambassador said that ''the present alliance between the two countries is an alliance between equals.''
 Deputy FM to visit Canada, U.S. in light of March 25 Independence Day events
Athens, 21/03/2002 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Magriotis will depart for Canada and the United States of America on Thursday to participate in celebrations of Greece's March 25 independence day, organized by Greek expatriate communities.
During his stay in North America, Magriotis will deliver a lecture entitled ''Modern Greece in International Context'' at the University of York.
He will also hold talks at the U.S. State Department, during his visit to Washington D.C., while in Canada he will meet with government officials.
 Afghan gov't vice-chairwoman to hold conference in Athens
Athens, 21/03/2002 (ANA)The Vice-Chairwoman of the Afghan government and Minister of Women's Affairs Sima Samar will hold a press conference in Athens' Zappeion Hall on Friday, where she will be presenting political and social developments in Afghanistan.
The event is organized by Greece's General Secretary on Gender Equality Issues Efi Bekou, WINPEACE Greek-Turkish peace initiative coordinator Margaret Papandreou, U.N. High Commission on Refugees representative in Greece Flor Rojas Rodriguez and Greek Eurodeputy Anna Karamanou, who currently presides over the European Parliament's women's rights and equal opportunities committee and the Women's Political Association.
 Piraeus Bank officially acquires 57.8 pct stake in ETBAbank
Athens, 21/03/2002 (ANA)Piraeus Bank officially acquired 57.8 percent of ETBAbank's equity capital with the signing of a final agreement with the Greek state, worth 510 million euros (173.8 billion drachmas).
The transfer of a total of 100 million stock shares are expected to be completed on Thursday in the Athens Stock Exchange.
Under the deal, Piraeus Bank will pay in cash 125 billion drachmas with the remaining 48.8 billion to be paid in two equal tranches over the next year. After the sale, the Greek state will own 7.8 percent of ETBAbank's equity capital, Agricultural Bank Group will have a 10.5 percent stake and the remaining 23.9 percent of ETBAbank's equity will remain distributed to the public.
The agreement was signed in the presence of the two banks' boards, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis and Develop-ment Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos.
Speaking during the signing ceremony, Christodoulakis said ''it was an historic day for ETBAbank'' and underlined that the privatization of the bank was part of a wider government strategy to reduce its participation in the country's banking system. Commenting on a recent fraud scandal in the bank, Christodoulakis said the fact ''was showing the need to enhance transparency and inspection procedures to prevent the creation of conditions to commit such actions.''
Tsohatzopoulos said that ETBAbank's staff expertise was offering a comparative advantage to the bank and referred to a general convergence procedure that banks and Greek enterprises should adopt in the next decade.
The final deal envisages two modifications from the initial agreement: first that the sale of ETBAbank is disconnected from the sale of Skaramanga Shipyards, offering a six-month deadline for completing the sale of the shipyards. If the sale could not be completed within the deadline then the state could decide to transfer Skaramanga Shipyards to a public sector enterprise, or to a third party, fully taking over all equity and credit risks.
The deal also envisages ways to cover an 11.4 billion drachmas loss incurred from a fraud scandal in ETBA Finance, a subsidiary of the bank. A large part of the money lost would be covered by the accused people in the case, with the remaining part to be covered 50-50 by the Greek state and ETBAbank.
Piraeus Bank's chairman, Mihalis Sallas, said the biggest benefit from the merger of the two banks and their main subsidiaries (Leasing, Asset Management) would be maximizing revenues and minimizing expenses. Sallas said the bank expected to create value of 60 million euros from the merger in the next three years.
Piraeus Bank Group is also raising significantly its market shares in banking services (10 percent in lending and 9.5 percent assets), based on December 2001 figures, and will take a leading position in the domestic leasing market to 20 percent and the asset management market to 18.6 percent.
Sallas said that following completion of the merger deal, ETBAbank will become a medium for Piraeus Bank Group to pursue a profitable regional growth policy.
 PM and National Bank governor discuss banking issues
Athens, 21/03/2002 (ANA)During a meeting on Wednesday morning with Prime Minister Costas Simitis, National Bank of Greece governor and banking union president Theodoros Karatzas presented figures showing that Greek banks were not in too much debt, government spokesman Christos Protopapas said on Wednesday.
He stressed that the meeting had focused on banking issues and had not been about Karatzas' possible successor at the National Bank.
''The prime minister has repeatedly stressed that we must allow businesses to operate with their own procedures,'' Protopapas added.
 Development cooperation policy inspection completed by OECD
Athens, 21/03/2002 (ANA)The inspection of development cooperation policy applied by Greece has been completed at the OECD's headquarters in Paris. The inspection was conducted by the plenum of OECD's relevant committee in which the 22 developed countries (the 15 EU countries, another seven developed countries and the European Commission) are participating.
The OECD's Development Aid Committee (DAC) is an international institution and a dialogue forum for modern-day issues and policy problems in the development aid sector where donor countries exchange policy experiences on a more effective way of providing aid and supporting developing countries to combat global poverty and sustainable development.
The inspection process began about two years ago, immediately after Greece's successful accession to this group of countries.
The Committee ascertained Greece's considerable presence in the Balkans and acknowledged its comparative advantage in the region with the impressive activation of many Greek agencies.
Over the 1999-2000 period Greece provided about 180 million dollars for the bilateral development aid program, while the total amount of bilateral and multipartite aid reached 0.2 percent of GDP (226 million dollars) in 2000 compared to 194 million dollars (0.15 percent of GDP) in 1999. The average in 2000 for DAC's 22 member-states was 0.22 percent of GDP.
The main recipients of aid over this two-year period were Yugoslavia and Albania. Considerable amounts were also pro-vided for Bosnia-Herzegovina, Palestine, Armenia, Bulgaria, Romania, FYROM, Georgia and other countries.
 New legislation to assign projects to the private sector
Athens, 21/03/2002 (ANA)The Greek government has drafted a new legislation to establish the assignment of infrastructure works to the private sector, Deputy Economy and Finance Minister Christos Pahtas said on Wednesday.
The new draft bill will cover major projects, such as national roads, ports, marinas, water and drainage works, natural gas distribution, Pahtas said.
These projects would be financed by the private sector in exchange for services, toll collection, or lease agreements, he noted.
Pahtas said the state was making a benefit evaluation of a project before assigning to the private sector.
He noted that the public sector has saved a lot of money from adopting such policies on major infrastructure projects, money that would be spend in health and education.
 OTE denies reports on the sale of Globul's percentage to bankers
Athens, 21/03/2002 (ANA)The Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) on Wednesday confirmed that it was engaged in talks with third parties for the funding of the Bulgarian Globul mobile telephony subsidiary, but denied Bulgarian newspaper reports that it would sell shares of its subsidiary.
Earlier in the day, the Athens News Agency reported from Sofia that the ''Trud'' Bulgarian daily newspaper wrote that OTE was in talks with the European Restructuring and Development Bank and the Dutch AMRO bank seeking 200 million euros in funds in exchange for 34 to 51 per cent of its subsidiary Globul.
The newspaper quoted an unnamed official of Globul making statements to that effect.
In response to those reports, OTE Vice-President George Skarpelis said that ''both OTE and Globul, are in contact with (third parties) for the funding of the company's development, aiming to increase its presence in the mobile telephony market in Bulgaria''.
''As has been repeatedly said, we support the development of the Globul mobile telephony company and so the sale of a percentage of the company is not an issue,'' he added.
 Greece to face European Court for sea transport labor 'cabotage'
BRUSSELS, 21/03/2002 (ANA - V. Demiris)The European Commission decided to take Greece to the European Communities Court on charges of not fully abiding by the European Union's directives on the deregulation of sea transports in its domestic market, or the so called ''cabotage''.
The relevant directive concerns the deregulation of service providing in sea transports, for which Greece had received a greatly extended grace period, which, however, was cut short after the ''Express Samina'' shipwreck in September of 2000.
The EU directive allows to member-states to implement special regulations in some cases that are considered unusual, regarding the nationality of the crews, but the Commission charged that Greece abused that right, having used it in all cases.
Thus the Commission considered that the Greek understanding and implementation of the directive violated the principle of freedom in service providing in sea transports in domestic markets of member-states.
 Greece reports rapid progress in absorbing EU funds
Athens, 21/03/2002 (ANA)Greece has already engaged 38 percent of spending in a Third Community Support Framework program, worth 12 billion euros, Deputy Finance Minister Christos Pahtas said on Wednesday.
Pahtas noted that the implementation process was so good that the government has decided to roll ahead funds from 2005 and 2006 to the period 2002-2003, due to higher spending in road network projects and infrastructure works.
He also said that the government would spend around 13 billion drachmas in a advertising campaign to promote works funded by a Third Community Support Program, according to EU directives.
 Journalists to stage 48-hour nationwide strike on March 27-28
Athens, 21/03/2002 (ANA)All the journalist unions in the press and electronic media have declared a joint 48-hour strike next Wednesday and Thursday, demanding salary increases and institutional changes.
The strike was decided on Wednesday by the Panhellenic Federation of Greek Journalists (POESY) following a meeting it had with the coordinating committees of unions in the press and electronic media.
The meeting discussed the situation following the negative, as POESY said, stance of employers during the negotiating stage for the acceptance of the unions' demands.
Demands include an end to mass dismissals, the signing of a collective labor agreement, satisfactory salaries, better working conditions, an improvement of insurance rights and measures for a free, objective and better quality of information.
The state owned ERT and the small private channel Alter will not be participating in the strike.
 One in two CDs sold in Greece are pirate copies, EU Commission says
BRUSSELS, 21/03/2002 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)Approximately 50 per cent of CDs sold in Greece are pirate copies, European Commissioner for internal markets Frits Bolkestein said on Wednesday.
The Commissioner was responding to a question put by Greek Euro-Parliament deputy for New Democracy Stavros Xarhakos, who asked for CD piracy figures in Greece and other European Union countries.
Bolkestein said Spain, Italy, Holland and Finland were next in line for CD piracy rates at around 10-25 per cent, while the pirate CD trade in the rest of the EU was less than 10 per cent.
According to an announcement by ND's MEP in Brussels, the European Commission estimates lost revenues from CD piracy and illegal copying to EU countries to be around 400-800 million euros, while lost revenues worldwide in 1997 were estimated to have been 200-300 billion euros, representing 5-7 per cent of world trade and about 200,000 lost jobs.
The ND announcement also said that the European Commission was particularly concerned about the large scale of the pirate CD trade in Greece and was working with the Greek financial crimes squad and the music industry to collect information on its extent.
 Greek stocks continue moving lower
Athens, 21/03/2002 (ANA)Equity prices ended Wednesday's session lower hit by a persistent lack of fresh incentives and very low liquidity in the Athens Stock Exchange.
The general index fell 0.65 percent to 2,342.64 points, with turnover an extremely low 81.5 million euros.
The Insurance, IT Solutions, Investment and Retail sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses (2.87 percent, 1.52 percent, 1.35 percent and 1.28 percent, respectively).
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks ended 0.74 percent lower, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index eased 1.16 percent and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index ended 1.0 percent lower.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 280 to 48 with another 30 issues unchanged.
The most heavily traded shares were Hellenic Telecoms, Galaxidi, Informer, National Bank, Commercial Bank of Greece and Domiki Kritis.
Equity index futures finish lower: Equity index futures on the Athens Derivatives Exchange finished lower on Wednesday, traders said.
Turnover was 46.5 million euros.
The underlying FTSE/ASE-20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips dropped by 0.74 percent; and the underlying FTSE/ASE-40 for medium capitalization stocks dropped by 1.16 percent.
Bond prices rise in heavy trade: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market on Wednesday finished higher in heavy trade focusing on three-year paper.
The Greek benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 5.52 percent, and the spread over the corresponding German bund was 31 basis points.
Turnover through the central bank's electronic system totalled 2.1 billion euros.
Buy orders accounted over half of turnover.
 Greece gives guarantees of doping-free Olympic Games
Athens, 21/03/2002 (ANA)Sports secretary general Nikos Exarchos, speaking at a conference on doping in Brussels on Wednesday, guaranteed that Greece will organize doping-free Olympic Games in 2004.
The conference was attended by all European Union member-states, while the main topic of discussion was the EU and Olympic Movement's draft proclamation on the struggle against doping in sports.
Exarchos, who represented Deputy Sports Minister Yiannis Kourakis, said ''the European Union's Greek presidency in the first half of 2003 will make every possible effort at all levels to enable the results of actions against doping to be promoted at the world conference WADA will be organizing in 2003 on this major problem. In this way, Greece will be able to guarantee that the international community will enjoy doping-free Olympic Games in Athens in 2004.''
 FM Kasoulides calls on Annan to assess the behavior of two sides
LARNACA, 21/03/2002 (CNA/ANA)Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides has urged the UN Secretary General to take seriously into consideration the behavior of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides at the negotiating table, before he takes his next step.
He said Annan's statement on the direct talks, that started here mid January, was an encouragement to both sides to make some headway in the negotiations in the remaining two or three meetings before the UN chief is briefed in early April by his Special Adviser Alvaro de Soto, who conducts the talks.
''We hope that the UN Secretary General, in any future intervention, will take seriously into consideration the attitude of each side at the talks and will not act in the way he did in September 2000, bribing the side that causes difficulties at the expense of the side that does its job,'' Kasoulides said on his way to Sofia, to participate in a conference on European Union enlargement, organized by the British Foreign Office.
In September 2000, Annan issued a statement which caused the Greek Cypriot side to seek clarifications that it meant neither de-recognition of the Republic of Cyprus nor recognition of the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime in Turkish occupied Cyprus. The UN gave such assurances to Nicosia.
Invited to comment on Annan's statement, issued Tuesday, the minister said ''it is obvious that the UN are very serious with this round of negotiations and believe they have an obligation to apply all their weight in order to see some outcome from these talks.''
He said the statement is ''an indication that Annan wishes to encourage the two sides to do something at their next couple of meetings before Alvaro de Soto briefs him in early April.''
Annan said Tuesday he would review progress in the Cyprus talks in the first week of April, approximately at mid point between the start of the direct talks between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides and the target of June.
On de Soto's consultations in Ankara and Athens, prior to his return to the UN seat, Kasoulides noted that ''there are some keys, especially in Ankara, which are still not in place to unlock certain doors.''
''We participate in these talks in a constructive spirit and with political will to find a settlement, if there is no progress, the responsibility must be sought elsewhere,'' he said.
Replying to questions, he said June remains a landmark timetable for Cyprus and pointed out that this is the first time that peace negotiations have a window of opportunity, which is closing. ''We should reasonably expect results by June,'' he said.
Commenting on a visit here today by US State Department Special Coordinator Thomas Weston, Kasoulides said once he is briefed by de Soto and the two sides about the state of the negotiations, he should direct his attention to the Turkish side, if he wishes to see progress towards a settlement.
Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash started direct talks, under UN auspices, on January 16 this year in Nicosia with a view to negotiate until a comprehensive settlement is reached.
There is a news blackout on the talks but judging by public statements Denktash has made over the past couple of months, it seems unlikely that any real progress has been made so far.
The minister returns home Thursday.
 US official says current period very propitious for Cyprus
LARNACA, 21/03/2002 (CNA/ANA)Face-to-face talks on the Cyprus problem are positive in themselves, according to a US official, who arrived in Cyprus on Wednesday at this ''very propitious time'', adding his country would materialize its support to the talks in any way the parties asked for.
Speaking at Larnaca Airport, State Department Special Coordinator for Cyprus Thomas Weston said he was ''coming at a time when we are finishing up the second round of these talks and looking towards considering what is going on in the Security Council again, so this is a very propitious time to hear from both of the leaders their views of what is going on''.
Direct talks between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash began on January 16, in the presence of the UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, with a view to solve the problem of Cyprus, divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
''I am here very much in a listening mode but also in a mode to do whatever we can to support the process, in particular to support the Secretary General and Alvaro de Soto in this process'', he said.
Asked how the US would materialize this support, Weston said ''basically in any way they ask us to support them''.
Weston added that ''the talks themselves, the fact that they have taken place for this long with the two leaders, is a positive sign''.
''I cannot say that they appear to be moving with the needed urgency, which the Security Council asked for in its last statement, to permit an agreement'', he noted, adding that the Security Council believes an agreement ''is feasible by June''.
 Cyprus passports source of friction in occupied areas
NICOSIA, 21/03/2002 (CNA/ ANA)Turkish Cypriot organizations have protested against the introduction of a ''bill'' which makes it illegal for Turkish Cypriots to possess passports of the Republic of Cyprus and punishes the owners with two years imprisonment or heavy fine.
In their protest letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan which they sent by e-mail the partnership of 41 democratic establishments which call themselves ''This country is ours Platform'' state that the ''bill'' which aims to ''liquidate the Turkish Cypriot community threatens our international identity, human rights, and the rights acquired in the negotiations of the 1960 Agreements for the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus''.
They also declare their intention to lodge their complaint in every international institution, including the European Court of Human Rights.