|Wednesday, 16 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 02-03-22
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 22, 2002
 EU Commissioner warns that Cyprus solution independent of island republic's membership
Athens, 22/03/2002 (ANA)EU Commissioner for enlargement Guenter Verheugen reiterated here on Thursday before a Greek Parliament committee that regardless of talks over a possible solution to the Cyprus problem, the Union’s timetable for expansion “cannot change”.
He also emphasized that efforts for a political solution to the long-standing division on the island republic will remain under the United Nations’ auspices, and not the EU’s.
Cyprus is among the front-runners to join the EU in the upcoming wave of expansion despite the fact that roughly one-third of the island republic’s territory is occupied by Turkish forces.
“It must be made clear that the result of this solution must be Cyprus’ one and only international entity ... We want a sovereign Cyprus that has a voice in European organs,” he told members of Parliament’s standing foreign relations committee, before adding that any agreement over the Cyprus issue “should agree with Europe's acquis communautaire.”
Regarding his last visit to the east Mediterranean island, the EU Commissioner said both Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash told him that they will attempt to iron out an agreement until the end of June. Verheugen, nevertheless, noted that the key to the resolution does not lie in Denktash’s hands, “but in Ankara’s”.
Touching on his contacts with the Turkish leadership three weeks ago in Ankara, he cited two phrases distinctly not uttered this time around by his Turkish interlocutors, namely, that Turkey will annex the northern part of Cyprus it occupies if the island accedes to the EU without a prior political solution; or, a demand that Turkey’s accession talks promptly commence in exchange for a Cyprus solution.
Asked by a ruling PASOK deputy about recent threats aired in Ankara and relevant statements by Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, Verheugen said:
"We've shown that these threats don't impress us, while Turkey knows that they harm it ... A possible threat, following Cyprus' accession, will cancel out its (Turkey) own accession course," he stressed, clarifying that Ecevit's comments comprise the Turkish premier's own views and that an "intense and open" discussion on the matter is currently taking place for the first time in the neighboring country.
Furthermore, Verheugen called on the Greek Cypriot side to continue what he termed its "productive and wise" stance and to show patience and flexibility, without however, "abandoning negotiations at any costs".
In terms of more general EU matters, the EU Commissioner praised the ratification of the Nice Treaty by the Greek Parliament this week, while saying he expects accession agreements by 10 candidate-states to be signed during the Greek presidency in the first half of 2003.
"He reiterated that the EU's target is for new member-states to be ready to participate in 2004's Euro-elections.
Additionally, in response to other deputies' questions, the EU Commissioner said economic results from EU expansion will be positive for all member-states, even of as he warned, they will not be equally allocated.
He also stated that there would not be negative repercussions for Greece's farm sector stemming from the Union's enlargement.
Verheugen is set to meet with Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Friday.
Verheugen-Papandreou meeting: Meanwhile, the timetable for EU expansion and cooperation with the Commission in the run up to Greece's presidency in the first half of 2003 dominated a later meeting Verheugen had with Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou.
Afterwards, Papandreou thanked the EU Commissioner for what he called his "devotion to European principles regarding enlargement, the acquis communautaire and implementation of Helsinki agreements regarding Cyprus."
On his part, the EU Commissioner referred to a sincere exchange of views with the Greek FM.
Moreover, the German EU Commissioner said he queried the Greek side if it is ready to host an accession signing ceremony at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens, something that will lead to the accession treaty being named the "Treaty of Athens" - possibly at the end of March or early April 2003.
Answering a question regarding EU-Turkey relations, Papandreou emphasized that both Athens and the Union have backed Ankara's accession course, before noting that certain conditions by the Turkish side must be met, including its obligation to support efforts under the UN's auspices for a "just and viable solution to the Cyprus problem".
On his part, Verheugen said:
"I will repeat what I told the Turks during my recent visit to Turkey, that certain political criteria have been instituted that must be fulfilled by Turkey in order for EU accession negotiations to begin. Until now that has not occurred ... of course, progress has been achieved, and I am very happy for this, but deficiencies remain."
Finally, in answer to a question referring to restrictions placed on the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople by the Turkish government, the EU Commissioner reminded that among the political criteria Ankara must fulfill is a respect for human rights, before stressing that respect of religious freedom is of "fundamental importance".
Verheugen says Cyprus' EU accession will benefit both the island's communities: EU Commissioner on enlargement Guenter Verheugen referred to the benefits of Cyprus' EU accession for both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities during a dinner hosted in his honor on Thursday by the European Commission delegation in Athens. He said that the EU would benefit from a reunited Cyprus, which will accede to the EU and live in peace and prosperity.
''This would be the best result for the security and stability of Europe, Greece, Turkey and the two communities of Cyprus,'' Verheugen said.
The commissioner said a settlement of the Cyprus issue does not constitute a prerequisite for Cyprus' accession to the EU but if the Cyprus issue is solved, the economy of the northern part of the island will develop quickly, trade will be strengthened, foreign investments will become faster and new opportunities will be given to all Cypriots.
 Conference on EU enlargement opens in Athens
Athens, 22/03/2002 (ANA)A rather positive picture on the European Union's course to integration so far, under the perspective of its further enlargement, was presented Thursday by Greece's alternate foreign minister Tassos Giannitsis.
Speaking at the opening session of a conference on EU enlargement organized in Athens by the European commission, Giannitsis said that despite all the criticism it had drawn, the Maastricht Treaty comprised an incredible step towards Europe's self-sufficiency, and he stressed the importance of the economic and monetary union framework for protection of the member states from globalization.
Giannitsis opined that the EU would face the problem of how it would function with 25 or more members after enlargement, versus the current 15, and stressed the need for institutional reform and institutional changes in tandem with enlargement. He further pointed out the need for stressing solidarity within the new European framework being formulated, and not only financial solidarity.
Speaking at the same conference, main opposition New Democracy (ND) MP Dora Bakoyianni said that enlargement would cure a historic anomaly, restoring the unity of Europe, which was divided in the Cold War.
She said that for certain countries, such as the Balkan states and Turkey, additional conditions existed for their accession -- beyond those of democracy and a market economy -- which concerned the issues of minorities, domestic order and security, and abandonment of territorial claims.
Bakoyianni said Europe's steps so far had lacked boldness regarding its evolution into a power center equivalent to the US with respect to tackling its democratic deficiency and the other critical problems it faced.
The steps taken even at the Nice conference were not bold enough, Bakoyianni said, noting that enlargement simultaneously comprised a challenge for the renewal, integration and prospect of the European Union.
Coalition of the Left and Progress (SYN) leader Nikos Constantopoulos said that the United Europe should encompass all the countries that belonged to the European area and desired to join, and called the Nice summit a failure, characterizing it as a multi-national bargaining in which the national antagonisms prevailed instead of the visionary element.
Constantopoulos stressed the importance of a smooth accession for Cyprus into the European Union, and expressed regret that enlargement did not include the Balkan countries.
He described European integration as it was being effected today as a "product dictated by above" and deplored the "imperial power" of the United States "that imposes its position instead of international law".
 PASOK Eurodeputy at Convention for Europe's future
BRUSSELS, 22/03/2002 (ANA - V. Demiris)Greek government representative and PASOK Eurodeputy George Katiforis set out Greece's main positions at the Convention for Europe's future here on Thursday. The Convention members had the opportunity of presenting their views on the future of Europe and their expectations from its meeting.
Katiforis said in his address that the Convention should agree on a text of duties of a constitutional nature, which will also be enriched, with the Fundamental Rights Charter and with which the role of institutional organs will be registered.
''We should pursue more Europe with a stronger role on the international scene, greater self-definition and greater security on external borders, as well as on the domestic front,'' he said.
Katiforis further said that the European Union's institutions should function in a way that will not divide the European citizen's political personality, who desires to participate in the EU with both the capacity of a European and his national capacity.
 FM Papandreou communicates with Palestinian leader Arafat
Athens, 22/03/2002 (ANA)Foreign Minister George Papandreou, on his own initiative, communicated by phone on Thursday with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and discussed with him the latest developments in the Middle East and on the visits he will make early in April to Egypt, Israel and Palestine.
According to diplomatic sources, the Palestinian leader briefed the Greek foreign minister on the talks he had with U.S. envoy to the region Anthony Zinni and gave him his views on the developments in the region.
The same sources said Arafat stated that he was ready to implement the truce according to the Tenet plan.
Papandreou briefed Arafat on the talks the EU heads of state and government had at the EU summit in Barcelona on the Middle East issue and on the Greek ''five points'' proposal for defusing the crisis.
 Greek Deputy FM Loverdos addresses UN conference in Mexico on poverty
MONTERREY, 22/03/2002 (ANA - E. Bou- kaouri)Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos addressed on Thursday the United Nations conference on poverty underlining the European Union's contribution to the World Development Assistance, which reached 25.4 billion dollars in 2000.
''The European Union's contribution for the year 2000 reached 25.4 billion USD, that is more than 50% of all Official Development Assistance. Furthermore, the European Union seized to-day's historic opportunity and decided, during the European Summit in Barcelona, to further increase it's annual aid volume by 7 billion USD by 2006. This is a significant step towards the 0.7% target, which strengthens our collective solidarity towards the developing countries,'' Loverdos said.
''In view of the above, Greece fully associates itself with the statement delivered by the Presidency of the European Union. Furthermore we would like to affirm our willingness to increase our Official Development Assistance from 0.2% to 0.33% of GNI until the year 2006. In the next four years, we will spare no efforts, to make substantial progress, so that collectively the European Union reaches an average of 0.39%, by the year 2006,'' the deputy minister added.
''Greece, a few years ago, was considered a developing country. Today, it is a member of the euro-zone and a donor country. Our Official Development Assistance has been raised by 300% since 1997 and our growth rate of 4% is one of the highest in Europe. We are making our first steps as a donor state, but we cherish our recent experience as a recipient country.
''Greece believes that development efforts should be based on the following seven key principles: participation, solidarity, equity, co-responsibility, foresight, ownership and partnership.
''We aspire that the International Conference on the Financing for Development, under the auspices of the Secretary General of the United Nations, could become a first step towards a new Global Deal, based on effective partnerships, aiming to promote the equitable development of our global village. In this context, we welcome all efforts to implement the conclusions of the Doha Ministerial Declaration, as well as to further enhance the HIPC initiative.
''We whole-heartedly believe that we could elaborate sustainable solutions to poverty, hunger, malnutrition that affect more than 1.2 bill people everyday on earth,'' Loverdos.
More than fifty heads of state and government and representatives from one hundred countries are gathering at Monterrey, Mexico's third largest city, to discuss the financing of aid programs to developing countries as well as the combatting of poverty.
 Greek and Spanish political directors to meet on Friday
Athens, 22/03/2002 (ANA)Foreign ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis said on Thursday foreign ministry political director Anastasios Skopelitis will be meeting his Spanish counterpart in Madrid on Friday for their first discussion on the framework of negotiatory principles presented by Prime Minister Costas Simitis in Barcelona on the issue of the so-called European army.
According to Beglitis, after the meeting is held a meeting between Foreign Minister George Papandreou and his Spanish counterpart Josep Pique and European Union Common Foreign Policy and Security Policy Commissioner Javier Solana will be decided through diplomatic channels.
He further said that the government and Papandreou have pointed out many times that the path towards the improvement of Greek-Turkish relations will not be an easy one.
Beglitis also announced that the UN secretary general's special envoy on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto will be visiting Athens on March 29 and will be meeting Papandreou.
 Pangalos predicts US attack on Iraq after Congressional elections
WASHINGTON, 22/03/2002 (ANA - T. Ellis)Greek former foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos on Thursday predicted that the US would attack Iraq later this year, most probably after the Congressional elections slated for November.
Pangalos, a high-profile MP for Greece's ruling PASOK party, was speaking at the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) in Washington, which he is visiting as part of a delegation of MPs from Western European Union (WEU) member countries.
The WEU delegation, which also includes Greek main opposition New Democracy party MP Stavros Dimas, is on a visit to the decision-making centers in the US, and has already visited the State Department, the Pentagon, Congress, and think tanks in Washington.
In an extensive reference to Iraq, Pangalos opined that the US had already decided to go ahead with a military operation against Baghdad even without the backing of the European and Arab states.
Washington, he said, wanted to create a "new Iraq" that would include autonomous regions for the Kurds in the northern sector and for the Shiites in the south. The prospect of Kurdish autonomy has caused intense concern in Turkey, which was reacting, at least for the time being, to such a prospect, he noted.
Pangalos said that despite the Europeans' opposition to a US operation against Iraq, none of the European countries supported Saddam Hussein, "whom I personally but also all the European leaders consider a tyrant" and desired his disappearance.
The former foreign minister further criticized the Bush government over its inability to comprehend the prospects opening up by the changes taking place in Iran.
He opined that if Teheran approached the West, the collapse of the Hussein regime in Baghdad would become much easier.
Turning to Cyprus, Pangalos said that the island republic would accede the EU by 2004, although he did not conceal his concern over the stance that would be adopted by Washington at "the critical hour". He expressed hope that in the event the political problem in Cyprus had not been solved by that time, the US would not attempt to pressure the Europeans into postponing Cyprus' accession, and for this purpose called on everyone attending his address to exert all their influence on the US government for it to actively support Cyprus' EU accession.
Replying to questions, he said there was no risk of a Turkish military attack against Cyprus because such a move would irreparably damage Turkeys European orientation.
 Government downplays Korantis report on Turkish policy
Athens, 22/03/2002 (ANA)The government distanced itself on Friday from the views expressed by Greek Ambassador to Ankara Ioannis Korantis in his report regarding Turkey's intentions and goals with respect to Greek-Turkish differences.
Government spokesman Christos Protopapas described it as ''a report by a member of the Embassy staff'' and said that reports were constantly being written by many quarters and that they often conflicted with one another.
He stressed that the final assessment of all such reports was the responsibility of the political leadership at the foreign ministry, whose job it was to formulate Athens' positions on all these issues.
Regarding the start of exploratory talks between Greece and Turkey, the spokesman said it was too soon to judge the outcome and warned against both excessive optimism and excessive pessimism.
He also said that Athens viewed the start of talks with Ankara, as well as the direct talks taking place between the Cyprus government and the Turkish-Cypriot side on the Cyprus issue, as positive steps even if they did not achieve the desired progress.
 Authorities: 8,000 citizenship requests in central Macedonia region
Athens, 22/03/2002 (ANA)Nearly 30,000 people have received information packets by the committee for repatriated individuals since it’s opening by the Central Macedonia Region authority in 2000, officials said on Thursday during a press conference in Thessaloniki.
Officials for the regional authority also said roughly 8,000 repatriated individuals have applied for Greek citizenship in that time, whereas 100-120 repatriated ethnic Greeks take the oath of citizenship on a weekly basis.
Finally, officials said a total of around 100,000 non-EU foreign migrants have applied for a residence permit (Green Card) in the central Macedonian region.
 US ambassador begins 4-day tour of Crete
Athens, 22/03/2002 (ANA)US ambassador to Athens Thomas Miller arrived in Irakleio on Thursday to begin a four-day tour of Crete at the head of a delegation of US embassy officials and American entrepreneurs.
The US envoy was greeted in Crete's largest city by local officials, while later in the afternoon he is set to visit the Crete-based Institute for Research and Technology and the company Crete Plastics.
A dinner in his honor hosted by the Irakleio Chamber of Commerce and the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce will take place later on Thursday evening.
Miller visits Rethymno on Friday and Hania on Saturday.
 Broadcasting official calls for end to Big Brother and Bar reality shows
Athens, 22/03/2002 (ANA)National Broadcasting Council (ESR) President Vassilis Lambridis called for the immediate discontinuation of the ''Big Brother 2'' and ''Bar'' reality programs in a letter addressed on Wednesday to the Antenna and Mega television channels.
However the Council will be taking its final decision in a vote to be held on Friday and after representatives of the two channels will be presenting their explanations.
Lambridis said he called on the two television channels to discontinue the specific programs for three days, as defined by the law that is as of last Wednesday.
Lambridis said that he will ''consider the possibility'' of resigning in the event his proposal is rejected and after he evaluates developments on the issue.
Government spokesman Christos Protopapas said he will be stating his views analytically and with clarity on the issue on Friday after the Council will have completed its session.
Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis said on his part that this downhill trend should stop at some point and added that businessmen controlling these media are primarily responsible.
Main opposition New Democracy party spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said ''ND, according to its steadfast tactic and respecting the status of independent administrative authorities, does not comment on their decisions.''
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said in an announcement that ''every minute programs of such a kind are on the air they poison youth in particular and create indolence in general.''
A spokesman for the Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) called for necessary control and settlements by the relevant independent authority but expressed opposition to whatever logic of interventions by prosecutors or preventive or other bans regarding the broadcasting of programs.
Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) President Dimitris Tsovolas said the call by ESR's president was bold, correct and necessary, adding that such programs harm human dignity and poison Greek society, particularly youth.
 Gov't eyes new ERT president
Athens, 22/03/2002 (ANA)Veteran journalist Angelos Stangos will reportedly be tapped as the new president of Greece's state-run broadcasting network (ERT), as he ranked first in an evaluation compiled by a relevant committee.
According to government spokesman and Mass Media Minister Christos Protopapas on Thursday, his ministry has decided to table Stangos' appointment to the National Radio-TV Council (ERS) and an overseeing Parliament committee for approval.
 ND leader and Parliament president discuss executive laws
Athens, 22/03/2002 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis raised the issue of the ratification of executive laws, after the revision of the constitution, as well as television coverage for Parliament's work, in a meeting with Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis on Thursday.
Speaking after the meeting, Karamanlis said it was the second time he was raising these issues and added that on October 10, 2001, the government had committed itself officially and publicly that the issue would be closed by the end of last year.
On his part, Kaklamanis said he will inform the government of Karamanlis's call ''to enable legislation anticipated by the new constitution to be promoted as soon as possible.''
 Archbishop Christodoulos meets with WCC's Conrad Raiser
Athens, 22/03/2002 (ANA)Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos on Thursday met with World Council of Churches Secretary General Rev. Dr. Conrad Raiser and discussed cooperation issues.
The Greek prelate termed the cooperation between the Church of Greece and the WCC ''mutually beneficial'' since, as he said, ''orthodoxy exchanges with other Christian churches and faiths views on issues of common interest and the WCC is enlarging its horizons and gets enriched by the ecumenical orthodox church''.
The Archbishop, however, underlined the Orthodox Church's ''reservations over the WCC's divergence from its initial aims and orientations and the propagation of liberal views on theological and moral issues''. He also referred to the creation of a WCC Special Committee, which studies the conditions for the Orthodox Church's future presence in the Council.
Dr. Raiser, on his part, noted the ''leading role of the Archbishop in the Greek church as well as on a European and international level''. He also spoke at length on the Special Committee's working towards finding a common language capable of expressing the common Christian tradition of the European peoples and the search for new ways of cooperation.
Dr. Raiser also referred to the possibility of organizing the WCC General Conference in 2005 in Athens.
 Palestinian women organize demonstration in Athens
Athens, 22/03/2002 (ANA)Hundreds of Palestinian women dressed in black organized a protest outside the offices of the United Nations and the European Union in Athens on Friday, accompanied by young children and women of other nationalities living in Greece.
In their resolution, the protestors asked for the public's support in their struggle for the freedom and independence of Palestine and for the intervention of the UN and EU in the Middle East.
They also stressed the suffering of the Palestinian people under Israeli rule and noted that the number deaths and level of destruction have reached unprecedented levels, affecting more and more innocent people.
 Position of women in Afghanistan discussed in Athens
Athens, 22/03/2002 (ANA)Equality general secretary Efi Bekou and the Vice-Chairwoman of the Afghan government and Minister of Women's Affairs Sima Samar discussed the promotion and strengthening of the position of women in Afghanistan during a meeting on Thursday.
Samar arrived in Greece on Thursday for a six-day visit, to be held under the auspices of the foreign ministry, in response to an invitation by Bekou and the coordinator of the Peace Initiative of Women of Greece and Turkey Margaret Papandreou and other organizations.
Samar, who was accompanied by Mihalis Maniatis who is responsible for issues concerning development in Afghanistan, will be giving a press conference at the Zappeion Hall on Friday.
She expressed her pleasure and emotion for having survived and for currently being in Greece. She added that she had also been invited by other countries as well but chose Greece because it was consistent in aid it had promised and had sent to Afghanistan.
Referring to the situation prevailing in her country, Samar said it is dramatic and the burga has not yet been abolished, while a long way is still required to train girls.
Bekou said on her part that strategies and policies will be jointly examined for the immediate handling of the most serious problems, adding that a campaign will be carried out for the country's economic backing.
 Rally in Athens on occasion of World Day Against Racism
Athens, 22/03/2002 (ANA)A rally was held in central Athens on Thursday on the occasion of World Day Against Racism.
Taking part were scores of immigrants, representatives from workers' federations and trade unions and members of anti-racist movements, political parties and left-wing organizations.
They chanted ''legalization of all immigrants without terms and prerequisites, asylum and shelter for all refugees, open borders and equal political and trade unionist rights for Greek and immigrant workers''.
Representatives of municipalities and immigrant and refugee associations stressed that the government should legalize the immigrants and economic refugees and abolish the temporary residence status.
The rally was followed by a march to Parliament.
 Social security reform is primarily a social issue, PM says
Athens, 22/03/2002 (ANA)The government is treating the social security issue primarily as a social problem and not a public finances problem, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said on Thursday.
The need to reform the social insurance system had been noted by all European Union countries, Simitis said, and the Greek govern-ment's view was that the solution to the problem lay through a more deep-reaching social state.
Speaking after a joint meeting of the cabinet and ruling PASOK's Executive Bureau to discuss planned reforms, Simitis said the government's measures would ensure that state insurance was universal, public and had three-way funding, while the government would provide the necessary funds.
In addition, the measures created a single insurance regime for all classes of salaried workers without raising their contributions or the age of retirement, he added.
He pointed out, however, that workers would be given added incentives to remain in work for more than 37 years, with higher pensions awarded to those that stayed longer.
The Social Insurance Foundation (IKA) would form the fundamental core on which the entire effort would be based, Simitis said, while there would be a five-year transitional period up until 2007 during which the system would continue to work in its present form.
Simitis stressed that the minimum pension would not be reduced but instead rise significantly from its current level of 70,000 drachmas (205 euros) per month to 128,000 drachmas (375.64 euros) per month.
Other measures introduced by the system would concern working mothers and streamlining the bonus system for heavy laboring and hazardous jobs.
The prime minister also announced that a new body would be set up to monitor the state insurance funds and propose measures for possible problems that might arise.
These measures would combine to create significant savings that would then be spent on increasing minimum pensions and other benefits, the prime minister concluded.
Reactions to government's social insurance measures: General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) President Christos Polyzogopoulos, commenting on Thursday on the government's decisions on the social insurance issue earlier in the day, said ''for us the issue of the financing of social insurance has opened but naturally has not closed.''
Polyzogopoulos noted that the government's positions give an answer to the matter of strengthening the Social Security Foundation (IKA) in 2003 but not on the total confrontation of the economic matters of the social insurance issue in relation to the course of all the social insurance funds towards a unified social security system.
The GSEE president said that in the coming days he will ask to meet Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis.
Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party cadre George Souflias said ''the country does not have a serious government. It is trying to cover up the problem of the social insurance issue and transfer it to the future for petty political expediencies.''
He accused Prime Minister Costas Simitis and the government of ''hypocrisy'', noting that the government had said last year that the social security system was in immediate danger.
Souflias noted that unemployment was the highest in the last 30 years and that according to GSEE, there are one million people uninsured.
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) in a press release criticized the government's announcements stating that ''those who continue to go to the social dialogue undertake enormous responsibilities towards the working class.''
The announcement stressed that through its decisions, the government confirms that ''it is undermining the people in social insurance.''
Commenting on the labor ministry's announce-ments, the KKE claimed that the debts of governments towards IKA will not be paid, the age limit for pensions will increase and pensions will be reduced through the unification of social insurance funds.
The Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) in an announcement said that the government refuses to commit itself on the level, which the state must contribute to the social security system.
The announcement added that the government is attempting to promote settlements, which will lead to the great majority of those insured to have lower pensions and an increase in the age limit for pensions.
Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas stated that the government is avoiding to commit itself in a specific manner for the financing of the social security system by the state.
He said that the problems of social insurance funds can only be faced through a change in economic and social policy.
ND's Evert blames pension system's troubles on lost revenues: New Democracy deputy Miltiades Evert - a former leader of his party - on Thursday attributed the grave problems faced by state insurance funds to lost revenue from immigrants working without insurance and rising unemployment.
He estimated that the social security system lost some 800 billion drachmas a year (2.35 billion euros) in unpaid contributions from an estimated 500,000 foreign workers and an additional 400,000 registered unemployed.
 Greek public debt at 99.7 pct of GDP in 2001
BRUSSELS, 22/03/2002 (ANA - V. Demiris)Greece had a public debt of 99.7 percent of gross domestic product in 2001, and a fiscal surplus of 0.1 percent of GDP in that year, Eurostat, the European Union's statistical service, said on Thursday.
In market prices, Greece's GDP totalled 130.4 billion euros, and the surplus came to 93 million euros with the public debt totalling 130 billion euros. The primary surplus was 6.3 percent of GDP, Eurostat said in a statement.
It added that it was not yet in a position to verify the public debt data released by Greece, Portugal, Austria, Finland, Ireland and Italy due to inadequate information on the method of calculation used.
Eurostat said that it was currently studying supplementary information it had sought from those countries.
 Gov't gets stream of proposals for competitiveness plan
Athens, 22/03/2002 (ANA)The development ministry on Thursday announced that it had so far received 390 investment proposals worth 449.3 billion drachmas under a program entitled competitiveness, energy saving-alternative energy sources.
Evaluation of the first phase of the program is due for completion at the end of April, with its second phase due to start at the end of May, 2002 with a fresh call for proposals, the ministry said in a statement.
Of the proposals, 101 projects are in Attica and the northern and southern Aegean, budgeted at 89.48 billion drachmas, the statement said.
 Statistics service in survey over disabled people employment
Athens, 22/03/2002 (ANA)Greece's National Statistics Service on Thursday announced it would carry out a survey to 30,000 Greek households in the second quarter of 2002 on people with long-term health problems or disability.
Part of these statistics will cover Eurostat's demands, but their total will satisfy decisions taken in an EU summit in Nice last year.
The survey aims to find out the employment conditions of disabled people along with the environment and problems facing in their work places.
The National Statistics Service will cooperate with the health ministry and the National Confederation of Disabled Person in carrying out this survey.
 Merchant marine ministry discusses seamen's pension issues
Athens, 22/03/2002 (ANA)A lengthy meeting on labor issues and pension rights concerning seamen was held at the merchant marine ministry on Friday, with the participation of minister George Anomeritis, ministry staff, Coast Guard chief Christos Delimichalis and the leadership of the Panhellenic Seamen's Federation (PNO).
After the meeting, Anomeritis confirmed that the seamen’s' insurance fund NAT and the Seaman's House would not be merged with the Social Insurance Foundation (IKA).
He also said that the ministry aimed to conclude talks on social insurance issues related to retired seamen within April.
 Official: Thessaloniki undersea tunnel tender in May
Athens, 22/03/2002 (ANA)Regional officials in Thessaloniki on Thursday promised that a long-awaited undersea traffic tunnel for the northern Greek port city will be tendered by May, with December as the target for selecting the consortium to build the 3.8-kilometre project.
Central Macedonia Region general secretary Ilias Liakopoulos made the announcement here on Thursday, days after Public Works and Environment Minister Vasso Papandreou signaled the near conclusion of the government's efforts to get the project ready for EU financing.
The same official put the construction timetable at five years, with an initial price tag pegged at 300 million euros.
The east-west thoroughfare, of which roughly 1.8 kilometers will run under the Thermaikos Gulf, has long been envisioned as a crucial bypass for traffic-congested central Thessaloniki.
 European Business Conference in Athens, April 5-6
Athens, 22/03/2002 (ANA)ALBA (Athens Laboratory of Business Administration) on Thursday announced it will host the 3rd European Conference on Business Knowledge, Education and Strategic Ability at Astir Palace Vouliagmeni Hotel, April 5-6.
The conference, the biggest of its kind in Europe, will cover all the latest developments in economy and management of know-ledge, with the participation of 250 internationally acclaimed academics and business executives and consultants from around the world.
Representatives will present 170 scientific surveys in the conference's 11 meetings.
Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos will address the conference.
 GNTO marine tourism program kicks off
Athens, 22/03/2002 (ANA)A Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) program-me to boost the marine tourism sector officially began on Friday with the arrival of the cruise liner ''Carthage'' bearing 800 tourists from Tunisia at the island of Corfu.
The trip was arranged between Greece and Tunisia under the auspices of a program entitled ''Following in Ulysses' foot-steps''. Similar trips by other cruise operators are planned for the following months.
The GNTO said it was preparing a book that retraced the route taken by the mythical hero in the present day and that it planned to organize similar trips with other countries, such as Jordan and Iran, in order to penetrate new tourism markets.
 Greek mutual funds' assets off 1.62 pct in March
Athens, 22/03/2002 (ANA)Greece's mutual funds' assets fell by 1.62 percent, or 397 mil-lion euros in the first three weeks of March to 24.076 billion euros, figures from the Union of Institutional Investors showed on Thursday.
The union's monthly report said that a prolonged negative climate in the Athens Stock Exchange was pushing lower mutual funds' returns, particularly equity funds. Money market and bond mutual funds were also showing disappointing returns over the same period leaving investors with no alternative investment options.
The report showed that the domestic mutual funds market recorded an outflow totalling 816.7 million euros during the reviewed period.
 Greek stocks drift lower on Thursday
Athens, 22/03/2002 (ANA)Equity prices ended slightly lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, hit more by lack of buying interest than selling pressure.
The general index fell 0.38 percent to 2,333.80 points, with turnover an improved 176.16 million euros, of which 109 million euros were block trades.
The Holding sector was the only one to score gains (up 0.65 percent). The Publication, Textile, Insurance and Construction sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses (1.19 percent, 1.18 percent, 1.03 percent and 0.98 percent, respectively).
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks eased 0.55 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index ended 0.17 percent lower and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index fell 0.60 percent.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 226 to 79 with another 47 issues unchanged.
The most heavily traded shares were Hellenic Stock Exchanges, Hellenic Telecoms, Giannousis, Alpha Bank, and National Bank of Greece.
Derivatives Market Close: Equity index futures trade at discount: Equity index futures on the Athens Derivatives Exchange dropped on Thursday and traded at a discount, tracking the main market.
Turnover was 51.7 million euros.
The underlying FTSE/ASE-20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips shed 0.55 percent; and the underlying FTSE/ASE-40 for medium capitalization stocks fell 0.17 percent.
Bond Market Close: Prices rise in active trade: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market on Thursday 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.
 Deputy minister says seven million euros for athletes' preparation
Athens, 22/03/2002 (ANA)Deputy Culture Minister for sports affairs Yiannis Kourakis notified the Greek Olympic Committee that the amount of seven million euros can be provided immediately out of the total amount anticipated to be given in 2002 for the Olympic Games preparation of Greek athletes.
In an announcement he added that the provision of the amount for the federations of Olympic sports will take place as soon as the Greek Olympic Committee provides the criteria by which the allocation will be made.
 EYDAP water company ready to meet increased demand for 2004 Olympics
Athens, 22/03/2002 (ANA)Athens' water board EYDAP said Thursday it was ready to meet the increased demand for drinking water during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, but asked that people refrain from planting trees that require frequent watering in the Attica prefecture.
EYDAP, which supplies water to the Attica prefecture, was able to meet the increased needs of the area during the Athens Olympics, EYDAP managing director Dionysis Xenos said, but asked that trees requiring frequent watering not be planted in the prefecture because the water board would not be able to provide additional quantities of water for that purpose.
 ALTE to build new Olympic Shooting Ground
Athens, 22/03/2002 (ANA)ALTE, a listed Greek construction company, on Thursday announced it has won a tender for the construction of the new Olympic Shooting Ground in Markopoulo, Attica, worth 43.4 million euros.
The new shooting ground will be build on an area of around 306 stremmata (one stremma=1,000 square meters) and will include construction of four main buildings. It will have a capacity of 8,500 seated spectators.
Under the terms of the contract, the project must be completed within a deadline of 630 days.
ALTE is already participating in other Olympic Games' projects.
 Olympics sponsors get briefing from organizers
Athens, 22/03/2002 (ANA)Representatives of corporate sponsors in the 2004 Olympics to be hosted by Athens received a briefing on Thursday on progress in preparing for the games.
It was the third meeting of its kind in the sponsorship program, which has currently raised 213.35 million euros, or 107 percent of the target.
So far, seven out of a total of 40 sponsorship categories have been assigned.