|Friday, 25 September 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 02-03-27
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 27, 2002
 Bank of Greece expects lower growth, inflation in 2002
Athens 27/03/2002 (ANA)The Bank of Greece expects the country's economic growth to be slightly lower this year, compared with stability program's estimates, and said it was optimistic over a fall in the inflation rate in 2002.
In its annual report on monetary policy presented to parliament, the central bank's governor Lucas Papademos said that the speed of achieving real convergence would depend on the choice and the effective implementation of the right combination between fiscal and structural policies.
The Bank of Greece expects this year's growth rate to reach 3.5 percent from 3.8 percent envisaged in the stability program submitted to the European Union by the Greek government. The central bank said in its report that "uncertainties over external factors affecting the Greek economy, such as oil prices and an economic recovery in Europe and the US, have not yet fully evaporated."
The central bank noted, however, that there were uncertainties linked with domestic factors such as the speed of implementing corporate investment plans and a final formation of labor costs with its consequences over economic competitiveness.
The Bank of Greece estimates that average inflation would fall to 3.0 percent in 2002 from 3.4 percent last year, with the help of an estimated fall in the inflation rate in other eurozone countries.
The report noted that the main factor behind an expected fall in the inflation rate this year would be reduced import prices, a development that should motivate Greek companies to pursue a tight price policy in 2002.
The Bank of Greece said it expected the labor cost per product unit to accelerate this year and urged for lower wage price increases in the country.
"It is necessary to speed up structural reforms that will lead to a more effective operation of markets and to high growth rates in productivity, thus averting inflationary pressures from rising wages," the report said.
The Bank of Greece said that to achieve real convergence the economy needed a fiscal policy that would acknowledge clear and committing targets on primary budget spending. "This can partly be achieved through a restructuring of state enterprises and organizations to reduce state subsidies," the report said.
The central bank also urged for a speedier implementation of a tax reform and a social security system reform to ensure a long-term fiscal stability in the country.
The bank said it expected annual inflation to fall below 2.0 percent in the eurozone this year and that the eurozone's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) could reach 0.7-1.7 percent in 2002.
Salary increases should remain under 6 per cent, Bank of Greece warns: The Bank of Greece, the country's top regulatory authority, on Tuesday estimated that the nominal increase in salaries can be up to six percent, if the increase in the cost of labor per product unit must remain under or at 3 per cent, sources said.
The report of the bank on the monetary policy of the country noted that labor cost per product unit for the total of the economy is expected to increase by 3.5 per cent.
Bank of Greece concerned over households' over indebtedness:
The Bank of Greece, in a report on monetary policy, expresses for the first time concern over the possible repercussions of the gradual over indebtedness of households.
The report says that ''according to evidence to date, it does not appear that Greek households are over indebted'', but adds that ''the continuation of the households' loaning at high rates will increase their commitments excessively and will create problems in servicing loans.''
According to the Bank of Greece, this situation might affect the quality of banks' portfolios and for this reason the Bank of Greece is carefully monitoring the development of loans given to households.
The total balance of consumer loans reached 2.6 trillion drachmas at the end of 2001, while that of housing loans reached the amount of 5.3 trillion drachmas.
ND says economic growth below government's predictions: George Souflias, in an announcement by the main opposition New Democracy party's political planning and scheduling secretariat, said in connection with the governor of the Bank of Greece's report that his report "unfortunately confirms that the economic growth rate will move below the government's predictions in 2002".
He added that average annual inflation will reach 3 percent. That is to say at levels over 50 percent higher than inflation in the eurozone. This means that with the European Central Bank's criteria there is no price stability.
"Structural reforms have become stagnant as is proved by the travesty concerning the social security issue," Souflias noted.
 Deputy FM conveys message by PM Simitis to NATO candidates' summit
Athens 27/03/2002 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos conveyed a message by Prime Minister Costas Simitis to the NATO candidate countries' summit (''Vilnius 10'' group), which came to an end on Tuesday, on the alliance's upcoming enlargement.
The summit was attended by the 10 heads of state and government of candidate countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania).
''At NATO's upcoming enlargement, apart from political, defense and military criteria, the geographic balance of enlargement should also be taken into consideration. In this framework, Greece supports NATO's enlargement in the Balkans,'' the message said.
Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit also participated in Monday's session.
At the end of the summit, Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase thanked Greece and Turkey for their support.
A joint meeting of the foreign ministers of Greece, Turkey and candidate countries Bulgaria and Romania will take place in Athens on March 29.
FYROM Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski called on Loverdos to convey a request to Foreign Minister George Papandreou for FYROM to participate in this meeting.
The message by Simitis said ''you do not need to be reminded of the fact that NATO has already taken the historic decision of an open door policy, as well as that the zero option for Prague is off the table. It means that in the short rather than in the long term no European democracy will be excluded from NATO on the basis of geography or history. We all share the belief that Europe's political and security architecture will not be complete until all countries become full fledged members.''
It went on to say that ''having reassured you about our political will, may I mention the practical issues closely linked with the enlargement procedure. When establishing the Membership Action Plan we laid down the political and military requirements to be fulfilled. We have been following with great interest the gradual fulfillment of these requirements and we have helped as much as possible to bring you closer to our concepts. We intend to keep backing you in every possible way.''
Simitis also stressed that ''my country's position is clear and it has been so ever since enlargement discussions started in the mid-90's; full enlargement is the ultimate goal. Although we subscribe to the Alliance's approach that each candidature has its own merits and should be examined separately, Greece believes that on the basis of a comprehensive security concept the impending enlargement must encompass a balanced geographical dimension.''
The prime minister added that ''with this in mind it is only natural that we are actively supporting together with other Allies the Balkan dimension of the enlargement, as we believe that such a process would undoubtedly add to the overall military, social and economic security of our region.''
 PM and FM discuss foreign policy issues
Athens 27/03/2002 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Foreign Minister George Papandreou discussed developments in all foreign policy issues on Tuesday concerning the Cyprus issue, Greek-Turkish relations, European security and defense policy and developments in the Balkans in light of Thursday's summit of southeastern European countries in Tirana.
Papandreou will leave for Tirana on Wednesday to participate in the meeting of foreign ministers from southeastern European countries who will pave the way for Thursday's summit and, in parallel, he will have meetings with President Rexhep Mejdani and Prime Minister Pandeli Majko.
Commenting afterwards on tension prevailing in Tetovo between Slavs and Albanian-speaking people, Papandreou said he had a telephone conversation with the foreign minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) who briefed him on the situation.
Papandreou expressed concern over the upsurge in tension and assured that Greece is always ready to help the neighboring country in its effort to stabilize its political and economic life.
 Deputy FM Magriotis comments on Bush's remarks on the role of Greece
WASHINGTON, 27/03/2002 (ANA - T. Ellis)Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Magriotis said here on Monday evening that ''Greece works steadily for security and peace in the region, southeast Europe, the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean. And this has been recognized by the European Union, the international community but also by the United States.''
Magriotis was commenting on a speech by U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House earlier on Monday at an event marking Greece's National Independence Day in which he referred to the role of Greece and to his satisfaction over the resumption of the direct talks between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and on the improvement of Greek-Turkish relations.
The Greek deputy foreign minister said that ''the responsibility for a just and viable solution to the Cyprus issue lies with Ankara.''
Deputy FM Magriotis meets State Department Assistant Secretary Jones: The cooperation of the United States with Greece but also with the European Union in general in the Balkans, Black Sea and the Caucasus was at the center of talks which Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Magriotis had at the State Department on Tuesday with Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Elizabeth Jones.
Following the meeting, Magriotis said they examined issues such as inter-border cooperation and the combatting of corruption and organized crime, which he said was a priority for the Greek government.
''I conveyed to Mrs. Jones and to the American government our intention to include in the agenda of the Greek EU presidency in the first half of 2003 the confrontation of corruption and the eradication of organized crime, issues which concern us intensely,'' Magriotis said.
He added that during the Greek EU presidency, meetings will be held by businessmen and scientists from EU countries and those of the Caucasus, the governments of which are showing great interest for closer contacts with Europe.
The State Department Assistant Secretary may visit Athens in April to discuss in depth these issues and in general the priorities of the Greek presidency.
 High turnout for events in Turkey marking Greek national holiday
ISTANBUL, 27/03/2002 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)The Greek Embassy in Ankara on Tuesday reported a large turnout by members of Turkey's business and academic communities, as well as Turkish political and military staff, during events to celebrate Greece's National Independence Day holiday on March 25.
Attendance of a Greek Embassy reception at the Hilton hotel in Ankara reached unprecedented levels, officials said, while Greek Ambassador Ioannis Korantis received more than 900 guests.
Similarly high turnouts were reported at receptions held by the Greek consulates in Istanbul and Izmir.
 British Minister holds talks with FM
Athens 27/03/2002 (ANA)British Minister for International Trade and Investment Baroness Liz Symons held talks with Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Giannitsis on Tuesday, focusing primarily on European developments, in light of Greece assuming the European Union's rotating presidency in January 2003, developments in the Balkans, the war in Afghanistan and the entire spectrum of bilateral relations.
After meeting Papandreou, Baroness Symons said she is conveying a warm message from British Prime Minister Tony Blair for closer cooperation in all sectors, particularly those of the economy and security.
She added that there were ''some disappointments'' in the past but noted that cooperation will be intensified in the future, while adding that London is at Athens's side for whatever it may need in light of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
Baroness Symons also appeared very optimistic over the accession course of Cyprus, stressing that Cyprus will be among the first countries to join the European Union.
On his part, Papandreou underlined the excellent level of bilateral relations and emphasized the assistance Greece has received from British services after the assassination of Brigadier Saunders, adding that the assistance contributes to confronting the terrorist activity of the November 17 organization.
They also discussed issues concerning European security and defense in light of efforts to achieve a compromise on the issue of deploying the European Rapid Reaction Force, while the minister briefed her on all the issues to be promoted by the Greek presidency.
DM and British Minister discuss defense: Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and British Minister for International Trade and Investment Baroness Liz Symons discussed issues concerning defense cooperation between Greece and Britain on Tuesday, the Cyprus issue and the European rapid reaction force.
Papantoniou said the two countries can also cooperate, apart from the armaments sector, in the defense industry sector.
Baroness Symons expressed the British government's displeasure over the Greek government's decision to choose German tanks for the Greek military but, as she added, ''we realize that in decisions of such a kind, governments must make the choice which they believe is best for them.''
On his part, Papantoniou said it was natural for bitterness to exist among the remaining three companies and countries because their tenders were not chosen, but the decision taken by the Government Council of Foreign and Defense Affairs (KYSEA) was based on technical and economic criteria and the issue is closed.
He reiterated that Greece looks forward to positive cooperation with Britain in other sectors of defense armaments.
Defense cooperation between the two countries will be the focal point of talks between the relevant ministers Papantoniou and Geoff Hoon in London on May 9.
 Dutch defense deputy minister arrives in Athens for talks
Athens 27/03/2002 (ANA)Dutch Defense Deputy Minister Henk Van Hoof on Tuesday arrived in Athens following an invitation by his Greek counterpart Loukas Apostolidis.
On Wednesday the Dutch deputy minister will hold talks with his counterpart at the defense ministry, where at the end of the talks two men will sign an agreement for the purchase of another ''S'' type frigate, the eight such ship to be acquired by the Greek Navy.
 Athens welcomes Afghan minister Samar; outlines aid programs
Athens 27/03/2002 (ANA)The Afghan transitional government's vice-chairwoman, Sima Samar, continued her high-profile visit here on Tuesday by meeting with Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, as Athens' assistance to the devastated country especially in light of Tuesday's deadly earthquake there -- dominated talks.
Samar emphasized that her government wants the European Union to send more multinational peacekeeping troops to Afghanistan, "so that we do not lose the opportunity that has been given to us at this moment".
The female Afghan minister, a practicing physician, also touched on women's rights, a particularly sensitive topic in the up until recently Taliban-oppressed country.
"I must point out that we Afghans are part of humanity. And as such, we hope the international community won't close its eyes to us; that it doesn't forget us, and continues to help us so that we can rebuild our country," Samar, who holds the women's affairs and human rights portfolio in the coalition Kabul government, told reporters afterwards.
On his part, Papandreou promised assistance to quake-stricken northern Afghanistan, before citing Athens' desire to fund a project that will provide schooling for 5,000 Afghan girls as well as vocational training for women in general, especially war widows. Another Greek government proposal eyes the restoration of Kabul's dilapidated museum.
In greeting the Afghan minister, Papandreou said:
"We understand the particular gravity of her role outside Afghanistan for women, internationally. Her struggle is a symbol, I am sure that she inspires not only women's organizations, but all those who struggle for equality, justice and individual freedom around the world."
Another initiative calls for providing vocational training to Afghan refugees in Greece so that they can return to Afghanistan with viable skills.
Finally, Samar also signed the Olympic Truce, with envisions a cease-fire during the next Games in 2004.
She arrived in Greece as the distinguished guest of a coordinating committee of local women's groups.
 Gov't on Greek, Turkish contacts over air corridors
Athens 27/03/2002 (ANA)The government announced on Tuesday that civil aviation officials from Greece and Turkey will meet in June to discuss the issue of flight safety in new air corridors between the two countries.
 Parliament committee discusses new structure of armed forces
Athens 27/03/2002 (ANA)Parliament's National Defense and Foreign Affairs Commit-tee held a session on Tuesday on the new structure of the country's armed forces.
During the session, which was held behind closed doors, main opposition New Democracy (ND) party deputy of State Yiannis Varvitsiotis referred to the ''sudden'' decision by the Government Defense Council for the purchase of tanks, something, which he said, constituted a lack of respect for the Greek Parliament.
He criticized Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou for not distributing to the deputies a text of the government's positions on the change in the structure of the armed forces.
In reply to the issue of the tanks, Papantoniou said it constituted a technical matter and that the military staff has the authority for the choice.
He noted that in no event do armed forces leaders go to parliament to bring up the advantages and disadvantages of every weapons system. He said the urgency of the decision was because the implementation of the specific purchase had been delayed for two years.
On the issue of the ''new structure'' and of the ''European army'', he said that the ministrys officials did not distribute the relevant text so that the country's negotiating orientation would not be revealed to opponents (Turkey).
However, he expressed the intention to take into consideration the verbal recommendations of the Committee members in the final recommendation to the Government Council on Defense and Foreign Policy (KYSEA).
Varvitsiotis, however, left the hall in protest.
 FM says solution to Kurdish problem must be sought through peaceful means
Athens 27/03/2002 (ANA)Foreign Minister George Papandreou said on Tuesday said that ''given the fact that in today's world human rights have a broader, human value, the Kurdish issue is not only an internal affair of Turkey.''
Papandreou, in a written reply to a question by ruling PASOK deputies P. Kritikos and K. Spyriounis, stressed that the solution to the Kurdish problem must be sought through peaceful means (political solution) and reiterated that the Greek side supports the respect of all the rights of the Kurdish people and at the same time supports the territorial cohesion and integrity of Turkey, expressing its opposition to any change of borders.
Papandreou added that ''at many of the common EU positions, we had expressed our opposition to the secessionist and terrorist actions of the PKK. It would be strategically wrong for one to identify the Kurdish matter with the action of a minority, such as that of the PKK, and conversely, with the fact that the Kurdish matter always remains at the forefront as an issue concerning the protection of the human and democratic rights and the free and democratic expression of the Kurdish people.''
Finally, Papandreou recalled the violent occupation of Greek consular offices by PKK supporters following the case of Kurdish separatist rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan and said that ''it constitutes a common fact in the EU that the PKK has resorted to terrorist acts. Certain member-states (France, Germany, Britain) have completely prohibited every activity by Kurdish organizations sympathetic to the PKK.''
 Greek parliament deputies fail to get UN approval to visit Milosevic
Athens 27/03/2002 (ANA)Greek Parliament deputies from ruling PASOK party, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and from the Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) were ''surprised'' to find out that their request to visit former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic was denied by the United Nations.
PASOK deputies P. Kritikos and Stelios Papathemelis, KKE deputy Angelos Tzekis and Synaspismos deputy P. Lafazanis failed to get the necessary approval from the United Nations to visit the accused for crimes against humanity Milosevic, who is being held at the UN jail in The Hague.
The three deputies said in a statement that the reasons given by the UN were that Milosevic had not requested their visit and also that no essential reasons existed for such a visit.
 PM briefed on Acropolis restoration project
Athens 27/03/2002 (ANA)Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis toured the Acropolis in downtown Athens on Tuesday, where he was briefed by the culture ministry's leadership and affiliated archaeologists over the ongoing restoration of several ancient structures atop one of the world's premier cultural heritage sites.
Restoration of the incomparable 5th century BC Parthenon - the best known monument atop the Acropolis - as well as on the seminal Propylaea and the temple of Athena Nike (victory) is considered imperative to prevent further damage from an ill-fated attempt in the early 20th century to prop up the Classical-era temples, as well as to better showcase the Acropolis in light of the 2004 Olympics in the Greek capital.
Simitis was briefed on the course of the Acropolis restoration and the new pedestrian ways being created in the vicinity of the hill adoringly referred to as the "sacred rock" by generations of Greeks. The latter project is part of the culture ministry's ambitious plan to unify Athens' central archaeological sites with walkways and greens paces.
Headed by the state-run Acropolis Restoration Service, efforts include the often pain-staking and delicate work of dissembling and then reassembling the temples, column by column, one pediment at a time.
Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, the ministry's general secretary, archaeologist Lina Mendoni, as well as Maria Ioannidou, the director of the Acropolis Restoration Service, briefed the premier.
 EU council of ministers approves maritime safety proposals
BRUSSELS, 27/03/2002 (ANA - Y. Zitouniati)Greece actively defended the proposals for the security of shipping and the prevention of pollution by ships, which were approved by the European Union council of merchant marine ministers here on Tuesday.
Greek Merchant Marine Minister George Anomeritis supported the political agreement on the regulation proposal for the safety committee for the sea, as well as the proposal for a directive concerning maritime safety and the prevention of pollution by ships.
The proposals which will also be discussed in the Europarliament, as part of the co-decision making process aim at making faster the incorporation of amendments of international law regarding maritime safety and pollution controls in the Union's legal system.
The council also discussed the legal initiatives of the European Union, regarding the proposal of a directive for the deregulation of the port facility services and the proposal of a regulation for the funding of the transportation system by the Union, all of which will be decided on in June.
 Press conference on Ombudsman's report on Friday
Athens 27/03/2002 (ANA)The head of the Greek Ombudsman's Office Nikos Diamantouros plans to hold a press conference at noon on Friday to present the annual report that the authority will be submitting to Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis.
The press conference will be at the Ombudsman's offices.
 Court opts against interim time shift for 'Bar', 'Big Brother' until hearing
Athens 27/03/2002 (ANA)An Athens court on Tuesday declined to order the television stations Mega and Ant1 to temporarily reschedule their reality TV shows ''Bar'' and Big Brother 2'' to a time after midnight, until a case brought against the two networks had been heard.
The court set a date for the hearing on April 3, when it will be called to rule on a petition that the two programs be moved to an after-midnight time slot brought by six independent lawyers.
The plaintiffs argued that the two reality TV games are harmful to underage viewers, since they ''cultivate a voyeuristic mentality and promote a 'no-holds-barred pursuit of money.'' They also asked the court to order the two stations to temporarily shift the broadcast time for the two programs until after the hearing.
Controversy over the two programs continued outside the courts as well on Tuesday, when the ''Galatsi Coordinating Committee'' slammed the independent broadcasting regulator's decision to allow the two programs to stay on the air, saying it had given the ''green light'' for the mass media to continue to broad-cast whatever they liked on public frequencies.
In a strongly worded protest, the committee described the National Radio and Television Council (ERS) as an ''appointed and so-called independent authority'' and accused it of buckling under pressure from TV channel owners.
ESR chairman's resignation letter forwarded to press and media ministry: The Radio and Television Council (ESR) Chairman Vassilis Lambridis' resignation letter was being forwarded from Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis to Press and Media Minister Christos Protopapas, sources at the Parliament said on Tuesday.
The resignation letter was initially submitted to Kaklamanis.
 Gov't invites unions for talks on social security funding
Athens 27/03/2002 (ANA)Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis on Tuesday formally invited the country's largest employers' and workers' unions, along with the management of the Social Security Institution, to discuss ways to fund a new social security system in Greece.
In a letter sent to trade and employers' unions, Christodoulakis noted that a basic precondition to creating a more fair and efficient social security system was its financial viability.
The government expects that a funding framework could have been drafted by the end of April, before officially announced to social partners and social security funds.
"Through a dialogue and analysis of real data of social security problems we can reach a framework agreement for a credible and viable solution of the social security system," Christodoulakis said in his letter.
Unions not satisfied with gov't proposals on social security funding: The General Confederation of the Workers of Greece (GSEE) presidium met on Tuesday and decided to call a meeting of the trade union's executive committee on April 4, while it also called for the General Council to meet within next month to examine current developments.
The trade unions expressed their dissatisfaction over the government's announcements regarding the funding of the social security system.
According to sources, GSEE will seek a new round of meetings with the government and the political parties, as the bodies of the trade union are expected to proceed with action against the government decisions.
On its part, the Supreme Civil Servants' Administrative Council (ADEDY) announced its intention to call for a strike during the first half of April, while the final dates for such action will probably be coordinated with similar action by GSEE.
Gov't, ND parry over social security reform: The thorny issue of social security reform caused the latest verbal skirmishing between the government and main opposition New Democracy (ND) party on Tuesday following a meeting between the labor minister and two high-ranking ND representatives.
In statements afterwards, Labor and Social Insurances Minister Dimitris Reppas charged that ND has already made up its mind on social security reform, whereas ND deputies Nikitas Kaklamanis and Gerassimos Giakoumatos claimed the government is simply shifting the problem into the future while offering "worthless checks" in terms of financing the system.
Moreover, both deputies called for the publication of a recent British study focusing on Greece's bloated social security system and other public pension funds as a condition for continuing dialogue on the contentious issue.
Conversely, Reppas said the government has outlined its positions on the crucial factor of funding in the period up to 2003.
 Capital Market Committee president presents report
Athens 27/03/2002 (ANA)Capital Market Committee President Stavros Thomadakis presented an account of the Committee's work in 2001 on Tuesday, saying that the international economy entered a period of slow-down in 2001 following a decade of high economic growth rates, resulting in international stock markets noting a great slump in prices and a considerable decrease in the volume of transactions.
The international increase in relevant bond prices as against shares and the increase in fluidity directed at steady income titles were also observed in the Greek capital market, which closely followed international developments.
Thomadakis said the greatest supervisory development occurring last year was the radical upgrading in monitoring the attitude of companies whose titles are listed at the stock exchange, while the implementation of the regulation concerning the attitude of listed companies was a great success because it led to a considerable improvement in transparency both in company developments and transactions by major shareholders.
Thomadakis further said that market officials do not make good use of companies' results and primarily the use of cash flows, stressing that despite the fact that companies' pre-tax results decreased 12 percent, pre-tax profits, interest and depreciation are moving at the same levels and a little higher, which analysts should not disregard.
 1.4 ml euro ''Technology Foresight'' program assigned by development ministry
Athens 27/03/2002 (ANA)Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos on Tuesday presented the ''Technology Foresight'' program during a press conference, a program that includes scenarios on the future of technological change in Greece through 2015.
The program was assigned to the Athens Polytechnic University, the Athens Economics University, to the National School of Public Health and to private firms, headed by Logotech.
The funding totals 1.4 million euros and it will last for two and a half years.
 Greece-Turkey natural gas pipeline agreement to be signed in Ankara
Athens 27/03/2002 (ANA)Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos will begin a two-day visit to Turkey on Thursday, mainly to promote the construction of a natural gas pipeline connecting the Greek and Turkish networks and thus providing extra energy sources for the rest of the European Union member-states.
On Thursday, Tsohatzopoulos will meet with Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Zeki Cakan, while on Friday he will visit Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos in Istanbul.
The plan for the construction includes a deal between the Turkish company BOTAS (Turkish Pipeline Company) and the Greek Natural Gas Company linking Ankara and Alexandroupoli.
''The energy policy we are promoting lately in Greece aims at promoting our region as an energy node for the transport of electric energy, secondly the promotion of natural gas and third an energy stock exchange,'' Tsohatzopoulos said.
 Themeliodomi group to create photovoltaic unit in Turkey
Athens 27/03/2002 (ANA)The Themeliodomi group is promoting the creation of a photovoltaic element production unit in Turkey in cooperation with a Turkish group involved in the energy sector.
The study concerning the relevant investment, amounting to 25 million dollars, is expected to be completed in about 10 days. A meeting will follow between representatives of the two groups to promote cooperation.
The relevant study is being prepared by the consultants firm Exandas Istanbul (a subsidiary of Themeliodomi) on behalf of Themeliodomi, while Themeliodomis managing director and technical director Costas Patramanis announced the issue.
 Greek air force signs contract for VIP Gulfstream V plane
Athens 27/03/2002 (ANA)The Greek Air force has signed a contract for the purchase of a VIP Gulfstream V aircraft, it was announced on Tuesday.
The contract is for US$48,121,468 in exchange for a package covering the cost of the aircraft and initial technical support that will make the plane ready to use immediately on delivery, such as spare parts and the training of flight crews and technicians.
The Gulfstream V's specifications include two Rolls Royce BR 710 engines capable of transatlantic crossings, a top altitude of 51,000 feet and a fully compressible passenger cabin.
The airplane is to be delivered in March 2003, while the manufacturer has agreed to supply an identical plane for use by the Greek Air force until January 2003 without any additional charge.
The armed forces announcement said the program also provided offset benefits amounting to 101 per cent of its value, including the assignment of a subcontracting project worth 35 million dollars to the domestic defense industry.
 Greece signs deal for electronics upgrade on Air force C-130s
Athens 27/03/2002 (ANA)The Greek government has signed a contract with the Canadian firm Spar for an overhaul of the electronics on the Greek Air forces fleet of 15 C-130 transport aircraft, it was announced on Tuesday.
Under the deal signed on March 23, Spar will receive 86 million dollars to design, install and test new electronics systems on the first two aircraft in Canada.
The installation and testing of new electronics systems on the remaining 13 aircraft will then be carried out in Greece by the Hellenic Aerospace Industry EAB, under a separate contract worth 9.2 million euros.
In exchange, Spar will transfer the necessary know-how and a license to carry out the specific electronics upgrade for other customers outside of Greece, the announcement said.
It also stressed that the upgrade would increase the reliability and operational capacity of the air forces fleet of C-130s, while simultaneously covering meeting the ICAO's new international standards for airspace navigation and radio communications.
 Promota Hellas seeks acquisitions in China, Turkey
Athens 27/03/2002 (ANA)Promota Hellas plans to acquire foreign companies to further boost its export activity and to strengthen its presence in the clothing promotion market abroad.
Mihalis Dramytinos, the company's chairman and chief executive, said that Promota Hellas has already completed a first round of talks with companies from China, Hong Kong and Turkey.
The company's main target is to dynamically access the international market of textile promotion. With the takeover of a company based in Shenzhen, China, Promota Hellas aims to expand in the American, Australian and Middle East markets, while with the takeover of a company based in Istanbul, Turkey, it plans to expand in the European market.
The international textile promotion markets grows at an annual rate of 15-20 percent, while imports of T-shirts in the European Union in 2000 totalled 5.0 billion euros, with imports mainly from China and Turkey.
Promota Hellas will soon open its first pilot retail shop in Greece, offering clothing products by Winship.
 OA's pilots announce work stoppages in April
Athens 27/03/2002 (ANA)Olympic Airways' pilots on Tuesday announced the start of a series of rolling work stoppages from Friday, 5 April, while OA's union of flight attendants said it intended to appeal to Thessaloniki courts and to European Union's agencies, protesting against a decision by the airline's board to cut flights from Thessaloniki to West European cities.
The union of flight attendants said it planned to press charges, by Thursday, against Olympic Airways' chairman, Dionysis Kalofonos, and OA's board for breach of duty and mismanagement. The union's chairman, Georgia Dai, said the union would also inform the European Union over their action.
The union of OA's workers urged the national carrier's board to immediately resume flights from Thessaloniki to European cities. "It is unheard to cut Olympic Aviation's flights from Thessaloniki to Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris, at a time when the city will host the EU Summit in 2003 and the global EXPO trade fair," the union said.
The union hinted that cutbacks in OA's flights would benefit other carriers and the German operator of the Athens airport at Spata.
Olympic Aviation's workers said the decision by OA's board, as part of an effort for a more rational operation of aircraft "as these flights were showing low capacity during winter months", was unjustified. They presented OA's official figures which showed that in 2001 passenger load factors were high in flights from Thessaloniki to Stuttgart (72.96 percent), Munich (60.09 percent), Berlin (69.32 percent), Amsterdam (60.12 percent), Paris (55.31 percent), Brussels (58.74 percent) and London (89.85 percent).
Cedefop, the European Center for the Development of Vocational Training, an EU agency based in Thessaloniki, in a statement said it was worried that a decision to cut flights would create problems to the centers operation.
 Municipal staff plan work stoppage, strikes over pay issues
Athens 27/03/2002 (ANA)Municipal workers throughout the country are to hold a three-hour work stoppage on Wednesday, while the nationwide local authority workers' union POE-OTA said it would call a 24-hour strike for this coming Friday and a 48-hour strike on April 3-4.
At around 11:30 on Wednesday morning, meanwhile, local authority workers plan to hold a rally outside the union's offices in the center of Athens.
Local authority workers are seeking a rise in pay and permanent positions for colleagues employed on a temporary basis but who actually cover standing, year-round posts in local authorities.
 ASE ends below 2,300 level on Tuesday
Athens 27/03/2002 (ANA)Equity prices came under pressure on Tuesday after a three-day holiday in the Athens Stock Exchange pushing the general index below the 2,300 level.
Lack of buying interest combined with worries over a significant fall in profits by several listed companies and a negative climate in international markets, kept investors away from the Greek market.
The general index fell 0.95 percent to 2,294.85 points, with turnover a low 93.25 million euros.
All sector indices ended lower. The Textile, Wholesale and Retail sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses (3.31 percent, 3.24 percent and 3.03 percent, respectively).
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks ended 0.77 percent lower, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index fell 1.70 percent and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index dropped 2.26 percent.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 318 to 24 with another 17 issues unchanged.
The most heavily traded shares were Hellenic Telecoms, Greek Soccer Pools, National Bank of Greece, Space Hellas and Commercial Bank of Greece.
Derivatives Market Close: Equity index futures at minor premium: Equity index futures on the Athens Derivatives Exchange dropped on Tuesday, tracking the main market, but managed to close at a small premium.
Turnover was 54.2 million euros.
The underlying FTSE/ASE-20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips shed 0.77 percent; and the underlying FTSE/ASE-40 for medium capitalization stocks fell 1.7 percent.
Bond Market Close: Prices drop in active trade: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market on Tuesday finished lower in heavy trade focusing on five-year paper.
The Greek benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 5.56 percent, and the spread over the corresponding German bund was 30 basis points.
Turnover through the central bank's electronic system totalled 2.2 billion euros.
Buy orders accounted for the bulk of the turnover.
 Democratic Congressman on return of Parthenon Marbles
WASHINGTON, 27/03/2002 (ANA - T. Ellis)New Jersey Democratic Congressman Donald Pane has submitted a draft resolution to the House of Representatives, calling on the British government to begin negotiations with the Greek government as soon as possible to facilitate the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece before the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
The draft resolution - the same Congressman had submitted a similar one at the previous Congress session- was forwarded for discussion at the relevant U.S. Congress International Relations Committee.
The resolution, apart from describing the Parthenons great artistic value ''as the most important symbol of Greek cultural heritage'', underlines that Greece can provide the same and even better care for the Marbles with the new Acropolis Museum being built.
 Culture minister honors professor Sarigiannidis
Athens 27/03/2002 (ANA)Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos honored professor Victor Sarigiannidis on Tuesday night, who is of Greek descent and is conducting excavations in the wider region of Turkmenistan and has brought to light the ancient city of Margiani at Gonur.
Venizelos said Sarigiannidis is honoring the world archaeological community and announced that a mission comprised of culture and foreign ministry scientists will visit Afghanistan very soon and, in the framework set out by UNESCO, will contribute to the country's reconstruction.
Venizelos also expressed his ministry's intention to have an exhibition held in Athens by 2004, with the presentation of Turkmenistan's archaeological treasures, in the framework of the Cultural Olympiad.
 Second round of talks to conclude Wednesday
NICOSIA, 27/03/2002 (CNA/ANA)The last but one meeting between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides took place on Tuesday, as the second round of UN-led peace talks is coming to an end.
President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash met here on Tuesday for less than an hour, in the presence of UN Secretary General's special adviser for Cyprus Alvaro de Soto.
De Soto leaves the island on Wednesday evening after Wednesday's direct meeting between the two leaders and will have consultations in Athens and Ankara before flying on to New York to brief the Secretary General and the Security Council in early April.
Talks are expected to resume in the second week in April, once the senior UN diplomat returns.
President Clerides and Denktash began direct talks, under UN auspices, in mid January with a view to negotiate in good faith until a comprehensive settlement is reached.
Little has been disclosed about the content of their discussions but judging by public remarks of interested parties it appears that little, if any, progress has been achieved towards a settlement.
President Clerides said last week the outlook of the talks did not appear optimistic and US special Cyprus coordinator Thomas Weston, who visited the island last week, said the talks were not moving at the desirable rate.
Denktash has often said he wants two separate states in Cyprus, with a loose central government, contrary to what UN resolutions provide.
The EU points to the need of a Cyprus government that is in a position not only to adopt but also to implement EU directives.
 President Clerides: No encouraging results from the talks so far
NICOSIA, 27/03/2002 (CNA/ANA)There haven't been so far any encouraging results from the ongoing UN-led direct peace talks aiming at reaching a settlement to the Cyprus problem, Cyprus President Glafcos Cle-rides said here on Tuesday.
He added that whether the two sides in Cyprus will reach a settlement of the Cyprus problem prior to the island's accession to the EU depends on the influence that the international community will exert on the Turkish side, so that the latter would take its further steps within the framework of the UN resolutions on Cyprus.
Speaking at the annual conference of Cypriot Reservists Association President Clerides said that "despite the fact that two months have already passed (from the beginning of the face to face talks) no encouraging results have come up."
Clerides reiterated that the Cyprus government remains stable in its pursuit for a settlement that will benefit equally both communities in Cyprus.
He added that the government pursues with peaceful means a just, viable and functional solution to the Cyprus problem, within "the framework of a compromise."
 Report slams Turkish and Turkish Cypriot tactics against media
NEW YORK, 27/03/2002 (CNA/ANA)Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot regime in occupied Cyprus have come under severe criticism for the harsh restrictions they impose on the media.
''Journalists in northern Cyprus were harassed and intimidated by Turkish Cypriot authorities and their supporters,'' the 2001 report of the Committee for the Protection of Journalists said, and proceeded to list several such cases, including that of the daily ''Avrupa'', whose printing offices were bombed and equipment confiscated.
On freedom of the press in Turkey, the report said in spite of more than 30 amendments to the country's restrictive constitution, the state still has the constitutional power to censor, prose-cute and jail journalists for covering controversial topics, such as the Kurdish problem, political Islam and the military's role in national politics.
This is the first time the report has a separate chapter on Cyprus, in which it is noted that ''some 35,000 Turkish troops are stationed in the self-styled'' Turkish Cypriot regime in northern Turkish occupied Cyprus, which only Turkey recognizes as legitimate.
It says the island remains divided and its capital Nicosia is divided into two halves, ''one controlled by the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot authorities and the other by the Turkish government in Ankara.''
It says the Turkish Cypriot daily ''Avrupa'' received ''regular threats and was also the victim of violent attacks'', including a bomb attack in May and intensified harassment in the run up to a meeting between Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and ''Glafcos Clerides, the Greek Cypriot president of the Republic of Cyprus.''
Avrupa's money and property were confiscated over a debt, the report says and notes that the paper changed its name to ''Afrika'' to show its contention that the law of the jungle rules in occupied Cyprus.
The report refers to the dismissal of a Turkish Cypriot teacher for critical articles in ''Avrupa'' and the threats against Turkish Cypriot journalist Sevgul Uludag for articles in her online magazine against the regime.
Turkish Cypriot cartoonists, the report says, were prevented from crossing the UN-controlled buffer zone to attend a joint exhibition of Greek and Turkish Cypriot cartoonists in the government controlled part of the capital Nicosia.
In the chapter on Turkey, the report said Kurdish-language broadcast media can still be censored if it threatens ''national security'' or ''unity''.
''Even as parliament tried to make Turkey's law more palatable to the democracies of the EU, authorities continued to prosecute journalists and censor publications,'' the report said.
Pro-Kurdish leftist and Islamic media were primarily targeted but also several prominent mainstream journalists faced legal harassment, it added and lists at least four cases of journalists.
In 2001 Turkish language broadcasts of the BBC and the German national station Deutsche Welle were banned because they harmed ''national security.''
It notes also that between 3,000 and 5,000 media workers were laid off in two months and this highlighted the concentration of media ownership and the negative effect it has on the diversity of opinions and the coverage of sensitive issues.