The agreement was signed by Foreign Deputy Minister Andreas Loverdos and Bulgarian Economy Deputy Minister Milen Keremedshiev in Sofia.
The agreement marked the completion of a first phase of a Greek plan for the economic reconstruction of the Balkans envisaging granting a total of 550 million euros in six Balkan states.
''We begun this significant program with signing of agreements in Yugoslavia and we are ending it now in Bulgaria,'' Mr. Loverdos said. He noted that the Greek government adhered to the plan's timetable and pledges made by Prime Minister Costas Simitis.
Under the plan, Greece offered 250 million euros to Serbia-Montenegro, 19.53 million euros to Bosnia-Herzegovina, 74.84 million euros to FYROM, 70.93 million euros to Romania, 49.89 million euros to Albania and 54.29 million euros to Bulgaria.
The Greek minister stressed that now it was up to the six Balkan states to prove their ability to benefit from the implementation of the five-year program by submitting their proposals for infrastructure projects the soonest possible.
The Bulgarian minister noted that Bulgaria would submit all relative proposals in the next two months and pledged that the government would appoint a national coordinator before the end of the week. Mr. Keremedshiev said that 80 percent of the Greek financial aid would be earmarked for public works, while the remaining would be offered to private works.
The two ministers agreed on a series of infrastructure projects in the country's road network, health and education services, and in the farm and manufacturing sectors.
''There is a time limitation on political level,'' Loverdos said, stressing the significance of a timely submission of proposals by all Balkan states. ''If we lose the next two years, we lose the five year period all together,'' the Greek minister said and described the next 10-12 months as crucial.
Mr. Loverdos said that the Greek financial aid would attract more money from other states, international financial organizations and the private sector and noted that several countries, including Japan, US, Canada, Belgium and Luxembourg, have already expressed interest in participating in the Greek Balkan program.
''We respect the principles of the United Nations for cooperation and transparency,'' Loverdos said and stressed that Greece was only interested in promoting peace and stability in the region. ''Our heart beats here,'' he noted.
Mr. Keremedshiev stressed the significance of excellent relations between Bulgaria and Greece, both on a political and investment levels, as Greece is the second largest investment partner of Bulgaria after Germany.
A bevy of government officials, led by Transport Minister Christos Verelis, and contractors’ representatives were on hand at a brief ceremony outside one of Athens’ neo-classical landmarks – Zappeion Hall -- where the first tracks were laid.
Work on the tramlines in central Athens, from Syntagma square across from Parliament to the boulevards surrounding the Temple of Olympian Zeus archaeological site, are expected to be completed in about two weeks, the ministry promised.
The new tram network is expected to transport almost 80,000 passengers daily, especially to and from congested central Athens, as well as improving tourists’ access to the Greek capital’s most visible archaeological sites. It’s one of Athens best-known monuments, Hadrian’s Arch, which has been at the center of concern lately by local archaeologists, as one of the new tram lines passes only meters from the Imperial Roman stone and marble structure, causing worries that increased vibrations from passing tram cars will damage the site.
However, the government and contractors have promised to use shockproof materials and other precautions at the specific spot.
Two latest extensions, meanwhile, a 500-metre stretch from Syntagma to Zappeion and an 800-metre addition from the upscale Glyfada coastal district further southeast to the residential Voula suburb will account for close to 25 kilometers of tramlines in Athens when finished. The crucial completion date was given as before the summer of 2000 – when the Olympics return to the city that hosted the first modern Games in 1896.
The tramline will feature two routes, one connecting downtown Athens with the southeastern coastal districts, and the other veering off westwards on the Faliro-Piraeus coastline, where several important Olympic venues will be located.
Verelis said the first tramcar – designed in cooperation with the well-known Pininfarina Group -- will arrive in Athens next May from the manufacturer in Florence, Italy.
Papandreou initiated the discussions with his counterparts from those countries that are not under immediate accession in view of the informal foreign ministers meeting at Elsinor, Denmark, on Friday, where the EU enlargement is part of the agenda.
During the conversation with his Bulgarian and Romanian counterparts, the Greek foreign minister emphasized that a schedule for their EU accession should be determined at the Copenhagen Summit in December, sources said.
During the conversation with his Turkish counterpart, Papandreou noted that Greece was not contrary to Ankara’s request to be given a date for the commencement of accession negotiations, provided that the community preconditions already set by the association relationship and the summit meetings are adhered until then.
In a phone conversation with his Albanian counterpart Ilir Meta from Stockholm, where Papandreou arrived on Wednesday for a working visit, the Greek minister stressed that it was in “both countries’ best interests” to defuse the situation. He added, according to reports, that such a secondary issue should not be exploited to the detriment of bilateral relations.
Greek officials, repeatedly emphasized that the unprecedented traffic pileup was due to the fact that thousands of Albanian workers in Greece were granted temporary residence permits over the past year, something that allowed them to travel legally to their native land and back over the Aug. 15 general holiday in Greece.
Moreover, Greece also noted that as a Schengen Pact member-state it supports and is obligated to follow a border check regime mandated for third country nationals’ entrance into EU territory.
However, to alleviate the unprecedented holiday rush at the two border posts of Kakavia and Krystallopygi, more customs officials were immediately dispatched, while Athens also promised to allocate funds from its ambitious 50-million-euro aid package to Tirana for the construction of two new border posts on the Greek-Albanian frontier.
According to Kondylis, during the period when Evert was the ND leader, the members of the gang were considering a hit against him. “I refused” Kondylis said “because I thought that hitting a deputy would be a mistake”.
Another “N17” suspect, Pavlos Serifis, in his mid-July testimony before a public investigator involved his cousin Yiannis Serifis, known to the authorities from the 1970s when he was charged with participation in the Revolutionary Popular Struggle but was acquitted.
Pavlos Serifis said that his cousin Yiannis Serifis had been present at the “N17” first terrorist hit against the CIA station chief Richard Welch in 1975. He also said that his cousin had assisted him in blocking the victim’s car in the killing of riot police deputy commander Pantelis Petrou in January 1980.
His testimony was particularly incriminating for alleged “N17” leader Alexandros Giotopoulos’s involvement in the terrorist organization and the group’s early activities. He said that Yiannis Serifis had brought him into contact with “Lambros”, Giotopoulos’ “N17” code name, and that at that meeting the latter had proposed the attack against Welch. “He used convincing arguments and said that he would undertake to write the ideological support for the hit. Then Lambros suggested that we should call the organization November 17, after the date of the Polytechnic School incidents”.
On November 17, 1973 the university students in Athens had staged an uprising against the military junta ruling Greece at the time.
In his testimony Pavlos Serifis asked for forgiveness from the relatives of the “N17” victims and claimed that in 1980 he had a fall-out with the ultra-leftist guerilla group and left it.
On a related note, suspected “N17” members Alexandros Giotopoulos, Nikos Papanastasiou, Sotiris Kondylis, Costas Telios, Patroklos Tselentis, Theologos Psaradellis and Vasilis Tzortzatos, currently held in maximum-security cells at the Korydallos prison in Athens, on Wednesday received visits from their next of kin. Since Tuesday the 14 “N17” suspects at Korydallos cells can use the card-phones installed in common areas within the prison, during their one-hour breaks away from their cells.
Relatives of N17 victims call for 'justice without discounts: Relatives of six people killed by ''November 17'', wearing badges of the 'Os Edo' society formed by relatives of terrorism victims, on Wednesday arrived in a group at the office of Special Examining Magistrate Leonidas Zervobeakas, the appeals court justice assigned to the N17 case, to demand a trial that administered 'justice without discounts' and fully revealed the truth.
Among the group were New Democracy's candidate for Athens mayor Dora Bakoyianni, wife of murdered politician Pavlos Bakoyiannis, with her two children and mother-in-law Irini, Alexandra Rouseti, daughter Nikos Momferatos' driver Panagiotis Rousetis, Momferatos' wife Irini, their son Giorgos and Momferatos' sister Yolanda Tsala, Marina Vranopoulou, daughter of former National Bank of Greece governor Mihalis Vranopoulos, Irini Veloutsou, sister of George Chades' driver Nikos Veloutsos, Mihalis Peratikos and Lia Peratikou, father and wife of ship-owner Kostas Peratikos.
Members of the group also filed civil suits against the suspects in the N17 case.
As they emerged from the Zervobeakas' office Marina Vranopoulou read out the following statement on their behalf:
''The terrorists killed defenseless victims depriving them of the self-evident right to live. Today we are face to face with the true face of Democracy that does not take revenge. We trust the institutions of the State and we believe that the best answer and the greatest tribute to the memory of the people that were lost is the operation of these institutions and respect for democratic values.''
The announcement also stressed that the murderers of 12 other victims of terrorist organizations were still at large.
Michalis Peratikos stayed behind with Zervobeakas in order to testify regarding the murder of his son Kostas, while Dora Bakoyianni is due to testify on Saturday.
Afterwards, in remarks to reporters, Skandalidis said he will convene a bipartisan committee on Monday, followed by a meeting with Athens mayoral candidates next Wednesday to discuss potential election process glitches in the municipality, the country’s largest.
He stressed that his ministry's primary function, leading up to and during the municipal and prefectural elections in October, revolves around a problem-free election process, updating voter registries and properly listing new polling stations.
Beyond the coming elections, Skandalidis – who was previously PASOK party secretary – said a bill on establishing the position of public administration general inspectors will be tabled in the third summer session of Parliament. The move emanates from efforts to better combat corruption in the public sector, he said.
On Cyprus' EU accession course, Yiannitsis told Miller that Cyprus is close to completing the accession negotiations and is a frontrunner among the other candidate countries and at the same time is making every possible effort for a political solution to the Cyprus problem.
Yiannitsis added that the Turkish Cypriot side has not shown a constructive stance, but given the facts, there is nothing that will stop Cyprus' entry into the EU.
The Greek alternate foreign minister said that Greece was positive towards Turkey's European prospects, making it clear that the date for the start of accession talks did not depend on Greece but the EU and Turkey.
Papoutsis is also scheduled to meet EU Commission President Romano Prodi and European Parliament Socialist Group President Enrique Baron Crespo.
Papoutsis said that he discussed with the EU officials issues related to the EU funding of Athens, especially in view of the Olympic Games.
Speaking to reporters, after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis to discuss the government's tax reform plan, Mr. Christodoulakis said that the government would like to offer Greek families and SMEs the ability for a fundamental support through simplifying procedures in their relations with the tax system.
He also stressed that the tax reform would also seek to support the country's growth course and social cohesion.
The Greek minister rejected press reports over a new "social benefit package" promoted by the government. "This is an old-fashioned view that does not benefit the economy nor government politics. Governments that succumb to such pressures in a pre-election period are those who finally lose out," he said.
Referring to the inflation, Christodoulakis said that high inflation was not in the interests of both Greek consumers and the economy and urged for a widespread effort to combat inflation.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting with commerce trade groups on Wednesday, Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said that government departments would hold talks with the central bank on lowering inflation to below 3.0 percent at the end of the year.
Tsohatzopoulos also called on producers and traders to show price restraint.
''There is absolutely no reason for further price rises in the market, and we would ask for the support of all concerned to achieve price stability,'' the minister said.
''This is a political position in order to attain (eurozone) convergence, and the government will take measures if price rises continue. At the moment we are seeking understanding,'' he added.
The first round of price hikes resulted from rounding off drachmas to euros at the start of the year, and to increases in fruit and vegetable prices following adverse weather.
From April to July, a number of goods and services continued to rise in price, especially in dental and medical services, food and coffee. Unjustified rises had continued in tourist venues, Tsohatzopoulos added.
The new agency will be based in Athens and answer to the finance and interior ministers, while its brief will be to collect and process qualitative and quantitative data related to the information society in Greece, to disseminate optimal practices and to draft and submit reports and proposals to the state and other interested parties on these issues.
To this end, it will work closely with bodies in charge of the Information Society Program and participate in European and international networks for the exchange of know-how and experience.
The aim of the watchdog is to preempt problems and deficits that might arise through a lack of quantitative data and statistical indices, analyses and comparative studies and the transfer and exchange of similar experience in other countries.
An announcement by the Northern Greece's Exporters Union, the coordinator of the Greek presence in the meeting, said that the partenariat event was a joint initiative by the European Union and China's Republic to promote business cooperation between small- and medium-sized enterprises.
The union said the meeting offered Greek companies the opportunity to seek partners in China and to exploit this huge market in view of very positive bilateral relations after the Greek prime minister's visit in the country last spring.
The Greek companies represent the food production and processing, information technology, environment protection, metal products, electric appliances and technology, machinery and industrial support sectors.
Traders said the market was hit by a negative climate in other European markets but noted that the Greek bourse showed more resilience.
The general index fell 0.69 percent to end at 2,163.64 points, with turnover a low 83.9 million euros.
The Textile, Food-Beverage and Construction sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day (4.17 percent, 3.79 percent and 2.04 percent, respectively).
Te FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks ended 0.72 percent lower, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index dropped 1.65 percent and FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index ended 1.11 percent down.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 257 to 68 The most heavily traded stocks in value were Hellenic Telecommunications Organization, Informatics, Coca Cola HBC, Public Power Corporation, and Naoussa Textile Mills.
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 73.3 mln euros Wednesday
Equity Index Futures:
Day's Market Turnover: 73.3 mln euros
Bond Market Close: Turnover at 2.3 bln euros Wednesday
The ATHOC president is expected to refer to the successful pre-Olympic Sailing Regatta which was held at Aghios Kosmas as well as on Greece's efforts to eradicate terrorism.
Angelopoulos-Daskalaki will meet IOC President Jacques Rogge who on Thursday afternoon will give a press conference on the results of his briefing by the Greek delegation.
The firebomb was made of two gas canisters and went off at 2:50 in the morning, causing minor damage to the ATM and no injuries.
Local residents reported seeing two people set the device and then drive off on a motorbike.
Put forward at the round table discussion will be views and proposals on various issues such as the development in natural sciences, technology, biology and population explosion.
The exhibition is taking place under the auspices of the Cultural Olympiad and was organized in collaboration with the Museum of Byzantine Culture in Thessaloniki and the Benaki Museum. It will be officially inaugurated on September 18 but the public will be able to visit it at the Byzantine Museum in Athens from Wednesday.
It is also linked with an international conference entitled "The art of clay. References to the past, prospects for the future" organized by the International Academy of Ceramics (IAC) in Athens and Rethymno from August 26 until September 2.
The exhibition features 100 representative Byzantine vessels, most of which have a lead glaze that makes them waterproof and allows them to be colored with metal oxides.
Also organized in the framework of the exhibition is the educational program "From earth and water: Byzantine plates, cups and glasses" that will begin at the start of the school year.
Education ministry general secretary Athanasios Tsouroplis said the announcement had been made earlier than in previous years, thus facilitating the registration process.
Regarding the results overall, Tsouroplis said they showed that the system had 'normalized' and achieved equilibrium, since all the results ranged within reasonable levels, without being either extremely high nor extremely low.
He said there had been a drop in results overall, for all schools and university departments.
Regarding success rates overall, he said that 75,952 candidates out of a total of 98,205 had got a place in tertiary education, or 77.3 per cent compared to 71.905 per cent in 2001.
This was said on Tuesday in New York by UN Secretary-General's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, announcing the resumption in Nicosia of the direct talks on Cyprus ''between Glafcos Clerides, the Greek Cypriot leader, and Rauf Denktash, the Turkish Cypriot leader, in the presence of the Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto.''
Eckhard said that Tuesday's meeting ''was the 50th face-to-face meeting between the two men since the direct talks began on January 16.''
He said the two leaders would meet again this Friday, August 30, and next Tuesday, September 3, prior to traveling to Paris to meet the Secretary-General on September 6.
In his letter to Annan, Zackheos stressed that these violations ''run contrary to international law, as well as the Security Council resolutions on Cyprus'' and called for their immediate cessation.
The Cypriot diplomat noted that ''these violations are occurring despite the fact that direct talks are being held in Cyprus'' at the
UN Secretary-General's invitation in the exercise of his mission of good offices.
Furthermore Zackheos recalled that ''the Security Council has given its full support to this mission of good offices, conducted pursuant to the Security Council Resolution 1250 and noting in its most recent statement of 9 July, that the Turkish Cypriot side had been less constructive in its approach, has strongly underscored the need for the Turkish side in particular to change its negative stance.''
''I sincerely hope that the government of Turkey will show restraint, cease the violation of the airspace of Cyprus and heed the call of the international community by contributing to the efforts to find a just and viable solution to the Cyprus problem on the basis of United Nations resolutions,'' he added.
Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash have been engaged in UN-led talks since mid January this year with a view to reach a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.
He said the British deputies expressed views on practical ways to promote the missing persons issue at the British Parliament and the Council of Europe.
"Some suggestions were made and we will look into them to see how we can use Turkey's effort to join the EU and the missing persons issue to create the necessary pressure on Turkey to solve this humanitarian issue," Theodosiou said after meeting the deputies.
Over 1,000 persons are still missing since the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, most of them Greek Cypriots. The Turkish Cypriots have said there are over 500 persons missing since the early 1960s when intercommunal fighting broke out on the island.
The British MPs also met President of the House European Affairs Committee, Tassos Papadopoulos, and said after their discussions that they looked forward to the island’s accession to the European Union because they see "great opportunities to resolving matters when Cyprus is a full member of the EU".
Describing the next six months as "really crucial" due to the UN negotiations for a Cyprus settlement and the negotiations for the island’s accession to the EU, the British MPs said the issue of missing persons as well as other matters will be discussed when they return to Westminster.
Papadopoulos said the four MPs are steady friends of the people of Cyprus and supporters of the struggle for a just and viable solution to the Cyprus problem.
Speaking on arrival at Larnaca airport Wednesday, Klosson said he looked forward to hearing first-hand the views of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides on the status of the ongoing UN-led peace talks for a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus.
''I am honored to represent the President and people of the United States of America, and I feel the weight of my responsibility'', Klosson said. He will present his credentials to President Glafcos Clerides on Thursday.
''This is a critical juncture for Cyprus, an opportunity of a generation for a brighter future for Cypriots from one end of the island to another'', Klosson said, adding that ''such an opportunity must be seized with all the urgency that can be summoned''.
He said he is ''eager'' to begin his work ''as part of the US team supporting the UN Secretary-General's mission to facilitate the direct talks now underway'', adding that he looks forward to ''hearing first-hand the leaders’ views on the status of the talks''.
The US and Cyprus have many issues to pursue together, something that will be part of his mission here, he said, in order to strengthen ''our counter terrorism efforts, deepen our business ties and expand law enforcement cooperation''.
Klosson, a career Foreign Service officer with 27 years of experience in Europe, East Asia and senior State Department positions, was sworn in August 19 as the next US ambassador to Cyprus.
He assumes his post as the UN-led peace talks are entering what many describe as a crucial phase and only a week before President Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash go to Paris to meet UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.