|Saturday, 14 December 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 02-11-20
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>November 20, 2002
 New budget aims to keep stability, fiscal revitalization in 2003
Athens, 20/11/2002 (ANA)The budget for 2003, which the government gave to parliament on Tuesday, sees growth of 3.8 percent and a rise of 5.1 percent each for public sector revenue and spending.
Presenting the budget, Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis told a news conference that spending under the government's public investments program would rise by 12.9 percent, coupled with a containment of public sector operational expenditure.
''The aim of the budget is to maintain conditions of stability in the economy, continue fiscal revitalization, and finance the social insurance and taxation overhaul,'' the minister said.
''It is one more step on the road to real convergence of the Greek economy with other economies of the European Union,'' he added.
The general government deficit in 2003 is expected to drop to 0.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) from 1.1 percent of GDP in 2002 following a recent revision of Greek data by Eurostat, the European Union's statistical agency.
The public debt next year is forecast to drop to 100.2 percent of GDP from 105.3 percent of GDP in 2002, Christodoulakis said.
''Taken into account while drafting the budget were uncertain conditions in the global economic and geopolitical environment,'' the minister added.
Incorporated into the budget are tax relief already announced by the government as part of an overhaul of the system, with revenue from tax due to increase from a rise in GDP and a continuing crackdown on tax evasion.
In addition, contained in the budget are financing for small and medium sized enterprises and for farmers under the EU's Third Community Framework Package of funds and other sources, Christodoulakis said.
In 2003, average per capita income in Greece would total 71 percent of the EU average, the minister noted.
Unemployment, inflation to drop: Joblessness is forecast to decline to 9.1 percent in 2003; inflation to fall to 2.7 percent in December next year from 3.3 percent forecast for the same month of 2002; and incomes policy for 2003 will be based on an anticipated inflation rate of 2.5 percent.
In addition, revenue from privatization was due to continue flowing into state coffers, Christodoulakis said.
The minister noted that private and corporate tax breaks totalled 800 for 2003.
Revenue from tax in 2003 was forecast to rise by 5.4 percent against 2002 due to a 4.9 percent increase in direct taxes and 5.8 percent in indirect taxes.
Tax checks for breaches of the law would focus on Value Added Tax, consumer taxes, provision of services, transport, offshore companies, subsidies and investments, infrastructure projects for the Athens 2004 Olympics and narcotics, the minister said.
Furthermore, recruitment in the public sector would hold steady at 2002 levels, and funds in the new budget for hiring totalled 25 million euros.
State spending on public sector wages in 2003 would rise by 5.9 percent; on pensions by 4.5 percent; and total spending on social insurance and healthcare by 19.1 percent, Christodoulakis noted.
In addition, spending on payments to social insurance funds would increase by 21.1 percent with the lion's share destined for the Social Insurance Foundation, with the state's contribution to show an 82.3 percent jump.
At the same time, operational and other spending in the public sector was forecast to drop by 1.2 percent next year, Christodoulakis said.
The ministry to receive the sharpest rise in funding in 2003 is labor and social insurance at 18.9 percent, with the lowest rise awarded to the finance ministry at 0.8 percent.
Finally, primary spending in the budget for 2003 is to rise by 6.0 percent, the minister said.
Opposition parties lash out over budget: The leader of the main opposition New Democracy party, Costas Karamanlis, said that the government had failed to provide a budget that the country needed.
''The government has confirmed its inability to proceed with policies that the country really needs. It has persisted in a dead-end economic policy, which does not really lead to convergence (with the European Union), Karamanlis said in a statement.
''The EU recently confirmed our estimates on the real state of the economy, and the credibility of Simitis government budgets. It was demonstrated that so-called surplus budgets were in the red and meant only for show,'' the statement said.
The Communist Part of Greece said in a separate statement that the government was pursuing an economic policy that hurt the public and supported big capital.
''The budget reflects the ruling class's anxiety in the face of global recession, deterioration in the competitive position of Greek goods, and a slowdown in growth by Greek capitalism against previous government forecasts,'' the party said.
Finally, a senior official of the Coalition of the Left and Progress, Dimitris Papadimoulis, charged that the government's budget had shown maintenance of an economic policy that leaned to the political right.
Papadimoulis pointed out that incomes policy was based on a figure of 2.5 percent while inflation was forecast at nearly 4.0 percent, which would hurt more vulnerable groups in society.
 PM says national consensus on Annan plan 'precious capital'
Athens, 20/11/2002 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis, speaking after briefing opposition party leaders on the UN secretary general's Cyprus plan on Tuesday, said national consensus he ascertained over the Annan plan is ''precious capital.''
Simitis said that ''despite the individual reservations of political party leaders, there is a strong will for a solution to the Cyprus issue which is not affected by partisan expediencies. Greece can and will rise to the occasion.''
The prime minister briefed on Monday main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis and on Tuesday Communist Party of Greece (KKE) secretary general Aleka Papariga and Coalition leader Nikos Constantopoulos.
Simitis said that, firstly, ''nothing is imposed on us by anyone'' since developments constitute the outcome of the ever-increasing dynamism distinguishing the action of Greece and Cyprus.
Secondly, he said ''increased international interest in a solution to the Cyprus issue is being manifested today, because the conclusion of the national effort for Cyprus' accession to the EU is being approached with success today.''
Simitis further said that, thirdly, ''the dates of the Annan plan are linked to enlargement and necessitate intensive consultations'' which, however, do not appear possible due to the delay in the reply by the Turkish Cypriot side.
''If, however, a solution is not possible before Copenhagen the accession of Cyprus must go ahead and we shall be particularly determined there,'' he added.
Fourthly, Simitis said the National Council of Cyprus accepted the Annan plan as a base for negotiations ''and we actively support this position with our reservations on the negative aspects of the plan. Our target is the achievement of a viable and just solution which will also be workable. The denial of dialogue is against Cyprus and our country, while the indefinite postponement disregards international treaties.''
Simitis concluded by saying that, fifthly, ''it is self-evident that we want a solution. However, not whatever solution. We want a just and viable solution which will be workable in the framework of the UN.''
KKE leader voices grave concern over developments in Cyprus issue: Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Tuesday evening briefed in succession Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga and Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos on developments in the Cyprus issue in light of the plan which UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan submitted to the interested parties for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.
Following her briefing by the prime minister, Papariga appeared pessimistic over the course of developments for a settlement of the political problem of Cyprus.
The KKE leader told reporters that ''all the setting of the discussions and negotiations are being conducted with the pistol (pointed) at Cyprus' temple, and this is happening, firstly with the contents of the Annan plan, secondly with the timeframe procedures which have been set, thirdly with the blackmail of Cyprus' accession to the European Union and fourthly, with the problem that the negotiators cannot harm the Annan plan which undoubtedly leads to a controversial confederation, to a partitioned Cyprus, to a Cyprus with three states.''
Commenting on the contents of Annan's plan, Papariga said ''it's essentially a U.S.-British plan in which is imprinted the persistence of the United States for it to pass as it is and the persistence of the British to operate as overlords in Cyprus.'' Asked whether she ascertained changes in Turkey's policy following the visit to Athens by the winner of Turkey's general elections, Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the KKE leader said ''it is too early for us to speak of a change in stance, given that other than in statements that were made in an affable climate, Mr Erdogan said nothing specific. If there is a change we must see it.''
On his part, Constantopoulos told reporters after his briefing by Simitis that ''all the political forces should support the negotiating position of the National Council of Cyprus.''
He added that any obstruction by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash or Ankara should not prevent the unimpeded accession of Cyprus to the European Union.
The Greek government, Constantopoulos said, should support the completion of the accession procedure for Cyprus, further noting that ''there are issues in the Annan plan which are problematic and it is self-evident that we are in front of a crucial turning point.''
The Coalition leader called on the government to take the initiative for the holding of a meeting of the political leaders, under the chairmanship of President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos.
 PM briefs cabinet on talks with Erdogan, Cyprus president
Athens, 20/11/2002 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis began Tuesday's cabinet meeting by briefing his government on the results of his talks with Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides about the UN plan for Cyprus and his meeting with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) emerged victorious in recent elections in Turkey, government spokesman Christos Protopapas announced.
According to sources, the prime minister said Erdogan showed good will and a positive attitude but did not appear fully aware of the urgency of the deadlines suggested by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan so that a resolution to the Cyprus problem might achieved before the island republic joined the EU. Similarly, Simitis said, Erdogan seemed not to appreciate the difficulties the EU had in setting a date for the start of accession negotiations with Turkey.
On his talks with Clerides, the prime minister said the Cypriot side saw the Annan plan as a good basis for negotiations and intended to place most emphasis on the provisions for settlers and the workings of the state.
In response to a query by Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos regarding the Aegean continental shelf issue, Simitis said that nothing had changed after his talks with Erdogan. He said that Greece and Turkey were now looking into the possibility of signing an agreement to bring the matter to the International Court of Justice at The Hague.
The cabinet meeting also occupied itself with the 2003 budget, where the prime minister said the government had to promote its overall economic policy as an answer to the controversy created by the opposition and other bodies regarding economic indices.
 Main opposition analysis team discusses Annan plan
Athens, 20/11/2002 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy's political analysis team met at the party's headquarters in Rigillis on Tuesday to review the latest developments concerning the Cyprus issue and the impact of the United Nations plan for Cyprus.
ND leader Costas Karamanlis briefed the meeting on the results of his talks with Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Monday evening and criticized the premier for refusing to call a party leaders' council under President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos as ND had requested.
The main opposition leader also disagreed with the prime minister's initial assessment of the plan put forward by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan as a "historic opportunity", saying that a tough struggle and negotiations lay ahead to achieve a better results in terms of a functional state, the Cyprus Constitution, the settler issue and harmonization with EU laws and practices.
High-ranking ND member Dora Bakoyianni, meanwhile, expressed fears that the Helsinki summit resolution that separated the Cyprus problem from the island republic's accession to the EU appeared less airtight as some circles were now attempting to link the two as a "package".
The party's political council, in which ND honorary president Constantine Mitsotakis will participate, is to meet on Thursday.
Mitsotakis says there may be 'a painful compromise solution' to the Cyprus issue: Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Costas Karamanlis held talks on Monday with the party's honorary president, Constantine Mitsotakis, on developments in the Cyprus issue.
Following his half-hour meeting with Karamanlis at the ND's headquarters, former Prime Minister Mitsotakis told reporters that ''there are problems at this moment of time and neither jubilation nor exaggerated optimism is justified.''
Mitsotakis noted that ''the coming months will be months of tough negotiations which possibly will lead to a solution which will be a painful compromise solution.''
The former prime minister said he trusted the Cyprus leadership, President Glafcos Clerides and the people of Cyprus when the time comes for the referendum. However, he noted that ''this does not mean that Greece will hide behind Cyprus, it will have its own opinion and finally there will be a joint decision and joint responsibility on whatever solution finally arises.''
Commenting on the arrival in Athens on Monday of the winner of the Turkish general elections, Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the ND honorary president said that the political change in Turkey ''constitutes a great opportunity for an improvement in bilateral relations,'' stressing that when the political problem of Cyprus is solved in a just and permanent way, ''the bilateral differences with Turkey and the problems of the Aegean will be more easily solved in a relevantly short period of time.''
Mitsotakis reiterated that Cyprus' accession to the European Union must be viewed as a given fact and will facilitate a solution.
 Coalition leader calls for party leaders' council on Annan plan
Athens, 20/11/2002 (ANA)Coalition of the Left and Progress party leader Nikos Constantopoulos on Tuesday repeated calls for a meeting of party leaders under President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos to discuss the proposals for a Cyprus settlement presented by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.
According to Constantopoulos, there were three crucial issues that needed resolving in the Annan plan. Firstly, it raised questions about whether the plan's complex system of executive power would give rise to problems and ineffectiveness, creating a dysfunctional state.
Questions also arose in terms of its compatibility with the body of EU laws and regulations and, thirdly, with the continued existence of 'guarantor' powers, he added.
Constantopoulos announced that he would be visiting Cyprus and the occupied territories for talks with political forces on the island in both communities, followed by a visit to Turkey.
 UN secretary general 'very concerned' over delay in Cyprus issue
NEW YORK 20/11/2002 (ANA - M. Georgiadou)UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is very worried by a delay in the start of talks on his plan to unify Cyprus caused by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash's illness, a spokesman said on Tuesday.
''The secretary general is very concerned. A way to get negotiations under way needs to be found urgently, because further delay could result in the disappearance of the opportunity,'' UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
He said when the secretary general presented his plan to the leaders of the two sides, to bridge differences between them and to lift the deadlock in negotiations, on November 11 he called on them to convey their reactions to his special adviser Alvaro de Soto in a week's time.
''Yesterday, November 18, the secretary general received a letter by Mr. (Cyprus President Glafcos) Clerides in which Mr. Clerides expressed his readiness for a start to negotiations without delay, based on the document given to the two leaders. Until now, the secretary general has not received a similar indication from the Turkish Cypriot side,'' he added.
Dujarric said it is known that Mr. Denktash remains hospitalized in New York and that he needs consultations before communicating his reaction to the UN.
''The plan submitted by the secretary general contains a specific timetable to enable the two sides to benefit from the opportunity and this timetable requires the main issues to have been resolved before the European Council is convened in Copenhagen. This timetable constitutes a part and section of the plan,'' he added.
The spokesman went on to say that the secretary general has requested from de Soto to meet him in Europe at the end of the week to enable him to evaluate the situation and examine what the UN can do to promote the process.
 FM Papandreou briefs EU counterparts on Erdogan's Athens visit and views
BRUSSELS 20/11/2002 (ANA-M. Spinthourakis)The developments in the Cyprus issue vis-a-vis the draft plan put forward by UN secretary general Kofi Annan, and Turkey's European prospects were among the issues discussed in Brussels late Monday during a working dinner of the EU foreign ministers, at which Greece was represented by foreign minister George Papandreou and alternate foreign minister Tasos Yiannitsis.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Papandreou said he had called on his EU counterparts to provide all possible assistance to boost the momentum in the efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem created by the submittal of Annan's plan, with the aim of achieving positive results by the EU summit in Copenhagen next month.
Papandreou also said he briefed the other EU foreign ministers on the views voiced by Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- whose party won the recent Turkish general elections -- during his visit to Athens on Monday and his objections on the plan's timetable, which the Turkish side considers unfeasible due to Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash's illness compounded by the transitional political period in Turkey.
The Greek foreign minister said he further briefed his EU counterparts on the outcome of the consultations between Greece and Turkey on the Annan proposals, noting that the Cypriot viewed the Annan draft as a basis for negotiations and felt that if certain changes were made, it could lead to a resolution of the Cyprus problem.
He said the present phase comprised a ''historic opportunity'' for resolving the Cyprus issue and for the peaceful coexistence of the two communities on the island republic, urging that this opportunity should not be missed.
According to diplomatic sources, the EU foreign ministers agreed along general lines with Papandreou's views, while the EU's Commissioner for enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, said that the EU should draft a protocol on the basis of which Cyprus would be given the ability to join the EU, and providing for the ''automatic'' application of the EU body of laws (acquis communautaire) in the occupied territory of Cyprus upon resolution of the island republic's political problem.
The above matters were also discussed in detail by Papandreou individually with Verheugen and the German foreign minister on the sidelines of the EU foreign ministers' meeting.
On Turkey's European prospects, Papandreou said he had briefed his counterparts on the exceptional importance placed by Erdogan on having a date set for the commencement of accession negotiations between the EU and the Turkish government, and reiterated Greece's positions on the matter. Greece agrees to set such a date provided Turkey fulfilled certain conditions regarding its democratization and Cyprus.
On this matter, the diplomatic sources said, the views of the EU member states were split, with one group preferring that the Copenhagen summit should set out a timetable on the basis of which, in the near future, a date could be set for the taking of final decisions on the commencing of accession negotiations.
The sources added that, in such an eventuality, the prospect could not be ruled out of Turkey deciding not to give the 'green light' for the commencement of negotiations on the Annan plan, and of linking this decision with that of setting a commencement date for accession talks.
 'Enlarged' EuroParliament session welcomes UN plan for Cyprus
STRASBOURG 20/11/2002 (ANA - O. Tsipira)The set of proposals put forward by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan for Cyprus were a ''historic challenge presented only once to each generation,'' European Parliament Speaker Pat Cox said on Tuesday in statements to an 'enlarged' session of the European Parliament, which for the first time included 202 guest members from EU candidate-countries.
The majority of MEPs taking part appeared to concur, most of them welcoming the plan as a rare opportunity to finally break through the decades-long deadlock between the two sides on the island.
Cox, who was largely behind the initiative to invite candidate-country lawmakers to Tuesday's session on enlargement, urged Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to rise to the occasion and seize this opportunity to bring Cyprus into the EU united.
References to the Cyprus plan were also made by Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, head of the Danish EU presidency, in his address to the body, who thanked Annan for his efforts to find a peaceful way out of a problem that had long troubled the EU.
''Everyone must contribute so that a final solution is achieved at the summit in Copenhagen,'' he said.
Both Cox and Rasmussen also referred to Turkey's candidacy and a visit to Strasbourg this week by the leader of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Rasmussen stressed that Turkey would have the same treatment as all other candidate-countries once accession negotiations began but stressed that it had to first meet the political criteria.
European Commission President Romano Prodi said that Europe would prefer Cyprus to join the Community united but pointed to the decision at the Helsinki Summit that a solution to the Cyprus issue could not be a condition for the island republic's accession.
Regarding Turkey, he noted the Commission's report on the progress the country had made and said the decision was now up to the EU leaders meeting in Copenhagen.
Prodi said the Commission had pledged to recommend a better 'pre-accession deal' with Turkey under which it would receive more economic assistance, while noting that its EU accession prospects had driven Turkey to modernize. It would be better for the EU to remain in this role and keep Turkey's accession hopes alive, which would act as a level for its development, he added.
 EU Council of FMs appeals for agreement on Cyprus
BRUSSELS 20/11/2002 (ANA - Y. Zitouniati)The EU Council of Foreign Ministers convened here on Tuesday and appealed for an agreement on the Cyprus issue, based on the blueprint presented by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, until the European Union's Copenhagen summit on December 12-14.
It is a statement by the Danish EU presidency which, according to Foreign Minister George Papandreou ''reflects the wish of all of us for an agreement until Copenhagen.''
Speaking to Greek reporters, he said all are aware that time limits are tight and that Turkey is also requesting an extension of the time limit.
Papandreou said in the event an agreement is not possible by December the provision reached at the Helsinki summit will apply on the accession of the Republic of Cyprus, regardless of a solution to its political problem, and combined, maybe, with an ''automatic'' accession protocol for the northern part of the island when the Cyprus issue will have been resolved, as proposed by the relevant commissioner Guenter Verheugen.
The foreign minister said the Council also informs Ankara that with certain goodwill moves in the sectors of human rights, the European army and the solution of the Cyprus issue it could obtain a favorable settlement regarding its claim for a date for the beginning of accession negotiations.
On the question of the European army, Papandreou said the EU ''hopes to have the first positive signal from Turkey at NATO's upcoming summit in Prague (on November 21-22).
Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis referred on his part to institutional issues discussed by the Council in light of enlargement and, more specifically, the setting of an official accession date for the 10 first-wave countries, which will be May 1, 2004, and the participation of the 10 new countries in the European Commission with commissioners without portfolio at first.
Yiannitsis further said candidates' claims for agricultural subsidies were also discussed during the meeting between the ''15'' foreign ministers and candidate countries, as well as the ''road map'' for the continuation of negotiations with Romania and Bulgaria.
 Verheugen says EU will make a decision on Cyprus at Copenhagen
STRASBOURG 20/11/2002 (ANA /O. Tsipira - CNA)Enlargement Commissioner, Guenter Verheugen, made it clear on Tuesday that the European Union (EU) will make a decision for Cyprus' accession to the EU during the Copenhagen European Council in December and that there is no way to postpone it.
He stressed however that a settlement to the political problem is not a precondition and the EU will make the decision taking into account the relevant factors.
Verheugen was answering questions by reporters during a press conference he gave with Prime Minister of Denmark, President-in-office of the European Council, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, European Parliament President Pat Cox and European Commission President Romano Prodi, after the morning session of the Enlargement Debate at the European Parliament in the presence of Members of National Parliaments from the Applicant Countries.
Regarding derogations from the acquis communautaire in the plan submitted by the United Nations last week for a Cyprus settlement, Verheugen said there are some principles which are not negotiable and these were clearly stated in the 2002 Seville European Council conclusions, but the EU is prepared to be as flexible as possible. To a question by CNA that there seems to be a concern that Cyprus' accession will depend on a solution to the political problem, Verheugen said, ''the situation is clear''.
He explained, ''since Helsinki, the accession of Cyprus based on a political settlement, is what we want. It is the preferred option. If this is not possible, it is not a precondition. And we will make the decision taking into account the relevant factors. Of course, we know the relevant factors, so that is clear.''
The Enlargement Commissioner further said ''it would be very unwise for the EU to discuss the question whether certain elements of the UN proposal are acquis compatible or not.''
He pointed out that ''especially, it would be unwise to discuss the points raised in the annex E of the plan,'' (entitled, ''Request of the United Cyprus to the EU''). Verheugen wondered why the EU should do that before the involved parties have made an agreement and are ready to discuss the matters resulting.
''I think it must be the other way round,'' Verheugen stressed, adding that ''first of all, the involved parties have to explain what they want to do and when it is clear there will be a solution, then we will discuss these matters.'' At this point, the Enlargement Commissioner repeated ''what President Prodi told Cypriots in Nicosia: There are some principles, which are not negotiable. We have clearly stated them in the Seville Council conclusions and the rest we can accommodate. And we are absolutely prepared to be as flexible as possible''.
Furthermore, he said the EU is concentrating ''on encouraging both communities to accept Kofi Annan's proposal to respect the timetable. And that would allow us to make the decision in Copenhagen that we want,'' he added.
''The question 'what if' cannot be answered today,'' Verheugen stressed, adding, ''the guidance is in the Helsinki conclusions. The politically important point is we will make a decision. There is no way to postpone it. That is clear.''
Any technical questions, he added, ''must be discussed in Copenhagen. We have discussed this already yesterday (Monday) in the General affairs Council. The options are on the table. Technically, it is possible to conclude the accession negotiations with Cyprus without prejudging the outcome of the ongoing peace process''.
 US envoy for Cyprus Weston arrives in Ankara for talks
ISTANBUL 20/11/2002 (ANA – A. Kourkoulas)US State Department special coordinator for Cyprus Thomas Weston arrived in Ankara on Tuesday for talks with the new Turkish government, a week after a UN peace plan for the long-standing Cyprus problem was handed to both communities on the island republic.
“It’s time to solve this long-standing problem, and we must work hard to achieve this,” he said from the Turkish capital.
Weston also described the Annan peace plan as extremely complex, following his contacts at the Turkish foreign ministry, before adding that the US side wants this to be done as soon as possible, although a certain amount of time is necessary.
He also reiterated, in response to press questions, that both sides have cited points in the plan they do not like, while both -- Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots -- must also make mutual concessions.
Finally, asked about the new Turkish government, he expressed a hope that it will positively influence developments in the Cyprus issue, according to an “Anadolu” dispatch from Ankara.
 PM says Greek-Turkish business joint ventures 'not realistic' at present time
Athens, 20/11/2002 (ANA)The development of Greek-Turkish business collaborations (joint ventures) was not realistic at the present time given the current economic and political uncertainty in Turkey, Greece's Prime Minister Costas Simitis said Tuesday.
Addressing a National Competitiveness Council meeting, Simitis said the development of Greek-Turkish joint ventures was ''not realistic'' at the present time ''when there is economic uncertainty, high inflation but also political uncertainty in Turkey''.
He also said that Greek enterprises felt that a possible backslide in Greek-Turkish relations would negatively influence their activities.
However, Simitis added, prospects did exist for the development of the presence of the enterprises on both sides of the border.
 PM due in Prague for NATO summit this week
Athens, 20/11/2002 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis is to be present in Parliament when the budget is tabled on Tuesday, government spokesman Christos Protopapas announced while presenting the premier's schedule for the coming week.
At 20:00 in the evening, meanwhile, the prime minister is to have successive meetings with Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga and Coalition of the Left and Progress leader Nikos Constantopoulos to brief them on the latest developments regarding the Cyprus issue.
Immediately after the two meetings, the prime minister will make an overall statement regarding the results of his meetings on the UN plan for Cyprus with the political party leaders.
On Wednesday morning, Simitis is to chair a meeting attended by Foreign Minister George Papandreou, Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and Media Minister Christos Protopapas on preparing the Greek delegation for the NATO summit in Prague, followed by a one-on-one meeting between Simitis and Papantoniou to prepare for a meeting of the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA).
The prime minister will then depart for Prague and the NATO summit at 14:30.
Protopapas reported that no meeting had so far been arranged between Simitis and US President George Bush or with Turkish President Ahmet Sezer.
Leaving Prague on Friday night, the prime minister will call at The Hague for a meeting with his Dutch counterpart on Saturday morning.
On his return to Athens, he will begin the week by chairing a KYSEA meeting on Monday morning on the arms procurements program, while on Monday evening he will chair a meeting of ruling PASOK's Executive Bureau on preparations for a joint meeting of PASOK's parliamentary group and Central Committee on November 28-29.
On Wednesday week, Simitis will chair a government committee to assess preparations for the Olympics.
 Euroforce to be operational before Greek EU presidency's end, Papantoniou says
BRUSSELS 20/11/2002 (ANA-M. Spinthourakis)Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou on Tuesday expressed the political will of the European Union member-states to make operational the European rapid deployment force before the end of the Greek EU presidency in June next year.
Also participating in the press conference after a meeting of the European Union's defense ministers' council, European Union High Commissioner on defense and foreign policy Javier Solana spoke of the possibility of an agreement on the Euroforce issue, stressing that following the submission of the UN's plan for the resolution of the Cyprus issue, the resolution of the island republic's political problem would facilitate the resolution of the permanent access of the EU to the NATO infrastructures.
On his part, Papantoniou, who is currently presiding over the council, expressed his satisfaction over the reaffirmation of the political will of the 15 ministers to make operational the European rapid deployment force and said that over the next few months the talks on this issue will be intensified to cover existing gaps.
The Greek defense minister also said that in May 2003 the EU's defense ministers' council will convene in Athens to finalize the resolution of details on the Euroforce issue, adding that during the initial stage of its existence the force will undertake small caliber operations, while later its capabilities will increase.
Papantoniou also spoke of the EU member-states' defense spending, saying that everyone agrees that there should be an increase, considering of course the commitments of the member-states to the economic and development stability pact.
He added that the ministers decided to form a work group that will study the best possible use of funds that are allocated by the member-states for the European defense spending, stressing that there is a necessity for the coordination of the policies of the EU on defense issues with the Mediterranean countries, as well as the harmonization of the types of training between member-states in a way that would facilitate the creation of the Euroforce.
Speaking of the EU's access to NATO's infrastructures, Papantoniou said that Turkey did not yet give its consent for the resolution of the problem, but insinuated that this may happen during the Prague NATO Summit.
As for the replacement of the NATO troops in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) by European forces, Papantoniou said that this may happen irrespectively of the implementation of a permanent agreement with NATO, since the force now in place has been decreasing and the conditions there are complex.
 New Turkish PM Gul vows to find solutions to problems with Athens
Athens, 20/11/2002 (ANA)The man handpicked by recent Turkish election winner Recep Tayyip Erdogan to head the mew AKP party-dominated government in Ankara, Abdullah Gul, on Tuesday said he his Cabinet will promote the solution of Greek-Turkish problems.
In response to relevant press questions during a closing ceremony of the 48th NATO parliamentary conference in Istanbul, Gul said there “are certain problems in our relations with Greece. We will approach them with a positive manner and without prejudice.”
“We want to solve the problems,” an Anadolu dispatch quoted him as saying, while adding: “...and both sides know the problems that exist. Their solution must satisfy both sides.”
 FM to meet with British envoy on Cyprus problem
Athens, 20/11/2002 (ANA)Foreign Minister George Papandreou on Wednesday will meet with British envoy on the Cyprus problem Sir David Hannay in light developments on the Cyprus issue, a foreign ministry press release said on Tuesday.
Britain along with Greece and Turkey are the guarantor powers for Cyprus.
 Magriotis in US for SAE regional conference
Athens, 20/11/2002 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Magriotis departs for New York on Wednesday in order to participate in a World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) regional conference, in tandem with a cultural-Olympics week in the US metropolis.
 Archbishop of America expresses hope for resolution of Cyprus problem
Athens, 20/11/2002 (ANA)Greek Orthodox Archbishop of America Dimitrios on Tuesday expressed the hope for the resolution of the Cyprus problem, in statements he made during his stay in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, stressing that everybody wanted an immediate resolution of the problem.
Dimitrios had visited Thessaloniki, where the city's University Theology department awarded him an honorary doctorate degree.
 PM addresses National Competitiveness Council's 3rd session
Athens, 20/11/2002 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis, speaking at the National Competitiveness Council's 3rd session on Tuesday, said the target is strengthening competitiveness but not through disorganizing labor relations.
''What we are seeking is to create a development model coping with the challenges of the 21st century,'' he said.
Simitis added that the first and focal target of government policy is to strengthen employment and decrease unemployment in the framework of decisions taken in Lisbon.
The prime minister said the second target is meeting preconditions for full employment and the third renewing the social model under these new conditions and extending benefits resulting from growth to as many sections of the population as possible, while regional convergence is the fourth.
Simitis said it is not adequate enough for Greece to cover the distance from Europe and at the same time inequalities between regions to continue to exist or even to increase.
Referring to the country's taxation system, he said the new taxation law will be ready in the middle of next year, stressing that the Greek taxation system is being transformed into a modern and simplified system, comparable with the remaining systems in the European Union and capable of performing its role.
Speaking at a press conference at the end of the Council's session, Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos referred at length to the decisions taken.
The creation of a national competitiveness and growth measurement system was decided with the purpose of evaluating all relevant factors affecting the economy's productivity and competitiveness at regional and national level, as well as in sectors and businesses.
Preparation of the national competitiveness report for 2002 was also agreed, while Tsohatzopoulos added that a decision was also taken to establish regional competitiveness councils, one for each region.
Tsohatzopoulos said in his address earlier ''we are interested in national competitiveness which also includes both economic competitiveness and social competitiveness, as the two aspects of a policy.''
Commenting on the budget, tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, Tsohatzopoulos said it constitutes a final adjustment to the new factors shaped to enable it to maintain its credibility and development direction.
 SEB urges for legal framework overhaul to attract investments
Athens, 20/11/2002 (ANA)Greece's legal framework included distortions that negatively affected efforts to attract foreign investments and to boost competitiveness, Greek Industries Union (SEB) chairman L. Kyriakopoulos said on Tuesday.
Addressing a National Competitiveness Council meeting, Mr Kyriakopoulos stressed that Greece could be the biggest gold producer in Europe, based on its reserves, but the current legal framework minimized prospects to achieve this target and created hurdles in attracting foreign investments in the sector.
The Greek industrialist noted that a fine example of several non-competitive sectors of the Greek economy was the textile sector. Mr Kyriakopoulos said that all sheets and towels to be used during the Athens 2004 Olympic Games would be imported, a clear sign of a non-competitive sector.
"Competitiveness is useless if it is not compared with other countries' development. We must intensify our effort to become more competitive and to achieve this we have to work hard in all business activities," Mr Kyriakopoulos said.
The Greek industrialist proposed that a National Competitiveness Council would submit a quarterly report to the prime minister and the chairman of the Greek Parliament.
 Deputy FM participates in EU's general affairs council in Brussels
BRUSSELS 20/11/2002 (ANA - A. Simatos)Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos on Tuesday participated in the European Union's general affairs council here, which focused on trade and development, the continuation of the United Nations International Conferences in Monterey and Johannesburg, as well as the implementation of the EU's development policy.
Loverdos underlined that the priorities of the Greek EU presidency will be to place development cooperation issues twice on the agenda of the general affairs council.
 Greek stocks end slightly lower on Tuesday
Athens, 20/11/2002 (ANA)Greek stocks ended Tuesday's session slightly lower in the Athens Stock Exchange reflecting lack of fresh incentives and low trading volumes in the market.
The general index eased 0.08 percent to end at 1,816.20 points, supported by a rebound in Hellenic Telecommunications Organization’s share price (up 0.20 percent above a record low of 10 euros per share).
Turnover was a low 68.1 million euros.
The Insurance, Cement and Construction sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day (2.34 percent, 2.09 percent and 1.06 percent, respectively), while the Telecommunications, Base Metals and Holdings sectors scored the biggest percentage gains (0.77 percent, 0.61 percent and 0.37 percent).
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks eased 0.18 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index fell 0.36 percent and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index ended 0.62 percent lower.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 207 to 98 with another 51 issues unchanged.
The most heavily traded stocks in value were Hellenic Telecommunications Organization, National Bank of Greece, Panafon, EFG Eurobank Ergasias, Panafon and Alpha Bank.
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 45.0 mln euros Tuesday
Equity Index Futures:
Day's Market Turnover: 45.0 mln euros
Bond Market Close: Buyers outpace sellers on Tuesday
Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond
 Greek minister inaugurates 'Olympic Week' at US Customs House
Athens, 20/11/2002 (ANA)Aegean Minister Nikos Sifounakis on Tuesday officially inaugurated the "Hellenic Heritage and Olympic Week" at the US Customs House in New York's downtown Manhattan district, which is also hosting the exhibition "Parthenon - Allegories and Reality".
According to a ministry press release, the event has been organized by the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) and other bodies.
 Annan still hopeful for an agreement before Copenhagen
NICOSIA 20/11/2002 (CNA/ANA)United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said Tuesday he was hopeful the two sides in Cyprus could reach an agreement on Cyprus before the Copenhagen European Council in December.
The Secretary General said once he has the reaction of the Turkish Cypriot side, then he would determine how to proceed to the next phase, AFP quoted Annan as saying.
He described his plan as solid, noting it could help the sides find a solution to the long-standing conflict.
Speaking at a press conference in the southern Yugoslav province of Kosovo, Annan said he was ''still hopeful we will have an agreement,'' when asked if he believed a deal before the Copenhagen European Council next month was possible. ''I have put forward to the two parties the proposal that I believe could be a basis for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem,'' he said.
The European Commission has recommended Cyprus and nine other candidate countries conclude accession negotiations with the European Union by the end of the year.
Annan added that ''lots of dates have been thrown around and lots of deadlines indicated'' but did not comment on concerns that December 12 was too soon to anticipate a deal.
The Greek Cypriot side replied Monday to the UN within the requested time framework of seven days from the day the UN proposal was presented on November 11.
However, the Turkish Cypriot side failed to meet Monday's deadline.
Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash is still recovering in New York since October 7 following open-heart surgery. His advisor, Ergun Olgun, said Monday that Denktash had not yet been able to consult with members of his regime in the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus or with Turkish Cypriot political leaders.
Denktash was also unable to consult with the Turkish authorities.
Denktash is expected to leave New York on either Friday or Saturday.
''Once I have got this reaction, we will determine how we proceed to the next phas