|Tuesday, 15 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-05-16
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>May 16, 2003
 FM Papandreou outlines Greece’s positions on European Constitution
BRUSSELS 16/05/2003 (ANA - G. Zitouniati)Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, current head of the European Union’s Council of Ministers, on Thursday in Brussels said that the basic items of the European Constitution pertaining to fundamental institutional issues and human rights will have been completed by June, while individual policies in various sectors will be reviewed during the second half of 2003.
Papandreou, who is in Brussels to participate in the presidium of the Convention on the Future of Europe, responsible for institutional reforms in the EU, told participants of the need to reinforce EU institutions, getting away, he said, from the ''artificial dilemma between the trans-national-federal and intergovernmental character of the Union.''
The Greek minister referred to the controversial issue of a permanent Council president, stressing that adequate democratic credentials would be required in that case.
''If the functionality of the European Council presupposes the election of a more permanent president who would ensure continuity, cohesion and strong representation at a top level, then we should seek a suitable way to elect such president, one that would ensure transparency and legitimacy, and would also contribute to the institutional balance of the Union,” the Greek minister said.
''To that end, we propose the president's selection through direct elections by the European citizens, held at the same time with the Euro-elections, with candidates from the European Parliament,” he added.
Papandreou said that a directly elected president would entertain concerns about risking the development of a 'directorate', while on an international level a president thus elected would be able to represent the EU at Summits empowered with the credibility that democratic credentials lend.
With regard to the method for the election of the president of the Commission, he said that a process for the president's election by the European Parliament and ratification by the European Council would strengthen both the Commission as well as the parliament.
With regard to the composition of the Commission, Greece endorses the Nice European Council provision with the retention of the ''one commission per member-state'' principle.
On measures regarding the bloc's external policy, the Greek minister viewed as positive the creation of an EU Foreign Minister post by combining the duties of the External Relations Commissioner with those of the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), who would be the vice-president of the Commission presiding over the External Affairs Council.
''In the event unanimity remains a rule for decision making on CFSP issues, forging an effective common external policy will be difficult. Therefore, a special majority vote should be adopted as a general rule for decision making on those issues, with a caveat for an exception when the vital interest of a member-state is involved.''
 Parliament com't OKs EU-FYROM stabilization, association agreement
Athens, 16/05/2003 (ANA)Parliament’s defense and foreign affairs committee on Wednesday approved a “stabilization and association” agreement between the European Union and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Greece’s landlocked neighbor to the north.
The committee’s approval now forwards the pact to a Parliament plenum for final ratification by Greece.
The government’s rapporteur on the matter, Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos, said the approval demonstrates Athens’ contribution to FYROM’s European course, while noting that a relevant agreement with Croatia is ready for tabling in Parliament and that a similar pact with Albania is being formulated.
Loverdos also stressed that the agreements retain a “revocation” clause if relevant countries do not promote agreed to reforms regarding human rights, rule of law etc.
Deputies from ruling PASOK, main opposition New Democracy party and the sole MP from the smaller Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) on the 50-member committee voted in favor of the agreement, whereas the only deputy representing the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) voted against.
Addressing the committee session, ND deputy Amb. Petros Molyviatis said support for FYROM’s European vocation should not, however, lead to any “regression” as far as the “name issue” is concerned.
Two other deputies, PASOK’s Stelios Papathemelis, a former minister, and ND’s Evangelos Haitidis, also aired concerns about the Skopje government’s stance regarding the standing name issue, despite voting in favor of the agreement. Both, in fact, requested application of the principal of “reciprocity” in terms of Greece-FYROM relations.
Athens has been at odds with recently strife-plagued FYROM for more than a decade over the issue of its northern neighbor’s name, insisting that the word ''Macedonia'' should not be included in the name of the one-time Yugoslav republic, as it implies expansionist designs against Greece’s own large northern province of Macedonia as well as being a historical misrepresentation.
However, relations between Greece and FYROM have dramatically improved since the two countries signed an interim agreement in New York under the UN’s auspices more than seven years ago. Currently, the 'name issue' ranks as the only difference separating Athens and Skopje. Under the terms of that interim agreement, Athens and Skopje are responsible for commencing and continuing negotiations to find a mutually acceptable solution to the “name issue”.
 FYROM satisfied with Greece's approval of EU-FYROM stabilization agreement
SKOPJE 16/05/2003 (ANA - N. Frangopoulos)The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) on Thursday expressed satisfaction over the decision taken by Greece's National Defense and Foreign Affairs Parliamentary Committee on Wednesday night to approve the ratification of the ''stabilization and association'' agreement between the European Union and FYROM.
FYROM's Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva hailed the decision and expressed the hope that the remaining EU countries which have not yet ratified the agreement will take this step soon to enable the whole process to be completed before the EU's Thessaloniki summit.
''This decision confirms Greece's will for friendly relations and relations of good neighborliness,'' an announcement by FYROM's foreign ministry said.
Government satisfied with decision to approve ratification of EU-FYROM agreement: Foreign Ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis on Thursday expressed the Greek government's satisfaction over the decision taken by Greece's National Defense and Foreign Affairs Parliamentary Committee.
The spokesman said it was a positive development and constitutes an important tool for strengthening FYROM's European course, adding that it is expected that the agreement will be ratified by the plenum of Parliament by the end of the month.
Beglitis further announced that it is expected that the EU-Croatia stabilization and association agreement will be submitted in Parliament in the coming weeks.
 US President wants Cyprus solution based on UN plan
WASHINGTON 16/05/2003 (ANA/T.Ellis/CNA)US President George Bush has said that a political settlement in Cyprus should be based on a UN peace proposal which he described as ''fair and balanced''.
The US president welcomed the partial lifting of restrictions on free movement to and from the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus, which were imposed by the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime after the 1974 Turkish invasion.
Furthermore, Bush's National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice has called on Turkey to put its weight behind a settlement of the Cyprus question.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan spoke on the phone on Wednesday.
''Both leaders welcomed unprecedented freedom of movement between the Turkish and Greek sectors of Cyprus in recent weeks, and noted their hope for a lasting Cyprus settlement. President Bush reiterated the United States' support for a Cyprus settlement based on UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan's fair and balanced plan,'' the spokesman said.
In her remarks to the press on Wednesday, Rice speaking on US-Turkish relations, said ''we obviously have interest in dealing with the Cyprus problem. We had made some progress on Cyprus.''
''The UN General Secretary has made heroic efforts to try and resolve that, and we would hope that Turkey would put its weight behind a settlement of the Cyprus issue,'' she added.
 Greek FM confronts Turkish FM over airspace violations by Turkish planes
BRUSSELS 16/05/2003 (ANA - G. Zitouniati)Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou conveyed Athens' intense displeasure at a recent spate of airspace violations by Turkish planes over the Aegean, including the harassment of Greek aircraft participating in a military exercise, during a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul here on Thursday morning.
Gul claimed ignorance of the incident, Papandreou said afterwards. The Greek minister noted that the political directors of the foreign ministries of the two countries had been instructed to investigate the increasing incidence of national airspace violations in the framework of dialogue for good-neighborliness measures.
Diplomatic sources attributed Gul's ''ignorance'' to the unstable situation in Turkey and the many sources of friction between the government in Ankara and Turkey's powerful military.
According to the same sources, the widening rift between Turkey and the United States that first became apparent during the war in Iraq might well continue, thus leading Ankara to seek closer ties with the EU.
The two ministers also discussed developments in the Middle East, Euro-Mediterranean cooperation and coordinating action by the Greek and Turkish health systems against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
 Turkey's violations in Aegean will affect its EU prospects, Greece says
Athens, 16/05/2003 (ANA)The increasing number of airspace violations and infringements over the Aegean by Turkey would have a negative impact on its prospects for European Union membership, Greek foreign ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis told reporters on Thursday.
''Tension and conflict in the Aegean will affect Turkey's European course. This message has been given repeatedly and it is now up to Turkey to realize that times have changed and to adapt itself to the new situation, if it wants - in the long-term - to join the EU,'' Beglitis said.
He said that Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou had sent a memorandum to European Commissioner for enlargement Guenter Verheugen that officially informed the Commission of increasing Turkish violations over the Aegean, particularly the latest provocative interference by Turkish planes in a Greek military exercise in the area code-named ''Triaina''.
The spokesman noted that the European Commission was the appropriate institution to assess and control EU candidate-states and that the memorandum had been sent in light of a progress report on the implementation of the EU-Turkey partnership relationship that would be discussed at the EU foreign ministers' council.
He also stressed that Greece would calmly continue to monitor violations by the Turkish side, which were tending to increase, and would not fail to inform the EU about them. Using the international and European framework would benefit security in the region, Beglitis said.
According to the spokesman, this was the first time that Greece had informed the EU of Turkish violations in writing though the Greek foreign minister had repeatedly spoken to Verheugen, European Commission President Romano Prodi and his counterparts on the EU Council of Ministers about such incidents in the past.
He said Papandreou had also taken the matter up with his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul during their recent meeting on Rhodes, while Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis had appealed to Turkish Premier Recep Erdogan to put a stop to such tactics during their meeting in Belgrade.
In addition, a demarche over the incident would be lodged with the Turkish foreign ministry within the next 24 hours, Beglitis said.
Asked to comment on a report in the magazine ''Krama'' that a Turkish F-16 had been shot down by a Greek fighter in 1996, Beglitis said that the foreign ministry was unaware of any such incident and referred reporters to the Greek defense ministry.
Gov't spokesman on Turkey's EU prospects: The Greek government was in favor of Turkey's European course provided the latter displayed behavior appropriate to a European country, government spokesman Christos Protopapas said on Thursday.
He also praised the foreign minister's initiative to send a written memorandum outlining Greece's protests to the European Commission, describing it as "very, very positive".
The spokesman also failed to confirm a report in "Krama" about a Turkish F-16 allegedly shot down by Greek planes in 1996.
 Europarliament resolution critical toward Turkey's human rights record
STRASBOURG 16/05/2003 (ANA - O. Tsipira)The European Parliament's plenum on Thursday adopted a resolution concerning the conditions of human rights in Turkey, that was highly critical.
The adoption of the resolution was provoked by the unannounced search of the offices of the Turkish Union of Human Rights in Ankara (IHD) after a directive of the Turkish Court for State Security on May 6, on the pretext of ''support for illegal organizations''.
In their resolution the Eurodeputies express their ''strong surprise for the unannounced searches'' and make mention of the Turkish government program that prescribes the abolition of the Court for State Security.
They underline that organizations, such as the IHD, the Foundation for the Rights of Man (IHV) and the Organization for the Rights of Man (MAZLUMDER) are conducting an internationally recognized work in Turkey concerning the sector of human rights.
''Those responsible and the every day militants of the Turkish organizations for human rights are often the object of political intimidation and threats for bodily harm,'' the resolution stated.
As Turkey has signed several international agreements for the protection of human rights and democracy, the Eurodeputies called on that country to undertake specific measures that would prove its commitment and to ''reform the law so as to secure the protection of democracy, transparency and the human rights in Turkey''.
The Europarliament also called on the Turkish government to ''implement the judicial reforms, which it announced and to abolish the courts for the state security, which are an obstacle for the development of the rule of law."
 Greece tells UN it backs ''pre-emptive diplomacy''
NEW YORK 16/05/2003 (ANA - P. Panikos)Greece's permanent representative to the United Nations on Wednesday told the organization that Greece, as the current European Union president, backed ''pre-emptive diplomacy'' and it supported international organizations in their efforts to resolve disputes and regional problems.
Speaking at a UN Security Council meeting on the ''role of the UN in the peaceful settlement of disputes,'' Greece's UN Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis referred to the significance and effectiveness of ''pre-emptive diplomacy'' aimed at ''timely aver-ting crises'', and stressed the need for a ''multilateral institutional approach to international crises'' with the contribution of UN bodies, such as the Security Council, UN General Assembly and the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
Moreover, Vassilakis highlighted the special emphasis that the EU places on the role of regional institutional mechanisms for handling crises.
 Alternate FM says EU enlargement a historic step towards peace and stability
Athens, 16/05/2003 (ANA)Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis, addressing the Council of Europe's 112th Ministerial Committee session in Strasbourg on Thursday, said the European Union's enlargement constitutes a historic step towards peace, stability and the prosperity of the entire European continent.
Yiannitsis added that at the same time it creates new expectations and new obligations and, during the course of removing dividing lines of the past, poses the necessity for coordinated action to promote human rights, democracy and a state of law.
The minister stressed that constructive cooperation between the EU and the Council of Europe will continue, particularly in the sectors of democratic institutions, the state of law and human rights.
On the question of terrorism, Yiannitsis reminded that intransigence, hatred and fanaticism are included among the main reasons for the phenomenon's alarming expansion and pointed to the Council of Europe's substantive contribution to its combatting.
Yiannitsis also referred to the sensitive issue of the trafficking of people, underlining that its handling requires coordinated efforts, with the implementation of specific measures and the strengthening of the existing legal framework, with the protection of the victims' rights being the main aim.
 Greek EU presidency: European conference on labor to begin on Friday in Rhodes
Athens, 16/05/2003 (ANA)Greek Labor and Social Security Minister Dimitris Reppas on Friday will open the European Conference titled ''European FORUM of Local Development and Employment'', which is organized on the Greek island of Rhodes by the labor ministry and the National Employment Observatory within the framework of the Greek European Union presidency, a labor ministry press bulletin said on Thursday.
The minister on Monday will open the works of the two-day European Conference to be held in Athens under the title ''Tools for the implementation of European Directives in the sectors of Health and Labor'', organized by the Greek Institute for Health and Safety at the Workplace, the bulletin said.
 Justice minister addresses EU committee on justice and police affairs
Athens, 16/05/2003 (ANA)Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos on Thursday addressed the meeting of a European Union committee that prepares the work of the council of justice ministers, concerning cooperation between the member-states on justice and police affairs.
This committee was set up as mandated by Article 36 of the European Union's treaty, and is convening at present in Kastoria, northwestern Greece.
Petsalnikos lauded the contribution of the committee to the successes of the Greek EU presidency's on justice and police issues.
''Both the decision-framework for the combatting of attacks against information systems and the decision-framework for the implementation of the principle of mutual recognition of decisions on fines, were drafted by your committee and gained such a form that allowed us to arrive at unanimous decisions in the February and May conferences,'' Petsalnikos said.
''The Greek presidency proposed a draft decision - in the framework of the implementation of the ne bis in idem (double jeopardy) principle, which will be part of your work. The technical structure of this issue makes the work of the committee difficult and of course we look forward to your important contribution,'' he said.
He concluded saying that one of the priorities of the European Union is the harmonization of the essential criminal law system of the member-states concerning cross border crimes.
 EU culture ministers examine future of European cinema
Athens, 16/05/2003 (ANA)The European Union's culture ministers convened in Cannes on Thursday, on the occasion of the beginning of the 56th Cannes Festival, to pave the way for the meeting on the future of the European cinema to be held in Thessaloniki on May 25.
Greek Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos said the discussion on the cinema was prepared in Cannes, but the European cultural identity, following enlargement, will be discussed in Thessaloniki as a basis for the operation of the single market in the cultural and audiovisual sectors.
He added that the 25 ministers agreed with the priorities being promoted by the Greek presidency.
 European public television association board meets in Thessaloniki
Athens, 16/05/2003 (ANA)The 114th conference of the Association of Public European Radio and Television Organizations board of directors began on Thursday in Thessaloniki, focusing on the Greek state television coverage of the Olympic Games of 2004 in Athens.
They also discussed the accumulation of mass media in the hands of private interests, the battle for quality and securing pluralism, as well as the promotion and maintenance of local cultures.
The directors focused also on the securing of funding for public radio and television stations.
 Deputy FM meets with Georgian, Syrian ambassadors
Athens, 16/05/2003 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Magriotis met with Georgia’s ambassador to Athens Zviad Chumburidge on Thursday, with discussion between them centering on issues pertaining to the signing of a Greece-Georgia bilateral health agreement.
They also looked into the preparation of a European Union Troika visit to Georgia in the first days of June.
Magriotis also referred to the issue relating to Georgian government arrangements over the properties of Greek nationals living in the Chalka region, an issue on which Chumburidge said his country was interested in arriving at a comprehensive settlement.
Magriotis also had a meeting with Syria’s ambassador to Athens, Ms Souad Al Ayoubi, who expounded on the latest developments in the Middle East region following the war in Iraq.
Discussions also touched upon the recent visit to Damascus by US Secretary of State Colin Powell, and the efforts for an overall solution of the Palestine issue in the context of the Road Map.
 PM discusses election law, local government issues with interior minister
Athens, 16/05/2003 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Thursday met with Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis and discussed initiatives concerning possible changes to the election law and the election districts' division.
Speaking after his meeting with the premier, Skandalidis stressed that discussion concerning the election law concerned initiatives that will be undertaken after the end of the Greek EU presidency.
Commenting on press reports about possible election laws, he said that they ''were not drafted by us and that the government does not have any new election laws'' ready.
Skandalidis added that he and the premier discussed issues of transparency in local governments and the articles of a law regulating local government employees' productivity and transparency.
 PM Simitis holds meeting with PASOK Central Committee Secretary Laliotis
Athens, 16/05/2003 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis met on Thursday with PASOK Central Committee Secretary Costas Laliotis.
Laliotis did not make any statements to reporters following his departure from the Maximos Mansion where the meeting lasted about 70 minutes.
It is considered certain however that the discussion he had with the prime minister was centered on preparations for the Executive Bureau meeting on May 20 and the Central Committee meeting on May 27.
According to reports, Laliotis expounded to Simitis his own proposals for the sectors in which changes can be made, in view of the initiatives which the prime minister is expected to take early July.
 FM addresses conference on immigration
Athens, 16/05/2003 (ANA)Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysohoidis on Thursday addressed a conference, taking place in Athens, on the ''Management of immigration in Europe''.
Papandreou stressed that the priority of the Greek government is an integrated immigration policy on a European level, underlining that during the transitory stage the European Union entered with its enlargement eastward, such a policy became a necessity.
The minister also noted that Europe should take advantage of the knowledge and expertise of specialists on the issue on one hand and on the other it should begin a dialogue on a European level.
Papandreou said that the issues at hand are the protection and security of borders, the necessity for the funneling funds in that direction and the confrontation of the challenge the immigration wave causes to European societies.
He stressed that the securing of borders would in no way solve the problem, while he termed as erroneous the view supporting that the sealing of the borders would provide security to European societies.
Europe, he said, is a community of values and these values impose the understanding of problems faced by immigrants, as well as the immigrants' equal treatment.
Papandreou reiterated that it is these immigrants that are called upon, in cooperation with the European citizens, to contribute to the growth of the European economy.
The foreign minister concluded saying that during the Thessaloniki Summit the Greek presidency would table the issue of the drafting of an annual report on immigration on a European Union level, adding that his vision was the inclusion of today's immigrants in the European society of tomorrow.
 ND leader says country must invest in education
Athens, 16/05/2003 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis said on Thursday the country must invest in education because it is the bridge leading us to the new era and the new environment.
Karamanlis was speaking during a presentation of the party's educational program in the presence of rectors, members of the Athens Academy, trade union organization presidents and many party deputies and members.
''When you propose substantive innovations in the educational system you feel, of course, that there is no place for cheap impressions or empty words. There is only place for sincere, clear and substantive political speech,'' he said.
The ND leader further pointed out that ''I do not think that anybody disagrees with the view that our educational system needs reconstruction, keeping the good things that exist and correcting the many imperfections and weaknesses.''
Karamanlis noted that free education has become the greatest burden for thousands of families and the gap separating us from the other European countries is huge.
He said the national issue of education has become a place in which alternating ministers inspire reforms, attempt to apply them and practice, like apprentice magicians, until the times comes when they and their reforms will be replaced by the next one.
Karamanlis promised that public expenditures on education will gradually increase to 5 percent of GDP from 3.5 percent they are today, adding that citizens do not want education to be an object of party confrontation.
He went on to say that there can be no green, red and blue policies in education and reiterated that ND's program is based on the understanding and consent of citizens.
''We are ready for a new governance, powerful and prepared for the changes and reforms necessary. We are bringing a new policy of trust and participation without promises and great words but with work and inspiration,'' Karamanlis added.
Education minister criticizes ND education program: Education Minister Petros Efthymiou on Thursday strongly criticized the main opposition New Democracy (ND) program on education, that ND leader Costas Karamanlis announced earlier in the day.
The minister said that ND organized an ''expensive fiesta'' and a ''psychological operation of manipulating children in light of the university entrance examinations'', adding that ''today it became clear that an indifferent and patchy collection of positions was named program and was presented as a decor in an effort to utilize the tense climate of the exams' period''
On its part, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) issued an announcement stressing that ND adopted and stated that it is ready to continue the government's policy for the total alignment of education to the interests of the market.
 Pangalos says Cyprus issue will be solved only when Turkey joins
EU NICOSIA 16/05/2003 (ANA-G. Leonidas)Former Greek foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos stated here on Thursday that the Cyprus issue will be solved only when Turkey joins the European Union and not when it will start accession negotiations.
Pangalos further foresees that ''there will be prospects for an improvement in Greek-Turkish relations and a settlement of the Cyprus problem when in Turkey a substantial change of reality takes place, which will come about only through a big popular uprising, which will occur sometime and bring democracy to the country.''
The ruling PASOK deputy described UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's plan for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem as ''extremely beneficial for the Turks,'' but, he added, ''it was rejected by the military and diplomatic establishment.''
Pangalos said ''the governments of Greece and Cyprus were correct in accepting the Annan plan as a basis for negotiations, despite its enormous weaknesses.''
However, he noted, ''now that things have radically changed with Cyprus' accession to the European Union, the plan must also be improved and amended on the basis of the new facts.''
The PASOK deputy stated that what is important now is for Cyprus to concentrate its efforts for its smooth and speedy integration into the European process and to the new world which opens for the whole of the Cypriot people.
The Greek deputy said that he was not in a position to know the UN Secretary-General's intentions. He added, however, that ''a new period of creativity and progress is starting, which concerns all those who wish to participate in this procedure and consequently the Turkish Cypriots as well, to the degree that they will be given the freedom to do so or to the degree that they will pursue this freedom and achieve it.''
Pangalos is in Cyprus following an invitation by the Municipality of Lefkara which on Thursday evening honored him for his contribution to Cyprus' accession to the EU.
The Movement of Social Democrats (KISOS) also honored Pangalos earlier in the day for his role in Cyprus' accession.
 Amnesty int'l requests increased terms of human rights protection in Iraq
BRUSSELS 16/05/2003 (ANA - B. Demiris)Amnesty International representative to the European Union Dick Oosting sent a letter to Foreign Minister George Papandreou, current president of the EU's council of foreign ministers, calling for the reinforcement of the terms for the human rights protection in Iraq included in the United Nations' Security Council draft resolution.
Oosting is requesting the intervention of the EU and the member-states, which are members of the Security Council, so as to reinforce the terms for the protection of human rights in the draft resolution presented at the Security Council by Spain, Britain and the United States.
The same letter is requesting that Amnesty International's presence in Iraq is secured, so that the non-governmental organization may check on the condition of human rights.
 EU funds' absorption rate 97.5 pct, Greek gov’t says
Athens, 16/05/2003 (ANA)Greece's absorption rate of EU funds totalled 97.5 percent, one of the highest rates in the EU, Economy and Finance Deputy Minister Christos Pahtas said on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters, Mr Pahtas stressed that the government would not seek community contribution on public spending totalling 370.6 million euros, earmarked for Second Community Support Framework projects.
The Greek minister also announced that excess spending on projects and actions included in the Second Community Support Framework totalled 516.7 million euros. Mr Pahtas stressed that this sum was paid by the state budget as the EU did not accept excessive spending on projects.
 EU seeks return of farm funds from Greece
BRUSSELS 16/05/2003 (ANA – V. Demiris)Greece will have to return a total of 57.29 million euros in misspent European Union farm money to the European Union.
In a statement on Thursday, the EU's executive Commission cited inadequate controls in the arable crops sector and non-compliance with rules on agricultural expenditure as the reason for return of the cash to the FEOGA farm fund.
Other countries were also asked to return misspent financing.
“European taxpayers have to be sure that their money is being correctly spent. The Commission's duty is to recover funds which are misspent. And this is what we have done today.'' the EU's Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries Commissioner, Franz Fischler, said.
 Gov't spokesman says gov't will not accept salary decreases
Athens, 16/05/2003 (ANA)Government spokesman Christos Protopapas said on Thursday the government will not accept conceptions calling for salary decreases.
The spokesman, outlining the government's positions on the public dialogue carried out on Wednesday during the Federation of Greek Industries' (SEB) general assembly, recalled the statement by Prime Minister Costas Simitis that the government has ''an open front against corruption and has placed combatting tax evasion at the focal point of its policy which it will complete without hesitation.''
Protopapas also said the era of calls for state protectionism and interventionism has left without return, while employers must take risks and investments cannot be secured with subsidies in their entirety.
 Gov't to hold new talks with Schiesser to avert Athens factory closure
Athens, 16/05/2003 (ANA)The government is to hold further talks with Schiesser of Switzerland in a bid to persuade management to save the multi-national's Athens underwear manufacturing plant, slated for closure at the end of the month due to losses.
Taking part in the meeting in coming days will be Labor Minister Dimitris Reppas and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, trade union sources said on Thursday.
Scheisser has so far appeared resolved to go ahead with the closure on May 30, leading to 500 job losses.
On Thursday, trade unionists from the threatened plant and leaders of the General Confederation of Labor of Greece, a trade union umbrella group that represents nearly a million workers nationwide, met Christodoulakis in a plea for his intervention to save the factory.
Union officials quoted Christodoulakis as saying the government would do everything in its power to persuade Schiesser to rescind the decision.
Schiesser has said that another plant it owns, which is located in northern Greece, is profitable and will expand.
 Greek banks see room for lower lending rates
Athens, 16/05/2003 (ANA)Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis urged Greek banks to lower their lending interest rates on Wednesday, but Greek bankers said that their lending rate policy was dictated by the European Central Bank's decisions on monetary policy in the eurozone.
Greek bank executives said that domestic banks were increasingly using the Euribor interest rate as a base of setting their mortgage lending rates and stressed that any move upwards or downwards was exclusively depending on changes in the ECB monetary policy.
The same sources said that competition in the domestic banking sector was focusing now on housing lending and in particular fixed interest rates for long-term mortgage loans.
In the consumer credit market there was limited room for interest rate moves and the timing of such moves would depend on a decision by the Bank of Greece to fully deregulate the consumer credit market by freeing credit limits, and the beginning of operations of a Credit Office in the system. Bank officials said consumer credit rates could fall by as much as one percentage point if these two preconditions were met.
 More Cypriots opt for Greece as travel venue
NICOSIA 16/05/2003 (ANA/G.Leonidas)Visiting Greece in 2002 were 306,000 Cypriots, with 205,000 of the total opting for the country as a tourism venue in a steadily rising trend, travel agents said on Thursday.
In the same year, 93,000 Greeks went to Cyprus, with 40,000 of the total visiting the island republic for holidays, the travel agents from the two countries told a trade meeting.
 Greek stocks end lower on Thursday
Athens, 16/05/2003 (ANA)Greek stocks ended lower on Thursday succumbing to a wave of profit selling in blue chip stocks, particularly banks and telecommunications, in the Athens Stock Exchange.
The general index ended at 1,733.28 points, off 0.50 percent, with turnover a stable 103.5 million euros.
The IT Solutions, IT and Textile sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day (1.61 percent, 1.35 percent and 1.28 percent, respectively), while the Telecommunications, Publications and Bank sectors suffered the heaviest losses (1.51 percent, 1.47 percent and 0.54 percent, respectively).
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks fell 0.47 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index rose 0.03 percent, the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index rose 0.36 percent and the wider FTSE/ASE 140 index fell 0.29 percent.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 158 to 137 with another 62 issues unchanged.
Bond Market Close: Sellers outpace buyers on Thursday
Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 65.8 mln euros Thursday
Equity Index Futures:
Closing rates of May 15 2003
Parities in euro
For. Exchange Buying Selling
US Dollar 1,155 1,128
 International sports federations positive over Athens Olympic Games preparations
Athens, 16/05/2003 (ANA)International Olympic Games Coordinating Committee President Denis Oswald chaired a session of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) in Madrid on Wednesday the federations making positive remarks on preparations for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
2004 Athens Olympic Games Organizing Committee (ATHOC) managing director Spyros Kapralos and Sports General Director Makis Asimakopoulos presented ASOIF with a detailed analysis of preparations for the Olympic Games.
The briefing, including the screening of videotapes on Olympic projects and the volunteer program, received a positive response from the representatives of international sports federations.
Kapralos and Asimakopoulos also held separate and more detailed talks with officials of international federations on issues concerning the preparations for each event.
 ATHOC president to brief IOC on project progress in Madrid on Friday
Athens, 16/05/2003 (ANA)Athens 2004 Olympic Games Organizing Committee President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki will participate on Friday in the meeting of the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) executive committee that will take place in Madrid.
Angelopoulos is expected to brief the members of the committee on the course of the Athens 2004 Games project progress and will request of the IOC to take an official stance on the SARS epidemic issue as it affects the Games.
She is also expected to raise this issue with IOC President Jacques Rogge to avoid the exclusion of athletes from countries that were hit by SARS.
 ATHOC committee visits Patra Olympic project sites
Athens, 16/05/2003 (ANA)Athens 2004 Olympic Games Committee officials on Thursday visited the Olympic project sites in the City of Patra, in the Peloponnese, and expressed their satisfaction over the course of the works completion rate.
During their stay in the Western Greek city they met with local officials and announced that ATHOC President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki would visit the city in September or October.
The officials called for the intensifying of efforts and for the better coordination of actions.
 Health of air hostess suspected of having SARS virus improving steadily
Athens, 16/05/2003 (ANA)The health of a 23-year-old air hostess suspected of having the SARS virus, according to criteria set by the World Health Organization, was improving steadily on Thursday.
Laboratory tests and latest x-rays are absolutely satisfactory, while doctors treating the young woman at an Athens hospital said there is no evidence she is suffering from the SARS virus.
Health Minister Costas Stefanis had let it be understood that the air hostess will leave hospital at the end of the week, but in essence she will be in an ''informal quarantine'' for at least 18 days and only then will it be absolutely certain that she does not have the SARS virus.
Stefanis had consecutive meetings with hoteliers' representatives and a delegation of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games' Organizing Committee (ATHOC) on Thursday morning.
He told the hoteliers' representatives that he never spoke of a travel advisory or a ban on the arrival of tourists from countries in southeast Asia in the country.
The minister and the ATHOC delegation discussed possible measures that could be taken in light of the Athens Olympic Games, since many delegations of countries might send athletes to Greece to prepare themselves much earlier than the Games.
 Kaklamanis at meeting of Parliament Presidents of the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative
Athens, 16/05/2003 (ANA)Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis is to depart for Ravenna, Italy to take part in the 3rd Meeting of the Parliament Presidents of the countries of the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative which will take place on Friday with the participation of the parliaments of Greece, Italy, Albania, Serbia-Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Slovenia.
Under discussion at the meeting will be the role of parliaments in the combatting of illegal immigration and inter-parliamentary cooperation in the Adriatic and Ionian region in the perspective of European integration.
 Witnesses in Tsantes-Veloutsos twin murders testify in N17 trial
Athens, 16/05/2003 (ANA)The ongoing trial of 19 suspected members of the terrorist group ''November 17'' resumed in Athens on Thursday with the testimony of the families of two victims of the urban guerrilla band, a Greek-American U.S. Navy Captain called George
Tsantes and his driver Nikos Veloutsos. Both men were shot dead on November 15, 1983 by two masked men that have yet to be identified.
The only one of the 19 defendants facing charges for the particular hit is Alexandros Giotopoulos, who stands accused as moral instigator of the twin killing.
First on the stand was Stephanie Tsantes, daughter of the victim, who said the perpetrators had killed her father when he was on his way to work and could not be identified because they were wearing helmets.
She suggested that the attack on her father was a reaction to the non-removal of American bases by hitting a high-ranking U.S. target.
The witness also earned the court's criticism when she said that her father's death had made her feel that Greece was unsafe and had stripped her family of its pride in its Greek origins.
''A few year's ago I too was able to walk on the roof of the Twin Towers. No one can say these things about my country... Let us not say that Greece in general is not a safe country. I will not accept this,'' presiding judge Mihalis Margaritis said.
On her part, Tsantes insisted that she had her family would wait for the outcome of the trial before they would feel safe in Greece again.
Asked whether the group's proclamations contained ''political statements'' Tsantes said the writers' were "criminals" who were ''gagged and displeased with the Greek government over the issue of American bases'' and that they carried out robberies because they did not want to work.
Responding to the witness's statements, alleged N17 operations chief Dimitris Koufodinas told the court that Tsantes had been chosen because he had supervised the installation of Pershing missiles in Italy and that the group had learned this from the press.
Also testifying on Thursday was Eleni Veloutsou, daughter of the slain driver, who outlined the impact of her father's loss on her family, and Tsantes' son Nicholas.
Thursday's court session ended with the reading out of documents pertaining to 10 bomb attacks attributed to the terror group, while the court ordered that all the 20 witnesses for these cases that failed to appear in court be brought in by force, if necessary.
The trial will resume on Monday due to a strike called by the Athens Bar Association on Friday. It will hear evidence concerning the shootout at Louise Riankour Street.
 Cyprus government will not impose restrictions on freedom of movement, says president
NICOSIA 16/05/2003 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos said on Thursday the government will not impose restrictions on the freedom of movement, even if the freedom is a restricted one.
Speaking after a ceremony where former Greek foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos was declared honorary citizen of Lefkara village in the Larnaca district, Papadopoulos also repeated the government's readiness to negotiate based on the Annan Plan, provided changes are made to it beforehand.
Invited to comment on the communication, which US President George Bush and Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had, Papadopoulos said the Turkish side and Erdogan say they are contributing to a solution by pointing out to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that the proper solution is two separate "states".
"The American support to the Annan plan as it is, is well known. We accept the plan for negotiations, provided that the proper changes which are required by the new conditions and our accession to the European Union are made," Papadopoulos said.
The president further said that the government will not put any restrictions to the right for freedom of movement, despite Thursday's incidents by the regime in the occupied areas.
Metropolitan Morfou Neofytos and Greek Cypriot worshippers were forced by illegal policemen to leave the Turkish occupied church of Agios Mamas in Morfou as the Bishop was conducting a service there while Turkish armed soldiers ejected two Greek Cypriot farmers from their land in the buffer zone at Athienou village, which borders the occupied areas.
Papadopoulos said with his actions, "Denktash might want to promote the existence of a 'state' or might be trying to avert the communication between the two sides."
"Independent of the provocations, we should not impose restrictions on the freedom of movement which is the foundation of our struggle.
This was decided by the National Council from the very first day," he said.
Papadopoulos further said that what is happening today, with the easing of restrictions in the freedom of movement, "is not a solution, not even a step towards a solution. The Cyprus problem," he added, "is not just freedom of movement, especially restricted freedom, as it is imposed by Denktash because Denktash wants a solution based on two separate states with good neighborly relations that would solve border problems."
"We will never accept that," the president pledged.
Papadopoulos praised Greek Member of Parliament, and former Greek Foreign Minister, Pangalos' contribution to Cyprus' European Union accession course, noting it was instrumental and decisive, noting that "Pangalos was one of the people who opened the road" to Cyprus' accession.