|Saturday, 17 November 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-05-20
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>May 20, 2003
 EU defense ministers ratify the ''birth'' of the bloc's rapid reaction force
Athens, 20/05/2003 (ANA)European Union defense ministers on Monday in Brussels ratified the ''birth'' of the Union's rapid reaction force and agreed that the objective to complete the force's operational ability had been obtained.
''The European 60-body-strong rapid reaction force is now a reality, in absolute operational readiness and able to undertake operations in the entire spectrum of its assigned missions'', Greek Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said, adding ''We have been operating in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) for two months now, and we are prepared to assume any assignment within the next few months.''
Papantoniou, who currently presides over the EU defense ministers Council, said this was a historic day for the EU and the Greek Presidency, and praised the latter's contribution to the achievement of that objective, noting that it paved the way for a successful EU Summit in Thessaloniki in June.
''This was a big success of the Greek presidency'', the minister said.
''In a very short period of time we made up for the delays connected with weapons systems and pressed all the EU partners to commit in providing the weapons that are necessary for the operation of the force'', he stressed.
Papantoniou, along with the EU's chief diplomat Javier Solana and the Union's 25 ambassadors, is to travel to FYROM on 5 June to inspect the first European troops.
 DM says outcome of 12-month Greek defense presidency positive
BRUSSELS 20/05/2003 (ANA - G. Zitouniati)Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou told the last Defense Ministers Council during Greece's presidency, due to Denmark's self-exemption, here on Monday that the outcome of the country's 12-month defense presidency was positive.
Papantoniou underlined the achievement of the ambitious target of creating the European Rapid Reaction Force, its first peace mission in Skopje, the speedup in covering the EU's shortcomings in military possibilities, the linking of European defense with the European defense industry and arranging ''pending issues'' in Europe's relations with NATO from the aspect of the EU's autonomy.
''Achievements in European defense would be front-page news had it not been for the war in Iraq,'' EU Common Foreign Policy and Security High Commissioner Javier Solana said at the end of the Council.
''It is a great effort and excellent work in very difficult conditions,'' he added, referring to the Greek presidency.
Papantoniou made special reference to the release of EU funds for the development of defense research, as well as securing a European Armaments Organization with the creation of a common market for common defense products.
The Greek minister also underlined the commitment of EU member-states to handle weaknesses continuing to exist in connection with defense, covering gaps and developing European defense with the creation of a military force or a greater caliber and corresponding to NATO's Rapid Deployment Force.
Referring to the ''Initiative of the four'' (France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg) to go ahead with closer cooperation to promote European defense, Papantoniou said a relevant briefing was made at the Council by his Belgian counterpart Andre Flahaut.
 FM chairs EU ministers' meeting on Balkans, Iraq, Middle East
BRUSSELS 20/05/2003 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)Foreign Minister George Papandreou on Monday chaired a meeting of the European Union's foreign ministers' council, which focused on the strengthening of EU relations with the Balkan countries and also the course of the convention for the future of Europe.
Conditions in Iraq and the Middle East problem were also on the agenda.
Concerning the Balkans, the Greek EU presidency underlined the necessity for the strengthening of their bonds with the Union, Papandreou told the press, adding that the 15 foreign ministers agreed that the Union's subsidies to those countries should increase, while efforts should be made for their economic and social modernization.
Papandreou also noted that their discussions included the ''road map'' for peace in the Middle East, stressing the necessity for its promotion, while condemning the recent increase in violence and expressing the concern of the 15 for the effects on the non-combatant Palestinian population.
Speaking of Iraq, he said that the difference of opinion among member-states began to decrease, without clarifying, however, whether the four EU member states that currently participate in the UN Security Council will have a common stance, noting that the member-states agreed to reopen their embassies in Iraq.
 Verelis hails maiden attendance of EU's ''25'' in transport ministers’ council
Athens, 20/05/2003 (ANA)Transportation and Communications Minister Christos Verelis, addressing on Sunday the concluding session of the EU's informal transport ministers' council held aboard a ship sailing the Aegean, said it was very important that the council for the first time provided a forum for the views of the 25 EU member-states, a Greek transport ministry press release said on Monday.
''I am confident that the next EU enlargement wave will also include Bulgaria and Romania, who were in any case represented in this Council'', he said, adding: ''I hope that Turkey will also participate in the next informal transport ministers' Council in July in Naples, since we always look forward to a dialogue commencing with Turkey, especially now that a political settlement of the Cyprus issue can enter the 'final stretch' with Turkey's collaboration.''
Moreover, Verelis referred to problems with bureaucracy in the EU.
''Bureaucracy will be the big problem of the Union from now on'', he said and urged member-states to create suitable conditions to tackle relevant problems.
 Cyprus president due in Athens next Sunday
NICOSIA 20/05/2003 (ANA)Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos is due to arrive in Athens this coming Sunday for talks with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who also heads the European Council while Greece holds the rotating EU presidency.
Papadopoulos will brief Simitis on Nicosia's initiatives relative to the Cyprus problem, both within the European Union and at the United Nations, up until the Cyprus Republic fully accedes to the Union in 2004.
They will also review developments following the partial lifting on restrictions to free movement between the occupied territories and the free areas of Cyprus.
Papadopoulos is due back on Cyprus on Monday.
Cyprus has been divided by the so-called ''green line'' since 1974, when an illegal Turkish-Cypriot regime assisted by Turkish occupation troops set up a breakaway pseudo-state in the north of the island that is recognized only by Ankara. Restrictions were partially lifted and Greek-Cypriots were allowed to visit the occupied territories for the first time in April this year, soon after Cyprus signed the Accession Accords for EU entry in Athens.
 Israeli minister in Athens this week
Athens, 20/05/2003 (ANA)Israeli Minister of Infrastructures, Joseph Paritsky, will arrive in Athens on Monday for a two-day visit here, the Israeli embassy announced on the same day.
Paritsky, whose portfolio includes energy, water management and public works in Israel, is expected to meet with his Greek counterpart, Akis Tsohatzopoulos, Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni and local business leaders.
He will also participate in the 3rd Euro-Mediterranean Conference on Energy, hosted by the Greek development ministry.
Paritsky belongs to the Centrist Shinui Party, a coalition member in the current Israeli government.
 Public order ministry briefs PM on progress in domestic, EU policy issues
Athens, 20/05/2003 (ANA)Public Order Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis on Monday briefed Prime Minister Costas Simitis on issues pertaining to his ministry, particularly the progress made in achieving the goals set by the Greek European Union presidency for law and order issues.
Greece holds the rotating EU presidency until the end of June.
Priority issues for the Greek EU presidency include the effort to combat organized crime in the Balkans, drafting a single EU policy for tackling immigration and measures to better protect EU borders, both within the Community and at its margins.
According to sources, Chrysohoidis also briefed the premier on the progress of investigations into organized crime and terrorist groups that have yet to be dismantled.
 Kaklamanis inaugurates EU's member-states' agricultural committees meeting
Athens, 20/05/2003 (ANA)Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis on Monday inaugurated a meeting of the European Union's member-states' agricultural committees that is taking place in the Old Parliament Building in Athens.
''The securing of the quality of the rendered products, the securing of the banning of genetically altered products and mainly the protection of the environment of the European eco-systems from the unwise use of natural resources, should be our first priority,'' Kaklamanis said during his inaugural address.
''The ecological threat, which is evident anymore, not only in Europe, but all over the planet, demands the vigilance of us all, so as to bequeath to the next generations a healthy and friendly to humans environment,'' he added.
 Greek presidency: 2004 European Parliament elections not to be moved
Athens, 20/05/2003 (ANA)A Greek government spokesman on Monday said that, following a European Parliament survey, there were no plans to move the Europarliament elections in 2004 to coincide with national elections in various EU member-states.
Spokesman Christos Protopapas said that the Greek European Union presidency had not undertaken any initiatives for moving the date of the European Parliament elections.
''As it stands, national elections and European Parliament elections will be held separately in 2004'', he said.
 Gov't vows to pull weight for redundant workers in business closures
Athens, 20/05/2003 (ANA)The government on Monday pledged to assist workers made redundant due to the closure of businesses for economic reasons.
''The labor ministry will go to the very limits of the support it can give to workers at risk of losing their jobs due to the relocation, bankruptcy or closure of businesses,'' its general secretary, Ioanna Panopoulou, said.
The first blow to workers came from Schiesser of Switzerland, which has said it will close its Athens plant at the end of the month and relocate to Bulgaria due to losses. Five hundred redundancies are anticipated.
Schiesser has said that another plant it owns, which is located in northern Greece, is profitable and is slated for expansion.
Last week, the Yvonni cosmetics retailing chain filed for bankruptcy along with Antonopoulos, a supermarket chain.
Two other chain operations - the Musses cocktail snacks chain and Beauty and Diet beauty parlors - are reportedly in jeopardy of bankruptcy.
Panopoulou on Monday met workers from Yvonni stores and Antonopoulos to hear their complaints due to Labor Minister Dimitris Reppas' workload.
The employees quoted Panopoulou as saying that the ministry would take a hard line if applications for bankruptcy were found to be fraudulent.
Reppas is in talks with both management and workers of Schiesser to try to avert closure of the underwear manufacturing operation.
Ministry sources said that in a best case scenario, the workers' jobs would finally be retained; in a worst case scenario, redundant workers would be helped through unemployment programs.
A committee comprising the labor minister or his deputy, management and workers would be held on Tuesday, the sources said.
Main opposition blames gov't for crisis: The main opposition New Democracy (ND) party said that the government was to blame for an economic and business environment that was leading to job losses.
''The crisis in the market, which is taking unprecedented dimensions, is the result of a distorted government policy that for years now has undermined the real economy,'' ND's economy spokesman, George Alogoskoufis told reporters.
''It is most unpleasant that firms are closing down and workers are being left on the street. The government's policy has ignored the country's competitiveness problem, and Greece shows the second highest joblessness rate in the European Union,'' Alogoskoufis said.
Needed was a policy that focused on structural change to the economy, improving competitiveness, backing small and medium sized enterprises, and boosting growth in the regions through the use of EU funds and growth potential, he added.
Gov't working on new investment incentive bill”: The government is reshaping an existing development law in a move to support small and medium sized enterprises, Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said.
The minister was responding to criticism earlier in the day by ND's economy spokesman.
In addition, grants and incentives would be banned for companies that relocate, Christodoulakis said in a statement.
''Adverse developments recently in manufacturing and the retail trade are unpleasant and tragic,'' he added.
 Greek gov’t expresses satisfaction over EU funds' absorption rate
Athens, 20/05/2003 (ANA)Greece has made very significant progress in implementing a Third Community Support Framework, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said on Monday.
Speaking to reporters, after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis to review progress in a program to absorb EU funds, Mr Christodoulakis said that Greece's absorption rate was satisfactory, as recently stated by the EU Commission.
The Greek minister, however, stressed that efforts should be made to further accelerate the absorption rate for this year.
Transport and Communications Minister Christos Verelis also stressed that the ministry was implementing a Third Community Support Framework program as scheduled.
Mr Verelis said that the first tram carriage would arrive in Athens on Wednesday and stressed that the tram project was progressing as scheduled and that it would be ready to operate in spring 2004.
Commenting on the meeting, government spokesman Christos Protopapas also noted the positive comments made by European Commissioner Michel Barnier in Halkidiki the previous Friday, on the sidelines of an informal EU ministers' meeting on energy issues, regarding Greece's overall record in handling both the 2nd and 3rd CSFs.
The spokesman quoted Barnier as saying that the loose ends for Greece at the close of the 2nd CSF were ''below the average of the rest of the EU partners'' while the ''Commission's impression of the course of the 3rd CSF in Greece was very good''.
According to the spokesman, successive meetings by the ministers involved had also confirmed that the 3rd CSF was making good progress and that time schedules would be met.
 EU Agriculture Commissioner Fischler has contacts in Athens
Athens, 20/05/2003 (ANA)European Agriculture and Fisheries Commissioner Franz Fischler on Monday asked Greek Prime Minister and current EU Council President Costas Simitis to provide help in passing the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in June, before the expiry of Greece’s rotating EU Presidency.
The visiting EU official had a series of contacts while in Athens, in an effort to approve the new CAP, including meetings with Agriculture Minister George Drys and main opposition New Democracy party president Costas Karamanlis.
Fischler also met with the boards of the country’s major farming trade groups, PASEGES, GESASE and SYDASE, for short discussions on the new CAP.
Speaking during a meeting of EU member-states’ parliamentary agricultural committees, Fischler expounded on the reasons why the European block needs make certain reforms to its farming sector, saying that there was a need to simplify EU agricultural policy.
According to the EU official, this meant that farmers would have more time to produce quality products and services required by the community, while “they would have security regarding planning, and a clear perspective.”
Referring to the new threshold of farming spending, as recently decided by the European Council, Fischler said that “the funds to cover possible new CAP spending resulting from reforms, must be found now, within the existing budget.”
Attending the same meeting, Agriculture Minister George Drys referred to the need also to secure sufficient funds for Mediterranean products.
He said that Greece, as the current EU Presidency, wanted to ensure that spending for reforms by the year 2012 should not rise beyond the ceiling set by the EU Brussels Council.
ND leader and EU commissioner discuss revision of Common Agricultural Policy: Main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis on Monday discussed latest developments in negotiations regarding the revision of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) with the European Union's relevant Commissioner Franz Fischler.
ND spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos later stressed the need for Mediterranean products to be included in revision proposals, adding that Greece cannot agree with a reform leaving out Mediterranean products which constitute 73 percent of Greek agricultural production.
He also said the request for an increase in the cows' milk quota must also be supported.
The spokesman expressed concern over the looming speedup of approval for the European Commission's proposals without any substantive objection, as he said, on the part of the Greek government.
Roussopoulos called on the government to leave subterfuge aside and intervene to at least secure the maintenance of the present level of support for Mediterranean products and bring low and medium-level farmers into the centre of policy, substantively increasing the minimum limit of subsidization.
 Drys presents 3rd CSF data on absorption of funds
Athens, 20/05/2003 (ANA)Greece’s Agriculture Ministry probably holds the top position as far as absorption of EU funds is concerned, in spite of the fact that the relevant programs it manages include dozens of thousands of projects.
According to Agriculture Minister George Drys, who met on Monday with Prime Minister Costas Simitis for a discussion on the progress achieved with regard to EU’s Third Community Support Framework funds, the absorption rate for only two major programs managed by his ministry rises above Greece’s national average of 16 percent.
Specifically, the absorption rate of agricultural development-countryside reconstruction has so far reached 17.1 percent, having used 303 million euros of the total amount of 1,776 million euros. The specific program includes as many as 18,824 projects and absorption in the third quarter of 2003 is expected to rise to over 25 percent.
The second program, also on agricultural development, has recorded an absorption rate of 32.5 percent, reflecting the use of 873.4 million euros out of the programs total of 2,686 million euros.
Drys said that a reallocation of funds would take place in June for all programs, as demand by interested parties is greater for some actions and lower for some others.
 ND criticism aimed at gov't economic performance
Athens, 20/05/2003 (ANA)The main opposition New Democracy (ND) party on Monday again aimed its criticism at the government’s economic performance, following the bankruptcy of a well-known retail cosmetics chain late last week, which came on the heels of an announcement by a multinational undergarment manufacturer that it was moving its Athens production line to Bulgaria.
“The crisis in the market, which is taking on unprecedented dimensions, comes as the result of the government’s stilted policy, which for years has undermined the real economy,” said high-ranking ND deputy George Alogoskoufis, party’s economic policy sector head.
He also charged that the government’s policy was “tax-based, ineffective and a complete dead-end… a policy that ignore the problem of our country’s competitiveness and leaders to the second highest unemployment rate in the European Union.”
Alogoskoufis, a noted economist, called for an emphasis on structural reforms, increasing competitiveness and more incentives for SMEs, as well as better use of Community support funding.
 Gov’t aims to promote enterprising in the country, FinMin says
Athens, 20/05/2003 (ANA)The government is watching very closely all developments linked with the closure of certain businesses in the country, and is trying to create an environment that would help the competitiveness, viability and operation of enterprising, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said on Monday.
Speaking to reporters, after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis to review progress in a Third Community Support Framework program, the Greek minister stressed that ''company bankruptcies in a recession period would have been much more.''
Mr Christodoulakis noted that a general development of the Greek economy was the main preconditions for the development of enterprising in the country.
Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, Agriculture Minister George Drys said that programs included in a Third CSF were implemented rapidly.
 Third Euro-Mediterranean conference launched on Tuesday in Athens
Athens, 20/05/2003 (ANA)The third Euro-Mediterranean Conference of energy ministers will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday in Athens, organized by the Greek development ministry with the support of the European Commission, a press bulletin of the development ministry's press office said on Monday.
Greek Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, currently chairing the EU energy ministers council, Tunisian Industry and Energy Minister Ben Abdallah and Commission Vice-President Loyola de Palacio will deliver the opening speeches at the conference on Wednesday.
Participants will review the results of the Euro-Mediterranean cooperation on energy and will forge a framework for a new Euro-Mediterranean action plan in the energy sector, comprising basic policies and priority activities in areas of common interest, the bulletin said.
 EU focuses on integrating new members into single market
BRUSSELS 20/05/2003 (ANA/B.Demiris)Greece, which holds the European Union's rotating presidency, wants the bloc's new members to be able to take opportunities offered by the single market.
Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, who chaired a meeting of EU competition ministers in the Belgian capital on Monday, said the matter had to be set in the context of a redefinition of moves required to boost competition, employment and growth.
A set of priorities in the sector for 2003-2004 was approved by ministers at the meeting, the minister told reporters.
In addition, ministers adopted a draft directive on restrictions for hazardous substances and products, including cement, which contain high levels of chromium, Tsohatzopoulos said.
The directive aims to protect the environment and the health of consumers.
 Contract signed for single administration and control system
Athens, 20/05/2003 (ANA)A contract for the procurement of a Single Administration and Control System (C4I) for the Olympic Security Centers of the police and bodies involved in the security of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games was signed on Monday.
The contract was signed by the defense ministry and the American Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) company.
According to an announcement by the general secretariat of Economic Planning and Defense Investments, the cost of the procurement will amount to 254,999,000 euros and will be funded by the public investments program.
Subcontract work for Greek industries amounts to 100 million euros. In addition, the Hellenic state will receive materials and services worth 2.3 million euros through offset benefits.
SAIC said in an announcement, its senior vice president David Tubbs expressed satisfaction over the outcome of negotiations which lead to a contract ''which will provide an excellent C4I system for the Olympic Games of 2004 and will leave a considerable heritage for the Greek nation.''
Tubbs headed the Federal Security Services of the U.S. during the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.
 Labor minister addresses conference on workplace safety and hygiene
Athens, 20/05/2003 (ANA)Labor Minister Dimitris Reppas on Monday addressed an international conference entitled ''Tools for the implementation of European Directives in the health sector at workplace'' that was organized by the Greek Institute for Hygiene and Safety of Labor.
Reppas stressed that some 5,500 workplace accidents with fatalities and some 4.7 million workplace accidents causing injuries that led to more than a three-day absence from work took place in the European Union in 1996.
He underlined that beyond the human pain and suffering caused by those accidents there was also an economic impact to the tune of 2.8 per cent and up to 3.6 per cent of GDP in lost work-hours and medical costs.
Reppas spoke of the non-traditional workplace injuries, such as the carpotunnel syndrome, often attacking those who work in the sector of new technologies, while he added that a study showed that some 16 per cent of the Union's workforce is exposed to dangerous chemicals.
The minister concluded that the Greek Institute for Hygiene and Safety of Labor has contributed to the enhancement of safety precautions at workplace.
 Greek stocks fall 0.92 pct on Monday
Athens, 20/05/2003 (ANA)Greek stocks ended lower on Monday following a general negative climate in other European bourses, with investors worrying that a sharp rise in the euro/US dollar exchange rate could hit European exports.
The general index fell 0.92 percent to end at 1,734.94 points, with turnover a low 76.1 million euros.
The Insurance, Investment and Food-Beverage sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day (2.52 percent, 2.31 percent and 1.94 percent, respectively), while the Textile (3.03 percent), Retail (1.03 percent) and Cement (0.77 percent) sectors scored the biggest gains.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks fell 1.27 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index ended 0.15 percent lower, the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index eased 0.53 percent and the wider FTSE/ASE 140 index dropped 1.0 percent.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 208 to 101 with another 52 issues unchanged.
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 58.6 mln euros Monday
Equity Index Futures:
Bond Market Close: Buyers outpace sellers on Monday
Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond
Closing rates of May 19 2003
Parities in euro
For. Exchange Buying Selling
US Dollar 1,174 1,147
 ATHOC chief briefs PM on latest meeting with IOC
Athens, 20/05/2003 (ANA)The latest briefing of International Olympic Committee (IOC) members by Athens organizers dominated Monday’s meeting here between Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Athens 2004 Games Organizing Committee (ATHOC) Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, while sources said the issue of SARS vis-a-vis international sports events and the IOC’s thoughts on the matter were also discussed.
Angelopoulos-Daskalaki led a top ATHOC delegation at the IOC summit in Madrid over the weekend, which included participation by various international sports federations and the IOC’s executive board.
After Monday’s meeting with the premier, the ATHOC chief stressed that Olympic preparations should not be delayed by any unforeseen developments, a brief response to a press question about the prospects of early elections in the country.
According to reports from the Spanish capital, meanwhile, Angelopoulos-Daskalaki called on IOC President Jacques Rogge to encourage fans to visit Athens during the 2004 Games.
On his part, Rogge praised the ongoing progress of preparations for the Games, while citing only the delayed demolition and construction of the Karaiskaki stadium in the Faliro district -- where the soccer finals will be held -- as the only “question mark”. The IOC chief, however, said the venue’s completion is possible in a year.
Asked in Madrid about the SARS scare, Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said:
“We raised the issue of SARS at the IOC, both out of concern for the health and safety of our country and the world sporting community. The IOC is reviewing these issues on a case-by-case basis for the time being, but is fully committed to minimizing to every extent possible any impact of this issue. ATHOC and the IOC will respect all WHO guidelines and governmental policies. We will work with the IOC, the WHO, the (Greek) ministry of public health, and the world sporting community to protect Greece, athletes and others from this threat.''
In other statements, the ATHOC chief said:
''These have been productive meetings, and I want to begin by thanking Dr. Rogge for his leadership. We are 15 months away from the opening of the 2004 Games. We need to keep working every day; we have no time to lose. But now is a time for confidence. Athens will be ready on time. Greece will welcome the Olympics home, and honor the tradition that was born in our country.”
Among the projects she cited were the new International Broadcasting Centre and the Doping Control Centre; a new metro station in central Athens; ongoing construction on every venue, including Athens football stadium; the beginning of ticket sales on May 12, as well as the tabling of nearly 80,000 applications from would-be volunteers.
 ND deputies tabled Parliament question over Olympic preparations
Athens, 20/05/2003 (ANA)Meanwhile, 12 main opposition New Democracy (ND) deputies tabled a Parliament question on Monday to the national economy, culture, public works and labor ministers regarding Olympic preparations.
“Just 14 months before the holding of the Olympic Games, Greeks are observing with concern all of the things uncovered, despite the veil offered by a lack of transparency that the government has mandated in Olympic preparations,” the question stated.
Among others, the deputies noted that the initial figure for a closely watched security contract was pegged at 230 million euros last year, only to skyrocket to 500 million before falling to 380 million euros following a “public outcry”. The figure, according to the main opposition, later dropped to 280 million euros for the security contract, with the added resignation of the relevant deputy public order minister.
They also cited the construction of the International Broadcast Centre, initially budgeted at 30 million euros, only to come in at 103 million euros, the deputies charged.
 Louizis Riankour fiasco under the spotlight in November 17 trial
Athens, 20/05/2003 (ANA)A series of bizarre police blunders that led the authorities to fumble their first serious chance for a breakthrough against the highly dangerous terrorist organization ''November 17'' back in 1992 were dragged into the spotlight as the ongoing trial of 19 suspected members of the group resumed on Monday.
In the years that followed, the group went on to kill at least five more people and injured several others in terrorist attacks, as well as carrying out numerous bombings and armed robberies, before the capture of the first suspected terrorist in the summer of 2002 helped police dismantle the urban guerrilla organization.
Savvas Xiros, ended up in police custody after he fell victim to one of his own bombs, which exploded prematurely in his hands during a botched terrorist operation.
First on the stand on Monday was former police chief Stefanos Makris, who had headed the force between March 1992 and March 1993.
Makris said the police had been tipped-off toward the end of March that the terror band were planning a hit against a judicial official on March 27 and that they would assemble at Louizis Riankour street afterward if the operation failed.
Makris said the information had been given by a woman named Maria Tsinteri, who worked in a microbiology laboratory and whose husband was an officer. According to Makris she received 13 million drachmas as an informant and then disappeared, reappearing two months after he had retired.
He said Tsinteri had called after reading in the papers that the informant in the muffed Louizis Riankour operation had received 200 million drachmas as a reward, in order to find out ''what happened to the rest of the money''.
Based on her information, police had sighted a yellow van with stolen number plates parked at Louizis Riankour with two men inside, one of whom was wearing a wig.
Makris said a police operation to catch the pair was set up but had failed spectacularly and that the two men were allowed to simply drive off and disappear. The van was found later found abandoned a short distance away, with no sign of either of its occupants, while inside the van police found a handgun that had been stolen by N17 from a police station in Vyrona.
The former police chief was intensively grilled by the justices on the bench over the police force's apparent incompetence, particularly their failure to seek out the informant who had tipped them off.
Lawyers representing civil suits in the case told the court that the woman named had been involved in a case of fraud against a bank, while defense lawyers quizzed the witness on whether the entire operation had been ''set up'' in order to appropriate money destined for informants.
This last view was also supported by the suspect Savvas Xiros in statements to the court on Monday, who claimed to have been on the scene over the entire period that the Louizis Riankour police operation was unfolding.
Xiros said that there had been a minimal police presence on March 27 1992, the day that the van and its occupants were first sighted, with just one patrol car on the scene.
Two officers had been left behind to watch the abandoned van the following day, while the gun was discovered on the third and a strong police presence was not deployed until March 30, he added.
''It started to get crowded from Monday, March 30. They set up the whole story on Monday, it was like a country fair. This proves that the circuit was not set up there and then, it existed beforehand and took advantage of the case to make more money,'' Xiros claimed, while he also denied the existence of an informant.
Another defendant, alleged N17 operations chief Dimitris Koufodinas, said that it laughable to think that the police had allowed an informant who could potentially lead them to the most highly wanted terror band in Greece to just slip through their fingers.
Tsinteri has also denied all involvement in the affair in statements to examining magistrate Leonidas Zervobeakos in October, while she claimed to have received threatening phone calls demanding that she admit to being the informant in the affair.
She has also agreed to have her voice recorded on tape and compared with any recordings possessed by the police.
The court accepted a request by lawyers for the defense and in civil suits to have Tsinteri called up as a witness, as well as a police officer Mihalis Mavrouleas who at the time was held responsible for allowing the terrorists to get away and police officer Vassilis Gionis, who had been ordered to watch the van.
The next witness was former Deputy police chief Mihalis Nistikakis, who said his only knowledge of the affair came from a meeting at the public order ministry on March 27, 1992 to plan an operation to protect selected judicial officials and place the area under surveillance.
He particularly intrigued presiding judge Mihalis Margaritis with his assessment that the author of the group's proclamations had changed after 1991, with Margaritis pointing out that only one person was accused of writing the proclamations in the indictments.
Next on the stand was the former head of the Narcotics Squad Dimitris Apostolopoulos, who told the court that police had found Maria Tsinteri and set up a surveillance operation but this was later called off due to promotions within the force. He claimed the operation was a fiasco because of a single officer, not the entire force.
The last witness on Monday was Antonis Lambadiaris, Makris's successor as head of the police force, who told the court that Tsinteri had also called him and asked for an additional five million drachmas but that he had refused, asking her to give him additional information for it.
Following Lambadiaris' analysis of the many mistakes made during the Louizis Riankour operation, presiding judge Margaritis noted:
''I had wondered up until now how it was that November 17 had not been caught. How can I wonder now?''
 Closer cooperation, the focus of EU police chiefs meeting on Crete on Monday
Athens, 20/05/2003 (ANA)European Union chiefs of police on Monday launched their seventh meeting at the seaside resort of Aghia Pelaghia on Crete. Under high security, they discussed ways to further improve law enforcement cooperation in the Union and develop a system for collaborating in trans-national police operations.
Chaired by Greek chief of police Fotis Nasiakos, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, the meeting was also attended by delegations from the EU, Europol, Eurojust, the European Commission, the European Police Academy (CEPOL), the new EU partners, candidate-states Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, as well as Norway and Iceland.
According to sources, Nasiakos is expected to propose the establishment and operation of a telephone ''hot line'' among the bloc's police chiefs.
 About 700 refugees living temporarily in FYROM want political asylum in Greece
SKOPJE 20/05/2003 (ANA - N. Frangopoulos)About 700 refugees, mostly gypsies from Kosovo, living temporarily in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) arrived at the Mecitlia border checkpoint with Greece on Monday morning, desiring to cross into Greece and request political asylum, according to a report by Skopje's MIA news agency.
Police in FYROM are refusing to allow the refugees, including pregnant women and several children, to enter Greek territory.
The gypsies, who gave gathered on the border between Greece and FYROM near the Greek town of Florina, are refusing to return to Kosovo and stated that they will stay at the border checkpoint until they are allowed into Greece. They left Kosovo during NATO's bombings in 1999.
Police sources said the refugees will not be allowed into Greece, adding that they will have to return to Kosovo where they will be received by UNMIK police.
Strong police forces have arrived in the area, while a medical team visited the refugees earlier in the day.
 Ethnic Greek journalists conduct their 7th meeting in Athens
Athens, 20/05/2003 (ANA)Ethnic Greek journalists from 37 countries, working in media in their adopted homelands, are visiting Greece for the 7th annual meeting, touring Athens and Thessaloniki.
Press and Media Ministry General Secretary Dimitris Gerou welcomed the journalists and briefed them of the results and experience of the European Union Summit in Athens last month.
The journalists are discussing the establishment of a union for journalists of Greek origin.
Later in the day, they were briefed on the Athens 2004 Olympic Games preparations and the organizing of the Games' security, by ATHOC General Secretary Costas Kartalis.
Kartalis stressed that 90 per cent of the construction projects have been completed, adding that the full completion will take place in May 2004.
 Athens mayor meets with EU Commissioner Loyola de Palacio
Athens, 20/05/2003 (ANA)Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni met on Monday with European Transport and Energy Commissioner Loyola de Palacio, with discussion between them focusing on issues pertaining to utilizing natural gas application to meet the needs of schools in the region of Athens.
The agenda also included EU funding for a program regarding the use of the so-called “green” busses, using environ-mentally-friendly fuel.
 23-year old air hostess suspected for SARS to be released from hospital
Athens, 20/05/2003 (ANA)The 23-year-old air hostess from South Africa that was Greece's first suspected case of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) will be released by the end of the week, Greek health authorities said on Monday.
Her health is excellent and the early lab tests for SARS were negative, the same sources said.
Meanwhile Deputy Health Minister Hectoras Nassiokas chaired a briefing on ''Greek tourism and SARS'' in the presence of representatives from the tourism sector.
Nassiokas stressed that SARS is a ''global problem'' and noted that ''no country can order the non-transmission of the disease within its borders.''
He added that Greece had nothing to hide and underlined that the policy is that of transparency, full cooperation and continual briefings, as an effective way to control a possible case and protect from secondary cases.
The representatives of tourism organizations also addressed the briefing.
 New e-Vote poll on EU-US relations
Athens, 20/05/2003 (ANA)The Greek presidency of the European Union announced on Monday the launch of a new “e-Vote” on transatlantic relations, at a crucial time when the partnership appears at a crossroads.
Respondents will be asked to voice their opinion on three questions involving EU-US relations.
e-Vote is an experiment in “e-democracy” from the Greek EU presidency aimed at gauging the views of citizens across Europe on a range of keys issues facing the Union. The service offers anyone the opportunity to visit http://evote.EU2003.gr and to share their ideas, opinions and suggestions about the present and future EU. Tens votes are currently active: on the EU Today; the EU’s Role in the World; the Future of the EU; the Lisbon Agenda; EU enlargement; the War in Iraq; EU Drug Policy; the environment an sustainable development; EU-US Relations, and immigration.
 Ecumenical patriarch to inaugurate religious conference in Thessaloniki
Athens, 20/05/2003 (ANA)Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos will inaugurate a two-day conference between the Christian Orthodox and the Jewish faiths in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, on May 27.
The conference will be attended by delegations of the Orthodox faith headed by the Metropolitan of France Emmanuel and the Jews headed by the president of the World Jewish Council Israel Singer.
It will take place as part of the dialogue which has begun at the initiative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1977 between the three monotheistic religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
The purpose of the dialogue is to consolidate peace through the appeasement of religious and racial differences.
 Hellenic Foundation for Culture organizes literature event in Oxford
Athens, 20/05/2003 (ANA)The Hellenic Foundation for Culture is organizing an event on modern Greek literature at the Oxford Magdalene College on May 22, with the participation of five Greek authors, where all live or work.
The focus of the panel discussion of the writers, Nikos Athanasiou, Angela Dimitrakaki, Panos Karnezis, Eugene Trivizas and Eleni Giannakaki, will focus on the impact of life in Britain on a Greek writer.
Oxford University Greek Studies Prof. Peter Mackridge will coordinate the panel discussion, which will take place in the Magdalen College, the building of which was designed by architect Dimitris Profyrios.
The literature event is part of a series of events entitled ''Greece in Britain 2003'' and it is organized by the Hellenic Foundation of Culture in London, in light of the Greek EU presidency.
 Culture minister comments on court's decision on new Acropolis Museum
Athens, 20/05/2003 (ANA)Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Monday stressed that his ministry will respect the decision of the Council of State (Greece's highest administrative court), concerning a ruling on the construction site of the new Acropolis Museum.
The plenum of the council issued a unanimous ruling judging that the impact study, on which the building permit for the museum was based, was illegal. The construction of the museum is an integral part of the effort for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece from Britain.
Venizelos, who is in New York, commented that the culture ministry always respects the decisions of the Council of State and in the framework of the Constitution, as soon as the decision is made officially public, all the correct actions will be undertaken aiming at respect for the law and the construction of the project.
The minister also spoke of the ''violation of the secrecy of the court's meetings'' and the ''publication of press reports on the decisions of the council that do not exist as they have not yet been made public''.
 Iacovou satisfied with Verheugen meeting, Commissioner to visit Cyprus
BRUSSELS 20/05/2003 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus Foreign Minister, George Iacovou, said he was ''very satisfied'' from his first official meeting with European Commission Enlargement Commissioner, Gunter Verheugen, who is expected to visit Cyprus in the next fortnight.
During the meeting, held at Verheugen's office on Monday, the two exchanged views on the Cyprus problem as well as the package of measures in support of Turkish Cypriots, which will be announced next month by the European Commission.
Iacovou told Verheugen that the Republic of Cyprus is interested in a viable and functional solution, adding that it is very significant not only for Cyprus but also for the European Union that the federal state which will emerge from a solution will be able to function within the EU.
Of special significance is Verheugen's statement that ''we must build on the initiatives of the UN Secretary-General for a Cyprus settlement''.
As regards to the measures, there will be another meeting between Commission departments and the Republic of Cyprus while there are still many issues pending which will be regulated at the level of European Commission Directorates-Generals.
Verheugen said "our intention is to build upon the initiatives of the UN Secretary-General, which the European Commission is supporting. I believe there is a window of opportunity by May 2004 to solve the Cyprus problem, when Cyprus will accede the EU".
However, he said that if this does not yield results, then there is time until the end of 2004 when the EU will decide when and if it will commence accession negotiations with Turkey.
Referring to the partial lifting of restrictions in the freedom of movement to and from the occupied areas, Verheugen said he discussed it with Iacovou and described it a "positive development" which shows the ability and will of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to live together in peace.
Verheugen said they agreed that he visits the island when the Commission's proposals on the Turkish Cypriots will be completed.
Iacovou said the visit is scheduled to take place after 15 days, and discussions on Cyprus will continue on the island.
 Cyprus welcomes Turkey's measure as step in right direction
NICOSIA 20/05/2003 (CNA/ANA)The Cypriot government on Monday welcomed the announcement by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Greek Cypriots can visit Turkey as a ''step by Turkey in the direction of conforming to international law''.
Government Spokesman Kypros Chrisostomides said, however, it was illegal for Greek Cypriots to obtain a visa from the Turkish ''embassy'' in the Turkish-occupied areas of the island in order to travel to Turkey, noting that to some extent, with this move, Ankara was recognizing the passports issued by the Republic of Cyprus.
''Each measure bringing Turkey back to international legality is good'', the spokesman noted.
He explained that barring the entrance of Greek Cypriots to Turkey was illegal and discriminative, while Cyprus on the other hand accepted Turkish citizens into the country.
The spokesman said it was ironic for Erdogan to say that Greek Cypriots could obtain visas from the Turkish-occupied areas of Cyprus and travel from there to Turkey, noting that if anyone proceeded with this illegal action they would face the consequences of the law.
He said the use by Greek Cypriots of illegal ports or airports was an offence and was thus forbidden, adding that travel documents issued by the Turkish occupation regime could not be accepted by any UN member states.
''Erdogan's statement is the lifting of a restrictive measure imposed in the past by Turkey but is done for Ankara to comply with international legality'', Chrisostomides said, adding that Erdogan's announcement ''is not a measure welcomed as a goodwill or confidence building measure''.
It is Turkey's obligation to conform to international law, especially now that it is promoting its EU accession course and even more so because this is what the EU is demanding, he added.