|Wednesday, 30 September 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-05-21
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>May 21, 2003
 PM briefed on business closures, gov't action for redundant workforce
Athens, 21/05/2003 (ANA)The government's response to the closure of a series of businesses through bankruptcy or relocation and measures to support workers that suddenly face the prospect of unemployment occupied talks between Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Labor Minister Dimitris Reppas on Tuesday.
Later on Tuesday, a committee comprised of labor ministry staff, the workforce and the management of the companies in question met for three-way negotiations on averting the closures.
The labor ministry on Monday pledged to "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.''
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.
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.
Government spokesman on spate of closures: Commenting on the spate of highly-visible business closures, meanwhile, government spokesman Christos Protopapas downplayed their impact on the economy as a whole.
''Every year there are businesses that close down and others that open. The suspension of operations in one business, which might be due to problems in the specific sector or product, or to bad business decisions or intense competition, does not affect the balance of employment as a whole, which is positive,'' the spokesman said.
He quoted justice ministry figures showing that 3,409 companies had applied to declare bankruptcy in 2000, 3,142 in 2001, 2,960 in 2002 and 1,180 up until May 20 in 2003. These showed that there had been no dramatic rise in bankruptcy rates this year, he added.
The businesses that closed down were replaced by others that were more competitive and specialized in the service or new technology sectors, while the labor ministry took steps to protect the unemployed and return them to production, he said.
Appealing to reporters ''not present the picture of a devastated economy,'' the spokesman stressed that the government was seeking to create an environment that helped businesses expand and extend their activities in order to become more competitive and increase employment.
At the same time, Protopapas was critical of mercenary attitudes among the business community, saying that the interests of business should be linked to the interests of society and the country.
''It is hard to justify the actions of an employer who moves his operation to another country in order to make higher profits than he was making before,'' he said, referring both to the closure of Schiesser Palco and to the statements by the Union of Greek Industry calling for ''China-level wages''.
FinMin says companies responsible for wave of bankruptcies, lay-offs: The Greek government will not seek to lower the domestic labor cost to avert a risk of companies migrating to neighboring Balkan countries with cheaper labor cost, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting of the Export Council, Mr Christodoulakis stressed that enterprises were solely responsible for a recent wave of company closures and lay-offs, and noted that domestic companies failed to timely deal with their problems.
''The Greek economy is currently in a period with mixed signals. On the one hand we have high growth rates and on the other business bankruptcies,'' the Greek minister said to add ''There are no excuses for a massive lay-off of workers because companies failed to deal with their problems.''
Mr Christodoulakis reiterated all government measures implemented lately, both tax and investment incentives, new regulation to promote mergers and takeovers.
The Greek minister said that the government, in an effort to deal with the problem of bankrupt businesses, would seek a reform of a development law with the aim to support small- and medium-sized enterprises.
Retail trade group sees business closures as circumstantial: The Association of Retail Sales Companies of Greece said on Tuesday that a spate of recent businesses closures was circumstantial, and not part of a trend.
''This is a circumstantial phenomenon, which is not due to a general crisis in the market,'' the association's president, Antonis Makris, said in a statement.
''The Greek market has not shown the same signs of fatigue as other European markets that have seen some traditional markets dealt a death blow,'' Makris said.
At the same time, the government should improve the business climate by lowering taxation and dealing with labor market issues, he added.
 Papandreou insists on ‘Road Map’ as a solution in Mid East
BRUSSELS 21/05/2003 (ANA – A. Simatos)The so-called Road Map, proposed by the quartet (US, Russia, United Nations, European Union) is the key to achieving a solution to the Palestinian issue, according to Greece’s Foreign Minister and current EU General Affairs Council president George Papandreou.
Speaking here on Tuesday morning during an event organized by the ‘Centre for European Reform’, Papandreou let it be understood that the EU was not willing to give in to pressures to boycott Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.
He added that the Palestinian issue was not unassociated to the rest of developments in the Middle East region, saying that the settlement of the specific problem would allow the region’s to promote reforms needed in those countries.
In addition, he stressed that Western contribution to consolidating democracy in that region should not be in the form of a ''cultural hammer'', as this would have nothing positive to offer in years to come, and further pointed to the importance of constructive dialogue underway between the EU and the Arab League.
In reply to a question regarding his recent trip to Israel and Palestinian territories, along with High Representative for EU Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, Papandreou said that ''the EU would hold talks with whoever it deemed necessary in order to be effective, whether this would be the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon or Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.''
Papandreou finally noted that the EU and the US should combine their efforts to talk Iran into avoiding to develop nuclear weapons, thus averting a fresh crisis in the region similar to Iraq.
 FM calls for election of EU Council president by peoples of unified Europe
BRUSSELS 21/05/2003 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)Foreign Minister George Papandreou reiterated here on Tuesday his proposal for the election of a European Union Council president for a long term of office by the peoples of unified Europe.
Papandreou was speaking during a round-table discussion attended by former European Commission presidents Jacques Delors and Jacques Santer and Italian eurodeputy Giorgio Napolitano.
The foreign minister stressed that Greece wants an elected president, believing that European citizens will be sensitized in this way, and added that although many can term this proposal utopian, utopias sometimes prove to be useful.
The proposal met with some skepticism by the other speakers, while Santer said he considers it to be utopian but underlined that sometimes ''the utopians of yesterday are the realists of today.''
Santer also underlined the existence of dangers in light of institutional reform and expressed support for the communal method of the EU's functioning.
Papandreou said unified Europe is the best democratic model existing in the world today and referred, as an example, to the European Union's positive repercussions for a solution to the Cyprus issue and the smoothing out of Greek-Turkish differences.
Regarding the discussion on the EU's institutional reshaping, Delors said the aim of unified Europe should be safeguarding peace, widening its autonomy and increasing its influence.
Delors also rejected the separation of EU member-states into small and big ones, stressing that many of the ''fathers'' of unified Europe were citizens of small countries.
Napolitano said the risk exists of the EU's communal method of functioning giving way to the inter-governmental method, saying that ''I might appear to be a conservative on this issue, but it is better for one to be conservative than retrogressive.''
Damanaki calls for briefing by FM on "president of the European Council" issue: Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) deputy Maria Damanaki on Tuesday requested a briefing in Parliament by Foreign Minister George Papandreou or a representative of the government concerning Greece stance toward the issue of the ''president of the European Council''.
Speaking during a session of the Parliament's European Affairs Committee, Damanaki requested the briefing based on a statement by a foreign ministry spokesman, who - as she said - noted that ''the prime minister is changing his stance''.
Ruling PASOK and main opposition New Democracy (ND) participating in the committee called for an amendment that would not allow for a president of the European Council of a longer term and fully assigned to the post.
 Deputy FM Loverdos chairs EU General Affairs Council
BRUSSELS 21/05/2003 (ANA – V. Demiris)Greece’s Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos chaired a session of the European Union’s General Affairs Council on issues pertaining to development policy, in the Belgian capital on Tuesday.
Delivering a speech to the Council, Loverdos told EU ministers that “the European Union is the top partner in the world on issues of development cooperation, as it currently offers up to 55 percent of the official global aid for development.”
In statements after the end of the meeting, Loverdos added the EU was a major world contributor of aid for development and combating poverty, and expressed disappointment on the part of the EU at those countries offering the least of aid.
“Countries placing the greatest emphasis on publicizing their offer are those which contribute the less to development aid,” he said.
Issues discussed by the Council included the promotion of decisions emanating by the UN international conferences in Monterey and Johannesburg, as well as aspects of EU development policy.
Referring to an informal Council on Development Cooperation, organized by the Greek EU presidency in northern Greek town of Alexandroupoli on June 1-3, Loverdos said the meeting would look into the organization and coordination with new member-states on EU’s foreign actions to improve development aid provision.
 Greek EU Commissioner Diamantopoulou to pay two-day visit to Cyprus
NICOSIA 21/05/2003 (ANA - G. Leonidas)Greek EU Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs Anna Diamantopoulou begins a two-day visit to Cyprus on Thursday.
During her stay, she will be received by President Tassos Papadopoulos and meet with House of Representatives President Demetris Christofias, Foreign Minister George Iacovou and Labor and Social Insurance Minister Makis Keravnos.
President Papadopoulos will host a luncheon in honor of the Greek EU Commissioner at the Presidential Mansion on Thursday.
Among others, Diamantopoulou will also meet former president Glafcos Clerides and political party leaders.
On Thursday, Diamantopoulou will also give a lecture on the theme ''Cyprus an equal member of the big European family'' and address a greeting at the opening of the 28th Cyprus International Fair.
 PM urges PASOK Executive Bureau to 'focus on work', not internal issues
Athens, 21/05/2003 (ANA)In a strong message to ruling PASOK's Executive Bureau on Tuesday, Prime Minister Costas Simitis urged the party's top brass to stay focused on the government's work and the goals of the Greek EU presidency and not get sidetracked by ''internal issues, speculation about reshuffles and parapolitical debate''.
''Handling issues pertaining to the presidency is not irrelevant to domestic government business, since every solution found contributes to the settlement of domestic issues,'' the prime minister noted.
Greece currently holds the rotating EU presidency.
Briefing the party's Executive Bureau, Simitis outlined the five major issues that the Greek presidency is currently discussing with EU member-state governments, such as the progress in the Convention for the Future of Europe and his upcoming meeting with Convention president Valery Giscard D'Estaing, developments in European defense and a report due from EU High Representative for Common Security and Foreign Policy Javier Solana, immigration policy, EU rapprochement with Balkan countries and the EU-US summit to take place in Washington at the end of June.
He also referred at length to the Cyprus issue and the moves of the Turkish-Cypriot side, stressing the need to work out a concerted strategy for solving the Cyprus problem.
He ended by referring to economic developments and talks at the G8 meeting attended by Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis and the policies of main opposition New Democracy.
The meeting was eventually cut short after about four hours - before Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis and MP Mihalis Neonakis had an opportunity to present their views - so that Simitis could depart for a tour of three European capitals to prepare for the Greek presidency's final summit in Thessaloniki in June.
After the meeting, meanwhile, PASOK Central Committee Secretary Costas Laliotis said the prime minister, at a meeting of PASOK's central committee in the coming week, will announce the action he plans to take on domestic affairs once the Greek EU presidency is over.
 KKE leader refuses invitation to send rep to National Council of Foreign Policy
Athens, 21/05/2003 (ANA)Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga on Tuesday notified, via a letter, Foreign Minister George Papandreou, that her party would not participate in the National Council of Foreign Policy.
''As it is known our party, during the discussion for the amendment of the Constitution, had noted the necessity for the upgrading of the Permanent Committee of Foreign and Defense Affairs of the Parliament, and submitted specific proposals, so as to be able to conduct substantial discussions on critical issues of foreign policy. Those proposals were blocked by the refusal of the government,'' Papariga said in her letter, that was sent as a response to a letter by Papandreou, who requested the naming of a representative to the Council, now under formation.
Papariga said the current effort to create the Council confirmed the assessment of KKE that the transparency of substantial discussions before the Greek people is not the aim, but rather the ''covering up of the government choices with the 'excuse' of the dialogue''.
She concluded stressing that her party insists on the upgrade of the relevant Parliament committee and would not take part in the Council.
 Discussion in Parliament for establishment of committee on highway accidents
Athens, 21/05/2003 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday addressed Parliament on his party's proposal for the establishment of a Parliamentary committee to investigate last month's highway accident at Tempi, central Greece that cost the lives of twenty-one students.
Karamanlis spoke of the need for reforming implemented policies since, as he said, ''every year so many people are lost that amount to the population of a small city,'' while every year more than 100 billion drachmas are needed to cover the effects of this tragedy.
He also underlined that a complete policy is necessary along with a national strategy, which will confront the fragmentation of responsibilities, local administration calls of a lack of funds, corruption and the bad condition of the road network, as well as the bad attitude of some drivers.
Karamanlis also spoke of the state of heavy trucks and the low fines imposed on professional drivers in Greece, despite an increase in accidents due to mechanical problems and bad driving on their part.
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) deputy Antonios Skyllakos said that his party was in favor of the establishment of a committee that will investigate the problems and will conduct a discussion in good faith, but was opposed to a committee that would conduct a criminal investigation.
He accused all past governments for the conditions of the road network and said that there are delays in the completion of the major highway connecting Patra-Athens-Thessaloniki because in that way contractors can undertake the funding of the roads and then impose tolls.
Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos supported the establishment of the committee and questioned the ''expediency'' of the separation of the railway tunnel project from the highway tunnel project at Tempi.
In response to strong criticism, Transport and Communications Minister Christos Verelis said that the government implemented all that was proposed in the legislative and institutional level by the intra-party committee of 1996.
He stressed that it is wrong to accuse the government alone, excusing everybody else, while he admitted that there was corruption in the vehicle safety control system.
''Let's not say that only the government is to blame, but all of us are to blame. From the driver to those of us in this Parliament plenum auditorium,'' Verelis concluded.
 Greek current accounts deficit up 23.5 pct in Jan-March
Athens, 21/05/2003 (ANA)Greece's current accounts balance worsened remarkably in the first quarter of 2003, with the deficit rising by 23.5 percent to 3.26 billion euros, the Bank of Greece said on Tuesday.
The central bank said that this negative development reflected mainly a limited absorption of EU funds in the January-March period. The country's trade deficit rose only 2.4 percent over the same period.
More analytically, net payments for fuel imports were more than double in March compared with the same month in 2002, to 569 million euros from 265 million euros in March 2002.
EU transfers fell to 676 million euros in March 2003 from 814 million euros in March 2002.
Imports totalled 8.369 billion euros in the first three months of the year (up from 8.061 billion euros in 2002), while exports totalled 2.670 billion euros (up from 2.499 billion euros), over the same period respectively.
The direct investments balance showed a net outflow of 86 million euros in March, with portfolio investments recording a net inflow of 2.638 billion euros in the month.
The "other investments" balance showed a net outflow of 3.262 billion euros, reflecting increased deposits and investments in repos in foreign markets by Greek citizens.
The direct investments category recorded a net outflow of 371 million euros in the January-March period, while the portfolio investments category recorded a net inflow of 4.707 billion euros over the same period.
The other investments category recorded a net outflow of 4.836 billion euros in the first three months of 2003.
Greece's foreign exchange reserves totalled 5.0 billion euros at the end of March.
 Central gov’t debt exceeds annual target in 1st quarter
Athens, 21/05/2003 (ANA)Greece's central government's debt soared to 173.186 billion euros in the first quarter of 2003, exceeding a budget target for an annual debt of 171.05 billion euros, official figures showed on Tuesday.
A report by the General Accounts Office attributed this very worrying development to the fact that the government covered the two-thirds of its annual borrowing program in the first three months of the year in an effort by the finance ministry to ensure liquidity in the domestic market ahead of the start of a war in Iraq.
Greek public sector borrowing totalled 19.9 billion euros in the first three months of the year, from an annual target of 30.7 billion euros.
 Greece to promote exports before Athens 2004 Olympics
Athens, 21/05/2003 (ANA)Greece is to promote its exports before the Athens 2004 Olympics, Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said on Tuesday.
The aim of the drive was to maximize added value from hosting the global event, boost exports, and attract investors from abroad before and after the games, Christodoulakis told reporters after a meeting of the National Exports Council.
Among moves taken so far were creation of the Athens Business Club by the Hellenic Investments Centre, with backing from the Association of Greek Industry and Exports Promotion Centre.
Members of the club will attend sector presentations during the Olympics including foodstuffs and beverages, information and communications technology, biotechnology and medications, organic farming, energy, mining, packaging, construction and public works, light industry, shipping and tourism, the minister said.
 Greek-Turkish business forum for border firms
Athens, 21/05/2003 (ANA)A two-day Greek-Turkish business forum for companies located near the border between the two countries will be held in the northeastern towns of Komotini and Alexandroupoli on May 23-24.
The meeting is backed by local authorities in eastern Macedonia and Thrace.
 Farmers' union concerned over future of Mediterranean products
Athens, 21/05/2003 (ANA)The GESASE farmers' union expressed grave concern over the future of Mediterranean products in an announcement on Tuesday, following a meeting held on Monday between the presidents of the farmers' three major unions (PASEGES, GESASE and SYDASE) and Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler.
The announcement said Fischler refused to give any guarantee for Mediterranean products and avoided giving a direct reply to a relevant observation by GESASE President G. Goniotakis.
GESASE left open the possibility of new mobilizations by farmers to defend their interests, unless there is a provision for Mediterranean products even at the last moment.
 Soros to chair World Economic Forum meeting in Athens
Athens, 21/05/2003 (ANA)Global financier George Soros is to co-chair a regional conference of the World Economic Forum to be held in Athens on 23-24 May.
Also chairing the session, an offshoot of the Davos forum in Switzerland, is the governor of the National Bank of Greece and president of the Union of Greek Banks, Theodoros Karatzas.
Delegates will look at the political and economic situation in southeastern Europe, and the outlook for the region.
Soros is a shareholder in Hellenic Land International SA, a holding company and developer, through Soros Real Estate Investors. It is his first investment in Greece. The rest of the firm is owned by Panayiotis Mihalos, founder of DTZ Mihalos SA.
 Tourist federation calls for upgrading of tourism's role in EU
Athens, 21/05/2003 (ANA)The Federation of Greek Tourist Companies (SETE) has addressed letters to President Kostis Stephanopoulos, Prime Minister Costas Simitis, the development and foreign affairs ministries and all Greek Eurodeputies, protesting the downgrading of tourism's significance and role in the European Union.
SETE also called for ''intervention to have tourism given the position it deserves and the competitiveness of the European tourism industry safeguarded.''
It further expressed surprise because ''tourism is not included in the EU's supportive action sectors in discussions for shaping the European Constitution.''
SETE also stressed in its letters that tourism participates, both directly and indirectly with over 12 percent in the 15-nation EU's GDP, while tourism directly creates eight million jobs and indirectly another 12 million in over two million companies in the 15-nation bloc.
 Greek stocks end Tuesday's session flat
Athens, 21/05/2003 (ANA)A wave of buying activity late in Tuesday's session helped Greek stocks recover initial heavy losses and end the day flat in the Athens Stock Exchange.
The general index ended 0.15 percent lower at 1,732.42 points, after dropping as much as 1.7 percent early in the session, with turnover an improved 113.7 million euros.
The Publications, IT Solution and Food-Beverage sectors recorded the heaviest percentage losses of the day (2.0 percent, 1.84 percent and 1.59 percent, respectively), while the Holding, Retail and Insurance sectors scored the biggest percentage gains (1.45 percent, 0.87 percent and 0.81 percent, respectively).
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks rose 0.25 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index eased 0.57 percent, the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index ended 0.68 percent lower and the wider FTSE/ASE 140 index rose 0.01 percent.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 214 to 101 with another 48 issues unchanged.
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 74.3 mln euros Tuesday
Equity Index Futures:
Bond Market Close: Buyers match sellers on Tuesday
Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond
Most Active Bond: 10-year, expiring May 2012 (491 mln euros).
Closing rates of May 20 2003
Parities in euro
For. Exchange Buying Selling
US Dollar 1,173 1,146
 ATHOC president briefs EU Commissioner Palacio on Games' projects
Athens, 21/05/2003 (ANA)European Commissioner Loyola de Palacio on Tuesday met with Athens 2004 Olympic Games Organizing Committee President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki and was briefed on the preparations for the Games.
She was also briefed by the ATHOC relevant managers on issues of transportation and energy that are part of her portfolio.
Following the meeting, Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said that ''we briefed the European Commissioner on the efforts of our country which will host the Olympic Games, a significant event not only for Greece, but for our neighborhood''.
She also spoke of the grand projects that are underway, stressing that they are long-term projects which will solve everyday problems of Athenians and will remain as part of the Games' inheritance for Greece.
On her part, Palacio stressed that ''in the European Commission we follow with great interest the projects for the Olympic Games. We understand that the Olympic Games are always a significant event, wherever they take place, especially so when they take place in Greece, where they were born''.
''I must say that I gained a wonderful impression for the preparations and I hope that all will be ready in August 2004, as we all wish - I am sure that it will happen that way,'' she concluded.
 ND delegation briefed on Athens 2004 projects by Alevras
Athens, 21/05/2003 (ANA)Deputy Culture Minister Nassos Alevras, responsible for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, on Tuesday met with a main opposition New Democracy (ND) delegation and briefed them in detail on the course of the preparations of the Games.
''The meeting with the ND deputies was conducted in a very good climate. I briefed them on all subjects of the preparations and provided them with a timetable of the Olympic projects, which we have submitted to the International Olympic Committee. We are on a very good path and we are not going to have significant over-budget spending,'' Alevras said, following the meeting.
Speaking of the Olympic Stadium renovation based on Architect Calatrava's design he said ''it is a difficult and complex project, which, however, is developing with in satisfactory rate at this point. I strongly believe that everything will be fine. There is no cause for concern. The progress of the projects is satisfactory''.
On her part ND deputy and head of the ND delegation Fani Palli-Petralia focused on the cost of the projects, strongly criticizing Prime Minister Costas Simitis, for, as she said, loss of budgetary control of the projects and the preparation for the Games.
She focused on the cost of the International Center of Radio and Television, which ''will run, VAT included, 123.8 million euros'', while adding that Simitis had stressed in the past that the project would cost 103 million euros.
She also focused on the Calatrava stadium project, saying that delays in the completion of projects may lead to cancellation of test events.
 Greek environment minister to attend ''Environment for Europe'' conference
Athens, 21/05/2003 (ANA)Greek Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou, who currently chairs the European Union's environment ministers' Council, will depart for the Ukrainian capital of Kiev on Tuesday to participate in the Fifth Pan-European Ministerial Conference on ''Environment for Europe'' from 21 through 23 May, a Greek environment ministry press release said.
Held with the participation of environment ministers from EU member-states, Eastern European countries, and states from the Caucasus region and Central Asia, the initiative is aimed at the enhancement of environmental safety and public health throughout the UN/ECE zone (United Nations Economic Committee for Europe).
In a bid to stave off the current course of environmental degradation in Eastern European, the Caucasus and Central Asian countries, the Kiev Conference will advance methodologies and instruments for the incorporation of environmental and public health issues into relevant sector policies, the release said.
Moreover, it will adopt resolutions and initiatives to send a strong political message on improving environmental conditions in Europe, and to effectively exploit the resolutions of the 2000 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.
The ''Environment for Europe'' initiative took off in 1991 with the Dobris (Czechoslovakia) ministerial conference, which was followed with a second conference in 1993 in Lucern (Switzerland), a third in 1995 in Sofia (Bulgaria) and finally a fourth one in 1998 in Aarhus (Denmark).
 Gov't to launch campaign to encourage public transport use
Athens, 21/05/2003 (ANA)A campaign to persuade the public to prefer buses and trains over their cars for getting around the capital was presented on Tuesday by Transport and Telecommunications Minister Christos Verelis.
The central message of the campaign will be "Gain time. Leave your car, take public transport", while it was organized jointly by the ministry and the Athens Urban Transport Organization (OASA).
The message will be posted on about 200 buses on Athens-area routes and the emphasis will be placed on informing the public about the many advantages to using the public transport system, including reduction of air pollution and traffic congestion.
The campaign is being launched just two days after the end of an informal meeting of EU transport ministers whose main focus was on measures to reinforce urban public transport and encourage its use.
Verelis noted that Greece had the largest fleet of buses in the European Union that was powered by natural gas and that the ministry was working closely and continually with OASA to improve the services provided by the public transport system to the two million passengers that used buses and trains daily.
The government will seek to show that public transport is better and quicker, since travelers will not be held up in traffic nor have the problem of finding somewhere to park once they arrive at their destination.
 President attends anniversary celebrations of Ionian Islands' union with Greece
Athens, 21/05/2003 (ANA)President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos arrived on the tiny Ionian island of Paxi on Tuesday evening to take part in celebrations marking the 139th anniversary of the Ionian Islands' union with Greece.
Stephanopoulos was proclaimed an honorary citizen of Paxi during a ceremony held at Geou Square and later visited the island's Folklore Museum.
He also attended a dinner hosted in his honor by Corfu's local government and Paxi municipality.
 New York's Queens College proposes establishment of Y. Kranidiotis seat
NEW YORK 21/05/2003 (ANA - P. Panagiotou)Queens College Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies Chairman Haris Psomiadis on Tuesday proposed to visit Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos the establishment of a seat at the college named after the late alternate minister Yiannos Kranidiotis.
The proposal was submitted during Venizelos' meeting with the Dean Evangelos Gyzis, a Greek-American member of the college's faculty.
Psomiadis explained, during a dinner hosted for Venizelos, that the founding of the seat would require some 1.5 million dollars.
The College Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies program was established in 1974 and some 15,000 students have graduated with a major or minor degree from this department.
 Witness places Xiros at N17 safehouse, Giotopoulos rejects new evidence
Athens, 21/05/2003 (ANA)A plumber who had been called in to carry out repairs on the November 17 safehouse at Damareos Street in Pagrati on Tuesday identified alleged terrorist Savvas Xiros as the man who had let him into the apartment.
Testifying in the ongoing trial of 19 suspected members of the highly dangerous terror group, Christos Istroubos was positive that he had seen Xiros in the apartment two years before but denied seeing anything else that aroused his suspicions on the premises.
A second plumber, Dimitris Katsiyiannis, noted only a 'resemblance' with Xiros but said the apartment had made an impression on him because it was very poorly furnished and equipped.
In a written statement circulated to all members of the press, meanwhile, the alleged leader of the terrorist band Alexandros Giotopoulos rejected new physical evidence recently presented against him in the court by police as fabricated.
''As the charges fall apart, police and judicial mechanisms are struggling to think up new props for them.
On May 13, two and a half months after the start of the trial, they discovered new 'evidence' against me...the keys they confiscated from my living room on July 17, 2002 ... which they now say match the keys to the safehouse held by Savvas Xiros.
''It took them 10 months to make this discovery. They checked every key they had confiscated from every suspect or prisoner. My keys eluded them.
''But they forgot that they themselves returned the keys that they are now presenting as evidence of a crime to my partner on April 4, 2003, following an Appeals Council ruling that they were not related to any crime.''
Giotopoulos ends his statement by saying that the authorities did not want the trial ''to depart from the 'shining' traditions of our judicial system that always finds those resisting the junta guilty, finds striking workers to be outlaws and says murders by police officers are 'accidental detonations'. For how long?''
In a dramatic interlude earlier on Tuesday, meanwhile, the court heard testimony from the woman who allegedly tipped-off police that N17 planned to meet at Louizis Riankour street in March 1992 in exchange for 13 million drachmas. The information resulted in one of the most spectacularly bungled police operations relating to the elusive terror group, which once again managed to evade capture.
Appearing in court, Maria Tsinteri vehemently denied all knowledge of N17 and said she had never contacted police chief Stefanos Makris or given him any information.
She also presented a letter from the phone company affirming that her number had been encrypted since February 2002 and would not have appeared on the police chief's caller id as he had claimed.
When asked, Makris insisted that he had seen Tsinteri's number when she called, while the witness once again reiterated that she had never contacted him, accused the police of drafting a ''fabricated report'' and was unable to explain why she had been selected as the informant in the case.
Former narcotics department chief Dimitris Apostopoulos was also asked to identify Tsinteri and claimed to be absolutely certain that she was the informant.
According to presiding judge Mihalis Margaritis, tapes of Tsinteri's voice are now being analyzed and compared to tapes of the informant already in the hands of police to see if they are the same. He said the witness might be called back depending on the results of the new investigation.
The trial will resume on Friday due to a 48-hour strike called by the Athens Bar.
 EU confirms support for Moscow's attempts at judicial reform
Athens, 21/05/2003 (ANA)The European Union on Tuesday affirmed its support for the Russian government in its efforts to reform the country's judicial system.
At an EU Troika-Russian ministerial-level meeting that focused on judicial and internal affairs, the two sides acknowledged the need for Russia to ratify and implement the Treaties of the European Council on a series of critical issues such as money laundering, search, confiscation and sequestration of property which is the product of criminal activity, personal data protection, as well as a penal and civil treaty to combat corruption.
The meeting was attended by the Greek ministers of Justice and Public Order, Philippos Petsalnikos and Michalis Chrysohoidis, respectively, Russian Justice Minister Yuri Chaika, and Italy's Alternate ministers of justice and interior Jole Santelli and Antonio D'Ali, respectively.
 EU meeting of police chiefs concludes on Crete
Athens, 21/05/2003 (ANA)European Union Chiefs of Police concluded their seventh meeting at the seaside resort of Aghia Pelaghia on Crete, on Tuesday, a meeting described as historic by Greek Police Chief Fotis Nasiakos, given that it was the first such meeting after the Union’s enlargement.
Under high security, police chiefs discussed ways to further improve law enforcement cooperation in the Union and develop a system for collaborating in trans-national police operations.
The meeting reaffirmed the need for closer cooperation on fighting terrorism, illegal immigration, organized crime, forgery, Olympic Games security, etc.
Nasiakos, who chaired the two-day meeting, said in statements that such meetings regarded the present and future in EU security, a security that was an inalienable right of all EU citizens, and which the chiefs of police viewed as their utmost duty to provide.
He added he believed the time was not far when EU police chiefs would have a telephone ‘hot line’ in order to facilitate coordination in resolving critical security situations.
Attendants included 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.
 Health minister refers to cooperation between EU and
WHO GENEVA 21/05/2003 (ANA - N. Robin)Health Minister Costas Stefanis, addressing the World Health Organization’s 56th Assembly on behalf of the European Union on Monday, referred to cooperation between the EU and the Organization and its further development based on the Public Health Community Program for 2003-8.
Stefanis also underlined the significance of health for economic and sustainable development and its contribution to eradicating poverty.
The Greek minister focused as well on contagious diseases such as SARS, AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and the struggle against them.
He further noted the EU's position on reconsidering international health regulations and the Organization’s significance for achieving the millennium's development targets, improving the health of children and youths and access to medication.
Stefanis also had meetings here with his Chinese, Israeli and Turkish counterparts.
 Gov't seeks to introduce tough fines for negligent dog owners
Athens, 21/05/2003 (ANA)An agriculture ministry bill that is currently in the wings seeks to introduce tough measures to bring negligent dog owners into line and prevent pet abandonment, including the mandatory marking of pets with either tattoos or micro-chips and steep fines for those who abandon or mistreat their animals.
Presenting the draft bill on Tuesday, Agriculture Minister George Drys stressed that pet owners would not have to pay any form of registration fee, only the cost of marking or tagging the animals.
He also stressed that strays would be collected and treated and then either given for adoption or remain in animal shelters run by local government.
He said fines for abandoning pets would range from 2,500-5,000 euro, while larger fines would be imposed on those who mistreated animals, traded in them illegally or used them in dog fights.
 Conference on incorporation of immigrants and refugees in Athens on Friday
Athens, 21/05/2003 (ANA)Labor Minister Dimitris Reppas, European Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou and Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni will be among the main speakers at a European conference entitled ''Good practices of incorporating immigrants and refugees in society and the labor market''.
The conference will take place on Friday at the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the framework of the ''Forum for Social Cohesion'' of the European Union Equal initiative.
 Cyprus: President's view on Annan plan has not changed
NICOSIA 21/05/2003 (CNA/ANA)President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos has never set as a prerequisite for the UN-led talks to resume the amendment or the improvement of the UN Secretary General Koffi Annan's plan to reunify Cyprus, government spokesman Kypros Chrisostomides said here Tuesday.
Chrisostomides reiterated that the president's as well as the Greek Cypriot side's position has not changed and remains the same, as expressed in The Hague.
Commenting on Monday's remarks on the Cyprus question made by EU enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen, Christostomides noted that Verheugen said ''we need to build upon the UN initiatives for the solution of the Cyprus question.''
''I believe this means that the efforts for the solution of the Cyprus issue are continuing and maybe what Verheugen means is that they would be culminating in view of May 1st, 2004 (when Cyprus joins the EU),'' Chrisostomides added.
Asked what the government is doing for the talks to restart, Chrisostomides noted that the government is doing its utmost for the resumption of the talks.
''We have done everything possible so that our position is clear to Annan, to the US, to the UN member states, to the EU that we are ready for the resumption of the talks,'' he added.
Chrisostomides however pointed out that Annan expressed his position both in his report to the Security Council and in statements earlier.
''At the present time, we don't see Turkey's position changing in any way. Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash continues to consider Annan's plan dead and buried,'' the spokesman pointed out.
Asked whether the Greek Cypriot side's position that the key to the reunification of Cyprus lies in Ankara has changed, Chrisostomides replied negatively, noting ''our basic position is that the Turkish policy must change.''
''The key as we speak lies in Ankara. Nobody knows what will happen in the future,'' he noted.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third.
Papadopoulos says no positive development out of Erdogan's announcement: Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos stated on Tuesday that there is no positive result from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's announcement that Greek Cypriots will be allowed to enter Turkey, since his goal is to achieve direct or indirect recognition of the illegal state in the island's areas occupied by Turkish troops since 1974.
Papadopoulos said he did not discuss this issue with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, since he did not consider it to be something serious.
Invited to say whether it was positive after clarifications that it was not a precondition for Greek Cypriots to go to Turkey via Cyprus' Turkish occupied areas and that they will be able to go via other European countries, Papadopoulos said ''no, since this is what happens today.''
He noted that this practice ''was applied many times in the past'' and so ''there is not any positive development.''
Papadopoulos said that there was ''a planning to achieve, in any way they can, a direct or indirect recognition, the so-called
acknowledgement of the Denktash's pseudo state. This is illegal and it will not be allowed,'' he added.