|Thursday, 17 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-05-28
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>May 28, 2003
 PM: EU, Cyprus solution, Greek-Turkish relations the priorities til elections
Athens, 28/05/2003 (ANA)The government's priorities until the next general elections are the formulation of the new European Union and Greece's position in the EU, resolving the Cyprus issue on the basis of the UN plan, reforming Greek-Turkish relations, and the negotiations for a social Europe, prime minister Costas Simitis said on Tuesday, addressing a critical joint meeting of his ruling PASOK party's central committee and parliamentary group.
Outlining the government's priorities until the elections as well as its platform for the next four-year term, Simitis said that the policy, in a nutshell, was ''Greece remains sovereign'', in tandem with the four crucial issues listed above.
He described the four issues as being of ''national importance'', adding that their outcome would mark Greece's course for decades to come.
The economy: Addressing the meeting on the course of the Greek economy, Simitis said that despite the difficult international environment, development was continuing in Greece at ''satisfactory'' rates, noting that after seven consecutive years of strong and constant upward development, ''we shall continue with even more ambitious goals''.
Rejecting speculation that after the 2004 Olympics in Athens and the completion of the Third Community Support Framework (CSF) there would be a slowdown in the Greek economy, calling it an ''erroneous'' view, the prime minister said that contacts had already commenced in Europe for new funding for after 2006 (when the Third CSF expires), and noted that the investments for the Olympic Games were being made with Greek resources, which after the 2004 Games would be channeled to finance other productive investments.
Simitis expressed optimism that after the Olympics Greece would witness an increasing developmental growth and would respond positively to EU convergence, since the Greek economy was progressing steadily and was not presenting signs of recession.
The prime minister acknowledged the existence of problems such as unemployment and the finances of many families, as well as adaptation inability by many ''weak individuals of society'', as well as problems faced by business concerns, which he attributed to increased competition as well as the fact that the new technologies were altering the production, organization and commerce conditions. These problems, he said, could not be remedied in a demagogic manner, adding that the top priority of government policy was the ''weaker'' members of society, the unemployed, boosting employment, and the SMEs.
Cyprus and the EU: The prime minister devoted a large part of his address to Greece's course in the European Union, the current Greek EU presidency, and Cyprus' EU accession.
He said that despite the fact that the Greek EU presidency had coincided with the war in Iraq, Greece had proved that it could maintain the helm of the EU during a major crisis. He also referred to the two EU summits under at which the Iraqi problem was discussed and at which the Greek presidency succeeded in unifying the differing views ''so that Europe may have its own voice''.
He also noted the EU support, at the initiative of the Greek EU presidency, of the UN's role, and also the fact that for the first time the Euro-force undertook a peacekeeping mission with its own forces, in FYROM. The result, he sad, was that Greece, as EU president, met the challenges faced during that time, and this was acknowledged by everyone in Europe as well as in the international arena.
Relations with Turkey: On relations with Turkey, Simitis referred to the Imia islets issue, noting that although everyone at the time had believed that Greece would not be able to react and would be swept into a maelstrom of pressures and concessions, the exact opposite had occurred.
He said the PASOK government had introduced a radical change in the handling of Greek-Turkish relations because it had succeeded in taking on Turkey's aggressiveness with a practice of "disclosure", a tactic that had led Turkey to gradual adaptation to the international rules and acknowledgement of cooperation as the only path to follow.
He also said that the rapprochement with Turkey in recent years had transposed the problem to European Union level, adding that Turkey's EU candidacy was now a lever for the normalization of relations.
 PM accuses main opposition, big business of undermining gov't's work
Athens, 28/05/2003 (ANA)With an appeal to ruling PASOK to avoid dancing to its opponents' tune, Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Tuesday attributed the bad climate in domestic issues to a ''carefully orchestrated attack'' from main opposition New Democracy and big business that sought to prevent the government from completing its work.
Addressing a joint meeting of PASOK's Central Committee and Parliamentary group, the premier also fully backed members of the government and party that had been targeted by sections of the press in connection with alleged scandals, noting that scandal-mongering was ND's favorite tactic in a 'war of attrition' against the government, due to the paucity of its own program.
He also indirectly criticized members of the party that had disagreed with the meeting's focus on Greece's European course and Cyprus' EU accession and had called for discussion of domestic current affairs, noting that this would have played into the hands of New Democracy and its attempts to undermine the sense of self-confidence the nation had acquired through Greece's more powerful position within the EU.
Responding to critics that said the country was faring well abroad but badly at home, meanwhile, Simitis stressed that performance in these two areas was intimately linked.
''If a country's economy is in crisis then this also has repercussions on its international relations and the reverse,'' he said, noting that Greece enjoyed high rates of growth, investment and a strong financial presence in neighboring countries, showed good results in fighting terrorism, social dialogue and social harmony.
The Union of Greek Industry (SEB) was also targeted for criticism by Simitis, who rejected SEB's prediction that unemployment would double and its proposals for labor relations, saying they would violently disrupt social harmony and cohesion and have the opposite effect to that desired.
He ruled out further government reforms to the pensions system in line with recommendations from the European Commission at the present time.
According to Simitis, the last package of government reforms had solved the social insurance issue up until 2030-2040, whereas the measures proposed by the EU concerned reforms up until 2050.
There was no reason for the government to concern itself with solving the issue up until 2050 given the dramatic changes in recent years and the great influx of foreign immigrants who had altered the country's demographics, the premier added.
Responding to the attack against his party, ND leader Costas Karamanlis accused Simitis of ''consciously trying to create dividing lines'' and using tactics that ''belonged in the past''.
According to Karamanlis, the voters saw the government's policies as anti-working-class and ineffective and associated them with unemployment, high prices, business closures, incompetence and corruption, with the financial destruction of 1.5 million investors on the stock market and despair in the farming community.
''Cries and insults do not alter reality. Mr. Simitis' government has failed,'' Karamanlis concluded.
PM says PASOK will win next elections: Prime Minister Costas Simitis, concluding the joint meeting of the ruling party's Parliamentary Group and Central Committee on Tuesday, expressed his conviction that PASOK will win the next elections in the spring of 2004.
Simitis said PASOK will get a new clear mandate, adding that he will not rule on the basis of opinion polls and saying that the use of opinion polls was a "guided serial to influence public opinion".
Referring to an opinion poll which appeared last Sunday, he said a deluge of comments followed according to which the government has lost the confidence of the people and that PASOK will lose the next elections.
The prime minister said they want something before the Thessaloniki EU summit, to hide the success of the presidency and sow dissent in the ranks of PASOK to gain party benefits.
Simitis said there will be no economic recession over the next few years and that pessimism existing today "is transferable and will gradually change and give its place to optimism".
He further mentioned that working people, farmers and small and medium-size businessmen are the government's top priority and that the government has carried out and is carrying out a reallocation of income through tax and social security reform which the main opposition New Democracy party wishes to overturn and which the government must defend.
Simitis also said the government is promoting programs for the support of the long-term unemployed, but will not give up contributions which businesses must make to the Social Insurances Foundation (IKA) and will not shoulder the debts of businesses which cannot support themselves because even more problems will be created in this way.
He attributed the clamoring of businessmen to their political preferences which, as he said, lie elsewhere, and to their desire to have the government undertake their own commitments.
Opposition parties criticize PM's address at PASOK's Central Committee meeting: The Communist Party of Greece (KKE), referring on Tuesday to Prime Minister Costas Simitis' statement during a joint meeting of his PASOK party's Parliamentary Group and Central Committee that the government is doing well abroad because it is doing well inside the country, said government policy was doing very well regarding the serving of the local plutocracy and regarding the serving of the European one through the Greek presidency.
''The prime minister feels proud that the PASOK government participated in the war against Iraq, and for the legalization by the EU of the occupation of Iraq by the United States and Britain. He is pleased because it is promoting new measures which harm even more the income, work and, in general, the rights of working people. But, unfortunately for the government, there are the unemployed, the dismissed, the millions of poor and impoverished who are listening and seeing to what degree and for who we are doing well, both inside and outside Greece,'' KKE added.
Referring to the same issue, Coalition of the Left and Progress party (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos criticized the prime minister for ''living in his own world'' and ''insisting on looking at the mirror of power and not listening to the buzzing of social reality.''
He added that ''when Mr. Simitis believes his government is making a nice Greece and for this reason centers of vested interests want to bring him down he provokes, apart from hilarity, the anger of the big majority who are living in a different reality and know very well the support which economic and publishing interests provided for Mr. Simitis and vice-versa.''
 Cyprus' EU accession a 'catalyst' for solution, Cyprus President Papadopoulos says
Athens, 28/05/2003 (ANA)Visiting Cyprus president Tasos Papadopoulos on Tuesday described Cyprus' European Union accession as a ''catalyst'' for a solution of the island-republic's political problem.
A guest speaker at a joint meeting of the ruling PASOK party's central committee and parliamentary group, Papadopoulos stressed that there was identity of views among all the political forces in Cyprus as to what needed to be done from here on for resolving the Cyprus problem, and expressed hope that the same climate would be prevalent among the Greek political forces as well as within the ruling party.
''I hope that we will walk together, united, to the vindication of the Cyprus issue, which I am certain will come,'' he said.
Papadopoulos described last month's signing of Cyprus' EU Accession Treaty as a ''historic landmark'' for Cyprus following its independence, and as the most significant, if not the only, diplomatic success after the 1974 Turkish invasion.
He further said that, with its EU membership, the security of Cyprus and its people is ensured, and the prospect is opened for prosperity of the island and its citizens, stressing that ''the effort so that the Turkish Cypriots too may share in that prosperity'' was a ''correct policy position''.
Papadopoulos added that all the political forces of Cyprus, former president Glafcos Clerides and the Cypriot people had been consistent in their efforts and the sacrifices they made ''to render us worthy of accession'', noting that ''the road for accession commenced from Greece, with the visions of (former Greek foreign minister) Theodoros Pangalos and Yannos Kranidiotis (Greece's Cyprus-born alternate foreign minister who was killed in a freak air accident in 1999) and the substantial contribution of prime minister Costas Simitis".
With respect to UN secretary general Kofi Annan's plan, Papadopoulos reiterated that the Republic of Cyprus accepted the plan as a basis for negotiations, and was prepared to respond affirmatively in the event of a new invitation by the UN chief to resume the negotiations for a viable and functional solution to the Cyprus problem that would be in line with the fundamental principles of the EU acquis communautaire.
He further said that Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash's plans would not come to pass, adding that "it is our duty to convince the Turkish Cypriots, and mainly Turkey, that resolving the Cyprus issue is to their benefit".
Main opposition leader meets visiting Cyprus president: Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday held talks with visiting Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos in an open meeting in the presence of reporters, after which the two men held a joint press conference.
Papadopoulos hailed "New Democracy's constant and steady support for the policies we have followed on the Cyprus issue," while Karamanlis noted that there was general consensus after the "major goal of Cyprus' EU accession" had been achieved.
"Today we can view the future with greater optimism for a solution of the political problem based on the terms we have set," he added.
Papadopoulos also surprised reporters with an open reference to the main opposition party's lead over ruling PASOK in opinion polls during his talks with Karamanlis.
 FM praises foreign policy at PASOK party's Central Committee meeting
Athens, 28/05/2003 (ANA)Foreign Minister George Papandreou, addressing the ruling PASOK party's joint Parliamentary Group and Central Committee meeting on Tuesday, said the results of Greek foreign policy, particularly in connection with Cyprus, prove the main opposition New Democracy party wrong.
''This success is not merely the product of some conjuncture but the product of considerable preconditions for our party. Initially, of the conviction that we can exercise a Greek foreign policy, as Andreas Papandreou mentions in the Proclamation of September 3, our collective creation, the continuation and consistency of our policy, since we did not stop at a heroic apathy, or immobility, but we took initiatives and risks in which there was the absolute support of the prime minister and with reasonable questions and discussions, there was also absolute support at the cabinet council. Thirdly, very close cooperation with Cyprus,'' he said.
The foreign minister further said contrasts also exist on the part of Turkey.
''An effort and insistence are necessary and an improvement in climate. Of course there were intensive violations recently. However, we must handle them with great calmness and determination and in a wider framework,'' he added.
Papandreou also said the distinction made between foreign and domestic policy was ''artificial'', since a series of problems are international ones and the activation of all citizens on an international level is necessary for their handling.
 Greece will not play Ankara's 'game of tension', DM Papantoniou says
Athens, 28/05/2003 (ANA)Greece will not play Ankara's ''game of tension'', defense minister Yiannos Papantoniou said on Tuesday as he arrived for a joint meeting of ruling PASOK's Central Committee and Parliamentary group.
''We will not play the game of tension that Ankara wishes to play. We shall be firm in our positions, but naturally with a high degree of preparedness and vigilance to confront any prospect,'' Papantoniou said when asked to comment on statements by the Turkish chief of staff that Turkish military aircraft would continue infringing the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR).
Turkish armed forces chief of staff Gen. Hilmi Ozkiok said on Monday that Turkish jetfighters would continue to fly in the Athens FIR without submitting relevant flight plans, and disputed the 10-mile airspace (FIR) zone off the Greek coastline of the mainland and islands.
Papantoniou said that Greece was facing increasing provocation and aggressiveness by Turkey in the Aegean, as was proved by the number of violations of Greek airspace and FIR infringements, but also by the fact that the violations and infringements were carried out ''in a very aggressive manner'' since the Turkish jetfighters were armed, and tens of encounters ensued with Greek airforce planes.
The defense minister opined, however, that ''it is probably not the intention of the Turkish military establishment to spark off an incident in the Aegean''.
''I do not wish to think that, because that would naturally cancel out Turkey's European course,'' Papantoniou said, adding that if Turkey dared to do what is said, ''this would cancel its European course for many years''.
The minister said that vigilance was necessary because ''in such a tense situation one cannot rule out an accident, or misunderstanding, or misinterpretation of the other's intentions, as many of those encounters naturally entail dangers''.
He reiterated the same concerns in his address to the PASOK joint meeting, saying that Greece had to be on the alert and in a high state of readiness to deal with such an event, while at the same time noting that it would be an ''act of unreason'' on the part of Turkey's military.
Papantoniou also stressed that the decisions taken by the EU in Helsinki were a ''one-way street'' for Greece and that there should be no illusions about whether the Helsinki resolutions were directly effective for Greek-Turkish relations.
Papantoniou noted that the Greek government has pointed out those dangers in a severe way to Turkey, adding, however, that ''to date we have not received any reply because it is obvious that in Turkey there is a lack of correspondence between the civilian government and the Turkish military establishment''.
At another point, the minister stressed that reinforced European security and defense meant that the Greek people could henceforth 'lean' on Europe for their defense, while describing the creation of the Euroforce in 2003 a major success.
He said that he would be accompanying EU Common Foreign and Security Policy High Representative Javier Solana to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia at the beginning of June to inspect the European force that had been stationed there for the past two months.
Asked to comment on rumors of the possibility of a coup in Turkey, Papantoniou declined comment, adding that he did not wish to make such a prediction.
 FM says Turkish military must 'toe the line' on airspace violations
Athens, 28/05/2003 (ANA)In a clear message to Turkey's military establishment, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou on Tuesday stressed that the role of the military in Turkey could not be different to the role of the military in other countries.
''I do not reply to generals either directly or indirectly. I converse with a political figure, who is none other than the Turkish foreign minister with whom we are in regular contact,'' Papandreou stressed.
The Greek minister made the statements during a press conference that marked the end of the Euro-Mediterranean Conference on Crete when asked to respond to a statement by Turkey's armed forces chief of staff that Turkish aircraft would continue to violate Athens airspace and infringe the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR).
General Hilmi Ozkiok said on Monday that Turkish jetfighters would continue to fly in the Athens FIR without submitting relevant flight plans, and disputed the 10-mile airspace (FIR) zone off the Greek coastline of the mainland and islands.
Papandreou said he and his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul had discussed the rash of airspace violations above the Aegean.
''We stressed that a solution must be found within the framework of international rules and international law regarding an issue that has caused us problems for many years and which must come to an end,'' Papandreou added.
The minister noted that relations between the two countries had improved significantly in many areas - including in terms of military tension - and this improvement had contributed to a problem-free accession to the European Union for Cyprus and in relations between Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots.
''If Turkey is to join the EU, it must carry out some of the reforms that we and other countries that entered the enlarged EU had to make,'' he stressed.
In earlier statements on the same issue, meanwhile, Gul told reporters that ''the newspaper reports do not reflect reality,'' and stressed that Turkey was run by its government.
''The army is ours and we control it,'' he added.
 Euro-Mediterranean partners meeting on Crete unite against terrorism
Athens, 28/05/2003 (ANA)Participating foreign ministers in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership conference, which ended on Tuesday on the island of Crete, agreed to further strengthen cooperation among Mediterranean nations.
Presenting the conference conclusions during a press briefing, Greece’s Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who chaired the meeting, stressed the Euro-Mediterranean conference should acquire an even more specific and fundamental role, with the first step to this direction being its transformation into a ''Euro-Mediterranean Convention,'' meaning more meetings among its members.
Referring to the Middle East issue, Papandreou said that there is still hope for peace in the region and that the European Union supported the ‘Road Map’ proposed by the quartet (US, United Nations, Russia and EU), describing it a positive step towards a Mid East settlement.
Among the meeting’s aims was to assess the progress achieved so far in Euro-Mediterranean cooperation, especially in the implementation of the Valencia energy plan and its future development, especially in view of EU enlargement.
The ministers once again reiterated their willingness to carry on and intensify the fight against terrorism, compliance with international law, full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
With regard to the Mid East, they underlined that peace should be restored in the region and lead to the creation of a democratic, viable and independent Palestinian state, allowing at the same time the right to Israel to live within the safe and recognized boundaries.
They described the Road Map as a major chance for peace.
In the meantime, in a joint declaration signed at the end of the conference, EU and Mid East foreign ministers left behind their political differences to jointly condemn terrorism.
The declaration warned that it is very likely that the ‘Road Map’ may become the target of extremist groups in an attempt to destroy the specific plan and create chaos in the region.
 Western Balkans leaders to issue joint communique on EU integration
SKOPJE 28/05/2003 (ANA - N. Fragopoulos)Western Balkan leaders will assemble on Monday in Ochrid, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), where they will adopt a joint communique on the prospect for the integration of their countries with the European Union.
Skopje daily ''Utrinski Vesnik'' on Monday reported that the leaders of FYROM, Serbia-Montenegro, Albania, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina will address a communique to participants at the upcoming EU Summit in Thessaloniki in June and to Brussels, underlining the need for speeding up the process for EU integration of their states.
European Commission representatives will also participate in the meeting.
The priorities of the Greek EU presidency vis-a-vis the Western Balkan region, as they were presented to the respective heads of state by Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou during his Western Balkans tour early this year, will be reviewed on the sidelines of the Thessaloniki Summit at a meeting with the participation of the leaders from the five Western Balkan countries.
The Greek presidency's priorities for the region have been met with a positive response on the part of the Western Balkan states in their quest for a clear perspective from the Thessaloniki Summit to pave the way for their European integration.
 Minister Petsalnikos testifies in Ocalan trial
Athens, 28/05/2003 (ANA)The trial over the illegal entry into Greece of rebel Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan in 1999 resumed on Tuesday with the testimony of Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos, who at the time had been serving as public order minister.
Petsalnikos told the court he had been briefed about the issue surrounding the now jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) by former foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos and the deputy director of the Greek intelligence service (EYP). The minister said that retired Navy captain Antonis Naxakis, who is charged with disrupting the country's peaceful foreign relations over organizing Ocalan's illegal entry into Greece, had acted immaturely by bringing Ocalan into the country when he knew that the PKK leader was officially considered undesirable.
He said the Ocalan affair was considered ''casus belli'' by Turkey and repeatedly said that those who helped Ocalan come to Greece had displayed ''irresponsibility without bounds''. However, he did not credit Naxakis with any desire to endanger Greece's international relations.
At the start of the proceedings the court heard a request by defendants Yakar Chedkiz and Kaya Aifer, two former associates of Ocalan who face the same charges as Naxakis, that the court not activate a warrant for their arrest but impose restrictive conditions instead.
Neither of the two defendants had appeared in court on the first day of the trial on Monday.
The mixed jury court said it was not competent to judge their petition and referred it to the Three-Member Appeals Council.
 UN high commission on refugees concerned over EU draft regulations
Athens, 28/05/2003 (ANA)The United Nations High Commission on refugees on Tuesday issued a press release voicing its concern over the ''quality of the EU directives under examination on asylum'', saying that the asylum is being damaged and that the fundamental principles for the protection of refugees are in danger by the adoption of the lowest common denominator now in force by national regulations.
The Commission also stressed that the member-states and the Greek EU presidency are under pressure ''to keep the deadlines that were set at the Seville EU Summit, so as to achieve an agreement on significant legal texts''.
 Loverdos recommends ratification of EU-FYROM stability agreement
Athens, 28/05/2003 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos recommended on Tuesday in the plenum of the Greek Parliament the ratification of the Stability and Association Agreement between the EU and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
Addressing the parliament’s session, Loverdos said: “The Greek Parliament passed today, by majority, the Act ratifying the Stability and Association Agreement between the EU and FYROM. It is an important agreement, which would strengthen our neighboring state’s stability, unity, territorial integrity, peace, prosperity and progress. Greece has been a keen supporter of FYROM’s European perspective, and has undertaken specific initiatives in relation to the 2001 crisis, both at EU and bilateral levels. A Greek EU Presidency primary target is to enhance the European direction of all Balkan nations. It is our wish that the Thessaloniki EU Council, June 21, 2003, works on strengthening that path. The ratification of the Stability and Association Agreement by the Greek Parliament is part of this process. Greece’s policy is firm and consistent.”
The ratification of the above agreement was debated by the parliament’s Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee on May 14.
The support offered by the Greek parliament to Skopje, through a Standing Committee, was received in great enthusiasm by FYROM’s foreign ministry, which stated in an announcement that this decision reaffirmed once again both Greece and FYROM’s wish for amicable and good neighborliness ties.
 Greek EU presidency welcomes release of journalist Hamidi by Syrian authorities
Athens, 28/05/2003 (ANA)The Greek European Union presidency on Tuesday issued a statement to welcome the release by the Syrian authorities of journalist Ibrahim Hamidi, a correspondent of London-based Arabic daily ''al-Hayat'', who had been arrested by Syrian officials in Damascus in late December on charges of printing wrong information.
The full text of the statement follows below:
''The EU Presidency welcomes the release by the Syrian authorities of the journalist I. Hamidi.
''This action was an overdue step in the right direction and demonstrates Syria’s good intentions in respecting the freedom of expression and the principles governing a state of law.
''The EU presidency further encourages the Syrian authorities to withdraw the criminal charges against I. Hamidi and to put an end to subsequent legal proceedings.
''We are convinced that, in so doing, the government of Syria exhibits its commitment to an irrevocable reform process in all spheres of the political life.''
 FinMin urges need of new "social contract"
Athens, 28/05/2003 (ANA)The government needs to formulate a new social agreement to ensure the constant improvement of living quality for the Greek people, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said on Tuesday.
Addressing a Joint Meeting of PASOK Central Committee and Parliamentary Group, Mr Christodoulakis stressed that "the Greek economy has achieved significant performances but faces significant problems as well".
The Greek minister acknowledged that there were "pockets of underdevelopment still in the country", and in particular pockets of unemployment and stressed that the government needed to offer social priority to them. "Without economic growth we will not be able to deal with unemployment, but it would be wrong to believe that economic growth is an automatic mechanism to deal with the problem".
Mr Christodoulakis noted that Greece was now able to formulate a long-term plan of social and economic convergence, demanding consensus, and which would offer satisfactory answers to the issues of convergence, employment and workers' incomes.
 EU Commission: Greece has the lowest increase in tourism in Mediterranean EU
Athens, 28/05/2003 (ANA)In reply to a question raised by Greek Eurodeputy Alekos Alavanos (Left Coalition - Synaspismos) regarding the impact of both the Iraq crisis and economic recession on Greece’s tourism industry, the European Commission said Greece records the lowest increase in tourism compare to its Mediterranean EU partners.
The average annual increase rate in tourism in Greece between 1997 and 2001 is estimated at one percent (1%), while the top position is held by Spain with over eight percent, followed by France, Italy and Portugal (three to four percent).
In the meantime, an announcement issued by the Coalition of the Left opposition party, said that the Commission disclosed that in the past three years, Greece has given no tourism-related data to the EU, in spite of a directive by the EU Council stipulating that member-states must collect, process and transmit statistics on tourism industry supply and demand.
In reply to another question regarding the EU budget measures for economic support to the tourism industry, the Commission said that in spite of current conditions, it does not consider providing special assistance.
 Greek stocks end lower, shipping sector soars in ASE
Athens, 28/05/2003 (ANA)Greek stocks ended Tuesday's session lower despite increased buying demand for shipping stocks amid talk of new mergers and takeovers in the sector.
The general index fell 0.85 percent to end at 1,675.01 points, with turnover a moderate 90.3 million euros.
News of a block sale, of 3,266,841 shares, by Minoan Lines at a price of 1.30 euros per share, was the main theme in the Athens Stock Exchange and helped push shipping sector share prices sharply higher.
The IT Solution, Wholesale, Publications, IT and Cement sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day (3.20 percent, 2.74 percent, 2.28 percent, 2.25 percent and 2.17 percent, respectively).
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks fell 1.15 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index eased 0.63 percent, the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index ended 1.32 percent and the wider FTSE/ASE 140 index ended 1.08 percent down.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 275 to 53 with another 33 issues unchanged.
Derivatives Market Close: Trade at discount Tuesday
Equity Index Futures:
Bond Market Close: Buyers outpace sellers on Tuesday
Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond
Closing rates of May 27 2003
Parities in euro
For. Exchange Buying Selling
US Dollar 1,199 1,172
 N17 trial witness testifies to seeing Sotiropoulou with Xiros on June 28
Athens, 28/05/2003 (ANA)A witness testifying in the trial of 19 suspected members of the terrorist organization ''November 17'' on Tuesday told the court she had seen the sole woman accused in connection with the group's activities, Angeliki Sotiropoulou, sitting in a cafeteria with fellow-defendant Savvas Xiros two days before the fateful explosion that led to his capture by police.
Evangelia Sagri said she had seen the pair talking in a Piraeus port cafe shortly after midnight on June 28 2002, while she was waiting to catch a boat to Santorini. She told the court she had noticed Xiros because of the way in which he was holding a bag on his knees.
Two days later, Xiros was captured after a bomb he had intended to set at a Piraeus shipping firm booth went off prematurely, injuring him in the hands and eyes.
Earlier, the defendant Patroklos Tselentis told the court that an outline of the group's rules and organizational structure found by police in the Damareos Street safehouse had been copied by him from a rough draft he had been given by Dimitris Koufodinas.
He said the outline had been a proposal for organizing the group that had never been implemented in practice, while Koufodinas claimed it was a ''historic document'' whose spirit and basic principles had defined the organization.
The alleged leader of the urban guerrilla organization, Alexandros Giotopoulos, asked to address the court and noted that none of the evidence presented showed him to be the leader of the terror band.
His lawyer, meanwhile, asked that the entire file concerning the treatment received by Savvas Xiros at Evangelismos Hospital and his stay there be submitted to the court.
''It is important for us to see how someone who is blind and deaf can make statements to police,'' he noted.
Giotopoulos was initially arrested on the basis of statements taken by Xiros under police interrogation while he was in Evangelismos, in the presence of public prosecutor Ioannis Diotis.
The court also heard witness testimony regarding bomb blasts attributed to the group, including bombs set at the Pentelikon Hotel and in Piraeus.
 Ecumenical patriarch inaugurates 5th academic meeting of Judaism and Orthodoxy
Athens, 28/05/2003 (ANA)Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos inaugurated the 5th academic meeting of dialogue between Judaism and Orthodoxy in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, on Tuesday, attacking religious fanaticism on the occasion.
Vartholomeos said such meetings were useful and aimed at enabling one interlocutor to understand the way of thinking of the other, who belongs to a different religion, and expressed regret that the phenomenon of religious fanaticism has not yet disappeared.
He said the fanatic is basically a fearful man who, in the depths of his soul, is not completely convinced of the truth of his faith, adding that ''the fanatics are not the chosen ones of a religion but the weakest of its members.''
The meeting is being attended by delegations of Orthodoxy, headed by the Metropolitan of France Emmanuel, and of Judaism, headed by the president of the World Jewish Congress Rabbi Israel Singer.
 Illegal immigrants intercepted in waters off Samos
Athens, 28/05/2003 (ANA)Eight Somali nationals and two Palestinians were intercepted by the Greek coast guard on Tuesday, drifting in waters off the Aegean island of Samos in a wooden boat.
The driver of the Turkish speedboat that had been towing the immigrants managed to evade capture.
Authorities said they had intercepted another 12 Somalis and four Iranians in the past three days and were now holding them at immigrant reception centers on the island.
 Meeting on future of European cinema concludes in Thessaloniki
Athens, 28/05/2003 (ANA)The immediate establishment of a federation of cinema centers of the 25 EU member states, with the participation of a state mass media, preferably television, and a commercial bank, from each country, for the purpose of examining the possibilities for cooperation in the sectors of European films production and distribution was decided by the representatives of filmmakers from the European countries who took part in the meeting on ''The future of European cinema and of the audiovisual following enlargement'' which ended in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, on Tuesday.
The delegates adopted the proposal by Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos and it was decided for the meeting to take place by the end of June within the framework of the Greek EU Presidency.
Present at the meeting were Venizelos, member-state ministers, EU Culture and Education Commissioner Viviane Reding, representatives of the European Commission, known filmmakers of European cinema, presidents of cinema organizations and various experts from 36 countries.
 FM Iacovou discusses Cyprus issue with OIC members
HERAKLION, 28/05/2003 (CNA/ANA)The Cyprus question was discussed during talks Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou had here on Monday on the sidelines of the Euro-Mediterranean Conference with his counterparts from member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
Speaking to CNA, Iacovou said that the resolution on the Cyprus issue to be adopted by the OIC in Teheran is not expected to be worse than previous texts, in relation to the government's positions.
Iacovou had an opportunity to exchange courtesy words with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.
''My main aim was to have some contacts relating to the Islamic Conference and talk about the resolution to be adopted," Iacovou said, pointing out that he has already sent letters to members of the Islamic Conference outlining the government positions.
Replying to a question about the draft resolution, the minister said that the friendly position towards Turkey the OIC had adopted in 1999, ''would not worsen'' in relation to the Cyprus government views.
Iacovou was due to return home on Tuesday.
 European journalists to monitor situation in occupied areas
NICOSIA 28/05/2003 (CNA/ANA)The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) intends to continue monitoring the situation in Cyprus' northern Turkish occupied areas and make representations in support of Turkish Cypriot journalists fighting for press freedom and the right to freedom of expression.
In a resolution, adopted at its annual general meeting in Prague at the weekend, the Federation expressed ''profound concern and protest over the continuing suppression of the freedom of press and expression and the persecution of Turkish Cypriot journalists in the Turkish controlled northern part of Cyprus.''
It condemns the policy and measures Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash applies that prevent free movement of journalists in their own country and forbid a prominent Turkish Cypriot journalist, Sener Levent, a critic of the Denktash regime, to travel outside the occupied areas.
The resolution calls on Ankara and Denktash ''to put an end to their illiberal measures and behavior and to respect the rights and freedoms of the media.''
It urges the European Union and the UN to ''act urgently and effectively to this end.''
''The AGM calls on the steering committee of the EFJ to continue monitoring the situation in northern Cyprus and to make the necessary representations in support of our Turkish Cypriot colleagues fighting for press freedom and the right to freedom of expression,'' the resolution said.
The resolution was presented by the President of the Union of Cyprus Journalists Andreas Kannaouros.
 Cypriots cross the divide on foot and by car
NICOSIA 28/05/2003 (CNA/ANA)An increasing number of Turkish Cypriots are crossing into the southern government-controlled part of Cyprus from the Turkish occupied north, according to police figures.
Police said that by midnight on Monday 3,303 Turkish Cypriots came into the free areas of the Republic and 2,769 Greek Cypriots went across, a trend which has continued over the past few days.