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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-03-11

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

March 11, 2004

CONTENTS

  • [01] New PM warns his ministers not to discriminate along party-political lines
  • [02] New PM takes over culture ministry, emphasizes Olympic 'wager'
  • [03] New interior minister says 'state to be re-established with spirit of unity'
  • [04] New national defense minister assumes his duties
  • [05] New public order minister assumes his duties
  • [06] Roussopoulos assumes new Ministry of State portfolio
  • [07] FM says US President Bush congratulated new PM
  • [08] US President George W. Bush congratulates new Greek PM
  • [09] New FM Molyviatis on crucial Cyprus talks
  • [10] Cyprus president to hold talks with new Greek
  • [11] Gul hopeful over the future of Greek-Turkish relations
  • [12] PASOK leader Papandreou meets party cadres, state deputies
  • [13] Diamantopoulou resigns EU Commission post, to be replaced by Dimas
  • [14] New foreign ministry spokesman assumes his duties
  • [15] New FinMin Alogoskoufis unveils priorities, goals
  • [16] Greek GDP grew 4.7 pct in 4th quarter 2003
  • [17] New gov't repeats pledge to improve tax system
  • [18] New development minister to build on predecessor's work
  • [19] Greek trade deficit up 26.8 pct in Jan-Nov 2003
  • [20] Greek inflation fell to 2.5 pct in February, yr/yr
  • [21] Greek industrial production index fell 2.0 pct in Nov, yr/yr
  • [22] Building activity up 7.8 pct in Jan-Oct 2003
  • [23] National Bank publishes bulletin on emerging markets
  • [24] Strong euro has hurt Greek competitiveness, analyst says
  • [25] Stocks nose down in selling
  • [26] Karamanlis and IOC's Rogge to meet on Saturday
  • [27] Kartalis resigns as culture ministry point man for 2004 preparations
  • [28] US athletes confident about Athens Games' security
  • [29] Olympic Games security drill, Hercules' Shield 2004 begins
  • [30] Archbishop of America comments on the Holy Synod
  • [31] Police bust Crete taxidermist for dealing in protected species
  • [32] Witness in ELA trial claims links to 'Carlos the Jackal'
  • [33] President Papadopoulos and Denktash discuss property issue
  • [34] EU Commissioner calls on Cypriots to seize opportunity for solution
  • [35] US Ambassador says Cypriots must confront their fears

  • [01] New PM warns his ministers not to discriminate along party-political lines

    Athens, 11/03/2004 (ANA)

    New Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis warned his ministers on Wednesday not to discriminate along party-political lines and stressed that he would brook no hint of arrogance, during a meeting held in Parliament after the hand-over of the ministries to the new government.

    ''I will not accept discrimination and distinctions and I am not interested in how each person voted. Operate on the basis of real worth and choose associates that are honest and capable people,'' he stressed. Indicating that he expected his ministers to display a high moral tone, he also underlined his aversion to provocative displays of luxury and extravagance.

    The new government exchanged notes on urgent issues concerning each ministry, based on the briefings received by the ministers from their predecessors. The premier's first meeting at 18:00 on Wednesday will be with the new administration of the foreign ministry regarding developments in the Cyprus problem.

    Karamanlis said the government's target for the economy was to attract new investments and opportunities that will create new jobs and improve the quality of life for the general public. He also emphasized social solidarity, noting that Greek voters had placed their trust in the government to solve day-to-day problems.

    The new premier underlined that ministers would have to go straight to work and that there was no ''period of grace'' for the new government, urging them to concentrate on quality in public life and to display moderation, respect for alternative points of view, seriousness and honesty.

    ''We are not in any way dependent and have no commitments and this is our great political capital,'' he added, noting that the 'backbone' of the government's policy will have to be good management, readiness and transparency.

    Overall, the hand-over of the ministries went smoothly in a climate of good cooperation, with the incoming administration promising to continue and build on the work of their predecessors.

    Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, by contrast, promised radical reforms to the state sector, outlining plans to ''re-establish the State with regard to Public Administration''.

    Pavlopoulos, whose ministry has been named 'first-in-line' in the new government, pledged to stamp out bureaucracy, corruption and graft and change the way that the civil service and the state dealt with ordinary citizens, as well as promising more support for local government.

    During its pre-election campaign, ND highlighted the loss of public revenue through poor management, bureaucracy and corruption, saying that funds for many of its pre-election pledges will come from public-sector reforms that eliminated wastage of public money.

    PM Karamanlis, new ND government sworn in: Greece's new prime minister Costas Karamanlis and most of his Cabinet were sworn in on Wednesday in a ceremony officiated by Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece, in the presence of President of the Republic Costis Stephanopoulos, at the Presidential Mansion in downtown Athens.

    The first to be sworn in was Karamanlis, who immediately signed his first prime ministerial Decision re-naming the ministries of labor, health and agriculture and changed the priority order of the ministries, re-instating the ministry of the interior, public administration and decentralization as the first in line, followed by the ministries of national economy/finance and foreign affairs.

    After they were sworn in, the new ministers and deputy ministers also signed the protocol attesting to their swearing-in and assumption of their duties.

    Absent from Wednesday's swearing-in procedure were Dimitris Avramopoulos, who will be assuming the newly-formed ministry of tourism, and his deputy minister Anastasios Liaskos; Fani Palli-Petralia, who will be assuming the new post of alternate minister of culture; and Evripidis Stylianidis, who will be assuming the new post as the third deputy minister for foreign affairs (there were only two deputy posts in this ministry in the previous government). The four will be sworn in after the relevant Presidential Decrees establishing their posts have been prepared.

    After the ceremony, the newly-sworn-in prime minister walked to the government headquarters at the Maximos Mansion, where outgoing prime minister Costas Simitis will turn over the post to him.

    The rest of the members of the new government walked to parliament, where Karamanlis will chair the first meeting of his Cabinet, in plenum.

    PM Karamanlis chairs first meeting of new Cabinet: Greece's newly-sworn-in prime minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday chaired the first meeting of his new government, during which he instructed his Cabinet to be modest and unassuming in their attitude to the citizens.

    "We must forget who and what they voted for, since the elections are over and there is much work ahead for us," Karamanlis said.

    He told reporters after the Cabinet meeting that a new governance was the demand of the Greek society, adding that his government would "give its best self" to meet the citizens' expectations.

    "The Greek people bestowed a great honor on us, and we will meet their expectations, but also our duty," the premier said.

    After the Cabinet meeting, Karamanlis left parliament and headed for the culture ministry, where outgoing minister Evangelos Venizelos would turn over the ministry to him. Karamanlis has kept the culture portfolio for himself, to place emphasis on the cultural sector and the organization of the 2004 Athens Olympics this summer.

    Karamanlis formally takes over PM post from Simitis: Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday formally took over the post of prime minister from Costas Simitis, who wished him success in his new undertaking.

    After he and his Cabinet were sworn in at the Presidential Mansion, Karamanlis walked to the government headquarters at Maximos Mansion where he was greeted by Simitis, who briefed the new prime minister on the current affairs of the country and turned over the government's dossiers to him.

    The two men conferred for 30 minutes, after which Karamanlis left for parliament to chair the first meeting of his government.

    Dossiers have been distributed to all the members of the new Cabinet with instructions for their first moves, mainly of a procedural nature, upon assumption of their posts from the outgoing ministers.

    [02] New PM takes over culture ministry, emphasizes Olympic 'wager'

    Athens, 11/03/2004 (ANA)

    Taking over the culture ministry from outgoing minister Evangelos Venizelos on Wednesday, new Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis stressed that the success of the Athens Olympics in August were a major wager for the country, which would find itself at the center of the world's attention in a few months’ time.

    The entire image of modern Greece and not just the government would be judged at that time, he added.

    Karamanlis also pointed out that the Olympics were an important but not the sole priority for his government, reiterating earlier pledges to focus on culture and education as the country's ''great comparative advantage''.

    Arriving at the ministry, the new premier first spoke with Venizelos for about three quarters of an hour, before going down to the ministry amphitheatre for the official hand-over ceremony, accompanied by the outgoing ministry leadership and new deputy minister Petros Tatoulis, new deputy minister for sports George Orfanos and new deputy minister Fani Palli-Petralia, who is to be sworn in as alternate culture minister in a few days.

    Venizelos welcomed Karamanlis, saying that the presence of a prime minister at the head of the culture ministry was a good omen for both cultural heritage and sports in Greece.

    Regarding Olympics projects, he said that these were ready or would be finished within the next few weeks and stressed that the ministry's outgoing leadership was at the disposal of the premier and his staff.

    ''Our role as main opposition is to exercise criticism and control, but we chiefly want to see the government succeed because each success is historically credited to our country,'' he said.

    [03] New interior minister says 'state to be re-established with spirit of unity'

    Athens, 11/03/2004 (ANA)

    Newly-appointed Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said on Wednesday ''the re-establishment of the state with a spirit of unity is a primary target.''

    Speaking in the presence of outgoing interior minister Nikos Alivizatos, Pavlopoulos promised ''to remedy disfunctions'' pointed out during the recent election process, as well as to have the attitude of the state and of civil servants towards citizens changed and to rid the country of bureaucracy, crack down on corruption and vested interests and support local administration.

    ''The Greek people elect governments and not regimes. And governments must recognize what has been done and to create something new. Governments must also recognize the right of the opposition, because it is its inalienable right and a basic element of the form of government, to exercise criticism, tough criticism and we are expecting such criticism,'' he said.

    [04] New national defense minister assumes his duties

    Athens, 11/03/2004 (ANA)

    Newly-appointed National Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos, speaking on the assumption of his duties on Wednesday, said that ''national defense is a matter concerning all of us,'' noting that ''we will confront all challenges in a climate of consensus.''

    Spiliotopoulos, who took over the ministry's helm from outgoing Yiannos Papantoniou, also referred to Greek-Turkish relations, noting: ''The improvement of Greek-Turkish relations on the one hand is necessary and on the other will contribute to the further reduction of armaments so as to enable us to deal with our social work.''

    Addressing himself to the civil and military personnel of the Armed Forces, Spiliotopoulos said ''we honor their contribution to the country's defense and security interests.''

    He further emphasised: ''We do not ask for partisan dedication. The only dedication we will ask for is to duty and the obligation of all of us towards the Greek people.''

    Having thanked Papantoniou for his work at the ministry, Spiliotopoulos termed as ''extremely constructive for Democracy for there to be a strong opposition on issues which both know very well.''

    On his part, outgoing Papantoniou said that national defense ''is an issue of national consensus and requires a creative and constructive opposition for the purpose of further strengthening the country's defense.''

    At the same time, Papantoniou expressed the conviction that the new government ''will continue the reforms'' made by the previous government in the Armed Forces.

    [05] New public order minister assumes his duties

    Athens, 11/03/2004 (ANA)

    Newly-appointed Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis, speaking on the assumption of his duties on Wednesday, said the new government places great importance on the country's security, particularly in light of the Olympic Games.

    ''I think it is one of the major wagers which we have to win as a country, because I agree absolutely that if after the end of the Olympic Games this wager has been won, Greece will have won a very great title at world level,'' he said.

    Voulgarakis said the government also wants the citizen to feel security and confidence, adding that the citizen in major cities must feel that it is by his side and that he can reply on it.

    ''Consequently, we also consider this parameter to be very crucial in the process towards the Olympic Games, as well as after them,'' he said.

    Voulgarakis further said ''you are also aware that New Democracy has requested of the minister, as well as of the former prime minister, that the structure of the public order ministry should remain as it is until the Olympic Games.''

    Outgoing minister George Floridis said on his part ''we are delivering a safe country to the new government. We are also delivering to the new government a country which on the major issue of Olympic Games' security matters are at the highest possible level from the point of view of preparation. On this issue, which is a national issue, we shall stand by the government and the new public order minister.''

    Floridis further said that ''in past years this ministry was organized in a systematic way, with the rewarding and prevalence of meritocracy, with the great and important work of its cadres which has indeed led Greece to being considered one of the safest countries in the world.''

    [06] Roussopoulos assumes new Ministry of State portfolio

    Athens, 11/03/2004 (ANA)

    New Democracy’s party spokesman over the past few years, Theodoris Roussopoulos, assumed the Minister of State portfolio on Wednesday, days before he is expected to serve as the government spokesman in the new Karamanlis government as well.

    Roussopoulos, a well-known broadcast journalist in Greece before entering politics and now Parliament, said he will assume the government spokesman’s position, and by extension the daily press briefings, after the new government receives a vote of confidence in Parliament.

    “We want to bring transparency to public life, and we believe that journalists must be on the other side of power, because their antagonism and criticism helps those in power become productive,” Roussopoulos said during a brief handover ceremony with caretaker press minister George Romeos.

    In other statements, Roussopoulos – who was elected on the state deputies’ list – said the abolition of the press and mass media ministry certainly does not mean the redundancy of the ministry’s employees, which will be transferred to a new agency.

    [07] FM says US President Bush congratulated new PM

    Athens, 11/03/2004 (ANA)

    US President George W. Bush has sent a letter of congratulations to Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday, wishing him success in his work, Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis announced on Wednesday.

    Emerging from the Maximos Mansion, where he attended a meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis on the Cyprus issue chaired by the prime minister, Molyviatis spoke of a day of ''intense briefing'' at all levels.

    Referring to statements by the Turkish foreign ministry's spokesman which placed responsibility on the Greek Cypriot side for the ''looming failure'' of negotiations, the foreign minister said ''I don't think anybody can place responsibility at this stage and nor is it the business of the Turkish side to express such views.''

    He further said ''(Turkish Cypriot leader) Mr. Denktash has set out views and demands which are completely incompatible with the Annan plan, while this plan is the basis of negotiations. Therefore, it is rather early for us to express pessimism or to place responsibility. The Greek Cypriot side and the Greek government are always pursuing a successful conclusion to the negotiations so as to have the whole of Cyprus in the European Union on May 1.''

    Molyviatis said he will be having a telephone conversation with his US counterpart Colin Powell on Thursday, at the latter's request, and will be meeting UN Cyprus mediator Alvaro de Soto in Athens.

    [08] US President George W. Bush congratulates new Greek PM

    Athens, 11/03/2004 (ANA)

    US President George W. Bush congratulated Greece's new Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on the assumption of his duties in a letter addressed to him on Wednesday.

    President Bush referred to the issue of Cyprus and to the Athens Olympic Games, while underlining the good relations existing between the two countries and that many things unite them.

    ''As you are preparing to lead the Hellenic Republic, I express my readiness to cooperate closely with you to reconcile the two communities in Cyprus by May 1,'' the US president said.

    President Bush said on the question of the Olympic Games that ''we must intensify our common efforts to enable the return of the Olympic Games to their birthplace to be successful and safe.''

    The US president further said Greece and the US have much in common and aim at the building of an indivisible Europe with freedom and peace, which they are trying to promote in southeastern Europe and the Middle East.

    [09] New FM Molyviatis on crucial Cyprus talks

    Athens, 11/03/2004 (ANA)

    New Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, a retired career diplomat and long-time adviser to new Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, reiterated on Wednesday that the roadmap for resolving the long-standing Cyprus issue has been agreed to by all sides, a reference to a meeting at the United Nations roughly one month ago.

    “If, by March 29, there is no agreement then the Annan (peace) plan will come into force, and the secretary general is authorized to fill in the blanks,” he told reporters during a handover ceremony at the foreign ministry.

    Molyviatis assumed the post from caretaker FM Tassos Giannitsis, the one-time alternate foreign minister in the previous PASOK government.

    In other statements regarding the Cyprus issue, a standing foreign policy priority for Athens over the past several decades,

    Molyviatis stressed the Karamanlis government’s sincere desire for a successful conclusion to talks in Nicosia between the two communities on the divided east Mediterranean island.

    Such a development, the new FM said, would mean that Cyprus would join the European Union as a unified state, where “Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots will enjoy the benefits from their participation in Europe.”

    Cyprus is set to join the EU on May 1 regardless of whether a solution to the 30-year division on the island is achieved.

    Moreover, Molyviatis, 74, said he is aware of the administrative problems at the ministry, adding that efforts to tackle them will take place jointly with all sectors.

    According to reports, Euripides Stylianidis will assume the portfolio of former deputy FM Andreas Loverdos, namely, external development cooperation, while Panayiotis Skandalakis will cover issues involving expatriate Greeks, previously handled by Yiannis Magriotis.

    On his part, outgoing Minister Giannitsis referred to the ministry's human resources, its top cadres, diplomats and specialists.

    He added that the foreign ministry now retains the "tool" of international economic relations.

    [10] Cyprus president to hold talks with new Greek

    PM NICOSIA 11/03/2004 (ANA/G. Leonidas)

    Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos said on Wednesday the government of Cyprus is in continuous contact with Greece's new Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and expressed confidence that Karamanlis will make the best possible choices on the issue of Cyprus.

    President Papadopoulos will be holding talks with the new prime minister in Athens on Sunday and will be briefing him on the course of the on-going intercommunal direct talks.

    The Cyprus president and Karamanlis will determine the strategy to be followed by the governments of Athens and Nicosia, in light of enlarged negotiations on the Cyprus issue due to get underway next week on the aspect of security and on the enlarged talks scheduled for March 22.

    [11] Gul hopeful over the future of Greek-Turkish relations

    ISTANBUL 11/03/2004 (ANA/A. Kourkoulas)

    ''Thanks to the efforts of Turkish and Greek politicians and the support of both peoples, the long days of tension and insecurity have become a thing of the past,'' Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul wrote in a congratulatory letter to his Greek counterpart Petros Molyviatis on Wednesday.

    ''All we have achieved so far proves that if the two countries discuss their differences and jointly assess opportunities, while showing mutual respect for each side's sensitive issues, then the conditions will be right for further developments,'' Gul wrote.

    According to the Turkish news agency Anadolu, Gul emphasized that he has no doubt whatsoever that Greek-Turkish relations will develop even further.

    In a letter addressed to the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) President George Papandreou, Gul highlighted Papandreou's personal contribution to Greek-Turkish relations. He also expressed confidence that Papandreou, as the leader of the main opposition party, will continue to contribute to Greek-Turkish relations.

    [12] PASOK leader Papandreou meets party cadres, state deputies

    Athens, 11/03/2004 (ANA)

    Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou held separate meetings with party cadres and with State Deputies Stefanos Manos and Andreas Andrianopoulos at his residence in Kastri on Wednesday evening.

    On the part of PASOK, taking part in the meeting with Papandreou were Costas Laliotis, Costas Skandalidis and Dimitris Reppas. Anna Diamantopoulou was not present at the meeting as she was in Brussels to submit her resignation as a member of the European Commission.

    Following the meeting, Manos told reporters that ''PASOK did not benefit, as much as it could have, from the opening to the center-right.''

    On his part, Andrianopoulos noted that ''the effort will continue'' and that he believes ''in the vision of Mr. Papandreou for the creation of a new political scene.''

    He added that he believes that ''the effort will have a very favorable conclusion in the future.''

    Regarding the new government formation, Andrianopoulos said that ''it was the best possible which (Prime Minister Costas) Mr. Karamanlis could form and which will be judged by its work.''

    [13] Diamantopoulou resigns EU Commission post, to be replaced by Dimas

    BRUSSELS 11/03/2004 (ANA - V. Demiris)

    A European Commission spokesman on Wednesday announced that the Commission's president Romano Prodi had accepted the resignation of Anna Diamantopoulou as Commissioner for employment, following New Democracy's victory in the Greek elections.

    The spokesman said Prodi had also been informed that the new Greek government intended to propose Stavros Dimas as her replacement and had in turn informed the EU's Irish presidency.

    [14] New foreign ministry spokesman assumes his duties

    Athens, 11/03/2004 (ANA)

    George Koumoutsakos assumed his duties on Wednesday as new Information Service head and Spokesman of the Foreign Ministry, according to a ministry announcement.

    [15] New FinMin Alogoskoufis unveils priorities, goals

    Athens, 11/03/2004 (ANA)

    "I am fully conscious of the opportunities and difficulties facing my job," new Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Wednesday, while speaking to reporters during a hand-over ceremony.

    Mr Alogoskoufis stressed his belief that the Greek economy and society "have great potential."

    "I believe there are great growth reserves in the country and significant margins to promote a more effective state and a more fair society. But to highlight this potential a new economic policy is needed. A reliable and consistent policy to promote growth, employment and social cohesion," the new minister said.

    "Our policy will focus on growth and social welfare. Our main aim will be to achieve a balanced growth, with rising employment, lower unemployment, through reforms reached by consensus and not through social clashes. We can create a new era for Greece and the economy through moderation, social cohesion and government efficiency," Mr Alogoskoufis stressed.

    The ND government's Economy and Finance Minister noted that an immediate policy priority was to enhance sectors, such as construction, and to bring new vibrancy into sectors such as the farm, tourism, manufacturing, commerce, energy , telecommunications and transport.

    "Our policy will aim to attract direct foreign investments and will give new life to the country's regions. A policy that will create new opportunities for small- and medium-sized enterprises, the backbone of the Greek economy," he said.

    Mr Alogoskoufis urged stable macro-economic policy that will promote transparency and a restructuring of the country's fiscal situation. He said the government, in cooperation with European Union agencies, will seek an audit report on the country's fiscal condition to help restore the truth regarding Greek fiscal deficits and debts.

    "Public debt and deficits are still threatening the economy. We need a policy that will deal effectively with government overspending and will reduce current primary public sector spending. We can save money from limiting state spending," he said.

    Mr Alogoskoufis pledged a different tax system, focusing on simplicity, stability, consistency, lower tax factors and a different view on tax inspections.

    "The tax system can and must operate better and to be more fair," he noted.

    The government will seek a new structural policy, aimed to improving the country's macro-economic competitiveness, accelerated growth rates, a reduction in regional imbalances and combatting unemployment.

    "Our priorities are to improve the country's labor market through consensus agreements, to promote new education and training programs, to strengthen competition and the role of the private sector in all markets of goods and services. We need clear rules of the game in all markets, public works, state supplies."

    Mr Alogoskoufis also pledged a more efficient implementation of a Third Community Support Framework program and to secure funds from a 4th CSF.

    "Our priority is also to improve the quality of Greek products, to promote brand products in domestic and international markets. We need a quality revolution. We will also seek to strengthen business activity, to promote information society and to protect and improve the country's natural habitat. Our aim is to justify people's hopes," he concluded.

    Alogoskoufis to adopt moderate policy, seeks consensus: We can create better preconditions for the Greek economy through moderation and consensus,'' Greece's new Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Wednesday.

    Speaking to reporters, during the hand-over ceremony, Mr Alogoskoufis stressed that the critical axes of the government's economic policy would be a stable macro-economic policy with transparency and economic restructuring. ''A policy to attract investments and mainly foreign direct investments,'' the new minister said.

    Mr Alogoskoufis noted that economic growth should be diffused to the society and pledged to work to strengthen the farm, tourism, telecommunications and transport sectors.

    The new minister said that the government, in cooperation with European Commission officials, would seek an audit report of the country's fiscal condition ''to restore the truth about deficits and public debt undermining the economy''.

    Outgoing Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis wished to Mr Alogoskoufis every success in his efforts to achieve economic convergence.

    [16] Greek GDP grew 4.7 pct in 4th quarter 2003

    Athens, 11/03/2004 (ANA)

    Greece's Gross Domestic Product rose 4.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2003 compared with a 3.9 percent growth rate in the same period in 2002 and a 4.0 percent growth rate in the fourth quarter of 2001, the National Statistics Service said on Wednesday.

    According to the NSS's preliminary quarterly figures, investments jumped 15.5 percent last year with investments rising 17.3 percent in the October-December period.

    NSS said that rising investments contributed to a 3.7 percent increase in total economic demand in the country. Investment growth in 2003 substantially exceeded growth rates in 2002 and 2001 (6.1 percent and 5.5 percent, respectively).

    Final consumption grew 3.9 percent in 2003, up from 3.3 percent in 2002 and 2.2 percent in the previous year.

    Greek imports rose 8.0 percent last year, while exports fell by 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2003, compared with the same quarters in 2003 and 2002.

    [17] New gov't repeats pledge to improve tax system

    Athens, 11/03/2004 (ANA)

    New Deputy Finance Minister Adam Rengouzas said on Wednesday that the government would keep its pledge to improve the tax system swiftly, focusing on reducing red tape and introducing more objective criteria for controls in order to combat corruption.

    "The tax reform will proceed rapidly," Rengouzas told reporters.

    He added that ministry authorities would work to ensure that tax declarations this year would be processed smoothly.

    [18] New development minister to build on predecessor's work

    Athens, 11/03/2004 (ANA)

    The new development minister, Dimitris Sioufas, pledged on Wednesday to build on his predecessor's work, retaining and improving workable policies.

    ''Whatever is positive will be retained and improved on. We have come to build and to augment, not to take away,'' said Sioufas as he took over the ministry's helm from outgoing Akis Tsohatzopoulos.

    He also pledged that discrimination on the basis of party political affiliation would not be tolerated.

    The minister told reporters that policy priorities included fostering consumer protection, competitiveness, and support for small and medium sized enterprises.

    Another key priority was ensuring adequate energy supplies for the Athens 2004 Olympics, he added.

    [19] Greek trade deficit up 26.8 pct in Jan-Nov 2003

    Athens, 11/03/2004 (ANA)

    Greek trade deficit jumped 26.8 percent in January-November to 22.554 billion euros compared with the same period in 2002 (17.783 billion euros), the National Statistics Service said on Wednesday.

    NSS said that the country's trade shortfall rose 26.1 percent in the first 11 months of 2003 (excluding oil and oil products) compared with the corresponding period in 2002.

    The report attributed the widening deficit to a significant increase in imports in that period, up 19.7 percent to 33.317 billion euros. Exports rose 7.2 percent to 10.763 billion euros in the January-November period.

    [20] Greek inflation fell to 2.5 pct in February, yr/yr

    Athens, 11/03/2004 (ANA)

    Greek annual inflation fell to 2.5 percent in February from 2.9 percent in January, National Statistics Service said on Wednesday.

    NSS, in its monthly report, said that the consumer price index fell 0.3 percent in February from the previous month.

    The country's harmonized inflation rate fell to 2.6 percent in February from 3.1 percent in January and compared with a 4.2 percent rate in February 2003.

    The harmonized CPI figure was 0.7 percent lower from January 2004, NSS said.

    [21] Greek industrial production index fell 2.0 pct in Nov, yr/yr

    Athens, 11/03/2004 (ANA)

    Greece's composite industrial production index (including mining, manufacturing, electricity-natural gas-water indexes) fell 2.0 percent in November compared with the same month in 2002 for an increase of 1.4 percent in the January-November period compared with an increase of 1.7 percent in the first 10 months of 2003.

    The mining production index fell 10.6 percent in November, the manufacturing index dropped 2.8 percent, while the electricity-natural gas-water index rose 2.0 percent in November compared with the same month in 2002.

    The average composite index for the period January-November 2003, compared with the same period in the previous year, rose 1.4 percent, the average mining index fell 6.2 percent, the average manufacturing index fell 0.5 percent and the average electricity-natural gas-water index rose 7.6 percent over the same period.

    [22] Building activity up 7.8 pct in Jan-Oct 2003

    Athens, 11/03/2004 (ANA)

    Building activity rose by 2.0 percent (in number of permits) and by 7.8 percent (in volume) in January-October 2003 compared with the same period in the previous year, the National Statistics Service said on Wednesday.

    Building activity in the public sector contributed by 2.9 percent in total activity, while the private sector rose by 5.3 percent in volume in the first 10 months of 2003.

    [23] National Bank publishes bulletin on emerging markets

    Athens, 11/03/2004 (ANA)

    National Bank of Greece on Friday published its regular bulletin on South Eastern Europe and Mediterranean Emerging Market Economies, covering financial markets in the region.

    The bulletin presents the main economic developments and outlook in national money, foreign exchange and debt markets in 11 countries in the region (Egypt, Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, South Africa, Serbia and Montenegro, Romania, Russian Federation, Turkey and FYROM).

    The report is part of the bank's general interest in expanding activities in the wider region and of a strategic plan to become a regional leader in the banking sector.

    The headlines of the report:

    Turkey: Markets continue moving higher amid increased volatility.

    Romania: Market expectations for a looser monetary policy are expected to be partly justified.

    Serbia and Montenegro: Investors are pessimistic because of high political risk.

    Bulgaria: Markets are still focusing on structural reforms.

    FYROM: Higher interest rates to balance pressures on domestic currency.

    Albania: Domestic interest rates are reaching a low point.

    Cyprus: A forthcoming deregulation in capital movement rules will coincide with an unfavorable macro-economic environment.

    Croatia: Markets follow closely the new government's moves.

    Russian Federation: Improving political and economic expectations could further strengthen market sentiment.

    Egypt: New administrative measures needed to balance pressure on domestic currency.

    South Africa: The cycle of lower interest rates is apparently over.

    [24] Strong euro has hurt Greek competitiveness, analyst says

    Athens, 11/03/2004 (ANA)

    A strong euro hurt competitiveness of the domestic economy in 2002-2003 in line with other countries of the eurozone, Alpha Bank said in a market report released on Wednesday.

    A rise in the euro's real parity in 2003 against 1991 was 21.5 per cent, which led to a major erosion of competitiveness of the domestic economy, in turn contributing to job losses, the report said.

    Many traditional sectors of the economy faced competition not from developed countries but from emerging economies where labor costs per product unit expressed in the same currency were much lower, according to Alpha Bank.

    The phenomenon was especially evident in neighboring Balkan countries and in rapidly evolving economies including China and other countries in southeast Asia, the report said.

    [25] Stocks nose down in selling

    Athens, 11/03/2004 (ANA)

    The Athens bourse again finished lower on Wednesday as investors opted to sell, traders said.

    The general share index lost 0.45 per cent to end at 2,469.92 points. Turnover was 136.4 million euros.

    The FTSE/ASE-20 index for blue chip and heavily traded stocks ended 0.54 per cent down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium capitalization paper 0.24 per cent lower; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap equities lost 0.69 per cent.

    Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 232 to 74 with 51 issues remaining unchanged.

    FOREIGN EXCHANGE

    Closing rates of March 10 2004

    Parities in euro

    For. Exchange Buying Selling

    US Dollar 1,239 1,211

    [26] Karamanlis and IOC's Rogge to meet on Saturday

    Athens, 11/03/2004 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge will discuss all issues pertaining to the Olympic Games preparations during their meeting which is scheduled to take place on Saturday at the Maximos Mansion.

    The key issues will be: the Calatrava Roof of the Athens Olympic Sports Complex, the roof of the Olympic Aquatic Center, sufficient energy supply, the Marathon Course, security and transport.

    According to press sources the IOC was especially pleased with Karamanlis' decision to head the Ministry of Culture in order to supervise Olympic preparations.

    Also attending the meeting will be Alternate Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia, Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis, ATHOC president Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, President of the IOC Coordination Committee Denis Oswald and Olympic Games Executive Director Gilbert Felli.

    [27] Kartalis resigns as culture ministry point man for 2004 preparations

    Athens, 11/03/2004 (ANA)

    The previous PASOK government’s high-profile “point man” for 2004 Olympic preparations tendered his resignation on Wednesday from the post of culture ministry general secretary for the Olympics Games, despite a call by the Karamanlis government for him to remain.

    Costas Kartalis had tabled his resignation on Monday, although in statements to the ANA he emphasized that he was at the disposal of the new culture ministry leadership – headed, no less, by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

    In other comments, he reiterated his belief that Athens will host successful Games because “New Democracy has shown that it is determined to throw its weight in this direction (Olympics).”

    According to Kartalis, he resigned because the main opposition PASOK party advised its cadres of the Culture Ministry to help in Olympic preparations, albeit not from institutional positions. However, he clarified that he could help in preparations by participating in an experts’ committee.

    Finally, a new Olympic Games general secretary will be announced in the next few days.

    [28] US athletes confident about Athens Games' security

    Athens, 11/03/2004 (ANA)

    U.S. Olympic champion Lenny Krayzelburg expressed confidence in the security of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, speaking in New York on Tuesday.

    The world's record holder in the 100m backstroke event and three-time medallist at the 2000 Games in Sydney said that despite Sept. 11 and concern about possible terrorist attacks, security at the Athens Games did not concern him.

    ''My main priority is to win,'' he stated.

    U.S. swimmer Amanda Beard also said she felt confident about the 2004 Games' security in Athens.

    [29] Olympic Games security drill, Hercules' Shield 2004 begins

    Athens, 11/03/2004 (ANA)

    A readiness exercise pertaining to Athens Olympic Games security, code-named ''Hercules' Shield 2004'' started on Wednesday and will conclude on March 23.

    Some 1,500 specially-trained personnel from the police force, fire brigade and armed forces will be participating. Additionally, 500 U.S. commandos, charged with training their Greek counterparts during the drill have already arrived at Elefsina's air base.

    The first day of the exercise involved U.S. commandos taking control of a ship attacked by terrorists and the escape of poisonous gas into the atmosphere. Another part of Tuesday's exercise required that the armed forces and coastguard neutralize a ship boarded by terrorists.

    According to police sources, the Air Force will be extensively involved in Hercules' Shield 2004, protecting the participating armed forces with air patrols. The same sources claim that NATO forces will also play a key role in the exercise.

    [30] Archbishop of America comments on the Holy Synod

    ISTANBUL 11/03/2004 (ANA/A. Kourkoulas)

    Archbishop of America Demetrios thanked God and the Patriarchate, for ''the truly unique opportunity to participate in a Synod of a completely new composition and structure,'' in comments made to ANA here on Wednesday.

    The Archbishop characterized the move to include a number of bishops from the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate’s non-Turkish provinces as ''a historical step which proves that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is a living Church, a real Mother-Church with the eyes of her soul wide open, always looking to the future, while being very well-grounded in the present.''

    [31] Police bust Crete taxidermist for dealing in protected species

    Athens, 11/03/2004 (ANA)

    Hania Police have enrolled the help of Crete's Museum of Natural History to catalogue the evidence collected in a raid on a Hania taxidermist, who is accused of operating without a license and using protected species killed by poachers.

    Among the stuffed animals recovered at the workshop were 258 wild birds, 37 species of mammals, including two Cretan wild goats, the head of a swan and a turtle.

    The workshop owner was arrested and taken before a public prosecutor, who ordered his release. He said that he had been supplied the animals by various individuals that he did not name.

    According to sources, some of the animals have been inexpertly stuffed and prepared and would be destroyed, while those that are judged suitable will be put on display.

    [32] Witness in ELA trial claims links to 'Carlos the Jackal'

    Athens, 11/03/2004 (ANA)

    Testifying in the ongoing trial of five suspected members of the terrorist group ''Revolutionary Popular Struggle'' (ELA), journalist Vassilis Zissis on Wednesday asserted that the group was dominated and led by international terrorist ''Carlos the Jackal'' throughout the '80s, carrying out hits on his behalf in return for money, weapons and training.

    The trial, which resumed on Wednesday after a nine-day break due to the elections, was adjourned early after lawyers representing civil suits in the case requested copies of documents contained in the case file that have been made available to the defense.

    According to their request, the case file contains 3,600 pages of which only 1,000 will be read out in court.

    The request was admitted by the court, which was adjourned until Monday morning so that the documents might be made available to all counsel.

    [33] President Papadopoulos and Denktash discuss property issue

    NICOSIA 11/03/2004 (CNA/ANA)

    Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash met again on Wednesday under UN auspices to reach an agreement on the Cyprus problem, with discussions focusing on the issue of property.

    President Papadopoulos said Wednesday's meeting ended early because Denktash was not ready to comment on the Greek Cypriot side's views on the issue of property and wanted to wait until Friday.

    ''We expected an answer today on the issues of property we had raised yesterday. They said they were not ready to answer today and asked to answer on Friday'', the president said.

    He said they also discussed various loose ends from previous meetings and some ''secondary but important'' issues, such as the public service and remunerations.

    The president explained that remunerations in the government-controlled areas of the Republic are already high and problems would emerge under a new regime with three administrations.

    Referring to the issue of territory, President Papadopoulos said the Greek Cypriot side raised questions on Wednesday regarding the boundaries of the constituent states and received the Turkish Cypriot side's reply that it was not ready to comment.

    Replying to questions, President Papadopoulos said the two sides maintain the right to give answers when necessary and to submit new documents.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. The two sides on the island are currently engaged in direct talks, under UN auspices, with a view to reach an agreement that would be put to simultaneous referenda, the positive outcome of which would enable a reunited Cyprus to join the EU in May this year.

    Thursday's talks adjourned: Negotiations for a Cyprus settlement will break for one day, on Thursday, government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides confirmed to CNA on Wednesday.

    The decision was also confirmed to CNA by UNFICYP spokesman Bryan Kelly, who said ''this is a pause for reflection and preparation for the intensification of the talks'' that will follow.

    Friday's meeting will be held as scheduled, in the morning, between Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.

    Chrysostomides said UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser for Cyprus Alvaro de Soto leaves on Thursday for talks in Athens.

    He also said Papadopoulos will depart for Athens to meet the new Greek leadership on Saturday afternoon.

    [34] EU Commissioner calls on Cypriots to seize opportunity for solution

    STRASBOURG 11/03/2004 (CNA/ANA)

    Enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen has called on the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities to seize the unique opportunity to reunify Cyprus and send a clear message for reconciliation and peace.

    Speaking through an interpreter before the plenary of the European Parliament on Wednesday, Verheugen said it was very important for the new Cyprus that would emerge from the UN-led talks, currently underway, to have a single voice, effective representation at international fora and with powerful central structures which can implement the acquis communautaire.

    The Commissioner stressed that it was the EU that gave a push to the process of negotiations on Cyprus and provided the UN Secretary-General with the means to resume the talks, which began in mid February.

    Verheugen reiterated that one of the EU's top priorities was to solve the Cyprus problem, adding that the Union granted every possible assistance and sent representatives to the UN negotiating team.

    Verheugen said that the EU had started preparing for the eventual entry of the Turkish Cypriots, in a reunited Cyprus, into the Union and noted that Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash bears responsibility for not allowing the Turkish Cypriots to prepare in good time.

    He said the EU would adopt regulations to lift restrictions on free movement in the island and possibly include Turkish as an official EU language.

    In his intervention, Verheugen said that if the Cyprus issue were resolved by May 1, it would prove that enlargement could solve such problems.

    [35] US Ambassador says Cypriots must confront their fears

    NICOSIA 11/03/2004 (CNA/ANA)

    Cypriots should confront their fears and raise their hopes, US Ambassador Michael Klosson said on Wednesday after a meeting with Cypriot Foreign Minister George Iacovou, who said that Turkey still maintained a hard-line policy on the Cyprus question.

    Klosson said Washington was following very closely developments in the talks and was very encouraged by the commitment all parties have shown to achieving a settlement by May 1, when Cyprus joins the European Union.

    ''I think the framework that was worked out in New York reinforces the prospects for that. We continue to see a comprehensive settlement as fully within reach,'' the US diplomat added.

    Responding to questions, he said everybody understood that the Annan plan (a UN proposal for a solution) was a very good basis for a settlement and added that ''people will have to confront their fears and raise their hopes. I understand it's a tough decision but it is a historic decision."

    Iacovou said he briefed Klosson on the direct talks between Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.

    Responding to questions, he said he expected Turkey to submit a map on the territorial aspect of the Cyprus question, probably during extended negotiations in which Turkey and Greece will participate, scheduled for the week beginning March 22.

    ''Ankara is still maintaining a hard-line policy on Cyprus. Turkey puts forward increased demands to be able at a later stage of the negotiations to back down and appear to be giving something up,'' he said.


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