|Monday, 3 August 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-11-06
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>November 6, 2004
 Karamanlis: FYROM's EU prospects depend on its contribution to mutually acceptable solution over name
BRUSSELS 6/11/2004 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday directly linked the neighboring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) future European Union prospects with its contribution towards a "mutually acceptable solution" to the thorny "name issue".
Karamanlis' statements, made here during a closely watched press conference on the sidelines of a two-day EU leaders' summit, come on the heels of Thursday's abrupt decision by the Bush administration to recognize FYROM as the "Republic of Macedonia" -- a move that has infuriated Greek public opinion and caused a firestorm of indignation amongst the country's political world.
Karamanlis began the press briefing with a call for "calm and consensus, without futile leaps into the past," while favoring what he termed "stability in the Balkans".
However, he noted that in talks with a bevy of top EU leaders, he emphasized that for "FYROM to have a place in the EU, it must contribute to the achievement of a mutually acceptable solution (for the name)".
Moreover, the Greek prime minister said the Bush administration decision made efforts to resolve the bilateral difference between Athens and Skopje more difficult. Karamanlis, in fact, stressed that such "efforts" had been recently rekindled by a recent Greek government initiative, another reason why he called Washington's decision "unfortunate and untimely".
"Sporadic actions do harm; just as years of inactivity and shifting the problem from one year to the next harmed ... no one is without responsibility for this development, given the fact that mistakes have occurred in the past," he said, an indirect reference to the previous governments.
Asked about the possibility of other countries now following Washington's lead in recognizing the landlocked one-time Yugoslav republic as simply "Republic of Macedonia", Karamanlis said he discerned no such intent during his contacts in Brussels.
Moreover, he dismissed criticism -- mostly lobbed by the opposition over the last 24 hours -- of any lack of preparation by the Greek government, noting that he brought up the "name issue" with US President George W. Bush during a White House meeting last May. He said he cited Athens' "sensitivity" over the use of the name "Macedonia" by FYROM, while noting that Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis also raised the issue on more than one occasion with US Secretary of State Colin Powell.
In terms of the all-important EU dimension -- given the fact that the United States is not an EU member-state -- Karamanlis reminded of the 25-nation bloc's stance, as spelled out in a joint EU-FYROM association and stabilization council meeting on Sept. 14, 2004, namely, that the EU ascertains that the difference over the name of FYROM continues to exist, and also encourages the achievement of a mutually acceptable solution within the framework of UN resolutions.
"This was a Greek success for which we didn't boast," Karamanlis said, stressing however, that Athens' long-standing position was the one included in the EU text.
Finally, the Greek premier expressed a hope that all Greek parties will rally behind the government.
"I, personally, did so during the Simitis governments -- let's hope that my political opponents put national interests above political expediencies," he underlined.
Athens won't back FYROM's EU and NATO entry without mutually agreed solution, gov't says: Athens will not give a green light to NATO and European Union entry for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) unless a mutually acceptable solution regarding the republic's name is found first, deputy government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said in Athens on Friday.
"The Greek government will not in any way change its behavior. It will continue, within the framework of the United Nations and the process that is underway, with efforts to find a mutually acceptable solution to the issue of FYROM's name," he stressed.
The spokesman was responding to questions on whether Greece would veto FYROM's future NATO and EU entry, in the wake of a recently announce U.S. decision to recognize the republic with its constitutional name "Republic of Macedonia" that is disputed by Greece as historically inaccurate and concealing designs on a northern Greek province of the same name.
Noting that the accession of a European country into the EU and NATO required the unanimous agreement of existing members, he stressed that Greece would not go along with such a decision unless a solution was found.
Antonaros also noted that the majority of Greece's political world believed that an effort should be made to find a solution to the FYROM name issue through the UN-sponsored process, and that the Greek government's position on this was also supported by its EU partners.
He said the government considered the negotiations "to be open, in progress and that they must continue".
Questioned on the handling of the issue by Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, the spokesman said the minister had the prime minister's absolute and full confidence, stressing that the government and foreign minister were carrying out the necessary actions to protect Greece's interests in foreign policy matters.
He also reported that foreign ministry general secretary Georgios Gennimatas had briefed all EU ambassadors in Athens on Greece's positions on the issue of FYROM's name.
Antonaros said the Greek government had closely monitored all events and signs leading up to the recent developments but denied that the government had received any warning about the U.S. abrupt change in policy from main opposition PASOK George Papandreou, nor from U.S. officials during Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis's U.S. visit the previous May.
According to the spokesman, the government's next steps regarding the issue will unfold after Karamanlis returns from the EU leaders' summit in Brussels and he confirmed that there would be a debate in Parliament on the issue in due course.
 Foreign ministry officials brief EU members' envoys on Washington's recognition of FYROM
Athens, 6/11/2004 (ANA)The foreign ministry's general secretary and the ministry's head of Balkan affairs on Friday met with ambassadors of European Union member-states accredited to Athens, where, according to reports, the two officials reiterated Greece's considerable annoyance at the unilateral and abrupt recognition by Washington of FYROM as the "Republic of Macedonia".
According to press reports, the two high-ranking Greek diplomats stressed the need for the European Union to follow Athens' policy regarding the contentious "name issue", a policy that has also been laid down within a UN framework.
Moreover, ambassadors of EU member-states reportedly were briefed on the fact that Athens will not back FYROM's request for EU membership unless a mutually acceptable agreement over the "name issue" is first achieved.
 Deputy minister outlines Athens's displeasure over FYROM developments to U.S. counterpart Brzezinski at SEDM
Athens, 6/11/2004 (ANA)Deputy Defense Minister Vassilis Michaloliakos on Friday met his U.S. counterpart Ian Brzezinski on the sidelines of the Southeast Europe Defense Ministerial (SEDM) taking place in Ljubljana, Slovenia and outlined Athens's displeasure at Washington's decision to recognize the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) with the country's adopted constitutional name 'Republic of Macedonia', noting that Athens had been "unpleasantly surprised".
Michaloliakos pointed out that while the Greek government acknowledges that FYROM cannot be a permanent name, the U.S. move occurred at a time when the two countries had begun the process of dialogue to find a mutually acceptable solution, which would have greatly served requirements for security and stability in the region.
On his part, Brzezinski reiterated that the U.S. action was not directed against Greece but sought to stabilize the situation with FYROM and support the Skopje government in view of the crucial upcoming referendum.
Michaloliakos emphasized that Greece has actively supported FYROM's cohesion, noting that FYROM's growth is based on Greek investment.
The two ministers also discussed Euro-Atlantic affairs.
On Thursday, intervention by Michaloliakos had prevented FYROM from participating in the SEDM under the name 'Republic of Macedonia' and on Friday the organizers also changed the order of the flags of the participating countries, putting FYROM's flag before that of Greece, in accordance with alphabetical order. Meanwhile, the Slovenian hosts avoided referring to FYROM as the 'Republic of Macedonia'.
The deputy minister also met Albanian Defense Minister Pandeli Majko on the sidelines of the meeting, with whom he discussed issues of bilateral interest.
The SEDM meeting ended on Friday with a joint communique that did not set a time frame for the deployment of the Southeast Europe Brigade (SEEBRIG) and adopted the Greek position that outstanding problems that have arisen concerning the issue of a full operational capability certificate for SEEBRIG from NATO must first be resolved. The brigade will shortly be able to participate in operations to support peace but another SEDM must first be held to establish its operational readiness. Participants also adopted a Greek proposal that SEEBRIG be deployed as a priority in the local region.
A joint press conference with the participation of attending ministers and deputy ministers of defense was held after the meeting, during which a journalist from FYROM asked Michaloliakos whether the US decision to unilaterally recognize his country as the "Republic of Macedonia" would affect the country's accession to the EU and NATO. In response, Michaloliakos reiterated that Greece considers FYROM a friendly country and potential ally and supports its prospects for EU and NATO accession. However, the Greek deputy defense minister said that Greece disagreed with the US' unilateral initiative and said that Greece wishes to continue the dialogue with FYROM so that a mutually-acceptable solution can be found. Michaloliakos also said that the Greek government insists on using the name FYROM as it is internationally recognized by the UN, NATO and the EU.
"Initial indications are that the EU does not agree with the US initiative and that is very important for Greece," Michaloliakos said.
 Reactions continue over US decision to recognize FYROM with name 'Macedonia'
Athens, 6/11/2004 (ANA)As reactions continued on Friday to the US government's decision to recognize FYROM with its adopted constitutional name of 'Republic of Macedonia', which spurred a flurry of protests and diplomatic activity in Athens and Greek communities abroad, FYROM's foreign minister Ilinka Mitreva said that the FYROM government wished to continue the ongoing UN-sponsored talks with Greece aimed at resolving the name issue, but reiterated her government's unwavering position in favor of a "dual" name.
"We declare that we are prepared, in the talks in the framework of the UN, to reiterate our position that we are in favor of the use of the constitutional name of the 'Republic of Macedonia' in international communication, and the need for finding a mutually acceptable formula in the bilateral communication with Greece," Mitreva said.
Mitreva said that the US government's decision was in reward for FYROM's dedication in the direction of reinforcing stability in the country.
She described Thursday as a "historic" day for FYROM and opined that recognition of FYROM with its adopted constitutional name by the US was a message to all countries of the world to follow that example.
Meanwhile, Greece's deputy foreign minister for Greeks abroad issues Panayotis Skandalakis, currently on a visit to New York, on Thursday briefed representatives of overseas Greeks organizations on the Athens government's position, reactions, and diplomatic steps taken following the US decision regarding FYROM, which was learnt earlier in the day. He also discussed with them a series of issues and problems concerning the Greeks abroad, as well as the operation of the World Council of Greeks Abroad (SAE).
Skandalakis thanked the overseas Greeks organizations, on behalf of prime minister Costas Karamanlis, for their support and contribution to Greece.
After the meeting with the overseas Greeks organization presidents and representatives, held at the headquarters of the Federation of Greek Associations of New York, Federation president Nikos Diamantidis said they had a "useful exchange of views" with the deputy minister, to whom they had also conveyed their indignation over the Bush government's decision on the FYROM name, adding that "it is our intention to proceed with various mobilizations".
After Skandalakis' departure from the meeting, the representatives mulled ways of manifesting their protest to the Bush administration and calling for a reversal of the decision. They agreed, inter alia, to send a letter to Bush, secretary of state Colin Powell, and to Senators and House of Representatives members, while officials of the various Greek-American organizations would seek meetings with US government officials and members of Congress to outline the danger of serious misadventures in the region resulting from the Bush government's decision, which they criticized as being 'hasty, unjust and anti-Greek".
Also, in a terse statement, Greek-Orthodox Archbishop Demetrios of America announced that the Greek American community would hold mobilizations in protest of the US decision, and expressed regret over the "unexpected, untimely and arbitrary" move.
In Australia, the SAE Oceania coordinator Costas Vertzagias sent a letter to Australian prime minister John Howard calling for no change of policy by Australia on the FYROM name issue.
"Recognition of FYROM with the name 'Macedonia' entails the danger of destabilizing the Balkans and of disrupting its very good relations with Greece", adding that Greece and FYROM had intensified their efforts for seeking a solution to the name issue, and warning that "The US' unilateral decision can only do harm".
He also pointed out in the letter that the European Union, "with which the US did not confer" before taking its decision, "continues to recognize that country with the name FYROM until a mutually acceptable name is found".
The Archdiocese of Australia also reacted against the US decision, which it called "unacceptable and hasty" and said the "extremely provocative action of the newly re-elected government of President Bush not only blatantly does an injustice the well-grounded positions of Greece, but will also prove to be a negative factor for the required good relations" between Greece and FYROM.
Thessaloniki prefect Panayotis Psomiadis, currently on a visit to Australia, expressed satisfaction with the Greek-Australians' reactions to the US government's decision.
In Athens, ruling New Democracy Europarliamentarian Antonis Samaras, who has foreign minister in the 1990s had handled the FYROM issue, on Friday defended the government's stance on the issue and criticized Washington's decision to recognize FYROM as 'Macedonia'.
He said that the present government had "inhereted faits accomplis" both in the FYROM and Cyprus issues, adding that it had tried, and succeeded, in "avoiding the worst" in the Cyprus issue, and was trying to avert the worst in the FYROM issue and had reacted correctly.
Samaras said that the big problem was faced not by Greece but by FYROM itself, warning that the US state department had committed a very serious mistake in recognizing FYROM as 'Macedonia', given that "it does not only provoke the sensitivities of the Greeks, it undermines the stability of the entire region".
The US decision, he continued, "does not discourage the irredentists, but rewards them".
"It does not salvage the Ohrid agreement, but negates it. It does not defuse the domestic tensions in FYROM, but exacerbates them. It does not contribute to stability in the region, but weakens it. It does not help Greek-FYROM relations, but undermines them," Samaras said, and warned:
"The developments touch Greece, but threaten FYROM".
Meanwhile, Canadian foreign minister Pierre Pettigrew reaffirmed that Canada remained firm in its official position that it would await the outcome of the UN mediation before recognizing FYROM.
The statement was made to Canada's deputy transport minister Jim Karygiannis, who is of Greek descent, in a telephone conversation after the US' unilateral recognition of FYROM with the name "Republic of Macedonia".
Karygiannis told ANA he was optimistic on Canda's stance, reminding that it was the fruit of the systematic mobilizations of the Greek-Canadian community after the FYROM name issue arose in 1992.
Several Greek-Canadian organizations were preparing a memorandum towards the Canadian government, seeking its commitment to preserve its stance on the FYROM issue and pointing out the hazards of recognition prior to a lasting and viable solution being reached between Greece and FYROM via the UN-sponsored talks.
 State Department on Greek reactions to Washington's decision to recognize FYROM as 'Republic of Macedonia'
WASHINGTON 6/11/2004 (ANA/T.Ellis)U.S. State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher on Friday avoided commenting on the statement made earlier in the day by Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis that the recognition of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as "Republic of Macedonia" constituted an unfriendly action by the United States against Greece.
Asked to comment on the reactions which this decision caused in Greece, Boucher reiterated that "the United States remains dedicated to the close relation it has with its ally Greece," adding:"How we call Macedonia is not something which is turned against Greece in any way."
Asked furthermore to comment on the expressed intention of the Greek government to veto the accession of FYROM to the European Union and NATO if it insists on maintaining the name "Republic of Macedonia", Boucher noted that he was not aware of such a position and stated that he did not know of the Greek stance on an issue such as this. However, he added that in the opinion of the U.S. "Macedonia constitutes part of Europe."
The State Department spokesman expressed the hope that the negotiations being conducted between Greece and FYROM in New York under the auspices of the United Nations will soon conclude in a "positive solution."
Asked when U.S. Ambassador to Athens Thomas Miller briefed the Greek government and the opposition parties, Boucher referred the issue to the embassy in Athens for details of Miller's program.
Finally, in reply to a question regarding the possibility of tension being caused after Sunday's referendum in FYROM, Boucher assessed that FYROM's security rests with the country's government, noting that NATO and the EU only intervened when the FYROM government deemed that it was necessary.
 Main opposition leader sends letter to U.S. president over FYROM recognition as 'Macedonia'
Athens, 6/11/2004 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou has sent a letter to United States President George Bush on Friday in which he says that Washington's decision to recognize the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) with its constitutional name 'Republic of Macedonia' does not contribute to the enduring stability and prosperity of the area.
In the letter, in which he also congratulates Bush on his re-election, Papandreou calls the U.S. decision "unilateral" and is "justifiably viewed as wrong by the Greek people", pointing out that the decision ignores Greek position in the highly sensitive Balkan area, where prudence and "equal participation by all sides" are very important.
Papandreou also called for "close cooperation" by all sides and interested parties in making southeast Europe, the Middle East and Turkey an area of stability and prosperity, while stressing that the European Union had a major and positive role to play in the region and noting that Greece was a reliable and constructive factor for stability and prosperity in the area.
Main opposition accuses gov't of 'lacking strategy' in foreign policy
Main opposition PASOK spokesman Nikos Athanassakis on Friday accused the government of displaying inaction, bewilderment and a lack of strategy in foreign policy issues, in response to the statements made in Brussels earlier that day by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis regarding developments surrounding the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and the U.S. decision to recognize it as 'Republic of Macedonia'.
He also accused the government of always shunting its responsibilities on to others, preferentially PASOK and its leader.
Athanassakis said that PASOK leader George Papandreou was willing to support any positive initiative on the part of the government in the framework of a specific strategy but stressed that the government did not currently possess such as strategy.
According to the spokesman, the government had not sought cooperation on any major foreign policy issue so far and had also tried to mislead the public with untrue statements, such as a statement by government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Thursday that 130 countries had recognized FYROM with its constitutional name, when in actual fact this number was 60.
 Cyprus' AKEL and EDEK parties denounce U.S.'s recognition of FYROM as 'Republic of Macedonia'
NICOSIA 6/11/2004 (ANA/G. Leonidas)Cyprus' Left-wing AKEL party and Socialist EDEK party on Friday denounced the recognition by the United States of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) with the name "Republic of Macedonia".
AKEL's press spokesman Andros Kyprianou expressed his concern over the action of the U.S. to recognize FYROM as "Republic of Macedonia", stating that "the U.S. yet again violated international treaties, which should be respected by all."
The AKEL spokesman added that "the U.S. once again showed its arrogance on international matters and that it could do whatever its wants."
On its part, EDEK, through its Vice-President Sophocles Sophocleous, denounced as "unilateral, unacceptable and provocative the action of the United States at the expense of Greece."
The European Union, Sophocleous said, should stand by the side of Greece in the quest of finding a correct solution to the problem.
 President of Bulgaria's socialist party comments on FYROM name issue
SOFIA 6/11/2004 (ANA/B.Borisov)"The first thing we must all aim for is to ensure maximum stability in the western Balkans," the President of Bulgaria's Socialist Party (BSP) Sergei Stanisev said on Friday in response to a question regarding the US' decision to recognize the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), by its constitutional name "Republic of Macedonia."
"The BSP follows a consistent policy regarding the Republic of Macedonia," Stanisev said, noting that Bulgaria recognized FYROM's constitutional name in 1992.
"Consolidation of political stability and the continuation of political and democratic reforms in this country is in our interest," he said. "All sides must show political maturity so that they can contribute to stability in the western Balkans," he added.
Stanisev's statements came after his meeting with Nikos Constantopoulos, leader of the Greek Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party.
 SAE President Athens states his opposition to U.S. government's decision to recognize FYROM with the name 'Republic of Macedonia'
Athens, 6/11/2004 (ANA)World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) President Andrew Athens on Friday stated his opposition to the U.S. government's decision to recognize the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) with the name "Republic of Macedonia" as well as the use of any other name which is not acceptable by the Greek government and the Greek people.
Referring to information citing U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell of having announced the recognition of the small Balkan country with the name "Republic of Macedonia", the SAE president said that he was certain that he expresses the opposition of the Greek community in the United States but also throughout the world against unilateral decisions which are related with the use of any name which is not acceptable by Greece.
An SAE press release from Chicago said that Athens stressed that the announcement regarding the use of the name caused surprise to the Greek community in the U.S. given that no information was given in advance relating to any pending decision or announcement by the U.S. government.
 Achieving Lisbon targets a crucial matter for the EU, Greek PM says
BRUSSELS 6/11/2004 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)Achieving the Lisbon strategy targets was a crucial matter that concerned all the member-states of the European Union, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said on Friday in statements to the press after the EU summit meeting in Brussels.
He said that the EU leaders had focused manly on the structural changes that the EU must make in the framework of the Lisbon strategy so that it became the "most dynamic and competitive economy in the world" by the year 2010.
Another topic discussed during the meeting was Europe's image and communication policy in order to approach EU citizens, which Karamanlis said was a very important issue in view of the need to ratify the European Constitution.
During the meeting, European Commission President Romano Prodi briefly presented the progress reports on the EU candidate-countries, including Turkey, and the EU leaders also discussed and approved a five-year action plan, or 'Hague Program', to enhance EU-wide cooperation on the handling of the EU's external borders, dealing with illegal immigration and fighting terrorism and organized crime.
The Hague Program seeks to achieve this by using the resources of Europol and the European judicial authority Eurojust. An important innovation of the new program is that decisions will be taken by special majority, in contrast to previous practice.
 Greek Deputy FM Stylianidis says BSEC's Greek presidency aims at bringing EU closer to the organization's countries
ISTANBUL 6/11/2004 (ANA/A. Kourkoulas)The Greek presidency of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization (BSEC) aims at a closer bond between the European Union and the BSEC countries, Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis said on Friday when he visited the organization's General Secretariat in Istanbul to underline the importance which the Greek government and Greek diplomacy attributes to the organization's activity.
Greece officially took over the BSEC presidency from Georgia on November 1.
"The closer link with the European Union is a steadfast request of all the countries of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation and Greece is in the position to offer specific services in this direction," Stylianidis told the ANA.
Stylianidis also expounded on the goals of the Greek presidency for BSEC during his visit to Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos at the Fanar.
Greece, which will hold the BSEC presidency for the following six months, will organize the organization's regular summit in Komotini from April 20-23, 2005.
 Main opposition leader to attend Balkan socialist party summit in Bucharest
Athens, 6/11/2004 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou is due to travel to Bucharest on Saturday to attend a summit of Balkan-area socialist parties that are members of the Socialist International.
The summit will discuss developments in the Balkans, cooperation between Balkan countries and cooperation between socialist parties in the region.
 Gov't on defense minister's comments regarding TOR-M1 deal
Athens, 6/11/2004 (ANA)The government on Friday referred to an "intentional misinterpretation" on the part of main opposition PASOK regarding Thursday's comments by the defense minister, who spoke on the issue of a controversial weapons deal involving the Russian-made TOR-M1 anti-aircraft missile system.
Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros also referred to Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos' statement on the matter
DM comments on Russian TOR-M1 weapon system: Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos emphasized the Greek government's determination to reinforce Greek-Russian ties of friendship and military cooperation, to protect the interests of the Greek state, and to attribute whatever responsibilities arise from the procurement of the TOR-M1 weapon system, on Friday afternoon shortly before leaving Moscow.
He reiterated that the quality of the Russian weapon system is not being called into question and said that the previous Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) governments had full responsibility for not integrating the Russian weapon system within the national air defense system and for its incomplete operation. "This is what we came here to solve, the great problem the PASOK governments created on an international relations level with Russia and to incorporate it [the system] as soon as possible within the air defense network," he stressed.
Spiliotopoulos reiterated that the Greek government is asking for Russia's help in the case.
 Turkish warplanes violate national air space in the central Aegean
Athens, 6/11/2004 (ANA)The Turkish Air Force again on Friday resorted to new violations of Greece's national air space in the Aegean.
According to press reports, six formations of Turkish warplanes entered the Aegean without submitting flight plans and in 16 cases violated the national air space in the region of the central Aegean.
In all the cases, the 12 Turkish aircraft were recognized and intercepted by Greek fighter planes, while in four cases the process of interception developed into a mock dogfight.
It was reported that four of the Turkish aircraft were armed.
 SYN leader meets with Bulgaria's political leadership in Sofia
SOFIA 6/11/2004 (ANA/B.Borisov)Greek-Bulgarian relations and the development of bilateral cooperation were the main issues the President of the Coalition of the Left, Ecology and Movements (SYN) party Nikos Constantopoulos discussed with Bulgaria's Deputy Foreign Minister Nikolai Milkov during their meeting here on Friday. Constantopoulos and Milkov agreed that Greece and Bulgaria want to speed up the completion of the three main border checkpoints, the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline and other development projects that are of common interest.
Constantopoulos also met with Sergei Stanisev, President of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) with whom he discussed bilateral and international issues of mutual interest.
"We had a cordial discussion with the President of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, with whom I share a long-standing friendship and cooperation. We confirmed the common interests of both parties for European integration, for stability and peace in the Balkans, for the dynamic improvement of Greek-Bulgarian relations and for the strengthening of the ideas and visions of the Democratic Left in the world today," Constantopoulos said.
According to the SYN leader, the two parties will take on a joint initiative of creating a special forum whose objective will be the promotion of cultural cooperation in the Balkans, of the Balkan peoples' relations with the EU and their participation in European integration.
"The BSP is trying to develop relations with all of the political forces in Greece because the two neighboring countries share long-standing ties and play a key role in today's political stability in the Balkans and in developing a European model of international relations in the greater region," Stanisev said.
Constantopoulos also met with leaders of the centre-right Union of Free Democrats party, which was founded by Sofia's Mayor Stefan Sofianski after he left the United Democratic Forces party in the fall of 2001.
 Opinion poll shows ruling ND leading main opposition PASOK by 6.1 percentage points
Athens, 6/11/2004 (ANA)The ruling New Democracy (ND) party is maintaining a lead of 6.1 percentage points against the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), according to the four-monthly nationwide public opinion poll conducted by Metron Analysis and released on Friday.
Specifically with the vote intention, ND musters 40.2 percent, PASOK 34.1, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) 6.4, the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Progress (Synaspismos) 3.8 and the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) 2.8.
On who will win the elections, the ruling party garners 57.2 percent against 19.3 for PASOK.
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is considered most suitable for the premiership with 45.4 percent against 30.5 for PASOK leader George Papandreou.
On the other hand, 72.2 percent oppose early elections.
Former prime minister Costas Simitis is considered the most suitable for President of the Republic with 22.4 percent, followed by Synaspismos leader Nikos Constantopoulos with 8.5, former parliament president Apostolos Kaklamanis with 3.5 and Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis with 3.4.
 Greek FinMin's reply to EU criticism over excessive deficit
Athens, 6/11/2004 (ANA)The Greek government aims to reduce its fiscal deficit to 2.8 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product in 2005 (from 5.3 percent this year) and to cut its public debt to 109.5 percent of GDP (from 112.1 percent in 2004), Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said in a letter sent to EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joachim Almunia.
In his letter, the Greek minister noted that the fiscal deficit would be reduced through an increase in public revenues and spending cuts. He stressed that revenues were expected to increase by 400 million euros in 2004 and by 1.2 billion euros next year through a new tax reform adopted by the government and decision to facilitate the repatriation of capital from abroad. Alogoskoufis, in a letter aimed to reply to ECOFIN criticism over the country's excessive fiscal deficit, noted that the government also aimed to raise 1.6 billion euros next year from an ambitious privatization program.
The Greek minister noted that "the biggest part of spending cuts will result from a permanent reduction in spending after the completion of Olympic Games (a reduction from 1.37 percent of GDP to 0.34 percent of GDP) next year, while a program to restrain spending in a Public Investments Program would offer an additional 0.43 percent of GDP to the country's growth rate".
The country's public debt is projected to ease to 109.5 percent of GDP in 2005 from 112.1 percent this year. Alogoskoufis said that a recent fiscal audit of the economy emphasized on specific factors contributing in debt level changes and in particular intra-government debt and a capitalization of interest. He noted that these factors were now in full harmonization with Eurostat's decisions.
The Greek minister acknowledged specific weaknesses of the Greek statistics system, that have been improved by the government and noted that the ministry was also planning to make further improvements in the system.
 Greece not expecting EU sanctions over deficit woes
BERLIN 6/11/2004 (ANA/P.Stangos)Greece is not expecting to be penalized by the European Union for submitting erroneous deficit figures from 2000 as no legal framework exists for such a move, visiting Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Friday.
In addition, the country is undergoing routine deficit monitoring by EU authorities but has not been placed under any special supervision for its high deficit, Alogoskoufis told reporters in the German capital after an unofficial meeting with his counterpart, Hans Eichel.
Data before 2000 did not compromise Greece's entry into the eurozone although certain points were unresolved. The deficit in 1999, the country's key criterion year, was below the EU ceiling of 3.0%, the Greek minister said.
If rules introduced in 2000 were applied then the ceiling would have been overstepped, but retroactive application was unacceptable, he stated.
Alogoskoufis underlined that Greece's strategy in the EU was based on making a distinction between erroneous data submitted by the previous socialist government from 2000; and figures given by the current government, which came to power on March 7, 2004.
"We will be judged not by the past, but by how we will lower the deficit in 2005," the minister said.
Alogoskoufis said that his talks on Friday with Germany's economics minister were held in "a very good climate," a "spirit of cooperation", and "a display of understanding" concerning Greece's deficit woes.
 Greece, Russia and Bulgaria to proceed with the Alexandroupolis-Burgas pipeline
Athens, 6/11/2004 (ANA)Greece, Russia and Bulgaria agreed to proceed with the construction of the Alexandroupolis-Burgas pipeline after a two-day meeting held in Athens on November 4-5. The Greek delegation was headed by George Salagoudis, Deputy Development Minister; the Russian delegation was headed by Anatoly Yanovsky, Director of Fuel and Energy Complex Department of the Ministry of Industry and Energy; and the Bulgarian delegation was headed by Kalin Rogachev, Head of the Political Cabinet of the Minister of Regional Development and Public Works. The three delegation leaders initialed a memorandum of cooperation, which will be officially signed on a ministerial level in the upcoming weeks at a time and place to be determined.
"With today's initialing and the upcoming official signing, the three parties declare their full support in realizing the project which will further strengthen the traditional friendly relations among the three peoples and will create new prospects for financial cooperation," the joint statement, issued by the three parties, read.
"With the initialing of the Memorandum of Cooperation, a steady base for the oil supply of markets is created as is a strong starting-point for the realization of a vision which began more than 10 years ago. Additionally, a new oil channel from the Black and Caspian Seas to international markets is created.
"Finally, the plan's implementation will contribute significantly to the economic growth of the participating countries, to regional growth, as well as in boosting employment in the surrounding areas," the statement read.
 Greece can attract foreign direct investments in tourism sector, minister says
Athens, 6/11/2004 (ANA)Greek Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Friday expressed his optimism over the ability of the country to attract foreign direct investments in the tourism sector, particularly in yacht marinas, hotels, spas and golf while he added that Greece must work to create a more friendly investment environment in the country.
Speaking to reporters, during a news conference held after the opening of Philoxenia 2004, an international tourism trade fair in Thessaloniki, Avramopoulos said that the tourism ministry was adequately prepared towards this course with a new development law and plans to combat bureaucracy.
The Greek minister stressed he was not satisfied with the performance of a Tourism Development Enterprise (ETA) so far and said that he would decide changes (of both policy and directions) if the company failed to offer specific results by the end of the year. He did not elaborate if changes would also affect ETA's executives.
Commenting on tourist arrivals in the country, Avramopoulos said that recent data by the Bank of Greece showed a slight increase in revenues and a small decline in arrivals in the first six months of 2004. He predicted a similar trend in 2005.
Greece and China agreed to forge closer tourism relations. Tourism Deputy Minister Anastatios Liaskos told reporters and the two countries agreed that Greece would open two offices in China, one in Beijing and the other in Shanghai.
 Stocks jump to hit new year's high, led by blue chips
Athens, 6/11/2004 (ANA)Stocks finished higher with the general index hitting a new record for the year for the second straight session, with players buying heavily into blue chips, especially banks, traders said.
The Athens general share index closed at 2,635.81 points, showing a rise of 2.10 percent. Turnover was 270.4 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 2.33 percent up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 1.66 percent up; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 1.69 percent higher.
Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 245 to 58 with 62 remaining unchanged.
On a weekly basis, the general index gained 5.89%.
 Athens Mayor sees long-term positive impact from Olympic Games
Athens, 6/11/2004 (ANA)The positive impact of the Athens Olympic Games will be long-lasting, Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis said on Friday.
In a speech at the London School of Economics to an audience of academics, students and many Greeks living in the UK capital, Mrs Bakoyannis said that Athens and Greece in general showed a chaotic picture for a large period of time before the Games, but managed to fully change this picture. "Athens and Greece surprised the world by reversing all stereotype characteristics for Greece and a prevailing view that only powerful and rich countries can organize Olympic Games".
"The Olympic Games achieved something more important. To change the way Greeks think of theirselves," Mrs Bakoyannis added.
The Athens Mayor, in her speech, underlined the positive changes brought to Athens by the Olympic Games, such as spectacular improvements in transportation, road system, the metro, a new international airport and hotel infrastructure.
 Russian President honors Athens Olympic medalists
Athens, 6/11/2004 (ANA)On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed to the Kremlin the athletes of Russia's Olympic team who won medals at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
"The achievements of the Russian team in Athens have become a part of worldwide sports history. Of course, it is not possible for me to refer to each and every athlete at this time, but I must mention the world record set by Yelena Isinbayeva in the women's pole vault event, the dynamic and spectacular finish of Yuriy Borzakovskiy in the men's 800m race, and Denis Nizhegorodov's success in the 50km walk, all of whom confirmed Russia's predominance in the most beautiful sports event," Putin told the 26 athletes who gathered at the Kremlin.
 Thirteen-year-old requires liver transplant after acute poisoning by wild mushrooms
Athens, 6/11/2004 (ANA)A 13-year-old boy in Thessaloniki had to undergo a liver transplant on Thursday after suffering massive damage to his internal organs through poisoning by wild mushrooms. The boy has also suffered extensive damage to his kidneys that doctors believe is reversible, provided his body accepts the transplant.
The transplant operation was carried out at Thessaloniki's Ippokratio Hospital, using a liver donated by a 19-year-old that died the previous day. Doctors say the next two to three days are crucial and will determine whether the boy will survive.
The boy's parents are also in hospital in critical condition, again through wild mushroom poisoning.
Doctors advise against the consumption of wild mushrooms, noting that the above cases are not unique and that several other people with lighter cases of mushroom poisoning are currently hospitalized around the country.
 Case file on Kenteris-Thanou investigation, Aias sports club funding sent to Parliament
Athens, 6/11/2004 (ANA)The Supreme Court on Friday sent the case file on a doping investigation involving star Greek sprinters Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou on to Parliament, so that it could decide on whether there should be further investigation of possible indirect state funding for the athletes, their coach Christos Tzekos and Greek weight-lifting team coach Christos Iakovou through the sports club "Aias L. Skouze".
The evidence collected by the two public prosecutors handling the case, Spyros Mouzakitis and Athina Theodoropoulou, shows that former deputy ministers George Floridis, George Lianis and Yiannis Kourakis gave the orders granting funds to the club.
According to the Constitution, preliminary investigations into cases involving ministers and MPs must first be approved by Parliament.
The investigation into Thanou and Kenteris was initiated after a bizarre series of events in the run-up to the Athens Olympics, when the two athletes missed an IOC doping test and then turned up at KAT hospital as the victims of a motorbike accident that authorities believe was staged. The two training partners, gold and silver medalists at the Sydney Olympics, were then forced to withdraw from the Athens Games in the midst of a doping-related scandal and damaging revelations concerning the activities of their coach Christos Tzekos.
 Greenpeace calls on gov't to scrap dioxins
Athens, 6/11/2004 (ANA)Greenpeace on Friday called on the government to launch a national action plan leading to a ban on dioxins.
The first stage of the campaign should be to record the specifics of the problem in Greece, and then phase out the toxins, the domestic branch of the international environmental pressure group said in a statement.
A new instance of dioxins found in milk in the Netherlands revealed that the problem existed although most European countries had taken some measures to curb use. Greece, however, lacked even a policy on eliminating dioxins, Greenpeace added.
 Papadopoulos: Committee examines Turkey's EU accession negotiations
BRUSSELS 6/11/2004 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus, as a European Union member state, has set up a committee to look into matters relating to Turkey's European aspirations and in particular a decision on whether to start accession negotiations with Ankara, Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos said here Friday, adding that the committee responds to questions from Brussels on these issues.
''The EU presidency has asked all members to nominate a contact person it can address itself to in order to get the views of that member on various points which relate in particular to the start of membership talks with Ankara,'' he told a press conference, on the sidelines of the EU summit, where he represented the Republic of Cyprus.
He said Cyprus has set up a committee to deal with these matters and communicate the government's positions to any questions asked.
Papadopoulos said that during this European Council enlargement was not discussed, at the request of the EU Dutch Presidency, however Commission President Romano Prodi briefed Council members on the matter.
Responding to questions, Papadopoulos said that discussions on enlargement will take place during the next summit, on December 17.
He also noted that the conclusions of the December European Council are already being considered.
President Papadopoulos said the Lisbon strategy, relating to a ten-year program to render the EU a competitive market, create new jobs, encourage development and research and promote training and economic development, was discussed at Friday's summit.
''We also discussed how Europe can best inform its citizens about the Union with special programs so that the people can feel they are closer to the EU, especially in view of the process of ratification of the new European constitution,'' he added.
With regard to the issue of the recognition of FYROM by the US with its constitutional name ''Republic of Macedonia'', Papadopoulos said the EU continues to recognize the name Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
He said Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis speaking Thursday night at the dinner of the heads of states raised the issue and expressed surprise that the US chose this moment to announce its decision to recognize FYROM as ''Republic of Macedonia''.
Papadopoulos said that Greece, as Karamanlis had told EU leaders, would not give its consent to FYROM joining either NATO or the EU, if this matter is not settled once and for all with mutual agreement.
On Iraq, he said ''the EU has both an interest and a role to play but the Iraqi government must be legitimized through elections and security restored before EU can play the important role it can in Iraq.''