|Sunday, 26 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-11-17
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>November 17, 2004
 Finance Minister: Transparency restored to state finances after EU decision
BRUSSELS 17/11/2004 (ANA/V Demiris)Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Tuesday that transparency had been restored to Greek state finances after European Union ministers accepted past fiscal data that had allowed the country's entry into the eurozone and urged the government to achieve rapid reduction of the fiscal deficit.
"With the council of (EU) ministers' decision today, transparency has been restored to the fiscal situation, and the right conditions have been created to tackle the economy's problems, and to create a new framework for growth," Alogoskoufis told a news conference in the Belgian capital.
The bloc's finance ministers debated the Greek deficit because an informal audit launched by the government and checked by Eurostat, the EU's statistics agency, had shown a higher fiscal deficit in past years than admitted by the previous government. The EU has set a deficit ceiling of 3.0% of gross domestic product (GDP).
"The content of today's announcement on Greece's statistical data was the best possible, taking into account the extent of the revision after the informal audit (into the previous government's figures)," the minister said.
He was unruffled by talk that the EU's executive Commission may take Greece to the European Court of Justice over the erroneous data.
"From the moment that Greece, on its own initiative, gave a real picture of the fiscal situation, even if the Commission launches proceedings, it will halt them soon after as there will no longer be a real basis for the action," Alogoskoufis noted.
He also said that Greece might only risk losing monies from the EU's cohesion fund only if it failed to lower the deficit, which would not happen, he said.
The government's target was to lower the fiscal deficit to 2.8% of GDP in 2005 from 5.3% in 2004 - an unprecedented reduction, but feasible as spending on the Athens Olympics would not burden the budget for 2005, the minister underlined.
 Greek President visits Sarajevo, criticizes US recognition of FYROM as 'Macedonia'
SARAJEVO 17/11/2004 (ANA)Speaking in Sarajevo during an official visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina, the first to the republic by a Greek president since the end of the Bosnian war, President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos criticized Washington's decision to recognize the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia by its adopted constitutional name 'Republic of Macedonia', saying that the 'hurried move' on the part of the United States had not facilitated efforts to resolve the name issue.
Greece objects to the use of the name 'Macedonia' by FYROM on the grounds that it is historically misleading and conceals desires on a northern Greek province of the same name along the FYROM border.
"I want to assure you of Greece's genuine desire to bring dialogue, which has truly delayed, to an outcome that is acceptable to both sides. We are under the impression that the hurried move by the United States to recognize this name does not facilitate the search for the desired solution. I would also like to point out that economic relations and investment activity by Greeks in FYROM are very highly developed," he said in response to questions, noting that the close ties could be extended to other areas of bilateral cooperation between FYROM and Greece.
 State Dept. spokesman Boucher says Powell had 'friendly meeting' with Archbishop Demetrios of America on FYROM name issue
Washington 17/11/2004 (ANA/T. Ellis)US state department spokesman Richard Boucher said Monday that US secretary of state Colin Powell's meeting with Greek Orthodox Archbishop Demetrios of America, which was also attended by undersecretary Marc Grossman, on the recent US recognition of FYROM with its disputed constitutional name of 'Republic of Macedonia' had been a "very friendly meeting".
Demetrios and representatives of the Greek American community earlier Monday expressed their dissatisfaction to Powell and Grossman on the US move.
"It was a very friendly meeting. They have a lot in common. They know a lot of people together. They really, I think, understand each other," Boucher said in reply to questions during a regular press briefing.
"The Archbishop expressed some of the feelings in the Greek community and the Greek-American community about the steps we'd recently taken. The Secretary said he understood that, made clear that we are committed, very committed, to keeping the UN process going to try to find a name, a resolution of the name issue that would be acceptable to the broader international community, that that does remain very important to us and we'll keep our efforts up in trying to do that. And I think that's one of the principle things the Archbishop was looking for us to do," Boucher added.
 FM holds talks with French counterpart, says Athens supports Turkey's European prospect
PARIS 17/11/2004 (ANA - D. Konstantakopoulos)Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis held talks with his French counterpart Michel Barnier here on Tuesday and said afterwards Athens supports Turkey's European prospect, adding, however, that a relation of good neighborliness with Cyprus and Greece is an obligation for Turkey.
The minister said the state of bilateral Greek-French relations is excellent and that his talks with Barnier were positive and constructive.
Talks between the two ministers focused on the European Council on December 17, the situation in the Balkans, and in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in particular, and the Middle East issue.
According to well-informed diplomatic sources, the talks ascertained the desire of both sides to cooperate in formulating the conclusions of the December 17 EU Summit.
The Greek side reiterated its support for the European prospect of Turkey, provided that Ankara will fulfill the rules, preconditions, criteria and principles set for every candidate country absolutely.
The principles, criteria and preconditions also include the position towards Greece and the Republic of Cyprus.
According to the same reports, Paris is interested in the speediest possible solution to the issue with FYROM and supports (also in the framework of EU solidarity) the European position in favor of a mutually acceptable name for FYROM.
 European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee examines issue of Turkey's EU accession
STRASBOURG 17/11/2004 (ANA/O. Tsipira)The European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee examined the issue of Turkey's accession to the European Union in the framework of a discussion which took place on Tuesday night on the report by Dutch Eurodeputy Kamiel Erlings which will be put to the vote at the European Parliament in December.
Other issues discussed were the issue of Cyprus, the genocide of the Armenians, the Kurdish question and the situation concerning human rights in Turkey.
Ruling New Democracy party Eurodeputy Giorgos Dimitrakopoulos said "it is unacceptable that forces of Turkey, a candidate country, should occupy part of the territory of a member-state, while it is also unacceptable that its military establishment should give instructions to its forces for provocative acts against another member-state."
Dimitrakopoulos further said that on December 17 the European Council must decide positively on a date for the beginning of accession negotiations.
Main opposition PASOK party Eurodeputy Panos Beglitis, referring to Turkey, said "this country has carried out an institutional revolution. It has a European prospect. In other words, we say 'yes' to the beginning of negotiations, but without this being considered a 'blank check». We demand, therefore, respect for the political and economic criteria of Copenhagen and respect for the acquis communautaire."
Cypriot Democratic Rally Eurodeputy Ioannis Kasoulides said on his part amendments which create the impression that Turkey no longer has any obligations concerning a solution to the issue of Cyprus because the majority of Greek Cypriots said 'no' in the referendum on the Annan plan are very negative.
 Greek, Bulgarian foreign ministers discuss bilateral relations, Balkan affairs
SOFIA 17/11/2004 (ANA - D. Constantakopoulos)Following talks with Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis in the Bulgarian capital on Tuesday, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi told reporters that a "mutually acceptable solution would be best" in the dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) over FYROM's adoption of the name 'Macedonia'.
Greece objects to the use of the name for the republic on the grounds that it is historically misleading and could lead to future claims on a northern Greek province of the same name.
On his part, Molyviatis noted that the Greek side had been the one to ask for negotiations at the United Nations to be speeded up and stressed that this was also the position of the European Union.
Asked what stance Athens will take with regard to Turkey's request to receive a date for the start of EU accession negotiations, the Greek minister said that Greece steadfastly supported Turkey's European prospects, believing these to be in the interests of Greece, Cyprus and to promote stability throughout the region.
But it was up to Turkey to conform to the principles, values and obligations required of all candidate-countries by the EU, he added.
Molyviatis has been accompanied on his visit to Sofia by deputy foreign minister Yiannis Valynakis and Evripidis Stylianidis, while his talks with Pasi covered bilateral and regional issues.
Bulgaria wants to speed up the opening of new border crossings into Greece, with the one near the Greek city of Drama expected to be open in the first half of 2005. Sofia has also proposed creating an additional border crossing near Kyprinos.
The two ministers expressed hope for progress in the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline and discussed the terms of employment and social insurance for Bulgarian immigrants working in Greece.
Pasi also expressed Bulgaria's gratitude to Athens for its support of Bulgaria's efforts to join the EU and NATO.
Molyviatis, on his part, said that inducting the Balkan area into Euro-Atlantic structures was the only way of ensuring the region's future prosperity, progress and constructive cooperation.
The two sides expressed satisfaction with the excellent level of bilateral ties, noting that Greece was the top foreign investor in Bulgaria, the dramatic rise in tourist traffic in both directions and bilateral economic ties worth roughly 1.5 billion euros.
 DM discusses NATO and EU issues with British counterpart
LONDON 17/11/2004 (ANA)Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos on Tuesday discussed issues concerning NATO and the European Union, as well as the participation of Greece and Britain in peacekeeping missions, in talks with his British counterpart Geoffrey Hoon in the framework of his official visit to the country.
Wednesday's program anticipates new meetings between the defense ministers of the two countries, one private one and another at delegation level.
Spiliotopoulos will also be holding talks with Alternate Minister responsible for armaments issues Lord Bach on Wednesday.
During his stay in Britain, the defense minister will be briefed on organizational issues and on the operation of the Permanent Joint Headquarters.
Deputy defense minister and Serbian counterpart agree both countries share same views on Balkans: Deputy Defense Minister Vassilis Mihaloliakos and Vukasin Maras, his counterpart in Serbia-Montenegro, concluded that both countries share the same views regarding the future of the Balkans. This conclusion was reached during Mihaloliakos' two-day official visit in Belgrade, which began on Tuesday.
During their meeting, the two deputy ministers discussed in detail the current situation in the Balkans, the dangers facing the region, such as terrorism, crime, and the illegal weapons trade. They also discussed Serbia-Montenegro's efforts to re-establish all its sectors so that it can join the PfP, SEDM, the EU and NATO.
Mihaloliakos emphasized that Greece fully supports its neighbor's efforts and added that for peace to prevail in the Balkans, certain principles and prerequisites must be adhered to and fulfilled: respect of countries' territorial integrity, the inviolability of borders, the protection of human and minority rights, compliance with UN Security Council decisions no. 1244 and 1345.
Mihaloliakos and Maras signed a memorandum of understanding regarding military cooperation between the two countries for the year 2005. The memorandum opens the way for close cooperation in areas of the defense industry, technology and military equipment. Additionally, Mihaloliakos, during the joint press conference which immediately followed the signing, said that Greece and Serbia-Montenegro can jointly manufacture weapons in order to reduce costs, and also referred to the possibility for exports.
Later on Tuesday, Mihaloliakos also met with Deputy Foreign Minister P. Boscovic. The two men discussed the Kosovo issue and the problem of the 250,000 Serb refugees who fled the area and who cannot return to their homes, due to lack of security. Mihaloliakos reiterated that the maintenance of existing borders contributes to ensuring peace in the region. Specifically referring to Kosovo, the Greek deputy defense minister said that irredentist and secessionist designs should be discouraged.
 Gov't declines to comment on FYROM PM's resignation
Athens 17/11/2004 (ANA)Athens on Tuesday declined to comment on yesterday's resignation of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Prime Minister Hari Kostov, with a government spokesman merely noting that the development was an internal one of the neighboring state.
According to wire service reports, Kostov, who was sworn-in as prime minister in May, resigned on Monday over disagreements with ethnic Albanian partners in his government coalition. He accused the Albanian Union for Integration Party of petty party interests, nepotism and corruption.
Asked about the development's effect on the region, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros noted that "the government is not anxious about stability in the Balkans."
 ND secretary, Coalition party issue messages on anniversary of Polytechnic student uprising
Athens 17/11/2004 (ANA)Ruling New Democracy party Secretary Evangelos Meimarakis, in a message on Tuesday on the anniversary of the student uprising against the military junta on November 17, 1973, said the message of the Polytechnic is one of a struggle for the quality of democracy and the continuous defense of democratic freedoms.
"The challenge today is to shield it (democracy) against phenomena which can alter its quality, safeguarding healthy institutions and appropriate rules in all fields. Today, that we are experiencing moments of national and historic responsibility," Meimarakis said.
In a similar message, the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology said the Polytechnic lives on through the struggles, both those of today and tomorrow, for peace, social liberation, achievements, freedoms and rights in the tough confrontation with the forces of war and neo-liberalism.
It added that the value of the uprising's messages is confirmed through the modern-day struggles of movements, which are opposed to neo-liberal globalization and which shape the alternative proposal in the world, Europe and our country "for a different world which is feasible."
Gov't again dismisses notion of early elections; cites spirit of Constitution in selection of presidential candidate: The government on Tuesday said it was strictly abiding by the spirit of the Constitution, when queried on why the prospect of early elections -- triggered by Parliament's potential failure to elect a new president next spring -- was highly unlikely.
In answer to local reporters' questions on the likelihood of early elections, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said the entire issue (i.e. finding a candidate with bi-partisan support amongst MPs) will be resolved "through a framework of consultations, just as the prime minister mentioned the other day, and through support of a candidacy that expresses the Greek people."
In answer to a bevy of subsequent and related questions, Antonaros reminded that the Constitution stipulates consensus for the post, something he said the government will honor by sticking to the spirit of the Constitutional provision.
Finally, asked about recent publicized statements by main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, who set out a list of conditions that, in his opinion, a prospective presidential candidate must have, Antonaros merely noted:
"...this is a political choice on the part of the main opposition leader".
Development minister Sioufas rules out early general elections: Development minister Dimitris Sioufas on Tuesday ruled out the prospect of early general elections, in reply to press questions.
"As I've told you before, there is no need for (early general) elections, nor will elections take place," Sioufas said.
Government sources told ANA that there was no thought in the government on early general elections prompted by the parliamentary election for a new President of the Republic due in March 2005.
A senior minister also told ANA that "we do not want elections...if some quarters want to make the attempt, let them say so", in essence tossing the ball into main opposition PASOK party's court.
Under Article 32 of the Greek constitution, if parliament fails to elect a new President of the Republic after three rounds of voting, the House is dissolved and early general elections are called.
PASOK president comments on presidential election: Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) President George Papandreou accused the government of inconsistency regarding the upcoming election for President of the Hellenic Republic during the Coordinating Committee's meeting on Tuesday, according to sources.
PASOK intends to press New Democracy to clarify its position soon regarding this issue, and if possible, to announce the person it will support for the presidency soon, the same sources said.
After the meeting, Papandreou indirectly denied that he has set criteria for the selection of the presidential candidate, other than those he has stated publicly. Papandreou's statement came as a response to an article which claimed that during the lunch hosted by the Dutch ambassador in Athens on Monday attended also by the ambassadors of the 24 EU member-states, one criterion for the presidential candidate was that he/she cannot be an active member of any political party.
Papandreou also reiterated that PASOK is willing to contribute to the selection of a worthy candidate, but also that this initiative belongs primarily to the government.
Asked if choosing a presidential candidate is a matter of personality or policy, Papandreou said that everything matters.
 Gov't reiterates commitment to fight corruption and graft
Athens 17/11/2004 (ANA)Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Tuesday reiterated the government's determination to combat corruption, when asked to comment on statements on the issue by Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras.
"The government's position on the issue is known and spelled out. We are against corruption and for transparency and in this framework we have plans to push through specific measures," he said.
 Orfanos meets with ministers in Mauritania
Athens 17/11/2004 (ANA)"You impressed everyone and made the whole world turn its attention to Greece," Mohamed Abdellahi Ould Babana, Mauritania's Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth told George Orfanos, the Deputy Culture Minister responsible for sports, who is visiting Mauritania on Tuesday.
Babana requested Greece's contribution for the implementation of a five-year development plan for sports in Mauritania. Orfanos asked to see the program, in order for Greece to examine how it can help on issues of know-how and training. Orfanos suggested that several prominent athletes from Mauritania could come to Greece to train for a while and then return home to make the most of the knowledge they will have acquired.
On Tuesday afternoon, Orfanos was received by the President of the Republic of Mauritania Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed Taya, and also met with Foreign Minister Mohammed Vall Ould Bellal, and Commerce and Tourism Minister Mohamed Lemine Ould Khattry.
 Palestinian envoy receives condolences from Greek politicians and public for Arafat's death
Athens 17/11/2004 (ANA)Several Greek politicians, diplomats, officials and ordinary members of the public have sent their condolences to the Palestinian Representation in Athens on Tuesday, expressing their sorrow for the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Visitors to Palestinian envoy in Athens Marwan Abdelhamid on Tuesday included main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou and the leader of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party Nikos Constantopoulos.
In statements to the press, Abdelhamid denied that there had been an attempt on the life of interim Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who heads the Palestinian Liberation Organization's executive committee, saying that a shooting incident inside the mourning tent for Yasser Arafat's funeral had been 'exaggerated' by the media.
 FinMin Alogoskoufis satisfied over expected two-year deadline for Greece to reduce fiscal deficitBrussels 17/11/2004, (ANA/Spinthourakis)
Greece's economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis on Tuesday expressed satisfaction with the fact that the issue of past inaccurate statistical information on the Greek economy submitted to the EU appeared to be considered a closed issue, and that Greece would prospectively be given a two-year deadline to contain its fiscal deficit to under 3 percent of GDP, speaking at a press conference after Monday's Eurogroup meeting in Brussels.
After the Eurogroup meeting, European Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, who holds the Economic and Monetary Affairs portfolio, told a press conference Monday night that "Greece's statistical data is an issue that has concerned Eurostat (the EU statistics bureau) for some time, but finally, with the good cooperation of the Greek Statistical Service (ESYE) and the Greek government, we now have a clearer picture".
Almunia said that the new statistical data showed that Greece's deficit had been above 3 percentage points for the entire 1997-2003 period, but explained that based on the calculation method in effect at the time in question, Greece's accession to EMU had been correct, and therefore that decision was not being disputed.
Almunia further said that the Eurostat report presented to the Eurogroup on Monday left some details open, but added that no substantial changes to the data were anticipated.
The Commissioner further noted that "we must do everything possible so that such instances do not arise in the future", explaining that the Commission would table specific proposals with the EU Council of Economy and Finance ministers (Ecofin) on how to reinforce the European system of statistical data at both member-states' and Eurostat level.
In addition, Almunia said that the next European Commission would need to decide on whether to initiate procedures against Greece in the European Court regarding its non-conformation with the statistical regulations.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Alogoskoufis expressed satisfaction that after the statements Monday night by Dutch finance minister and current Eurogroup president Gerrit Zalm and Economy and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Almunia, the entire affair was tending towards being considered a closed issue, and possibly Greece would receive a two-year deadline to reduce its fiscal deficit to below 3 percentage points of GDP.
Regarding the fiscal data for Greece before its accession to the eurozone, Alogoskoufis explained that although based on the calculation method in effect in the EU today Greece appeared to have not fallen below 3 percentage points of GDP from 1997 onwards, on the basis of the calculation method that was in effect at the time of Greece's eurozone accession Greece had been fiscally eligible and therefore had legitimately entered the final stage of economic and monetary union (EMU). Indeed, he added, the same held true not only for Greece but for other eurozone members as well, and cited Spain and Portugal as examples.
Alogoskoufis also expressed satisfaction with the stipulation that would be included in the joint communiqué to be issued later Tuesday by the Ecofin Council stating that the cooperation between the Greek and EU services was now particularly satisfactory. "With this reference, the contribution of the current government in clearing up the country's fiscal situation is acknowledged, and consequently Greece's credibility is restored," he said.
He added however that, apart from the clarification of certain details regarding the fiscal data, also pending was the attribution of responsibility over the affair. Regarding the latter, the Commission would submit proposals, Alogoskoufis said, but added that the Commission acknowledged to a degree that confusion still existed with respect to the calculation method on which the member-states' eurozone accessions should have been evaluated.
With respect to the matter of reducing the Greek fiscal deficit, Alogoskoufis noted that the Commission had stated on Monday that Greece would receive a two-year deadline to bring the deficit down to 3 percentage points of GDP. He expressed satisfaction over the prospect, but noted, however, that it was still unclear under which Article of the EU Treaty the extension would be given to Greece.
The Greek side has made it clear that it proposed the extension be provided under Article 115, which does not entail stringent commitments on the part of the member-states, but does not rule out the possibility of the Commission, basing its proposals on Article 104 of the Treaty concerning excessive deficits.
Alogoskoufis noted that, in either instance, Greece would do whatever was required to achieve fiscal stability. He also said he had briefed his Eurogroup counterparts on the course of the privatizations of the National Bank of Greece and Hellenic Petroleum, which would bring revenues of 900 million euro into the state coffers.
The minister further noted that deliberations had been intensified recently inside the EU on a revision, albeit marginal, of the Stability Pact, adding that several member states appeared to agree that a stricter stance than that held vis-à-vis other member countries with similar problems should not be applied to Greece.
It is recalled that, after Greece, the Commission will also be submitting proposals on Germany and France, which also present excessive fiscal deficits.
The discussion of Greece's case by the Ecofin Council will possibly be held in December, Alogoskoufis said, although he did not rule out the prospect of the discussion being postponed to January 2005.
Former premier attacks government's 'fiscal audit' as biased and thoughtless
Former premier Costas Simitis on Tuesday attacked the government over its decision to conduct a general fiscal audit, which he said had landed the country into trouble with the European Union.
Simitis questioned whether the process carried out by the government could be called a general audit of the economy, saying that it was simply a change in the method of recording spending that the government had embarked on with bias and without properly thinking it through.
According to Simitis, the government had now lost control of the process within the EU, putting the country at a disadvantage with seriously unfavorable economic repercussions.
 Gov't sharply reacts to former PM Simitis' criticism over fiscal audit
Athens 17/11/2004 (ANA)The government on Tuesday reacted sharply to criticism by former Prime Minister Costas Simitis, with the government spokesman referring to what he said was the "infamous creative accounting" employed by the ex-premier and his PASOK governments.
The reaction came after Simitis attacked the government over its decision to conduct a high-profile fiscal audit, which he said landed the country into trouble with the European Union.
"Mr. Simitis and his governments deceived, for years, not only Greek citizens but the European Union as well through their infamous 'creative accounting'," spokesman and Minister of State Thodoris Roussopoulos said shortly after the former PM's statements were publicized.
"A lie is what portrays the country in a negative light, not the truth," Roussopoulos added.
Simitis questioned whether the process carried out by the current Karamanlis government could be termed an audit of the economy, saying that it was simply a change in the method of recording spending. He also said the government had embarked the audit with bias and without properly thinking it through.
According to Simitis, the government has put the country at a disadvantage.
Finmin Alogoskoufis defends Papademos against criticism BRUSSELS 17/11/2004 thourakis)
Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Tuesday defended Loukas Papademos, former Governor of the Central Bank of Greece and current vice-president of the ECB, against criticism by the foreign press.
Commenting on reports in the foreign press accusing Papademos of being responsible for his stance regarding Greece's fiscal deficit at the time he was central bank governor, Alogoskoufis said that the Bank of Greece had for many consecutive years been releasing not only the official fiscal data but also data showing great deviations from the official data published by the then government.
 Greek govt approves draft bill to strengthen Competition Commission's powers
Athens 17/11/2004 (ANA)An inner cabinet meeting on Tuesday approved a draft legislation presented by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas aimed at strengthening the operation of a Competition Commission in the country.
Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, Sioufas said that the new draft bill would help in adopting a more effective inspection of monopolies and promoting healthy competition for the benefit of citizens and consumers.
The Greek minister said that a Competition Commission was acquiring the necessary responsibilities so that its interventions in the market would be more effective. "Our aim is," Sioufas stressed, "for the market to operate in a healthy and smooth way with the Commission to be able to avoid any illegal behavior by enterprises".
Sioufas noted that the government was adopting all EU rules into national legislation and underlined that a Competition Commission would cooperate with EU's agencies and other national commissions. He noted that the head of the Commission would be appointed by the government with the consultation by an Institutions and Transparency Commission.
The draft bill will be submitted with EU Competition Authorities and will be presented to market agencies and Greek political parties for further discussion.
Commenting on the level of domestic fuel prices, Sioufas stressed that prices were steadily falling. "We systematically monitoring developments and we intervene where needed to protect citizens and consumers," the Greek minister said. He expressed the hope that international oil prices would continue falling.
 Govt announces success in price stability
Athens 17/11/2004 (ANA)The government has successfully achieved to control domestic prices despite a jump by international oil prices to record-high levels and in contrast to predictions over a wave of price increases during the Olympic Games, the Development ministry said on Tuesday.
A ministry announcement said that the inflation rate in the period March-October 2004 was the lowest in the last four years and mainly reflected a successful cooperation between the ministry and all market agencies, continuous inspections in the market and the work by a Competition Commission.
The announcement said that the government was determined to continue working towards price stability in the country along with promoting a further deregulation of domestic markets, such as electricity and natural gas.
 Development ministry approves three electricity production projects
Athens 17/11/2004 (ANA)Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and Deputy Minister George Salagoudis on Tuesday approved licenses for electricity production units in three prefectures of the country.
The licenses were approved for a small hydro-electric project, with a power of 6.14 MWe, located at the municipality of Nestorio in Kastoria, a 0.65-0.90 MWe power station in Agistro, Serres, and a 2.46 MW power station in Pella.
No further rise in electricity rates: The president of Athens-quoted Public Power Corporation, Yiannis Paleokrassas, said on Tuesday that the company would not raise electricity tariffs beyond an increase already announced.
Paleokrassas was countering talk that rates would rise further based on a comment he made at a conference earlier in the day that current electricity rates were low."
Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas also issued a statement confirming that no further rate rise was in the pipeline.
 Deputy development minister addresses "Energy & Development" conference
Athens 17/11/2004 (ANA)"We must all adapt our energy consumption behavior, make energy conservation a way of life, and realize that over the next 12 months electrical energy is not something that can be wasted," Deputy Development Minister George Salagoudis said on Tuesday, addressing attendees of the "Energy & Development 2004" conference organized by the Institute of Energy for Southeast Europe in Athens.
Forecasting a shortage of electrical energy supply in 2005, Salagoudis attributed this shortage to the delays in the necessary production investments during the past four years, as well as the complete lack of understanding of the concept of energy conservation.
President of the Public Power Corporation (DEH) Ioannis Paleokrassas suggested that DEH rates be re-examined, emphasizing that today's system is ancient, violates the rules of competition and will collapse under free market conditions. According to Paleokrassas, it will take a while before competition in the electrical energy market develops and that liberalization will not lead to a reduction in rates for consumers; nonetheless, however, liberalization must take place. One of the reasons why liberalization of the electrical energy market has delayed, according to DEH's president, is the low rates. He also underlined the company's interest in investing in production and distribution companies in the Balkans, with the main criterion being return on investment.
 PM to meet finance minister, bank union president on Wednesday
Athens 17/11/2004 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is scheduled to meet Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and the head of the Union of Greek Banks G. Kostopoulos on Wednesday for a briefing on aspects of the Greek banking system, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said on Tuesday.
 Papandreou says gov't has created a "feeling of insecurity" among households
Athens 17/11/2004 (ANA)"The government has managed, during the nine months it has been in office, to create a sense of insecurity among Greek households," Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) President George Papandreou said on Tuesday after his party's coordinating committee meeting.
"New Democracy, instead of dealing with the country's real problems, as the people expected, managed to defame the country, to act as opposition to the opposition party, and to take the country backwards without a goal and without a vision," he added.
According to Papandreou, the government created a sense of insecurity among Greek households regarding foreign policy, the economy, the high cost of living, the 'so-called' audit, education, the post-Olympic period, but also the presidential election. Papandreou said that the government is fully responsible for the country's regression.
The sports and tax bill were the main topics discussed during the coordinating committee's meeting.
 Stocks slip in mild profit-taking
Athens 17/11/2004 (ANA)Stocks finished lower in mild profit-taking across the board, traders said.
The Athens general share index closed at 2,611.47 points, showing a decline of 0.29 percent. Turnover was 157.4 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.35 percent down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.71 percent down; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.93 percent lower.
Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 213 to 79 with 68 remaining unchanged.
 ERS issues fines totaling 420,000 euros; investigative TV program also targeted
Athens 17/11/2004 (ANA)The National Radio-Television Council (ERS), an independent authority, on Tuesday announced fines totaling 420,000 euros against a bevy of television stations in the greater Athens area.
The stations "Alpha", "Extra Channel" and "Alter" topped the list of fines, each slapped with a 30,000-euro penalty for various "lifestyle" and sensationalist TV shows.
However, the most eyebrow-raising fine, 100,000 euros, came against the "Zougla" news magazine program, hosted by noted Greek investigative journalist Makis Triantafyllopoulos. According to ERS, Alter channel was slapped with the massive fine because its "Zougla" (jungle in Greek) program presented information "obtained via illicit means". The 'illicit means' referred to a sting operation involving a hidden camera.
Another 100,000-euro fine was slapped on an obscure channel, TV Cosmopolis, for broadcasting mainly advertising and advertorial content.
 Merchant marine minister says Spanish judicial authorities decided to release Captain Mangouras
Athens 17/11/2004 (ANA)Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis said on Tuesday that the Spanish judicial authorities have ultimately decided to release the Greek captain of the tanker "Prestige" Apostolos Mangouras, following strong pressures and coordinated actions by the Greek government in the past months.
Mangouras will be free to return to Greece in a few days after the Spanish judicial authorities decided to lift the restrictive terms which kept him inside the borders of this European country.
Mangouras had been arrested in October 2002 when the tanker he was captain of had polluted the Spanish coast.
 NATO minesweeping squadron in Piraeus this month
Athens 17/11/2004 (ANA)A multinational squadron of minesweepers operating in the Mediterranean under NATO's auspices will dock at the port of Piraeus at the end of the month, part of customary visits to ports of countries participating in the force.
The squadron was created in 1999 and is part of a wider alliance rapid deployment force, with two vessels each from the Dutch, German, Greek and Turkish navies participating in the force at any one time.
 Television crew and actors involved in incident in Ehinos taken to police precinct in Xanthi
Athens 17/11/2004 (ANA)Actors and members of a television crew involved in an incident in the village of Ehinos, northern Greece, on Tuesday were taken to a police precinct in the city of Xanthi under a strong police guard in the evening. The file of proceedings prepared by police in Ehinos was also conveyed to the precinct.
The incident had occurred when women actors participating in the filming of a television series had entered the courtyard of a mosque when it began to rain, drawing reaction from Moslems living in the area.
After the departure of the actors and the television crew, all the Moslems who had been protesting for hours outside the Ehinos police precinct returned to their homes without further incident.
A public prosecutor from Xanthi arrived in Ehinos for a briefing on the incident and he is expected to launch legal proceedings for all offences perpetrated by both sides.
The public prosecutor was also given videotapes found under unspecified circumstances in the possession of the Imam of Ehinos, who claimed that they contained scenes from the filming of the television series "Archipelagos" and that they had been taken at a location close to a mosque.
Meanwhile, referring to the incident, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said "the position of the Greek government, as well as of the Greek state, is absolute respect for the holiness of places of worship of all religions."
He added that "the relevant authorities are addressing the issue concerning a television production and the incident with a private crew in the village of Ehinos."
 Woman robbed by thieves posing as policemen in Omonia
Athens 17/11/2004 (ANA)A 23-year-old woman was robbed in Omonia on Tuesday by two men posing as police officers, one of whom has been caught and placed under arrest.
The two men approached the young woman at a bus stop, identified themselves as policemen and asked to search the woman's handbag. After removing 30 euros, a cell phone and four cash cards that they found in the bag, they then led the woman to a nearby ATM and forced her to disclose her PIN number, thus getting another 380 euros.
They then led her to Pireos Street where the woman saw a real policeman and immediately began to call for help. The officer arrested one of the men with the assistance of passers-by, while the other is now being sought.
 'New Horizons' program to take place alongside Thessaloniki Film Festival for 13th year
Athens 17/11/2004 (ANA)The 'New Horizons' program that is to be held alongside the Thessaloniki Film Festival for the 13th consecutive year will feature 40 films in 2004, including new international productions but also tributes to major directors and to French and Russian cinema, organizers said on Tuesday.
Several of the directors of the films will be in Thessaloniki for the 45th Thessaloniki Film Festival, including British film-maker Peter Greenaway. One of the highlights of the program is a tribute to Greenaway and the screening of his new film, as well as the screening of the new children's film by Disney and Pixar "The Incredibles" scheduled for November 21.