|Wednesday, 29 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-12-07
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>December 7, 2004
 Gov't presents draft bill modifying 'main shareholder' laws for media, state contractors
Athens 7/12/2004 (ANA)The government on Monday presented its draft bill for tightening up legislation regarding 'main shareholders' in the media, designed to keep media interests from influencing the awarding of state contracts. The crux of the measure lies in enforcing a constitutional ban on state contracts being awarded to the owners of media enterprises in order to ensure fair competition.
Presenting the new bill after a meeting of the cabinet, along with Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said it fulfilled the government's pre-election pledges and was mandated by the Constitution, while stressing its huge importance for democracy, equality before the law, ensuring a multiplicity of views and fighting graft. The new bill amends existing legislation with the same aims that was passed by the previous PASOK government, rejected by ruling New Democracy as flawed and ineffective.
"The new laws make our legal framework ironclad and ensure that public-sector contracts are awarded on competitive terms, ensuring the equality of all competitors in a way that protects the interests of tax-payers and produces results for the citizen," Roussopoulos said. The new laws would make sure that the mass media could not be used as a "battering ram" to wrest trade-offs from the state sector that were against the public interest, he added.
The new draft bill extends the ban on a media enterprise or the operator of a media enterprise also being a state contractor, extending the ban to companies that are run or owned by persons also owning or running a media enterprise, while it makes it much harder to disguise such links through complicated company relations since the actual individuals participating in both media enterprises and the companies participating in tenders for state contracts must be named.
According to Roussopoulos, this also closes the loophole of using offshore companies that actually represent local interests to bid in state tenders. In addition, a 'main shareholder' is redefined as someone holding a 1 per cent stake in a company - down from 5 per cent under the previous law - and also excludes all next-of-kin to the third degree without allowing the current exception of those having 'financial autonomy'. The ban does not extend to cousins, provided they can prove their financial autonomy.
The spokesman added that the new draft bill also addressed the problem of indirect control of companies or "under-the-table" funding for media enterprises.
The new bill seeks to upgrade the National Radio and Television Council (ESR), giving it powers to investigate 'incompatibility' for participants in state tenders that are equivalent to those of the Competition Commission. It is to have a high-level, specialist staff and a modern, electronic database that lists both media enterprises and the larger state contractors at its disposal and can seek the assistance of other state agencies. The new laws also introduce changes to the process of issuing 'transparency certificates', allowing the ESR to check the veracity of claims by the companies seeking state contracts both during a tender and after a contract has been signed and is being carried out.
Penalties for companies found to be in breach of incompatibility laws will be severe and will include the cancellation of contracts and the imposition of heavy fines designed to act as a strong deterrent to offenders.
The bill, however, also raises the minimum worth of public-sector contracts requiring ESR clearance from 250,000 euros to one million euros.
At the same time, it extends precautionary inspections of major contracts by the State Audit Council, lowering the minimum limit for these from three million euros to one million euros, without exceptions or loopholes.
Papaligouras, clarifying elements of the bill in more detail, stressed that the 1-per-cent main shareholder cut-off also extended to those who, regardless of their company stake, had voting rights equivalent to the top 10 shareholders, could appoint or dismiss board members or drafted contracts that brought in over 10 per cent of the companies gross profits in the last financial year.
Commenting on the new bill, Pavlopoulos said it corrected gaps in the previous legislation that allowed "osmosis" between the media and companies awarded state contracts and gave real clout to the Constitution. He noted that the bill might give rise to complaints that it limited the freedom of activity of various legal entities but stressed that certain business enterprise had to operate within certain rules and that business freedom could not be uncontrolled.
According to the minister, under the Constitution the electronic media were public services under concession and it was obvious that there had to be rules to ensure transparency in public services. He also rejected arguments that the government bill would contravene EU regulations, saying that this was just "wishful thinking" rather than a real danger.
PASOK and SYN comment on "main shareholder" bill: Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) Spokesman Nikos Athanassakis criticized the government's 'main shareholder' bill as "creating impressions" and "not substantially addressing the issue of transparency" in comments he made Monday.
"The New Democracy government is trying to create impressions without providing solutions to problems," he said. Aside from not solving problems, Athanassakis claimed that the new law would only create confusion and would be difficult to enforce.
Finally, Athanassakis said that PASOK will wait for the bill to be submitted in Parliament for a more comprehensive evaluation and specific remarks.
The Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party also commented on the bill, in a statement it issued Monday evening: "The government announced principles and guidelines in order to intervene in the anarchic of mass media, in order to ensure transparency regarding contracts, services and procurements in the public sector. It is very important that these necessary changes - many of which our party and other public sector organizations have called for - be enforced in a meaningful manner." According to the statement, once the relevant bill is submitted in Parliament much will still need to be done to make the most of the proposed changes. In closing, SYN states that a radical overhaul is required in the media sector - a sector of crucial importance to the political system - which can be achieved through strong control mechanisms, political will, and cleaning up.
Communist Party of Greece says new bill concerns plutocracy: The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Monday said the government's bill attempted to "put the so-called graft sector in order", while stressing that this was a process that concerned the plutocracy and the process of competition between its various sections and not the working classes and their interests.
It rejected the bill as an "artful and multi-faceted creation of impressions that working-class interests can be protected by legislating tougher rules that protect the right to information and the democratic rights of workers, which is far from the truth".
 Premier Karamanlis begins official visit to Moscow on Tuesday
Athens 7/12/2004 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis departs on Tuesday for a three-day official visit to Moscow.
Karamanlis will hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other government officials on bilateral and international issues.
The prime minister will also meet with Patriarch Alexii and representatives of the Greek community living in Russia.
PM Karamanlis says Moscow and Athens have enormous potential to further promote cooperation in energy sector: Moscow and Athens have enormous potential to further promote cooperation in the energy sector, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis told Itar-Tass news agency on Monday, on the eve of his official visit to Russia.
"Our economic relations have developed to a satisfactory degree, but there are always possibilities for their further improvement. Energy is included in the sectors which offer enormous possibilities for the promotion of our cooperation," Karamanlis said.
"The construction of the Bourgas-Alexandroupoilis oil pipeline will contribute significantly to the further improvement of our relations with Russia and will open new prospects for multi-sided economic cooperation. Furthermore, this corridor for the export of Russian oil to the West will have positive consequences for the world economy," the Greek prime minister added.
After 10 years of efforts, the two sides have initialed a memorandum for cooperation in this sector and the Greek prime minister expressed the conviction that "the final signing of the memorandum will open the road for the implementation of the plan with a rapid rate."
Among the sectors where there are prospects for Greek-Russian cooperation, Karamanlis referred to communications, agriculture, industry and the development of small and medium-sized enterprises.
 OSCE conference held in Bulgaria
SOFIA 7/12/2004 (ANA/N.Melissova)"We condemn the terrorist attack against the US General Consulate in Jeddah (...) One of the greatest challenges facing the world and civilization today is the threat of terrorism," Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis said, speaking at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) ministerial summit held here on Monday.
Speaking more specifically on Greece, Valinakis said that the country's political priority is fighting xenophobia, racism, anti-Semitism, the fear of Islam, and discrimination in general. The Greek deputy minister also referred to the government program which targets the socio-economic integration of the Roma community and improving their living conditions.
Following his meeting with Bulgaria's Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha, Valinakis said that at the OSCE "we discuss a broad range of issues, from racism and xenophobia, to the major issues of security and cooperation on the European continent aiming for a more peaceful Europe and good neighborly relations and cooperation."
Valinakis emphasized that Greece's election as a non-permanent member of the UN's Security Council will provide the opportunity to promote the political situation in Southeast Europe.
Speaking of the Open Skies Agreement, Valinakis said "we welcome" the enlargement process, but "we are sorry" that Cyprus' candidacy is obstructed for reasons that have nothing to do with the Agreement.
Asked about the US intervention concerning the December 17 European Summit's conclusions on Turkey, Valinakis replied: "We have a long way before the decision of December 17. The Greek government supports Turkey's EU prospects, but the rate of progress and the outcome depend on Turkey itself. We want Turkey to proceed with its European prospects, but Turkey will also have to meet all the requirements and criteria set by the EU and will have to follow a policy of good neighborliness, according to EU principles and values."
The 12th OSCE ministerial summit, in which delegations of the 55 member-states and of international organizations are participating, concludes Tuesday with the signing of a broad range of treaties dealing with political and military issues, economic issues, and human rights issues. It is also the last summit over which Bulgaria will preside.
 NATO's DSACEUR due in Athens Tuesday for 2-day visit
Athens 7/12/2004 (ANA)NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (DSACEUR) General John Reith is due in Athens on Tuesday for a two-day visit as part of a tour of protocol visits to the NATO member states following the assumption of his duties in October, Greece's National Defense General Staff (GEETHA) announced on Monday.
Sir John will meet on Wednesday with GEETHA chief Gen. George Antonakopoulos and with deputy defense minister Vassilis Michaloliakos.
Gen. Reith is also Operational Commander of the EU force (EUFOR) conducting the peace-keeping operation, codenamed "Althea", in Bosnia-Herzegovina in a bid to ensure stability in the country.
Althea is the EU's most ambitious military undertaking to date, and was decided by the European Council on July 12, 2004 in the framework of the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP). The EU took over the peace-keeping duties from the NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) last week.
NATO Defense College delegation due on educational visit: The delegation of students of the NATO Defense College (NDC) arrives in Athens on Tuesday for a three-day visit in the context of an educational tour of European countries, Greece's National Defense General Staff (GEETHA) announced on Monday.
The current training course comprises 82 officers and diplomats, as well as senior employees of state services -- among them 3 Greek officers and one diplomat. The delegation will be headed by the NDC's Commandant, French Army Lt.-Gen. Jean-Paul Raffene.
The Rome-based NDC is a unique institution which, as determined by the higher military and political organs, is the chief vehicle for education at strategic level and the basic studies and research center on Euro-Atlantic security issues.
For more than 50 years the College has been training and educating leaders who have gone on to work at NATO Headquarters and its Commands, as well as in the related diplomatic and military fields. Its strategic-level courses ensure that graduates have a firm grasp of the new challenges that may affect future security.
Apart from the students from the NATO member countries, officers from the Partnership for Peace and the Mediterranean Dialogue member countries also participate on a permanent basis.
 Meeting in U.S. on FYROM name issue
NEW YORK 7/12/2004 (ANA/P. Panagiotou)Permanent Representative of Greece at the United Nations, Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis and Ambassador to Washington of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Nikolas Dimitrov, in their first meeting on Monday following the recent recognition by the United States of FYROM with its constitutional name "Republic of Macedonia," discussed the framework of the talks on the FYROM name issue.
According to a statement by United Nations mediator Mathew Nimetz, "the two sides showed good will" and a new meeting was set for January 12.
The meeting took place at the offices of the FYROM delegation at the UN.
A diplomatic source claimed that during the meeting "the climate was quite good" and that the two sides "expressed their will to continue in the same spirit of good will for a final solution of the matter." However, the same source said that it was not clear to what extent the FYROM delegation was willing to shift from its declared position, at least at this stage.
 U.S. supports Athens-Skopje talks on FYROM name issue
WASHINGTON 7/12/2004 (ANA/T. Ellis)The United States supports the ongoing talks between Athens and Skopje under the auspices of the United Nations for the finding of an agreed solution for the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli said on Monday in reply to a question on the first meeting earlier in the day in New York between the two sides with UN mediator Mathew Nimetz following the recent recognition by the U.S. of FYROM with its constitutional name "Republic of Macedonia."
Ereli encouraged "both the sides to reach a mutually acceptable solution to the issue of the name," without going into any details.
Greece was represented at the meeting by Permanent Representative at the UN Adamantios Vassilakis and FYROM by its ambassador to Washington Nikolas Dimitrov.
 Europarliament president Borrell tells Ankara recognition of Republic of Cyprus not a new condition on Turkey for membership, but something mandated by logic
Ankara 7/12/2004 (ANA/A. Ambatzis)Recognition of the Republic of Cyprus, and EU member, by Turkey "is not a new condition set by the EU on Turkey, but something mandated by logic, given that when negotiations take place, there must be recognition of the other side", European Parliament president Josep Borrell said during a press conference Monday in Istanbul, shortly before his departure from a visit to Turkey and talks with the Turkish government.
He was replying to a question on whether the European Union -- which is due to decide during its December 16-17 summit on whether to grant Turkey a commencement date for its EU accession negotiations -- was setting the recognition of the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus as a new condition for Turkey's EU membership. Turkey is the only country to recognize the self-proclaimed 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus' in the Turkish occupied north of the island republic, where it also maintains occupation troops.
In an address to the Turkish national assembly (parliament) on Friday, Borrell warned Ankara to "be aware of the challenge" it would face if the EU summit gave it the go-ahead for accession talks, stressing: "The very process of opening negotiations between the 25 member states and Turkey implies recognition of Cyprus. It is not possible to negotiate with someone that you don't recognize."
 4th MINEPS conference opens in Athens
Athens 7/12/2004 (ANA)The 4th International Conference of Ministers and Senior Officials Responsible for Sport and Physical Education (MINEPS IV), opened in Athens on Monday. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who could not be present due to previously scheduled engagements, sent a message and asked Francoise Riviere, Assistant to the General Director of UNESCO, to open the conference. Deputy Culture Minister responsible for sports George Orfanos, was unanimously voted to preside over the conference.
International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Phil Craven commended the government on its stance towards Greek athletes Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou, who were in the spotlight during the Summer Olympics for missing a doping test and subsequently dropping out of the Games. On her part, Deputy Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia announced the creation of an Olympic Games museum in Athens, as well as an annual competition of throwing events at Ancient Olympia in cooperation with IAAF.
In his message, Karamanlis said, "The adoption of the 'Athens Declaration' by the governments of UNESCO member-states will go down in the history of sports as an event of nodal, substantial and symbolic importance." He also explained that the joint commitment should be the fight against using illegal, performance-enhancing drugs as well as any other illegal practice that undermines the spirit of sport.
Orfanos addressed attendees, emphasizing the importance of this conference which will be examining three important issues: doping, integrating sports in the educational system and greater participation by women in sports and decision-making.
"This year closes in the best way for Greece and sports. In the summer we had the Olympic Games, followed by the Paralympic Games. We all experienced the participation, the competition, the effort, the joy of success, the disappointment of failure. But the core message, which we all understood, is that for the Olympic and Paralympic Games we must do whatever is necessary to keep them 'clean' and of the highest standard," Orfanos said.
On the issue of doping, Orfanos said: "We, all the member-states, the international organizations and the Olympic Committees, are called upon to adopt and to, of course, apply consistent measures of prevention and containment, in both professional and amateur sports."
As for women and sports, the minister said that the objective is to double the number of women present in sports administration positions, locally and internationally.
Finally, Orfanos concluded that systematically investing in sports and integrating sports into the formal educational system of each country will "build" better societies and will contribute to the physical and mental well-being of youngsters.
Speaking on the issue of a new Olympic Games museum in Athens, Palli-Petralia explained that it was a government initiative and together with IAAF, it was decided that a museum of international sports will be housed at the Athens Olympic Sports Complex (OAKA). "The Olympic and Paralympic Games left Greece a material and non-material legacy - the fantastic sports facilities and the country's reputation, respectively," she said. "We are determined to capitalize on this legacy and tomorrow [Tuesday] the government will announce its post-Olympic plan," she added.
Riviere declared the official opening of the conference, following Palli-Petralia's address. She emphasized the need to fight doping via an international treaty, and explained that the UNESCO member-states have received a draft of such a treaty since last July. The draft will be reviewed and adopted during this conference on Wednesday.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) President Richard W. Pound discussed a brief history of the agency's successes since its existence and then described how it operates. More importantly, however, Pound stressed the importance of the list of forbidden substances, which is regularly updated by a panel of 15 scientific experts. WADA proposes that the 'Declaration of Athens' should contain a broader definition of the term 'athlete' to include both professionals and amateurs; equal funding (50% by WADA, 50% by member-states); cooperation between WADA and UNESCO in doping control, and allowing the staging of major sports events only in those countries adhering to the sports code.
Craven congratulated Karamanlis and the Greek government in general, for its stance towards Kenteris and Thanou. "Costas Karamanlis set an example in the way he treated two Greek sports heroes. He was not influenced by the fact that they were icons and sent a strong message that the fight against doping cannot make distinctions and must punish those who do not respect sports ideals," he said.
 Athens Mayor meets with Prime Minister
Athens 7/12/2004 (ANA)"New Democracy's main position is that the country does not need to go to elections; it needs a president everyone agrees on and I don't think that that will be difficult to do," Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis said on Monday, upon exiting Maximos Mansion after meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
In response to a related question, Bakoyannis replied, "we did not discuss names at all. We discussed issues of government policy and regional government."
 Catholic Church in Greece expresses support for Ecumenical Patriarchate
Athens 7/12/2004 (ANA)The Synod of the Catholic Church in Greece on Monday sent a letter to Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos I and the Ecumenical Patriarchate based in Fanar, Istanbul, in which it notes its concern over "the recent scheming at the expense of the Ecumenical Throne, whose high status and prestige the Turkish government is attempting to diminish without legal or moral grounds". In the letter, the local Catholic Church expresses its full support for the Patriarchate's rights, saying that the entire Greek people stand at Fanar's side.
The Catholic Church in Greece has also sent a letter to the Turkish government via the Turkish Embassy in Athens, asking it to respect the human rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and to allow it to "carry out its peaceful mission unhindered". It also calls on the Turkish government to fully recognize the "legal and historic rights, established by international treaties, of the Patriarchate's Ecumenical Throne and to satisfy its various demands, such as the reopening of the School of Theology on Halki, releasing constraints on property and recognizing the legal entity of all institutions of Christian Churches on Turkish soil".
 Romanian president honors Greek ambassador to Bucharest
BUCHAREST 7/12/2004 (ANA)Romanian President Ion Iliescu on Monday awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit to Greek Ambassador to Bucharest, Theodora Grosomanidou.
During the ceremony, the president of Romania referred to the historic bonds of friendship between the two countries which also today constitute the basis of strong cooperation and mutual understanding.
 Tourism to spearhead Greece's developmental policy, Avramopoulos tells Arab-Hellenic conference
Athens 7/12/2004 (ANA)Tourism will be the spearhead of Greece's developmental policy over the next decade, Tourism Development minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said Monday, adding that this was why the country's new developmental law contained a separate chapter on tourism development with a long-term strategic plan aimed at the qualitative upgrading of the country's tourism product and its world-wide projection via an advertising program to be commenced on December 15, and in which more than 30 million euro was being invested for the first time.
Addressing a two-day Arab-Hellenic Conference on "The investment environment and the role of the media in the Arab World", organized by three NGOs -- the Hellenic Communications Institute in cooperation with the Humanitarian Growth and Cooperation organization and the Mediterranean Studies Foundation -- Avramopoulos outlined the government's tourism development policy, stressing that Greece today fulfilled all the factors that positively influence investments: investment potential, policy, security, geographical location, environmental and cultural factors, which were reinforced by the success of the 2004 Olympic Games staged by the country.
Moving away from the classic model of "sun and sea", the new tourism development program would place emphasis on expanding and enriching the tourism product with new forms of tourism, such as religious, conference, sport, medical and cultural tourism, agro-tourism, and city tourism, the minister said.
He explained that beyond an industry for economic growth, tourism was also a lever for co-existence and mutual understanding among peoples, creating conditions of friendship, peace and security of the peoples and, for those reasons, one of his first visits abroad as tourism minister had been to Syria, while he was also scheduled to visit Bahrain, Dubai, the Gulf countries, Egypt, the Maghreb and Mashrek countries, and Iran in January.
Avramopoulos further said that Greece was launching an initiative with France, within the framework of the EU, for tourism development which concerned cooperation between the EU's "tourism countries" with the Arab and Mediterranean countries.
The minister stressed that Greece has always had close relations with the Arab world, and noted prime minister Costas Karamanlis' recent visit to Egypt, as well as the policy of the late statesman and founder of the ruling New Democracy party, Constantine Karamanlis, who developed healthy, close and preferential ties with the Arab world, which he said has always maintained a positive stance on Greece's national issues in the international organizations.
 Tourism minister to Turkey's 'Pazar': Greece and Turkey can build 'model relations' if they resist populism
ISTANBUL 7/12/2004 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)Greece and Turkey can build model good relations, as long as they don't allow themselves to get carried away by populism, Greek Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said in an interview with the magazine 'Pazar', a supplement inserted in the Sunday edition of the Turkish newspaper "Hurriyet".
In the interview, Avramopoulos said initiatives being taken jointly by the Greek and Turkish governments for economic cooperation could allow the peoples of the two countries to become more familiar with one another, discover remarkable similarities in their way of life and culture, and thus not be driven by the prejudices of the past.
"One condition for this is to not reverse the new climate that has been created through actions that should not take place and to not get carried away by populism," Avramopoulos noted. In the interview, he also pointed out the role that tourism could play in bridging the "psychological distance" between the two peoples.
The minister stressed the very good relationship between Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, underlining that they both desired to nurture the development of Greek-Turkish ties.
 Gov't seeks to tone up ties between Greece, Arab countries
Athens 7/12/2004 (ANA)The government has a strategy to revitalize traditional ties between Greece and the Middle East, with special emphasis on boosting economic links, Deputy Foreign Minister Euripides Stylianidis said on Monday.
"The Greek government today is promoting a new concept and role as determined by our geo-political position, that of a bridge for culture, communications and growth-oriented ties and cooperation with the Arab world and the European Union," Stylianidis told an international conference on investment in the Arab world and the role of the media, the first event of its kind to be held in Greece.
"Underpinning this role was a recent visit to Egypt by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and the message is that the Greek government will assist every effort aiming to advance business opportunities in the Middle East, the eastern Mediterranean and north Africa," said Stylianidis, who handles the country's economic diplomacy.
The Middle East was a major market with new opportunities and a potential for continuous growth, he noted.
The foreign ministry will become the powerhouse of planning and coordination of endeavors on a diplomatic level by upgrading embassy economic departments and providing information, including creation of an internet portal.
Bilateral trade with countries of the Middle East showed a surplus in recent years, except Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia due to oil imports, which shows the need for an active Greek presence, Stylianidis stressed.
A tool to further cooperation was the creation of joint business councils, he added.
Delegates to the conference also looked at the investment climate in the southeastern Mediterranean in relation to the Arab countries; business ties between those countries and Greece; and the role of the media.
The two-day conference, which ends on Tuesday, was arranged by three non-government organizations: the Greek Leadership Communications Institute, Humanitarian and Euro-cultural Growth and Cooperation (HEDA-GREECE), and the Mediterranean Cooperation Institute.
 Gov't sets priority on renewable energy
Athens 7/12/2004 (ANA)The government has set a major priority on renewable energy alongside conventional sources, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said on Monday.
"For the first time, due to the development ministry's policy, renewable energy sources have obtained a powerful position next to electricity, natural gas and liquid fuel," Sioufas told a business meeting arranged by the Greek-German Chamber of Trade and Industry and the Federation of Solar Industry.
Among measures the government was taking were a simplification of red tape in the award of operating licenses; and incentives to private investors contained in a new development bill due for a parliamentary vote, the minister said.
Deputy Development Minister George Salagoudis told representatives of 35 German and Greek firms that around 85 million euros of direct foreign investments had come to the country's renewable energy sector in the last three months.
 Meimarakis discusses budget with GSEE management
Athens 7/12/2004 (ANA)Vangelis Meimarakis, Secretary of ruling New Democracy's Central Committee, met with the leadership of the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) on Monday and assured them that New Democracy is in favor of dialogue and considers GSEE a main social interlocutor.
Meimarakis emphasized that the government has put together a budget that focuses on regional development and on reducing social and regional inequalities. "Our focus is health care, education and growth," Meimarakis told GSEE's leadership.
GSEE President Christos Polyzogopoulos said that issues relating to the budget were discussed and that trade unionists briefed Meimarakis on their views and the demonstration scheduled for December 15. Polyzogopoulos said that the budget does not address the issues of development and employment, while the section relating to wages keeps employees' salaries stationary.
Polyzogopoulos also said that trade unionists asked Meimarakis to tell the government that employees will not accept changes to the insurance system that will undermine existing insurance rights and the viability of the Social Insurance Fund (IKA).
 Budget revenue up 16.08% in November
Athens 7/12/2004 (ANA)Budgetary revenue rose by 16.08% in November, 2004 versus the same month a year earlier to total 3.3 billion euros, the finance ministry said in a statement on Monday.
In January-November revenue totalled 37.9 billion euros, up 5.48% on the same period of 2003, the statement said.
The government hopes to increase total budgetary revenue in 2004 by 6.2%, it added.
 Mutual fund assets rise
Athens 7/12/2004 (ANA)Total assets of Greek mutual funds were 31.32 billion euros on November 30, 2004, up 262 million euros from the end of the previous month, the Union of Institutional Investors said in a monthly report released on Monday.
The increase in mutual fund assets from the start of the year was 924 million euros, marking a 3.0% rise, the report said.
 Stocks drop in blue-chip selling
Athens 7/12/2004 (ANA)Stocks finished lower with players selectively selling high capitalization paper, traders said.
The Athens general share index closed at 2,663.52 points, showing a decline of 0.25%. Turnover was 135.2 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.29% down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.48% up; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.37% percent higher.
Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 161 to 118 with 72 remaining unchanged.
 PM Karamanlis praises 2004 Olympics legacy at event honoring volunteers
Athens 7/12/2004 (ANA)Volunteers' contribution is significant and multidimensional, and is not limited only to their important social work, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said Monday, addressing a health ministry event to award volunteers and volunteer organizations.
With their example, the premier said, volunteers belie the theory that maximization of material goods is the ultimate goal, and prove that one cannot be happy when there is pain, poverty, illness and suffering around him. Volunteers, he added, prove that uniting efforts in achieving common goals has both meaning and tangible results.
The premier said that the biggest gain from the Olympic Games was the realization that "when we unite forces, and put aside all the little things that divide us in the face of all the big and significant things that unite us, we can achieve many and great things".
He said the success of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games proved that participation in the common effort is a source of great joy and satisfaction, "and this legacy from the Games is, for all of us, a huge source of self-confidence and optimism, and is the best antidote to misery and fault-finding.
Karamanlis noted that the Olympic and Paralympic Games had rendered the volunteer movement accessible to the entire Greek society, dissolved the doubts of even the most dubious and cynical. "I want to make it clear that I disagree with the view that volunteerism is supposedly foreign to Greek reality. The family in the neighborhoods, the local societies, particularly in the periphery...the desire to contribute is great and contributes exclusively to caring for our lesser privileged compatriots".
"The challenge in the post-Olympics era is to render the experience from the Games a strong foundation on which we will build the society of participation and solidarity, cohesion and humanity that we envision and deserve," Karamanlis said.
 Kaklamanis at EU Council of Health Ministers
BRUSSELS 7/12/2004 (ANA/V. Demiris)The combatting of AIDS in the European Union and in the neighboring countries, paediatric medicine, nutrition and obesity were the main issues discussed at the EU Council of Health Ministers which was held here on Monday.
The Greek positions were expounded by Health and Social Solidarity Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis.
Addressing the meeting, Kaklamanis said that what was needed for the effective combatting of AIDS was a new political will and commitment by the member-states but also real inter-ministerial cooperation based on national strategies through the securing of more funds by the national budgets.
 Outgoing U.S. Ambassador Miller awarded Medal of the City of Athens
Athens 7/12/2004 (ANA)Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni on Monday awarded the Medal of the City of Athens to outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Athens Thomas Miller.
After the awarding ceremony, Bakoyianni said: «As you know, the ambassador of the United States of America, Mr. Miller, is leaving Greece after a long stay in our country. The Municipality of Athens awarded him the Medal of the City for the cooperation we had all these years in many sectors, among them the cooperation we had during the course of the Olympic Games where his contribution was extremely constructive. We wished him every success in his new duties and we hope that the next American ambassador will have the same good cooperation with us."
On his part, Miller said:"It is a great honor for us, for my wife and me. We are in Greece for almost nine years, we made many friends and I wish to thank Mrs. Bakoyianni very much for all our cooperation during the period of the Olympic Games but also before the Games. I believe that the relations between the U.S. and Greece are very good and will remain so. I again thank you for the great honor for me."
 Greek-Bulgarian meeting on reducing pollution of Nestos River
Athens 7/12/2004 (ANA)Scientists, environmental groups and representatives of regional authorities and local government in Greece and Bulgaria met on Monday to discuss ways of reducing pollution of the Nestos River, which runs through southern Bulgarian and northern Greece. The meeting was held in Bulgaria and those present decided to hold another meeting in February, at which they will be better prepared and that will be attended by government officials who will be able agree on measures to protect the river, including building infrastructure with European Union funding.
Residents in Drama have complained repeatedly in recent years to Bulgarian authorities about industrial wastes, residues and tons of ordinary rubbish that are thrown into the Nestos River on the other side of the border, causing extensive pollution and contamination that also includes cultivated land.
 Air France plane on Paris-Tel Aviv flight lands in Athens after detection of technical problem
Athens 7/12/2004 (ANA)An Air France plane on a flight from Paris to Tel Aviv landed at Athens' "Eleftherios Venizelos" International Airport on Monday after a technical fault was detected on the Airbus A-320.
The pilot of Flight AF 1620 detected a technical problem in the control system while over the Mediterranean and at about 2:30 p.m. contacted the Athens Airport Control Tower which permitted the aircraft carrying 143 passengers to land. The plane landed safely at 14:50 p.m.
The passengers were led to the airport lounge and will depart for their destination with flights of other airlines and if tickets are not found, they will stay overnight at a hotel at the airline company's expense and depart for Tel Aviv on Tuesday.
 Greek President receives members of volunteer groups active in health and welfare work
Athens 7/12/2004 (ANA)President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos on Monday received members of volunteer organizations that are active in the areas of health and welfare work, who were awarded at a special event organized by the Health and Social Welfare Ministry and the state broadcaster ERT to mark World Day for Volunteerism.
 Weak earthquakes
Athens 7/12/2004 (ANA)Four weak earthquakes measuring approximately 4 on the Richter scale were recorded during the night (Sunday night to Monday morning) in the Saronic Gulf, Aetoloakarnania, and Magnisia.
Two quakes were recorded at 1:41 a.m. and 4:08 a.m. in the Saronic Gulf, emanating from the Saronic fault, and were felt mainly in Faliron and Piraeus, while the other two quakes were felt in Agrinio and Volos.
 Cypriot FM says Cyprus seeking to normalize relations with Turkey
NICOSIA 7/12/2004 (CNA/ANA)Cypriot Minister of Foreign Affairs George Iacovou said on Monday it is certainly the aim of the Republic of Cyprus to seek the normalization of relations with the Republic of Turkey, constructively utilizing the opportunities presented by December 17th.
Speaking before the 12th meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council, taking place in Sofia on December 6 and 7, Iacovou said ''we are convinced that a process of normalization will engender further positive developments for all concerned.''
''In this context we hope that Turkey will terminate its opposition towards Cyprus' accession to the Open Skies Treaty. At the same time, we remain committed to seeking, the soonest possible, a comprehensive negotiated settlement of the Cyprus problem consistent with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the principles and values upon which the EU is founded,'' he added.
Iacovou also said ''Cyprus' accession to the European Union on 1st May 2004 has improved our sense of security,'' noting however that ''the underlying problem of foreign occupation persists together with continuing colonization and secessionist activities.''
The Cypriot minister furthermore noted that Cyprus has already commenced the destruction of all its stockpiles of anti-personnel landmines, in fulfillment of its obligations under the Ottawa Convention.
''Furthermore, in a unilateral step designed to enhance confidence, we are proceeding, in cooperation with the UN, in the de-mining of the UN controlled buffer zone,'' he said, stressing that ''we expect Turkey to mirror image these activities in the near future.''
Iacovou also said that to meet today's challenges the OSCE needs to adhere strictly to its values and principles by maintaining a careful balance regarding its three core dimensions: the politico-military, the economic and environmental and the human dimension.
The minister, who is heading the Cyprus delegation at the 12th meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council, had meetings with his counterparts of other countries on the sidelines of the Ministerial Council meeting.