|Friday, 16 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-12-08
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>December 8, 2004
 PM Karamanlis hands text of Greek positions on Turkey's EU accession course to EU president Balkenende
Athens 8/12/2004 (ANA)Prime minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday delivered the text of Greece's positions on Turkey's EU accession course to Dutch prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende, current president of the European Council, who was on a brief visit to Athens ahead of the December 16-17 EU summit in Brussels.
Talks between the two men focused on the second draft of Conclusions for the summit prepared by the Dutch EU presidency which, according to the Turkish media, was more negative for Turkey in relation to the first draft.
Balkenende departed shortly after noon for Nicosia, where he is due to meet with Cyprus president Tassos Papadopoulos for talks on Turkey's EU prospect.
Meanwhile, Karamanlis leaves later Tuesday or a three-day official visit to Moscow, where he will hold talks with Russian president Vladimir Putin and other government officials on bilateral relations and international issues.
Foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos on Tuesday said that a meeting earlier in the day between Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and the head of the European Union's rotating presidency, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, was a "significant step" in the process of drafting the conclusions of the European Council meeting that will take place on December 17.
Balkenende's visit to Athens took place in the framework of the customary tour of EU member-state capitals carried out by the European presidency prior to the EU summit. The Dutch prime minister's next stop is Nicosia, where he will discuss the issue of setting a date for the start of accession negotiations with Turkey - the key issue to be addressed during this summit - with the Cyprus government.
During his meeting with Karamanlis, the Greek premier further clarified Greek positions and outlined Greek sensitivities and priorities on the issues to be discussed at the summit, while Koumoutsakos hinted broadly that this centered chiefly on the issue of Turkey's accession negotiations.
 Karamanlis arrives on official visit to Russia
MOSCOW 8/12/2004 (ANA/A.Panagopoulos)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis arrived at Moscow's Vnukovo Airport Tuesday evening, following an invitation by Russia's President Vladimir Putin.
"Relations between Greece and Russia are undergoing dynamic development in many areas of bilateral and multilateral cooperation," Karamanlis said. He explained that the purpose of his visit is to "expand on this cooperation." Karamanlis also announced that two agreements will be signed during his visit concerning further strengthening of relations and Greek economic activity.
Karamanlis will meet with Putin on Thursday, after which bilateral agreements will be signed. Among these is a plan for political and economic cooperation, which will be coordinated by the corresponding ministries, as well as a text regarding the fight against terrorism.
Aside from bilateral relations, Karamanlis, in an interview to the news agency Novosty, emphasized that other topics of discussion will include the Cyprus issue, Greek-Turkish relations, the situation in the Balkans and EU-Russian relations.
Asked about military cooperation between the two countries and the possible procurement of Russian military equipment, Karamanlis replied: "Russia is one of our most important partners in this sector. There is already a close cooperation and of course any future case will be addressed within the framework of open market procedures."
On Wednesday morning, Karamanlis will meet with members of the Greek community and will give a medal of honor to the son of G. Kanidis, a Greek who was killed in the hostage situation in Beslan, sending a message against terrorism.
He will also meet with Patriarch Alexios, with the Chairman of the Council of the Federation Sergey Mironov. In the afternoon, Karamanlis will meet with Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov.
Escorting Karamanlis on his official visit to Russia are his wife Natasha; Government Spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos; and Deputy Foreign Ministers Yiannis Valinakis, Evripidis Stylianidis, and Panayiotis Skandalakis.
 Greece participating in UN Security Council as observer ahead of assumption of non-permanent seat on Jan. 1
New York 8/12/2004 (ANA/P. Panagiotou)Greece has been participating as an observer in all the proceedings of the UN Security Council as of December 1, in light of its assumption of a temporary seat on the Council as of the new year for a two-year term, UN secretary general Kofi Annan's spokesman Fred Eckhard told a regular press briefing on Monday.
Eckhard said that a note has been issued by the Security Council president saying that the "newly elected Council members, whose terms won't begin until 1 January, have been invited to attend the informal consultations of the whole, as well as both formal and informal meetings of the subsidiary bodies of the Council", adding that this applied to Argentina, Denmark, Greece, Japan and Tanzania.
The five countries were elected to non-permanent seats on the UN Security Council during a vote on October 15, and will be succeeding Angola, Germany, Spain, Pakistan and Chile.
In addition to the five permanent members of the Security Council (US. Britain, France, Russia and China), which have a right of veto, current non-permanent members Algeria, Benin, Brazil, the Philippines and Romania will also remain on the Council until the expiry of their two-year term at the end of 2005.
 OSCE ministerial summit concludes without a joint declaration
SOFIA 8/12/2004 (ANA/B.Borisov)The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) ministerial summit concluded here on Tuesday without a joint declaration being adopted, due to a lack of consensus which is required. The countries who disagreed were not officially named, but according to news reports, they might be Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine.
Belarus' Foreign Minister Sergey Martinov accused the OSCE of simply processing decisions made by others, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov emphasized the need to reform the OSCE, since due to a lack of reform dozens of conflicts that fall under the organization's jurisdiction remain unresolved. He also accused the OSCE of using "double standards" in the monitoring of elections. Lavrov strongly suggested that the OSCE adopt uniform standards in election monitoring, saying that if solid commitments to reforming the organization are not made, Russia will not approve the OSCE's 2005 budget.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell said that the US continues to be concerned over the unfulfilled promises for democracy and the respect for basic civil liberties in certain OSCE member states, adding that the US is still concerned about the situation in Russia.
On his part, Bulgaria's Foreign Minister Solomon Passy said: "It would be overambitious of us to expect absolute consensus on all issues in a family of 55 countries." He noted, however, that 21 documents were unanimously agreed upon concerning the fight against terrorism, dialogue and tolerance among nations, as well as suggestions to host OSCE conferences in Central Asia and other parts of the world.
The ministerial summit concluded with Passy making a statement regarding the situation in the Ukraine. Specifically, Passy called on all institutions in the Ukraine to abide by the December 3 decision of the country's Supreme Court and to guarantee that the second round of presidential elections will reflect the free will of the Ukrainian people. Passy called upon OSCE member states to provide the necessary resources and means for a large number of OSCE observers to monitor the Ukrainian election. Finally, Passy emphasized that the OSCE continues to support the independence, territorial integrity and the inviolability of the Ukraine's borders.
 SAE President Athens says Greek-Americans 'angered' by U.S. decision to recognize FYROM as 'Republic of Macedonia'
Athens 8/12/2004 (ANA)World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) President Andrew Athens has said that the decision of the U.S. government to recognize the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) with its constitutional name "Republic of Macedonia" has angered the Greek-American community.
Speaking on Tuesday to Thessaloniki's television station Cosmos, Athens stressed that the re-elected U.S. President George W. Bush "tricked" the Greek-American community.
"It was the first time I got angry. Particularly, I referred to (National Security Adviser) Condoleezza Rice that we cannot understand that two days after the elections you did such a thing. You helped the Skopjans (inhabitants of FYROM) and brushed Greece aside. I do not accept this," the SAE president said, adding that "all the Greek-Americans are angry."
"You cannot understand how they feel because we supported President Bush very much and this was the thank you. We did not know that he would do such a thing and we could not battle something we did not know. But we will not stop here," Athens warned in conclusion.
 UNICE in favor of Turkey's EU accession talks to begin
BRUSSELS 8/12/2004 (ANA/A.Simatos)The Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederation of Europe (UNICE) is in favor of EU accession talks for Turkey to begin - based on the conditions and procedures set out by the European Commission - according to a statement it issued on Tuesday.
According to UNICE, further strengthening of stable, solid and long-term economic relations between the EU and Turkey is an important factor for businesses in Europe.
UNICE believes that the report and corresponding proposal of the European Commission, publicized October 6, serves as a stable and balanced foundation in relation to the EU beginning accession talks with Turkey.
In its statement, UNICE notes that the Commission report underlines the progress Turkey has made regarding the economic and political criteria of Copenhagen, but also emphasizes the areas where more work needs to be done. For this reason, UNICE believes that it is important for developments in Turkey to be followed closely, in order to support reform, but also to monitor the EU's ability to assimilate new members, while promoting integration.
 Parliament's fact-finding committee urged to look into press reports on defense procurements
Athens 8/12/2004 (ANA)Ruling New Democracy's parliamentary representative Vyron Polydoras on Tuesday urged the Parliamentary committee investigating alleged irregularities in defense procurements contracts to also look into press reports regarding suspicious foreign bank accounts that may belong to high-ranking members of main opposition PASOK that were involved in defense procurements.
The papers also referred to video tapes showing negotiations with middlemen for arms dealers.
MPs from both the ruling party and the main opposition, however, stressed that none of the evidence referred to by the press reports in question had been presented to the committee officially, though ND MP Christos Zois, speaking on behalf of ruling party MPs taking part in the proceedings, said he would look into the new evidence to determine if an investigation was merited.
 MINEPS IV conference - Cuba's Juantorena talks to ANA
Athens 8/12/2004 (ANA)Cuba's Sports Minister and 1976 Olympic gold medalist Alberto Juantorena on Tuesday expressed enthusiasm, in statements he made to the Athens News Agency (ANA), regarding the rate of progress achieved at the 4th International Conference of Ministers and Senior Officials Responsible for Sport and Physical Education (MINEPS IV), which opened in Athens on Monday.
"Cuba's suggestions mostly concern a decisive presence of physical education and sport within the educational systems of member nations and in further developing laboratory analysis for the fight against doping. Physical exercise promotes an individual's well-being and we are called upon, on a governmental level, to promote citizens' involvement with sports," Juantorena told the ANA.
Asked to comment on Cuba's proposals regarding women's participation at a decision-making level in sports, Juantorena replied: "We would be nothing without women. As in everything else, in sports too, women's presence is necessary."
Speaking of what he expects from the conference, Juantorena said that he hopes the Athens Declaration will be finalized, implemented and adhered to by all governments. "This is a historical step in promoting and protecting sport worldwide," he said.
Earlier in the day, Cuba's sports minister met with Deputy Culture Minister responsible for sports George Orfanos.
The conference is being organized by the Greek sports ministry in cooperation with UNESCO.
 Finmin says fiscal data saga has ended in wake of EU report
BRUSSELS 8/12/2004 (ANA/M Spinthourakis)Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Tuesday that the matter had ended of wrong fiscal data given by Greece to the European Union in past years, following a report released by the bloc attributing responsibility for the affair.
In a statement released to media, the EU's finance ministers accepted findings of the bloc's executive Commission that blamed past Greek authorities for repeatedly delivering inaccurate data from 1997 to 2003 but also questioned the endorsement in 2000 by Eurostat, the EU's statistics agency, of Greek figures about which it had qualms.
The ministers also acknowledged a move by the current Greek government to expose the faulty data, and its subsequent close co-operation with Eurostat to settle long-standing open questions on budget statistics.
Alogoskoufis told reporters after the ministers' meeting that he welcomed the areas of accountability stated in the conclusions, pledging that practices of the last government would not be repeated under the new administration, which won national elections in March 2004.
"From now on, the Greek side will do what is required in order to make it absolutely clear that in the future the Greek economy will not face a problem of credibility over its fiscal data," Alogoskoufis said.
The minister also noted that under current EU accounting practices, Greece would not have met the criteria for entry into the eurozone, but it did under methodology in force at the time. As a result, no shadows remained about the country's eligibility for membership.
Turning to the future, Alogoskoufis said that the government's main target was to shrink state deficits through a strategy of mild adaptation based on budgetary allowances for 2005.
"Our aim is to attain fiscal equilibrium while toning up economic growth; to lower joblessness; and to reinforce the social state," he noted.
The minister also said that the Commission may ask Greece at its next session to lower its fiscal deficit under procedures detailed in article 104, paragraphs 8 and 9 of the EU pact.
The point was for Greece to obtain a two-year extension to bring the fiscal deficit below 3.0% of gross domestic product, the EU's ceiling; but the target was likely to be achieved or at least approached within 2005.
The Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Joaquín Almunia, told reporters that beyond Greek authorities, all parties involved in evaluating the data sent by member states to Brussels bore their share of the responsibility.
 EU finmins vow to review the bloc's statistics governance in report on Greek data
BRUSSELS 8/12/2004 (ANA/A Simatos)The European Union's finance ministers on Tuesday released their conclusions on Greek fiscal data in past years, following an enquiry by Eurostat, the EU's statistics agency.
The conclusions include a decision to return to the question of how governance may be improved in the EU's statistical system.
The full text of the conclusions is as follows.
"The figures on the budget deficit and public debt of Greece for the period since 1997, as set out in the final report by Eurostat, confirm that, on the basis of ESA95, the budget deficits have been consistently above the reference value since 1997 and that the debt to GDP ratio has not diminished and approached the reference value as required by Article 104 of the Treaty.
The Council acknowledges the initiative of the Greek government and its close co-operation with Eurostat to settle long-standing open questions on budget statistics and to bring them in line with the ESA 95 requirements.
The scope and size of the past revisions in the Greek case are unprecedented and very serious, particularly as regards the overall credibility of the multilateral surveillance framework.
Reliable and timely statistics are essential for economic policy-making and multilateral surveillance and a crucial precondition for effective Council decision-making.
The ministers therefore welcome the Commission report on accountability, which sets out the Commission's analysis of responsibility for the persistent failings in the provision and verification of accurate data.
First, the report makes it clear that the Greek statistical authorities have for a long time not provided accurate information to Eurostat. They also suffered from a serious lack of capacity to provide the required data. Ministers urge the Greek authorities to draw the necessary conclusions.
Second, the Council regards it as another serious cause for concern that, as the report acknowledges, Eurostat validated the critical March 2000 EDP notification data of Greece, in spite of significant open issues related to the fiscal data.
Third, the Commission's and the ECB's Convergence Reports failed to emphasize to the Council potential problems with regard to Greek budgetary statistics. Fourth, while it is the primary responsibility of the Commission to assess the data provided by Member States, the EFC and the Council could have paid greater attention to the quality of the data reported by each government.
The Council takes note of the Commission's decision to launch an infringement procedure as a practical consequence of its accountability report.
The Council will return to the issue of how to improve the governance in the European statistical system early next year."
 'Main shareholder' bill clearly not any kind of compromise, gov't spokesman stresses
Athens 8/12/2004 (ANA)The measures presented in a draft bill for 'main shareholders' that bans media owners from taking on state contracts "show clearly that this government does not compromise with anyone", government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos stressed on Tuesday in response to reports that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had been contacted by prominent business people before the bill was made public.
Commenting on the reception of the bill in general, meanwhile, Roussopoulos said it was natural that it should bother some parties.
"When someone tries to put in order a scene that was previously lawless and structured in a way that suited specific interests, this causes displeasure. But there have also been some very positive messages from the public," he said.
Asked to clarify articles in the bill that prevent relatives of state contractors from being main shareholders in the media while leaving the field free for the relatives of ministers and MPs, Roussopoulos pointed out that political figures were obliged to submit detailed means and assets statements and subject to related inspections.
He also underlined that the government would definitely look into complaints about corruption or graft regarding MPs and political figures, in a way that the previous government had not.
According to Roussopoulos, the government's aim was to bring a bill to Parliament that enforced the Constitution and did not leave open any 'loopholes' for corruption, given that the previous law "left open 'windows' to graft that had to be closed in the spirit and the letter of the Constitution."
The spokesman categorically denied any disagreement within the government regarding the bill, pointing out that the cabinet meeting to discuss the bill on Monday had been one of the shortest ever for the present government, even though it concerned several ministries. He also noted that Monday's presentation had focused chiefly on the spirit of the new law and a detailed outline had yet to be released.
On reactions from main opposition PASOK MPs that the bill was "unenforceable and unclear", the government spokesman said PASOK should come out and clearly state whether it agreed with the measures or not and present any proposals that it considered to be better.
"PASOK has made vague observations, proposals that do not reflect reality and voiced views that are expressed by those adversely affected by the measures. We await from PASOK a comprehensive position that tackles the matter in hand," he said.
The spokesman refused to comment, however, on similar statements made by the head of the Union of Greek Industry (SEB) Odysseas Kyriakopoulos that criticized the government bill, saying that Kyriakopoulos "was not a political figure".
 Greece wants working time set through collective pacts
BRUSSELS 8/12/2004 (ANA/V Demiris)Greece believes that working time should be arranged on the basis of collective agreements and negotiations, Labor and Social Protection Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos said on Tuesday.
Speaking after a meeting of EU employment ministers in the Belgian capital, Panayiotopoulos said that a joint proposal had been put forward on working time by five countries - Greece, France, Spain, Belgium and Sweden - seeking a gradual abolition of exemptions allowed in the social sector.
At the same time, a ten-year transition period should be granted so that countries with differing traditions in industrial relations, such as the United Kingdom, could gradually adjust to new conditions, the minister told reporters.
The five-country proposal coincided with the majority in the European Parliament, he added.
The ministers' meeting focused on revision of the EU's working time directive.
A Commission proposal of September 28 updated key aspects of the original 1993 directive to respond to needs of the modern economy whilst protecting the health and safety of workers.
The proposal retains the individual opt-out from the 48-hour maximum working week but also makes it subject to collective bargaining where collective agreements are possible.
It also provides that time spent on call that is not actually worked does not need to be counted as working time and, makes arrangements for calculating the average 48-hour maximum working week more flexible.
 Arab-Greek conference on investments and the role of the mass media in the Arab world concludes
Athens 8/12/2004 (ANA)The Arab-Greek conference on investments and the role of the mass media in the Arab world ended Tuesday and reached the following conclusion. The mass media and particularly television play a decisive role in making countries, such as those of the Arab world, attractive to investors. Many Arab countries, while offering many good prospects, are frequently portrayed as unstable and consequently high-risk for investment, due to political events. The "diplomacy of the mass media" along with governments can be a firm link for two-way economic development between Greece and Arab countries seeking closer cooperation with the European Union.
The two-day conference, which brought together for the first time interested parties from both sides, was organized with great success by three non-governmental organizations - the Greek Institute of communication LEADERSHIP, the Development and Euro-cultural Development and Cooperation HEDA-GREECE and the Foundation of Mediterranean Cooperation.
 Stocks rise to hit new year's record
Athens 8/12/2004 (ANA)Stocks finished higher with players buying into high- and medium-capitalization paper to take the market to a new year's high, traders said.
The Athens general share index closed at 2,688.66 points, posting a rise of 0.94%. Turnover was 194.0 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.91% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 1.99% up; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.79% percent higher.
Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 183 to 104 with 74 remaining unchanged.
 PM Karamanlis presents plan for post-Olympic use of Olympic facilities
Athens 8/12/2004 (ANA)Prime Minister and Culture Minister Costas Karamanlis and Alternate Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia on Tuesday outlined the government's plan for the post-Olympic use of Olympic facilities. Key features of the plan are an emphasis on the social benefits of such post-Olympic use, with the majority of facilities remaining under state ownership and with the least possible commercial exploitation.
Referring to the "intangible" legacy of the Athens Olympic Games, Karamanlis said that its size was not easy to determine with accuracy but that it had a multiplying effect on upgrading the country's image abroad and acting as a pole of attraction for productive investments and tourism.
He stressed that the Olympic facilities had become known worldwide during the transmission of the Athens Olympics and that they more than fulfilled the specifications in terms of function, accessibility and aesthetics, acting as symbols of Greece in the new era.
"We are determined to capitalize on this added value of the facilities for the good of the social whole," Karamanlis said, noting that the government intended to use developmental rather than strictly financial criteria in the way it made use of Olympic facilities.
"We will direct utilization to uses that will, in the medium or long-term, prove more socially, culturally and economically beneficial for the citizens," he said.
Finally, Karamanlis emphasized that complete transparency, with open public and international tenders coupled with clear terms and conditions was a central choice for the government. He also noted that the final choices on the use of the facilities will be made after broad, intensive and open dialogue with local communities.
The government's plan was then broken down in more detail by Palli-Petralia, who also announced plans for a new regional development program called "Greece 2005-2007", during which 300 million euros will be spent on 1,500 infrastructure projects outside the capital.
She said the ministry is currently preparing a bill that will provide a firm legal basis for the proposed uses of each facility and that the ministry had earmarked 85 million euros for their maintenance in 2005, though noting that much of that money will not be spent until the end of the next year.
Within Attica, she said that a number of Olympic sites, including the Schinias Rowing Centre, the Equestrian Centre in Markopoulos, the southern coastal zone and Helliniko will be adapted into major parks and centers for recreation, in addition to hosting sports events and providing venues for amateur sports lovers.
She noted that it was possible to build a hotel unit at Markopoulos, while the Shooting Centre in the same district will be used for both sports but also as a shooting range for the training of Greek security forces. Sites at Helliniko, she added, will be used as areas of theme sports, cultural and recreational activities, within the framework of existing plans for a major Metropolitan Park.
Others, such as the Ano Liossia Olympic Hall, the Main Press Centre and the International Broadcasting Centre, will be adapted to other uses. Specifically, she said the Ano Liossia facility will become a Technology and Arts Centre that will house academies for dance, cinema, theatre and music, as well as the National Digital Museum.
The Weight-Lifting Centre in Nikaia will remain a sport, arts and recreational centre after problems with access are resolved, while the Galatsi Indoor Hall will act as a venue for sports, cultural events and business activities.
The IBC is destined to house a Greek Olympic Games Museum, while the greater part of the facility will be made available for multiple business use, and the MPC will house the Environment, Town Planning and Public Works ministry.
The minister particularly stressed the importance of the main Olympic complex, saying this was designed as one of the key post-Olympic attractions in Athens, which apart from sports activity would also be a place for Greeks and foreigners to visit in order to view the Calatrava dome, the Agora and the 'Wall of Nations' in a unique 'Olympic Walk'.
Another area earmarked as a key attraction and a "symbol of a modern European metropolis" is the coastal zone from the Peace and Friendship Stadium in Faliro to Agios Kosmas, which will be an area to which both visitors and Athens residents will have easy access for recreation, marine and other sports, or simply as a place to walk, have coffee or eat out. This will be further enhanced by the Metropolitan Conference Centre with a capacity of 5,000 in Faliro and a marina with high international-standard specifications at Agios Kosmas.
Mihaloliakos comments on post-Olympic period: Deputy Defense Minister Vassilis Mihaloliakos emphasized the need to capitalize on the benefits Greece gained as a result of the Olympic Games in vital sectors such as shipping, tourism and commerce, in statements he made at the 2nd Piraeus Conference on Tuesday.
Michaloliakos reiterated that the government will ensure the complete utilization of community funds in a completely transparent manner and will proceed to turn over the Sakeliona and Papadogeorgi Military Camps to the Municipality of Piraeus.
The conference titled "Investment Opportunities in Piraeus - The Post-Olympic Period and the Future" was organized by the financial daily "Express."
PASOK and KKE comment on govt's plan for post-Olympic use of sports facilities: Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) coordinators acknowledged that there are positive points to the plan presented by Alternate Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia on Tuesday, regarding post-Olympic use of sports facilities, since it's similar in design with the 2003 plan, but valuable time has been lost, sources said.
The coordinators, who convened in Parliament, claimed that the minister's announcement regarding change of land use in Attica was vague, but they found interesting the proposal that the Ano Liossia Olympic Hall be used for cultural events.
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) was harsher in its criticism, saying that "the essence of the plan for the post-Olympic use of sports facilities which hurts the working classes, cannot be hidden behind terms, such as 'public property,' 'development management', 'transparent bidding processes,' and others which the government has used."
KKE emphasized that "Olympic facilities are being given to big business to manage - in other words to exploit - along with free spaces, such as Helliniko, which will lead to mass cement structures."
Finally, KKE concludes: "The Greek people, who paid dearly for the Olympic facilities, are called upon to pay again for their use."
 PASOK leader Papandreou meets with Olympic Games volunteers
Athens 8/12/2004 (ANA)"We had a very pleasant discussion on volunteerism. We made a program of meetings and travels to Brussels, utilizing the right of many Eurodeputies to invite citizens of our country and we want to see how volunteerism, after the experience of the Olympic Games, will become standard practice in everyday life and within the parties," main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou said on Tuesday. Papandreou met with volunteers of the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games, who, at the initiative of PASOK, and after a draw, visited the European Parliament in Brussels.
Earlier, Papandreou met with the presidium of the Greek Association of Young Entrepreneurs, who, according to its president Andreas Stefanidis, briefed him on the problems and opportunities of the sector.
 Alternate culture minister to inaugurate 'Alexander the Great' exhibition in New York
NEW YORK 8/12/2004 (ANA/P. Panagiotou)Alternate Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia will inaugurate on Thursday night the exhibition "Alexander the Great: Treasures of an epic era of Hellenism" at the cultural centre of the Alexander Onassis Foundation in Manhattan.
Palli-Petralia will give a press conference at the foundation on Wednesday, while on the evening of the same day she will speak at Columbia University on the Athens Olympic Games legacy.
Palli-Petralia will also meet with city cultural officials, museum staff, Archbishop Demetrios of America and members of the Greek-American community.
 Balkenende: Recognition of Cyprus linked with Ankara Agreement
NICOSIA 8/12/2004 (CNA/ANA)The adaptation of the Ankara Agreement (EU-Turkey Customs Union) is possibly the cornerstone for the solution of the issue of the recognition of the Republic of Cyprus by Turkey, Jan Peter Balkenende, current
President of the European Council and Dutch Prime Minister said here on Tuesday.
Speaking after meeting Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos, Balkenende also noted that the Ankara Agreement could help in improving the situation on the Cyprus problem.
In his remarks, Papadopoulos reiterated that Cyprus supports Turkey's EU bid, provided that the country fulfills its obligations towards the EU and Cyprus.
''We want Turkey to be able to help us to be positive in that process. But of course it is the decision of each individual member-state to decide how its interests are safeguarded and how they are best-served,'' Papadopoulos added.
In statements after the meeting Balkenende referred to the upcoming EU Summit on December 17, during which the EU leaders will decide whether to grant Turkey a date to start accession negotiations, noting that ''clearly this decision is of great interest to Cyprus''.
''The decision will have influence on bilateral relations between Turkey and Cyprus and we must make sure that that influence, that effect will be a positive one,'' the Dutch prime minister noted.
Papadopoulos described the work of the Dutch Presidency in finding consensus by all member-states on the Turkish bid as difficult.
''This is not an enviable job I assure you, is difficult,'' he said.
He noted that ''we believe that the Presidency will take into account our positions in the draft conclusions and the arguments to put forward on making these conclusions as widely acceptable as possible amongst the member states.''
Asked if it is possible for Turkey to start accession negotiations with the EU without Turkey recognizing all the member states, Balkenende, said that this issue is linked with the Ankara Agreement.
''The Ankara Agreement is so important because it has to do with relations with the candidates and the member states of the EU and signing the protocol to the Ankara Agreement is of great importance that has to be discussed,'' Balkenende said, adding ''it is not an easy discussion I can tell you, but we are busy with that.''
''So talking about the Ankara agreement is possibly the cornerstone to find the solutions,'' he added.
Balkenende also said that the solution of the Cyprus issue ''is not a part of the Copenhagen Criteria, but we all want to take steps which could lead to the improving the situation, that is what the President talked and we are aware of that.''
''The element of the Ankara agreement could really help to take steps forward so that we are making progress and that is what the President made very clear: we need progress and of course the Presidency of the European Council is certainly advocating that."
Replying to a comment whether Balkenende convinced him that the use of veto by Cyprus in the upcoming Summit is not necessary, Papadopoulos said Cyprus supports the start of accession negotiations between Turkey and the EU ''provided that Turkey will fulfill its obligations to the EU and towards Cyprus.''
''We want Turkey to be able to help us to be positive in that process. But of course it is the decision of each individual member state to decide how its interest is safeguarded and how they are best served. If you expect me to say yes or no, sorry I would not say that,'' Papadopoulos noted.
 Cyprus government 'disappointed' with EU summit draft
NICOSIA 8/12/2004 (CNA/ANA)The Cyprus government has expressed disappointment with a revised draft of the conclusions European Union leaders are expected to adopt at next week's summit.
''Since the draft has been leaked, I would like to express our disappointment with its contents. There is no substantive change and President Papadopoulos will outline our positions later today at his meeting with EU current president, Dutch premier Jan Peter Balkenende,'' Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said here on Tuesday.
He said the third paragraph of the section on Turkey ''merely repeats the wording of the previous draft with the addition that the Ankara agreement will be extended to the ''ten new member states.''
''There is no other change with regard to Cyprus and the problems between us and Turkey,'' he noted.
Responding to questions, he said ''Turkey has to adopt such policies that would signify normalization of its relations with all EU member states and has to make such moves that would be tantamount to recognition of the Republic of Cyprus, before the start of accession negotiations.''
The Spokesman pointed out that this is only the second draft, adding that more will follow before the final draft is presented to the EU leaders at their meeting on December 17, when they will decide whether to begin membership talks with Ankara.
''The final draft is subject to changes at the Council meeting as well,'' he added.
Cyprus maintains that Turkey must recognize the Republic, saying that it would be a paradox to have Ankara seeking Nicosia's positive vote for accession negotiations if it does not recognize the Republic's existence.
 Cyprus spokesman comments on Greece, Russia, USA
NICOSIA 8/12/2004 (CNA/ANA)The Cyprus government has no official information that the USA are threatening with dire repercussions, if Nicosia blocks a decision by the European Union to begin accession negotiations with Turkey, at an EU meeting next week.
Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides also said that Nicosia has the full backing of Athens and stressed that bilateral ties with Russia have always been close and friendly.
Chrysostomides explained on Tuesday that statements to the effect that ''bricks will fall'' on Cyprus if it exercises its right of veto could not be confirmed but noted that the US has officially backed Turkey's European prospective as well as the start of accession negotiations.
''However, if such remarks were made, they are counter-productive and what the US should do is to persuade Turkey to behave in a European manner, acknowledging the fundamental rules that govern EU member states in order to help itself get closer to Europe,'' he said.
Responding to questions, he said it is obvious that Nicosia has the full support of Athens and recalled the latest speech by Greek premier Costas Karamanlis that Turkey should respect international law and that its non recognition of the Republic of Cyprus and the presence of its troops on the island are ''a paradox which is inconsistent with the philosophy and the political reality within the EU.''
The Cypriot spokesman said Karamanlis will discuss the question of Cyprus with Russian President Vladimir Putin at their meeting on Thursday in Moscow.
Chrysostomides said he disagreed with press reports suggesting that Moscow has shifted its position in favor of the Turkish Cypriots, and pointed out that bilateral ties have always been ''traditionally very close and friendly.''
He said the government is in full agreement with Putin's view that people should not be isolated, a clear reference to the Turkish Cypriot community.
 US refrains from comment on need for Turkey to recognize Cyprus
WASHINGTON 8/12/2004 (CNA/ANA)Washington has refrained from any comment on the need for Ankara to recognize Nicosia, a European Union member, as Turkey is seeking to secure a date at next week's EU summit for the start of accession negotiations.
Asked whether the EU should decide on a date for Ankara when it does not recognize Cyprus, Adam Ereli said he did not have ''anything really to add to that beyond what our long-stated position is, while we're not a member of the European Union, we do support Turkey's accession to the EU.''
''The modalities for that is a matter that needs to be negotiated between the European Union and Turkey,'' he added.