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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-12-31

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

December 31, 2004


  • [01] Nine Greeks still missing as confirmed death toll from SE Asia earthquake/tsunami disaster tops 120,000
  • [02] PM sends message of congratulations to new Romanian prime minister
  • [03] EU Commissioner Dimas meets with KKE's Papariga
  • [04] Christodoulos message for New Year
  • [05] Communist Party message for New Year urges joint action against main parties, EU
  • [06] Synaspismos party stresses solidarity with 'poor and disenfranchised' in New Year message
  • [07] President hands out honorary distinctions, pardons to military
  • [08] AHI criticizes EU failure to set direct conditions on Turkey regarding Cyprus issue
  • [09] Deputy Development Minister expects agreement on Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline to be signed by Spring
  • [10] Ruling party secretary expresses full support for government line on 'main shareholder' in media
  • [11] Greece submitted greenhouse emissions trading scheme to EU
  • [12] Greek household debt at 30 pct of GDP in 2004
  • [13] Bank workers union (OTOE) launches campaign to build nursery school in Palestine
  • [14] ASE closing report
  • [15] Reports point to ND support for Lykourezos as chief of pro football clubs association
  • [16] Island of Samothrace suffers damages due to severe weather
  • [17] Cyprus President: no signature, no accession talks for Turkey

  • [01] Nine Greeks still missing as confirmed death toll from SE Asia earthquake/tsunami disaster tops 120,000

    Athens, 31/12/2004 (ANA)

    Nine Greeks continued to be missing in southeast Asia on Thursday, as the confirmed death toll from Sunday's massive 9.0 Richter earthquake and ensuing killer tsunami topped 120,000, as Indonesia raised its death toll to just under 80,000.

    Greek foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos told a press briefing Thursday that, based on corroborated information, nine Greeks continued to be missing in the stricken area, adding that the number of supposed missing persons, for which there were only indications that were exceptionally unclear, had declined.

    Koumoutsakos had clarified Wednesday night that the numbers announced by the ministry of missing Greek holiday-makers in the area when devastation struck referred only to confirmed cases.

    Koumoutsakos made the statement after a meeting Thursday chaired by foreign minister Petros Molyviatis, which was attended by deputy foreign ministers Yannis Valynakis and Panayotis Skandalakis and other ministry officials.

    He said there was "no noteworthy change" in the overall picture, adding that there was still no report of any deaths or serious injuries among Greek holiday-makers in the area.

    Regarding humanitarian aid and volunteer doctors dispatched to the region by Greece, Koumoutsakos said that the first of two military C-130 aircraft was currently in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, where it arrived from the Maldives capital of Male, while its final destination was Phuket.

    The second C-130 departed at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday from Elefsis military airport, after the necessary procedures were completed, with Phuket as its destination. The aircraft carried a team of 25 highly-trained members of the Greek emergency rescue service EMAK with full equipment, who will carry out search and rescue operations.

    Meanwhile, seismology professor Akis Tselentis on Thursday predicted a "major event" in Greece sometime in the next few years, attributing his prediction more to the fact that Greece was a seismogenous country rather than to after-affects from the Indian Ocean quake that struck off Sumatra on Sunday. The "event" could be either a large earthquake at sea, or a smaller-magnitude one on land, "but with substantial repercussions".

    He said that substantial energy was accumulating in areas such as the Aegean Sea, the Ionian Sea and the Corinth Gulf, which could produce a "major" event "in the next two, three or five years".

    Tselentis said the Indian Ocean quake would definitely influence the seismic patterns in Greece.

    Foreign ministry requests tents to send to Sri Lanka: The Foreign Ministry is calling on private individuals, organizations and non-governmental organizations to contribute tents in order to send them to Sri Lanka. The shortage of tents is the most immediate problem facing those in Sri Lanka, according to the first Greek mission which visited the country to assess the damage.

    The tents will be sent to Sri Lanka on Monday or Tuesday by a C-130 military aircraft.

    Greece's 'Solidarity Caravan' appeals for donations of aid for SE Asia: The Greek aid organization Caravan of Solidarity has appealed for donations to help the victims of the killer quake and tsunamis in Southeast Asia. The organization's board has decided that the revenue of the charity shop 'Second Hand' for December and January will be used for this purpose and that it will open a bank account where people had deposit donations.

    The board stressed that the total amount gathered will be used for children left unprotected after the disaster.

    The bank account for donations is 159/480203-99 at the National Bank of Greece and contact lines for the public are 210 3314334, 210 3816886.

    Athens Journalists Union to send aid to media professionals in Southeast Asia: The Athens Journalists Union (ESHEA) Executive Board decided on Thursday to donate 6,000 in aid to journalists and media professionals working in Southeast Asia.

    According to a statement issued by the union, this decision is a first gesture on the part of ESHEA to stand by its colleagues in Sri Lanka and Indonesia after the deadly tsunamis that hit the region on Sunday. In Indonesia alone, 25 journalists lost their lives.

    [02] PM sends message of congratulations to new Romanian prime minister

    Athens, 31/12/2004 (ANA)

    Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday sent a message to Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu, congratulating him on taking over as Romania's new head of government.

    In his message, Karamanlis noted his conviction that the strong bonds of friendship and cooperation between Greece and Romania will be further strengthened during Tariceanu's term.

    He also emphasized Greece's support for Romania's accession to the EU, saying that it looked forward to closer bilateral cooperation after the successful conclusion of accession negotiations during the last European Council in Brussels.

    Tariceanu heads a centrist government forged by a four-party alliance that arose after Romania's inconclusive general elections on November 28. The new cabinet received a vote of confidence from the Romanian Parliament on Tuesday and was sworn in on Wednesday.

    [03] EU Commissioner Dimas meets with KKE's Papariga

    Athens, 31/12/2004 (ANA)

    Greek European Commissioner, Stavros Dimas, on Thursday was received by Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga, with discussions expectedly focusing on the devastating tsunamis that hit several nations bordering on the Indian Ocean on Sunday.

    According to reports, Papariga said she believed the European Union has not allocated enough funds for disaster relief in the stricken areas, while noting that "repercussions of such natural phenomena clearly have class-based features."

    She also called for an early warning system to be implemented.

    Dimas is the European Commission for employment and social affairs.

    [04] Christodoulos message for New Year

    Athens, 31/12/2004 (ANA)

    Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos on Thursday issued his traditional New Year's message, noting that the holiday finds others in a social gathering and others in a more philosophical mood.

    "For us mature people, however, every such day brings us face to face with our unsolved problems..." Christodoulos said.

    The influential Church of Greece head also noted that people of previous times lived a more care-free and peaceful lifestyle.

    [05] Communist Party message for New Year urges joint action against main parties, EU

    Athens, 31/12/2004 (ANA)

    In its message for the New Year on Thursday, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) urged the working and lower middle classes to make "a decisive step for joint action against the anti-working-class politics of (ruling) New Democracy and (main opposition) PASOK and the decisions of the European Union."

    It said that any differences or clashes between the working classes and lower-income strata should take second place to the common struggle against monopolies and imperialism.

    [06] Synaspismos party stresses solidarity with 'poor and disenfranchised' in New Year message

    Athens, 31/12/2004 (ANA)

    In a New Year message on Thursday, the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party stressed "deep shadow cast on new year" by the tragedy in Southeast Asia and expressed a "deep sense of solidarity with the poor, wronged and disenfranchised people of the world and our society" and with the various types of social struggle, anti-war movements and resistance to neoliberal globalization.

    The party noted that working people, youth, women and progressive thinking should be on the front line of struggle in order to "put people above profits".

    It also expresses hope that the new year will intensify the fight against unemployment and to support the weaker economic strata and pledges to continue efforts for a better future for the country and its citizens.

    [07] President hands out honorary distinctions, pardons to military

    Athens, 31/12/2004 (ANA)

    President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos on Thursday handed honorary distinctions, awards and medals in honor of the new year.

    The head of the Athens Olympic Games Organizing Committee, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki was singled out for the prestigious Commander of the Order of Honor medal, while Athens Academy members Emmanuel Roukounas, professor of International law, Nikolaos Konomis, professor of Classical Literature and Galateia Saranti, writer, were named Grand Commander of the Order of the Phoenix.

    The Commander of the Order of the Phoenix medal was handed out to honorary Thessaloniki University professor Nikolaos Hourmouziadis, Cambridge mathematics professor Athanasios Fokas, Classical archaeology professor Petros Themelis and Athanasios Tsaftaris, head of the Centre for the Propagation of Science and the Thessaloniki Technology Museum.

    The Gold Cross of the Order of Honor was given to Olympics Organizing Committee executive director Marton Simitsek, the artistic director of the Athens Olympics opening and closing ceremonies Dimitris Papaioannou, professor of modern Greek studies at Montreal University in Canada Jacques Bouchard and writer and academic Nanos Valaoritis.

    The Gold Cross of the Order of the Phoenix was awarded to Sappho Mazaraki, headmistress of the Arsakio School in Tirana, Stephanos Tamvakis, businessman and former president of the Greek Community of Alexandria and Madeleine Schickendanz, honorary consul of Greece in Nuremberg.

    The president also issued a blanket pardon to all members of the military with outstanding sentences for disciplinary offences handed by until December 31 2004.

    [08] AHI criticizes EU failure to set direct conditions on Turkey regarding Cyprus issue

    Athens, 31/12/2004 (ANA)

    The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) welcomed the EU's decision, at its recent summit, to set strict conditions on Turkey's accession to the 25-nation bloc, but strongly criticized the EU's failure to place direct conditions on Turkey with respect to the Cyprus issue, in a "statement of positions" released on Wednesday.

    AHI president Gene Rossides stressed that "it is not possible that the EU discuss Turkey's accession to its ranks at a time when the latter is occupying a section of one of its (EU) members, Cyprus, with 350,000 troops and 100,000 settlers in the northern part" of the island republic, according to an AHI announcement.

    The EU, he said, should demand the immediate withdrawal of the occupation troops and settlers, the demolition of the dividing wall along the Greek Line, and the immediate recognition of the Republic of Cyprus by Turkey.

    Regarding Turkey's customs union with the 10 new EU member countries, including Cyprus, by October 3, 2005, Rossides referred to Dutch prime minister and current EU chairman Jan Peter Balkenende that the signature of a Customs Union Protocol did not constitute official recognition of the Republic of Cyprus, but rather a first step in that direction, the announcement said.

    The announcement further contained a statement by AHI executive director Nick Larigakis, who noted that Turkey was not in fulfillment of the Copenhagen criteria since it continued to maintain troops on Cyprus, was violating the borders of its neighboring countries, oppressing the religious freedoms of its minorities, including those of the Ecumenical Patriarch and spiritual leader of 290 million Christians, and was allowing the intervention of the military in Turkey's political life.

    [09] Deputy Development Minister expects agreement on Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline to be signed by Spring

    Athens, 31/12/2004 (ANA)

    The agreement between Greece, Russia and Bulgaria regarding the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline is expected to be signed by Spring 2005, Deputy Development Minister Giorgos Salagoudis said on Thursday during a meeting with journalists in Thessaloniki. The trilateral agreement was supposed to have been signed December 7, 2004, but due to delays on Russia's part was postponed.

    The Russian side is now expected to pick a new time and place for signing of the agreement. According to Salagoudis, the delay might be beneficial for Russia, allowing enough time for the merger between Gazprom and Rosneft to be completed and creating one company that Russia may promote to take on the role of project leader.

    Furthermore, Salagoudis did not seem concerned with the recent decision of Bulgaria, Albania and FYROM to construct an intra-Balkan pipeline that will transport Russian oil from Burgas to Albania via FYROM. This pipeline, which would bypass Greece and in the construction of which US companies would also be involved, is not a direct threat to the pipeline Greece is interested in, since it is too costly. Salagoudis said that the inter-Balkan pipeline will cost double the amount (around $1.5bn - $1.6bn) of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline which is estimated at $700 million. Additionally, the cost of transporting the oil through the inter-Balkan pipeline is estimated at $18 per ton compared with $5 per ton through the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline.

    [10] Ruling party secretary expresses full support for government line on 'main shareholder' in media

    Athens, 31/12/2004 (ANA)

    Ruling New Democracy's Central Committee Secretary Vangelis Meimarakis on Thursday said he fully supported the government's line regarding the definition of a 'main shareholder' in media enterprises, stressing that the Greek Constitution superseded European Union regulations.

    Speaking to reporters during a dinner for party officials, Meimarakis stressed the reality of the transparency and corruption problems that the bill was designed to address and said that it was up to politicians to lay down the rules.

    The party secretary also called on members of the government, especially those in the inner Cabinet, to support the decisions taken and to discuss any doubts they might have with the appropriate ministers, rather than airing them in public.

    Regarding criticism of the bill voiced last week by Environment Minister George Souflias, however, Meimarakis said the minister's statements had been made during a loose and informal discussion with journalists and had perhaps attracted more attention than they deserved. At the same time, he stressed that high-ranking members of the party and government had to be exceptionally cautious about how they phrased their statements in public.

    Commenting on objections to the bill saying it was incompatible with European Union laws or even the Greek Constitution, Meimarakis stressed that "he couldn't believe" that the bill was not compatible with EU rules, while noting that questions of constitutionality would be settled in Greek courts.

    "It was a basic choice of New Democracy and we are going ahead with implementing it," he stressed.

    He also commented on an ongoing parliamentary inquiry into arms forces procurements contracts, stressing that there were also political responsibilities for the bad regulatory framework for arms programs that left room for different interpretations or misinterpretations of the rules.

    [11] Greece submitted greenhouse emissions trading scheme to EU

    Athens, 31/12/2004 (ANA)

    The Ministry of the Environment, Town Planning and Public Works (YPEHODE) submitted the country's greenhouse emissions trading scheme to relevant EU authorities on Thursday. The national scheme was designed by the ministry within the context of the operational program "Competitiveness".

    According to a ministry statement issued Friday, the scheme was promptly submitted meeting the EU deadline and within the guidelines of EU policy regarding the environment and the Kyoto Protocol.

    Approval of the national scheme and finalization of emission rights is expected in the first quarter of 2005, according to the ministry.

    [12] Greek household debt at 30 pct of GDP in 2004

    Athens, 31/12/2004 (ANA)

    Greek households' debt exceeded 48.9 billion euros in October, and is forecast to exceed 49 billion euros by the end of the year, or 30 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product, the Bank of the Greece said on Thursday.

    The central bank, in its monthly report, said that households' debt totaled 9.8 billion euros in 1998, or 8.9 pct of GDP, to more than triple in the next six years. In comparison, in Italy the household debt doubled to 14.4 percent of GDP in 2003 from 7.2 pct in 1988.

    Consumer loans grew by an annual rate of 38.1 percent in October to 16.1 billion euros, to reach 10 percent of GDP this year. Consumer credit grew by 300 percent in the 1998-2003 period, a development reflecting a sharp fall in interest rates and a deregulation of the domestic banking market.

    Housing loans grew 22.9 percent in October to exceed 31.4 billion euros this year, or 19.1 percent of GDP. This percentage is still one of the lowest in the European Union.

    Credit expansion accelerated in October to 16.7 percent from 16 percent in September, reflecting a 9.9 percent increase in state borrowing. Private sector borrowing, however, eased to 27.4 percent in October from 27.8 percent in September.

    Saving deposits totaled 123.971 billion euros in Greece, recording an 11.6 percent annual growth rate.

    House prices rose 0.4 percent in June from the same month last year, the central bank said in its report.

    [13] Bank workers union (OTOE) launches campaign to build nursery school in Palestine

    Athens, 31/12/2004 (ANA)

    The bank workers' union OTOE has launched a campaign to build a nursery school for war-buffeted Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip, it was announced during a press conference organized by the union's leadership on Wednesday.

    The union is appealing to bank workers and others for donations to raise the 60,000 euros needed to build the nursery, asking for deposits in a special National Bank of Greece bank account with the number 080/67846900.

    Also present at the press conference was a representative of Palestinians working in Greece, who outlined the dire straits of the Palestinian people and the problems they faced. He said that some 1.2 million Palestinians were currently living in an area of just 628 square kilometers, of which 40 per cent had been taken over by Israeli settlements. Unemployment among Palestinians was currently running at 85 per cent and the majority was living on just two dollars a day in refugee camps. Each family had an average of seven children, most of which did not attend school but were seeking work because their families were unable to support them, he added.

    [14] ASE closing report

    Athens, 31/12/2004 (ANA)

    A mild wave of profit taking put a brake on a four-day rally at the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday.

    The composite index ended 0.15 percent lower at 2,784.42 points after hitting a new intra-day year high of 2,801.71 points.

    The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks fell 0.15 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index dropped 0.74 percent and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index ended 0.65 percent lower.

    Most sector indices ended lower with the Base Metals and Textiles suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day (3.22 pct and 1.72 pct, respectively), while the Investment, Food-Beverage and Wholesale sectors scored the biggest gains (0.75 pct, 0.43 pct and 0.19 pct, respectively).

    Turnover was a moderate 117.1 million euros. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 167 to 105, with another 83 issues unchanged.

    [15] Reports point to ND support for Lykourezos as chief of pro football clubs association

    Athens, 31/12/2004 (ANA)

    Former New Democracy (ND) deputy and eminent Athens trial attorney Alexandros Lykourezos would reportedly have the full backing of the ruling party should he vie for the presidency of the Professional Football Clubs' Association (EPAE), reports stated on Thursday.

    Sources said that ND Secretary and high-ranking deputy Vangelis Meimarakis would back any Lykourezos candidacy.

    [16] Island of Samothrace suffers damages due to severe weather

    Athens, 31/12/2004 (ANA)

    The island of Samothrace suffered immeasurable damage following Wednesday's rain showers that lasted 12 hours. Island residents say that the storms were the worst they've seen in recent years, resulting in damages to the island's road network and uprooting of many trees from rushing waters. The municipality has expressed concern that archaeological sites may have suffered damages as well.

    Approximately 40 residents of the Ano Meria village were particularly affected since the rain destroyed the road that connects their village to the rest of the island.

    [17] Cyprus President: no signature, no accession talks for Turkey

    NICOSIA 31/12/2004 (CNA/ANA)

    If Turkey does not sign the protocol adapting the Ankara Agreement to extend to all ten new members of the European Union, it cannot begin accession negotiations, President Tassos Papadopoulos said here on Thursday.

    He also pointed out that the EU sets out the conditions a candidate country must meet and it is up to that country to meet them.

    ''Turkey has applied for EU membership and if it does not comply with the terms laid down, accession talks will not start,'' Papadopoulos stressed.

    His comments came in response to remarks by Turkish Premier Tayyip Erdogan that Ankara has not signed the conclusions of the EU summit, which he said are unilateral decisions, and consequently Turkey is not obliged to sign the protocol extending its customs union agreement to all ten new members, including Cyprus, which Ankara does not recognize.

    ''If Ankara wants, it will not sign the protocol. If it does not sign it, it will not start membership talks,'' President Papadopoulos added.

    On prospects for the resumption of a fresh effort to solve the question of Cyprus, he said he was neither optimistic nor pessimistic.

    ''We have to know the agenda and the issues that will be discussed with regard to the talks in order to create the right conditions for the resumption of talks. We also need to know if these talks will be open and free or whether they will be subject to arbitration,'' he said, adding that the government continues to examine various issues with the UN and hopes that the conditions for talks will be created.

    He expressed the conviction that the preconditions for a viable and functional solution exist but as he pointed out ''it takes two to reach an agreement.''

    Responding to questions, he said proposals and counterproposals as well as compromises are made at negotiations.

    ''If we want a solution we shall make compromises but others should do the same as well,'' he said.

    President Papadopoulos described as ''naive and unrealistic'' the view that the Greek Cypriot side must spell out the limits of its concessions.

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