|Wednesday, 20 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-01-10
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>January 10, 2005
 Government announces urgent changes to system for public works, in relation to EU 3rd CSF funds
Athens, 10/1/2004 (ANA)After a marathon, three-hour session between Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and the leadership of the finance and public works ministries on Saturday, the government announced changes to the legal framework for assigning and carrying out public works projects before the end of February, in order to avoid the suspension of payments from European Union funds.
The meeting focused on the process of assigning public works, the way that projects were carried out and quality control systems, three areas where the government must establish procedures that are compatible with European Union rules. At the meeting, it was decided that this will be done by a joint team of experts from the finance and public works ministries, who will collaborate closely with EU agencies. Discussion also centered on changes to a law passed by the previous government in order to simplify procedures and improve absorption of EU funds.
Emerging from the meeting, Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said that the European Union had raised objections to Greece's handling of the 3rd Community Support Framework (CSF) from 2000 until 2003, when the previous PASOK government was in power. Noting that the present government had already made improvements that had been recognized by the European Commission and that had increased the absorption of EU funds from 22 per cent to 32 per cent in December, he also stressed that outstanding problems still remained that had to be dealt with.
According to Alogoskoufis, the government would now proceed to tackle these problems with the assistance of the Commission.
The meeting was also attended by Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias, Deputy Finance Minister Christos Folias and Deputy Public Works Minister Themistocles Xanthopoulos.
According to Folias, the problems were longstanding and Greece had originally faced a suspension of EU funds in October 2003, based on the findings of inspections in the periods 2001-2003 and the recommendations of the European Commissioner for Regional Policy. He said this had been avoided on the eve of the last general elections in Greece through a detailed plan for improving the system submitted by the previous government, which called for comprehensive solutions to problems spanning decades by September 30, 2004.
Reiterating that significant progress had already been made in this direction, he stressed the government's determination to change the way the CSF was handled, especially with respect to management and control systems, and said that Greek authorities will take all necessary measures in cooperation with the European Commission to tackle the remaining problems.
 Interior minister says fight against bureaucracy will "not be won with a single stroke"
Athens, 10/1/2004 (ANA)The fight against bureaucracy will not be won with a single stroke, Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said in an interview with ANT1 private radio on Sunday, commenting on the measures recently announced by the ministry to combat red tape.
Noting that some degree of bureaucracy always exists, he said that it was the duty of the State to provide citizens with guarantees and not provide opportunities for the unscrupulous within the civil service to take advantage of the citizens.
Pavlopoulos announced that a ministry circular will be going out within the next few days outlining the new, simpler procedure for attesting to the genuineness of signatures.
He also pointed out that the application and issue of certificates will be made easier when systems and services are fully computerized.
 PASOK leader's letter urges party members to actively participate in pre-congress activity
Athens, 10/1/2004 (ANA)In a letter sent out on Saturday to all members and friends of his party, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou called on them to actively participate in activities leading up to the party's congress on March 3 and the process of restructuring PASOK to create a modern, open, participatory party.
Papandreou also referred to the political state of the country, saying that the ruling New Democracy government was taking Greece backward rather than forward.
"Greece's prestige is being destroyed. The economy, development and household incomes are being undermined. Instead of transparency and meritocracy there is a return of armies of party supporters in public administration. In foreign policy we are stumbling without strategy," PASOK's leader noted.
Against this policy, "we counter our positions and our struggle to create something new and pioneering for Greece and Europe," Papandreou concluded.
 ND secretary comments on gov't policy, role of ministers
Athens, 10/1/2004 (ANA)Ruling New Democracy Secretary Vangelis Meimarakis was among the most prominent politicians interviewed by an Athens daily on Sunday -- a more-or-less customary feature for the weekend editions -- with the influential Parliament deputy fielding a series of questions on the government's policies and performance to date.
In an indirect reference to media attention and queries last week over recent comments by Public Works and Town Planning Minister George Souflias, Meimarakis clarified that Cabinet members should not publicly air personal views when a government decision is jointly reached.
"This creates an image of confusion..." he was quoted as saying in an interview published by the Sunday edition of "Ethnos".
Nevertheless, in directly commenting on Souflias, a popular deputy in his own right from central Larissa prefecture, Meimarakis said he believes the former wholly agrees with government policy, although he (Souflias) sometimes wraps his comments in a unique brand of humor, according to the ND secretary.
Regarding the high-profile committee of inquiry set up by Parliament to investigate a handful of costly weapons deals approved by the previous PASOK government's defense ministry leaderships -- Akis Tsohatzopoulos and Yiannos Papantoniou -- Meimarakis clarified that the committee was not established to either sully political opponents, deliver "exonerating reports" or "fabricated guilt (of individuals)".
"Of course there are political responsibilities ... because there appears to be a weak legislative framework for purchasing weapons systems ... What we're particularly interested in is for the government to change this type of procurement..."
Asked about a similar Parliament committee of inquiry being established to investigate the painful Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) "bubble" of 1999-2000, Meimarakis -- who is elected from Athens' second election district -- said "we'll wait for the prosecutor's report, and if there are grounds, Parliament will then be called on to decide."
Finally, asked about the specter of farmers' mobilizations in mostly central Greece to demand higher cotton prices -- a recurring development over the past few years during the early winter months -- Meimarakis reminded that the specific issue was caused by the previous PASOK governments, a problem that worsened over the years.
"Farm issues don't have a political color ... the government is dealing with the issue with responsibility, seriousness, attentive-ness and social sensitivity," he added.
 Military transport plane departs from Elefsina carrying aid for SE Asia tsunami victims
Athens, 10/1/2004 (ANA)A military C-130 transport plane took off from the airport at Elefsina early on Saturday morning carrying 11.5 tones of humanitarian aid collected by the Church-sponsored non-governmental aid organization "Allillegii". The plane will stop in Sri Lanka, Phuket and Bangkok in Thailand and the capital of Indonesia, Jakarta.
According to the head of Allillegii, Dimitris Fourlemadis, the Church of Greece and the Greek State will continue their aid-collecting efforts until the end of March, while another consignment of some 600 tones of humanitarian aid is due to depart for the region by ship on January 17.
 SAE president calls on SAE organizations to join forces to collect aid for SE Asia tsunami victims
Athens, 10/1/2004 (ANA)The president of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) Andrew Athens on Saturday sent out a letter urging SAE organizations throughout the world to join forces in order collect aid for the victims of the devastating tsunami and earthquake in South and SE Asia, where more than 150,000 people have died and roughly a million have lost their homes and livelihoods.
"It is our obligation to pray daily for all those who lost their lives and to collect money to support their families," Athens says in his letter.
"Orthodox Churches around the world have already begun campaigns to raise money for this purpose. So have international Orthodox Christian charitable organizations. And so must we," he wrote, stressing that even Greeks living in relatively poor countries, such as the former Soviet Union, were prepared to give money toward this cause from their meager incomes.
Athens announced that he would personally donate the first 5,000 U.S. dollars to begin the campaign but stressed that any offer was welcome.
 Greece opening 'new roads to the future' under new gov't, defense minister tells Achaia rally
Athens, 10/1/2004 (ANA)Greece was opening up "new roads to the future" under the new government of New Democracy, Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos said in a speech at a political rally in Kato Achaia on Sunday.
He stressed that the government was coming up with solutions to long-standing problems, had held highly successful Olympics in spite of the massive delays in preparations, and was constantly introducing measures to improve the lives of Greek citizens on every level.
The minister also referred to the government's decision to carry out a fiscal audit in conjunction with the Greek Statistics Service, the Bank of Greece and the European statistics service Eurostat, saying this had provided a clear picture of Greece's economic situation in a way that was transparent and unimpeachable.
"We have proceeded to reduce defense spending by one billion euros, relative to the spending approved by the previous government, while funding of the arms procurements program has been reduced by 40 per cent in 2005 in order to boost social policy," he said.
Outlining the government's main policy goals, such as the new tax bill and its determination to fight corruption and graft, the minister said the government would remain undeterred by hostile media and special business interests that had for years amassed wealth at the expense of the rest of Greek society.
Spiliotopoulos also spoke at a meeting in Egio indoor gym, referring mainly to government intervention in local issues but also to the disaster in Southeast Asia and the government's response.
He said the Greek Airforce had already sent three missions in C-130 transport planes to the area, carrying humanitarian aid, medical personnel, emergency rescue workers and essential supplies.
A fourth C-130 mission is due to leave for Indonesia on Friday, where it will set up a system for providing safe drinking water in order to prevent the transmission of epidemics such as typhoid, cholera, dysentery, etc, Spiliotopoulos announced.
In a meeting with journalists in the port city of Patra in the western Peloponnese, Spiliotopoulos referred to an ongoing Parliamentary inquiry into armed forces procurements, saying that this was due to be completed on January 14.
At present, it was impossible to say what its final findings would be or whether any former ministers might be held liable, he added.
Regarding contracts already signed, he said the government was obliged to go through with these in order to protect the continuity of the State. He did, however, criticize the previous administration's decision to purchase new tanks worth 650 million euros, even though these were now considered "outdated" means of combat, noting that existing tanks could have been modernized at a sixth of the cost.
 Health minister interview to Athens daily
Athens, 10/1/2004 (ANA)High-profile Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis, in an interview published by an Athens daily over the weekend, said he would consider it an honor to follow in the footsteps of Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis, when asked if he would run for city hall in the 2006 municipal elections.
"You've surprised me (with the question). Whoever tells you that he is not interested is probably lying," Kaklamanis, a noted radiologist and hospital administrator, told the "Eleftherotypia" daily.
He also forecast that the prime minister "will surprise" the political world with his decision for when to proceed with a government reshuffle.
 Vartholomeos refers to continuing threats aimed at Ecumenical Patriarchate
ISTANBUL 10/1/2004 (ANA)Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos on Sunday referred to "highs and lows" of the preceding year for Orthodoxy's highest-ranking Church, as he cited the continuing threats being directed at the Patriarchate by mostly ultra-nationalist Turkish circles here.
"We had numerous and unpleasant threats by various 'wolves', grey and others, even the day before last (Epiphany) when they arrived to try and overshadow the joy of the Cross' sanctification of the waters," Vartholomeos said, referring to an incident on Thursday at the Bosporus' shores during a venerable ecclesiastical ceremony.
Conversely, the Patriarch said the return of the holy remains of two pre-eminent Orthodox saints and Patriarchs by the Vatican and the consecration of the first-ever Orthodox cathedral on Cuba was the past year's milestones.
The remains of Aghios Ioannis (St. John) Chrysostomos and Aghios Grigorios (St. Gregory) of Nazianzus, Patriarchs of Constantinople who lived before the split between the western and eastern churches in 1054, were returned to the Patriarchate in late November following a ceremony at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, one attended by Pope John Paul II and Vartholomeos.
In other matters, the Patriarch also referred to Turkey's long-coveted goal of receiving a date for accession negotiations with the European Union.
"... we believe that this (decision) opens up new prospects for the Turkish people; for the wider Balkan region, and particularly for the minorities that live here; and for our Ecumenical Patriarchate," he said.
Finally, Vartholomeos also commented on the plight of the ethnic Greeks of Imvros and Tenedos, two islands populated entirely by Greek Orthodox Christians in the extreme northeast Aegean awarded to Turkey with the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne.
Only a tiny number of ethnic Greeks remain on the two islands following mass appropriation of land by the Turkish state, beginning in the 1960s, and other forms of discrimination, including barriers on inheritance. Among others, most arable land was appropriated in the 1960s to build military camps and even open farm prisons on the once flourishing isles.
"Our island (Imvros) has passed difficult days, and even in the spring and summer is lived through days and nights of a deep winter until the time arrived for the major powers of the world to remember us in Brussels (the EU summit), and for reference to be made to the far-off island of Imvros and to the other smaller one, Tenedos," Vartholomeos, himself a native of Imvros, said during a New Year's event by the Imvros community of Istanbul.
 Archbishop Christodoulos rejects U.S. State dept report on anti-Semitism in Greece
Athens, 10/1/2004 (ANA)Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church, on Sunday rejected a report released last week by the U.S. State Department, suggesting that anti-Semitism was tolerated in Greece.
Christodoulos said it was unfair to accuse Greece of racist behavior against Jews, noting that "Greeks are not racists. We open both our hearts and our homes to the persecuted". He also stressed the solidarity that the Greek Church had shown to Jews at the time of the Nazi occupation, when many Jews evaded capture by using fake certificates that they were Christians issued by the Church.
Finally, he pointed out that the report centered on the custom of burning an effigy of Judas at Easter that was practiced only in certain areas of Greece and did not target all Jews but only the specific figure that betrayed Christ.
 Stephanopoulos inaugurates museum in Kalavryta focusing on 1943 Nazi war crime
Athens, 10/1/2004 (ANA)President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos on Sunday inaugurated a new museum in the mountainous Peloponnese town of Kalavryta dedicated to the 500 civilians executed by Nazi German troops on Dec. 13, 1943.
The new museum will be housed in the northwest Peloponnese town's old elementary school, which was built in 1906. The museum will host video and audio material, thousands of documents, paintings and photos taken immediately after the war crime.
Stephanopoulos declined to make statements to reporters after-wards, while merely noting that he will now follow a "no comment" policy until his term concludes in a few months.
Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos and Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis represented the government.
 Makeshift firebomb defused outside home of forest service director
Athens, 10/1/2004 (ANA)A makeshift firebomb placed on the balcony of forest service director's home in northern Greece was neutralized on Saturday by a police bomb squad.
The device, comprised of six gas canisters and a clock-timer, was discovered outside the residence of Yiannis Tsirellas, identified as the forest service director of Halkidiki prefecture -- a large and verdant region that ranks as the primary tourist destination in northern Greece.
Plagued by the fact that the country still lacks an operational and unified land registry, authorities aren't ruling out the possibility of a ring involved in land scams or squatting being behind the incident.
 Panionios-Olympiakos match postponed after fans clash with police before start of game
Athens, 10/1/2004 (ANA)A scheduled premier league match between Greek teams Panionios Athens and Olympiakos Piraeus was postponed on Sunday, 14th day of the season for the Greek first division, after violent clashes broke out between fans and police just before the start of the game in Nea Smyrni, home for Panionios.
The incidents occurred when Olympiakos supporters who had not succeeded in getting tickets for the game suddenly broke through a barrier and entered the stands and the pitch, attacking the sparse police guarding the match in scenes of "uncommon violence" according to witnesses.
 Cyprus FM: Resumption of talks possible after May 2005
LARNACA 10/1/2004 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou believes that it is possible for negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus problem to resume after May 2005.
Iacovou noted that two so-called elections will take place in Cyprus' Turkish occupied areas, one in February and one in May and added that ''as usual, until these elections are finished, nothing will happen''.
Speaking on his arrival Saturday from Brussels, where he attended the extraordinary meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council to address the consequences of the tsunami in Asia, Iacovou said that the Greek Cypriot side has already made clear which preconditions are necessary for the resumption of talks.
''We have a clear position on that, which was made known to all interested, and that is that we can participate to negotiations for solving the Cyprus problem'', he said.
Replying to a question he said that there is no official information on behalf of the UN about a new initiative for solving the Cyprus problem.
''Knowing how the UN organization works, how many problems they have at this stage, as well as the Secretary General himself, I think this is not the moment (for restarting Cyprus talks). UN Secretary General is not ready yet to make a move on Cyprus'', he noted.
Iacovou expressed the opinion that the US would not have any active involvement regarding the Cyprus issue in the next two or three months.
''There are two elections in the Turkish Cypriot side on February and May. For the Turkish Cypriot side and Turkey the international community has always shown great tolerance as regards these procedures'', he noted.
Invited to comment on statements made by Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul that solving the Cyprus issue is not a precondition for Turkey to start accession negotiations with the EU, Iacovou said ''indeed, a solution to the Cyprus problem is not needed. What is needed though is signing the protocol regarding the adaptation of the Ankara Agreement, which means recognition of the Republic of Cyprus''.
He noted that if signing the protocol would not have meant recognition of the Republic of Cyprus, then Turkey would have signed it without any problems.
''Turkey can not start accession negotiations with the EU without signing this protocol'', he underlined.
Invited to comment on press reports that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will discuss with Russian President Vladimir Putin the lifting of the so-called economic isolation of Turkish Cypriots, Iacovou said that the government of Cyprus is in constant contact with the Russian government.
He did not rule out the possibility the issue of financial support of Turkish Cypriots to be brought back for discussion before the UN Security Council by USA and Britain.
Iacovou noted though that he did not have any such information and that Greece is since January 1st 2005 a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.