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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-01-18

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

January 18, 2005


  • [01] 17 EU European Affairs deputy ministers discuss fiscal prospects for 2007-2013 period
  • [02] EU finmins to debate Greek fiscal overrun
  • [03] PM Karamanlis briefed by ND parliamentary group secretary general Stavrou
  • [04] Gov't on high-profile penalties against football clubs; media group's negotiations
  • [05] Greek armed forces to participate in NATO exercise
  • [06] PM to chair government meeting on DIKATSA, educational policy on Tuesday
  • [07] KKE Secretary General meets with TEI representatives
  • [08] Turkish Association requests that 'Greek' be dropped from the title of groups in Turkey
  • [09] Defense Minister meets with Turkey's new ambassador to Athens
  • [10] Former Greek finmins write to ECOFIN Council, attribute Greek deficit overrun to 'change in rules' and party-political motives
  • [11] Greek-Turkish balance of trade exceeds 1.5 billion euros
  • [12] Gov't seeks farmers' views on EU agri-reform
  • [13] Gov't approves regional growth projects
  • [14] Greek minister expresses optimism over this year's tourism season
  • [15] Nearly 500,000 Greek tourist arrivals in Turkey for 2004
  • [16] Helexpo announces INFACOMA fair, February 17-20 in Thessaloniki
  • [17] Average Greek prefers salaried employment, Eurobarometer says
  • [18] 12 percent of Greeks have individual investments exceeding 50,000 euros, according to Investment Barometer
  • [19] Greek state bond prices rose significantly in December 2004
  • [20] ASE suspends trading in Pegasus' shares
  • [21] Trade unions to found labor academy
  • [22] Stocks drop in blue-chip selling
  • [23] Two dead, six missing after N. Korean-flag motorship sinks off Psara island
  • [24] Greek gov't to present five-year plan to improve road safety
  • [25] World Council of Churches conference to be held in Athens in May
  • [26] Foreign ministry, Karamanlis Institute to co-host event on Greek foreign policy around Black Sea
  • [27] Appellate court orders release of ailing terrorist
  • [28] President inaugurates photo exhibit at Archaeological Society of Athens
  • [29] Greek Deputy addresses Hellenic American Institute in Washington on exchanges of values and ideas
  • [30] Turkey's justice ministry selects Greece and Austria to help with creation of Ombudsman
  • [31] Egyptian authorities report major breakthrough against immigrant-trafficking outfit working in Greece
  • [32] Supreme Court rules out confiscation of vehicles as penalty for unruly drivers
  • [33] Public order minister takes initiative to end illegal weapons use in Crete
  • [34] Two policemen charged with torturing Afghan detainees at police station
  • [35] Efforts must intensify for Cyprus solution, French Minister says

  • [01] 17 EU European Affairs deputy ministers discuss fiscal prospects for 2007-2013 period

    Athens, 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    17 European Union Deputy European Affairs ministers began a meeting at a downtown Athens hotel on Monday to discuss support for the European Commission's proposals on fiscal prospects for the 2007-2013 period (4th Community Support Framework).

    The purpose of the meeting, held at Greece's initiative, is the finding of adequate financial means to enable the development of all the regions of the EU and the fair distribution of the cost of enlargement to secure cohesion within the EU.

    "We support the proposals of the European Commission on the existence of sufficient resources which shall secure the development of all regions, given the enlargement that took place with the accession of 10 countries now," said Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis.

    "The pie is the same, but the mouths are more," he added and stressed that the Commission's proposals are "the most balanced."

    Monday's meeting is the continuation of a series of contacts which got under way at the initiative of Greece, Spain and Portugal "so that cohesion will remain the corner stone of European integration", as Valinakis had said at the previous meeting held on the same issue in Warsaw, Poland, in December.

    Apart from the three countries taking the initial initiative for these contacts (Greece, Spain and Portugal), Monday's meeting was also attended by the EU's 10 new member-states, Belgium, Ireland, Finland and Italy for the first time with Deputy Foreign Minister Roberto Antonione.

    Valinakis held a bilateral meeting with Antonione, as well as with the Deputy Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic Vinkler Miller.

    Valinakis had pointed out during the meeting in Warsaw that "negotiating between member-states on structural resources over the 2007-2013 period will be more difficult and laborious than in any other time and the development of alliances very important."

    On the other hand, Britain, Germany, Sweden, France, Denmark and the Netherlands are six EU members desiring the amount of funds proposed by the European Commission to be much less.

    [02] EU finmins to debate Greek fiscal overrun

    Athens, 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    European Union finance ministers are to meet in Brussels on Tuesday to debate whether Greece and eight other members of the bloc should take extra measures to lower their fiscal deficit to below the bloc's ceiling of 3.0% of gross domestic product.

    At the weekend, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, who will represent Greece at the EU meeting, held preparatory talks before Alogoskoufis left for the Belgian capital.

    According to ministry sources, the government is hopeful that the EU will accept its pledge to lower the deficit over two years through the 2005 budget, and show understanding of a reluctance to adopt new measures. The move would aid Alogoskoufis' policy of mild fiscal adaptation.

    EU ministers are likely to ask the executive Commission to put forward a new proposal allowing more time for compliance, as EU authorities are showing more flexibility in alignment of national economic policies following disclosure that many member countries had breached the 3.0% ceiling, the same sources said.

    Also on the agenda for talks at Tuesday's meeting is revision of the EU's stability and growth pact.

    Due to meet on Monday were the eurozone's finance ministers with a similar agenda for talks.

    [03] PM Karamanlis briefed by ND parliamentary group secretary general Stavrou

    Athens, 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    Prime minister Costas Karamanlis met Monday with the ruling New Democracy party (ND) parliamentary group general secretary Apostolos Stavrou.

    Stavrou told reporters after the meeting that he briefed the premier on the new parliamentary session and the legislative work underway.

    He also said he received specific instructions for more intense activity by the MPs of the periphery in order to convey the society's messages to the government.

    Earlier, the prime minister conferred with Cabinet secretary Argyris Karras.

    [04] Gov't on high-profile penalties against football clubs; media group's negotiations

    Athens, 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    The government on Monday again pointed to the distinct separation of executive and judicial powers when asked about two separate but highly topical issues dominating local headlines recently: a popular football club's punishment for fan violence and the temporary suspension of trading of a major media group's shares because of sale negotiations.

    Government spokesman Thodoris Roussopoulos reminded that as of Jan. 1, 2005 civil court judges hear cases involving fan violence and hooliganism, and consequently, decisions to slap fines and penalties on pro teams are judicial verdicts, not political judgments.

    A "get tough" policy by jurists resulted in stiff penalties against the Panionios Athens and popular Olympiakos Piraeus clubs on Friday. Both teams forfeited the game between them and were also docked three points in the Greek first division standings. Moreover, each team was ordered to play its next four home games without fans. The Panionios-Olympiakos match was postponed on Jan. 9 after fans clashed in the middle of the pitch and in the stands.

    An appeal by both teams is pending.

    Asked about reports that ruling New Democracy deputies from the Piraeus districts -- the hub of Olympiakos' support -- have been asked not to participate in a rally, Roussopoulos dismissed the report. He countered that several ND deputies will participate, as the issue involves a major team in an area (Piraeus) they represent, "what's not up for argument is upholding the law," he added.

    Finally, when asked about police measures and authorities' reaction to the violence last week at Panionios' Nea Smyrni stadium, Roussopoulos noted that "there is margin for improvement".

    Turning to the confirmed negotiations between the Pegasus (Pigasos) media group, controlled by the Bobolas family, and well-known industrialist/shipowner Theodoros Angelopoulos, the spokesman reiterated that he does not comment on private sector business dealings.

    Trading of the media group's share on the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) was suspended on Monday after its management confirmed reports that it was in discussions for the group's sale to Angelopoulos, the husband of high-profile Athens 2004 Olympic Games organizing committee (ATHOC) president Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki.

    Roussopoulos, moreover, referred questions to the stock market's management.

    [05] Greek armed forces to participate in NATO exercise

    Athens, 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    The Greek National Defense General Staff on Monday announced that a NATO Crisis Management Exercise will be conducted from January 26 through February 1.

    Participating in the exercise will be NATO member states, NATO General Staff Headquarters, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), SAC-T, countries participating in the Partnership for Peace and other organizations.

    The objective of the exercise is to evaluate plans and procedures formulated and implemented by NATO allies during a crisis; to assess the decision-making process during crisis management; to evaluate the Alliance's capability in using the NATO Crisis Response System, the Warning and Information System; and to provide practice for political negotiation among allied members.

    [06] PM to chair government meeting on DIKATSA, educational policy on Tuesday

    Athens, 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will be chairing a meeting of the cabinet at 11:00 on Tuesday to discuss DIKATSA, the Greek authority for the accreditation of degrees and diplomas obtained abroad, as well as action related to education and culture, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos announced.

    On Wednesday morning, the premier is due to meet with the leadership of the Employment ministry as part of a round of contacts with government ministries, followed by the merchant marine ministry on Thursday.

    On Friday, Karamanlis will attend the start of national dialogue on education taking place at the Zappeion building in central Athens.

    [07] KKE Secretary General meets with TEI representatives

    Athens, 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    Representatives of the Technological Educational Institutes' (TEI) faculty requested support from Aleka Papariga, Secretary General of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) - primarily regarding funding - during a meeting held on Monday.

    According to a statement issued by KKE, Papariga stressed that the situation at TEIs all over the country is 'borderline,' which underlines the general crisis higher education is undergoing due to policies adopted by the former PASOK governments, New Democracy and European Union directives.

    Furthermore, KKE stated that it supports an increase in educational spending amounting to 15% of the budget, an increase in TEI funding and meeting the demands of TEI faculty.

    In closing, KKE calls for radical change in education and doing away with dividing higher education institutions into universities and technological schools.

    [08] Turkish Association requests that 'Greek' be dropped from the title of groups in Turkey

    ANKARA 18/1/2004 (ANA/A.Ampatzis)

    The Turkish Association for the Superiority of Justice would like to see the name "Greek" (or "Romios" meaning Greek) to be dropped from the title of any group or association operating in Turkey, according to a related request it submitted to the Turkish Ministry of the Interior.

    In other Turkey-related news, comments made by Devlet Bahceli, President of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party, during a party gathering a few days earlier, has provoked reactions in Turkey. Specifically, during the gathering, Bahceli referred to the Greek Orthodox Day of Epiphany, celebrated on January 6 with the blessing of the waters, saying that by celebrating the holiday in such a manner in Turkey means that one is trying to change Istanbul into Constantinople. He also said that this had only occurred in the last three years. Bahceli also referred to a group of party followers who on the Day of Epiphany had gathered outside the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Phanar. He said that "they sent their message and they said that if they need to they will do what their ancestors did."

    Turkey's Human Rights Committee on Monday said that it would file a suit against Bahceli for encouraging violence against Turkey's Greek citizens.

    Ismet Betkan, chief editor of the newspaper "Radikal", wrote in an article on Monday that based on Paragraph 312 of Turkey's penal code, Bahceli's comments constitute a criminal offence since they contain elements of clear and direct threat of violence.

    [09] Defense Minister meets with Turkey's new ambassador to Athens

    Athens, 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos on Monday received Turkey's new ambassador to Athens Tahsin Burcuoglu at his office for a scheduled, courtesy meeting.

    [10] Former Greek finmins write to ECOFIN Council, attribute Greek deficit overrun to 'change in rules' and party-political motives

    Athens, 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    Two former finance ministers under previous PASOK governments, Yiannos Papantoniou and Nikos Christodoulakis, on Monday sent a letter to the European Union's ECOFIN Council that blames Greece's deficit overrun on a change in accounting rules inspired by party-political motives.

    The two former ministers claimed that the upward revision of Greek deficit data above 3 per cent of GDP was mainly due to the new Greek government's decision to change the way of recording defense spending. They said that the New Democracy government had in this way deliberately tried to discredit economic performance under PASOK and make things easier for its own fiscal management in the future.

    Papantoniou and Christodoulakis also said that Greece had achieved the fastest macroeconomic convergence compared with all other members of the Eurozone under PASOK governments and that "this important effort was discredited" by the image of the new statistical figures that were unilaterally imposed by the new government, without dialogue or even a request for explanations from the previous administration.

    "It is clear that ECOFIN's recommendation that public finances should not become the fodder of election cycle interests was not implemented in the case of Greece. On the contrary, it was contemptuously violated," they added.

    The letter also says that a reply to the EU's Economic and Financial Committee report was sent the previous week, drafted by members of the Greek delegation on the Committee between 1994 and 2004 and by the former general secretary of the Greek statistics service. This report, the two ministers said, counters in depth the claims regarding the Greek deficit over this period and proves that the data provided by Greek authorities was in full agreement with the rules used by Eurostat at that time.

    The letter echoes arguments made by former Greek premier Costas Simitis in a letter to the Financial Times just before Christmas, who said the new Greek government had "bent" previously accepted rules in its audit of government accounts to produce the higher deficit figures. He also argued strongly against the retroactive application of new methods for estimating expenditure and said governments should not be allowed to recalculate the fiscal position they inherited at will, claiming that this put the "statistics on which national and European policy is based at the mercy of the electoral cycle".

    Simitis' arguments were countered in their turn, however, in a letter by Eurostat director general Gunther Hanreich a week later. Hanreich denied that the upward revision of the Greek deficit was the result of a retroactive change in accounting methods, saying it was chiefly the result of systematically underestimating expenditure.

    According to Hanreich, Eurostat's report showed that defense spending had been clearly underestimated, regardless of the accounting method used, while revenues of insurance funds had been overestimated and interest from state bonds had been miscalculated.

    Finance ministry indicates letter addressed to ECOFIN members by former finance ministers 'discredits themselves': The finance and economy ministry issued an announcement on Monday, saying the letter addressed to ECOFIN members by former PASOK finance and economy ministers Giannos Papantoniou and Nikos Christodoulakis discredits them.

    "Messrs. G. Papantoniou and N. Christodoulakis, after discrediting our country at the European Union with their acts and omissions when they were ministers, are now choosing the path of discrediting themselves, by questioning afterwards the report of the European Statistical Service and the decisions of the Council of Economy Ministers," the announcement said.

    [11] Greek-Turkish balance of trade exceeds 1.5 billion euros

    ANKARA 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    The trade balance between Greece and Turkey exceeded the 1.5-billion-mark in the 11-month period (Jan-Nov) of 2004, according to figures announced here on Monday.

    The record trade figures show Greek exports to Turkey totalling slightly more than 509 million euros for the period, as opposed to 374.4 million for the corresponding period of 2003 -- a 35.9 percent increase.

    Turkish exports to Greece totalled 1.013 billion euros, up 22.1 percent from the previous period, or a figure of 829.8 million euros.

    [12] Gov't seeks farmers' views on EU agri-reform

    Athens, 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Evangelos Basiakos said on Monday that he had asked farmers to submit their views on implementation of support for Mediterranean products under the European Union's new common agricultural policy.

    In a letter sent to farmers' trade groups, the minister sought a reply within 10 ten days on support for olive oil, tobacco and cotton so that the government could finalize a national policy due for delivery to EU authorities by July 31.

    [13] Gov't approves regional growth projects

    Athens, 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    Agricultural Development Minister Evangelos Basiakos on Monday approved a series of projects to spur growth in the regions.

    The four projects in Samos, Methana, Symi and Evia, which aim at boosting agricultural development and improving the quality of life, have a total budget of about 800,000 euros.

    [14] Greek minister expresses optimism over this year's tourism season

    Athens, 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    Greek Tourism Deputy Minister Anastasios Liaskos on Monday expressed his optimism over this year's tourism season in Greece.

    Speaking to reporters, after a three-day visit to the International Tourism Fair CMT in Stuttgart, Liaskos said he received positive messages for the country's tourism in 2005. The CMT fair attracted more than 1,400 exhibitors from 82 countries around the world and 200,000 visitors.

    The Greek minister met with the prime minister of the Baden-Wuttemberg state, U. Kromer, Stuttgart's mayor Mr. Schuster and diplomats.

    Liaskos met with exhibitors, businessmen and representatives of local authorities in Germany.

    [15] Nearly 500,000 Greek tourist arrivals in Turkey for 2004

    ANKARA 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    Turkey reportedly posted a banner year in tourism for 2004, as more than 17.5 million arrivals -- a record -- last year translated into a 24.8-percent increase compared to 2003.

    According to figures released here this week, 485,417 Greek nationals also visited Turkey in 2004, a 23.4-percent hike from the previous year.

    [16] Helexpo announces INFACOMA fair, February 17-20 in Thessaloniki

    Athens, 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    Helexpo on Monday announced that the 22nd INFACOMA international fair would be held between February 17-20 in Thessaloniki.

    INFACOMA is an international building materials, energy, acclimatization and technology fair.

    Helexpo said a large number of distinguished companies from Greece, Germany, Italy, UK, Serbia-Montenegro, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Turkey, FYROM, Albania, Romania, Hungary, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Egypt, UAE and Cyprus would participate in this year's fair.

    Helexpo also announced that MARMIN, INFACOMA's twin trade fair on marble, would be held in Thessaloniki May 12-15.

    This year's INFACOMA will organize the 1st ExpoPartenariat, a business forum aimed to promote cooperation between enterprises through pre-arranged meetings. A total of more than 400 such meetings are expected to be held during the forum.

    [17] Average Greek prefers salaried employment, Eurobarometer says

    BRUSSELS 18/1/2004 (ANA/M. Spinthourakis)

    The average Greek, just like the average European, tends to prefer securing salaried employment, in contrast to the average American who continues to prefer to develop business activities, according to a report prepared by the Eurobarometer service on "business spirit" publicized here on Monday.

    As regards Greece, in the year 2000 24 percent of Greeks declared preference for salaried employment, while in 2004 this figure increased to 46 percent. On the other hand, 70 percent of Greeks had declared in 2000 that they preferred the status of an independent professional compared to 52 percent who gave the same reply in 2004.

    Focusing on the European average, one sees that 51 percent declared preference for salaried employment in 2004 and 45 percent for the status of an independent professional.

    In the United States, 34 percent of people said they preferred salaried employment and 61 percent the development of business activities.

    Regarding the reasons why Greeks prefer salaried employment, the report said that 63 percent believe that salary stability is the main advantage of salaried employment, 56 percent noted that it means securing a job and 10 percent believe that the main advantage is social security coverage.

    [18] 12 percent of Greeks have individual investments exceeding 50,000 euros, according to Investment Barometer

    Athens, 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    A total of 12 percent of Greeks declared that their private investments exceed 50,000 euros (excluding real estate), while 88 percent declared amounts below this figure, according to a report by the Investment Barometer, prepared worldwide twice a year by the GfK Custom Research Group in cooperation with the Wall Street Journal newspaper.

    According to the report, the percentage of people in Greece preferring a high risk method of investment does not exceed nine percent in the best of cases (for the 30-49 age bracket), while for the other age groups it is 7 percent (50+ age bracket) and 6 percent (15-29) respectively.

    Figures for Greece concerning the autumn of 2004 show that 62 percent of households prefer to invest in bank accounts, 19 percent in life insurance and 11 percent in pension funds, while 26 percent made no capital investment.

    As regards the United States, one out of two American citizens declared having private capital exceeding 50,000 dollars and 14 percent said that their private capital is higher now than it was six months ago.

    [19] Greek state bond prices rose significantly in December 2004

    Athens, 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market plunged to 37.39 billion euros in December from 123.51 billion euros in November, but it was up 10 percent compared with the same month in 2003, the Bank of Greece said on Monday.

    The central bank, in its monthly report on the bond market, said that investors' interest again focused on long-term securities (of seven- to 10-year maturity) which accounted for 60 percent of total turnover (22.63 billion euros).

    The 10-year benchmark bond was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 10.67 billion euros, followed by the 10-year bond (May 2013) with 4.57 billion euros. The report said that bids outnumbered sell orders by 50.40 pct to 49.60 pct in December.

    Bond prices rose significantly in the last month of 2004, following a trend in other Eurozone markets. Medium- and long-term Greek benchmark bonds rose by 33-208 basis points, while the three-year bond price fell by 22 bps in December. The 10-year benchmark bond (May 2014) rose to 105.39, to yield 3.80 percent, from 104.43 (3.92 pct) in November. The average yield spread between the Greek and German 10-year bonds fell to 12 bps in December from 16 bps the previous month.

    Long-term bond returns fell significantly in December, with the 20-year benchmark bond's yield easing by 16 bps, while short-term bonds' returns rose, with the three-year bond rising by seven basis points.

    [20] ASE suspends trading in Pegasus' shares

    Athens, 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    The Athens Stock Exchange on Monday announced the temporary suspension in trading of Pegasus Publications' shares following a two-day rally in its price the previous week amid rumors over changes in the listed company's shareholders' composition.

    An ASE announcement said the trading suspension decision was taken to ensure the smooth operation of the market and to better inform investors over developments in the company. Pegasus' shares jumped 20 percent on Thursday and Friday over rumors that Theodore Angelopoulos was buying a controlling stake in the group.

    In its letter to ASE, Pegasus confirmed that its main shareholders George, Maria and Fotis Bobolas were in talks with Theodore Angelopoulos over the sale of their controlling stake in the group. Pegasus said it would immediately inform the Greek capital market authorities over any developments in the matter.

    [21] Trade unions to found labor academy

    Athens, 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    The country's largest trade union umbrella group said on Monday that it will found a labor academy to be headed by Nikos Mouzelis, a sociology professor at the London School of Economics.

    The academy will offer training and further education to trade unionists and workers, the General Confederation of Employees of Greece said in a statement.

    Formal announcement of the move is due on February 25.

    [22] Stocks drop in blue-chip selling

    Athens, 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    Stocks finished lower with players selling blue chips while buying into lower capitalization paper, traders said.

    The Athens general share index closed at 2,865.15 points, posting a decline of 0.79%. Turnover was 156.4 million euros.

    The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 1.04% down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.41% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.41% up.

    Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 175 to 121 with 56 remaining unchanged.

    [23] Two dead, six missing after N. Korean-flag motorship sinks off Psara island

    Athens, 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    The existence of an additional missing person on board the shipwrecked freighter "Lady-O" was confirmed on Monday after the coastguard contacted the shipping firm that owned the vessel. In a letter, the company said that an Egyptian national was on board the ship as a passenger, in addition to its 10-member crew.

    This brings the total missing to six, in addition to the two crewmembers confirmed dead.

    The Greek coastguard was first alerted to the existence of a sixth man by one of the three crewmen that survived the shipwreck, also an Egyptian, who has been admitted to Hios hospital for observation.

    The North Korean-flagged freighter was sailing from the Greek port of Halkis to Turkey with a load of 732 tons of iron and a 10-member crew made up to two Lebanese and eight Egyptian nationals. It put out a distress signal at dawn on Monday, before sinking in turbulent waters and high seas about 14 nautical miles of the island of Psara.

    Two crewmembers were found dead in a lifeboat and another three crew members were rescued by a Super Puma helicopter and a nearby freighter. One of the missing seamen had initially been lifted from a lifeboat by the helicopter but fell into the sea during the lifting operation.

    According to first estimates, the small freighter sank due to a shift of the load in the turbulent waters and gale-force winds of 10 beaufort velocity in the area, which probably caused a dangerous list of the motorship.

    The area was being combed by the Super Puma, a Turkish helicopter and four other freighters sailing nearby, in difficult weather conditions, for the five missing seamen and passenger. Authorities said another rescue helicopter might be sent to the area to assist the search operation.

    The search-and-rescue operation is being coordinated by the Merchant Marine Ministry's Unified Search and Rescue Coordination Centre, while the search for the six missing continues.

    Monday's naval accident off Psara island handled by Greece, gov't says: Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Monday said that the naval accident that occurred off the island of Psarra early on Monday morning, in which the North Korean-flagged freighter "Lady O" sank in turbulent waters and high seas, was handled by Greece, which carried out all the necessary actions.

    The spokesman was responding to questions regarding Turkish involvement in the rescue operation.

    Roussopoulos said that he had contacted the three ministries responsible, the merchant marine, foreign and defense ministries, and had been informed that the accident occurred within the Greek search-and-rescue area, which coincides with the Athens Flight Information Region, while Greece had handled all the operations.

    The geography of the area, the means possessed by Greece and the country's undoubted expertise in this area created conditions offering full naval search-and rescue services, as was proved by the efficient practice followed," he said, and confirmed by the intervention of Greek rescue units that was still continuing.

    [24] Greek gov't to present five-year plan to improve road safety

    Athens, 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    The Greek government will present a five-year plan by the end of February aimed to improve road safety around the country.

    Speaking to reporters, after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, Transport and Communications Minister Mihalis Liapis said that Greece, sadly, has the biggest record of road accidents and deaths in the European Union.

    The Greek minister stressed that a privatization process of Olympic Airlines was in its last stages and added that the government was moving rapidly towards with its program. Transport ministry expects an appointed international financial consultant to present candidate bidders for the national carrier by the end of January and the whole process to be completed in the next two or three months.

    Commenting on a restructuring plan in Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE), Liapis said the ministry has urged the organization's management to continue talks with workers over a voluntary retirement plan aimed to return OTE in profitability and become more competitive.

    Transport minister also said that Hellenic Railways Organization would launch a series of auctions this month aimed to improve railways infrastructure and to absorb funds from a Third Community Support Framework program.

    Liapis said that a new transport map in Athens offered good results and announced that the ministry planned to implement similar projects to other big cities, such as Piraeus and Thessaloniki.

    He reiterated the government's will improve Greek citizens' daily lives and improve living quality in the country.

    [25] World Council of Churches conference to be held in Athens in May

    Athens, 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    The World Council of Churches (WCC) will be holding its Conference on World Mission and Evangelism - a conference it holds every 10 years - in Athens from May 9-14, 2005, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos announced during a press conference on Monday.

    Christodoulos emphasized that Greece is the first Orthodox country to host such a conference. According to Christodoulos, the WCC's decision to hold the conference in Greece is an honor and an expression of trust in the Greek Church. He also pointed out that the Church will be working closely with the State, since Olympic venues and other infrastructure created for the 2004 Olympics will be used.

    Additionally, Christodoulos said that the conference is also an opportunity for people to experience Greece's culture and civilization. He emphasized that the Church of Greece is not afraid of communicating with other Churches, and can do so objectively and impartially.

    Approximately 800 representatives will be attending the conference, which provides the opportunity for the exchange of ideas and experiences and to set priorities in mission and the Christian witness.

    Asked whether this conference will open the way for Christodoulos to visit the Vatican, the archbishop replied that the Holy Synod which had previously considered the matter, had decided to postpone it. According to Christodoulos, the matter remains open and a visit can be realized at any time.

    Asked whether the Church of Greece is cooperating with the Ecumenical Patriarchate in organizing the conference and presenting Greece's positions, Christodoulos replied that cooperation between the two entities is ongoing.

    [26] Foreign ministry, Karamanlis Institute to co-host event on Greek foreign policy around Black Sea

    Athens, 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    The Greek foreign ministry and the Constantine Karamanlis Institute for Democracy will be co-hosting an event on Wednesday that aims to present the goals of Greek foreign policy in the area around the Black Sea and provide information on the program of the Greek presidency of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation pact (BSCE).

    The opening speech at the event will be given by Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis, while speakers will include academics, government officials and business people.

    [27] Appellate court orders release of ailing terrorist

    Athens, 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    A five-member appeals court in Athens on Monday ordered the release of convicted terrorist Christos Tsigaridas due to health reasons.

    Tsigaridas, sentenced to 25 years in prison last year for his involvement in the ultra-leftist terror band "Revolutionary Popular Struggle", posted an 8,000-euro bond and will not be allowed to travel overseas. He must also appear twice a month at a local police precinct.

    A three-member special court last October sentenced four convicted members of the terror group, known as "ELA" in its Greek-language acronym to a maximum jail sentence after they were found guilty on a myriad of terrorist-related felonies.

    Besides Tsigaridas, Costas Agapiou, Aggeletos Kanas and Irene Athanasaki were convicted in the case.

    The 25-year prison sentences were the maximum the court could hand down.

    Tsigaridas' release on grounds of poor health comes almost 10 years to the day (Jan. 24, 1995) after ELA claimed responsibility for a bomb explosion outside an Athens university. A proclamation claiming responsibility said the attack was connected to the then government's intention to revise the university asylum regime.

    [28] President inaugurates photo exhibit at Archaeological Society of Athens

    Athens, 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    President of the Hellenic Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos inaugurated the photo exhibit "The Peloponnese 1910" at the Archaeological Society of Athens on Monday evening.

    It is the first photo exhibit the Archaeological Society has held in its 150 years of existence. The exhibit includes photos of monuments in the Peloponnese - discovered and preserved by the Archaeological Society - which were taken between April and June 1910 and were presented at the Rome exhibit in 1911.

    [29] Greek Deputy addresses Hellenic American Institute in Washington on exchanges of values and ideas

    WASHINGTON 18/1/2004 (ANA/T. Ellis)

    Ruling New Democracy party State Deputy Eleftheria Bernidaki-Aldus addressed the Hellenic American Institute here over the weekend on the issue of "exchanges of values and ideas between Greece and the U.S.", stressing the importance of human values which inspired Greek and American societies.

    Earlier, she had made another address at the legal faculty of the American University on the "treatment of invalids from ancient Greece until modern-day America: problems and solutions."

    The Greek deputy, who also spoke on the basis of her own personal experience in both countries, said the fundamental American law on the treatment of invalids constitutes a model for similar legislation in the European Union and Greece, which anticipates the abolition of discrimination and the offering of opportunities by the state and the private sector for the personal and professional advancement of invalids.

    Aldus also met Democratic Party Senator Paul Sarbanes and discussed bilateral relations between Greece and the United States, educational and cultural exchanges between the two countries and legislation on the protection of invalids.

    [30] Turkey's justice ministry selects Greece and Austria to help with creation of Ombudsman

    Athens, 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    Turkey's Justice Ministry has selected the Greek Ombudsman and its Austrian counterpart from several other EU candidates (Denmark, Netherlands, Spain, Hungary) to help in the creation of a Turkish Ombudsman.

    The twinning project will take 26 months to complete and is estimated to cost approximately 1 million. The Greek Ombudsman will support the new institution's creation and will contribute in the initial phase of its operation. A coordinating centre has already been set up which will coordinate the activities of Greek and foreign experts.

    [31] Egyptian authorities report major breakthrough against immigrant-trafficking outfit working in Greece

    CAIRO 18/1/2004 (ANA - N. Katsikas)

    The Egyptian police have made a major breakthrough against an immigrant-trafficking outfit preparing to carry 40 Egyptian illegal immigrants into Greece in a fishing boat, an Egyptian daily reported here on Monday.

    In an operation last week, Egyptian authorities located the 40 would-be immigrants in an Alexandria hotel, waiting to be shipped out to Greece. Each of the 40 prospective emigrants had agreed to pay 4,500 euros for their passage - a truly vast sum by local standards, where the average wages ranges between 50 and 100 euros a month.

    Under interrogation, meanwhile, suspects held in connection to the case have revealed the existence of a contact living in Greece involved in the sex trade and the trafficking of women. The contact was described as a 'prominent businessman' who had also undertaken to find work for those coming to Greece.

    Cooperation to fight illegal immigration was one of the top issues in talks between Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and the Egyptian government, during the Greek premier's recent official visit to Cairo.

    [32] Supreme Court rules out confiscation of vehicles as penalty for unruly drivers

    Athens, 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    The Greek Supreme Court 'Areios Pagos' on Monday ruled that on-the-sport confiscation by traffic police of the vehicles of unruly drivers, even for serious violations of the traffic code like drinking and driving, excessive speeding or illegal road racing, was not an acceptable penalty.

    In a circular issued on Monday, Areios Pagos prosecutor Dimitris Linos said that, according to the penal code, the vehicles could only be confiscated in these cases if they were considered the means of carrying out intentional crimes or misdemeanors.

    For drivers violating the traffic code, however, only those penalties provided for the specific offence could be applied, Linos said.

    [33] Public order minister takes initiative to end illegal weapons use in Crete

    Athens, 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis is taking the initiative and making systematic efforts to bring together a group of celebrities and public figures who will help put an end to illegal weapons use in Crete.

    The initiative began before Christmas with Voulgarakis' visit to Iraklio, Crete, where he met with a nine-year old victim, injured accidentally by a rifle. On Monday, Voulgarakis continued the initiative with a meeting he had in Athens with personalities from Crete such as Mikis Theodorakis, Marina Lampraki-Plaka, Nikos Koundouros, Yiorgos Grammatikakis, Christos Leontis, and Yiannis Philis.

    Voulgarakis asked music composer Theodorakis to lead the effort in raising public awareness among residents of Crete in the dangers of illegal gun use. Theodorakis on his part, said that a significant step in this direction had already been made with the creation of a "Committee of Initiative" which has been established and has called on the deans of Cretan universities to draft related proposals.

    The committee will be convening in Chania, Crete in order to add more members to its ranks who in turn will try to recruit professors, teachers and priests to contribute to this effort.

    [34] Two policemen charged with torturing Afghan detainees at police station

    Athens, 18/1/2004 (ANA)

    Felony and misdemeanor charges were filed Monday by an Athens prosecutor against two policemen believed to have tortured to Afghan detainees at the Aghios Panteleimonas police precinct before Christmas.

    First Instance court prosecutor Panayotis Panayotopoulos, after studying the report drafted by the security police officials investigating the incident, and initiated prosecution procedures against the two policemen believed to be responsible. The charges include torture (a felony), torture with bodily harm (felony), and several counts of unprovoked bodily harm (misdemeanor).

    The case has been assigned to an examining magistrate.

    [35] Efforts must intensify for Cyprus solution, French Minister says

    NICOSIA 18/1/2004 (CNA/ANA)

    French Minister for European Affairs Claudie Haignere said efforts have to intensify so as to achieve progress for a Cyprus settlement, noting she can not imagine the island's future within the EU without reunification.

    After a meeting here Monday with Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou, Haignere said she extended, on behalf of French President Jacques Chirac, an invitation to Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos to visit France within 2005.

    As regards the recent decision by the European Council for Turkey, the French official said ''we are placed in a new perspective for achieving a fair solution of the Cyprus problem''.

    Responding to a remark she said France does not ''envisage a situation in which Turkey does not respond to its obligations as pointed out in December 2004''.

    The Cyprus FM said the French minister met earlier in the day with President Papadopoulos and they discussed the Cyprus problem, the protocol of adaptation of the Ankara Agreement and other issues, whereas their meeting focused on European issues such as Euro-Mediterranean cooperation and financial issues.

    He added that during the meeting with Haignere, the French friendly stance and support towards Cyprus had been reaffirmed.

    In statements the French minister said that the issue of the cooperation between Europe and the Mediterranean is very important and ''we can make use of Cyprus' experience and expertise on this issue in order to make progress in this cooperation''.

    Referring to the Cyprus issue, she said that France has always supported the UN Secretary General's services for a settlement and even though this was not possible before Cyprus' accession to the EU, the hope remains for a prospect that will lead to a just and viable solution''.

    ''We must not be pessimistic, looking backwards'', the French official said noting that progress has been made in several issues such as the rapprochement between the two communities.

    ''The message is that we must not stop here but intensify the dialogue in order to make progress'', she said.

    Before their meeting the two ministers attended a ceremony at the foreign ministry during which the fountain pens with which the Cypriot Foreign Minister had signed the Treaty of Accession and the Treaty for the European Constitution were put on display.

    Signing of EU protocol a precondition for Turkey, says French Minister: The signing by Turkey of a protocol to extend its customs union with the European Union to include the ten new members is a precondition for Ankara, if it wants to start accession negotiations, French Minister for European Affairs Claudie Haignere has told House President Demetris Christofias, according to reliable sources.

    The same sources have described as ''very creative'' the talks which the French Minister and Christofias had at the House of Representatives on Monday, during which Christofias informed Haignere that the Greek Cypriot side is ready to engage in a procedure which will lead to a solution to the Cyprus problem.

    At the meeting, Haignere asked to be informed about relations between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots as well as the procedures in Cyprus to ratify the Convention for the European Constitution.

    Christofias told the French Minister that the discussion and ratification of the Constitution will be completed at the Cyprus House of Representatives by the end of March.

    The House President explained to Haignere why the Greek Cypriot side rejected a UN-proposed solution plan (the Annan Plan) at the April referendum and stressed that the Greek Cypriot side is ready to become engaged in a procedure that would lead to an agreed solution to the Cyprus problem.

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