|Wednesday, 13 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-01-19
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>January 19, 2005
 Greece welcomes EU recognition of effort to cut deficit
BRUSSELS 19/1/2005 (ANA/M Spinthourakis)Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Tuesday that he welcomed recognition by the European Union of the government's endeavor to lower the fiscal deficit to below the bloc's ceiling of 3.0% of gross domestic product.
"The EU Commission would like to see greater speed in implementation of these measures. At the same time, however, it was accepted along general lines that fiscal deterioration in Greece has resulted from factors for which the current government is not responsible," Alogoskoufis told a news conference in the Belgian capital after an EU finance ministers' meeting on a deficit overrun in Greece.
The factors were major spending on the Athens Olympics, a high deficit emerging from the government's audit of its predecessor's books, and major underestimation of the cost of spending before March elections, all of which had scotched the 2004 budget, the minister said.
In about a month, the Commission would issue recommendations that called for strict implementation of the 2005 budget. It disagreed with Greece mainly over the government's growth estimate for 2005.
"On the basis of the finance ministry's assessments, it would be feasible to shrink the deficit to the Community's legally accepted level within 2005, but the Commission believes that this hypothesis is very optimistic, and that the adoption of fiscal adaptation measures will also be needed in 2006," Alogoskoufis noted.
"The government is willing to strike at the root of the problem, taking the necessary structural measures and curbing wasteful spending in the public sector," he underlined.
The atmosphere at the meeting was favorable towards Greece, due in part to the fact that the government had itself opted for fiscal revitalization; and in part to the fact that it accepted Community recommendations, averting the kind of statutory crisis that had erupted in EU ranks two years ago when Germany and France were in a similar position.
"A two-year deadline for Greece to attain fiscal equilibrium is highly favorable, which is what the Commission is likely to propose in its recommendations," Alogoskoufis added.
Concerning revision of the eurozone's stability and growth pact, the minister said the change would be limited, and would not affect the maintenance of the fiscal deficit below 3.0% of GDP, and the public debt below 60% of GDP. Instead the shift would aim at avoiding fiscal derailment when economies were healthy.
Greek fiscal restructuring efforts significant, but not adequate, Commission says: The European Commission on Tuesday acknowledged efforts made by Greece in bringing its fiscal situation in order but noted that these efforts must intensify and underlined that this would be the focus of the European Commission's recommendations, to be drafted next month. Speaking to reporters, after a meeting of EU finance ministers' council in Brussels, EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, commenting on a Commission's procedure against Greece over the country's excessive fiscal deficit, said that the EU's executive acknowledged efforts made by Greece in reducing its state deficits and underlined that these efforts were significant but not adequate. The Spanish Commissioner stressed that the ECOFIN council unanimously adopted a Commission's opinion over Greece's fiscal deficit, published on December 22, and asked the EU's executive to prepare new recommendations for the Greek economy as envisaged in the article 104/9 of the EU's pact.
Greek gov't satisfied with Eurogroup discussion: Greek Economy ministry officials on Tuesday expressed their satisfaction over the climate prevailed in a discussion over the country's fiscal condition during a Eurogroup meeting in Brussels yesterday .
The officials said that the European Commission, although it noted that the country's fiscal deficit exceeded the 3.0 percent limit set by the Stability Pact, it acknowledged that the Greek government has taken measures towards a fiscal stabilization and underlined that the 2005 budget showed that the country was moving towards a fiscal restructuring through structural measures and not adopting piecemeal measures.
The discussion over Greek economy was based on the recommendations of EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, with the Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis presenting the government's position.
An ECOFIN meeting today is expected to give a "green light" to the European Commission to present its recommendations on the country's fiscal situation in the next few months.
Ministry officials said that the Commission would offer Greece a two-year period to reduce its fiscal deficit below 3.0 percent of GDP and reiterated the government's pledge to achieve this goal through a mild economic policy and without adopting any special measures.
 Turkey's behavior is being monitored and assessed by the EU, gov't says
Athens, 19/1/2005 (ANA)Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros reiterated on Tuesday that Turkey's behavior and actions were constantly being monitored and assessed by the European Union in the run-up to October 3, when it was due to begin accession negotiations, but also after accession talks begin.
"Turkey has a course to cover up until October 3 when, with certain conditions, it will begin accession negotiations. Immediately afterward, it will be called on to cover another course in order to acquire a European identity. All of Turkey's behavior until October 3 but also afterward will be the object of investigation and control. Turkey's stance is constantly being assessed. The mosaic of its behavior is being recorded and it is on this that it will finally be judged," the spokesman said.
Antonaros was responding to questions regarding the repercussions of Turkey's actions and provocations in the Aegean.
Regarding Greek reactions to Ankara's activities, the spokesman said that Greek diplomacy was unremitting in carrying out the actions needed in order to explain and underline Greek positions.
To questions regarding Monday's rescue operation following a shipwreck off the islet of Psarra, Antonaros reiterated that the search and rescue operation was a Greek sector of responsibility and control.
 Armed forces did everything necessary, gov't spokesman say regarding report by 'Ethnos' daily
Athens, 19/1/2005 (ANA)Commenting on a report by the Athens daily newspaper "Ethnos" regarding the incursion of Turkish Navy ships into Greek territorial waters, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros stressed on Tuesday that the Greek Armed Forces had closely monitored "the event" and that "all actions that should be carried out are being carried out".
The paper reported that two Turkish gunboats and a torpedo boat approached the rocky outcrop Zourafa off the north Aegean island of Samothrace, remaining undisturbed within Greek territorial waters until they left of their own accord.
 PASOK leader criticizes government over public sector hiring bill and agricultural policy
Athens, 19/1/2005 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou, speaking after a meeting of the party's Parliamentary Group Coordinating Organ on Tuesday, criticized the government over the bill concerning public sector hiring, its agricultural policy and its handling of the economy in the wake of the ECOFIN council's decision and new Turkish provocations in the Aegean.
Referring to the bill on hirings, Papandreou accused the government of ''abolishing a considerable political achievement of the people in the name of refunding the state and of turning Greece many decades back,'' indicating that his party will observe an ''adamant stand'' on this specific issue.
Papandreou further said the problem in the agricultural sector does not only concern cotton producers but a "great problem exists for all agricultural products" and a very big decrease in farmers' incomes as a result of government policy.
Regarding ECOFIN's decision, the PASOK leader said it confirms PASOK's predictions, it forewarns of ominous developments and tightens the noose of supervision. He also expressed concern over the feeling of satisfaction and complaisance being shown by the government despite the economy's very poor image.
Papandreou attributed great responsibilities to the government for Turkey's attitude in the Aegean, terming the neighboring country's activities provocative which, as he said, have a "qualitative upsurge", while implying the existence of dangers for the country's territorial integrity.
 Voulgarakis meets with new US ambassador to Greece
Athens, 19/1/2005 (ANA)Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis wished Charles Ries, the new US Ambassador to Greece, a successful and productive tenure and expressed confidence that the Greek government and Ries would cooperate well together, during the meeting the two men had on Tuesday.
 Majority of judges do a good job, gov't says on alleged ring illegally releasing drug dealers
Athens, 19/1/2005 (ANA)"The great majority of judges, doctors and lawyers do their job well," alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said on Tuesday, in response to questions about an alleged circuit of judges, doctors and lawyers that were getting rich by illegally releasing drug dealers from prison.
According to the spokesman, those responsible were "isolated individuals who suffer the consequences when it is discovered that they are acting illegally.
 New Iraqi envoy holds briefing on election; cites priorities in bolstering bilateral ties
Athens, 19/1/2005 (ANA)Iraq's new ambassador to Athens on Tuesday briefed local reporters on the strife-ravaged Mideast country's first-ever democratic elections later this month, expectedly answering numerous questions regarding all-important security concerns and even sectarian quarrels.
Forty days after presenting his credentials to the Greek president of the republic, Amb. Hatim Al-Khawam declined to reveal specific security measures ahead of the Jan. 30 vote and vis-a-vis increasing insurgent violence.
Asked about insurgents' claims of resisting the US-led occupation of the oil-rich country, Al-Khawam responded by rhetorically asking what kind of resistance "kills innocent people, destroys a country's infrastructure and oil wealth, kidnaps women and children, and cuts people's heads off? This is no definition of resistance".
In terms of specific Greek-Iraqi ties, the new Iraqi ambassador said a strengthening of relations in the political, economic, cultural and trade sectors is his top priority after an elected government assumes power in Baghdad. In particular, embassy officials pointed directly to Iraqi interest in getting Greek construction firms to bid on major construction and infrastructure projects in the country.
"We have excellent relations with Greece, as does the entire Arab world with Greece ... our goal is to further strengthening these ties," the 56-year-old Al-Khawam said, adding that contacts with Greek government officials and ministries are pending. Nonetheless, he said Greek President Kostis Stephanopoulos has twice inquired about the situation in his country, while also expressing an interest in the upcoming Iraqi election.
A career diplomat since 1971, the Iraqi envoy's brief biographical note states that he resigned from the foreign affairs ministry in March 1984 due to "political reasons". He was reinstated as an ambassador in July 2004 and nominated as Baghdad's envoy to Athens shortly thereafter.
In terms of other issues, the ambassador stressed that recent press reports claiming damage by US and Polish mechanized and armor units to the archaeological site of ancient Babylon were disproved, although he added that if damage was done "it is unfortunate, but something that happens in such an environment (of terror), especially one of international terrorism."
Finally, Al-Khawam emphasized that his country "will not allow Iraq to be a base of operations for an attack on another country," a response to a question citing a US media report claiming that American commandos have conducted clandestine missions in neighboring Iran in order to pinpoint possible targets in case of a strike against that country.
Press reports from Baghdad on Tuesday quoted Iraqi officials as saying they plan to seal the country's borders, extend a night-time curfew and restrict movement in order to protect voters ahead of the Jan. 30 vote.
 Commission in talks with Greece over 3rd CSF programs
Athens, 19/1/2005 (ANA)The European Commission was currently in a phase of consultations and negotiations with Greek authorities over a series of irregularities in projects and programs included in a Third Community Support Framework, EU Commissioner on Regional Policy Danuta Hubner said on Tuesday. Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Mrs Hubner said that no decision was taken in the current phase and underlined that this round of consultations has a long way to go before reaching a conclusion. The Commission noted that the EU's executive was always willing to help member states in adhering to program schedules co-funded by the EU. Hubner noted that similar cases were also examined in the past with other EU member-states, such as Spain and Portugal. He sounded optimistic that any irregularities would be corrected within the deadline set by the Commission (end February) and noted that European Commission's agencies were ready to visit Athens, if necessary, to assist Greek authorities in their work.
 Gov't working to resolve EU funding issues, finmin says
BRUSSELS 19/1/2005 (ANA/B Demiris)Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Tuesday that national authorities were committed to implementing projects funded under the European Union's Third Community Support Framework package and that action to be taken would meet any objections raised by the bloc's Commission.
Replying to a reporter's question, the minister said the government was working to resolve outstanding issues in implementation of the projects and programs, and meetings with service officials would be held next week to debate points in a letter sent by the Commission at the end of December.
 Public works bill discussed in Parliament
Athens, 19/1/2005 (ANA)The argument between Minister of the Environment, Town Planning and Public Works George Souflias and his predecessor, PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) MP Vasso Papandreou over the course of public works continued in Parliament on Tuesday.
Specifically, while Parliament was discussing the new bill regarding public works, Papandreou reiterated that the EU may suspend funding to the ministry due to irregularities in completing public works. She also claimed that by doing away with the 'mathematical formula' in public works contracts, ruling New Democracy has only managed to bring back the chaos of discounts - which sometimes reach as much as 65% - and said that New Democracy's laws were incompatible with those of the EU.
Souflias responded, saying Papandreou's claims were inaccurate. The EU's threat to suspend funding concerned the Third Community Support Framework, not the ministry, Souflias explained. He also mentioned that the EU had threatened to suspend funding in October 2003, forcing the then PASOK government to agree on an action plan with the EU regarding better management of EU funds. Furthermore, Souflias added that Danuta Hubner, EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, was satisfied with the progress the ministry had made regarding the action plan.
In response to PASOK MP and former Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, Souflias said: "Although I do not have responsibility over the Finance Ministry, it [the Finance Ministry] has done a lot towards implementing the action plan, but it was not possible to do everything within such a short timeframe."
 Gov't says Scientific Council queries about 'main shareholder' bill only part of a long report
Athens, 19/1/2005 (ANA)Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Tuesday said that the queries raised by Parliament's Scientific Council regarding the government's draft bill on 'main shareholders' in the media were only part of a "lengthy report that were selectively published by a section of the press" in order to create an overall impression that the Council had reservations.
He also noted that the bill would in any case be discussed before Parliament, which was the right organ to make the decision, and that the bill was in accordance with the Constitution and compatible with Community laws.
 Pegasus says Bobolas family broke off talks with Angelopoulos
Athens, 19/1/2005 (ANA)Pegasus Publications SA on Tuesday announced it broke off talks with Greek businessman Theodore Angelopoulos over the sale of a controlling stake -owned by Bobolas family- in the company.
In a letter to the Athens Stock Exchange, Pegasus said its main shareholders, George, Maria and Fotis Bobolas informed the board that they had broken off talks with Theodore Angelopoulos.
ASE announced the suspension of trading in Pegasus' shares on Monday.
Bourse lifts freeze on trade in Pegasus Publishing: Athens bourse authorities on Tuesday lifted suspension of trade in shares of Pegasus Publishing SA following an end to acquisition talks between the Bobolas family, owner of the firm, and entrepreneur Theodoros Angelopoulos.
Both parties announced earlier in the day that the talks had ended, and Angelopoulos was no longer interested in buying out Pegasus.
The firm's stock will again trade from Wednesday following the two-day suspension.
 S&P's gives OTE telecom negative rating from stable
Athens, 19/1/2005 (ANA)Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said on Tuesday that it had revised its outlook on Greek telecommunications operator Hellenic Telecommunications Organization S.A. (OTE) to negative from stable, following heightened uncertainty over an agreement being sought to restructure the cost base of the company's domestic fixed-line division.
At the same time, Standard & Poor's affirmed its 'BBB+/A-2' corporate credit ratings on OTE, and its 'BBB+' senior unsecured debt rating on related entity OTE PLC.
OTE is currently negotiating with its workforce unions to agree a scheme of headcount reduction. The rationale for structural cost and headcount reduction was recognized, but potentially substantial restructuring payments could impair the group's financial profile beyond initial expectations, at least in the short-term, S&P's said in a statement.
A lack of adequate cost restructuring to date has resulted in depressed margins and weak cash generation in the group's core fixed-line division. The ratings assume that timely and successful steps will be taken to at least stop this trend. OTE reported total debt of ¬ 3.2 billion at Sept. 30, 2004, the statement said.
"Our concern is that, in addition to some delay to an agreement being reached, the magnitude of the payments discussed--of potentially ¬ 1.0 billion to ¬ 1.6 billion--is well in excess of earlier expectations," said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Simon Redmond.
"Consequently, as and when an agreement is reached, we will review the scheme with a particular focus on the balance between the schedule of payments and concomitant funding implications, and the amount and timing of anticipated cost savings, to determine whether the combined effect on the group remains consistent with the ratings," Redmond added.
The negative outlook acknowledges the risk that OTE's credit profile is coming under increasing pressure. The group's failure to address key issues successfully in the very near term could lead to a negative rating adjustment, according to S&P's.
Alternatively, the funding of a very substantial restructuring commitment over a short period of time would significantly affect OTE's financial flexibility, possibly resulting in a downgrade--potentially in spite of the benefit of a lower cost base in the future. Additional investment activity or other management diversions from strategic priorities would also be viewed negatively, the statement added.
 Intrasoft wins EU contract to develop "Safe Sea Net"
Athens, 19/1/2005 (ANA)Intrasoft International on Tuesday announced the signing of a contract for the support and upgrading of a "Safe Sea Net" system used by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) after winning a European tender.
Maritime safety, focusing on protecting the environment and sea borders, is a high priority policy issue for the European Union.
The contract envisages the gradual development of a modern and integrated operational system aimed to improve maritime safety, protecting maritime eco-systems in Europe and safeguarding EU's sea borders.
The system will be installed at EMSA's base in Brussels and will be interconnected with all national vessel traffic management centers in the EU (VTMIS).
The signing of the contract highlights Intracom Group's expertise in developing vessel traffic management systems and vessel traffic services in the EU.
 Recruitment of civil servants to include interviews
Athens, 19/1/2005 (ANA)The main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) party on Tuesday expressed opposition to two components of a new bill being reviewed by the relevant Parliamentary Committee regarding the hiring in the public sector. PASOK's opposition focuses on the interview process the government has proposed be integrated in the hiring process and the position the government has maintained towards all those who passed the ASEP civil servants exam in 1998.
In response, Minister of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Deputy Minister Apostolos Andreoulakos emphasized that Greece is the only country in Europe that does not interview candidates for civil servant positions. They also stressed that adding the interview as part of the recruitment process does not give the government any leeway in arbitrary hirings, since the entire process is controlled by the civil servants recruitment system ASEP. As for those who passed the 1998 ASEP exam, the ministers said that the government's stance was in accordance with New Democracy's promise to hire those who would be vindicated by the Council of State.
Petros Mantouvalos, New Democracy rapporteur for the draft law, emphasized that "the draft law aims at finding a viable and credible solution to the issue of legalizing contract employees."
PASOK rapporteur and former President of the ADEDY civil servants' union Yiannis Koutsoukos criticized New Democracy of going against its campaign promises in the bills it has subsequently proposed.
 Greek gov't seeks dialogue over shopping hours
Athens, 19/1/2005 (ANA)Development Deputy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou on Tuesday invited representatives of the commerce sector to a dialogue over the introduction of nation-wide shopping hours.
In a letter sent to 13 representatives of the sector, Papathanasiou stressed that the ministry's intention was not a full deregulation of shopping hours but the introduction of a unified shopping hours system in which local authorities could only decide on its extension.
The ministry proposal envisages closing shopping hours at 21.00 and extending shopping hours by up to two hours on Saturdays.
Development ministry will publish a series of amendments aimed to better regulate open markets in the country, while it will begin a dialogue with pharmaceutical companies on Thursday over the introduction of a new pricing policy on pharmaceutical products.
 Bank union leaders to propose 24-hour strike
Athens, 19/1/2005 (ANA)Leaders of the OTOE bank employees' union said on Tuesday that they will propose that members stage a 24-hour nationwide strike on January 31 in order to pressure management into accepting a unified pension fund for the sector.
The union's members will meet on January 25 to vote on the strike proposal, OTOE said in a statement.
Bank workers have sought further meetings with the government; the Union of Greek Banks, which represents management; the General Confederation of Employees of Greece; and parliamentary parties.
If management opts for a piecemeal solution to pension funds, then strike action will increase, the statement added.
 Stocks drop, tracking European markets
Athens, 19/1/2005 (ANA)Stocks finished lower with the market tracking a decline in European markets. Also depressing sentiment was announcement of an end to negotiations for the acquisition of Pegasus Publishing, traders said.
The Athens general share index closed at 2,832.73 points, posting a decline of 1.13%. Turnover was 212.5 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.79% down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 1.52% lower; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 1.43% down.
Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 203 to 90 with 59 remaining unchanged.
 Record haul of ephedrine near Piraeus sparks Europol alert for international drug trafficking ring
Athens, 19/1/2005 (ANA)A record haul of more than one ton of the drug ephedrine, a raw material for the production of synthetic narcotics, has been seized by the Greek police drugs squad and SDOE financial crimes squad, sparking an alert by Europol and the EU member states' police forces.
The huge quantity of one ton and 88 kilos of ephedrine, used in the production of synthetic drugs such as metamphetamines -- known on the street as "ice" and "speed" -- is the largest such haul to date in Europe.
The narcotic was seized Monday afternoon by the Athens police drug squad and SDOE in a warehouse at the Neo Ikonia container station near Piraeus, following a search conducted in cooperation with Piraeus customs employees.
Police sources told ANA that two suspicious containers were spotted, containing 760 sacks of rice weighing 38.2 tons. Hidden among the rice were 27 sacks containing approximately 40 kilos of ephedrine each.
The containers originated from Pakistan, and the case has tentatively been linked with last Thursday's seizure of 6.5 tons of processed hashish in 'bricks' (slabs) in another warehouse in Keratsini, hear Piraeus, in one of the biggest hash hauls in Greece, and in which a Pakistani national who was employed to guard the warehouse was arrested. The hashish, according to police sources, originated from Pakistan and was destined for Greece and other EU countries.
According to the police sources, the recipient of the containers containing the rice and ephedrine was the same individual who had rented the warehouse in Keratsini in which the hashish was found.
The suspect, the sources said, is of Greek origin, but had provided fake documents containing a false name, address and other data.
It is believed that the ephedrine was destined most likely for a country in central Europe for the manufacture of methamphetamine, the sources said, adding that the quantity seized was sufficient to produce 50-70 million 'hits' or pills.
Due to the large quantity of the drug, authorities surmise that a large international drug trafficking ring was behind the case, and consequently coordinated investigations have commenced throughout Europe and other countries, via Interpol, to locate and break up the ring.
 Turkish national arrested after 16 kilos heroin found in his car before boarding ferry for Italy
Athens, 19/1/2005 (ANA)A Turkish national was arrested at midnight in the Greek port of Igoumenitsa after more than 16 kilos were found hidden in a secret compartment in his car, just before he boarded a ferry for Italy, police said Tuesday.
They said the 33-year-old Turkish national was arrested just before boarding a car/passenger ferry for Ancona, after 35 packets containing a total 16.284 kilos of heroin were found stashed in a secret compartment in his car.
The detainee told police during questioning that the heroin was destined for The Netherlands. He said he had gotten the heroin in Turkey, but declined to reveal where in Turkey.
The Igoumenitsa port authority, which was carrying gout the preliminary investigation, was investigating to see whether a second car with collaborators was also involved.
 Illegal immigrants intercepted on the Aegean island of Samos
Athens, 19/1/2005 (ANA)Nine illegal immigrants from Afghanistan managed to reach the eastern Aegean island of Samos in a small wooden boat on Tuesday morning, in spite of stormy seas and bad weather.
They alighted at Psili Ammo, where they were intercepted by the Samos coast guard and taken to Samos police headquarters for questioning.
They were then transferred to the illegal immigrant reception centre on the island.
 President of Republic presents medals to 14 people distinguished by their work in 2004
Athens, 19/1/2005 (ANA)President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos on Tuesday presented honorary distinctions, awards and medals, which had been announced just before the New Year, to 14 academics, people of the arts and letters and people distinguished for their work and contribution to society.
Among these was the head of the Athens Olympic Games Organizing Committee, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, who 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 Commanders 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.
Presenting the last awards that he will be handing out as Greek President, Stephanopoulos referred to the work done by each recipient and stressed that the work done by Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki deserved reward since "her competent organization of the Olympic Games in Athens had helped raise Greece".
 Cabinet discusses new body to replace DIKATSA, culture in education
Athens, 19/1/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis chaired a meeting of the cabinet on Tuesday that discussed a draft bill for replacing DIKATSA, the state agency for the recognition and accreditation of foreign degrees and diplomas, with a new organization.
The meeting also discussed ways a draft bill for setting up a Government Committee for Education and Culture, charged with introducing cultural studies at all levels of learning.
In statements after the meeting, Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou said that DIKATSA will be replaced by a new body that will cover universities and technical colleges, while noting that the bill had already been discussed by the political parties and other bodies.
Referring to past scandals involving DIKATSA, Yiannakou said these cases had been referred to justice and that the new system "with exams taking place in unimpeachable conditions" had not given rise to any queries.
Regarding the second bill, she said this would not be limited to cooperation between the education and culture ministries but would concern itself with disseminating culture at all educational levels and all courses of study.
According to Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis, meanwhile, the bill for the first time forged strong links between the education and culture ministries, "creating a safe vehicle for the successful course of modern Greek society, which will very quickly bring results".
 Writer Amos Oz speaks in Athens on prospects for Middle East peace
Athens, 19/1/2005 (ANA)The only solution for Israelis and Palestinians was a "just divorce", Israeli novelist Amos Oz said in Athens on Tuesday. Speaking at an event organized by the Constantine Karamanlis Institute for Democracy on the prospects for peace in the Middle East, Oz said that the two peoples were ready for such a solution but their leaders still hesitated, though there were now some encouraging signs.
According to Oz, the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians was 'unclear' since it was a conflict between two victims that both had strong arguments.
"Essentially, the conflict is between two former victims of Europe. The Arabs see us as an extension of capitalist Europe, like colonialists, and we see them as Nazis with moustaches, but each sees in the other the face of a European tyrant," he said.
"Palestine is the home of the Palestinians and there is no other country in the world where they can feel at home, not as individuals but as a people, and the same is true of Israeli Jews," Oz noted.
"Europeans think the conflict is due to a misunderstanding," the writer added, stressing that this was not the case, in his opinion.
"There is no misunderstanding between the Israeli Jew and the Arab Palestinian, a compromise solution must be found, since where there is life there is also compromise, the opposite of which is fanaticism and death," he said.
He called on Greece and the rest of Europe to help both sides arrive at a compromise and helping them take a very painful decision to divide up their country.
Presenting the Israeli author, Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou referred to Greece's long history of coexistence with Greek Jews and said that the Middle East problem was the responsibility of the international community and primarily the European Union.
 Turkey must sign the EU protocol before October 3, Cyprus FM says
NICOSIA 19/1/2005 (CNA/ANA)Turkey must sign and implement a protocol adapting its customs union agreement before October 3 to include all the ten European Union new member states, Cypriot foreign minister said here Tuesday.
''If Turkey signs the protocol long before October 3 as we have requested, that will be a sign of good will,'' Iacovou said in statements after a meeting with Ecologists Movement MP George Perdikis, noting however that ''a possible delay would indicate that Turkey's intentions towards the 25 EU member states are not serious.''
''Turkey's responsibility is not only to Cyprus but also to the EU members,'' he added.
The EU has called on Turkey to sign the protocol prior to October 3, the date set out for the start of accession negotiations. Ankara, whose troops occupy Cyprus' northern areas, has not extended its customs union agreement to include Cyprus because it does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus.
The minister said Nicosia believes that Ankara must sign the protocol before October 3, a position recorded in the minutes of the European Union Summit on December 17, at the request of the Cypriot President.
''There is no obstacle for Turkey to sign the protocol before October 3 since there are no big issues pending,'' the minister pointed out.
 Rehn:Turkey's signature clear acknowledgement of Cyprus' EU membership
BRUSSELS 19/1/2005 (CNA/ANA)The signing by Turkey of a protocol, relating to its customs union agreement with the European Union, with all ten new EU member states constitutes an acknowledgment that Cyprus is a member state of the Union, EU enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said here Tuesday.
Rehn was replying to a question by Cypriot MEP Yiannakis Matsis during a meeting of the European Parliament External Affairs Committee, who had asked whether the signing of the customs union with the ten new members by Turkey actually meant recognition of the Republic of Cyprus by Ankara.
The December European Council decided that Turkey should sign the protocol adapting the Ankara Agreement to include all ten new EU members before 3 October, a date the EU has set for the start of accession negotiations with Ankara, which does not recognize Cyprus.
The signing of the protocol ''is a clear acknowledgment that Cyprus is a member state of the European Union'', Rehn said, according to a press release issued by Matsis' office.
Replying to another question by Matsis whether the EU has decided on a deadline for the signing of the Customs Union, Rehn said that both the European Commission and he personally encourage Turkey to sign the Customs Union with no delay.
 Cyprus satisfied with Russia's stance on political problem
NICOSIA 19/1/2005 (CNA/ANA)The Cypriot government is satisfied with the stance of the Russian Federation on the Cyprus problem.
Minister of Foreign Affairs George Iacovou said that ''from what we have been told in Moscow and Nicosia, the Russian policy on the Cyprus problem will continue without changes.''
Iacovou said President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos received the Russian Ambassador in Nicosia on Monday and discussed this issue with him.
''We have had a series of contacts. The President has seen the Ambassador of the Russian Federation. There were many diplomatic contacts in Moscow and Nicosia and we are satisfied that there is no change in the stance of Russia regarding the Cyprus problem,'' he said.
The minister added that over the next six months President Papadopoulos would be visiting Moscow.
He clarified however that the visit has been planned for some time now and had nothing to do with the recent visit of the Turkish prime minister to Russia.