|Thursday, 24 September 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-01-22
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>January 22, 2005
 Karamanlis, political leaders commence 'nat'l dialogue' for education
Athens 22/1/2005 (ANA)A long-proposed "national dialogue" on the crucial sector of education finally began on Friday, with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis inaugurating the sessions by noting that "today, our goal is to formulate a truly national policy".
The wide-ranging conference, one that includes the high-profile participation of the country's top political and education sector leadership, is being held at the Zappeion Hall, a neo-classical government building adjacent to the Greek Parliament in downtown Athens.
"...Well-meaning efforts to improve education have been made in the past, no one disputes this, but they almost always collapsed in the face of a lack of continuity..." Karamanlis, who also holds the culture ministry portfolio, said.
The Greek premier emphasized that Greece must adapt its public education system to the goals set out in the Bologna Declaration of 1999, as well as to rapidly changing international and European developments.
Along those lines, he called for greater autonomy, transparency and flexibility of universities and colleges; an evaluation process in every level of education, from primary to tertiary, as a "tool" for improvement; certification of universities; expansion of mandatory schooling to 12 years, as well as continuing adult education, among others.
Karamanlis called for debate over a new system of university entrance exams, one differentiating high school education from the exam regime leading to higher education institutions, as well as limiting the phenomenon of "lingering college students".
Political party leaders, including main opposition PASOK president George Papandreou, followed Karamanlis on the podium.
On his part, Papandreou appeared cautious of the government's intentions, saying that twice before New Democracy -- as the then main opposition -- was invited to attend such a "national dialogue" but refused.
"We will support this (initiative), as long as we have a real dialogue. But for this to happen we cannot just argue over figures ... we need a true evaluation, and a 'de-politicisation' of education," Papandreou, who at one time served as an education minister in the mid 1990s, said.
Additionally, he said his party, PASOK, has already commenced discussions, both internally and via the Internet, about education.
Finally, he said a 5 percent (of the state budget) annual allocation towards education was a long-term goal.
Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) leader Alekos Alavanos noted that a necessary condition for such dialogue to proceed is a "sincere intention on the part of the government ..."
"We insist on showcasing the true problems facing the sector, ones put forth by parents, students and teachers," he said. Moreover, two major problems he pointed to were unemployment and the dropout rate in low-income areas.
Finally, Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou stressed that the "national dialogue" is open to all of society, with input via the Internet envisioned and invitations to various organizations to attend one-day seminars.
She also said that college students' groups were indeed invited to participate in the national dialogue, although the latter failed to elect representatives.
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) declined to send a representative to the meeting.
In response to Friday's inaugural and mostly ceremonial first session, groups of pupils, students and teachers took to the streets of central Athens to highlight various demands and to protest what banners and slogans termed as "pre-approved decisions" and "closed-door dialogue", whereas minor clashes with riot police were reported on several instances.
 FM briefs Parliament over latest Turkish provocations in Aegean
Athens 22/1/2005 (ANA)Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis briefed Parliament on Friday over a series of recent provocations by neighboring Turkey in the Aegean region, incidents that included violations of territorial waters and airspace as well as even a dispute of Greece's search-and-rescue jurisdiction as set-out by international practice and treaties.
"Turkey's behavior in the Aegean is closely being monitored and is being dealt with calmness and determination ... every care has been taken so that national sovereignty is protected, and for any possibility of tension in the area to be avoided," Molyviatis said.
Moreover, the veteran Greek diplomat said the recent provocations by Turkey, a would-be EU candidate-state, are part of Ankara's so-called "grey zones" theory, a practice he said dates to 1996.
"When Ankara's actions do not correspond with international legality, then Greece proceeds with demarches towards the neighboring state, whereas it also informs the relevant and responsible international and European bodies," he added.
The foreign minister made the statements in response to a tabled question by former EU commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou, who queried the government over the recent Turkish provocations near the eastern Aegean islets of Imia, near the Dodecanese island of Kalymnos.
On her part, Diamantopoulou said that while Turkey is edging closer to the Oct. 3 deadline for commencing EU accession negotiations, it has heightened its challenges via an "extremely provocative manner, violating air and sea (boundaries) in the Aegean".
 Roussopoulos announces dialogue on relations between journalists, public sector press offices
Athens 22/1/2005 (ANA)Minister of State Theodoris Roussopoulos on Friday announced that he has invited the leaderships of the country's major journalists' unions, as well as the four Parliament-represented political leaders, to attend a public discussion next Thursday focusing on the issue of proper professional relations between working journalists and the numerous press offices and information bureaus of the wider public sector.
In his letter, Roussopoulos said the government is proceeding with this initiative in order to "eradicate whatever shadows exist", a more-or-less topical observation following high-profile charges -- some uttered in Parliament -- of "state-subsidized" journalists over the previous years and of individual journalists appearing on a handful of public and private payrolls simultaneously.
 PM's schedule for next three days announced; clarifications on 'primary shareholder' law
Athens 22/1/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met on Friday afternoon with the head of ruling New Democracy's Euro-MPs, former minister and long-time deputy Yiannis Varvitsiotis, the government spokesman announced.
Meanwhile, the premier is scheduled to meet with Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas on Saturday morning, followed by a separate meeting with Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis.
On Monday, Karamanlis' agenda includes a meeting with noted Greek Cypriot film director Michael Cacoyiannis, followed by a meeting with Public Works and Town Planning Minister George Souflias.
Clarifications on 'primary shareholder' law: Meanwhile, concerning the touchy "primary shareholder" law (passed by Parliament on Thursday evening) that attempts to severely limit the influence of public sector contractors on broadcast media, spokesman Theodoris Roussopoulos clarified that bank lending is permissible as long as a publicly financed project or the mass media outlet is not completely controlled by the lender.
Additionally, Roussopoulos, who holds the Minister of State portfolio and is responsible for press and media issues, said a late provision to the legislation -- one prohibiting the transfer of media ownership to foundations or NGOs -- is one of many amendments tacked on following debate in the legislature.
 PM meets with ND Eurodeputy leader
Athens 22/1/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met with New Democracy Eurodeputy leader Ioannis Varvitsiotis on Friday afternoon.
After the meeting, Varvitsiotis said that he briefed the prime minister on European issues, on the European Parliament, but that they had also discussed matters pertaining to domestic policy.
Asked whether the 'main shareholder' bill was discussed, Varvitsiotis said that the new law is not a European issue, adding that Europe is concerned with ratification of its constitution.
 New diplomats sworn-in
Athens 22/1/2005 (ANA)President Kostis Stephanopoulos and Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis were on hand Friday for a swearing-in ceremony of diplomatic service graduates.
Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos swore-in the new class of graduates, as he stressed that Orthodoxy's role was an extremely significant factor outside the country, and particularly unifying for expatriate Greek communities around the globe.
On his part, the foreign minister reminded that Greece's foreign policy is based on standing principles and values, ones aimed at serving peace and security in the region.
 Farm minister pledges to 'clean up' cotton cultivation after meeting with farmer reps
Athens 22/1/2005 (ANA)Agricultural Development Minister Evangelos Basiakos on Friday pledged to continue checks to uncover illegal cotton cultivation, immediately after a meeting with representatives of farmers and farming cooperatives in cotton-growing regions.
Basiakos said he was unconcerned over the political cost and would continue until all the law-breakers paid so that the vast majority of honest and legal cotton growers did not lose out.
A representatives of Thessaly farmers warned, however, that farmers had 'surprises' in store over the weekend, hinting that they would escalate protests by actually blocking some roads as people in the cities drove out for weekend breaks. Thanassis Kokkinoulis said farmers will be holding meetings on roadsides where their tractors were on stand-by at 19:00 on Friday to decide what further action they should take.
While welcoming the government pledge to continue checks and to uncover illegal cultivators as a positive step, Kokkinoulis stressed that the government had again refused farmers' demands that the entire cotton crop be subsidized.
 Gov't ministers, Emporiki Bank discuss pension issue
Athens 22/1/2005 (ANA)Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Friday chaired a meeting with Labor Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos, Emporiki Bank's governor George Provopoulos and trade union representatives from the bank.
Speaking to reporters, after the two-hour meeting, Alogoskoufis said they discussed the likely impact on Greek banks' pension system from the implementation of international accounting standards this year.
The Greek minister noted that the government was seeking a smooth transition and underlined the government's particular interest for Emporiki Bank, since the state has a large equity stake in the bank. He added that the government would have same-level discussions with Agricultural Bank of Greece on the issue.
Labor Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos stressed that the government was "open" to discussion over the banking sector's pension system and said that Emporiki Bank's problem needed immediate action. He added that the government has not rejected the idea of creating a common pension fund in the banking sector and announced new government initiatives next week.
 Hellenic Telecoms dismisses reports of lay offs
Athens 22/1/2005 (ANA)Hellenic Telecommunications Organization on Friday dismissed press reports that the organization was laying off 1,600 contract-based workers, saying that the reports did not respond to reality.
A Hellenic Telecommunications Organization's announcement said that the organization began hiring a number of contract workers in April 2002 in a move aimed to cover increased needs due to the Olympic Games' sponsorship. These workers were hired for a maximum period of 22 months, their number was around 1,600 and most contracts have already expired. "The organization continues to employ 157 contract workers and their contracts expire in June 2005," the announcement said.
 Greek economy: weekly review
Athens 22/1/2005 (ANA)The Greek wider public sector needs a drastic restructuring, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said this week, adding that budget problems were partly the result of hidden debts in the public sector. Speaking to reporters, Alogoskoufis said that the country's fiscal situation was difficult but reiterated the government's position that any moves aimed to resolve the problem would not burden its citizens nor it would include excessive borrowing. He expressed his satisfaction over an ECOFIN council meeting conclusion that acknowledged Greek government's efforts to improve its fiscal condition.
In other headline news this week:
More than 65,000 unemployed people will benefit this year from government-sponsored programs, Labor Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos said. The Greek minister noted that the government's national and social goal was to reduce unemployment.
The Greek parliament adopted a draft bill on a primary shareholder in media enterprises despite sharp criticism by the main opposition party PASOK.
The government plans to offer significant incentives to both household and industrial consumers of electricity as part of a program aimed to save energy this year. Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said that Public Power Corporation would offer billing cuts to energy savers and impose penalty increases to over-consumers. He also announced a program aimed to restructure PPC's electricity network.
The shipping sector is the heavy industry of Greek economy, Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis said this week. The Greek minister said that his goal was to create many job positions in the sector, to further increase foreign exchange inflows, and to support sea transportation particularly with remote islands.
The Bank of Greece aims to adopt measures aimed to contain an accelerating growth rate of consumer loans in the country. Nikos Garganas, the central banker, said that such measures would not lead to higher interest rates. Consumer loans rose 38.1 percent in October, year-on-year, while housing loans rose 22.9 percent over the same period.
Greek annual inflation eased to 3.1 percent in December from 3.2 percent in November, Eurostat said in Brussels. Eurozone's inflation, however, rose to 2.4 pct from 2.2 pct over the same period, respectively.
The Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) urged for an immediate review of the country's pension system citing the country's worsening demographic condition.
Building activity fell 3.0 percent (in permits) and by 8.6 pct in volume in the first 10 months of 2004, the National Statistics Service said.
Pegasos Group, a Greek listed publications group, this week announced it broke off talks with businessman Theodore Angelopoulos over the sale a majority equity stake owned by Bobolas family.
 Livanis publishing denies involvement in Pegasus sale
Athens 22/1/2005 (ANA)The Livanis company, one of the largest book publishers in the country, on Friday dismissed recent press reports claiming that it was involved with the high-profile sale negotiations by the Athens-based Pegasus media group.
The sale of Pegasus, controlled by the Bobolas family, to industrialist and shipowner Theodoros Angelopoulos collapsed earlier this week.
 Upmarket tourism fair opens in Athens
Athens 22/1/2005 (ANA)Exclusive Travel 2005, a trade fair for up market tourism, opened at Helexpo's exhibition centre in Marousi, Athens on Friday.
Open until Sunday, the event features services from more than 70 companies including travel agencies, luxury hotels, airlines, and executive transportation.
Launching the fair, Tourism Development Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said that Greece's national sector strategy was based on taking advantage of opportunities afforded by the Athens 2004 Olympics.
"Much emphasis is now being laid on quality for the domestic tourism product," the minister said.
The exhibition is being held under the aegis of the tourism ministry and municipality of Athens, and sponsored by the Greek National Tourism Organization.
 ASE midday report: composite index above 2,900 mark
Athens 22/1/2005 (ANA)Renewed buying interest for medium- and small-capitalization stocks lifted the composite index to new three-year highs in the Athens Stock Exchange on Friday.
The index was up 0.78 percent at 2,914.12 points in midday trading, with the blue chip index rising 0.43 percent, the medium capitalization index up 1.34 percent and the smaller capitalization stocks rising 1.23 percent.
All sector indices, with the exception of the Investment index (down 0.48 pct), were recording gains, led by the Publication, Holdings and IT indices (up 1.81 pct, 1.65 pct and 1.48 pct, respectively).
Turnover was an increased 107.1 million euros.
 Renowned Greek mezzo-soprano Agnes Baltsa to sing in Thessaloniki on Saturday
Athens 22/1/2005 (ANA)World renowned Greek mezzo-soprano Agnes Baltsa arrived in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki on Friday. Baltsa is to sing at the Thessaloniki Concert Hall on Saturday night, interpreting traditional Greek popular songs accompanied by the State Orchestra of Greek Music directed by Stavros Xarhakos.
The program includes songs by Mikis Theodorakis, Stavros Xarhakos, Spyros Peristeris, Vassilis Tsitsanis and Manos Hatzidakis. The event is entitled "Songs of my country" and is the first to take place at the Thessaloniki Concert Hall in 2005.
It is based on a previous collaboration between Baltsa and Xarhakos, when they recorded the CD "From Greece with love - Songs from the Home of the Olympics" on behalf of Deutsche Grammophon, which has given rise to a series of similar concerts by the two artists in Munich, Vienna, Tokyo, Atlanta and elsewhere.
"There is no such thing as light and serious music. There is good or bad music," Baltsa said regarding the concert's repertoire. "These songs are like diamonds, like the Gospel. I look on them with the same respect, fear and seriousness as when I sing Mahler," she said.
The concert begins in Thessaloniki at 21:00 local time and tickets are available at the Thessaloniki Concert Hall ticket booths on Aristotelous Square, with prices ranging from 12, 25, 40, 50, and 60 euros.
 "Ocean Monarch" sails for Sri Lanka carrying humanitarian aid
Athens 22/1/2005 (ANA)Ocean Monarch, the cruise ship made available by Majestic International Cruises Inc., set sail for Sri Lanka from the Port of Piraeus on Friday afternoon.
Carrying tons of humanitarian aid and staffed with medical personnel, the cruise ship is part of Greece's relief efforts to the victims of the tsunamis that struck Southeast Asia on December 26, 2004.
Additionally, the ship is also carrying hotel equipment to meet the needs of those left homeless.
Operational costs, the crew's salaries, supplies and insurance are all covered by Majestic International Cruises.
 Greece, Israel eye stepped up cooperation in sports sector
Athens 22/1/2005 (ANA)Upgraded Greek-Israeli sports ties were on the agenda during Friday's meeting here between Deputy Minister of Sports George Orfanos and Israeli ambassador to Athens Ram Aviram.
The Greek minister noted that "sports leads peoples along common paths, it brings them closer and helps in establishing peace".
A draft agreement now awaits discussions next week for a final text on cementing bilateral cooperation in the sports sector, he said.
On his part, Aviram lauded the sports facilities built in Greece for the 2004 Olympic Games, while noting that his country is particularly interested in cooperation on team sports and athletics.
 FIBA Europe President Giorgos Vassilakopoulos invited by Pedro Ferrandiz foundation
Athens 22/1/2005 (ANA)FIBA Europe President Giorgos Vassilakopoulos, invited by the Pedro Ferrandiz foundation for the fourth consecutive year, referred, as the main speaker in Madrid on Thursday, to all issues concerning basketball at European and world level.
Flanked by Spanish Basketball Federation President Jose Luis Saez and the foundation's president, Vassilakopoulos referred to details of the recently reached agreement between FIBA and ULEB and to its significance for the progress and development of European basketball.
Vassilakopoulos also underlined the achievements of the European federation, the most important being those regarding economic and administrative independence.
The FIBA Europe president further referred to decisions taken at FIBA's head office in Kuala Lumpur on the world federation's new structure and to the fact that all proposals made were accepted.
 Political parties submit views at National Council meeting
NICOSIA 22/1/2005 (CNA/ANA)Political parties began tabling their views on the current phase of the Cyprus problem following President Tassos Papadopoulos' briefing on the results of the December European Council, during Friday's meeting of the National Council, top advisory body to the president on the handling of the Cyprus problem.
Speaking after the two-hour meeting, Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said the discussion would continue on February 2.
''As it was agreed during the last Council meeting in which President Papadopoulos gave a detailed briefing on the developments, political parties today (Friday) began presenting their positions on the Cyprus problem,'' the spokesman added.
Some parties, he said, tabled their views and submitted suggestions.
CNA has learned that opposition Democratic Rally submitted a 12-page memorandum approved on Wednesday at the party's political bureau. The Socialist Movement EDEK, the Struggling Democratic Movement (ADIK) and the Movement of Ecologists and Environmentalists also tabled their views.
 Government has taken measures to protect sovereignty, says spokesman
NICOSIA 22/1/2005 (CNA/ANA)The Cyprus government has taken measures recently to protect the Republic's sovereignty, with regard to a British program to channel funds to the island's Turkish occupied areas, Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said here on Friday.
''The government has a duty to safeguard and protect the sovereignty of the state,'' he said, when asked to comment on press reports that Nicosia had asked London to halt the funding program as it considers that it upgrades the status of the illegal regime in occupied Cyprus, which no state but Turkey recognizes.
Responding to questions, Chrysostomides said the government is working hard to identify issues that might be tantamount to attempts to downgrade the sovereignty of the internationally recognized Republic.
''We are taking all necessary measures to avert any such moves, we lodge protest papers or other diplomatic documents. It is our duty to do so and safeguard our state,'' he added.
According to the report, a spokesman for the British High Commission here said London will respond to the demarches once it has studied them. The spokesman also said Britain does not recognize the Turkish Cypriot regime and neither wishes nor can do so.
The Government representations, according to the report, related to the wording used on the website of the Foreign Office with reference to the Turkish occupied areas and an attempt to upgrade certain ''authorities'' in the Turkish Cypriot regime citing harmonization with the acquis communautaire.
 Cyprus government will welcome change of Turkish policy
NICOSIA 22/1/2005 (CNA/ANA)The Cyprus government would welcome an explicit and concrete change of policy on behalf of so-called prime minister in the Turkish-occupied areas Mehmet Ali Talat and Turkey, Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said on Friday.
Invited to comment on Talat's statements, who had said that he expected suggestions from the Greek Cypriot side with regard to the Annan plan for a Cyprus settlement because the Greek Cypriots had rejected the plan in a referendum last year and that he is ready to discuss everything, Chrysostomides said he is not aware if these statements reflect a change of policy.
''His (Talat's) previous statements are well known as well as the efforts he made to acquire political benefits through the Turkish Cypriots' 'yes' at the referendum,'' Chrysostomides said.
''But we would welcome an explicit and concrete change of policy on behalf of Mr. Talat and Turkey,'' the Cypriot official added. He noted that the government of Cyprus proved in practice its will for a Cyprus settlement by not putting a veto during the December 2004 European Council, when the EU decided to give Turkey a date to begin its accession negotiations.
Invited to comment on Talat's statement that the Annan plan is consistent with the acquis communautaire, Chrysostomides said ''it is well-known that derogations from the acquis communautaire exist in the Annan plan.''
''If these derogations were accepted (by the two sides) then the EU would not oppose them,'' he said, noting that it is a fact that ''the Annan plan has provisions which contradict the acquis communautaire.''
 Police issue arrest warrants in connection with triple murder
NICOSIA 22/1/2005 (CNA/ANA)The Cyprus police have issued arrest warrants against three Turkish Cypriots, one Turkish national and the son of a Turkish Cypriot mother and a Turkish father, in connection with investigations into a murder of three Turkish Cypriots, last week, in the southern government-controlled part of the island.
The warrants were issued following evidence gathered through witnesses and DNA material linking them to the murders which had led the police to the three suspects, who all live in the northern Turkish-occupied areas.
DNA material collected from the victims' house and the scene of the crime is also being examined by forensic experts.
The three Turkish Cypriots against whom arrest warrants have been issued are Mustafa Mehmet, from Pentagia village, now living in Turkish-occupied Morphou, Fikret Mustafa, also from Pentagia, living in Morphou and Emin Fikri, from Androlykou village, living in occupied Kyrenia.
Hikmet Oruc, living in Kyrenia, is the son of a Turkish Cypriot and a Turk from Mersina and Mustafa Cavga, from Turkey, now living in the village of Kythrea are the other two persons wanted by the police.
The three Turkish Cypriots, who were murdered last Saturday, are a banker, his wife and their daughter. All were found shot dead in a car, near the village of Koshi, in Larnaca district, in the free areas.
Police have said that they were shot with a nine-millimetre gun, and one of the shell-cases had been manufactured in Turkey.
Police continue their inquiries into the case and have notified the relatives of the dead persons about the course of their investigations.