|Thursday, 21 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-01-27
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>January 27, 2005
 Greece needs faster absorption of EU funds, minister says
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)Greece will have to absorb around 5.5 billion euros annually by 2009 to ensure that there would be no funds' loss from a Third Community Support Framework, Economy and Finance Minister Christos Folias said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, Folias said that Greece has absorbed a total of 6.468 billion euros in the period 2001-2004 and stressed that to achieve this ambitious target of absorbing 5.5 billion euros annually, the government must sign all project contracts by the end of 2006. "Our goals is to sign around 48 percent of contracts in the 2005-2006 period, since signed contracts account for 52 percent of total so far," he noted.
Folias said that the ministry erased projects, budgeted at around 956 million euros, from its official list to avoid rejection by the European Union on overspending grounds. He noted that the government was strengthening all ministry administrative and inspection mechanisms to avoid any such cases in the future and said that the ministry was currently tendering the hiring of four auditing firms and technical consultants.
 Visiting Cyprus president Papadopoulos confers with Greek political party leaders, reps, on Cyprus issue
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)Visiting Cyprus president Tassos Papadopoulos conferred Wednesday with the leaders and representatives of the Greek political parties on the current state of the Cyprus issue and its prospects.
Papadopoulos met separately Wednesday with Greek main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga, and a delegation of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN), headed by the party's former leader Nikos Constantopoulos.
After his meeting with Papadopoulos, at a central Athens hotel, Papandreou reaffirmed that his party was "at the side of the Republic of Cyprus, and we will back every effort to resolve the Cyprus problem".
"We believe that the Greek government could have taken better advantage of the December 17 date," Papandreou said, referring to the EU summit at which the 25 EU leaders decided to grant Turkey its much-desired date for the commencement of its EU accession negotiations.
He added, however, that his party "backs President Papadopoulos' efforts for the signing of the (customs union) Protocol (with all 25 EU member states, including Cyprus) by Turkey as soon as possible, and PASOK's position is for Cyprus' formal recognition by Turkey".
Asked whether he agreed with Papadopoulos' position for substantive changes to UN secretary general Kofi Annan's plan for a Cyprus solution, Papandreou said that he and the Cypriot president had an extensive discussion on the Annan plan, and pledged that "we will do all we can for a solution that is acceptable to the Greek Cypriots...that is acceptable to both sides, but which will also ensure the interests of the (internationally-recognized) Republic of Cyprus".
Further, asked if he agreed that there should not be "suffocating deadlines and arbitration" in a new initiative, Papandreou replied that "this is the view I always held, and I had stated it to Mr. Annan".
Papariga said after her meeting with Papadopoulos that there had been a "substantive" briefing, adding that "we will stand at the side of the Cypriot people and all those working for a substantive and pragmatic solution on the basis of a bi-zonal federation -- one state, one sovereignty -- because that comprises a just and viable solution".
Any other development, she warned, "will create big wounds".
Speaking to reporters after the SYN delegation's meeting with the Cyprus president, Constantopoulos said it was "self-evident that substantial changes are necessary to the Annan plan" and that "it is imperative that it be utilized within the framework of Europe so that the solution will be secure, just, functional and viable".
Constantopoulos said that initiatives needed to be undertaken so that the Greek and the Cypriot side would gain the "political advantage of the proposals for a solution that will utilize -- and not amputate -- the acquis communautaire", adding that "constant preparedness" was required, on the part of Greece and Cyprus, so that the substantial changes and resumption of the process (for a Cyprus solution) would have an auspicious end and so that "Cyprus will not be the only EU country that remains divided".
Earlier, Papadopoulos met with the presidium of the Panhellenic Committee for a European Solution to the Cyprus issue.
"We discussed the prospects of a European solution to the problem, and set out our view that the will of the Cypriot people must be respected, which was so clearly expressed with the 76 percent" (rejection by the Greek Cypriots in a simultaneous referendum on the Annan plan held in the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriot community on April 24), Professor Pericles Nearchou, the Committee's coordinating secretary said after the meeting.
"It is necessary that the solution found be based on the European principles and the 'acquis communautaire', rather than superficial, and it must also be in agreement with the spirit of the European Constitution, which we are called on to adopt," Nearchou said.
Papadopoulos, who arrived in Athens Tuesday afternoon on a brief working visit at the invitation of prime minister Costas Karamanlis, also met on Wednesday with President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos, before departing for Nicosia in the afternoon.
The Cypriot president met Tuesday evening with prime minister Karamanlis.
Parliament speaker receives Cyprus President for talks on Cyprus issue: Parliament speaker Anna Psarouda-Benaki on Wednesday received visiting Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, in Athens on a working visit to discuss developments surrounding the Cyprus problem.
During the meeting, Psarouda-Benaki conveyed the Greek Parliament's unremitting support for the efforts of Greek-Cypriots to achieve the best possible result regarding the resolution of the Cyprus problem.
She also underlined the close cooperation between the Greek and Cypriot Parliaments within the framework of the European Union and international organizations.
The meeting also touched on major foreign policy issues concerning Greece and Cyprus.
 Athens on latest Cyprus developments; EU-Turkey Customs Union obligation
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)Athens on Wednesday pointed to a clear proposal by the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus on defining "acceptable procedural characteristics" of any new peace initiative to solve the long-standing Cyprus problem.
Foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos made the statement during a regular press briefing, and in the wake of Tuesday's meeting here between Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and visiting Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos.
He also reminded that a "crucial volume of developments" would have to preclude any new peace initiative, something that has not happened so far.
Finally, Koumoutsakos noted that the EU's institutional organs are monitoring whether Turkey completes the procedure for ratifying a Customs Union protocol with the Union's 10 new member-states, especially the Republic of Cyprus.
 Cyprus' main opposition leader in Athens for talks with Greek government, political leaders
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)The leader of Cyprus' main opposition Democratic Rally (DISY) party, Nicos Anastassiades, arrived in Athens on Wednesday for talks with the Greek government and political parties regarding the Cyprus problem.
Anastassiades began a round of scheduled meetings in Athens by visiting Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, to whom he outlined his ideas and concerns regarding the Cyprus issue. In statements afterward, the Cypriot party leader said the present period would be decisive for the Cyprus issue and called for measures to avoid a division of Cyprus.
Soon afterwards, Anastassiades met former premier with the PASOK party Costas Simitis at his offices in Parliament, while he is also due to have meetings with President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos and former premier and honorary New Democracy president Constantine Mitsotakis.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting with Simitis, Anastassiades said they had agreed on the need for action by the Greek-Cypriot side to end current inactivity on the Cyprus problem and regain the initiative in events regarding the island republic.
In response to questions, he said the Annan plan should be the basis of efforts for a solution to the Cyprus issue but noted that certain modifications would have to be made to reassure the fears of Greek-Cypriots.
The Cypriot party leader's visit to Athens is part of an effort by DISY to inform Greece and the international community on the latest developments relating to Cyprus, following a decision by the European Union to open accession negotiations with Turkey on October 3 this year.
 FM Molyviatis, US ambassador Ries discuss bilateral, regional issues
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)Foreign minister Petros Molyviatis met Wednesday with the new US ambassador to Athens, Charles Ries, for talks on bilateral and regional issues.
No statements were made after the meeting, which was held within the framework of routine contacts between the foreign minister and the US envoy.
 State Dept.: US won't violate int'l civil aviation provisions; replies to query on experts' visit to illegal airport in N. Cyprus
WASHINGTON 27/1/2005 (ANA)The State Department this week replied to US Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) that the United States will not take any action violating rules governing international civil aviation, including provisions as spelled out in the seminal 1944 Chicago Convention.
Snowe had requested clarifications from the State Department following a visit last October by two experts from the Department of Homeland Security Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus, and specifically their tour of an illegal airport (Tymbou) in the occupied areas.
On Wednesday, during a normal press briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said he's unaware of "anything, one way or another, on the airport in the north…"
His statement came in response to a question on whether Washington has revised its policy vis-a-vis illegal airports in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus, to which he replied in the negative.
In a letter late last November to US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Thomas Ridge, the ex-US Homeland Security Secretary, Snowe cited "troubling issues related to international civil aviation and US foreign policy''.
As a member of the US Senate Subcommittee on Aviation, the veteran New England political leader said it came to her attention that in late October two officials from the TSA ''conducted an inspection of the airport at Tymbou, Cyprus, which is located in the area of Cyprus presently under illegal occupation by Turkish troops''.
In the State Department reply, signed by Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs Paul Kelly, the official noted that no change has occurred in the policy of recognizing the Republic of Cyprus as the government of the island republic. Kelly also adds that there is no intent to undermine the legal national sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus.
He clarified that the visit by the two TSA experts was "not an inspection", but was part of an initiative to promote international aviation safety and within the spirit of the UN Chief's call on UN Security Council members to assume a leading role in eradicating restrictions and obstacles that have "isolated the Turkish Cypriots and blocked their development".
In her letter, Snowe said "this action (the visit to the illegal airport) apparently comes in the wake of other US measures related to possible flights into the Tymbou airport and the airport of Lefkoniko, also in the occupied territory''.
She added that the US administration has contacted the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) about access to these illegally operated airports, and that in May 2004, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency designated these airports with official US government identifiers - LC46 for Tymbou and LC47 for Lefkoniko.
''These actions raise troubling issues related to international civil aviation and US foreign policy'', Snowe said, noting that the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 sets forth the US policy on Cyprus, which is a free government of Cyprus, and the withdrawal of all Turkish military forces on the island.
Citing Security Council resolutions 541 and 550 which support the US policy, Snowe reminded that ''international norms of civil aviation, including those administered by ICAO, recognize the legal flights into a country cannot occur without the consent of the government with sovereignty over the airspace in question and the target airports specifically ... Flights into the occupied northern part of Cyprus, without the consent of the Republic of Cyprus, are inconsistent with these international standards," she said.
 Gov't dismisses concerns over 'incident' in the Aegean
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)The government on Wednesday dismissed the prospect of any "incident" in the Aegean between Greece and Turkey, in answer to press questions following numerous provocations by Ankara's military in the waters and skies over the eastern Aegean region in recent weeks.
"There is no reason for danger-mongering. The armed forces are quite capable and ready to deal with any situation," alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros merely noted during a regular press briefing in Athens.
Moreover, he reminded that the Turkish state's behavior -- including its obligation to extend a Customs Union protocol with the EU's 10 new members -- is under the constant scrutiny of the bloc's 25 member-states, a group that includes Greece and Cyprus.
 Athens comments on recent Greek-US contacts focusing on Balkans
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)The foreign ministry on Wednesday referred to the recent contacts between Greek diplomats and American officials regarding developments in the Balkans, with a spokesman noting that Athens is particularly interested in its neighboring region, a fact signified by its tremendous political and financial investments in the area.
Spokesman George Koumoutsakos said Greece sports a trade balance with its neighbors of 3.5 billion US dollars, while total Greek investments total 7.5 billion dollars -- a figure, he said, that is magnified by the fact that most Balkan countries remain plagued by high unemployment and under-development.
Regarding Kosovo, he repeated Athens' standing position that any final resolution of the province's international status must contribute to stability and "not instability". He also called for a multi-ethnic solution, respect for international law, including UN Security Council resolutions 1244 and 1345, a right of return by refugees as well as a safeguarding of cultural and religious monuments in the strife-plagued region.
"A basic pre-condition is Belgrade's participation in deciding the final status. The issue of Kosovo is a European issue, and the EU must play a greater role, in close cooperation with the United States, and within the framework of respect of its own (EU) principles and values," Koumoutsakos said.
The spokesman added that Athens' standing policy is one that backs Balkan states' course to NATO and EU.
 Gov't emphasizes that only farm ministry will deal with cotton growers' demands
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)The government on Wednesday firmly reiterated that while Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is dealing with the issue of farmers' demands for better crop prices -- primarily cotton -- it is the agriculture ministry's leadership that has and will hold contacts with farmers' representatives.
"The dialogue is continuous, and the government's positions are clear -- the government will not violate the law," alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said during a regular press briefing.
Moreover, the spokesman said some 17,000 "discrepancies" have been recorded in tallying up this season's cotton crop, something he said will increase the subsidy paid to growers with legitimate amounts of cultivated cotton.
"Our policy is to support the many, not the few," he stressed.
Opposition party criticizes PM over refusal to meet farmers: The Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology on Wednesday criticized the prime minister for refusing to meet cotton farmers, instead referring them to the agriculture minister.
On Tuesday, the farmers had sought a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis after talks reached a deadlock with Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Evangelos Basiakos.
"If the government was really interested in resolving the problem, it should (also) have sent a higher-level reprehensive to a recent European Union farm ministers' meeting, instead of a deputy minister," Coalition agriculture spokesman Yiannis Tolios said in a statement.
Farmers to decide Thursday on possible blockades; Cotton farmers who have positioned their tractors in Tempe, central northern Greece, will decide on Thursday whether or not to step up protest action that may lead to blockades of national highways, as in the past.
The farmers said they would wait until Thursday afternoon in the hope that a deadlock in talks with the government would end on the absorption of cotton they say has been legitimately produced.
 Gov't comments EU economic report
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)Queried over a recent report by the European Commission, in which the standing "thorns" of competitiveness and the tenuous status of pension funds in Greece are highlighted, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros noted that the "report confirmed the poor condition of the economy we inherited."
"Our plan for the economy is developing in phases, it has prospects and it will produce positive and permanent results. It needs, however, continuity, responsibility and persistence for its implementation," he said, adding that the current government of less than a year cannot immediately reverse the deficiencies of eight years -- a direct criticism of the previous two PASOK governments under Costas Simitis.
Along those lines, he cited a "reply sent by the European Union to the principals behind the 'juiced up numbers'," as he said, a reference to two separate responses by Eurostat officials over the past month to Simitis, his two national economy ministers (Yiannos Papantoniou and Nikos Christodoulakis) as well as a trio of former top economic policy and statistical bureau officials.
 PM briefed on law enforcement issues, strategy
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday received Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis at his office, with talks focusing squarely on the issue of increasing citizens' sense of security, both in urban and rural areas.
Although Athens, and Greece in particular, still records one of the lowest crime rates in the European Union -- especially in terms of violent crime -- cross-border criminal gangs and foreign felons have been active over the last 15 years or so amid a massive influx of illegal and legal non-EU nationals, and after the collapse of the "Iron Curtain".
Following the 2 1/2-hour meeting, Voulgarakis emphasized that a long-standing plan to restructure the national police force (EL.AS) will be implemented, whereas a new authority --an environmental patrol -- will be created.
The latter force will be staffed by armed officers and will be based on a modern and effective model, according to Voulgarakis.
Additionally, ministry officials said the premier gave the "green light" for filling a majority of 3,100 vacant fire brigade positions.
Finally, the PM was briefed on a shifting of police units to national roadways, part of heightened efforts to retain 24-hour highway patrols and to help reduce the appalling number of traffic fatalities and injuries every year in the east Mediterranean country.
Deputy Minister Christos Markoyiannakis also participated in the meeting.
 Parliament President meets with US and Turkish ambassadors
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki met with US Ambassador to Greece Charles Ries and Turkish Ambassador Tahsin Burcuoglu, in separate courtesy visits on Wednesday.
The focal point of discussion during Psarouda-Benaki's meeting with Ries was the Cyprus issue and Greek-Turkish relations, as well as the issue pertaining to FYROM's (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) name. The parliament president expressed hope that the US will provide objective support so that both sides - Greece and FYROM - can settle on a mutually-acceptable solution. However, she also noted that Skopje's position on the issue was particularly inflexible, which does not reflect the two countries' very good relations in others areas.
On his part, Ries referred to the upcoming Iraqi elections and their significance in bringing democracy and independence to the country.
Additionally, the US ambassador noted that 2004 was a very good year for Greece, emphasizing that the Athens Olympic Games generated much respect for the country.
During her meeting with Burcuoglu, Psarouda-Benaki reiterated Greece's support for Turkey's EU prospects, while Burcuoglu announced that a five-member delegation of Turkey's national assembly, headed by former Foreign Minister Yasar Yiakis, will be visiting Greek parliament some time in February. Burcuoglu added that the visit will be the first of a series at parliaments of various EU member-states as an indication of the significance Turkey places on relations with other parliaments.
 Foreign Ministry spokesman comments on Iraqi elections
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)"The Greek government, as it watches with particular interest the Iraqi people trying to establish a democratic society, hopes that the upcoming elections will constitute an important step in that direction," Foreign Ministry Spokesman George Koumoutsakos said on Wednesday.
"We hope that the government elected will fulfill the need for a united, prosperous and democratic Iraq in accordance with the UN framework and spirit," he added.
Koumoutsakos also stated that Greece supports the renewal of UN forces in Lebanon, an issue that's to be discussed by the UN Security Council later in the week.
 PASOK endorses Papoulias' candidacy as president
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) President George Papandreou expressed his party's approval of Carolos Papoulias as candidate for President of the Hellenic Republic, in a letter he sent to Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki on Wednesday.
PASOK Spokesman Nikos Athanassakis, who made the relevant announcement on Wednesday, took the opportunity to comment on Papoulias' nomination, saying that he is an "exceptional" candidate.
 Foreign Minister to meet with J. Fischer on Friday
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis will be meeting with German counterpart Joska Fischer on Friday morning in Thessaloniki.
On Thursday evening, Molyviatis will be attending a special ceremony held in Thessaloniki in memory of Greek Jews who were killed in the Holocaust.
 PM determined to proceed with needed reforms
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said that his government was determined to proceed with implementation of the reforms the country needs, during a speech he gave at an event held by New Democracy's Secretariat for Women's Affairs on Wednesday evening.
"This is a crucial year for the country's future; there is a heavy burden on public finances, the economy does not possess the structure and infrastructure required by our times, public administration is suffering from chronic problems that cannot go on any longer," he said, adding that the main priorities for 2005 is to re-establish the state and to implement new economic policy.
Additionally, the prime minister said that 2005 is a decisive year for the implementation of new economic and development policies, noting that the new tax system which lowers corporate tax rates is already in place, while the new development law that subsidizes the development of old and new businesses by up to 55% has also been passed, and the absorption rate of EU funds has been accelerated.
Speaking of the agricultural issue, which has dominated headlines in the past weeks, Karamanlis said that his government has managed in the few months it's been in office to speed up the rate of giving out subsidies to farmers, has reduced borrowing rates for thousands of farmers, while the problem with overdue loan penalty rates is being addressed.
"We are putting an end to the illegalities and bending of the rules of the past which resulted in huge costs and injustice at the expense of thousands of farmers; we are open to any good ideas that are within the limits of our country's obligations towards the EU," he said, concluding that the state must respect and apply the law.
Speaking to an audience of thousands of ND women voters, Karamanlis also referred to policies addressing women's issues. These include boosting women's participation in decision-making centers, fighting stereotypes of male-female roles, addressing domestic violence, and promoting equality between the sexes in the workplace.
Katerina Papakosta, Secretary for Women's Affairs, said that ND strongly supports the conclusions drawn at the Lisbon Summit and emphasized the need for women to participate on equal terms in the new technologies sector. She also stressed that issues related to women's unemployment and underemployment, as well as domestic violence need to be addressed.
Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki, Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis, the prime minister's wife Natasha, ministers, MPs and party members were among those in attendance.
 Finance and education ministers discuss budget for education sector
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)The proper execution of the budget in education, a sector to which the government has pledged to give a high priority, was at the centre of talks on Wednesday between Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou.
After the meeting, Yiannakou said they had discussed financial planning over the coming year and special issues concerning both ministries.
"With the education ministry fully aware that planning must always go through the budget, we are trying to achieve the best possible results," she added.
Alogoskoufis reiterated that education was a central issue in both government and national policy, noting the start of national dialogue on education and the high priority given the sector by the government.
He said that there would be close cooperation with the education ministry throughout the year in order to ensure that the budget was executed but also that the ministry was able to implement the ground-breaking actions that it had programmed in order to radically improve the quality of education in Greece, stressing that this was vital for both the economy and for social development in the country.
 Finmin: EU report to note Greek economy's structural flaws
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Wednesday that a European Union report due for release this week would point out major structural weakness in the Greek economy over recent years due to a lack of reform to improve competitiveness or fix fiscal problems.
"I have said before that unfortunately Greece entered the eurozone unprepared," the minister said.
He criticized the previous government, which lost national elections in March 2004, for failing to take the right measures.
 Finmin meets new US, Chinese ambassadors
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Wednesday held separate meetings with the new US ambassador, Charles Ries, and the new Chinese envoy, Tian Xuejun.
Alogoskoufis outlined to Ries a government plan to improve the business environment in Greece that will help to attract investors from abroad. The two officials discussed ways of boosting direct investment in Greece by US firms.
With Ambassador Xuejun, the minister debated boosting trade ties between the two countries.
 Gov't seeks restructuring of car insurance sector
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)The Greek government will publish a list of solvency certificates to insurance companies with activities in the car sector on February 21, while all companies that have not fulfilled their capital adequacy obligations will be offered an extra time period until June 30 to be included in restructuring programs, or risk losing their operating licenses, Development Deputy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, Papathanasiou said that "there is no room for tolerance. All insurance companies are obliged to operate within existing legislation".
The Greek minister said that a joint inspection group by ministry agencies in cooperation with Grant Thornton completed on December 24 the inspection on the car insurance market's 49 companies. The inspections focused on the insurance companies' financial data. The ministry offered a seven-day period to companies with verified financial problems to express their views and the case was finally closed on January 19 when the ministry announced the detailed sums insurance companies had to pay to gain solvency certificates.
Papathanasiou said that inspections showed that a significant number of insurance companies lacked the necessary solvency margin and that these companies must immediately pay the necessary money to cover their openings. The total sum owed was 133 million euros, he noted. Papathanasiou stressed several companies must proceed with share capital increases this year to continue operating.
The Greek minister said that several insurance companies have already begun procedures for share capital increases and underlined that the money likely to enter the insurance market from such plans would exceed 133 million euros, the sum verified by the inspection.
Papathanasiou reiterated that the ministry would continue its inspections to ensure transparency in the car insurance sector.
 Bank of Greece raises banks' provisions on consumer loans
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)The Bank of Greece on Wednesday raised domestic banks' provisions on bad debts from consumer loans to 90 percent from 70 percent, following official data showing an increase of consumer loans' bad debt rate to around 8.0 percent of total consumer credit in the country.
The central bank issued an act calling for Greek banks to raise their minimum provisions on bad debt from consumer loans.
Under the act, Greek banks will raise their safety capital in their balance sheets in the first quarter of 2005. The move aims to restructure Greek banks' loan portfolios by obliging financial institutions to write-off debt from defaulted personal loans, while the central bank also seeks to raise banks' awareness over their consumer credit policy, and in particular, unsecured loans.
The rate of bad debt from housing loans is currently 4.0 percent, the central bank said recently. The Bank of Greece said the move was needed to safeguard domestic banks from any possible losses from bad debts.
The central bank noted that the risk was mainly from the consumer loans, while the housing loans market showed no increased risk, justifying the central bank's forecast that the domestic real estate market was not threatened by a "bubble".
 Gov't forging policy to revive Perama ship repair zone
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis said on Wednesday that the government was working to forge a policy that would revive the ailing Perama ship repair zone.
Taking part in the effort were the ministries of merchant marine, finance, defense, development, employment and transport, Kefaloyiannis told a news conference.
He charged the previous government with allowing the zone to wither.
A working group including officials of the Hellenic Coast Guard and Piraeus Port Authority had made recommendations to the government that would help to lower labor costs and provide financial incentives to business, the minister said.
 Trade unions reject plans for longer shopping hours
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)Trade unions, representing workers in the commerce sector, on Wednesday expressed their disagreement with government plans to expand shopping hours in the country.
In a meeting with Development Deputy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou, a delegation of the Federation of Private Employees of Greece, stressed that the sector would not accept any proposals to expand shopping hours. Papathanasiou reiterated that the government was seeking a consensus on the issue through a dialogue with all interested parties and noted that the government has not taken any decisions yet.
 Stocks rise, eyeing 3,000 points
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)Stocks finished higher for the sixth straight session with the market eyeing a new resistance level at 3,000 points, traders said.
The Athens general share index closed at 2,964.58 points, posting a rise of 0.69%. Turnover was 185.8 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.54% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.91% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 3.12% up.
Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 272 to 46 with 38 remaining unchanged.
 UN praises Greece for contribution to relief efforts for tsunami victims
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)The UN praised Greece for its contribution to the worldwide relief effort to help the victims of the tsunamis that hit Southeast Asia on December 26, 2004 in a letter sent to Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis on Wednesday by Jan Egeland, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.
Alternate Government Spokesman Evangelos Antonaros discussed the contents of the letter during a press briefing on Wednesday, saying that the letter's tone was particularly generous.
Asked to compare the ¬ 20 million Greece contributed to relief efforts with the fact that many victims of the 1999 Athens earthquake are still living in prefabricated homes, Antonaros replied that the two were not similar situations. The tsunamis in southeast Asia, he said, provoked a massive social response. Speaking of the earthquake victims in Athens, Antonaros said, "Much has been done for those affected by natural disasters and much still needs to be done. Of course, the State will do everything in its power to put an end to these people's suffering."
 Gov't announces measures to improve road safety
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)Transport and Communications Minister Mihalis Liapis on Wednesday announced the formation of a special or general secretariat that would coordinate all related ministries and regional agencies in implementing measures included in a national strategy on road safety.
Speaking to reporters, after a meeting on road safety - the last in a series of such meetings- Liapis said that the meeting agreed on an ambitious information campaign aimed to better inform the public over road safety issues.
Liapis emphasized on three issues: first, that the Prime Minister would personally lead this effort, second, the upgraded role of the Greek parliament in this effort and third, the formation of a special secretariat to coordinate policies.
The Greek minister expressed the hope that measures adopted would reduce traffic accidents by 50 percent by 2010 and noted that Greece was among the EU's top in the list with traffic fatalities.
 Alternate Culture Minister meets with Chinese delegation ahead of Beijing Olympics
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)Alternate Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia met with a delegation of Chinese officials at the ministry on Wednesday to share Athens' Olympics experience ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games that will be held in Beijing. Present at the meeting were also the ministry's Secretary General of Information Panos Livadas and Secretary General for the Olympic Games Spyros Kladas.
During the meeting, Palli-Petralia, Livadas and Kladas conveyed Greece's experience regarding Olympic Games preparations, the actual staging of the Games, and post-Games use of Olympic venues. Livadas and Kladas will escort the Chinese delegation on a visit to Olympic facilities.
"We are given the opportunity to learn many things from you after staging such successful Olympic Games," Wang Hui, Press Relations Director for the Beijing Olympic Games said after the meeting.
Palli-Petralia said that post-Olympic use of facilities and equipment is progressing steadily and quickly in response to a journalist's question. She also said that the law regarding venues' post-Games use is ready and added "In addition to the tangible legacy of the Games there is also the intangible which the law addresses so that the reputation and image our country obtained by staging the Olympic Games will be capitalized.
 Memorial service for Greek Jews - Holocaust victims to be held in Thessaloniki
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)A memorial service, honoring the memory of Greek Jews who were victims of the Holocaust, will be held in Thessaloniki on Thursday. The service will be held at 12:30 noon and wreaths will be placed at the Holocaust monument after the service.
In the evening, numerous political figures - foreign and Greek - will speak at a special event held at Thessaloniki's Concert Hall. Among those attending the event will be Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, German Foreign Minister Joska Fischer, main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) party leader George Papandreou, the new US ambassador to Greece Charles Ries, Israeli Transport Minister Mehr Hitrit, Macedonia-Thrace Minister Nikos Tsiartsionis, President of the Central Israelite Council of Greece Moses Constantinis and President of the Israelite Community of Thessaloniki David Saltiel.
Throughout the day, an exhibit titled "The Hidden Children during Greece's Occupation", will be on display at the Concert Hall.
 New EU program offers travel opportunities and activities to youngsters
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)A new program - "Neolea" (youth) - funded by the European Union, is being launched and administered in Greece by the Youth General Secretariat, offering young people between the ages of 15 and 25 the chance to participate in exchange programs, to volunteer in various sectors as well as the chance to become involved in a series of other activities throughout Europe.
The program, created by EU member-states, aims to promote informal educational activities through the cooperation of peoples, which will ultimately help eliminate discrimination and prejudices, a key factor in building an essentially united Europe.
Youth groups, non-government organizations, unions, public authorities and other organizations with experience in dealing with young people and in education are welcome to participate.
 Journalist charged with libel for posting colleague's personal data on erotic Internet site
Athens, 27/1/2005 (ANA)A 38-year-old journalist has been charged with libel by an Athens public prosecutor after he allegedly posted a young female colleague's name and personal data in an erotic site on the Internet without her permission.
The man is accused of putting an erotic ad in a website in December 2004 and impersonating his colleague in correspondence with site visitors, as well as giving out her mobile phone number.
He was arrested by the Attica police Electronic Crime Department earlier this week, who tracked him down via his electronic 'trail' based on a complaint filed by the victim, and charged by the public prosecutor on Tuesday.
The victims, who has also filed a suit, said that she had received a large number of calls from strangers that created a serious problem and that the ad had also come to the attention of her family and workmates.
The case has now been referred to a regular examining magistrate.
 Cyprus spokesman says Annan Plan cannot be accepted as it is
NICOSIA 27/1/2005 (CNA/ANA)The plan proposed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan for a Cyprus settlement cannot be accepted as it is, Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said here on Wednesday, commenting on remarks by U.S. State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher that the UN-sponsored plan was ''a good one.''
Replying to a remark during Wednesday's briefing that American officials keep repeating such statements on Cyprus, Chrysostomides said that the Greek Cypriot side is pursuing the resumption of a procedure towards a settlement on the right basis ''so as to make sure that the negotiations will lead to a solution plan which can be accepted by both sides.''
Noting that the Annan Plan cannot be brought before the Cypriots in a referendum as it is, the spokesman said ''our goal is an agreed solution, to be achieved without suffocating deadlines and with the necessary changes of the plan so it can be accepted.''
Asked if this view was now a national one after the visit of the Cypriot president to Athens, the spokesman said, ''I think that this has always been the view here and in Greece without serious disagreements. It is now the comprehensive view shared by all political powers in Cyprus and Greece.''
Regarding Boucher's statement that property transfers involving Turkish Cypriots was an issue to be resolved as part of a comprehensive settlement, through the UN process, Chrysostomides noted that ''since the Annan Plan has been rejected, at present this reference does not reflect the realities on the island.''
''Mr. Boucher should perhaps note that the possession of property belonging to Greek Cypriot refugees is illegal,'' he added.
Spokesman says Turkish statements prove intransigence: Cypriot Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides on Wednesday said a statement by Turkish Land Forces Commander General Yasar Buyukanit that Turkey would not withdraw even a single soldier from Cyprus unless there was a lasting settlement ''reaffirms Ankara's intransigence.''
Speaking at his daily briefing, Chrysostomides said this statement ''proves false yet once again those who believed in a change in Turkish policy.''
Furthermore ''it is a provocative answer to all those who suggested Turkey made gestures of good will for the promotion of the efforts to
reach a Cyprus settlement.''
''Usually these suggestions involve the withdrawal of Turkish troops, something that would assist a solution,'' the spokesman said.
At the same time, he concluded, the government has made ''a series of practical gestures that really help the atmosphere of cooperation and mutual understanding as well as efforts for the resumption of a procedure for a final solution of the Cyprus problem.''