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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-02-03

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

February 3, 2005


  • [01] Greece seeks to amend stability and growth plan
  • [02] Greek president continues official visit to Belgium
  • [03] Gov't announces follow-up meeting with journalists' unions on Thursday week
  • [04] Main opposition leader accuses gov't of seeking public sector recruitments along party lines
  • [05] Inter-state DICA agreement between Greece and the U.S.
  • [06] Coalition (Synaspismos) party to seek meeting with PM over European Constitution
  • [07] Greek Ambassador to Sofia says Bulgaria's EU accession opens new era in bilateral relations
  • [08] Alexandria Patriarch and SAE deputy president discuss Greek education program
  • [09] Turkish warplanes violate Greece's national air space
  • [10] ND Honorary President comments on conflict of interest in the media, judicial corruption and presidential elections
  • [11] Dialogue on pension system to begin this year
  • [12] "Step forward" in reforming banking sector's pension system
  • [13] Government launches drive to spur competitiveness
  • [14] Olympic Airlines' sale "one-way road", Minister says
  • [15] SEB and FEB issue joint declaration regarding Lisbon Strategy
  • [16] Eurobarometer: Europeans glum about economic, social situation
  • [17] Majority of Greeks pessimistic about the future of pensions
  • [18] Brisk absorption rate for EU-funded farm programs, minister says
  • [19] HELECO opens its gates on Thursday
  • [20] Major conference to promote investments, business with Serbia-Montenegro in Athens next week
  • [21] Euro-Mediterranean business forum to be held on February 3-5
  • [22] Greek tourism ad campaign successful abroad, minister says
  • [23] Stocks drop below 2,900 pts
  • [24] PM inaugurates new burn unit in west Attica industrial district
  • [25] Macedonia-Thrace Ministry aims at becoming headquarters for development of northern Greece and the broader region
  • [26] Danger to public health from hazardous medical waste stressed in seminar
  • [27] European Commission holds EU-wide contest among school children to raise environmental awareness
  • [28] Magistrate applies to abstain in Kokkalis vs Russian National Sports Foundation case
  • [29] Warrant for the arrest of Archimandrite Yiossakis issued
  • [30] Suspect linked to Djindjic murder extradited to Serbia
  • [31] National Council begins debate on Cyprus question
  • [32] Socialist MEPs to visit Cyprus
  • [33] Greek Chief of Staff to visit Cyprus

  • [01] Greece seeks to amend stability and growth plan

    Athens, 3/2/2005 (ANA)

    Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis has asked the European Union to postpone debate on Greece's stability and growth plan until after March so that the government may amend the program in the wake of new data and fiscal procedures.

    In a letter to the EU Commission, Alogoskoufis said the government wanted procedures underway to tackle the country's excessive fiscal deficit to be taken into account, with the finance ministry seeking to update its existing stability and growth pact after final data was collected on implementation of the 2004 budget.

    At the same time, the 2005 budget would not change, the minister told reporters on Wednesday.

    The Commission had also received a detailed explanation of statistics that it had queried after the government endeavored to collect all available data on defense spending in 1997-2003. As reliable figures expressed in terms of deliveries had failed to emerge, the data was given in the form of payments, Alogoskoufis said.

    "The finance ministry is committed to improving the existing data collection mechanism for armaments deliveries. As part of this drive, a working group has been set up of representatives from the defense and finance ministries," he noted.

    In addition, the Greek National Statistics Service was conducting a new enquiry into revenue and spending for social insurance funds and state hospitals that covered the entirety of the two sectors in 2002-2003. Data that had not been submitted to the government by August 2004 would be collected and sent to EU authorities in May 2005, the minister said.

    Finally, he reported that the finance ministry would form a committee headed by eurodeputy Yiannis Marinos to make recommendations on minor structural changes in the economy.

    Main opposition slams gov't over economic policy

    The main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) on Wednesday sharply criticized the government for seeking postponement in the European Union of debate of Greece's growth and stability program in order to forge an amended version.

    "The government is continuing to display its lack of credibility. It gave the EU its program in November...Nothing seems to have changed in two months," PASOK spokesman Nikos Athanassakis said in a statement.

    [02] Greek president continues official visit to Belgium

    BRUSSELS 3/2/2005 (ANA - C. Poulidou)

    President of the Hellenic Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos began the second day of an official visit to Belgium on Wednesday by visiting the historic town of Namur in French-speaking Wallonia, where he was received at the local theatre by the town's mayor and the small Greek community of roughly 200 people in the area, which organized a music and dance show in his honor.

    Stephanopoulos next visited Namur's University Library and was then received by the Belgian royal couple, King Albert II and Queen Paola, at the Wallonia Regional government building, where Greek and Belgian folkloric societies had organized an outdoor event.

    The Greek president returned to Brussels early on Wednesday afternoon to attend a service at an Orthodox church in the city, before a meeting with the Belgian Greek community that is scheduled to take place at the Greek ambassador's residence in the Belgian capital, to be followed by a dinner in honor of the Belgian royal family.

    [03] Gov't announces follow-up meeting with journalists' unions on Thursday week

    Athens, 3/2/2005 (ANA)

    Government spokesman and Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos on Wednesday announced that a second and final meeting with the political parties and journalist unions concerning working relations between journalists and the public sector will be take place in Zappeion during the coming week, on Thursday, February 10.

    Commenting on a decision by the Athens Union of Journalists (ESHEA) to publish a list of journalists employed in the public sector provided by the government, Roussopoulos stressed that he had been obliged to respond to the union's request and send all the data in his possession on the basis of the presidential decree now in force.

    At the same time, he differentiated his position from that of the union, saying that he was against "lumping everyone together" indiscriminately. Responding to questions, Roussopoulos reiterated his view that publishing the names or the salaries of journalists contravened protection of personal data rules, noting that the list had been requested by ESHEA's board during one of the three meetings he had had with them.

    He also stressed in his opening remarks concerning the list that he had carried out everything he had made a commitment to do, which was to initiate public dialogue on the issue, make specific proposals and to proceed jointly with the political parties and journalists union in determining what should be deemed incompatible in the professional relations of journalists and the state sector, as well as to send lists of journalists employed by the state sector to their unions.

    Roussopoulos further clarified that he had requested lists from public-sector bodies that did not supply them in previous years, considering that they did not come under the auspices of the specific law. He said that these bodies would henceforth provide such lists, for the first time after many years, and that these would also be sent to ESHEA.

    In addition, he said that the Communications Secretariat will continue until March 31 to collect data concerning employment records in 2004 and would send these to ESHEA by April 5.

    The minister stressed that he was in favor of transparency but also in favor of the proper use of this data.

    "If one, five or a hundred journalists are violating the code of ethics or the statutes of the journalists' union, then it is only for these that the Union has a right and obligation to impose whatever penalties it decides," he said.

    Roussopoulos also announced that measures regulating relations between journalists and the public sector will soon be made that will help dispel the "cloud that certain parties were trying to cast on both the just and unjust".

    Meanwhile, in a letter sent to ESHEA and the independent Personal Data Protection Authority on Wednesday, journalists working with the state broadcasting organization ERT underlined their "surprise and indignation" at the decision to publish the entire list of names, saying it was tantamount to "criminalizing" the act of working.

    According to the letter, the publication of the list acted to discredit professional journalists that had been hired to work for state radio and television through legal processes, since it coincided with the debate concerning journalists "on the take" and gave rise to "unacceptable associations" in eyes of public opinion.

    "We believe that ESHEA should have first investigated if and which journalists are violating the Union's code of ethics and then made public the names of the offenders," the letter concludes.

    A question on the issue was also tabled in Parliament on Wednesday by independent MP Stephanos Manos, who said that the laws obliging state-sector organizations to provide lists of those providing press and public relations services and laws forbidding individuals from occupying more than one public-sector job were being "implemented selectively".

    [04] Main opposition leader accuses gov't of seeking public sector recruitments along party lines

    Athens, 3/2/2005 (ANA)

    Main opposition PASOK president George Papandreou on Wednesday accused the government of trying to return to recruitment along party-political lines in the public sector, during a visit to the state's public-sector recruitment organization ASEP.

    The visit was carried out in view of Thursday's debate in Parliament concerning a bill for public-sector recruitment, which introduces the use of personal interviews in the selection of candidates.

    Emerging from his meeting with ASEP's director Prof. George Beis, Papandreou said personal interviews were the "Trojan Horse that abolished meritocracy in the public sector" and pledged to strongly contest the measure.

    The ASEP was set up by previous PASOK governments in an attempt to discourage nepotism and the use of party-political criteria in public-sector hiring, in a complex system involving examinations and a point-system based on social criteria.

    Minister of the interior responds to opposition's criticism on public sector hiring: Minister of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Prokopis Pavlopoulos responded in harsh language to the criticism expressed by main opposition PASOK President George Papandreou on Wednesday that the government is trying to "politicize" the public sector by proposing a bill that would make personal interviews part of the hiring process. Papandreou said that such a development would be a "Trojan Horse" that threatens meritocracy.

    "Everyone knows that PASOK governments were for years the 'Trojan Horse' of partisanship and of a lack of meritocracy in the state sector. And George Papandreou always had a prominent position within this 'Trojan Horse', who as a member of PASOK governments certainly participated in all that they did!", Pavlopoulos said.

    The minister emphasized that the New Democracy government is fighting for meritocracy and can prove it. "Mr. Papandreou can have the answer to what PASOK did during its time in office and what the present government is doing to reinstate meritocracy tomorrow in Parliament. I hope he will be in Parliament so that he can say what he has to say, hear the answers and then everyone will be able to judge," Pavlopoulos concluded.

    On Thursday, Parliament will discuss the new bill regarding the public sector.

    [05] Inter-state DICA agreement between Greece and the U.S.

    Athens, 3/2/2005 (ANA)

    The National Defense Ministry announced on Wednesday the activation of the provision of the existing inter-state DICA agreement between Greece and the United States, according to which the U.S. will offer control services for future trade contracts and inter-state agreements (LOA) when this is asked of by Greece, so that the offered prices for defense procurements and services to be fair and reasonable.

    The defense ministry assesses that the activation without cost of the control services of the U.S. will constitute a significant factor in restricting U.S. companies from seeking greater profits.

    [06] Coalition (Synaspismos) party to seek meeting with PM over European Constitution

    Athens, 3/2/2005 (ANA)

    Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) leader Alekos Alavanos plans to ask for a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in order to convey a demand by the party for more dialogue before Greece "rushes" into ratification of the European Constitutional Treaty, a Synaspismos spokesman said on Wednesday.

    He also noted that party MPs belonging to the Leftist group SYRIZA will be lodging a complaint over the issue with Parliament's presidency.

    Stressing that ratification of the European Constitution will "determine the country's course for decades to come", the spokesman said the party was against its "overnight ratification by Parliament, without any information and without dialogue on the different views that exist."

    [07] Greek Ambassador to Sofia says Bulgaria's EU accession opens new era in bilateral relations

    SOFIA 3/2/2005 (ANA/B. Borisov)

    Greece's Ambassador to Sofia, Prokopios Mantzouranis, in an interview on Wednesday to the newspaper "24 Hours", said that "these past fifty-five years are maybe the best in Greek-Bulgarian relations."

    "In two years, when Bulgaria will become a member of the European Union (EU), our bonds will acquire a completely new form. Because relations between the countries of the EU are not only based on principles and contracts, but is an issue of common culture, common life," the Greek ambassador said in an answer to a question by Sofia's newspaper.

    Mantzouranis noted "the excellent cooperation of the border guards and of other relevant authorities between the two countries in the confrontation of illegal immigration and in the joint effort for the combatting of organized crime."

    [08] Alexandria Patriarch and SAE deputy president discuss Greek education program

    ALEXANDRIA 3/2/2005 (ANA - E. Peloriadou)

    The Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa Theodoros II and the deputy president of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad Stefanos Tamvakis met here on Wednesday to discuss ways that the SAE can support the Patriarchate's education program in Africa.

    The program began at the beginning of this year with funds from the Onassis Foundation, which has given 100,000 dollars only for this year and is coordinated on behalf of the SAE by Tamvakis.

    Patriarch Theodoros expressed great satisfaction with the program and said that it will be of great assistance in the Orthodox Church's missionary work in Africa.

    [09] Turkish warplanes violate Greece's national air space

    Athens, 3/2/2005 (ANA)

    The Turkish Air Force again violated Greece's national air space over the Aegean on Wednesday.

    According to press reports, 11 formations of Turkish warplanes entered the Aegean and in 10 cases violated the national air space in the region of the central, northern and southern Aegean.

    In all cases, the 28 Turkish warplanes were recognized and intercepted by corresponding Greek fighter jets, while in three instances the interception evolved into mock dog-fighting.

    It was reported that four of the planes were armed.

    [10] ND Honorary President comments on conflict of interest in the media, judicial corruption and presidential elections

    Athens, 3/2/2005 (ANA)

    Former Prime Minister and Honorary President of New Democracy Constantine Mitsotakis spoke about conflict of interest affecting journalism, judicial corruption and the upcoming presidential elections in comments he made to reporters on Wednesday evening on the sidelines of journalist Yiannis Voultepsis' book presentation.

    Asked about the list of journalists' names made public on Tuesday, Mitsotakis said: "Journalists too are civil servants if they work in the public sector. Therefore, they need to abide by the same rules. I personally think that these lists should always be available to the public." However, he added that the situation was not handled properly, since the list does not distinguish between journalists who are engaged in unethical practices and those who simply are employed in the public sector.

    Mitsotakis also commented on the current issues surrounding the judicial system and recent developments whereby a number of judges and lawyers helped crime suspects. He said that he approved of the measures Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras announced earlier in the week. The measures "are a step in the right direction, but in my opinion, insufficient," he said, adding that the justice minister should proceed more decisively. "We can't possibly govern properly, if we insist on pleasing everyone," he said.

    On the issue of the upcoming presidential election, Mitsotakis said, "I am glad that Karolos Papoulias will be President of the Hellenic Republic."

    [11] Dialogue on pension system to begin this year

    Athens, 3/2/2005 (ANA)

    Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said that the government's new tax and development laws, and its economic program for 2005 would help boost the country's competitiveness. Addressing the seminar, Alogoskoufis said that the government aimed to simplify an existing framework on real estate taxes, facilitate closer cooperation between the public and private sectors, accelerating EU funds' absorption rates and adhering to 2005 budget provisions to achieve a fiscal restructuring.

    The Greek minister stressed that, according to EU officials, a new development law was compatible with community legislation, but that the government was awaiting for an official approval before putting the law into effect. He said that the ministry would seek cooperation between the state's real estate enterprises with the aim to make a more efficient use of real estate assets and announced an ambitious package of privatizations, including the flotation of Post Savings Bank and the Athens International Airport, of total worth 1.6 billion euros in 2005.

    Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas announced 15 measures aimed to create a "competitiveness umbrella" over the country's public and private sectors, including a new licensing system to set up new enterprises, deregulation of markets, supporting healthy competition, including the commerce sector in the Third Community Support Framework and seeking transparency in a public procurement system.

    Sioufas said that the ministry would publish a survey on achieving the so-called Lisbon economic goals, while an annual report on Greek economic competitiveness would be published by the end of the month.

    Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis underlined the importance given by the government to economic diplomacy saying that the ministry has drastically restructured its services and that it was cooperating with other ministries while it was open to cooperation with the private sector.

    Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said that public administration was bureaucratic and that it was "putting a brake" on growth. He announced a series of measures aimed to combat bureaucracy and strengthen regional growth.

    [12] "Step forward" in reforming banking sector's pension system

    Athens, 3/2/2005 (ANA)

    The Greek government and bank employees' union OTOE on Wednesday agreed to set up a commission, comprising of representatives from bank employers and employees unions, with the aim to draft a package of recommendations aimed to address the sector's pension problems.

    Speaking to reporters, after a meeting with Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, OTOE's president Dimitris Tsoukalas said he was "cautiously optimistic" over the future of talks and stressed that the government would participate as a coordinator in a dialogue between employees and employers.

    "We are talking about creating a single supplementary pension fund for all bank employees," Tsoukalas said, adding that until now bankers wished to resolve the issue on their own terms but OTOE's intervention managed to bring the issue on a negotiating table.

    OTOE unionists said that the meeting with Economy minister was a step forward in resolving the pension issue in the banking sector. Alogoskoufis is expected to meet with banks' boards on Thursday.

    [13] Government launches drive to spur competitiveness

    Athens, 3/2/2005 (ANA)

    Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Wednesday that the government had launched a drive to boost competitiveness of the economy.

    Among moves was a law to encourage joint ventures involving the state and private sector; simpler procedures to accelerate absorption of European Union funds; reform of real estate legislation; and fiscal revitalization through the budget, Alogoskoufis told an event to mark 2005 as Competitiveness Year.

    In addition, the government was working to increase regional growth through its development legislation, privatize companies to bring state coffers 1.6 billion euros, and promote exports, the minister said.

    In a statement on Competitiveness Year, the Federation of Greek Industry welcomed the government's launch of national policies and action in the sector.

    Needed was the removal of obstacles to doing business through a simple, clear-cut, lean and stable regulatory framework, the trade group said in a statement.

    [14] Olympic Airlines' sale "one-way road", Minister says

    Athens, 3/2/2005 (ANA)

    Greek Transport and Communications Minister Mihalis Liapis on Wednesday said that the sale of Olympic Airlines was a "one-way road" and expressed the hope that a current international tender for the sale of a majority stake in the national carrier could be successful.

    Speaking to reporters, Liapis urged for calm reactions and stressed that Greece should maintain a positive climate ahead of completion of a tender on February 11, according to a timetable set by the European Union.

    The Greek minister said that an EU Court of Justice's Advocate General's opinion, asking for an immediate repayment of illegal state aid to Olympic Airways in the past, was expected.

    Former Transport minister and PASOK deputy Christos Verelis strong criticized the government's handling of the case with the European Court of Justice.

    [15] SEB and FEB issue joint declaration regarding Lisbon Strategy

    Athens, 3/2/2005 (ANA)

    The Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) and the Federation of Belgian Enterprises (FEB-VBO) on Wednesday signed a joint declaration for the promotion of the Lisbon Strategy, during a special ceremony held on the sidelines of President of the Hellenic Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos' three-day visit to Brussels. The president is being escorted by a delegation of Greek businesspeople. Prince Philip of Belgium co-signed the declaration.

    "The two Federations are convinced that the aim of the Lisbon Strategy to make Europe the world's most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy by 2010 remains the project for the future of our continent. They [the federations] think that economic growth, higher levels of employment and an increase in productivity are essential conditions for achieving progress towards social cohesion and environmental protection," SEV and FEB-VBO wrote in their declaration.

    SEV Vice President Athanassios Lavidas, presenting the common positions of the two business communities, emphasized that the commitment to support entrepreneurship must be strengthened throughout the continent and specific actions must be taken that will substantially boost competitiveness.

    Furthermore, Lavidas urged Belgian entrepreneurs to take advantage of the Greek economy's new dynamism following the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. According to Lavidas, the modern infrastructure, the new development law, the new framework of tax incentives, the modern financial services system and the new generation of specialized employees are guarantees for the development of bilateral economic relations.

    [16] Eurobarometer: Europeans glum about economic, social situation

    BRUSSELS 3/2/2005 (ANA/M Spinthourakis)

    Most citizens of the European Union consider that the current economic and social situation in their country is bad, according to a poll released on Wednesday by Eurobarometer.

    Three out of four citizens say that the employment situation in their country is "bad" compared with only 22% who take the opposite view. However, as far as the European economy is concerned, 49% of the respondents consider that the situation is good.

    At the same time, the study also shows that the European public opinion is ready for solutions in order to foster growth and address crucial issues like unemployment or the future of pensions.

    The poll was conducted between October 27 and November 29 2004 among a sample of nearly 25,000 persons.

    Five years after its launch, numerous objectives of the Lisbon Strategy have still to be achieved; and European Union citizens are aware of this, the survey showed.

    Among findings for Greece are the following:

    Greeks appear to be more pessimistic about their economy than other Europeans with 78% saying the current economic situation was bad against a European average of 62%

    Concerning employment, 91% of Greeks see the current situation as adverse against an EU average of 76%

    Seventy five percent of Greeks believe that their social insurance system is in bad shape versus an EU average of 53%

    Of Greeks polled, 60% were satisfied with their quality of life against an EU average of 73%

    Sixty three percent of Greeks view the state of the environment in their country as negative against an EU average of 51%

    [17] Majority of Greeks pessimistic about the future of pensions

    BRUSSELS 3/2/2005 (ANA/V.Demiris)

    The majority of Greek citizens, like the other European citizens, appear relatively pessimistic about the future of pensions.

    At the same time, they claim that the solution they most prefer for the safeguarding of the pension schemes in the future is the maintenance of the age limit for retirement with an increase of social contributions.

    A Eurobarometer opinion poll made public on Wednesday showed that 26 per cent of Greeks were optimistic about the future of pensions (23% in the "25") while 70 per cent said they were pessimistic (70% in the "25").

    To a question on what they viewed as the best solution for the safeguarding of the financing of the pension schemes, 39 per cent of Greeks (34% in the "25") said the most acceptable solution is the maintenance of the age limit for retirement and the increase in social contributions. Nine per cent (13% in the "25") supported the maintenance of the age limit for retirement with a reduction of pensions which they receive, seven per cent (17% in the "25") say they are prepared to work for more years and pay more social contributions, seven per cent (8% in the "25") chose a combination of these three solutions, while thirty-three per cent (22% in the "25") reject all of these alternative solutions.

    [18] Brisk absorption rate for EU-funded farm programs, minister says

    Athens, 3/2/2005 (ANA)

    Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Evangelos Basiakos said on Wednesday that the absorption rate of farm programs under the European Union's Third Community Support Framework was high, and met the bloc's standard.

    Basiakos told a news conference that at the end of December 2004, absorption rates for the ministry's four operational programs under the CSF were as follows:

  • Agricultural Development, 31.2%

  • Fisheries, 32.25%

  • Leader, 26.3%

  • Agricultural Development Planning, 56.43%

    [19] HELECO opens its gates on Thursday

    Athens, 3/2/2005 (ANA)

    Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias will inaugurate on Thursday the 5th International Trade Fair and Conference on Environment Technology HELECO in Athens.

    The trade fair is organized by the Greek Engineering Chamber (TEE) at Helexpo's trade center. More than 150 exhibitors from around the world will participate in this year's fair that will remain open to the public until Sunday. HELECO is the largest environment-oriented trade fair in Southeastern Europe.

    TEE said that more than 1,000 delegates from Greece and abroad would participate in the conference.

    [20] Major conference to promote investments, business with Serbia-Montenegro in Athens next week

    Athens, 3/2/2005 (ANA)

    Serbia and Montenegro's vigorous efforts to attract foreign investment and to jumpstart that country's economy will be showcased in Athens next week during a wide-ranging three-day business conference expected to include participation by numerous cabinet ministers and top officials from the Balkan nation, and inaugurated by Serbian President Boris Tadic.

    A press briefing on Wednesday at the Serbian-Montenegrin embassy unveiled preparations for the conference, with ambassador Dusan Batakovic emphasizing that the three-day event -- Feb. 8-10 -- offers a major opportunity for local companies and entrepreneurs to further expand Greece's already impressive presence in his country.

    Current investments in Serbia-Montenegro by Greek firms are estimated at 900 million euros, with banking, foodstuffs and petroleum products dealers topping the list.

    The conference, which will be held under the auspices of Greece's development ministry and Serbia's ministry of international economic relations, is being organized by Lifeline Hellas, one of a handful of affiliated humanitarian organizations overseen by the wife of Serbian Prince Alexander II, Katherine.

    Both Alexander and Greek-born Katherine were on hand at the embassy, with the former stressing that jobs and development are top priorities for Serbia-Montenegro, something acknowledged by Belgrade in the form of a generous corporate tax regime.

    "Jobs and opportunities bring stability to the entire region and a better future," the 59-year-old first-born son of last Yugoslav King Peter said.

    The conference is entitled "Greece, Serbia and Montenegro: Partnership Initiative", and will take place at a downtown Athens hotel on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, shifting to Belgrade on Friday.

    Comments on Kosovo: Meanwhile, in statements on the sidelines of the press conference and in response to a question over heightened press speculation in recent weeks concerning developments in Kosovo, Amb. Batakovic noted that his government continues to maintain a position of "less than independence, something more than autonomy" for the currently UN-administered Kosovo province.

    Moreover, he urged more "regional thinking" when considering any future solution for the strife-plagued province, explaining that any development must absolutely reinforce stability in the Balkans and not lead to further instability.

    He also stressed that a dramatic improvement in the situation "on the ground" is first necessary before interested parties discuss the province's future. Lack of a freedom of movement for the remaining Serbians in the area and what he called their "ghetto-like" living conditions must first be reversed, he added.

    Finally, he said the Serbian side continues to retain very close contacts with Athens.

    [21] Euro-Mediterranean business forum to be held on February 3-5

    Athens, 3/2/2005 (ANA)

    The Greek Foreign Ministry is organizing a Euro-Mediterranean business forum from February 3-5.

    Taking part in the forum, which will be held at a central Athens hotel, will be ten ministers and deputy ministers and 150 entrepreneurs of the Mediterranean countries.

    The theme of the meeting, which constitutes a continuation of a relevant initiative by Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis, is "challenges, prospects and new financial means for investments, business activities and initiatives for development cooperation in the Mediterranean."

    Within the framework of the event, an official luncheon will be given with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis as main speaker.

    The sessions will be opened by Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis.

    [22] Greek tourism ad campaign successful abroad, minister says

    Athens, 3/2/2005 (ANA)

    Greek Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Wednesday said the ministry's tourism ad campaign was in full swing and stressed that an international ad campaign was a success.

    Speaking to reporters, Avramopoulos said a plan to hire "small managers" to Greece's National Tourism Organization's branches abroad was in its last stages.

    "They will have to work hard to attract tourists and upgrade Greek tourism's picture abroad," the Greek minister stressed.

    Avramopoulos said Costas Zahopoulos would replace Nikos Haritakis as chief executive at Tourist Development Enterprise (ETA SA) and announced that the ministry would relocate to its new building by October.

    [23] Stocks drop below 2,900 pts

    Athens, 3/2/2005 (ANA)

    Stocks finished lower in selling across the board, taking the market below support at 2,900 points, traders said.

    The Athens general share index closed at 2,879.70 points, posting a decline of 1.14%. Turnover was 216.5 million euros.

    The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 1.17% down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.80% lower; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 1.75% down.

    Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 253 to 51 with 52 remaining unchanged.

    [24] PM inaugurates new burn unit in west Attica industrial district

    Athens, 3/2/2005 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday toured a state-of-the-art burn unit established at the state-run Thriasio Hospital near the industrial district of Elefsina, west of Athens.

    Funding for the centre was donated by the Latsis family.

    In a brief address, Karamanlis thanked the Latsis family -- which heads a well-known shipping and banking group -- and noted that the state has the first word in the sensitive area of healthcare. However, he added that the private sector can effectively contribute to the creation of such care units within public hospitals.

    The premier added that staffing will be completed in one month, while a kidney dialysis unit and cardiac intensive care unit will be up and running in a matter of weeks.

    "Our vision is the establishment of a true social state; one that serves the citizen, offering upgraded health services, modern infrastructure and specialized staff," he stressed.

    The Latsis family's donation follows an industrial accident a few years ago at the nearby Petrola refinery, which is owned by the group.

    [25] Macedonia-Thrace Ministry aims at becoming headquarters for development of northern Greece and the broader region

    Athens, 3/2/2005 (ANA)

    The Macedonia-Thrace Ministry will develop into a junction of support but also observation of the development of northern Greece as well as the broader region of southeast Europe, within the framework of its structural reform.

    In this direction, procedures are in progress for the creation of a "Completed Information System for the Observation of Development" (OPS). Through OPS, the development course of three regions of northern Greece (western, central, eastern Macedonia and Thrace) will be observed and support will be given to the strategic plan for the development of Thessaloniki. At the same time the reconstruction of southeastern European countries will be observed and information given to all interested parties who want to be active in business in the countries of the region.

    The project is co-financed by the Business Program of the "Society of Information" and the total budget amounts to 1.3 million euros. The company awarded the project is the company Advisers of Management and Technology TREK Consulting.

    Macedonia-Thrace Minister Nikos Tsiartsionis said on Wednesday that "the basic aim of the operation of the Macedonia-Thrace Ministry is to be a headquarters for the development of northern Greece and the broader region."

    [26] Danger to public health from hazardous medical waste stressed in seminar

    Athens, 3/2/2005 (ANA)

    Trade unions representing workers in the sanitation and hygiene fields on Wednesday stressed the danger to public health and the environment posed by hazardous medical waste, during a seminar on the problem held in Athens.

    They called for all health authorities and other bodies involved to abide by rules for the safe handling of hazardous medical waste and the immediate activation of a joint ministerial decree issue a year ago that is currently only observed by 73 out of 200 medical units in Greece, which has resulted in the Greece being fined by the European Court of Justice.

    A representative of the Technical Chamber of Greece Kyriakos Karydis stressed that the fate of much hazardous medical waste in Greece is unknown and that, based on figures for 2000, roughly two thirds is not processed in any way.

    Union representatives stressed the dangers to their members and the environment, noting the risk that disease-carrying factors might accumulate in the water table or be carried by birds. Other speakers noted that incineration units in the Attica area had the capacity to handle up to 30 tones of waste a day but were currently receiving only five to six tones, through contracts with just 73 out of 200 medical units in Greece.

    A representative of the health ministry, however, stressed that the handling of hazardous medical waste was a clear-cut issue or one that required dialogue:

    "There will be a public tender with all the bodies involved that meet the specifications, whether associations or private companies, in order to undertake the handling of all wastes in the country. The fundamental criterion will be the lowest cost," he said.

    He also said that the true volume of hazardous medical wastes was much lower than current estimates because medical wastes were not separated at source, with ministry estimates placing the volume of hazardous waste at just seven tones a day.

    [27] European Commission holds EU-wide contest among school children to raise environmental awareness

    BRUSSELS 3/2/2005 (ANA/M.Spinthourakis)

    The European Commission, following the initiative of the Commissioner for the Environment Stavros Dimas, announced on Tuesday that it invites all children between the ages of 5 and 16 and in all EU member-states and candidate countries, to participate in a contest on occasion of Green Week 2005.

    The contest's focus will be on climate change. Younger-aged children (6-10) can submit drawings reflecting their thoughts on the subject, while older children (11-16) are asked to work in groups in order to produce a short video on the topic. The contest will be held within the context of the annual Green Week conference and exhibit, which this year will be held in Brussels from May 31 - June 3.

    "Climate change is one of the most serious environmental challenges on a global scale," Dimas said, presenting the initiative. "The increase of the earth's temperature by a few degrees in a relatively short period of time can have dramatic consequences, resulting in rising sea levels and threatening various types of flora and fauna. Everyone can help prevent this from happening and the school contest, within the framework of Green Week, is an opportunity for this important issue to be discussed in school," he said.

    The three winners of each age category, will win a trip to Brussels and will have the chance to visit the European Commission.

    [28] Magistrate applies to abstain in Kokkalis vs Russian National Sports Foundation case

    Athens, 3/2/2005 (ANA)

    An Athens magistrate handling a case involving Greek business tycoon Socrates Kokkalis and the Russian National Foundation for Sports (NSF) on Wednesday applied to abstain for reasons of 'sensitivity', after the Russian organization filed a suit against him and accused him of procrastinating in applying to Swiss courts for permission to open Kokkalis' accounts.

    Examining magistrate Dimosthenis Vlachos, of the 4th Special Examining Magistrate's Office, submitted his application to the head of the Three-Member First-Instance Courts Gerassimos Dionysatos and stressed that he would abstain from all activities as a magistrate until a decision on his application had been made.

    The case concerns an aborted deal between the NSF and the Swiss company Sectro to set up a Russian Olympic lottery, for which the Greek company Intracom, founded and led by Kokkalis, had undertaken to supply lottery equipment. The NSF sought to terminate the contract with Sectro and asked for the return of $15 million paid for the equipment, which it said was never delivered.

    [29] Warrant for the arrest of Archimandrite Yiossakis issued

    Athens, 3/2/2005 (ANA)

    The Piraeus prosecutor's office on Wednesday issued a warrant for the arrest of Archimandrite Iakovos Yiossakis, who is considered to be a fugitive.

    The police tried to arrest Yiossakis, but he could not be found at his home.

    Yiossakis is being investigated for his alleged involvement with numerous judges and lawyers in helping crime suspects and for his involvement in an antiquities smuggling case.

    [30] Suspect linked to Djindjic murder extradited to Serbia

    Athens, 3/2/2005 (ANA)

    A Serbian national implicated in the assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic in February 2003 was extradited to Serbia-Montenegro on Wednesday, following a decision by the Greek justice minister three weeks ago.

    Dejan "Bugsy" Milenkovic was handed over to Serbian authorities on Wednesday to face multiple felony charges.

    [31] National Council begins debate on Cyprus question

    NICOSIA 3/2/2005 (CNA/ANA)

    Parliamentary parties, comprising the National Council, began here on Wednesday discussing their positions on the question of Cyprus at a Council meeting, Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said after the meeting.

    The discussion will continue at the next Council meeting, to be fixed at a later stage, he added.

    The spokesman said Monday's meeting followed a previous Council meeting on January 25th.

    At Monday's meeting, ''political parties continued to outline their views on the Cyprus problem. All parties participating in the National Council have presented their positions,'' he said, adding that Council members began ''the discussion which will continue at the next Council meeting.''

    [32] Socialist MEPs to visit Cyprus

    BRUSSELS 3/2/2005 (CNA/ANA)

    A four-member delegation of the Socialist Group at the European Parliament arrives here Thursday on a three-day visit, at the invitation of Yiannakis Omirou, leader of the Socialdemocrats Movement EDEK.

    Greek Euro MP Panayiotis Beglitis said the Euro MPs look forward with particular interest to their meetings with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and House of Representatives President Demetris Christofias ''to discuss prospects for a political settlement, in the light of recent developments.''

    He said they intend to examine ways to strengthen ties of cooperation with EDEK, noting that though it is not represented to the European Parliament, EDEK's voice and active presence is valuable.

    During the visit, the four MEPs will have talks with Omirou and EDEK honorary president Vassos Lyssarides as well as representatives of the party's youth, women and farmers branches.

    The visiting MEPs will also have meetings with Turkish Cypriot politicians, Mehmet Ali Talat, leader of the Turkish Republican Party, and Mustafa Akkinci, head of the Peace and Democracy Movement.

    Beglitis said the European Socialist Party and the Socialist Group have maintained a firm stance and a consistent strategy with regard to Cyprus and supported a solution and the reunification of the island in accordance with UN decisions and the acquis communautaire, on the basis of an UN-proposed plan that would benefit both Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

    The other three MEPs comprising the delegation are Hannes Swoboda of Austria, Jan Marinus Wiersma of The Netherlands and Mechtild Rothe of Germany.

    [33] Greek Chief of Staff to visit Cyprus

    NICOSIA 3/2/2005 (CNA/ANA)

    Chief of the Greek National Defense, General George Antonakopoulos, will be paying an unofficial visit to Cyprus from February 4 to 6.

    During his stay here, he will visit the Greek Armed Forces in Cyprus (ELDYK), the graves of fighters of the 1955-59 EOKA struggle against the British colonial rule and Makedonitissa Tomb in Nicosia, where army officers and soldiers killed during the 1974 Turkish invasion are buried.

    He will also attend the revealing of a Monument for the deceased and missing soldiers of the artillery.

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