|Tuesday, 10 December 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-02-10
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>February 10, 2005
 FM Molyviatis attends NATO ministerial council, meets with US State Secretary
BRUSSELS 10/2/2005 (ANA/B.Demiris)The situation in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the latest developments in the West Balkans were the focus of discussions at the informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers which was held in Brussels on Wednesday.
Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis represented Greece at the meeting and told reporters afterwards that he had had the opportunity to briefly meet with US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. During this brief encounter, Molyviatis said that Rice reiterated the US' invitation for Molyviatis to visit Washington, perhaps before summer.
Regarding Iraq, Rice and UN Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer urged NATO members to secure a greater international participation in the training of Iraqi security forces. Molyviatis said that Greece would be contributing funds totalling ¬ 300,000, an amount that will be added to a special fund created for this purpose and which currently stands at ¬ 3.5 million.
As for the situation in the West Balkans, the Greek foreign minister reiterated the great emphasis Greece places on the region's stability and security, emphasizing the need - particularly in the case of Kosovo - for the cooperation of all interested parties so as to avoid destabilization. Specifics about Kosovo's status were not discussed during the meeting, but further developments are expected after July when a comprehensive evaluation of the region's political situation will be complete.
On the issue of Afghanistan, Molyviatis pointed out Greece's contribution, which was the operation of a health care unit.
Speaking about the results of Wednesday's meeting in general, the Greek foreign minister said that all sides confirmed the need for the strengthening of cross-Atlantic ties, in a climate of closer and better cooperation between Europe and the US. He noted that the US intends to make a fresh start in its cross-Atlantic relations and to move past old arguments, that arose primarily because of the Iraqi crisis. He said that this is to be confirmed by the US President George W. Bush, when he visits the Belgian capital on February 22.
Finally, regarding the Middle East, NATO foreign ministers said they were satisfied with the agreement reached by Israelis and Palestinians on Tuesday, although they acknowledged that the situation remains quite fragile.
 Visiting Serbian President Tadic meets with PM Karamanlis
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)Visiting Serbian president Boris Tadic met Wednesday morning with prime minister Costas Karamanlis.
The two men discussed the situation in the region, as well as bilateral relations.
No statements were made after the meeting.
PASOK leader meets visiting Serbia President Tadic in Athens: Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Wednesday met visiting President of Serbia Boris Tadic at the party's offices in Athens.
After the meeting, Tadic expressed satisfaction with the close cooperation with PASOK and Papandreou, saying that they "shared values and principles with regard to issues in the Balkans and the area's European prospects."
Tadic stressed the traditional ties between the Greek and Serb peoples and said that he expected the support of Greece and its politicians, especially in view of Greece's membership of the EU and the UN Security Council.
Regarding the fate of Kosovo, Tadic said this was a "Serb problem that, nevertheless, concerns the entire region".
Papandreou expressed his support for Serbia's European prospects and its efforts for a just solution to the issue with Kosovo "within the framework of resolutions and Treaties".
"It is essential in the Balkans that all peoples have a say. Greece has played and I am sure it will play a very important role in its position within the EU and on the UN Security Council," he added.
The two men also exchanged invitations to attend the upcoming congresses of their two parties.
 Fighting corruption and bureaucracy top priority of the BSEC's Greek presidency, deputy FM says
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)"The Foreign Ministry and the Greek Presidency of BSEC (Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization) place great importance on proper governance, and fighting corruption and bureaucracy in member countries of the organization," Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis said on Wednesday, speaking during a workshop being held in preparation for the upcoming interministerial Justice and General Affairs meeting.
"We must proceed with the necessary legal, institutional and administrative reforms, in order for steady and balanced socio-economic development to take place in our countries," he added.
While the issue of proper governance has been discussed before it is the first time at the interministerial meeting, which will be held in Athens on February 21, that the issue will be discussed officially. "This underscores the fact that the time is right to set the foundations for a multilateral cooperation among our countries, both within the context of the organization by establishing a work group, as well as on a bilateral level. This is, after all, the conclusion we came to at the third workshop in Tiflida," Stylianidis said.
The current workshop, which concludes Thursday and is being co-organized by the International Centre for Black Sea Studies (ICBSS) and the School of Public Administration, is expected to result in the signing of a joint declaration.
 PM Karamanlis briefed on defense ministry activities
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)Prime minister Costas Karamanlis was briefed Wednesday on the course of the government's work in the defense sector, by the national defense ministry's political leadership.
An announcement issued after the one-hour meeting said that the discussion covered the Armed Forces' operational preparedness, the human potential, the Armed Forces' next five-year armaments program, and the ministry's legislative activities, and two bills due to be tabled in parliament in the next few days by the ministry.
It was made clear that the major armaments programs would be materialized in accordance with the real needs of the Armed Forces, while the bill on procurements would materialize the government's policy statements on transparency in the armaments sector, sources said.
 PM Karamanlis gives speech on the European Constitution
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)"Greece wants and can be in the European vanguard," Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis stated on Wednesday night at an event organized by the Economic and Social Committee, marking the 10th anniversary of its founding, on the theme "The European Constitution and the Society of Citizens".
"The European constitution may not constitute the great leap towards European completion and may not give a solution to all the problems. However, it will constitute a historic step to the road of the common European future and the connecting link which the European institutions need so as to operate without shocks and with the greatest possible effectiveness. The constitutional treaty will contribute to the elevation of the European citizen as a member of a general whole and will strengthen the society of active citizens," Karamanlis said, noting that the European constitution would respect the fundamental rights of people.
The prime minister further noted that the European constitution will "strengthen cooperation on security and defense" and stated that Greece will ratify the treaty of the European constitution very soon in Parliament, "sooner than many other countries."
Karamanlis also stressed the importance for all the citizens to participate in the dialogue on the European constitution as "it concerns their present and future."
 Remarks about early elections 'scenarios of political imagination'
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, asked by reporters on Wednesday to comment on assessments by cadres of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) that "the government is promoting a climate of early elections", replied that "they are scenarios of political imagination which have no basis whatsoever."
To a question on the possibility of a government reshuffle, Antonaros reiterated that "the reshuffle is an issue which only concerns the prime minister."
 Deputy defense ministers of Greece and Slovakia hold talks in Athens
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)The deputy defense ministers of Greece and Slovakia, during a meeting they had in Athens on Wednesday, agreed on upgrading bilateral relations, through the signing of a Memorandum of Mutual Understanding.
The very good climate of cooperation between the two countries in the defense and military sector was confirmed at the meeting.
The Memorandum of Mutual Understanding will be signed during the forthcoming visit by the Greek deputy defense minister to Bratislava following an invitation conveyed to him by his Slovak counterpart on Wednesday.
Also discussed at the meeting were issues concerning developments in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Cyprus.
 Stylianidis addresses National Defense School event
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis, speaking at an event organized by the National Defense School at the War Museum on Wednesday morning, expounded on the priorities of the Greek government in economic diplomacy and development cooperation.
The topic of the event was "the economic activities of Greece in the countries of the Balkans and Turkey as a factor of shaping foreign policy and economic diplomacy."
On development cooperation, Stylianidis stressed that major steps have been made in comparison to the past and referred to the immediate response by Greece to quake-stricken Southeast Asia.
 Papariga speech kicks off Greek Communist Party's 17th congress
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)The 17th congress of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), attended by 80 delegations from foreign left-wing parties, began on Wednesday with an address by KKE General Secretary Aleka Papariga.
Before Papariga's address outlining the proposals of the party's Central Committee, delegates viewed a short video on the party's history and action and a recorded message from honorary KKE President Harilaos Florakis, who stressed that socialism was essential and anything but over.
In her speech, the KKE leader stressed the need to make the party stronger in order to help resist a "typhoon of reactionary reforms and restructures" targeting the popular masses.
She once again reiterated that the two main parties essentially had the same core policies, which were to introduce rapid "capitalist" reforms, and she ruled out cooperation with the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) in spite of the party's avowed "turn to the left" in its last congress.
"What is being judged are not [Synaspismos'] proclamations but [its] program positions, which move down the 'Euro-highway' of the four freedoms of Maastricht and the corresponding capitalist restructuring," she said.
Papariga also referred to the Aegean, saying that Turkey's dispute of the existing regime was being backed by the United States and the European Union and predicting that the problems with Ankara would intensify.
She also outlined goals, priorities and areas of action for giving KKE a stronger role and profile in society, especially among the working classes and youth movements.
ND Central Committee Secretary addresses KKE Congress: Vangelis Meimarakis, ruling ND Central Committee Secretary, highlighted "KKE's crucial role in a pluralistic Democracy," in comments he made on Wednesday while addressing the 17th Congress of the Communist Party of Greece.
Meimarakis conveyed Prime Minister and ND President Costas Karamanlis' greetings. He also referred to the role political parties play, emphasizing that Greece needs strong and modern parties that meet the real needs of society and of the country. Parties must also reflect citizens' concerns and meet society's expectations, he said.
"In order to create a new quality of democracy in our country, we must reinforce communication and understanding as well as readiness to work with differing opinions," he said.
Finally, Meimarakis praised KKE's actions, despite disagreement between New Democracy and KKE.
"The Left has always been a trailblazer in trying to protect public interest. KKE has supported and continues to support every creative effort for upgrading the quality of Democracy in our country," he said.
Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) Central Committee Secretary Michalis Chrysohoidis in his address referred to the ''need for dialogue'' among the country's political parties.
He said that the message he conveyed to the KKE congress was ''not a call for the communist party to change its ideas or its concepts,'' before adding ''I convey to your congress the message of dialogue.'' ''Dialogue is the most important achievement, the treasure of political life, it is the means by which we coexist in the political system,'' Chrysohoidis concluded.
 Austria's Fischer congratulates Papoulias on winning presidential election
VIENNA 10/2/2005 (ANA/D.Dimitrakoudis)Austrian President Heinz Fischer on Wednesday sent a telegram to Karolos Papoulias, congratulating him on being elected President of the Hellenic Republic.
Fischer noted the 'crushing majority' of Greek MPs who voted for Papoulias in Parliament on Tuesday evening, saying it was an indication of Papoulias' wide acceptance that stretches beyond party lines. Papoulias was voted with more than a two-thirds majority of the 300-member chamber, with 279 votes in his favor - a record in the institution's history.
The Austrian president also stated in the telegram that he looks forward to meeting with Papoulias, with whom he maintains friendly ties and has worked with in the past.
 FYROM President congratulates Papoulias on his election as president
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)Branco Crvenkovski, President of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), on Wednesday sent a telegram to Karolos Papoulias, congratulating him on being elected the new President of the Hellenic Republic.
Crvenkovski wrote that he shares Papoulias' vision for a stable, united and prosperous Europe, and said that FYROM is committed to further developing friendly relations and cooperation with Greece.
In closing, Crvenkovski wished Papoulias success in his new role.
 Justice minister meets Turkish counterpart in Ankara
ISTANBUL 10/2/2005 (ANA/. Kourkoulas)Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras, who is currently in Turkey at the invitation of Turkish Justice Minister Cemil Cicek met in Ankara with his Turkish counterpart in Ankara on Wednesday.
During his stay in Turkey, the Greek minister will hold talks with a number of judicial officials.
On Friday, Papaligouras will visit Istanbul where he will meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos.
 Cypriot opposition leader visits Turkey, calls for changes to UN plan
ISTANBUL 10/2/2005 (ANA/A.Kourkoulas)Nicos Anastassiades, Cyrpus' opposition Democratic Rally (DISY) leader, on Wednesday emphasized the Greek Cypriots' wish for a solution to the Cyprus problem, but also the need for certain changes to the Annan Plan, drafted by and named after UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Speaking to members of the Turkish press, Anastassiades called Cyprus' EU accession "a historic development," and emphasized his party's contribution to this end as well as the contribution of former Cyprus' President Glafcos Clerides.
Anastassiades stressed that the EU creates new conditions for the peaceful and constructive co-existence of Greeks and Turks in Cyprus.
He also emphasized, however, that the Greek Cypriots' rejection of the Annan Plan does not constitute a "rejection to a solution." Instead, he said the plan failed to produce results acceptable to both sides. "Without pursuing to change the basis of the Annan Plan and without negatively affecting the rights of our Turkish Cypriot compatriots, we must pursue changes to those issues that led to the plan's rejection," he said. These include the presence of Turkish military forces on the island, the number of Turkish settlers that would remain in Cyprus, security guarantees and other points. He also emphasized that Cyprus cannot be the exception to the rule, the rule being the elimination of national conflicts within Europe. He also reminded Turkish reporters that his party supports Turkey's full EU accession and expressed confidence that Turkey would successfully meet all the accession criteria and would integrate common European values without difficulty.
Anastassiades is visiting Turkey following the invitation of the ruling Justice and Development Party.
 Deputy foreign minister meets Pakistan's ambassador in Athens
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)Greece's Deputy Foreign Minister for expatriate affairs Panagiotis Skandalis on Wednesday met Pakistan's Ambassador in Athens Rashed Saleem Khan and briefed him on Greek positions regarding the Cyprus issue and the dispute with the Former Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) regarding the latter's name.
They also discussed bilateral relations between Greece and Pakistan, noting that diplomatic and political relations were good but needed to be further strengthened by the exchange of visits by officials from both countries.
The meeting also focused on boosting bilateral economic ties, while Saleem Khan extended an invitation to Skandalakis to visit Pakistan, which the minister accepted.
 Iranian envoy on Tehran's nuclear program, Iraqi election
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)Iranian diplomats in Athens on Wednesday briefed local reporters on a handful of crucial issues affecting that Mideast country ahead of the 26th anniversary of the establishment of an Islamic republic in Iran, including Tehran's nuclear ambitions and the unprecedented election last month in neighboring Iraq.
Ambassador Mehdi Mohtashami underlined Tehran's commitment to develop nuclear energy for "peaceful uses", while saying that his government has stated that "nuclear weapons have no place in (Iran's) defense dogma" and that "religious reasons" also weigh on Iranian leadership's reasoning to avoid such a prospect.
Speaking on the sidelines of the press briefing, the Iranian envoy said his government still supports the concept of a nuclear non-proliferation treaty that includes every state in the Middle East, clarifying that a UN-sponsored initiative or one possibly under the IAEA's auspices could bring all of the region's countries to the signing table.
Earlier, he dismissed the notion of any US or even Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, echoing Tehran's opinion of a "psychological war" and reiterating that his government is employing every "diplomatic tool" at its disposal to avoid conflict.
"Iran is neither Iraq nor Afghanistan," he added, citing the predominately Shiite nation's size, population and political conditions as precluding any thought of a US military intervention in his country.
"US policy (vis-a-vis the Mideast) is like Athens' weather in the winter: snow in the morning; sun in afternoon and rain at night," the Iranian diplomat said.
Asked if Washington's standing opposition to the current Iranian regime can be traced to the storming of the US embassy and subsequent hostage-taking by "Revolutionary Guards" in 1979, Mohtashami first cited what he called past injustices against his country before saying the embassy takeover "is not the basis for the main problems" in US-Iranian relations.
Regarding the closely watched elections in strife-torn Iraq, the Iranian ambassador praised the large turnout and referred to a "victory for the Iraqi people".
"The Iraqis also said they want an end to the occupation," Mohtashami said, adding that his government does not consider that a new government in Baghdad must mirror Iran's system of government.
Turning away from geopolitical concerns to the vital energy sector, the Iranian ambassador reiterated Tehran's long-standing position that the most economical and safest routes for oil and gas pipelines connecting the Caspian Sea region with major markets are through Iran.
However, Mohtashami indirectly referred to US pressure by citing "outside forces" preventing a final deal with other Caspian Sea producers, while noting that a natural gas pipeline connecting Turkmenistan's plentiful fields with the Persian Gulf or Arabian Sea ports is only one of three options -- albeit the best one, according to the Iranian envoy. He said any route through Afghanistan entails geographical (remote mountain ranges) and security challenges, while a pipeline east to China and even Japan has attracted lukewarm interest by investors.
Concerning Greek-Iranian relations, Mohtashami said his government considers ties with Athens as very significant, adding that Greece's position in the European Union and international level is constantly being upgraded.
Finally, he congratulated Athens for the successful hosting of the 2004 Olympic Games, saying that Greece and Iran achieved close cooperation in the security sector during the run-up to the Games.
 Commission urges Greece to strictly adhere to 2005 budget provisions
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)The European Commission on Wednesday urged Greece to strictly adhere to its budget provisions for 2005 and to adopt structural reforms in 2006.
In its recommendations to the EU Council of finance ministers on Greece's excessive fiscal deficit, the Commission stressed that under this precondition and with maintaining current economic growth rates, the country's fiscal deficit could fall to 3.6 percent of GDP in 2005 (from 5.5 percent in 2004) and shrink below 3.0 percent in 2006.
The EU's executive said special focus was needed on reducing public debt and the country's structural deficit. The Commission's recommendation, tabled under the article 104/9 of the EU treaty, is expected to be discussed by an ECOFIN meeting in Brussels, February 17. Greece will have to submit its updated stability program by March 21 and to report progress on reducing its fiscal deficit in October 2005, April 2006 and October 2006.
 Greece to send updated EU economic plan to parliament
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)The government will send to parliament for debate an updated stability and growth plan that will help to align the economy with the European Union, Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Wednesday.
"This is so there will be detailed discussion and processing within both Greece and the European Union," Alogoskoufis said following the release earlier in the day of the EU Commission's recommendations to the bloc's ministers on Greece's fiscal deficit procedure.
The Commission's recommendations were fully compatible with the government's strategy on eliminating the excessive fiscal deficit by the end of 2006, the minister told a news conference.
"The fiscal problem is major and critical. The government is resolved to tackle it, faithfully implementing the 2005 budget and lowering the deficit to below 3.0% of gross domestic product by 2006 at the latest," Alogoskoufis noted.
"This will be stated in the updated growth and stability program, and we are seeking the greatest possible level of understanding and consensus with everyone - the public, social groups, political parties and our partners in the EU," he said.
The government was working to restore the country's credibility in the EU, and to establish fiscal transparency through a mild, two-year fiscal adaptation plan in the wake of a high deficit and public debt created by the former Panhellenic Socialist Movement government (PASOK), the minister added.
 Main opposition blasts gov't policy
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)PASOK sharply criticized the government for what it called bringing the country under the EU's excessive debt procedure.
The Commission's recommendations to EU finance ministers to be made on February 17 confirmed that the economy would be under EU supervision, PASOK spokesman Nikos Athanassakis said.
The minister's statements showed that all he could guarantee was that the country would have to endure tough austerity for two years; and the government knew that its 2005 budget was unrealistic, Athanassakis noted.
He also rapped the government for allowing inflation to rise to 4.0% in January from 2.9% in the same month of 2004.
 Greek gov't discusses ways to boost competitiveness
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)An inner cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, on Wednesday discussed ways to improve the country's competitiveness.
Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, presenting his ministry plans, stressed the low performances of both the country's competitiveness and its macro-economic figures and underlined that the adoption of a new aggressive economic policy the government would be able to reverse this trend. Sioufas said emphasis would be given to structural reforms aimed to boost enterpreunship and attract new investments in the country.
"We change gears to recover lost ground," the Greek minister said adding that "we draft a new course with optimism and national self-confidence". Sioufas said that the government's policy would lay the foundations for economic growth and social cohesion.
Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said that Greece was opening its wings with a new vision and noted that the government's initiatives were aiming to hit the very roots of past problems.
 Greece working for closer ties between EU, Serbia
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)The government is working for closer ties between the European Union and Serbia-Montenegro, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said on Wednesday.
"Greece is working to advance European association for Serbia-Montenegro, and its future entry into the European family...Ours is the first EU country to have devised an integrated national action plan for reconstruction of the Balkans," Sioufas told a conference in Athens on cooperation between the two countries.
Outlining the government's Balkan policy, the minister said a bill was in the pipeline to set up an international university in the northern port city of Thessaloniki; incentives were available for the creation of cargo transit centers; and a natural gas pipeline to Austria through the Balkans was being urged.
Greece's investment level in Serbia-Montenegro is high with about 150 joint enterprises in operation, and 80 purely Greek companies with a staff of around 18,000, according to data from the Greek embassy in Belgrade.
Three major Athens-quoted banks are active in Serbia - National Bank of Greece, Alpha Bank and EFG Eurobank Ergasias. Alpha Bank recently purchased Serbia's Jubanka.
 Greek-Serbian Chamber to be set up in Athens, Belgrade
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)The President of Serbia and Montenegro Mr Boris Tadic on Wednesday announced the foundation of a Greek-Serbian Chamber in Athens and Belgrade aimed to support business activities in his country.
The Serbian President made the announcement in his address at an economic forum held in Athens.
Addressing the forum, Greek Parliament President Mrs Anna Psarouda-Benaki stressed that there could be no development, prosperity and peace in the Balkans without the participation of Serbia and Montenegro "the heart of the Balkans". Psarouda-Benaki said that Greece was determined to play its role in the country's development.
Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said that Greece was determined to implement a National Plan for the Economic Reconstruction of the Balkans, largely focused on Serbia.
Addressing the forum, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said that his ministry would offer all administrative support to Serbia-Montenegro in its drive to combat bureaucracy and help in attracting foreign investments.
Serbian Minister for International Economic Relations Milan Paridovic said that any problems facing his country with the International Criminal Court and Kosovo would be resolved in a friendly and peaceful manner and that the country's political leadership was committed to this goal.
Mr Paridovic added that Serbia was a predictable and hospitable country that offered investment opportunities.
 Greek inflation jumped to 4.0 pct in January, yr/yr
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)Greek annual inflation jumped to 4.0 percent in January from 2.9 percent in the same month last year, the National Statistics Service said on Wednesday.
NSS, in its monthly report, attributed the jump in the consumer price index mainly to a delay in the winter sales season (they were held in January 2004 and started February 1 this year).
The consumer price index rose 0.3 percent in January from December, the statistics service said.
NSS said that annual inflation figure in January reflected a 12.7 percent increase in clothing-footwear prices, a 6.6 percent rise in housing prices, a 5.0 percent increase in durable goods, a 4.3 percent rise in healthcare prices, a 4.3 percent rise in education, a 3.5 percent increase in transportation prices and a 3.4 percent rise in hotel-restaurant prices.
The monthly CPI figure in January reflected an 1.4 percent increase in communication prices, an 1.1 percent in transportation and a 0.3 percent increase in food and non-alcohol drinks.
 Prospects for Greek-Bulgarian business cooperation
SOFIA 10/2/2005 (ANA/B. Borisov)The interest of the business world of Greece in the Bulgarian market remains undiminished despite the already serious and dynamic presence of most of the Greek banks, as well as the approximately 700 big and small and medium-size businesses which employ about 80,000 people in Bulgaria.
This was stated to the ANA on Wednesday by Greece's commercial attache in Sofia, Dimitris Zomas, who will present in Athens the investment opportunities which are opening for the interested Greek businesses in light of the major development infrastructure projects which are in progress in Bulgaria, at an event at the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Friday.
 Gov't keeps vow to speed up farm payments
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Evangelos Basiakos said on Wednesday that the government would speed up the payment of farm subsidies, as promised.
Livestock subsidies would be paid in February against May a year earlier, the minister told a news conference.
 Main opposition holds seminar on farming
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)The Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) on Wednesday held a seminar on the challenge for Greek farming under the European Union's new common agricultural policy and enlargement of the bloc.
Speakers at the forum underlined the need for a redefinition of policy and a new strategy for the farm sector, which was also taking place on an EU and global level.
Taking part in the event was the leader of the PASOK party, George Papandreou.
 Australian visitors to Greece rose by 40 percent in 2004, statistical bureau says
Melbourne 10/2/2005 (ANA/S. Hatzimanolis)The number of Australians that visited Greece jumped by 40 percent in 2004, apparently due to the Olympic Games, according to statistical data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
According to ABS, the total number of Australians who traveled abroad in 2004 rose by one million people, or 30 percent, over 2003.
More specifically, more than 4.4 million Australians traveled abroad last year, with the most popular destinations being Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and India, which were hit the day after Christmas 2004 by a massive earthquake and an ensuing killer tsunami.
A spokesman for the Australian travel agents said that despite the horrendous destruction caused by the tsunami in several tourist destinations in the above countries, Australian tourists continue to prefer those destinations.
Indeed, tourism to Thailand has already started to bounce back, according to the director of Flight Centre.
Of the total 4.4 million Australian tourists that traveled abroad in 2004, more than 2 million left the country for holidays while 1.1 million left to visit relatives in other countries.
There was also a 10 percent increase in the number of foreign tourists visiting Australia in 2004, which reached 5.2 million.
 Greek railway workers to stage 24-hour strike on Thursday
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)Greek trains will not be running on Thursday after railway employees declared a 24-hour strike to protest against plans by the Greek Railways Organization (OSE) to separate the exploitation of railway lines from railway infrastructure.
The strategy is part of OSE's business plan for 2005-2007 but has caused concern among OSE's workforce regarding its possible repercussions on railway staff.
The strike has been declared abusive by the courts but the Panhellenic Rail-workers Federation (POS) said it was determined to go ahead with the planned strike action, which is also backed by the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE), Greece' largest umbrella trade union organization.
GSEE has expressed opposition to OSE's business plans, which it said aimed to break up the organization and overturn rail workers' established work, insurance and pay rights in view of a privatization of OSE's profitable lines and activities.
It has urged the government to begin dialogue with the OSE unions to find "more suitable" solutions for the development and modernization of Greek railways, while retaining their state-sector and social character.
OSE management countered the claims, saying that the changes do not aim to break up OSE but to ensure its future and that of the workers, while noting that the simultaneous running of railway operations and infrastructure has led to large losses on an international level, prompting the EU to issue a set of guidelines and regulations for the sustainable development of railway companies. It also claims that steps have been taken to protect labor rights and privileges under the new scheme.
OSE said that all railway services on Thursday will be cancelled because of the strike, chiefly in order to ensure that passengers do not have to endure the long delays that are likely to arise, as well as certain late-night services that arrive at their destinations after midnight on Wednesday, when the strike is due to begin.
 Euro-Med assembly in Athens Feb 11-12
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)Euro-Med TDS, a cooperation group, is to hold an assembly meeting in Athens on February 11-12, hosted by the National Confederation of Greek Commerce.
The group's main aim is to ease trade transactions and seek abolition of obstacles to trade among its members.
Taking part in the assembly will be representatives from 35 Mediterranean countries. Greek government ministers have been invited to speak.
 Stocks drop in across-the-board selling
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)Stocks finished lower in selling across the board selling, especially in banking paper, traders said.
The Athens general share index closed at 2,919.70 points, posting a decline of 0.52%. Turnover was 221.5 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.80% down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.27% lower; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.76% down.
Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 218 to 69 with 60 remaining unchanged.
 Judicial Council allows magistrate to recuse himself from Kokkalis vs NSF case
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)The Misdemeanors Court Judges Council on Wednesday agreed to allow Athens examining magistrate Dimosthenis Vlachos to recuse himself from a case involving Greek business tycoon Socrates Kokkalis and the Russian National Foundation for Sports (NSF) over the Russian Olympic lottery.
The judge had lodged the application earlier in February on the grounds 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.
A new examining magistrate will be assigned to handle the case in the next few days.
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.
 Archbishop Christodoulos meets with Church officials in efforts to address crisis
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos is holding numerous meetings with associates and high-ranking Church officials in an effort to deal with the crisis that has recently surfaced in the Greek Church. On Wednesday, Christodoulos met with eight Church officials, including Metropolitan of Thebes Ieronymos.
Christodoulos told senior clergy that he was determined to 'clean up' the Church without making any compromises. He stressed that clerics who violated their oath would be dismissed from the hierarchy.
According to sources, the Archbishop will probably convene the Holy Synod by the end of February.
In other related news, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem issued a statement on Wednesday, emphasizing that "the events of the past few days sadden us deeply; we find them abhorrent."
Finally, the financial department of the Church of Greece announced on Wednesday its readiness to disclose any information sought by members of political parties, the government, and directors of mass media organizations.
 Armed robber turns gun on himself after being cornered in police pursuit, authorities say
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)A 24-year-old that took part in an armed robbery on Wednesday morning turned his gun on himself and committed suicide after he was cornered by police in pursuit, authorities reported.
The robbery occurred at 14:20 at the post office on the corner of Lenorman and Palamidiou streets in Kolono when two armed men entered the branch, forced the staff to hand over an unknown sum of money and then attempted to escape on a motorbike parked outside.
Pursued by post office employees and civilians, however, they then abandoned the motorbike and tried to get away on foot. The two separated and one of them was unable to shake police and passers-by who came in pursuit, who cornered him at Larissis train station in the city centre.
According to police, the young man shot himself with his own gun shortly before police could put handcuffs on him, dying instantly.
Police said he had not been threatened by any of the officers in pursuit and are unable to explain why he chose to end his life in this way.
 Greek appellate court acquits Rhodes doctors accused over death of British tourist
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)Three doctors convicted on a charge of manslaughter by negligence for the death of a British tourist in their care were acquitted by the Dodecanese Three-Member Appeals Court on Wednesday.
A lower court had originally sentenced each of the three doctors at Rhodes hospital to three years in jail, but the sentence had been suspended pending appeal.
The family of Christopher Rochester, 24 at the time of his death, blamed the three doctors for their son's death, saying that they had failed to take necessary action to save his life and left him lying on a hospital trolley even though he was in severe pain.
According to the court ruling on Wednesday, this was not proven during the public prosecutor's investigation and the trial hearings.
In a unanimous verdict reached at the recommendation of the public prosecutor on the bench, the court found doctors Sergios Pavlidis, George Karavolias and Mihalis Sokorellos not guilty.
Present in the court for the verdict were family and friends of the unlucky Briton, as well as journalists from the UK media and British MP Kevan Jones, who said the court's decision was "scandalous" and that it "sends out a message to British tourists not to travel to Rhodes".
The family said they were "devastated" by the decision.
Christopher Rochester was admitted to Rhodes hospital with a ruptured kidney in June 2000 after he fell off a hotel balcony in Faliraki, Rhodes and died three hours later. According to doctors, he was too drunk to communicate with medical staff or to cooperate in order to undergo medical tests.
 Culture ministry protests against use of Greek monument in mobile telephony ad
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)The Culture Ministry considers the use of the Acropolis Erechtheum monument in a mobile telephony ad that appears in Brussels' airport as "unacceptable and offensive", according to a statement the ministry issued on Wednesday.
The ad uses the Erechtheum monument, but replaces one of the Caryatids with the Brussels' emblem Manneken-pis. The monument, the ministry notes, is protected by UNESCO.
According to a ministry source, Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis and relevant departments within the ministry, contacted the airport's management and were assured that the ad would be removed immediately.
 OSCE protests Greek court decision against comics artist
VIENNA 10/2/2005 (ANA/D.Dimitrakoudis)Miklos Harasti, Vienna-based OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) representative responsible for the media, sent a letter to Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis on Wednesday, to protest a decision made by a Greek court to convict Austrian comics artist Gerhard Haderer for his book "Das Laben Des Jesus."
Harasti stated in his letter that punishing a writer for the contents of his/her book, even if provocative, is not compatible with OSCE principles regarding freedom of the press.
Harasti also pointed out that this is the first book to be banned in Greece in over two decades, and notes that the book has been distributed in many other EU member states without any problems.
On January 19, Haderer was convicted to six months in prison because his book was considered blasphemous.
The Vienna-based International Press Institute had also recently requested the reversal of the court decision by a letter sent by its Southeast European branch to Kostis Stephanopoulos, President of the Hellenic Republic and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
 'Freedom House' organization report places Greece in category of 'free' countries
NEW YORK 10/2/2005 (ANA/P. Panagiotou)The annual report of the human rights organization "Freedom House", entitled "Freedom in the World" and which is expected to be circulated soon, places Greece in the category of the "free" countries.
Specifically, the report refers to the period from December 2003 to November 2004.
On a scale of seven (1 being the best), the report graded Greece with "1.5" on political rights and "2" on individual freedoms.
The content of the report which concerns Greece is almost the same as the previous year.
From July 2003, the organization "Freedom House" had upgraded Greece on individual rights and freedoms giving a grade of "2" (relative freedom).
The report covers a total of 192 countries and in general ascertains progress in the consolidation of individual and political rights and the democratic institutions in comparison to the recent past.
 Greek 'Medecins sans Frontieres' once again to use MSF logo
Athens, 10/2/2005 (ANA)Representatives of the international bureau of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and MSF Hellas on Wednesday signed an agreement that allows the Greek organization to once again display the logo and signs of the organization.
The agreement follows on the ratification of a decision to reinstate the Greek branch among the 19 branches of the international humanitarian relief movement.
The Greek branch of MSF had been expelled in November 1999 after an intense dispute within MSF over it had adhered and applied the MSF principles of independence and neutrality during the crisis in Kosovo.
 DISY leader says Turkey has much to do in EU course
ISTANBUL 10/2/2005 (CNA/ANA)Greek Cypriot Democratic Rally party (DISY) leader, Nicos Anastassiades, has said that Turkey still has a lot to do with regard to its European Union course, both at home and with regard to its obligations towards its prospective EU partners, adding that his party supports Ankara's European aspirations.
Addressing a Turkish audience at Sabanci University on Wednesday, the main opposition leader in Cyprus said Cyprus, Greece and Turkey face a common challenge on how to coexist within a new European context, adding that the future can be won together through a ''new win-win situation'' concept.
Anastassiades, visiting Turkey with a party delegation at the invitation of the ruling Justice and Development Party of Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said that the people of Cyprus remained committed to finding a solution on the basis of a bicommunal, bizonal federation, but warned that time was not working in favor of either side.
Referring to the rejection of a UN-proposed solution plan (the Annan plan) by the Greek Cypriots, he stressed that this did not mean a rejection of a political settlement, pointing out that the decision of the majority of the Greek Cypriots has to be respected, while outlining some of the reasons that have led the Greek Cypriots to say ''No'' to the UN plan.
He said a solution must come through dialogue, and what has to be agreed in a spirit of consensus and good will are the changes that need to be introduced to the plan in order to respond to the legitimate concerns of the Greek Cypriots.
On the purpose of his visit, heading a three-member party delegation, he said he expects it to open new channels of communication, adding that Cyprus, Turkey and Greece can be part of a new Europe of integration and interdependence.
Responding to questions after his speech about the changes to the plan, he said his party had supported the proposed plan and added that ''we are trying through dialogue and mutual understanding to find ways to overcome certain of its provisions or gaps, without however altering the basis of the solution and without affecting in a negative manner the rights of the Turkish Cypriots.''
He called on his audience to understand that a compromise favoring one of the sides might not be the best solution and warned that no matter what changes are effected, the end result will include provisions that are not ideal.
Anastassiades said it was important to find a solution in Cyprus as soon as possible, not only for the island itself but also for Turkey, noting that when this happens Turkish will become an official language of the EU.
This, he said, will also send a message to many recipients that Christian Europe can accommodate Moslems as well, with the Turkish Cypriots becoming ''ambassadors'' of the Moslem religion.
Responding to questions on this month's ''parliamentary elections'' in Turkish occupied Cyprus, he said he hoped these would be conducted in a democratic manner so that the Turkish Cypriot community elects the leadership with which a dialogue can take place.
Asked directly if he wanted to see Rauf Denktash, long time leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, leaving the political arena to be replaced by Mehmet Ali Talat, he said it was high time to look at the situation with realism and move away from personalities.
''I would like to believe that the deep faith of the Turkish Cypriots in Europe, the solution and the reunification of Cyprus will help to elect that person who would express the majority of the Turkish Cypriots with such aspirations,'' he added.
In his address, Anastassiades welcomed efforts by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan towards reform but said ''there is no doubt that there is much more to be done, both inside Turkey but also as far as Turkey's obligations towards its prospective EU partners are concerned.''
He expressed support for Turkey's EU membership and said the party visit here reflects the idea that politics is for the solution of problems and expressed the political will to actively work towards the settlement of the Cyprus problem.
On the Annan plan, he said Greek Cypriots rejected it because, among other reasons, of certain provisions such as the permanent stationing of military troops in Cyprus, the right of intervention of third countries and the number of settlers that were to stay after a solution.
Noting that time is working against the sides, he said ''what has to be agreed in a spirit of consensus and good will are the changes needed in order to respond to the legitimate concerns of the Greek Cypriot community without reopening the whole plan for negotiations and without negatively affecting the rights of the Turkish Cypriots.''
On arrival in Istanbul, at lunchtime Wednesday, Anastassiades and his delegation were met by officials of Erdogan's party.
On Thursday the Democratic Rally leader and the delegation will go to Ankara for talks with Erdogan's party and a meeting later on with Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.
On Friday, the delegation is set to meet the ambassadors of the 25 EU member states and on Saturday afternoon it will be received by Erdogan at his party offices in Constantinople.
The delegation will meet Greek Orthodox Patriarch on Sunday.
 British former envoy says no viable alternative to Annan plan
LARNACA 10/2/2005 (CNA/ANA)British former envoy for Cyprus Lord David Hannay on Wednesday said he does not see any viable alternative to a Cyprus settlement other than the Annan plan, noting that ''the choice is between the Annan Plan with some adjustments or no settlement at all.''
''I hope that nobody on either side of the island would opt for no settlement at all,'' he said, adding that it would be better if, in case new referenda took place, the two sides in Cyprus were already committed to the plan put before them.
Speaking to the media on the sidelines of a conference on the Cyprus question organized by Wilton Park, on behalf of the British Foreign Office, Lord Hannay also said that ''a further set back or deadlock will be very damaging for all concerned.''
''I think it will be better in the future if what will go to the referendums are plans or proposals the two administrations are already committed to,'' Lord Hannay noted.
Replying to questions he said he had seen no viable alternative to the Annan plan and he did not believe that there is some magic solution waiting out there.
Lord Hannay defines ways to help renew efforts on Cyprus: Lord Hannay said on Wednesday that multiplying the contacts between politicians of Cyprus, Greece and Turkey, continuing Greco-Turkish rapprochement, expressing readiness for compromises as well as a clear indication towards UN Secretary General of the willingness to negotiate on the basis of the Annan plan, should help renew the efforts to reach a settlement of the Cyprus problem.
Speaking at a conference on the Cyprus question organized by Wilton Park, in the coastal town of Larnaca, on behalf of the British Foreign Office, Lord Hannay also said that Turkey's accession to the EU would create those conditions for a successfully consolidated settlement and expressed opinion that there could be changes on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's plan for a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem.
Lord Hannay noted the international support for any renewed attempt to find a solution ''must not be too prominent and it must not be proffered in such a way as to enable Cypriots to assert that they have had no part in shaping the outcome.''
He also said that the international support should not be taken for granted and expressed his bitterness for the rejection of the Annan plan by the Greek Cypriots.