|Sunday, 20 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-02-15
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>February 15, 2005
 Gov't announces 3.6 pct rise in wages, 4.0 pct in pensions
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)The Greek government on Monday unveiled its incomes policy for 2005 envisaging pay rises of 3.6 percent to civil servants, pension pay increases of 4.0 percent and pension pay rises of 6.0 percent to farmers.
Presenting the government incomes policy for the year, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said that all wage and pension pay increases would be offered from March.
Alogoskoufis said that the policy for the year 2005 was based on last year's inflation rate (2.9 pct). The Greek minister said that civil servants base wage would be increased by 3.6 percent, a family benefit for a third child would be raised from 35 to 47 euros (an increase of 34 percent), pension payments would be raised by 4.0 percent, while pension pay rises to farmers and the supplementary pension pay would rise by 6.0 percent.
Alogoskoufis said that low wage and pension earners would see their incomes to rise indirectly by 1.0 percent at least through a series of tax relief measures, such as raising the tax-exempt income to 11,000 euros from 10,000 euros annually.
He said that the government also decided to lower interest rates on housing loans offered by the Depository and Loans Fund to 4.9 pct from 5.2 pct, and added that the government was considering reducing stamp duties from 2.4 pct to 0.6 pct.
The Greek minister said that the incomes policy would burden this year's budget by 720 million euros adding that the government has exhausted all room offered by the state budget and the country's economic situation.
Alogoskoufis said that the government did not examine raising VAT levels on product and services.
Opposition blasts government's incomes policy: The main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) claimed on Monday that the government's incomes policy aimed to deceive the public.
"Today's announcement of incomes policy is one more example of (ruling) New Democracy's lack of credibility and the prime minister's policy of deceiving the Greek people," PASOK spokesman Nikos Athanassakis said in a statement.
Athanassakis complained that the government's informal audit of state books for years previous to its assumption of office in March 2004 had led to supervision of the economy by the European Union, coupled with fiscal mismanagement in 2004.
"New Democracy has dumped its election pledges, effectively announcing a reduction in real income for wage earners, and abandoning to their fate people on low wages and pensions," the statement said.
In addition, the Communist Party of Greece said that incomes policy was arranged along class lines, tailored to suit "big industry".
"This is a continuation of PASOK government policy, leading to a worsening of conditions for working people and to greater poverty," the party said in a statement.
According to the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology, the announcement of incomes policy heralded "long-term and debilitating austerity" for wages and pensions, with an excessive fiscal deficit employed as a pretext for the policy.
"The increases stated run totally contrary to the government's election vows," Coalition spokesman Panayiotis Lafazanis said.
Also criticizing incomes policy was the General Confederation of Employees of Greece, the country's largest trade union umbrella group.
"It falls far short of the expectations of workers as well as the needs of the times for a reasonable standard of living," the confederation's president, Christos Polyzogopoulos, said.
The ADEDY civil servants union claimed that incomes policy would lead to a further loss of purchasing power as the overall rise was less than 2.4%.
Minister rejects charges: Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, architect of the budget and incomes policy, said in response to Athanassakis that PASOK had deceived the public for years.
"These same people not only concealed the real deficit figures and debts, but also awarded increases for years in succession that were clearly below inflation...They left the bills unpaid, undermining the next government and the future of the Greek people," the minister said.
"The government's incomes policy meets the commitment that base pay would be adjusted above inflation, with pensions to rise at a higher rate than wages. The objective in coming years is to have wages and pensions aligning with the European average, fully implementing our election pledges," he added
 Gov't confident revenues will meet projections; calls on Papandreou to clarify position vis-a-vis previous gov't performance
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)The government on Monday dismissed concerns about a drop in state revenues, as ascertained from figures released for January 2005, appearing confident that both revenues and recently announced projections aimed to contain the deficit under the 'euro-zone' cap of 3 percent will be successful.
Government spokesman Thodoris Roussopoulos also noted that increases for pensions and to retired low-income farmers will be above the going inflation rate. Additionally, he said no revision is foreseen for the ongoing state budget.
In a question posed to the spokesman, a reporter cited a 3.35-percent increase in state revenues for January as opposed to an earlier goal of 7.5 percent.
Moreover, in reaction to continuing criticism by main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou over the government's economic policies, Roussopoulos called on the former foreign minister to "clarify whether he agrees or not with the economic policy turned over by his government," a reference to the successive Simitis government in which Papandreou held a Cabinet portfolio.
The other question posed by Roussopoulos, in response to reporters' questions during his regular press briefing, was whether Papandreou agreed with a recent proposal by independent deputy Stefanos Manos to fire 400,000 civil servants. Manos, a former ND minister and founder of a now defunct political party, was elected on PASOK's state deputies' ticket during the last general election.
In a separate issue, the spokesman said no report has been forwarded by a committee of experts set up to investigate the crash of a twin-rotor helicopter last September in northern Greece, an accident that claimed the life of Patriarch of Alexandria Petros, among others.
Roussopoulos' statement came in light of a press report claiming that a mid-air collision with a fixed wing jet caused the accident and the aircraft's subsequent crash into the sea off the Mount Athos promontory.
"The army general staff and the Civil Aviation Authority have already stated that they consider a collision with an aircraft flying some 11 kilometers away from the helicopter as highly unlikely," he said.
 Cabinet to discuss Euro-Constitution on Tuesday, government spokesman says
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will head a meeting of the cabinet on the ratification of the European Constitution at 11:00 on Tuesday, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos announced on Monday.
Immediately afterward, the premier will begin a series of scheduled meetings with ruling New Democracy MPs that follows on from his talks with government ministries.
 Survey presented on public opinion regarding the European Constitution
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)Presenting a Eurobarometer survey, G. Markopouliotis, Director of the European Commission's Representation in Greece, referred to European public opinion regarding the European Constitution, during a press conference he gave in Athens on Monday.
Markopouliotis noted, among other things, that Greece is expected to ratify the European Constitution within the next month, while on March 20, 2005, the Spaniards' referendum on the European Constitution will be a big "test".
Explaining the different "aspects" of the questions-answers on the European Constitution, Markopouliotis noted that Greeks have given the same number of correct answers with the Dutch. Therefore, the Greeks appear on a chart in the same group with the Germans, Finns, Danes, Belgians and Dutch.
However, to another question and in a relevant chart they appear third from the bottom, along with Britain and Cyprus and this because in a relevant question they declare that "they do not know very much" about the European Constitution. (On the other hand, however, to the specific questions on the European Constitution they answer correctly, the same with the Dutch who declare that they know the European Constitution well).
Therefore, the impression of Greek citizens is that they do not know much about the European Constitution, while in practice they know, as shown by the specific questions-answers.
This survey was conducted from November 2004 and finished in January 2005.
It is worth noting that the Constitutional Treaty was signed on October 29 by the heads of states and governments of the European Union's 25 member-states in Rome.
On November 1, 2006, the procedure of the ratification of the European Constitution by all the member-countries must finish.
In certain countries this will be done through parliamentary ratification (for example Greece), while in others with referendums.
 Foreign minister receives head of Cyprus' EDEK party for talks on the Cyprus problem
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis held talks with the head of Cyprus' Socialdemocratic EDEK party Yiannakis Omirou on Monday regarding the latest developments in the Cyprus problem.
In statements after the meeting, Omirou praised the Greek minister's in-depth knowledge of the Cyprus problem and stressed that the 'no' vote by Greek-Cypriots in last April's referendum had rejected the Annan plan as flawed and unfair but not a solution to the Cyprus problem.
Omirou stressed that the verdict of Greek-Cypriots should be respected and called for measures and provisions for a Cyprus solution that addressed the concerns of Greek Cypriots without compromising the rights and privileges of Turkish Cypriots.
He also rejected arguments that Turkish Cypriots were economically isolated as a "myth" and said that the "great culprit is Turkey, who continues to illegally occupy 37 per cent of the territory of the Cyprus Republic".
Regarding the activity currently surrounding the Cyprus issue, EDEK's leader said the Greek-Cypriot side should be ready to deliver its proposals to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan but that he should first begin talks to clear up the issue of the procedure to be followed.
"The Greek-Cypriot side rejects arbitration, extremely tight schedules and a referendum without any prior agreement," Omirou stressed.
Coalition (Synaspismos) party meets with leader of Cyprus' EDEK party: The Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party on Monday met a delegation from Cyprus' Socialdemocratic EDEK party, led by EDEK leader Yiannakis Omirou, in Athens.
An announcement released after the meeting noted the two parties' agreement that the Cyprus issue was entering a crucial phase and that time worked in favor of the accomplished facts of the occupation and division of the island republic.
They also agreed that "a viable and functional solution [to the Cyprus issue] must be sought, with substantial changes to the Annan plan in the framework of the United Nations and on the basis of U.N. resolutions".
The two sides noted that the obligation of the European Union to play an active role in efforts for a Cyprus solution and both expressed opposition to arbitration.
 Russian and Greek representatives at NATO Parliamentary Assembly sign memorandum
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)The heads of the Greek Parliament and Russian State Duma representations at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly on Monday signed a memorandum of broad cooperation on issues concerning the North Atlantic Alliance Parliamentary Assembly.
The agreement was signed by the head of the Greek representation, ruling New Democracy MP Vassilis Magginas, and the head of the Duma Permanent Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Deputy speaker of the Russian Duma Ljubov Sliska.
During the meeting with Magginas, Sliska underlined that Russia had at no time changed its stance and continued to support Greece in all its proposals concerning the Cyprus issue.
"I consider that the signature of this memorandum will allow us to work harder to defend the positions of both Greece and Russia within the NATO Parliamentary Assembly," Sliska said.
Magginas said that the signature of the memorandum by the two representations would encourage closer ties and better cooperation between the two representations.
 Barroso urges Greece and FYROM to find mutually-acceptable solution to name issue
BRUSSELS 15/2/2005 (ANA/M.Spinthourakis)President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso emphasized the need for Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to find a mutually-acceptable solution to the latter's name, during a press conference he gave here on Monday with FYROM Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski.
Barroso stated that bilateral negotiations between Greece and FYROM are under way and said that European Council decisions related to EU enlargement require unanimity, while pointing out that Greece is an EU member state. He expressed hope that a mutually-acceptable solution would be found.
Buckovski arrived in Brussels on Monday in order to submit FYROM's answers to the European Commission's questionnaire regarding its EU candidacy.
Upon receiving FYROM's report, Barroso congratulated Buckovski on the progress his country has made, particularly in reforms. Barroso, however, also stressed that time and cooperation with the EU are required for FYROM to achieve its accession goals. The president of the European Commission clarified that the rate at which FYROM achieves EU accession depends on the rate at which the country will fulfill its accession requirements. Consequently, he said, it would be premature to predict a specific accession date for FYROM.
European Commissioner responsible for Enlargement Olli Rehn, emphasized that the European Commission would be fair in formulating an opinion, and estimated that the opinion would be finalized by the Fall of 2005 and will be primarily based on FYROM's reforms progress.
Finally, Buckovski said that Monday was a historic day for his country, adding that the answers to the Commission's questionnaire, which FYROM submitted, reflect his country's commitment to continuing reforms at a steady pace. He also expressed confidence that FYROM's EU accession will contribute to the region's stability and progress.
In closing, Buckovski said that he hoped FYROM will be named an EU candidate during the European Summit in December 2005 and that it would become a full-fledged EU member by 2010.
 Gov't denies chill in gov't-Church relations
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)The government spokesman on Monday referred to the prime minister's statements to ruling New Democracy parliamentary group last week in response to a bevy of questions regarding the regurgitated issue of Church-state relations - which again became timely amid a cascade of accusations against high-ranking clerics over the past month.
The predominant theme of the questions concerned the issue of whether the Church of Greece's leadership can "monitor itself" or whether the state must intervene.
Asked about the latest "protagonist" in the latest media storm enveloping the Church's hierarchy, the apparently mercurial fugitive Apostolos Vavilis, Roussopoulos said the convicted drug smuggler has no links whatever to intelligence circles.
Moreover, the spokesman said Premier Costas Karamanlis has not spoke with Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos over the recent period. However, he dismissed any notion -- ones mostly carried in the opposition press -- that relations between the government and the Church have been harmed, saying the government will back any initiative to fight corruption within the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece.
 Greek Communist Party calls for full separation of Church and State
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) called for full separation of Church and State in an announcement on Monday and rejected talk of 'self-reform' by the Church of Greece as an attempted cover-up.
"The involvement of Church officials with secret services, the corruption of others, the improper dealings in the area of justice, the amassing of wealth and various offences of the common criminal code are the tip of the iceberg, and not the whole thing," the announcement said, regarding the emerging crisis within the Greek clergy.
According to the party, the crisis "shows up the political role of the Church leadership, as one of the main supports of the policy that perpetuates and reproduces the whole system of social injustice in the interests of plutocracy," it said.
The party proposed the immediate and full separation of the Church and the State in all areas, from education and the Armed Forces to name-giving, marriages and cremations, "so that the Church can occupy itself solely with its religious work, without interventions in political and social life," the announcement concluded.
 Holy Synod announces emergency meeting to discuss Church crisis on Friday, Saturday
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)The Permanent Holy Synod on Monday decided to call an emergency meeting of the Hierarchs of the Church of Greece next Friday and Saturday that will focus exclusively on measures to deal with the emerging crisis within the Greek Orthodox Church, following revelations and allegations of corruption involving high-ranking members of the clergy.
A Holy Synod spokesman said the Church had already taken the first steps in the direction of a clean up with its action against Attica Metropolitan Panteleimonas, Thessaliotida Metropolitan Theocletus, Trifylia Metropolitan Stefanos and Archimandrite Iakovos Yiossakis.
Responding to questions, Syros Metropolitan Dorotheos denied reports that Church leaders were displeased with the government's stance on tackling corruption within the ranks of the Church.
On the contrary, Greek Church prelates were satisfied with the statements made by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to New Democracy's Parliamentary Group - in which he called for 'zero tolerance' of corruption - and were determined to proceed with cleaning up the Church, he added.
The spokesman also noted the measures taken against the Attica metropolitan, pointing out that they were unprecedented for any other metropolitan in the past.
Panteleimon has been placed on suspension for six months, with the possibility that this will be converted to a permanent expulsion depending on what an inquiry reveals.
In addition to being barred from his administrative and ecclesiastical duties, Panteleimon has been asked to quit the metropolitan residence and to supply documentation to the Holy Synod regarding the bank deposits he has admitted having and explanations regarding his luxury residence, which was the subject of press reports.
Meanwhile, Xanthi Metropolitan Panteleimonas has been placed in charge of an inquiry into the actions of Thessaliotida Metropolitan Theocletus, who was accused by his predecessor of selling drugs. In a decision last week, Theocletus was cleared of wrongdoing by the Holy Synod, who decided his accuser was untrustworthy but the metropolitan has asked for a full investigation so that he can fully clear his name.
The 91-year-old Trifylia Metropolitan on Monday sent explanations to the Holy Synod regarding photographs published by a daily newspaper in which he is seen nude, and announced that he will be suing the paper. The Holy Synod will therefore await the outcome of the court case before deciding further action.
In the meantime, the Holy Synod has called on all those who have evidence concerning corruption by the clergy to come forward, particularly journalists Makis Triantafyllopoulos, George Karatzaferis, Stelios Vorinas and others, as well as those making charges against Didimotichos Metropolitan Nikiforos, who is also embroiled in an alleged sex scandal. It has also begun a financial audit of the Cephallonia diocese, requested by Cephallonia Metropolitan Spyridon.
The crisis within the Greek Church, which flared up after Archimandrite Yossakis was jailed early in February on charges of antiquities smuggling and was implicated in cases of judicial corruption, has also spread to the Jerusalem Patriarchate. The latest allegations have raised questions about the role of a convicted drug dealer wanted by Interpol, originally identified as Apostolos Vavilis, in the election of Patriarch Irineos.
Archbishop Christodoulos has also become embroiled after it was revealed that he wrote a letter of support for Vavilis when the latter was facing a drug smuggling charge a few years ago.
Responding to questions regarding Vavilis' whereabouts, following rumors that he was going under the pseudonym Fokas or as a monk called Raphael, the Holy Synod spokesman stressed that the issue had not been discussed during the Synod's meeting on Monday.
He said the abbots of Attica monasteries were free to release lists of the monks in their monasteries, as requested by the newspapers.
The Holy Synod's meeting will continue on Tuesday, while Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece will continue meetings with Church prelates at his offices on Monday evening.
 SYN president comments on the economy, unemployment, and Church crisis
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)Alekos Alavanos, President of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party spoke on issues currently dominating the news, at a rally - the first since his election as party president - held at Sporting Stadium in Athens on Monday evening.
Alavanos served up intense criticism of the New Democracy government and the former PASOK governments on all issues and particularly that related to the crisis plaguing the Greek Orthodox Church.
On the issue of the country's economy, SYN's president emphasized the problem of poverty many Greeks face and criticized ruling ND and main opposition PASOK for their position on social security reform, saying that SYN would be in the front lines fighting the battle.
He also criticized the government for its incomes policy, which was announced on Monday, saying that "it is not possible for workers to be paying prices equivalent to those in Brussels while earning Balkan wages, which will soon fall to the level of wages earned in China."
Regarding unemployment, Alavanos said that the priority is to create a movement of the unemployed, using party offices as action centers and a platform for creating such movements and establishing unemployment groups.
On the issue of the crisis facing the Greek Church, Alavanos advised the two major parties "to stop pretending surprise" since the problems were already known, according to him. He emphasized that SYN had highlighted the problem numerous times in the past, but had been ignored.
Alavanos criticized the government and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis for the stance they have taken on the Church crisis, while referring to PASOK President George Papandreou, he said that Papandreou must stop hinting at the need of separation of Church and state. "Who has been governing in the past 20 years that we now find ourselves in this awful predicament?" Alavanos said.
Alavanos also emphasized the need for unity of the Left and outlined the policies his party would be following. He urged that his party return to working-class neighborhoods, agricultural communities, industrial zones and anywhere else where unemployment poses a threat, areas from which the Left should never be absent. He also expressed the intention to work with smaller forces of the radical Left "in an explosive cooperation that will enable the Left to rise to the needs and expectations of Greek society." Finally, he also emphasized the need for his party, and the Left in general, to deal with the problems that have arisen from a new era, whether they concern the environment, biotechnology, bioethics, or any other issue requiring political attention.
 Supreme Court president stresses that justice is intent on expelling corrupt judges
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)Supreme Court President George Kapos stressed in an announcement on Monday the "unwavering determination and power" of the judicial body to fully cleanse itself of corrupt elements, whatever their number.
At the same time, he noted that the number of judges that had broken their oaths was "such that the judicial body cannot and should not be held responsible for the deviations".
Kapos also underlined that the judicial bodies and those in charge of supervising civil and penal justice had at no time been aware of the serious acts revealed.
He stressed that the appropriate bodies and the leadership of justice - and only this in accordance with the dictates of the Constitution - were investigating in depth all allegations of judicial departures from ethical codes and sworn duty.
The announcement concludes that the Supreme Court would support its decisions for disciplinary action or permanent dismissal only on means of proof recognized by the law.
 Deputy FM Stylianidis attends informal Development Cooperation Council meeting in Luxembourg
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis is attending the sessions of the informal Development Cooperation Council meeting which began in Luxembourg on Monday.
Discussion was held on Monday night on the European Union's humanitarian aid to the countries of Southeast Asia which were struck by the tsunami on December 26.
At the dinner that followed, a presentation was made of the Revision of the Statement on the Development Policy of 2000, which will be placed for open discussion on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, the combatting of AIDS in developing countries will be discussed.
 Greece firmly condemns assassination of Lebanese former premier
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)Greece on Monday firmly condemned the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik al-Hariri in a car bombing earlier in the day.
''We denounce in the most intense manner the assassination today of former prime minister of Lebanon Rafik al-Hariri in a bomb explosion in the centre of Beirut, an explosion which also caused the death of another nine citizens and left many injured. We express our sincere condolences to the victims' families,'' Foreign Ministry Spokesman George Koumoutsakos said in press release.
''We firmly condemn such abhorrent acts which could worsen the already charged climate prevailing in the sensitive Middle East region,'' Koumoutsakos concluded.
 Greek economy grew 4.0 percent in 4th quarter 2004, yr/yr
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)Greece's Gross Domestic Product grew 4.0 percent in the fourth quarter of 2004, compared with the same quarter in 2003, the National Statistics Service said on Monday.
NSS said that the fourth quarter GDP figure exceeded the third quarter's 3.8 percent growth rate.
The statistics service said that investments grew 4.2 percent in the October-December 2004 period, compared with the same period in 2003, boosting economic demand by 0.9 percent. Spending on final consumption grew 3.4 percent in the fourth quarter, contributing to an increase in final demand by 2.1 percent.
NSS said that exports grew 5.3 percent in the October-December period, while imports rose by 3.1 percent over the same period.
 Government criticizes predecessor's farm policy
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Evangelos Basiakos on Monday criticized the previous Panhellenic Socialist Movement government for its farm policy.
Responding to statements on Sunday by PASOK leader George Papandreou on tobacco producers' incomes, Basiakos said that past policy was an example to be avoided.
Although criticizing current policy, at the behest of then premier Costas Simitis, the previous government had failed to raise the issue of Mediterranean products that were judged at a European Union summit in Halkidiki, Greece in 2003.
Conversely, the current prime minister, Costas Karamanlis, had raised the issue at an EU summit a month after assuming his post, paving the way for more favorable terms at an EU ministers' meeting a month later, Basiakos said.
 Information Society to auction new projects worth 69.5 mln euros
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)Information Society special secretary V. Asimakopoulos on Monday announced that a total of 43 new electronic services' projects, worth 69.5 million euros, would be auctioned by the end of March.
Speaking to reporters, Asimakopoulos said that the projects covered areas such as electronic governance and citizen services, electronic health services, highlighting culture and promoting electronic commerce. Asimakopoulos said that the entire project were included in a program by Information Society aimed to offer better services to Greek citizens.
The program envisages projects on developing and implementing information systems in prefectural authorities and a portal, an integrated information healthcare system for the south Aegean region, implementing an information system on industrial and mineral operating regions, developing a hub for supporting e-commerce services, offering access to people with special needs to electronic governance, etc.
 Greek tourism minister expects more Italian tourists this year
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)Tourism Deputy Minister Anastasios Liaskos on Monday predicted increased tourist arrivals from Italy this year, saying that 2005 would be a good year for Greek tourism.
Speaking to reporters, after a visit to the international tourism fair BIT in Milan over the weekend, Liaskos stressed that Greece was enjoying a very high level of appreciation among Italian tourists.
The Greek minister inaugurated Greece's official pavilion in the fair. In his inaugurating speech Liaskos reiterated the government's new measures and policies aimed to improve the country's tourist product and upgrade tourist services. Liaskos urged Italians to visit Patra, the European culture city for 2006.
The Greek minister also met with businessmen in the tourism sector. He met with Santo Versace, brother of the murdered Italian designer. Mr Versace said he was interested in expanding his hotel chain "Palazzo Versace" to Greece.
 Poll shows Greeks mostly concerned about unemployment, transfer of labor and state of the economy
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)Unemployment, the transfer of labor to other EU member-states where production is cheaper, and uncertainty on Greece's economic situation are the matters which mostly concern Greek citizens, according to the latest Eurobarometer opinion poll.
Despite the pessimism shown, one in two Greeks are quite satisfied with their daily life (52 per cent). The corresponding European average is slightly higher (58 per cent). One in ten Greeks (14 per cent) seem to feel very satisfied with their life, a percentage comparatively lower than the European average (EU '25': 23 per cent).
In general, the average European citizen (EU '25') is visibly much more satisfied with his daily life, in comparison to the average Greek citizen whose level of satisfaction remains among the lowest among the corresponding European citizens.
Greeks express reserved optimism about their personal situation within the next five years as 40 per cent foresee an improvement in their personal situation, a percentage quite lower compared to the previous Eurobarometer research (EB61.0 : 51 per cent).
Greeks believe that unemployment is a major problem, as 69 per cent place it as being the country's top problem (EU '25': 46 per cent). Seventy-one per cent of Greeks view the combatting of unemployment as a top priority (EU '25' : 44 per cent). Another priority according to Greeks is the combatting of poverty and social exclusion (57 per cent - EU '25': 40 per cent).
The greatest fear of Greek citizens concerns the transfer of labor to other EU member-states where production is cheaper (79 per cent). The same fear seems to be shared by the other European citizens (74 per cent). Also, the fear that the building of Europe will cause more problems to the farmers seems to be common for seven in 10 Greeks (73 per cent - EU '25': 65 per cent). The majority of Greek public opinion (63 per cent) and that of Europe of the "25" (64 per cent) expresses intense concern that the contributions of the member-states to the European Union will increase. Finally, the increase of drugs trafficking and of international organized crime constitutes an equally major fear for six out of ten Greeks (61 per cent - EU '25': 65 per cent).
Six out of ten Greeks (59 per cent) believe that the role of the European Union in their daily life will be more significant in the next five years. While nearly seven out of ten Greeks (67 per cent) wish for the EU's role to be more significant.
The Eurobarometer results were presented during a press conference at the EU Commission's offices in Athens on Monday by the representation's director G. Markopouliotis.
 Gov't rejects opposition criticism of shipping policy
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis on Monday rejected criticism of the government's passenger shipping policy from the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK).
"PASOK did not accept the government's invitation for dialogue at the National Shipping Policy Council, but preferred to employ jibes and slander, which have not hurt the government," the minister said in a statement.
"The party did not submit proposals to a three-day debate of parliament's production and trade committee on passenger shipping," he said.
Earlier, senior PASOK officials, including former merchant marine minister Christos Papoutsis, had charged the government with a lack of political will concerning the sector and irresoluteness in the implementation of laws.
 Aegean Airlines in non-binding bid for Olympic Airlines
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)Aegean Airlines on Monday said it has submitted a non-binding offer in a tender to sell a majority stake in Olympic Airlines.
A company announcement said its participation in the process was aimed to restructure the Greek airline sector and stressed that its participation in the phase of final bids would depend on an analysis of the debt-ridden national carrier's balance sheet as well as the progress of negotiations with other candidates.
Aegean Airlines said its non-binding bid was approved by all its major shareholders: the Vasilakis group, the Laskaridis group, Y.David, D. Ioannou, V. Konstantakopoulos and Piraeus Bank group.
 Trade unions welcome turnout in bank, telecom strikes
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)The General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE), the country's largest trade union umbrella group, welcomed a high turnout in separate strikes on Monday by workers in banks and Athens-quoted Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE).
"The government has ignored the views and proposals of employees in the key issues of restructuring major state corporations and reforming the pension system," GSEE said in a statement.
Bank workers are striking each Monday in the month to protest against a plan to bring their occupational pensions into the main state fund. Staff of the OTE group oppose the terms of an early retirement scheme put forward by management.
Among state banks, strike turnout was 80%-100% and in private banks, 30%-50%. In OTE, participation in the walkout was about 80%, rising to 93% in some areas, union officials said.
 Stocks rise, led by blue chips
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)Stocks finished higher with players buying into high capitalization paper and selling smaller stocks, traders said.
The Athens general share index closed at 2,948.48 points, posting a rise of 0.62%. Turnover was 185.8 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.79% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.04% lower; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.70% down.
Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 176 to 121 with 52 remaining unchanged.
 Results of Eurostat road safety survey released
BRUSSELS 15/2/2005 (ANA/B.Demiris)Close to one third of Greeks (32%) participating in a Eurostat survey on road safety, believe that wearing a seat belt is not necessary, according to the survey results which were released on Monday.
Cyprus and Croatia had higher percentages - 34% and 33%, respectively - while the EU average is 19%. The Finnish, Danes and Germans are more disciplined in wearing their seat belts, the survey found, with only 5%, 7% and 8%, respectively believing a seat belt is unnecessary.
Greece also revealed a high percentage of drivers who use their mobile phones while driving compared with their EU counterparts. Specifically, 35% of those surveyed in Greece, responded that they use their mobile phone at least once every day while driving. Cyprus and Estonia had higher percentages of 46% and 45%, while France and the UK had the lowest percentages of 12% and 14%. The EU average stands at 28%.
On the issue of speeding, Greece ranked somewhere in the middle, with 14% of those surveyed saying they had received a ticket for speeding in the last three years. The Netherlands had the highest percentage in this category with 46%, and France had the lowest at 8%.
In terms of drinking and driving, Greece was close to the EU average, with 16% of those surveyed admitting to having been stopped for an alcohol test in the past three years, while Estonia had the highest percentage at 27% and Italy the lowest at 3%. The EU average stands at 15%.
According to the European Commission, 46,700 people were killed in traffic accidents within the EU in 2003, while those injured numbered approximately 2 million. The Commission aims to drastically reduce traffic accidents by 2010. It is estimated that 60%-80% of drivers and passengers in the front seat, wear their seat belts, while 50% of passengers seated in the back wear theirs.
 "Costakis Collection" exhibit opens in Vienna Thursday
VIENNA 15/2/2005 (ANA/D.Dimitrakoudis)Greek Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis and Austrian State Secretary for the Arts and Media Franz Morak will be inaugurating the "Costakis Collection" exhibit on Thursday at Vienna's Museum of Modern Art (MUMOK), titled "Light & Color in Russian Avant-Garde 1910-1930."
The exhibit will display in Austria, for the first time, 300 works of art by 60 artists, including Ljubov Popova, Ivan Kljun, Vladimir Tatlin, Alexander Rochenko and Kasimir Malevich among others. Manuscripts, books, photographs, a wealth of archive material and films will complement the art exhibit.
The exhibit is being organized by the State Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki, based on an initiative by the Greek Foundation in Berlin and was curated by Miltiades Papanikolaou, Director of the Thessaloniki museum.
 PM Karamanlis expresses condolences over death of author Tatiana Gritsi-Milliex
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister and Culture Minister Costas Karamanlis on Monday expressed his condolences over the death on Sunday of Tatiana Gritsi-Milliex, one of Greece's most important prose writers.
She died at the General State Hospital in Nikaia, near Piraeus, at the age of 84.
"Tatiana Gritsi-Milliex served her skill with consistency for decades. The mature, philosophical and deep democratic word and her rich social action constitute a source of inspiration for her contemporary and future fellow authors. I express my condolences to her family."
Tatiana Gritsi-Millex was born in Athens on October 20, 1920. As a journalist and critic, she worked with several newspapers.
She was a member of the Racine Academy in Paris, a founding member of the Hellenic Writers Society, the Pen Club, the Greek Literary and Historical Archive and the Society of Critics and Visual Arts.
Statement by PASOK leader Papandreou: In a statement on the death of author Tatiana Gritsi-Milliex, main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou said on Monday that she was a particular figure in Greek letters.
He said she was "an author and journalist with struggles against censorship" and that "all her life she served Democracy, developing rich action in the period of the national resistance and of the junta of the colonels." He added that her work and life was symbolic of her "faith in democratic ideals."
 International Center for Hellenic Culture and Vocational Training to be inaugurated Sunday
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)The International Center for Hellenic Culture and Vocational Training (ICHCVT) - a grant of the Stavros S. Niarchos Foundation to the University of Ioannina - will be inaugurated on Sunday by President of the Hellenic Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos.
The Center aims to serve as a bridge between Greece and Greeks living abroad. It will operate as an autonomous guest house and will host 130 people.
The Center, which is comprised of two buildings covering a total area of 4,500 square meters, was designed by Alexandros Dovas. It is complete with teaching rooms, laboratories, space for cultural events and a theater.
According to the Stavros S. Niarchos Foundation, the objectives of the Center include supporting the teaching of the Greek language to foreigners, promoting Greek-European culture and the understanding of local traditions, supporting cultural activities, training young people in professions that will address needs in the Balkan Peninsula and the countries of the Black Sea region, etc.
The Center is one of three grants the foundation has made to the University of Ioannina. The other two are for the University's Medical School and include a Hostel, which will serve as a residential facility for relatives of patients and a Rehabilitation Center.
Since 1996, the Stavros S. Niarchos Foundation, active in the areas of Arts and Culture, Education, Healthcare and Social Welfare, has donated more than $200 million to more than 1,000 non-profit organizations in Greece and abroad.
The newly elected President of the Hellenic Republic, Karolos Papoulias, will also be present at Sunday's inauguration.
 Sioufas addresses General Secretariat of Research and Technology event
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)From March 1 there will be a night shift of seismologists at the Geodynamic Institute of the Athens Observatory, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas announced on Monday in reply to a question within the framework of an event of the General Secretariat of Research and Technology.
The problem, he stressed, existed for more than 50 years and said that he himself decided to intervene last November, when he called the Geodynamic Institute in the morning hours and was answered by a guard.
At the event Sioufas stressed that Greece continues to be in last place among the European Union countries of the "15" on expenditures for research, while from the countries of the enlargement it passes only Poland and Slovakia.
The aim is, he said, is to increase expenditures to 1.5 per cent of the Gross National Product up to 2010.
The relevant EU agency is convening in Brussels this week to decide on the creation of a European program for dealing with natural disasters in light of the tsunamis which struck Southeast Asia on December 26.
 Two Ukrainian seamen missing after St. Vincent-flag container ship sinks near Elafonissos
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)Two Ukrainian seamen were missing after a St. Vincent-flag container ship sank at dawn Monday 85 nautical miles west of Elafonissos islet, near Crete, the merchant marine ministry said.
The "Sea Ray", carrying a 10 member Ukrainian crew, issued a distress signal in the small hours of Monday to the ministry's Search and Rescue Coordination Centre. The ship's captain reported that the vessel, loaded with containers, was taking on water, possibly due to a shift in its cargo, after suffering engine failure, and had developed a 40 degree list.
The Sea Ray, approximately 70 meters in length, was en route from Turkey to Libya, loaded with containers.
 Four arrested in drugs bust, 1,600-plus ecstasy pills seized
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)Police in Thessaloniki have arrested four people and seized over 1,600 tablets of the designer drug ecstasy in an operation that began with the interception of a 20-year-old woman caught in possession of 597 tablets of the drug.
The woman led police to a 27-year-old that allegedly supplied her with the narcotics, who was also placed under arrest, who in turn led police to another two men, aged 24 and 25, respectively.
The first was caught after he went to pick up money from the sale of the drugs, while the second was arrested after two packages containing 1070 ecstasy tablets were discovered in his home.
Police also confiscated 500 euros as the alleged proceeds from the sale of drugs, mobile phones used by the detainees and a set of precision scales.
 M. Kyriakou new HOC president
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)Greek businessman Minos Kyriakou was elected as the new President of the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) on Monday. Kyriakou, who was the sole candidate for the post, received 23 votes in favor, two blank votes and one invalid. He will be succeeding Lambis Nikolaou, who served as HOC President from 1985-1993 and from 1997 until 2005.
Sports minister comments on HOC election: "I congratulate the new President of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, Mr. [Minos] Kyriakou, to whom I wish success, as well as to all those who were elected," Deputy Sports Minister George Orfanos told the Athens News Agency on Monday, following the election of new HOC management.
"I am certain that a new era is beginning for the Hellenic Olympic Committee," Orfanos added.
 Attorney for Kenteris says procedural, substantive omissions led to his client's charges
Athens, 15/2/2005 (ANA)The London-based attorney for controversial sprinting star Costas Kenteris, the protagonist of a doping evasion furor hours before the 2004 Athens Olympic Games were due to begin last summer, on Monday expressed his confidence that the Sydney 200-meter gold medalist will be cleared of all wrongdoing.
Kenteris is facing a maximum two-year ban if a disciplinary commission set up by the local athletics federation (SEGAS) rules against him. Any decision could be appealed by the international track and field federation (IAAF) or the athlete himself to the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Attorney Grigoris Ioannidis stressed that IAAF committed procedural and "substantive omissions" in charging Kenteris with three "no shows" for doping control over the past few years, while he claimed that his client never refused to take a doping test.
 Cyprus government takes seriously into consideration UNSG's statements
NICOSIA 15/2/2005 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides on Monday said ''every statement, action or intention by the UN Secretary General is seriously taken into consideration by the Greek Cypriot side.''
Replying to questions during his daily briefing, Chrysostomides added that ''our wish is that efforts to reach a Cyprus settlement continue under the UN auspices''.
Asked about the intention of the G/C side in the event of an invitation by the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan for talks, the spokesman said ''all these issues are subject to conversation and exchange of views in the National Council''.
''If there is such an invitation the National Council will discuss it and decide accordingly'', he said. Invited to comment on reports that the United Nations are ready for a new initiative without arbitration and strict timetables, the spokesman reiterated Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos' position that ''our intention to seek a speedy solution to the Cyprus problem is a sincere one.''
He stressed that any initiative is welcome as long as the necessary framework and procedure for the resumption of negotiations is defined.
''The objective of course is to find out the intention of the other side as regards substantial talks and the acceptance of the principle that serious changes can be brought to the Annan Plan so that it can be approved by both sides'', he added.
Answering another question the spokesman said that President Papadopoulos communicates on a daily basis with Greek Premier Costas Karamanlis.
 Cyprus wants talks with Turkey on political problem
NICOSIA 15/2/2005 (CNA/ANA)Cypriot Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said on Monday that the position of the government remained that ''we want talks with Turkey to discuss the international aspects of the Cyprus problem and the normalization of relations in the context of the EU.''
Commenting on the invitation Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan extended to Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos to ''drink the coffee of peace'' with Mehmet Ali Talat, so-called prime minister of the puppet regime in the Turkish occupied areas of the Republic, Chrysostomides said this was an issue discussed during the latest European Council in Brussels.
''Unfortunately Mr. Erdogan and the Turkish government seem to insist that the Cyprus problem is merely a bicommunal difference,'' Chrysostomides pointed out and reminded Turkey's continuous efforts to upgrade the occupation regime by bringing up meetings with Talat.
He added that ''Talat cannot open even a single crossing point without the approval of Turkey and the Turkish army.''
Chrysostomides noted that the Cypriot government has repeatedly called for a meeting with Erdogan, a request that has been declined.
''We want talks with Mr. Erdogan because the Cyprus problem is not a bicommunal one. It has international aspects, troops, settlers, guarantees, which we want to discuss with him,'' Chrysostomides explained.
 Cyprus not to boycott US products
NICOSIA 15/2/2005 (CNA/ANA)Cypriot Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides assured on Monday that there was no intention on behalf of the government to boycott American products.
Commenting on a visit to the Turkish occupied areas of the Republic by a delegation of US companies, accompanied by the trade representative of the US Embassy in Ankara, Chrysostomides said ''it is not politically correct and it gives the wrong impression for a US official to accompany businesspeople on a trip to the occupied areas via an airport that our side does not recognize as a legal point of entry to the Republic of Cyprus.''
Chrysostomides said the US steadfast position is that ''they will not recognize the occupation regime in any way,'' adding that the Greek Cypriot side does not oppose any efforts to financially upgrade the Turkish Cypriots.
''It must be noted that of course there are private company interests, which I am sure are taken into consideration but there is no intention on behalf of the government for any boycotting,'' the spokesman said.
Commenting on remarks by Cypriot Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism George Lillikas regarding ''a boycott of American products,''
Chrysostomides said, ''I think the Minister wanted to compare the interests of financial companies in Cyprus, in the government-controlled areas and the occupied part of Cyprus.''
 DISY leader to brief President on trip to Turkey
NICOSIA 15/2/2005 (CNA/ANA)President of rightwing opposition Democratic Rally (DISY) Nicos Anastassiades will be meeting with Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos on Tuesday morning to discuss the outcome of the former's visit to Turkey and the views of the party.
Anastassiades said DISY also wanted to brief House of Representatives President Demetris Christofias, Greek Ambassador to Cyprus Christos Panagopoulos and the members of the National Council, at its next meeting, on the results of the party's visit to Turkey at the invitation of ruling Justice and Development Party.
''The experience we gained from the trip to Turkey confirms our position that in the modern environment we are living in we must have positions and pursue our just demands,'' Anastassiades said.
On his talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Anastassiades said they were ''useful'' and took place ''in a constructive atmosphere.''
''Our people want peace, a permanent solution to the Cyprus problem that will satisfy us and will be beneficial for all in the end,'' he said, adding that he explained to his interlocutors that the Greek Cypriot community did not reject a solution to the Cyprus problem during the April 2004 referendum but the specific settlement plan.