|Monday, 15 July 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-02-18
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>February 18, 2005
 EU gives Greece until 2006 to cut budget deficit
Athens, 18/2/2005 (ANA)European Union finance ministers on Thursday gave Greece until 2006 to lower its budget deficit below the 3.0 percent ceiling and welcomed the Greek government's pledge to take all necessary measures to achieve this goal. An ECOFIN meeting in Brussels adopted in general a recommendation of the European Commission over the Greek budget deficit and acknowledged the big cost of efforts to achieve fiscal restructuring in the country.
The Council adopted its recommendations over measures to reduce Greece's excessive fiscal deficit and acknowledging the high economic cost of the necessary adjustments in the state budget to correct imbalances in 2005, offered a two year deadline until 2006. The Council also welcomed the Greek authorities' pledge to continue their efforts for fiscal stabilization and to strictly implement this year's budget, while it also expressed its satisfaction over the government's commitment to reduce its excessive deficit by 2006 and to adopt a fiscal stabilization program towards a budget surplus in the medium-term.
The Council also welcomed the Greek authorities' initiative to submit an updated stability program by March 31, a program that would underline all economic measures.
Finmin welcomes EU deficit-cut leeway: Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Thursday welcomed a European Union decision to allow Greece to lower its fiscal deficit over two years, rather than one.
"Today's decision vindicates the government's initiatives on the restoration of transparency in public finances, and on fiscal revitalization through a mild approach, without the adoption of special measures," Alogoskoufis told reporters after EU finance ministers approved the Commission's proposal for the two-year period until the end of 2006.
Credibility had been restored after an informal audit of state accounts under the previous Panhellenic Socialist Movement government that was conducted by the government and the EU's statistics service.
"The government's objective from the outset was to make necessary adjustments to the Greek economy avoiding abrupt landings, and based on the 2005 budget...That objective has officially been met today," he said.
The minister noted that the government's updated EU stability and growth plan would be ready by the middle of April. It would then be submitted to parliament, for the first time in Greece, and sent to the EU's executive Commission.
Structural economic measures would be needed in 2006 to attain primary surpluses versus the current deficits; and privatization would continue, he added.
Talks on EU budget policy crucial for 'convergence' member-states, Greece says: The Greek foreign ministry on Thursday stressed that the outcome of a debate on whether to cap EU spending to 1 per cent of Community GDP or set a ceiling of 1.24 per cent of EU GDP was crucial, especially for member-states in the process of convergence.
He said the difference in absolute cash terms amounted to an EU budget of 12 billion euros in the first case and 23-24 billion euros in the second.
Following the last EU enlargement, meanwhile, EU needs had increased by 20 per cent but GDP had only increased by 5 per cent, he added.
The fact that eight of the 10 new member-states belonged to the convergence countries made negotiations even more difficult, he said.
Regarding Greece, Koumoutsakos noted that the convergence achieved had been slight and that Greece was now paying for this, since it appeared to be a net recipient of Community funds without absorbing them.
 Main opposition sees economy under EU supervision
Athens, 18/2/2005 (ANA)Main opposition leader George Papandreou claimed that the economy had officially come under supervision by the European Union following a decision by the bloc's finance ministers to allow two years for deficit-reduction.
"It is the first time this has happened in the EU," Papandreou, head of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), told a news conference.
"Responsible are the audit of state accounts by the prime minister and finance minister coupled with the government's criminal economic management in its eleven months in office," he said.
Papandreou stated that the public was rapidly losing confidence in the government due to wear and tear in public life stemming from poor management and a lack of objectives and priorities for the needs of society.
PASOK would not try to bring down the government but instead was preparing for the next general election, he added.
Main opposition duped Greeks for 20 years, gov't says: Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said on Thursday that George Papandreou, head of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement, should undertake self-criticism after his party deceived the public for 20 years over the economy.
"Mr Papandreou needs some self-criticism and his party should apologize to Greeks instead of sporadically resorting to verbal attacks aimed at sensationalism," said Antonaros, responding to criticism by Papandreou earlier in the day of the government's economic management.
"This was the party that deceived Greeks for 20 years, making the same old promises while being consistently inactive, and now presenting itself as the public's watchdog," the spokesman added.
 PASOK MP Pangalos comments on fiscal audit and ECOFIN decision at PSE summit
BRUSSELS 18/2/2005 (ANA/M.Spinthourakis)Main opposition PASOK MP and head of the party's Economic Affairs section Theodoros Pangalos characterized the fiscal audit carried out by ruling New Democracy as a "myth" in statements he made during a summit meeting of the European Parliament Socialist Group (PSE), which was held here on Thursday.
Socialist finance ministers from eight EU member-states and the EU socialist parties' representatives responsible for economic affairs participated at the summit. The main topic on the agenda was the revision of the Stability Pact which applies to members of the Eurozone.
During the meeting, Pangalos presented a three-page report drafted by PASOK on the issue of the fiscal audit and the procedure which applies to Greece since it exceeded the EU deficit limit of 3%.
Shortly after the meeting, Pangalos told Greek correspondents that Greece has lost the respect of its European counterparts. He emphasized that throughout his political career, this is the first time he's had to defend his country's economy while being in the opposition, due to the government's handling of the issue.
He also said that ECOFIN's decision on Thursday that Greece is subject to Article 104, paragraph 9, of the EU Treaty, is nothing less than being subject to supervision.
Pangalos also emphasized that the fiscal audit was conducted for political reasons related to the domestic political scene in Greece.
 FM Molyviatis meets with Russian special envoy to Balkans Kharchenko
Athens, 18/2/2005 (ANA)Greece was an "exceptionally important partner of Russia in the Balkans," visiting Russian special representative to the Balkans Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko said Thursday after a meeting with Greek foreign minister Petros Molyviatis in Athens.
The talks between the two men focused on Kosovo, according to ministry sources.
Kharchenko said he was not satisfied with the implementation of the "specifications", adding that "we will utilize our bilateral relations in Greece for the resolution of the problem", while preserving the primary role of the EU and the UN Security Council.
 FM Molyviatis talks with Bulgarian counterpart regarding river's overflow
Athens, 18/2/2005 (ANA)Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis spoke with his Bulgarian counterpart Solomon Passy on Thursday in order to discuss Bulgaria's responsibility for controlling the amount of water that is channeled from the Arda River to Evros River in northern Greece in order to avoid floods in Greek territory.
Due to heavy rainfall and the sudden melting of snow in Bulgaria, Evros River has surpassed its safety limit and is in danger of overflowing and causing floods in Evros Prefecture.
 Deputy FM Valinakis visits Serbia-Montenegro
BELGRADE 18/2/2005 (ANA/F. Karaviti)Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis, in meetings he had here on Thursday with Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and Serbia-Montenegro Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic, expressed the need for the development of the Balkans into a "European neighborhood with the participation definitely of Serbia.
"All the countries of the region must proceed towards the European Union, with different speeds due to realities, certainly however this neighborhood must also include Serbia. It is not conceivable for a European neighborhood in the Balkans with a 'hole' in the middle. It is our conviction that Serbia has its position in this course and we will help it in its effort," the Greek deputy foreign minister said.
Valinakis' visit to Belgrade acquires particular importance, both in light of Greece's participation in the United Nations Security Council, in a period during which the matter of Kosovo may possibly be decided, as well as in view of the assumption by Greece of the presidency of the South East Europe Cooperation Process (SEECP - former Balkan) in May.
"All these things create increased interest for the region and we are happy that we can, within the framework of our capabilities, to contribute in the effort for the Balkans to approach the European Union," Valinakis stated.
The deputy foreign minister was due to depart later in the day for Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia, to participate in the meeting of the European Affairs deputy ministers and senior officials from 17 European Union countries. The meeting will be held within the framework of the regular cooperation with his counterparts on the EU's fiscal prospects for the period 2007-2013, and in continuation of the corresponding meeting which was held at the initiative of the foreign ministry in Athens on January 17.
 Government on FYROM name, Kosovo crisis
Athens, 18/2/2005 (ANA)Foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos on Thursday referred reporters to Wednesday's announcement by the ministry regarding negotiations for solution to a dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) regarding the republic's adopted name of 'Macedonia'.
Finding a mutually acceptable solution would not only remove the 'thorn' in bilateral relations between Greece and FYROM but would also be a positive development for the entire region, which should not continue to be at the mercy of different agendas, he added.
In a foreign ministry announcement on Wednesday, Koumoutsakos stated: "The firm will of Greece that the talks which are being held in New York for reaching a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue be speeded up and become substantial is known for some time now. This position of ours has been adopted by the European Union and constitutes henceforth a European position. Within the framework of these talks a series of proposals and alternative formulations have been presented. This procedure is in progress and is being held in accordance with specific practices and regulations, particularly with regard the character of its confidentiality. Greece continues to work constructively and systematically for the successful conclusion of this procedure. We hope that the other side will show the same constructive spirit."
The spokesman also denied that there were any plans for Greece to participate in the six-nation Contact Group for Kosovo, in response to questions on Greece's involvement in developments in that area.
Outlining Greek positions, Koumoutsakos said that any solution found for Kosovo should respect the area's multi-ethnic character, protect ethnic minorities, require the involvement of Serbia and Montenegro in the procedure and reject all possibilities of dividing the province or its annexation with other countries.
He stressed that the priority was now to assess the situation in Kosovo.
The spokesman also noted that Greece was discussing Kosovo affairs with the foreign ministries of other countries that had an interest in Balkan developments, in order to promote the greatest possible realism. He stressed that it would be positive if positions on Kosovo converged as much as possible.
 Roussopoulos visits Germany as part of govt's wider research initiative of EU media law
BERLIN 18/2/2005 (ANA/P.Stangos)State Minister Theodoros Roussopoulos met with German Minister of the Interior Otto Schily on Thursday, during his visit to Berlin as part of a wider initiative of the Greek government to research the legislative framework regarding the operation of the media in other EU member countries ahead of the legislative initiatives the Greek government is planning to implement.
Specifically, the objective of the meeting with Schily, and with Deputy Minister for Culture and Media Affairs Christina Weiss on Friday, is for the Greek government to have a comprehensive understanding of how its EU counterparts avoid the concentration of several media outlets in the hands of a few owners, licensing of private TV and radio broadcasters and operation of state television.
In comments Roussopoulos made to Greek correspondents, during a lunch hosted by the Greek Ambassador to Germany Dimitris Kypreos, he will also be traveling to Paris, London, perhaps Madrid and Brussels in the near future to learn about the legislative framework that governs the media in each of these countries.
 PM Karamanlis holds meeting with Culture Ministry leadership
Athens, 18/2/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, in his capacity also as Culture Minister, held a meeting at the Maximos Mansion in Athens on Thursday with Alternate Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia and deputy culture ministers Petros Tatoulis and George Orfanos, the latter being responsible for sport.
Palli-Petralia stressed that a constructive discussion was held on the legislative work which is being advanced by the ministry and its program of action and gave emphasis to the law on the post-Olympics use of the sports installations which, she said, has been finalized in cooperation with the Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Ministry.
Palli-Petralia said that the law will be tabled in Parliament in the coming days, noting that it provides development and improves the quality of life and the protection of the environment.
Deputy Culture Minister Tatoulis said that interventions are continuing in all crucial matters of culture, aiming at reforms to strengthen culture.
Orfanos underlined that the post-Olympics course of Greek sport was discussed, with the basic aim of Greece giving a good performance at the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008.
Orfanos also discussed with the premier the issue of violence in soccer matches and the reform of soccer clubs. The prime minister expressed his satisfaction on the actions being taken for the combatting of violence in soccer matches, as well as on the economic reform in professional soccer, at the same time sending a message that "the law will be strictly enforced."
 Health minister Kaklamanis briefs PM Karamanlis on pending draft laws
Athens, 18/2/2005 (ANA)The government will table a new bill in parliament next week on the restructuring of the ESY national health system and the social protection system, which was presented to prime minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday by health and social solidarity minister Nikitas Kaklamanis.
After his meeting with the premier, Kaklamanis told reporters that he also briefed Karamanlis on a series of other bills, including a draft bill on protection of the public health, which will be ready in March.
In essence, Kaklamanis said, regarding the protection of public health, the American system has been adapted to the Greek reality, noting that the draft law on Primary Health Care had been submitted to him a few days earlier, adding that an extensive public dialogue was necessary.
He said that bill would not be ready before September or October 2005, and underscored that he would collaborate with "my friend" labor minister Panos Panayiotopoulos, as the healthcare division of the IKA state social insurance fund would be incorporated into the ESY.
Kaklamanis further referred to a series of bills pertaining to the quality of healthcare, measures to protect poor families, exploitation of the ministry's properties, and pharmaceuticals policy, which would be advanced in the near future.
The health minister said that by the end of 2005, approximately 80 percent of the ruling New Democracy party's electoral commitments will have been advanced at legislative level.
Kaklamanis also denied press reports that employees' representatives would not sit on the hospitals' boards of directors, adding that, quite the contrary, their participation would be increased.
 PASOK leader says country needs change of government
Athens, 18/2/2005 (ANA)The government had to change in order for the country to progress, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou said on Thursday in a press conference at the Zappeion Building in Athens.
According to Papandreou, the present government was fast losing the trust of the Greek electorate and might well not last the full four-year term.
"I would not like to be in the extremely difficult position of (Prime Minister) Costas Karamanlis," PASOK's leader said, accusing Karamanlis of having 'cheated' the political centre.
According to Papandreou, the government's economic management was "criminal" and it had given less than it had promised prior to the elections, even though it found more money in the coffers than it had originally expected.
He also accused the government of 'weak' foreign policy that he said had marginalized Greece in world affairs and reiterated that his party was in favor of holding a referendum over the European Constitution, inviting the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology to campaign alongside PASOK in this position.
 Papandreou on the European Constitution, the PASOK Congress, the Church crisis
Athens, 18/2/2005 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK President George Papandreou on Thursday proposed cooperating with the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party in order to push for a referendum on the ratification of the European Treaty.
According to Papandreou, a referendum is necessary since the European Constitution will bring about radical changes. Furthermore, since Greece became a member of the then European Community in 1980, the Greek people have not had the opportunity to directly express their opinion regarding Europe's course, Papandreou said. "PASOK believes that the people need to know where Greece and Europe are headed," he added. Papandreou said that the issue will also be discussed at the upcoming PASOK Congress.
The PASOK Congress will be held on March 3-6 and Papandreou said that he expects minimum confrontation within party ranks. He emphasized that the year that passed was a difficult one, following the party's defeat in the 2004 general election, but said that PASOK had made progress in its restructuring. "PASOK is moving forward united and making radical changes and it is emerging as a responsible opposition with a specific strategy," he stressed.
In other comments he made on Thursday, this time during a press conference at Zappeion Hall, Papandreou proposed that a referendum be held regarding the separation of Church and state.
Speaking on the issue of the grave problems currently facing the Greek Church, Papandreou said that the major problem is not the individuals involved, but protecting the Church as an institution, and institutions in general, from the exploitation of individuals.
PASOK leader Papandreou addresses political gathering: PASOK leader George Papandreou, speaking at a political gathering at the Demokritos amphitheatre in Athens on Thursday night said that he placed in doubt the New Democracy government's ability to contribute in the reform of the Church.
"I place in great doubt the ability of the government of (Prime Minister Costas) Mr. Karamanlis to contribute in any way in the reform of the Church because this government and this party of Mr. Karamanlis played a game with the Church to undermine this institution and to strike PASOK, which was unjust for the Greek Orthodox, which was unjust for the crew of the Church."
Papandreou criticized the government over its overall policy in all sectors, while referring to foreign policy, he said that "enormous opportunities" were lost, the first being the Cyprus issue, as well as that of Greek-Turkish relations.
 Coalition MEP accuses main parties over inadequate handling of EU funds
Athens, 18/2/2005 (ANA)Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) MEP Dimitris Papadimoulis on Thursday accused the governments of both main parties in Greece, ruling New Democracy and main opposition PASOK, of "continued inaction and inadequacy" in their management of funds from the European Union, which had less to the loss of funds from the 2nd and 3rd Community Support Frameworks and a current threat for a total freeze on payments from the EU.
He said that Greece will have to now absorb 5.5 billion euros a year from 2005 onward in order to avoid further loss of funds, where it had only absorbed 6.5 billion euros from 2000 until the end of 2004.
The MEP said that the European Commission had noted significant delays in the implementation of EU-funded programs in Greece during a question put by the MEP in the European Parliament.
 SYN criticizes gov't on its policy regarding Olympic venues and the environment
Athens, 18/2/2005 (ANA)The Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party is critical of the government's policy regarding post-Games use of Olympic venues and of their environmental policy in general, according to Michalis Papagiannakis, member of SYN's Political Secretariat in a statement he made on Thursday.
Papagiannakis has asked the government to postpone sending the relevant bill to Parliament and starting a dialogue from 'scratch' instead.
On the occasion of the Kyoto Protocol going into effect on Wednesday, Papagiannakis said that the government has been "shamefully silent on its obligations regarding the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, such as how and why it has already far exceeded the limit of greenhouse emissions set for Greece."
On the issue of Olympic venues, Papagiannakis said that "the government is further reducing free space in Athens, it is not freeing space even where expected, it's seeking 'investment opportunities' obviously at the expense of the environment, and which are not financially justified and that will soon become apparent."
Finally, Papagiannakis called on citizens and related organizations to oppose governmental policy on these issues.
 Athens mayor comments on Metropolitan Park in Ellinikon
Athens, 18/2/2005 (ANA)"The decisions concerning Olympic areas will have to be part of a broader and comprehensive plan for the improvement of the Attica basin and for economic development over the next 20 years," Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis said on Thursday.
Bakoyannis' statement came as a response to a question regarding the Metropolitan Park which is to be created at Ellinikon and for which the Ministry of the Environment, Town Planning and Public Works and four municipalities are vying.
"I believe that Ellinikon is an area that could - in part - contribute to increasing the number of green spaces in run-down areas in western Athens, which are in dire need. In other words, part of Ellinikon could be allocated for a specific, strict residential improvement and the resources from this construction can then be allocated for the creation of green spaces in densely-populated Athens neighborhoods," Bakoyannis said.
"I believe that the view of the local government is that these spaces should become green spaces. Green spaces however, are not just a matter for the privileged. There need to be green spaces in areas where citizens do not even have access to a small park," she added.
Regarding the collaboration required among various public entities and organizations, Bakoyannis said that "I think it goes without saying that local government will participate in the decision making. I think it goes without saying that on a central government level a real, meaningful dialogue will take place among the various authorities. A dialogue does not necessarily have to result in disagreement. Instead, it can lead to a blending of opinions since we're talking about the biggest decision that will affect residents of the Attica basin," she said.
 Actions for Turkish occupied northern Cyprus development must accord with UN resolutions, gov't reiterates
Athens, 18/2/2005 (ANA)Greek foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos on Thursday reiterated that Greece supported the economic development of occupied areas in the northern Cyprus but stressed that actions to promote such development should not move outside the framework of UN Security Council decisions.
He was responding to questions regarding a planned visit to the occupied north by a business delegation from the United States.
Koumoutsakos stressed that the Greek-Cypriot side had proposed that the Turkish-occupied areas be given 260 million euros earmarked for the region if a solution was agreed, immediately after the April referendum in which the Greek-Cypriots had voted against the Annan plan for reunifying the island.
He also noted that progress had been made in rules governing the Green Line and funding protocols, as well as a directive for direct trade with the occupied areas that he described as 'problematic' in terms of its legal basis.
"Throughout this debate, the Greek side has supported the need for economic cooperation and development of the northern areas. But we have also repeatedly stressed that any actions or measures cannot be undertaken outside the framework of UN Security Council resolutions," he said.
He also stressed that any measures should encourage efforts for solving the Cyprus problems and the reunification of the island republic.
 No evidence to indicate start of new initiative for Cyprus problem, Greek foreign ministry says
Athens, 18/2/2005 (ANA)The Greek foreign ministry on Thursday said that there was currently no evidence that allowed the government to talk about or predict the start of a new initiative for the Cyprus problem.
Responding to questions, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos that the conditions necessary for resuming talks did not seem to exist.
"In order for an initiative to be launched, so that we can proceed to talks, there must be two reasons: the procedural framework must have been set up and determined, as well as the essence. At the moment everything shows that the procedural framework has not been set, while on the essence we have certain ideas being formulated informally," he said.
He reiterated that the target was still reunification for Cyprus on the basis of a viable, functional solution that accorded with UN Security Council resolutions, was compatible with EU laws and in harmony with EU acquired rights and privileges.
 PASOK leader Papandreou accuses gov't of inaction on the Cyprus issue
Athens, 18/2/2005 (ANA)Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou on Thursday accused the government and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis of inaction on the Cyprus issue.
At a press conference at the Zappeion Hall in Athens, Papandreou said that "the government has not shown any mobility on the Cyprus issue, adding that "if it tried in Lucerne, it may not have managed a solution to the Cyprus issue but would have managed a better Annan plan."
The PASOK leader added that any new initiative on the Cyprus issue should be an initiative of substantial dialogue with the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots, so that any changes to the plan by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue to be such which will satisfy important matters which have been raised.
 PM Karamanlis holds meeting with ND deputies
Athens, 18/2/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, in a meeting with ruling New Democracy (ND) party deputies on Thursday, discussed issues concerning their electoral constituencies and mainly matters of local development and employment.
The deputies who attended the meeting with the premier at the Maximos Mansion were An. Angelis, St. Keletsis, N. Legas, V. Pappas, G. Kalantzis, Z. Makris, C. Gioulekas and F. Tsalidis.
 Gov't seeks to promote logistics, cargo business
Athens, 18/2/2005 (ANA)The Greek government will table a draft legislation to Parliament on Monday aimed to promote logistics and cargo centre business in the country.
The issue was discussed on Thursday during a meeting between Transport Minister Mihalis Liapis and Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias. The two ministers also discussed ways to improve road safety in the country and agreed to hold further meetings in the future.
Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, Souflias said that a draft legislation on the use of Olympic sport facilities was ready and that only minor adjustments would be made. He said that there proposals to build a hotel complex in Aghios Kosmas but stressed that the ministry did not accept these proposals.
Transport Minister noted that a plan to offer priority traffic move to trams, aiming to cut travel times, would be implemented in the next few days.
 KEP to provide information on EU's Competitiveness program
Athens, 18/2/2005 (ANA)Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Minister of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization and Dimitris Sioufas, Minister of Development, along with their associates met at the Ministry of the Interior on Thursday to discuss how the two ministries can cooperate in order to provide the public and businesses with information regarding the "Competitiveness" program through the Citizens' Service Centers (KEP).
The EU's Competitiveness program subsidizes a wide range of businesses to help them invest in modernization, productivity, energy conservation, research, ISO certification and in other areas. It also encourages young adults, women and people with special needs to start their own businesses.
Currently, those interested in the program can direct queries to local commercial chambers, business associations and trade unions. Citizens' Service Centers will also be able to provide information on the program in the near future.
 Greek harmonized inflation 4.2 pct in January, yr/yr
Athens, 18/2/2005 (ANA)Greece's harmonized consumer price index jumped to 4.2 percent in January compared with the same month last year, the National Statistics Service said on Thursday.
NSS, in its monthly report on harmonized inflation figures, said the jump in the CPI was mainly attributed to a different date of the winter sales season this year (they began in February instead of January in 2004).
The harmonized CPI was up 0.2 percent in January from December 2004.
 Greek business mission to China in April
Athens, 18/2/2005 (ANA)The Thessaloniki Chamber of Trade and Industry in cooperation with UNIDO, the United Nations' industry and technology development agency, is organizing a business trip to China, April 2-10.
The agenda of the business trip to Beijing and Shanghai includes meetings with Chinese businessmen.
A Chamber announcement said that the Chinese market was very dynamic and offered a wide range of export opportunities to Greek businessmen, particularly in the food, beverage, telecommunications equipment and services, food processing and packaging machinery, raw material, jewelry, farm machinery, energy saving machines and waste management systems. It also offers great opportunities in the fast food sector.
 Stocks rise led by telcoms, banks
Athens, 18/2/2005 (ANA)Stocks finished higher for a fifth straight session with telecoms and banks leading the market, traders said.
The Athens general share index closed at 3,061.94 points, posting a rise of 1.21%. Turnover was 261.5 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 1.31% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 1.38% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.18% up.
Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 142 to 139 with 72 remaining unchanged.
 Pavlopoulos asks media to alert public in Evros in case of floods
Athens, 18/2/2005 (ANA)Minister of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Thursday requested the help of the mass media in keeping residents of Evros Prefecture up to date on developments regarding the water level of the Evros River, which is close to overflowing. Pavlopoulos asked that the media alert residents in the area in the event that evacuation becomes necessary.
The entire state system has been on standby since early Thursday morning, due to the rising level of the Evros River, which has surpassed the maximum safety level. A large volume of water is flowing into the Evros River from Bulgaria, with which Greece has a bilateral agreement regarding water flow. Due to heavy rainfall and the sudden melting of snow in Bulgaria, the volume of water flowing into the Evros River is five times greater than what has been agreed between the two countries.
The ministry has also dispatched rescue teams and equipment to the area in case of an emergency, while the Defense Ministry has agreed to Pavlopoulos' request that part of the military is on standby as well.
In the meantime, prefects from Greek, Bulgarian and Turkish regions met in Orestiada, northern Greece in order to prepare for a possible emergency.
 Greek police stage new 'anti-crime' sweep as part of 'Polis' operation
Athens, 18/2/2005 (ANA)Moving on to the next stage of the anti-crime operation code-named 'Polis' that began last week, the Greek Police (ELAS) have arrested a further 68 people during a coordinated sweep of prefectures in the Peloponnese, central Greece, Evia and Crete outside the city of Iraklion.
According to police, 556 officers took part in operations on Wednesday night in which 2993 persons, 326 business establishments and 2779 vehicles were inspected. Investigating officers confirmed 852 violations and arrested 68 people on various charges.
According to ELAS, the nationwide crime sweep that began last Thursday was carried out based on a plan drawn up by mapping high-crime areas and was part of any anti-crime drive initiated by the public order ministry.
 Parliament given 350 DVDs containing works by modern Greek artists
Athens, 18/2/2005 (ANA)Parliament president Anna Psarouda-Benaki on Thursday received 350 DVDs containing works of contemporary art created by Greek artists, recorded by the non-profit society "Greek Academy of Contemporary Art" with the support of the General Secretariat of the New Generation.
"Parliament supports efforts that aim to highlight Greek culture through modern Art, both in Greece and abroad," Psarouda-Benaki said as she received the DVDs, which will be distributed among the 300 MPs and placed in Parliament's library.
The DVDs contain works by some of Greece's most important contemporary artists, such as Costas Varotsos, Alexis Akrithakis, Nikos Kessanlis, George Lazogas, Costas Tsoclis, Alekos Fasianos and others.
 City of Athens announces program of events for carnival period
Athens, 18/2/2005 (ANA)Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis on Thursday announced the city's carnival program, saying that 22 separate events with the participation of 31 artists and groups had been organized by the municipality for this year.
The events will begin on Thursday, March 3 and end on the Clean Monday holiday that marks the start of Lent.
They will take place in nine squares in the city centre and central Athens neighborhoods, at Thission, Zappeion, Technopolis in Gazi, the Varvakio meat market and on pedestrian roads around the city. For the first time, there will be simultaneous events on the three Athens hills of Philopappou, Skouze and Strefi.
 Gov't to fund centre for arts, travel correspondents
Athens, 18/2/2005 (ANA)Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said on Thursday that his ministry would fund a foreign-language library and centre for arts and tourism correspondents to be housed at the Foreign Press Association of Greece (FPA) in central Athens.
Funding for the project would total 43,000 euros, the minister told an FPA luncheon.
Avramopoulos also said that a bill to boost spa tourism would be sent to parliament in coming days; and a new organization to spur agrotourism would be finalized by the end of the month.
 Cyprus President condemns visit of businessmen to occupied areas
LARNACA 18/2/2005 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos has condemned a visit to the Turkish occupied north of the island by a delegation of business people, who represent American companies in Turkey, adding that representations have been made where appropriate.
Speaking to the press on Thursday, President Papadopoulos said the arrival of the business people and the commercial attache of the American embassy in Ankara via an illegal port of entry ''provokes the sentiments of the people of Cyprus'', noting such actions ''do not contribute at all towards creating the necessary climate in efforts to reunite Cyprus''.
He also said that the government is trying to ''strengthen as much as possible relations between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots'' because ''that would create the climate and the preconditions for the reunification of people, institutions and the economy''.
''We encourage cooperation between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in the economic sector, provided that they are within the law and comply with international law and European Union regulations,'' he added.
President Papadopoulos said the Republic encourages the economic development of the Turkish Cypriots and reiterated ''that as we had promised the EU, we have developed and expanded the Green Line Regulation'' on trade, which was adopted on Thursday by the EU Council of ministers.
The regulation aims to further facilitate the movement of goods and persons across the Green Line, dividing the Turkish occupied north of the island from the free areas of the Republic.
The Cypriot president urged Turkish Cypriots to ''take advantage of the great opportunities'' provided by the regulation to further develop trade between the free areas and the occupied north and with the rest of the world.
This regulation, he added, eases to a great extent economic development, if this is what is being pursued.
However, he pointed out, it seems that others want to use such measures to advance the regime in the occupied areas and to obtain political advantages.
Responding to criticism from the Turkish Cypriot regime about trade restrictions, President Papadopoulos said ''Mehmet Ali Talat is the one preventing and prohibiting trade with the free areas''.
Talat, self-styled prime minister in occupied Cyprus, wants the EU to adopt a regulation allowing direct trade between the Union and the occupied north before Brussels releases funds to the Turkish Cypriots, amounting to 259 million euro.
President Papadopoulos expressed the view that the US and other states will not recognize the occupied areas, noting that ''the Turkish Cypriots are not pursuing this goal at present'' for various reasons.
He said Turkey, aspiring to join the EU, has an obligation to sign the Customs Union protocol, adding he believes it will do so soon, even before 3rd October which is the deadline set out by Brussels for the signature that would allow Ankara to begin accession negotiations.
In another development, the House Legal Affairs Committee unanimously condemned the visit of the business delegation from Turkey, describing it as ''unacceptable and provocative''.
It called on the government to make the necessary political representations.
The chairman of the Committee Ionas Nicolaou said it was an unacceptable action because the Republic of Cyprus is the only recognized government in Cyprus.
He also said the government, through representations, should seek a dialogue with the US administration on Cyprus and on the claim that Turkish Cypriots are isolated.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the island's northern third.
 Cyprus-American Business Association concerned over US official visit to north
Athens, 18/2/2005 (ANA)The Board of Directors of the Cyprus-American Business Association expressed concern and disagreement over the visit of a business delegation to the Turkish-occupied areas of Cyprus accompanied by the US Embassy commercial attache in Ankara.
The Association has sent a letter to US Ambassador to Cyprus Michael Klosson, requesting a meeting with its Board of Directors to explore means and ways to promote American trade and business between the two communities through the Association in line with the directives, policies, practices and regulations of the EU and the Republic of Cyprus.
In a press release, the Cyprus-American Business Association said ''the visit does not contribute towards the goals of promoting the unification of Cyprus and the promotion of closer American and Cyprus trade and business ties''.
On the contrary, the Association points out, this might worsen the situation on the island as it obstructs the efforts to continue the process for a just and sustainable solution to the Cyprus problem.
''This act, apart from its political implications, creates a lot of business complications and confusion'', the Association added.
Furthermore, the Cyprus-American Business Association notes that it has demonstrated its strong commitment in promoting Cyprus-American trade and repeatedly expressed its strong will to cooperate with Turkish Cypriots in the occupied areas.
 Putin assures of Russia's support to solve Cyprus problem
NICOSIA 18/2/2005 (CNA/ANA)Russian President Vladimir Putin has stressed his country's readiness to actively contribute towards efforts to solve the Cyprus problem.
Receiving the credentials of the island's new ambassador in Moscow Leonidas Pantelides, Putin said ''we are ready to actively contribute to a fair and viable solution of the Cyprus problem, based on UN Security Council resolutions''.
''Longstanding friendship traditions unite us with the Republic of Cyprus'', Putin added.
He welcomed the interest of Cyprus as a European Union member in pursuing active cooperation with Russia, noting that enhancing bilateral relations in the field of science, economy, commerce and other sectors would be to the interest of both countries.
The Russian president referred to the visits of Russian politicians to Cyprus, noting that tourism is not important on economic terms only. He called for an easier visa procedure for Russian visitors to Cyprus.
Putin assured Pantelides of Russia's support to Cyprus.
The new Cypriot ambassador thanked Putin for Russia's support at the UN and for the support to Cyprus' struggle for freedom while he assured him of the friendly feelings of the people of Cyprus.
In his speech, Putin stressed that Russia has repeatedly proved that it is a responsible and firm ally in the common problems of humanity and in constructing a new, safer and fairer world order.
He described cooperation with the EU as one of the most significant priorities in Russia's foreign policy.