|Saturday, 20 July 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-02-19
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>February 19 ,2005
 Greek parliament discusses agricultural policy
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)"We acknowledge farmers' just demands, we accept our responsibilities but we cannot accept that the truth be ignored," Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis told parliament on Friday.
Speaking during an off-the-agenda debate on agricultural policy, Karamanlis said that "during the 11 months of the new government we worked with a sense of responsibility and with proven results. It is a fact, however, that there problems in the distribution of farm products, with low prices, due to excessive production and big stockpiles from imports".
"The truth is known. The doors towards a deteriorating situation were already open. Community regulations were signed and the government had no right to intervene. Setting prices and obstructing imports would be an illegal act that would result in big fines from the European Union," he added.
The Greek premier criticized the previous government's agricultural policy. "After 25 years of community subsidies and three Community Support Frameworks we had both huge funds and the time to move ahead. Instead, the result was a shrinking farm population, a drop of farm income to half the EU average, more imports, a constant widening of both trade and farm balance, an inadequate state mechanism and huge community fines from past excesses."
Karamanlis said that ELGA, the farmers' insurance agency, owed three years compensations to farmers. ELGA had a liquidity of 132 million euros, with compensations totalling 500 million euros, leaving a deficit of 360 million euros, the Greek PM said, adding: "How it is possible for all this debt and chaos to be solved in just one year. And how is it possible that those responsible for this situation insist on their policies?"
Karamanlis said that the new government adopted stricter monitoring and inspection mechanisms and reiterated the government's position not to break community laws. "The state cannot break the law. The country cannot afford any more community fines. Inspections will be increasingly stricter. A modern Greece needs transparency everywhere. We said that and we are doing it," the Prime Minister told parliament.
Main opposition party leader George Papandreou countered by accusing the Prime Minister of lack of any policy, ignorance of farmers' problems and backing away from his pre-election pledges. "The government has adopted a passive stance towards scenarios of a shrinking Common Agricultural Policy and does not take any advantage of opportunities offered for Greek products. It does not work on any large infrastructure project and cannot absorb community funds. The result of this policy is that there is not a single farm product with a better price than last year. All prices collapsed even in products excluded by PASOK's "bad" regulations," Papandreou told parliament.
PASOK's leader also criticized the government's economic policy in general, saying that an ECOFIN's decision on Wednesday was placing the government under surveillance. "This is the biggest humiliation of the country in recent years," he said.
Alekos Alavanos, the leader of the Coalition party who asked for the off-the-agenda discussion on agricultural policy, criticized both the government and the PASOK party for the Greek farm sector's accumulated problems over the years. Alavanos said that PASOK governments signed "destructive" community regulations in the past and said that New Democracy's government was ill-prepared and incapable to manage the farm sector's problems.
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga told Parliament that agriculture's problems were on a crucial course and blamed both the main parties for the crisis.
"Both ND and PASOK promised peanuts before elections and now the government can't even do that. It's giving a rise of just 12 euros," she said.
While slamming the government for failing to take measures to assuage farmers' problems and for not including farming cooperatives in development law because of EU directives, she also attacked the other two parties in Parliament, saying they had failed to propose a single concrete measure during Friday's Parliamentary debate.
Outlining KKE's proposals, she called for the collection and distribution of all unsold produce and the absorption of agricultural production at prices that stop the slide in prices and the non-implementation of 'catastrophic' EU regulations.
Replying to Papariga in his rejoinder, the prime minister expressed confidence that processed agricultural products could be produced both by a 'reformed' farm cooperative movement that operated on the same basis as business enterprise and by small or middle-sized businesses.
Noting that production was basically market-led, he said it was possible to introduce policies to assist specific sectors, such as livestock farmers, to deal with competition from foreign imports.
He disagreed with Papariga's view that EU regulations were 'catastrophic' for farmers, pointing out that the Community had been generous in its support of farming incomes and specific areas of the economy that, according to Karamanlis, would have collapsed if left to the mercies of global competition.
"I believe it's a mistake to blame the EU for mistakes and omissions of our own - by all governments - and our failure to explore the markets," he said.
 Valinakis attends deputy ministers' meeting ahead of EU General Affairs Council
LJUBLJANA 19/2/2005 (ANA/F.Karaviti)On Thursday evening, Valinakis participated in the meeting of deputy ministers responsible for European affairs in Ljubljana. Deputy Ministers from 17 EU member-states attended and reached an agreement on common positions/proposals for the EU's fiscal prospects for the period 2007-2013, which they will submit at the upcoming EU General Affairs ministerial council next week.
Aside from Valinakis, the Finance Ministry's Secretary General for Development and Investment Costas Mousouroulis also represented Greece.
According to diplomatic sources, the Greek side seemed satisfied with the conclusion of the meeting, since it agreed with the positions adopted in the end. Items on the agenda included development of the intra-European transport and energy networks, education and vocational training of workers, the Social Fund's activities and research and technology.
All these issues are part of the broader discussion pertaining to the Lisbon Strategy, which aims at balanced development of an enlarged EU.
Negotiations regarding the amount of funds which will be used as subsidies between 2007 and 2013, have stirred controversy among EU member-states. Germany, the UK, France, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark insist on limiting funds which will be allocated to the Cohesion Fund and propose that excellence be used as the criterion for the channeling of funds.
The 17 countries (aside from Belgium and Luxembourg) are in agreement with the European Commission which supports a more balanced distribution of funds and they claim that the funds allocated to the Cohesion Fund will help achieve the Lisbon Strategy goals.
Greece is particularly interested in research and technology, for the benefit of small and medium-sized business, as well as in the vocational training programs, which it hopes to extend so as to include the unemployed. Finally, Greece is also interested in sea, road and energy networks.
Croatia's Mesic sworn in as president, Valinakis attends ceremony: Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis was in Zagreb on Friday attending the swearing-in ceremony of Stjepan Mesic who was re-elected as Croatia's President.
On the occasion of his visit to Croatia, Valinakis reiterated the Greek government's support of the countries' efforts in the region to join the EU, but clarified that the same accession requirements apply to all candidates.
"Greece supports the European prospects of all the countries in Southeast Europe - a development that will be a positive one not just for the countries themselves, but for cooperation, stability and prosperity in the broader region," Valinakis said.
 BSEC chairman Greece briefs State Department official
WASHINGTON 19/2/2005 (ANA/T. Ellis)Deputy foreign minister presented Greece's targets for the wider region, given the country's current chairmanship of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization (BSEC), during meetings at the US State Department on Thursday.
Stylianidis met with US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice's advisor on Eurasian affairs, Steven Mann, whom he briefed on the course of the BSEC's activities. He said after the meeting that the BSEC activities were acquiring major importance as the countries participating in the organization were sources of energy that was supplied to western markets, or energy was conveyed to western markets via those countries.
He further said that Greece's interest was not limited only to the Balkans and to its relations with Turkey, but also extended to the Black Sea and the wider market of the Mediterranean.
"We are particularly interested in transports, in which sector the Greek shipowners are playing an important role, but also in the energy sector," Stylianidis said.
He added that the BSEC countries looked to Greece for support in their effort for greater rapprochement with Europe.
 Roussopoulos meets with German deputy minister of culture and media, makes proposal to strengthen bilateral relations
BERLIN 19/2/2005 (ANA/P.Stangos)State Minister Theodoros Roussopoulos met with German Deputy Minister of Culture and Media Affairs Christina Weiss on Friday, thus concluding a series of briefings he had with German government officials and experts on issues related to media and the legislative framework that governs it.
Secretary General for Communication Margarita Papada also met with experts and representatives of the Bundestag's media committee for the same purpose.
According to Roussopoulos, who on Thursday met with Minister of the Interior Otto Schily, the meetings provided the Greek side with useful information and conclusions which the Greek government will capitalize upon ahead of the legislative initiatives it has planned for the media sector.
During his visit to Germany, Roussopoulos also met with the President of the Bundestag's German-Greek Friendship Committee Sigrid Skarpelis-Sperk and Vice President Thomas Rachel. Both German politicians, Sperk of the Social Democrats (SPD) and Rachel of the Christian Democrats Union (CDU), have personal and political ties with Greece and have a track record in helping to strengthen bilateral relations between Greece and Germany.
According to sources, Skarpelis-Sperk emphasized that relations between the two countries on a parliamentary level have grown 'lax' recently and suggested that the ruling New Democracy party increase contacts with the CDU in an effort to rejuvenate ties.
Roussopoulos suggested that the Youth Parliament - an institution which exists both in Greece and Germany - be used as a platform to strengthen relations with delegations from each country participating in each other's sessions. He said that he would be presenting this proposal to Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki. He also pointed out that projection of these exchanges through the Greek and German media could serve to strengthen relations over the long-term.
 Gov't wants Greece to be among the first to ratify EU Treaty, Valinakis says
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis emphasized that the government's intention is for Greece to be among the first - if not the first - EU member to ratify the EU Treaty, in comments he made at a seminar on the European Constitution and Europe's future, which was held at the Commercial Chamber of Tripoli, in the Peloponnese on Friday evening.
He said that the European Constitution would benefit the European Ideal, but also Greece's national interests. He stressed that the constitution improves the governance of an enlarged EU.
According to Valinakis, the European Constitution:
• reinforces democracy and transparency by upgrading the role of the European Parliament and national parliaments;
• reinforces the EU's social aspect and establishes a mutual contribution of member-countries against external threats and a cooperation on defense issues;
• strengthens a common foreign policy and the EU's presence on the international political stage;
• establishes joint management of borders which will help deal with issues such as illegal immigration.
Valinakis pointed out that the European Constitution helps the EU move forward. "We can build a Europe that is based on common visions, common principles, daringly, ambitiously...," he said. "The European Constitution concerns our present and future," he concluded.
 PM to visit Evros on Saturday; state of emergency declared due to flooding risk
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will visit areas flooded by the swollen Evros River on Saturday, after a state of emergency was declared in the area because of the rising water levels along the river. The premier will make the visit prior to his scheduled trip to the island of Samothrace, which was also hard hit in a recent wave of bad weather.
Karamanlis will be accompanied in his on-the-spot inspection of the situation in Evros by Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Macedonia-Thrace Minister Nikos Tsiartsionis, as well as Civil Protection General Secretary Panagiotis Fourlas and Eastern Macedonia-Thrace Regional Authority General Secretary Mihalis Angelopoulos and other officials.
According to the latest updates on the situation along the banks of the Evros and Arda Rivers, meanwhile, the next few hours will be crucial as massive volumes of water are expected to come down coursing down the river from neighboring Bulgaria after noon.
An embankment in the Sofiko district near Didimotiho has already given way because of the increased force of the water, flooding cultivations in the area but not posing a threat to homes. The situation is more serious in the area of Lavara, however, where the rising water has encroached on the outskirts of the village.
Work teams from the regional and prefecture authorities have been busy since Thursday artificially breaching embankments along the length of the river in order to relieve the rising water pressure and to divert floodwater away from homes and villages, most recently in Kastanies.
Also on standby are the fire department, police, army and local authorities throughout the region, who have asked local inhabitants to remove any animals or machinery from areas near the banks of the river.
A state of emergency was declared in the Evros following a meeting by local officials and the head of the Civil Protection agency on Thursday afternoon, which decided to proceed with controlled release of water from the river at selected points in order to ensure that the embankments will hold.
In the area of Pythio, the water level had risen by 6.2 metres, 10 cm above the level the embankments are designed to contain and half a meter above danger levels. Also near or above danger level were water levels in Kipi, Petalo and Arda.
Present at the meeting were Turkish local authorities from Edirne, which also flanks the Evros River, who were asked to artificially siphon off water on the Turkish side of the border near the Greek communities of Pythio, Petrades, Psathades, Mandra and Kornofolia.
 Deputy gov't spokesman comments on American entrepreneurs' visit to occupied Cyprus
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)"All actions which aim at Cyprus' economic development must be compatible with the law and in accordance with the UN framework which recognises the government of the Republic of Cyprus as the legal government," Deputy Government Spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said on Friday, commenting on the visit of American businesspeople to the Turkish occupied territories of Cyprus on Thursday.
"In any case, all initiatives must encourage - not discourage - efforts to find a mutually-acceptable solution," he concluded.
 PM Karamanlis seen as 'most suited' for the post over predecessor Simitis in opinion poll
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)Prime minister Costas Karamanlis was voted as "most suited for prime minister" by 49.5 percent of respondents in a nationwide opinion poll conducted by Kapa Research on behalf of the magazine "Krama", the results of which appeared in the magazine on Friday.
Karamanlis was seen as "most suited for prime minister" by 49.5 percent of the respondents, against 34.7 percent for preceding (PASOK) prime minister Costas Simitis, in the poll conducted 11 months since the last general elections in Greece that brought the New Democracy (ND) party to government.
The poll was conducted among a random sampling of 2005 households throughout the country, via telephone interviews, from February 3 to 7.
Also, out of a total 18 comparisons between ministers in the previous PASOK and current ND governments, only three PASOK ministers scored higher than their ND counterparts in the same post.
More specifically, new PASOK leader George Papandreou scored 47.2 percent preference as foreign minister in the Simitis government against current foreign minister Petros Molyviatis with 39.2 percent. Former Macedonia-Thrace minister in the PASOK government Haris Kastanidis was the preference of 42.8 percent of the respondents against current minister Nikos Tsiartsionis (23.6 percent), while former Aegean minister in the PASOK government, Nikos Sifounakis, was the preference of 40.8 percent of the respondents over Aristotelis Pavlidis (31.2 percent).
Finance minister George Alogoskoufis was preferred by 44.1 percent of the respondents over his predecessor Nikos Christodoulakis (30.5 percent), while Interior minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos was preferred by 44.4 percent over Costas Skandalidis (37.6 percent), and Defense minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos was preferred by 43.1 percent over Yannos Papantoniou (33.0 percent).
Also, Transport and Communications minister Michalis Liapis was the preference of 45.3 percent of the respondents over Christos Verelis (36.2 percent), Development minister Dimitris Sioufas was preferred by 50.8 percent over Akis Tsohatzopoulos (29.4 percent), Agriculture minister Evangelos Basiakos was preferred by 40.4 percent over George Drys (26.6 percent), Merchant Marine minister Manolis Kefaloyannis was the preference of 46.9 percent over George Paschalidis (26.6 percent), Justice minister Anastasis Papaligouras was preferred by 47.0 percent over Philippos Petsalnikos (37.3 percent), Labour minister Panos Panayotopoulos was the preference of 46.0 percent over Dimitris Reppas (32.3 percent), Environment, Town Planning and Public Works minister George Souflias was the preference of 48.5 percent over Vasso Papandreou (36.2 percent), Education minister Marietta Yannakou was preferred by 43.2 percent over Petros Efthymiou (36.1 percent).
Premier Costas Karamanlis, as Culture minister, was preferred by 43.8 percent of the respondents over Evangelos Venizelos (39.8 percent), Health minister Nikitas Kaklamanis was the preference of 68 percent over Costas Stefanis (16.6 percent), and Minister of State (for the press and media) and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos was preferred by 51.4 percent over Press minister and government spokesman Christos Protopapas.
 Hierarchy gives vote of confidence to Archbishop Christodoulos
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece on Friday received a vote of confidence from the Church Hierarchy, at the opening of a crucial two-day meeting convened to discuss scandals that have been plaguing the Church and reforms. The vote of confidence was initiated by Christodoulos himself after Metropolitan Germanos of Ileia put forward an issue of dispute of the Archbishop to the Hierarchy.
A total of 67 Hierarchs cast votes of confidence in Christodoulos, while four Hierarchs -- the Metropolitans of Zakynthos, Corinth, Ioannina and Filippi -- abstained and simply declared their presence, two Hierarchs -- the Metropolitans of Goumenissa and Mesogaia -- voted blank, and only one Hierarch, the Metropolitan of Peristeri, voted against the Archbishop.
Christodoulos apologized to the Greek people, and the Church clerics who were beleaguered by the scandals, and launched a counter-attack against journalists, tv programs and "those forces working to marginalize the Church".
"I humbly apologize to the beleaguered and devoted people, and to the holy clergy, the overwhelming majority of whom struggle daily and honor their humble and heroic priestly robes," Christodoulos said.
He said that the situation was very serious, and required strong action, rather than "bandages".
Referring to the case of Apostolos Vavilis, convicted in a drug smuggling case and wanted by Interpol for another drug trafficking conviction in Italy, Christodoulos said that "giving a letter of recommendation, or two, or three, or one hundred, to young people seeking my help either for an education, or to be appointed to a job, or to achieve some legal aspiration, or to recommend that they go to Mt. Athos for spiritual contemplation, does not constitute a sin".
"I ask you, how may such letters have you, too, given?", the Archbishop asked the Hierarchs.
The Prelate of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece, referring to press revelations on improper activities by clerics, said that that "the crimes of these clerics are basically two: hedonism and greed. And we must concede that, to a degree, we are all tolerated these situations".
The Archbishop proposed a series of measures that should be introduced for "catharsis" in the Church, including the speedy (Church) trial of the moral transgressions of the accused clerics and Hierarchs, the presence of a lay lawyer at the Church trials, a minimum age of 35 for a priest's eligibility to become a Hierarch, the requirement of discharge papers from Armed Forces conscription (which is mandatory in Greece for all males) in order for a man to be eligible to enter the priesthood, activation of a "source of wealth" requirement for the clergy, simplification of the priestly vestments and abolition of 'gifts' to Hierarchs, setting up a Council in all Metropolises, the role of which would be to monitor the finances of each Metropolis, and to open up the Hierarchy to lay persons such as theologians, university students, as well as parish priests, preachers and monks.
 S. African President Thabo to pay official visit to Greece next week
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)South African President Thabo Mbeki will pay a three-day state visit to Greece next week, it was announced on Friday.
Mbeki is due to arrive in Athens on February 24, at the invitation of his Greek counterpart, President of the Republic Costis Stephanopoulos.
 Justice minister and U.S. Ambassador discuss cooperation against human trafficking
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras on Friday receiving the new United States Ambassador to Athens Charles Ries for talks on issues of bilateral interest and cooperation in the areas of freedom, security and justice.
They agreed on the need for systematic cooperation between Greece and the U.S., especially in the area of combatting human trafficking where Greece has made significant strides over the past year.
Since May 2004, Greece has set up a high-level special committee operating out of the justice ministry and chaired by ministry general secretary Panagiotis Panouris to coordinate action by all the ministries involved in combatting human trafficking, which include the interior, public order, foreign, finance, health and education ministries.
 US ambassador pays courtesy visit to defense minister
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)US Ambassador to Greece Charles Ries paid the Defense Minister a courtesy visit on Friday.
According to ministry sources, the two officials reiterated their desire to further strengthen bilateral relations. The same sources said that the visit took place on occasion of the signing of the first agreement - since Ries assumed the ambassadorial post - for the sale of 45 million 30 mm bullets to the US entity Civilian Marksman Ship for the amount of $2.7 million, which will be channeled into the Army Pension Fund.
 Synaspismos leader meets PM, reports lack of agreement over EU Constitution Treaty
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)Emerging from a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday, Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party leader Alekos Alavanos said they had failed to agree on the right approach concerning the European Constitution Treaty.
Alavanos reiterated his party's position in favor of referendum on the Euro-Constitution, stressing that the "sovereign Greek people should allowed to decide on a decision that will determine the life of the country and its citizens for decades".
He said that Greece should not rush to ratify the treaty with alacrity and give time for equal representation of the arguments for both a 'yes' and 'no' vote.
 Illegal activity of Turkish warplanes over the Aegean increases
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)An increasing number of Turkish warplanes have entered the Aegean air space recently, without submitting flight plans. However, the number of infringements of the air traffic regulations of the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) and the number of violations of Greece's national air space remain relatively unchanged.
According to press reports on Friday, 25 formations of Turkish warplanes entered the Aegean air space without submitting flight plans. There were 10 cases of infringement of air traffic regulations of the Athens Flight Information Region and five violations of Greece's national air space in the central and northern Aegean.
In all cases the Turkish warplanes were recognized and intercepted by corresponding Greek fighter jets, while in two cases the procedure of interception developed into a mock dog-fight.
It was reported that four of the Turkish aircraft were armed, four were photographic Phantoms and one was of naval cooperation.
 Turkish PM extends condolences to Karamanlis over father's death in phone contact
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan extended his condolences to Greek counterpart Costas Karamanlis over the latter's father's recent death, in a telephone conversation on Friday.
Sources said the discussion did not extend into other matters.
 SAE president hosts Russian deputy minister
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)World SAE (Council of Hellenes Abroad) President Andrew A. Athens on Thursday hosted Hellene leader Vladimir G. Kaysev, Russia's First Deputy Minister of Agriculture, at a dinner in Washington DC, during an official visit of Kaysev and a delegation from the Russian Federation.
Athens presented Kaysev with a crystal bowl with the inscription: "The Spirit of Hellenic Diaspora Links Two of the World's Great Capitals," and the dedication to a "Dynamic Leader of Russian Hellenes." Kaysev is President of the "Pontos" association that represents all the Pontian societies in the former Soviet Union, and former president of the Association of Hellenic Communities in Russia.
"It is a true indication of the unity we have achieved in the Diaspora when we are in a position to officially host highly placed Hellenes from countries other than our own or Hellas itself," Athens said.
Political and community leaders attended the dinner including Cypriot Ambassador Euripides Evriviades, Russian Consul General Sergey Storos, White House National Security Advisor Matt Bryza, Senator Paul Sarbanes and former Congressman and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Ed Derwinski. Earlier, Greek Ambassador George V. Savvaides hosted a reception at the Greek embassy.
SAE Europe's coordinating council to convene in Thessaloniki : The European branch of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) will be convening in Thessaloniki at SAE headquarters on February 19 and 20.
The Council will be discussing the upgrading of Greek communities and the role of regional groups and federations in Europe, education of Greeks abroad, as well as issues that specifically concern Greeks living in Europe. Angelos Aslanidis, SAE Vice President and Coordinator for Europe will be presiding.
The leaders of Greek community federations in Europe and regional associations, including those of the Black Sea region, will be attending. Greek government officials have also been invited to attend.
 Greek updated stability programme to include three scenarios
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)Greece's updated Stability Programme, to be submitted to EU by the end of March, will include three scenarios for the Greek economy, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Friday.
Speaking to reporters, during a news conference after an ECOFIN council in Brussels, Alogoskoufis said that the first scenario would be based on the provisions of the government's programme, the second would cover a intermediate situation more towards the European Commission's position and the third scenario would refer to possible consequences if economic developments proved to be worse than expected.
The Greek minister said that an updated Stability Programme would include policy directions for 2006 and the programme would be debated by an Economic and European Affairs Commission of the Greek Parliament.
Alogoskoufis reiterated that the EU asked Greece to strictly adhere to its 2005 budget and that European Commission's recommendation was fully consistent with government planning.
He said that a goal of achieving a 5.0 percent growth rate was feasible and noted that it was of great importance to boost the country's out-going performance and to ensure that economic reforms would help improve the country's economic competitiveness. He reminded that 2005 was declared a year of competitiveness.
Fiscal balance is necessary but it won't ensure growth all by itself, Alogoskoufis said.
Commenting the results of an ECOFIN council in Brussels, February 17, the Greek minister said it adopted all initiatives taken by the Greek government towards restoring fiscal transparency and fiscal balance.
"We adopted a strategy of mild adjustment to avoid any crash landing of the economy after the Olympic Games or creating social problems in the country, despite the fact that we revealed large fiscal deficits and debts," Alogoskoufis said. He underlined that ECOFIN validated the government's policy choice by offering Greece one more year to achieve its goal and reduce its excessive deficit.
Restoring fiscal balance and reducing the country's high public debt was a precondition for strong economic growth, boosting employment and strengthening social cohesion, he said. Alogoskoufis noted that this was the Greek economic policy's main goal and said he was optimistic of achieving this goal.
The Greek minister said that all public sector enterprises, subsidized by the state budget, must submit their business programs with the finance ministry and noted that the ministry would asked public sector enterprises' managements to deal with their huge deficits.
Commenting on a meeting with EU Commissioner for Regional Policy Danuta Hubner, Alogoskoufis said there were problems with EU-funded programs in the past and noted the significant programme made in public works and spending control over the last 11 months. He said that the Greek government would offer a satisfactory answer to the Commission by February 28 over measures taken to improve control of spending in a Third Community Support Framework.
 ECB official implies interest rates unlikely to rise soon
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)A board member of the European Central Bank (ECB), Nikos Garganas, has implied that the bloc's interest rates are unlikely to rise in the near future, according to a news report from Frankfurt by the Agence France Presse.
"I don't think other points will emerge in monetary policy in coming weeks, apart from the need to remain watchful of inflation," said Garganas, who is also governor of Greece's central bank.
The statement on Thursday was understood to imply that the ECB board will not change interest rates at its next meeting, which is scheduled for March 3, the AFP said.
Analysts had taken recent statements by other ECB officials on inflationary pressures due to high M3 to mean the ECB might be contemplating a rate hike; but they said Garganas' statement suggested that the ECB was unlikely to raise rates soon, the report added.
 Piraeus Bank buys 80 pct in Serbia's Atlas Banka
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)Bank of Piraeus Group on Friday announced it was entering the Serbian market with the purchase of a 80 percent equity stake in Serbian bank Atlas Banka for an undisclosed sum.
Atlas Banka is based in Belgrade. It was founded in 1995 and operates a network of nine branches in three Serbian cities. The bank expects to launch nine more branches soon. Its workforce totals 160 persons.
Atlas Banka's assets total 63 million euros, with loans totalling 36 million euros and savings deposits totalling 44 million euros. Its 2004 profits, after taxes, totalled 1.6 million euros. The bank's share in the domestic banking market totals 1.0 percent.
Piraeus Bank already operates in Bulgaria, Romania, Albania and Serbia with a network of 110 branches and plans to further expand its activities in the wider region.
 Greece sets priority on attracting US tourists
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said on Friday that the government had set a high priority on attracting US tourists to Greece, especially since the inauguration of a new sector policy.
Avramopoulos was opening a two-day meeting of American tour operators and Greek travel representatives aimed at expanding tourism cooperation between the two countries and publishing Greece in the US market. The session was arranged by the Greek-American Chamber of Tourism.
The minister is to visit the US in about two weeks. On the itinerary are Los Angeles, Hollywood and New York, which is to host a travel trade fair with Greece as featured country.
"We are rapidly moving ahead, opening Greek tourism bureaus where there were none, such as in Miami, a global centre of tourist activity, in Los Angeles and in Chicago. We are also strengthening our presence in New York," Avramopoulos added.
 Gov't plans projects to improve port of Piraeus
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)The merchant marine ministry said in a statement on Friday that works being planned for the port of Piraeus would help to boost growth in the largest maritime transit facility in the eastern Mediterranean.
Among projects for Piraeus, ranked among the world's 50 largest commercial ports, discussed by ministry officials were extending the first wharf (container depot), deepening the central port, and linking the port's passenger section to the train station.
 Greek current accounts deficit down 28.5 pct in 2004
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)Greece's current accounts deficit fell to 3.9 percent of GDP in 2004 from 5.6 percent in 2003, the Bank of Greece said on Friday.
The central bank, in its report, attributed the improvement largely to a 42.2 percent increase in shipping revenues, a trend that widened the services' surplus by 34.4 percent over the year.
The country's current accounts deficit totalled 6.4 million euros last year, down 28.5 percent from 2003, although the trade deficit rose by 12.3 percent over the same period. The central bank said this development reflected the economy's low competitiveness level despite a rise in exports by 13.8 percent, exceeding imports' growth (12.8 percent).
The shipping sector remained the largest foreign exchange source of the economy, with revenues totalling 14.3 billion euros, exceeding revenues from all Greek exports (12.6 billion euros). The services sector balance showed a 3.961 billion euro surplus in 2004.
The transfer balance's surplus rose by 927 million euros in 2004 to 6.015 billion euros, reflecting a significant rise in the general government's receipts by 21.7 percent last year.
The financial services' balance recorded a 85.6 percent increase in direct foreign investments. Direct investments totalled 1.088 billion euros in 2004 (up from 586 million euros in 2003), while Greek direct investments abroad totalled 489 million euros (from 41 million euros in 2003).
Portfolio investments recorded a net inflow of 13.728 billion euros, reflecting increased foreign interest for Greek state bonds (totalling 21.7 billion euros).
In the "other" investments category, net capital outflows totalled 9.104 billion euros reflecting higher investments -by mainly financial institutions- to savings deposits and repos (6.3 billion euros).
 Greek economic sentiment index rebounded in January
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)Greece's economic sentiment index jumped to 94.2 points in January from 91.5 in December 2004, reversing a seven-month declining trend, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Friday.
IOBE said improvement was recorded in all sectors of the economy, with businesses sounding less pessimistic in January compared with the previous month.
The country's economic sentiment index, however, remained low compared with Eurozone levels (100.6 in January) and EU-25 levels (103.2). The average index for the period 1998-2004 was 104.9 in Greece compared with 102.6 in the Eurozone and 103.2 in the European Union. The average index in Greece was 93.1 in 2004, 100.0 in the Eurozone and 102.7 in the EU-25.
 EFG Eurobank in talks for acquisition of Serbian bank
BELGRADE 19/2/2005 (ANA/A Lidorikis)EFG Eurobank Ergasias, a heavily traded stock on the Athens bourse, is in talks for the acquisition of one of two banks in Serbia that are undergoing privatization.
The two banks are Nobasadska Bank and Continental Bank, which each hold a roughly 5.0% stake in the local market in a privatization process due for completion by June, Nikos Nanopoulos, Eurobank's managing director, and David Watson, its head of international operations, told a news conference to mark the opening of a Belgrade-based subsidiary, Eurobank AD Beograd.
Eurobank plans to up its 11 branches to 15 over the next four months as part of an expansion strategy over the next five years in Serbia-Montenegro modeled on its Greek ascent of autonomous network expansion, acquisitions and mergers, the two executives said.
The bank plans to offer the full range of banking products and services in the area, also entering financial services including development and venture capital.
The Eurobank Group has invested a total of 500 million euros in Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia-Montenegro. Its target is to make southeast European operations account for 20% of consolidated net earnings in 2009.
 Greek lottery reports 85.1 pct jump in 2004 pre-tax profits
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)Greek lottery organization OPAP on Friday reported a 39.5 percent increase in its 2004 consolidated turnover to 3.177 billion euros from 2.277 billion euros in 2003, while its pre-tax profits jumped 85.1 percent to 742.3 million euros from 401 million euros over the same period, respectively. Parent sales rose 35.8 percent to 3.068 billion euros last year from 2.259 billion euros in 2003, while pre-tax profits soared 93.1 percent to 736.5 million euros in 2004. Betting revenues fell 2.8 percent to 1.601 billion euros, while Joker revenues rose 26.7 percent and Proto lottery revenues rose 4.5 percent to 270.7 million and 50 million euros, respectively. Revenues from KINO totalled 944.1 million euros. OPAP's board plans to ask shareholders' approval to a plan to pay a dividend totalling 1.48 euros per share (more than double compared with the 2003 dividend). OPAP has already paid a pre-dividend of 0.55 euros per share to its shareholder.
 Societe Generale says Geniki Bank aims to boost market share
PARIS 19/2/2005 (ANA/A Lidorikis)Societe Generale, which owns 50.01% of Genikil Bank SA, said on Friday that the Greek credit institution aims to improve its local market share through network expansion accompanied by new management, products and marketing techniques in line with its sizeable network of over 110 branches.
The Greek bank aims to open at least 40 new branches to raise its nationwide total to 150 by 2006, Daniel Bouton, president of the Societe Generale Group, told a news conference in the French capital on February 10 to announce earnings of France's third largest bank.
Geniki Bank's second largest shareholder is the Army Pension Fund with about 10% of stock.
 Trade union umbrella group rejects bank penion plan
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)The General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE), the country's largest trade union umbrella group, said on Friday that it had rejected a joint proposal by banks and called on the government to assume its share of responsibility and take action to resolve the rift with workers.
Bank workers are to strike Monday, as announced, in a series of weekly stoppages since the end of January, the GSEE said in a statement.
 Greek Food Inspection Agency to improve operations
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)Greece's Food Inspection Agency EFET on Friday said it was raising its budget by 30 percent this year aiming to intensify and improve its actions for the protection of public health and protecting consumers.
EFET, in its report for the period March 2004-January 2005, said it was hiring more staff, raising its workforce by 48 percent, this year and absorbing more EU funds. The agency said it would use 10.9 million euros from a Third Community Support Framework programme to improve its infrastructure.
The agency reported the creation of a National Council of Food Inspection Policy with the aim to better monitor food inspections in the country. EFET said it trained 4,500 workers in food health and safety last year and planned to train around 9,000 workers in 2005.
 Olympic Catering shows jump in 2004 earnings
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)Olympic Catering SA on Friday reported that earnings before tax in 2004 were 1,842,000 euros, up 52% from a year earlier.
Turnover totalled 41,754,000 euros, the same as in 2003, the company said in a statement.
 Grigoris Snacks reports 2.06 mln euros pre-tax profit in 2004
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)Grigoris Snacks ABEE on Friday said its pre-tax profits totalled 2.058 million euros in 2004 from a loss of 1.584 million euros in 2003, while consolidated pre-tax profits totalled 1.207 million euros from a loss of 3.150 million euros over the same period, respectively.
Parent turnover jumped 11 percent, while consolidated turnover rose 3.8 percent in 2004. Gross profit margin rose 63.4 percent (parent) from 62.2 percent, and 62 percent from 61.8 percent (group). Grigoris Snacks said its debt fell by 8.8 million euros or 34.4 percent in 2004 compared with the previous year.
The Group said it would seek to expand its Grigoris Snacks and Coffeeright brands network, seeking access to "closed" markets and expanding abroad in 2005.
 Greek eurodeputies back protection of marine environment
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)Three Greek eurodeputies who belong to the Europarliament's transport committee said on Friday that they backed protection for the marine environment ahead of a debate next week in the house on penalties for ships that pollute the sea.
In a news conference at EU offices in Athens, the three said they believed responsibility should be taken by the party involved.
Rodi Kratsa of the ruling New Democracy party said the Marpol convention was adequate to regulate the sector.
Nikos Sifounakis of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement pointed out that a draft proposal under discussion set tougher terms for ships from European Union member states than elsewhere.
George Toussas of the Communist Party of Greece underlined that seamen should not take the blame alone for marine pollution.
In a message to the news conference, Dimitris Papadimoulis, eurodeputy for the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology, said Greece should take the lead in moves to protect the marine environment, and leave no room for criticism of the Greek fleet.
 P.Petropoulos Group reports improved 2004 results
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)Petros Petropoulos Group on Friday reported a 24.6 percent increase in its 2004 net pre-tax profits to 5.830 million euros, from 4.678 million euros in 2003.
Group sales rose 30.1 percent to 93 million euros last year, from 71.5 million euros in 2003.
The group expects this year's profits to rise by around 10 percent.
 March-January inflation figure justifies govt policy, Development minister says
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas on Friday said that inflation figures for the period March 2004-January 2005 justified the government's policy to control and contain the impact of a rallying oil price in domestic prices, while they also proved wrong all forecasts of price rises during the Olympic Games.
Speaking to reporters, Sioufas said that "these favourable developments reflect the cooperation of the ministry with all market sectors, which showed responsibility and self-control in adhering to market rules, and intensified inspections by the Competition Commission."
The Greek minister noted that Greece's core inflation figure remained higher compared with other EU member-states due to long-term problems with the domestic production, distribution and commercial system of goods and services. "To surpass this problem we are promoting a deregulation of electricity and natural gas markets and strengthening competition," he said.
Sioufas said the ministry would unveil its new draft legislation on restructuring and upgrading a Competition Commission, a draft law on deregulating the domestic natural gas market and the new electricity codes.
He said that average inflation was 3.0 percent in January, down from 3.5 pct in 2004, 3.5 pct and 2003 and 3.5 pct in 2002).
 Court refuses to further postpone ELA terrorism trial
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)The Three-Member Criminal Appeals Court on Friday refused to grant a request for further postponement of the trial of six people, four of them convicted terrorists, in connection with explosions carried out by the urban guerrilla group Revolutionary Popular Struggle (ELA).
The request was made by defendant Irene Athanassakis but was objected to by the counsel for another defendant, Aggeletos Kanas.
The trial was ordered after an appeals court ruled that the series of attacks on government buildings were subject to a 20-year statute of limitations, rather than the customary 15.
On trial are Athanassaki, Kanas and Costas Agapiou, all three currently serving jail sentences for their activities as members of ELA, and 64-year-old Christos Tsigaridas who was convicted but released from jail in January for health reasons.
The other two defendants are Mihalis Kassimis and Yiannis Serifis, who were tried and acquitted in previous terrorism trials involving ELA and the notorious 'November 17'.
Serifis is charged with complicity in the 1994 bombing of a riot police bus in Athens that left one high-ranking police offer dead.
 Appeals Court prosecutor charges judge with accepting bribes
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)Appeals Court Public Prosecutor Kyriakos Karoutsos on Friday pressed charges against First Instance Court Justice Leonidas Stathis for legalizing the proceeds of criminal activity as a profession, a felony, and for accepting bribes, as a misdemeanor.
This is the first of the cases involving judges accused of corruption that has come before the prosecutor. Also up on charges in connection with this case are six lawyers, four of whom are accused of bribing a judge and two of acting as accomplices in the bribery of a judge.
The lawyers involved were identified as Ioannis Papadopoulos, Efthymia Halkidou, Nikos Kanatakis, Constantinos Danias, Gerassimos Apergis and Stavros Hoursoglou.
The case will now be passed on to an Appeals Court examining magistrate. According to sources, the charge of legalizing the proceeds of criminal activity may also be made against the lawyers.
They also stressed that the charges were based on witness accounts and documents and did not use as evidence the controversial recordings of conversations implicating the accused.
According to an investigation into the case carried out by Supreme Court Deputy Public Prosecutor George Sanidas, who instructed Karoutsos to press charges, Stathis appears to have received 32,000 Euro in bribes from December 2004 until January 2005 in order to issue favourable verdicts in cases involving the specific lawyers.
 Environment minister promises to complete Psytallia sewage sludge plant in 2.5 years
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)Environment Minister George Souflias on Friday promised local authorities in Piraeus and the surrounding regions that the sewage sludge drying plant at the Psytallia sewage works will be completed within the space of 2.5 years, putting an end to problems for the region.
Souflias made the announcement after a meeting with Athens-Piraeus Super-prefect Fofi Gennimata, Piraeus Prefect Yiannis Mihas, Piraeus Mayor Christos Agapidis, the head of the Athens water and sewage company EYDAP and local mayors on Friday afternoon.
Local authorities object, however, to the method proposed by EYDAP for removing current sludge production - called gasification - saying that it was tantamount to burning and would further burden the local environment as well as opening the way to the incineration of rubbish.
A protest rally over the issue will be held in Keratsini on Saturday, organized by the municipality.
The minister clarified that gasification was a temporary solution until the drying plant went into operation in 2.5 years and also promised that this was not a precursor to rubbish incineration.
So far 160,000 tones of sewage sludge have accumulated at Psytallia through the operation of the sewage plant, with an additional 450 tones produced each day. Daily production is set to rise to 800 tones when the second phase of the Psytallia plant goes into operation.
 Police bust international ring involved in trafficking women from former Soviet states
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)Police on Friday reported dismantling a ring involved in the trafficking and sexual exploitation of women from former Soviet Union countries, who were put to work in Athens brothels.
They said they had apprehended the ring leader and nine women, while another 20 people were also implicated in the case but had not been detained because they were not caught in the act. In addition, 18,000 euros believed to be proceeds from the exploitation of the women, 84 7.62mm shells and bank books containing deposits of 280,000 euros were confiscated during the operation.
The investigation is continuing via Interpol with the assistance of foreign authorities in order to fully dismantle the international ring, since it was discovered that the girls were flown to various European Union countries before arriving in Greece.
The operation was carried out on Thursday evening acting on information and a lengthy investigation over several months.
According to investigating officers, the ring was comprised of Greeks and foreign nationals living in former Soviet states but also various travel agencies that sought out young women and undertook to provide them with travel documents, promising them legitimate work as baby-sitters, domestic help or waitresses once they arrived in Greece. Documents and tickets were provided free of charge but the women undertook to pay for them through their work once in Greece.
On their arrival, the women initially spent a few days in various houses and hotels and were then delivered to the same person, who paid 2,500-3,000 euros for each one. The man then set up the young women in apartments specially rented for the purpose and used various means to persuade them to work as prostitutes, usually in exchange for arranging their legal residence in Greece.
One method was to use either the women's own underage children or fake birth certificates and then find Greek men in dire financial need that were prepared to acknowledge the children as their own for sums ranging from 120 to 1,000 euro.
This legalized the presence of the women in Greece, who were then put to work in five brothels owned by the ring-leader for between three and five years, depending on their age. The women each received three euro for every client, who paid between 20-25 euro a visit.
According to police, 14 such 'recognitions' took place between 1999 and 2004, each time using the same notary and the same interpreter.
They also noted that the ring leader had taken extraordinary measures to avoid capture, staying at a different address every night, using different cars and employing lookouts outside his brothels to warn him in case of a police raid.
 "Costakis Collection" exhibit opens in Vienna
VIENNA 19/2/2005 (ANA /D.Dimitrakoudis)Greek Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis and Franz Morak, Austrian State Secretary for the Arts and Media, inaugurated the "Costakis Collection" exhibit on Thursday evening at Vienna's Museum of Modern Art (MUMOK), titled "Light & Color in Russian Avant-Garde 1910-1930."
During his address, Tatoulis emphasized the importance of the collaboration between MUMOK and the State Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki in realizing the exhibit. He said that the foundation for future collaborations had been laid.
Speaking to the ANA in Vienna, Tatoulis stressed that the conditions exist for an excellent cultural cooperation between Greece and a city like Vienna and a country such as Austria, countries which are particularly sensitive to matters of culture. An example of a future collaboration between the two countries is 2007 which has been designated "The Year of Greece in Vienna", which is currently at the planning stage. MUMOK will be one of the partners in this cultural initiative, but Tatoulis said that the Museum of Children's Art has also expressed an interest in participating, with a theme which would focus on Pythagoras.
As for the current exhibit, Tatoulis said that he was very pleased with the large turnout of people at the exhibit's opening, as well as with the layout of the exhibit space.
Morak also expressed his admiration for the Costakis Collection and said he was pleased with the cooperation between the two museums, in comments he made during his speech at the opening.
The exhibit displays 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 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 and Professor of Art History at Thessaloniki's Aristotelio University.
 Former premier Mitsotakis, Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni visit Egypt
ALEXANDRIA 19/2/2005 (ANA - N. Katsikas)Former premier and honorary New Democracy president Costas Mitsotakis, accompanied by his daughter Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni, on Friday visited Egypt.
It is 13 years since Mitsotakis last visited Egypt, when he represented Greece at events marking the 50th anniversary since the battle of El Alamein in 1992.
During their visit, Mitsotakis and Bakoyianni will be meeting representatives of the Greek community at the Cairo Greek Community Hospital and visit Greek schools.
On Saturday, Bakoyianni is scheduled to meet Egyptian Culture Minister Farouq Hosni, followed by a meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Ali Aboul Gheit and the Governor of Cairo Dr. Abdul Azeem Wazir on Sunday.
After Sunday, the Athens mayor and Mitsotakis will visit Alexandria and Greek Community foundations there, while on Monday they will both be received by the Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa Theodorus II.
On Monday afternoon they will attend the official launch of the "Dialogue between Cultures" Conference organized by the Library of Alexandria, in which Bakoyianni but also the mayor of the Greek island of Ydra will be speaking.
 Patras Press Museum to loan rare manuscripts, books for exhibition in Ioannina
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)Artifacts currently on display in the Press Museum in Patras, owned and operated by the Peloponnese, Epirus and Island Journalists Union, will be loaned for a special exhibition in the lobby of the Ioannina community centre that opens on Saturday, to coincide with celebrations for the 92nd anniversary since the city's liberation from Ottoman rule.
The items on display will include rare copies of 19th-century newspapers, such as "Ellinika Chronika" published in Messolonghi in 1824-1825, Gazzetta Ionia (1814 on Corfu), "Geniki Efimeris tis Ellados (1830) and others. Among the highlights are a letter written by Theodoros Kolokotronis, a manuscript of the 3rd National Assembly (Troizinia, April 6, 1827) and a ticket to the 1896 Olympic Games in Athens, a 1696 edition of Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian Wars, a 1669 edition of the New Testament and a 1604 copy of 'Diodorus the Sicilian'.
The exhibits have previously only been accessible to journalists, historians and researchers.
 Polish embassy organising concert in Plaka
Athens 19/2/2005 (ANA)The Polish embassy in Athens is organising a concert with the participation of three Polish artists on Monday, February 21, in Plaka, an embassy announcement said Friday.
The concert will feature Monika Bartmann and Agata Jozwik, who are members of the Cyprus State Chamber Orchestra and reside in Nicosia, and renowned Polish singer Klaudia Delmer, who lives in Greece.
The artists will perform works of Polish and other composers.
The concert will be held at the Athenaeum Concert Hall, 3 Adrianou street in Plaka, central Athens, beginning at 7:30 p.m.
 Malta hopes for positive developments in CyprusAthens 19/2/2005 (ANA) VALETTA 19/2/2005 (CNA/ANA)
Maltese Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi has expressed hope that there will soon be positive developments in the Cyprus problem, and offered his country's good offices, wherever necessary, to promote a Cyprus settlement.
The Maltese prime minister, who was speaking Friday after talks in Valetta with the Cypriot delegation visiting Malta, headed by President Tassos Papadopoulos, said ''membership in the EU was an important event for both countries'' and noted that ''both countries, both island-states in the Mediterranean, find themselves at an important moment and time as far as developments in the Mediterranean are concerned.''
Referring to the Cyprus problem, President Papadopoulos said ''we have always been saying that we want a bizonal, bicommunal federal solution of the Cyprus problem,'' adding that the solution should ''bring about the reunification of the country, the unification of the area, society, economy and institutions.''
''It must be a solution, which will be functional to make it possible for the people of Cyprus to play their role into the EU and for Cyprus to be a constructive partner in the EU and not a troublesome member,'' he noted.
Regarding the solution plan proposed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, which was rejected by the Greek Cypriot community and accepted by the Turkish Cypriot community, President Papadopoulos said ''we thought that the Annan plan did not meet all these prerequisites and, far from bringing about reunification of the country, it was solidifying the division.''
President Papadopoulos also said that ''proposals, which take time to be prepared by the UN, do not just disappear,'' adding that ''they are always on the table and they are being used in one after another effort as a basis for building up or improving the provisions.''
On Turkey's EU aspirations, President Papadopoulos said ''we support the process of Turkey provided that, and that is a very important provision, Turkey will be ready to perform its obligations towards the EU and the Republic of Cyprus and behave like a member of the EU.''
He added that ''every applicant state must fully perform its obligations towards the EU and each one of its members.''
''Taking that for granted, we think the prospects of Turkey having closer relations with the EU and getting a date for starting negotiations is better than a Turkey which is alienated from the great processes and developments that take place in Europe,'' he added.
Regarding bilateral relations with Malta, President Papadopoulos said ''we have excellent relations but there is always room for improving them.''
In his remarks, Gonzi noted that they discussed issues of common concern, as well as ''the present situation with respect to the Cyprus issue and therefore how we assess the situation as developing in a way hopefully that will provide a solution in the best interest of the Mediterranean region, the best interest of Cyprus itself and its people.''
''We hope that perhaps in the coming months there would be some form of positive development in this area,'' he said, adding that ''Malta offers its good offices, wherever possible, to be of help for this situation to be able to move forward.''
On Turkey's EU course, Gonzi said ''the candidacy of Turkey is a positive development for the region, for the EU, it brings the borders of the EU closer to the Middle East.''
''Let us hope that this would bring further change in the region and in Turkey, that has already undergone some substantial changes but needs to undergo some very important changes,'' he noted.
Gonzi also said he looked forward ''to continuing to strengthen the relationship'' between Malta and Cyprus, ''to build up the bilateral relations between both states, both countries and to continue to enhance the relationship between us.''
He added that ''we had the opportunity also to discuss other areas concerning illegal immigration, asylum seekers, refugees, which again I recognise is a problem not just for Malta but also for Cyprus, and we are hoping to be able to continue to impress on the EU institutions that this is a major area of concern not just for us the two countries but for the whole of the EU.''
''I expressed appreciation for the support that Cyprus is giving to Malta with respect to the fisheries commission. Malta is the candidate for hosting the fisheries commission here in Malta and I did express my personal appreciation to the President for giving us the support,'' Gonzi said.
Malta supports Cyprus' positions on EU regulations: Maltese Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Frendo has expressed his country's support to the Cypriot positions on the two EU regulations to strengthen the Turkish Cypriots, namely their funding with 259 million euros and the direct trade.
Frendo met Friday in Valetta with his Cypriot counterpart George Iacovou, in the framework of a state visit to Malta by President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos. The meeting was followed by talks attended by officials of the Maltese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
According to an official press release, the two ministers referred to the close relations and cooperation between the two countries and exchanged views on bilateral and European issues.
Iacovou briefed Frendo on recent developments in the Cyprus problem, the Republic's positions regarding the two EU regulations, and the government's efforts to strengthen the Turkish Cypriot community, noting that any measures should aim at reunifying the island and its economy.
The Cypriot minister explained that this was why the government objected to the direct trade regulation but supported the funding of the Turkish Cypriots with 259 million euros.
''The Maltese Minister totally agreed'' and supported the Cypriot positions regarding the two regulations, the press release notes.
 House President critical of US moves to upgrade illegal regime
NICOSIA 19/2/2005 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus House President and Acting President of the Republic Demetris Christofias has said moves by the US to upgrade the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime, in occupied Cyprus, are contrary to international law and order.
He pointed out that the so-called isolation of the Turkish Cypriots is the result of the unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) in the occupied north, adding that the Cyprus government does not wish to see the Turkish Cypriots isolated.
On efforts to rekindle interest in talks for a political settlement, Christofias called on the UN to sound out the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides about their positions on how to make headway towards this direction.
''I am not surprised that a trade mission from Turkey, representing US interests, was in occupied Cyprus on Thursday. This is part of Washington's moves, after the Greek Cypriots rejected a UN proposed solution (the Annan plan), to raise obstacles for the Greek Cypriot side and upgrade the institutions of the illegal regime,'' he added.
His comments come a day after Turkish businessmen, accompanied by the commercial attache of the US embassy in Ankara, paid a one-day visit
to occupied Cyprus to promote business deals. The Cyprus government has lodged a protest with Washington in connection with the visit.
''This is contrary to UN resolutions on Cyprus and to international law and order,'' Christofias said.
He noted that it would be difficult to upgrade the status of the Turkish Cypriot regime, taking into consideration that Cyprus is a member of the European Union and Turkey an aspiring member.
''We do not wish to see the Turkish Cypriots isolated. The isolation is the result of the continuing Turkish occupation and the secessionist move by Ankara to declare a UDI,'' he added.
The UN has branded the Turkish Cypriot regime as ''legally invalid'' and called on all states not to recognise or facilitate it in any way.
Responding to questions about a possible new initiative towards a solution, Christofias said since the Annan plan was rejected by the Greek Cypriot side, the UN should address themselves to both sides here, if they really want to assume an initiative on Cyprus and if they accept that the plan must be reviewed to enable the Greek Cypriots to accept it.
Christofias dismissed suggestions that the Greek Cypriot side must undertake an initiative, noting that so far such initiatives were undertaken by the UN.
 EU does not recognise illegal airport in occupied Cyprus
LARNACA 19/2/2005 (CNA/ANA)The European Union does not acknowledge the existence of the illegal airport in northern Turkish occupied Cyprus and deals only with the southern government-controlled part of the island, the head of the Commission Representation here Adriaan van der Meer said on Friday.
He also said that the amended EU Green Line regulation on trade between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides will come into force on Sunday and expressed hope that this would help increase commercial deals among the business community.
''The airport (Ercan) does not exist for us, so we stick here at the government controlled areas,'' Ambassador van ber Meer said, responding to questions about the operation of this airport, at the launch of a Europe-wide campaign to inform air passengers about their rights.
The launch of the campaign coincided with an illegal visit to Ercan airport by a group of Turkish businessmen, representing US interests in Turkey. They arrived in Cyprus through an illegal port of entry and were accompanied by the US embassy commercial attache in Ankara, a move that was condemned by the Cypriot political leadership as ''unacceptable and contrary to international law.''
Responding to questions, van der Meer said that the amended Green Line regulation, adopted Thursday by the EU Council of ministers, would help create a new momentum and give new incentives to the business community on both sides.
The Council approved Thursday new proposals put forward by the government to facilitate trade across the Green Line, dividing the country, including an increase in the ceiling of the value of goods a person can buy and carry across the Line.
On the campaign for the rights of air passengers, he said this was an important move as it would improve services and offer, among other things, compensation for cancelled flights and other benefits for delays.