|Tuesday, 22 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-02-26
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>February 26, 2005
 PM Karamanlis meets with ECB President Trichet
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, together with Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and Bank of Greece Governor Nikos Garganas, met with European Central Bank President Jean Claude Trichet at Maximos Mansion on Friday evening.
According to comments Alogoskoufis made after the meeting, focus was placed on issues that concern Greece and the EU, in light of the upcoming summit that will be held in March and which will deal with two issues very important for the European economy. Specifically, the summit will deal with the Lisbon Strategy and how to make it more intensive and effective, so that Europe's economy can develop faster and better. According to Alogoskoufis, this is an issue that also concerns Greece and is a priority for the Greek government.
The second issue to be examined during the March summit is review of the Stability and Development Pact. Alogoskoufis said that Greece's position on the matter is crystal clear: "We want limited revisions, [we want] the system to be more credible so that it prevents countries promptly from increasing their deficit beyond 3%, but when for any reason, a country exceeds the 3% ceiling then it should be given time and the chance to reduce its deficits with measures that will not harm the rest of the economic sectors."
Alogoskoufis noted that this is the strategy the New Democracy government adopted when it realized that the previous government had left excessive deficits. He stressed that the government has secured a two-year deadline in order to address the great fiscal problem facing the country and "all the EU partners have contributed to this effort," he added.
According to Alogoskoufis, Trichet expressed the European Central Bank's position that the problem is not a matter of procedure, but rather implementation of the pact.
Meeting with FinMin: Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and Bank of Greece Governor Nikos Garganas on Friday briefed European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet over the condition of the country's economy, emphasizing the advantages offered by new tax and development laws promoted by the government.
The meeting with ECB's head also revolved around Greek economic issues related to the EU Economy and Finance ministers' council.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Alogoskoufis said he would discuss the issue of a replacement for C. Nezis, bourse-listed Public Power Corp.'s chief executive with Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas. Nezis resigned this week.
European Central Bank president addresses conference in memory of Bank of Greece governor: European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet addressed a conference organized at the Bank of Greece on Friday night in memory of its late governor Xenofon Zolotas, saying that we are now living in a world in which it is possible to predict accurately the level of long-term inflation.
Trichet said cooperation between the central banks, the academic community and the market has produced results on the "front" of inflation, adding that thanks to progress achieved at theoretical research level whatever deviations from the long-term target of price stability can now constitute a circumstantial event.
Consequently, he further said, setting a relatively reliable framework in which long-term inflationary expectations can move in the future is feasible.
Trichet pointed out that this development benefits society in its entirety since central banks can plan their monetary policy in a better way, which will become more effective, and achieve the goal of price control.
The president expressed satisfaction because both the European Central Bank and the Euro system have been in the forefront of these developments. They have not only placed inflationary expectations under control over the past six years but they have also succeeded in giving credibility to the unified currency (the euro) from the very first day of its circulation, contributing in this way to the creation of conditions of viable growth and for an increase in employment.
 PM Karamanlis meets with visiting S. African president Mbeki
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)Prime minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday met with visiting South African president Thabo Mbeki, whom he described as the worthy successor of Nelson Mandela's important policy with which S. Africa left behind the dark era of apartheid and created a strong democracy that was flourishing and contributing to the renaissance of the African continent.
Karamanlis said he and Mbeki discussed prospects for further the further development of relations and cooperation between the two countries, adding that the Greek community in South Africa comprised a "bridge of friendship".
Greece, he said, was working for the reinforcement of EU policies aimed at the development of the continent of Africa, and noted the peace initiatives undertaken by South Africa, in cooperation with the UN, to resolve crises in its continent.
Karamanlis also said that Greece, as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council (for the 2005-2006 period), would back and advance S. Africa's peace initiatives. He added that he had briefed Mbeki on the efforts being made by Greece to advance development and stability in its neighborhood.
Mbeki, in turn, said that "we feel that Greece represents us as well every time an EU body convenes", adding that he looked forward to further cooperation and strengthening of relations between the two countries.
Mbeki also said that he and Karamanlis had discussed issues concerning the African continent that were a priority for S. Africa.
South African president meets main opposition party leader: South African President Thabo Mbeki, currently on an official visit to Greece, met with main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou on Friday evening.
Speaking after the meeting, Papandreou said the development of Africa is high on his party's agenda, as it was high throughout the duration of the European Union's Greek presidency, and defended the effort being made by the African continent for an end to inequalities and its riddance from debts.
"The success of this effort will help small countries to disengage themselves from the vicious circle of poverty and underdevelopment," Papandreou said, adding that "Greece has every reason to support the African struggle for peace and economic and political development."
Referring to Mbeki, the PASOK party leader spoke of an important personality, outside the boundaries of Africa as well, who has "played a considerable role in the effort to reunite the countries of Africa, primarily through the African Union, which is utilizing the European model."
Athens mayor meets with South African president: Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis awarded South African President Thabo Mbeki Athens' Gold Medal of Merit during their meeting on Friday.
In her address, Bakoyannis referred to the close relations the two countries maintain over the past century, but also made special mention to Mbeki, who symbolizes the fight against apartheid.
On his part, Mbeki stressed that his country will request Greece's input, following its experience in staging the Athens Olympics, to organize the 20th International Soccer Championship.
 FM Molyviatis meets with visiting US Congressional delegation
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)Foreign minister Petros Molyviatis met Friday with a nine-member delegation of the US Congress.
US ambassador to Greece Charles Ries said that the delegation was in Greece in the framework of a tour of Europe to discuss trade, agriculture, high technology and Internet issues.
After the meeting, chairman of the House of Representatives' Committee on Agriculture, Bob Goodlatte, who is heading the delegation, told reporters that "Greece is a very important ally in the region and has contributed greatly both in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The delegation's schedule also includes meetings with national economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis, agricultural development minister Evangelos Basiakos, and transport and communications minister Michalis Liapis.
 FM Molyviatis meeting with US sec. of state Rice set for March 24 in Washington
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)Foreign minister Petros Molyviatis will meet with US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice on March 24 in Washington, during an official visit to the United States, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos announced on Friday.
 Karamanlis in Zagreb, Belgrade, Pristina next week
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will leave for a two-day visit to Croatia and Serbia next week, first arriving in Zagreb on Thursday before continuing to Belgrade the same day.
Karamanlis' working visit will also include a trip on Friday to Pristina, the capital of the UN-controlled province of Kosovo.
Bilateral relations, recent developments in the region as well as discussions at the NATO and EU levels focusing on the Balkans are expected to dominate talks.
The prime minister returns to Athens on Friday.
 Cyprus problem to become an OSCE issue in near future
VIENNA 26/2/2005 (ANA/D. Dimitrakoudis)The Cyprus problem will also become an issue of responsibility of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), so that the Organization will undertake initiatives in the matter, while the mobilization of a number of its member states in that direction is expected to bear fruit at the annual Conference of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly scheduled for June in Washington D.C., parliamentary assembly vice-president Panos Kammenos, an MP of Greece's ruling New Democracy party (ND), told the ANA in exclusive statements in Vienna on Friday.
Kammenos -- who is heading an 8-member Greek parliamentary delegation to the OSCE parliamentary assembly winter session that opened Thursday in Vienna -- said that the conditions had ripened and, at the July 2 session in Washington, the Cyprus problem would be rendered an issue of not only the Greek and Cypriot delegation but also of a number of the 55 OSCE member countries.
He said that for years the OSCE had tried to not become involved in the Cyprus issue, neither with respect to the invasion and occupation of the northern sector of the independent island republic nor regarding the violation of human rights and properties, "but now the conditions have ripened for it to take a position on the problem".
Kammenos, who has been vice-president of the OSCE parliamentary assembly since July, with his term ending at the end of 2007, stressed the fact that all four political parties represented in the Greek parliament have forged a joint national policy line within the framework of the OSCE, which to date has been successful in its targets, adding that Greece now played an important role in the Organization.
Also of importance was Greece's initiative vis-a-vis the countries in SE Asia devastated by the December 26, 2004 massive earthquake and lethal tsunami. Kammenos, at his proposal, will visit the area at the head of a large group of OSCE parliamentarians to inspect the mechanism for the distribution of humanitarian aid to the stricken region, and also to seek ways of putting an end to the trafficking in human beings, particularly children. This phenomenon was critical in Sri Lanka and, to a lesser degree, in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
The Greek parliament's delegation to the OSCE parliamentary assembly meeting in Vienna also includes ruling New Democracy MPs Christos Zois, Zeta Makri and Krinio Kanellopoulou, main opposition PASOK MPs Yannis Dimaras and Petros Efthymiou, as well as Communist Party of Greece (KKE) MP Panayotis Kossionis and Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology MP Yannis Dragassakis.
The issues being discussed at the Vienna meeting, which will be the top items on the annual conference's agenda in Washington, include, in addition to monitoring of the democratic and electoral procedures in the OSCE member countries, the trafficking of human beings, especially children, and the prospect of OSCE contribution to setting up an international centre for prevention and confronting hazards from the use of biological or chemical weapons by international terrorism.
 Foreign ministry studying House of Commons report on Cyprus, spokesman says
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)The Greek foreign ministry was currently studying the House of Commons report on Cyprus in order to make an overall assessment, ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos told reporters on Friday.
The spokesman said the report appeared to reproduce past British positions, repeating positions in favor of a solution of the Cyprus problem and against the division of the island.
Koumoutsakos noted that the report had positive aspects for the Greek side, such as references calling for the withdrawal of Turkish occupation troops and demilitarization, but also a significant number of negative assessments and positions.
He said that Athens was opposed to the report's criticism of the Cyprus Republic, stressing that Greece supported Cyprus both in the European Union and in the context of its efforts for a viable and functional solution to the Cyprus issue, in accordance with the decisions of the United Nations, the values of the EU and Community laws and regulations.
Asked to comment on a proposal by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for five-party talks on the Cyprus issue, the spokesman stressed that the involvement of Greece and Turkey should be limited to the issues of security and guarantees.
 Greek-Turkish exploratory talks held in both countries this week
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)Athens on Friday reiterated that continuing and regular exploratory talks by high-ranking Greek and Turkish foreign ministry officials clearly demonstrate the volition of both sides for rapprochement.
"The number of meetings depends on the progress of talks. There are no other criteria," foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos told reporters on Friday.
His statement comes as members of a Greek and Turkish committee, respectively, were to convene in Athens on Friday, a day after the 29th such meeting was held in Turkey.
Koumoutsakos said the two sides will primarily discuss international issues.
 Gov't reiterates its support for 'clean-up' within Church
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Friday reiterated the government's support for attempts to quash corruption, especially within the Church, and said that the education and justice ministries were prepared to modernize regulations where this was deemed necessary.
He stressed that changes concerning the Church were carried out with its agreement and that no one was presenting the Church with "ultimatums".
The spokesman refused to answer questions on whether Archbishop Christodoulos, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church, will be asked to resign. Stressing that Christodoulos was elected from within the Church, he also noted that the clean-up of the clergy was an internal process of the Church, which was called on to display the moral behavior expected by the Greek public.
He also refused to answer questions concerning relations between convicted felon Apostolos Vavylis and the Church, saying that these were premature as an investigation was still underway.
Archbishop Christodoulos says in TV interview he will not resign: Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos, speaking in an interview with the Alpha television channel on Friday night, said he will not resign because "the Archbishop does not resign, he is annihilated."
The Archbishop further said that Thessaliotida Metropolitan Theoklitos had already informed him in the morning that he intended to resign. Indeed, Theoklitos announced to his congregation in the town of Karditsa, central Greece, in the evening that he intended to resign next week and more specifically on Tuesday when the Permanent Holy Synod will convene and will be examining it.
When Theoklitos announced his intention to resign during a Church service, the congregation as well as clerics present began to shout and called on him not to resign, while some said that he was resigning for the sake of others.
 Poll shows continued ND lead over PASOK, gap narrows
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)The latest opinion poll published this week gives ruling New Democracy (ND) party a four-point lead over rival main opposition PASOK, days before the former completes exactly one year at the government's helm.
Specifically, ND was preferred by 37.9 percent of respondents, as opposed to 33.9 percent for PASOK. As far as other parties are concerned, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) earned 6.6 percent, the Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) 3.7 percent and the out-of-Parliament LA.OS party 2.9 percent, just shy of the of 3-percent ceiling needed for Parliament representation in a general election.
Undecided respondents in the poll totalled 13.9 percent.
Results showed a decrease in ND's lead over PASOK in the period since a similar opinion poll was conducted in October, when ND then held a 6.1-percent edge over PASOK.
Conversely, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis continued to hold a commanding lead over PASOK leader and former foreign minister George Papandreou on the question of "most capable" for the premier's post, 42.5 percent to 29.8 percent, respectively.
Moreover, 50.7 percent of respondents said ND would win the next elections; 21.9 percent picked PASOK.
In terms of political leaders' popularity, Karamanlis leads with a 60.1 percent favorable rating; Papandreou follows with 56.8 percent. Newly elected Synaspismos president Alekos Alavanos garnered 39.4 percent favorable rating and communist party general secretary Aleka Papariga garnered 35.2 percent. Finally, LA.OS founder and leader George Karatzaferis, who also serves as his party's only Euro-MP, earned a 23.4 percent favorable rating amongst respondents.
Beyond the political scene, the opinion poll also apparently showed a significant slide in Archbishop Christodoulos' popularity, down 41.7 percent from 65.5 percent only a few months ago.
The opinion poll -- conducted by the Athens-based Metron Analysis firm - gauged respondents' views amid the ongoing corruption furor rocking the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece.
 7th PASOK Congress to be held March 3-6
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)The sessions of the 7th PASOK Congress will start on March 3 at 6:30 p.m. with a speech by PASOK leader George Papandreou. Greetings will follow by representatives of Greek and foreign political parties which will attend and the sessions of the Congress will continue the following day.
On Friday, discussions will centre on the European Constitution, Education, the Society of Citizens, employment of youth, immigration and the European socialist parties of the 21st Century.
On Saturday, there will be a discussion on State-Church relations, reform in agricultural policy, globalization and the manifestation of solidarity to humanity.
The sessions of the Congress will conclude on March 6 with the voting of the members of the National Council, which, according to the new charter, will replace the Central Committee.
Meanwhile, the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader on Friday evening launched a new attack against the government, while speaking at the national Council of Reform of the Movement.
Papandreou stressed the political and ideological differences between PASOK and the ruling New Democracy (ND) party.
He referred to the crisis in the Church and to the ND's relations with the Church leadership and also that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis "stood in the queue to sign on the issue of the identities following the decision of the Council of State, deceiving the faithful."
Papandreou said that an effort was being made by the ND to show PASOK as guilty, in light of recent events, but stressed that this effort will not succeed. He accused the government of misleading and deceiving and called on the ministers "to speak now."
 PASOK President to attend Democratic Party congress in Serbia
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK President George Papandreou will be departing for Belgrade on Sunday, in order to attend Serbia's Democratic Party Congress.
Papandreou was officially invited to attend by Boris Tadic, Serbian President and President of the Democratic Party, with whom he will also meet.
 PASOK MPs propose president be sworn-in before Parliament president, not archbishop
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)A proposal that the new President of the Republic be sworn-in before the president of Parliament rather than the Greek archbishop was made on Friday by 10 MPs of main opposition PASOK, in a letter to Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki.
As an alternative solution, they also proposed that the new president be sworn in not just by the Athens archbishop, who was not in fact chief of the entire Church in Greece, but also by the heads of the Cretan and Dodecanese churches.
 Kosovo situation dominates UN Security Council discussion on Thursday
NEW YORK 26/2/2005 (ANA/P.Panayiotou)Talks on the final status of Kosovo are likely to start in the second half of 2005 the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) told the UN Security Council on Thursday.
According to a UN diplomatic source, after Thursday's discussion it becomes apparent that much still needs to be done before peace and security prevail in the region, while there is also broad consensus on establishing a timetable for negotiations to begin regarding Kosovo's final status. According to the same source, there is still a possibility of new conflicts breaking out, of unforeseen consequences.
During the Security Council Meeting, UN Special Representative in Kosovo Soren Jessen-Petersen, presented UNMIK's quarterly report regarding the meeting of standards. Petersen expressed hope that negotiations could begin in the latter half of 2005.
Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis, Greece's Permanent Representative to the UN, voiced concern over the fact that none of the standards have been completely fulfilled. He also noted that there's a discrepancy between the recorded progress of the criteria's application and the simultaneous growing gap between the two communities. Vassilakis said that over the next few months, careful attention must be paid not only to the fulfillment of the standards, but also how they apply in the day-to-day life of the region's inhabitants.
Vassilakis cited the following as areas that need to be addressed: limited progress surrounding central administrative institutions and authorities, minorities' lack of confidence in the existing security forces, the need to include Serbs in the region's economic and political arenas, economic growth and restoration of monuments.
 Greek-German consultations on Kosovo-FYROM end in Berlin on Friday
BERLIN 26/2/2005 (ANA/P. Stangos)Greek foreign ministry Balkan Affairs director Alexandros Mallias completed bilateral consultations with diplomats and special German "think tank" scientists here on Friday, regarding the handling of the Kosovo problem and the issue of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
During his visit, Mallias held talks at the German foreign ministry with Permanent Deputy Minister Michael Scheffer and his counterpart, ambassador G. Heidl, as well as with the leadership of the Science and Politics Foundation which is a main advisor for foreign policy issues.
According to reports, the talks held at diplomatic level revealed that the two sides coincided to a great degree on the issue of Kosovo since the German foreign ministry, officially at least, does not support a speedup in the handling of the problem of the region's future status.
In addition, the foreign ministry believes that future independence for Kosovo must provide guarantees for the inviolability of the borders of other countries in the region and must safeguard respect for the rights and survival of the Serb population.
The issue of FYROM's name was only "marginally" referred to, according to reports, during talks between Mallias and Scheffer due to the importance of the Kosovo issue and due to the fact that negotiating is taking place in the framework of the UN.
 Greek ambassador in U.S. briefs Harvard Club members on Greek foreign policy priorities
WASHINGTON 26/2/2005 (ANA/T. Ellis)Greece's Ambassador in the United States Giorgos Savvaides gave a reception at the Greek embassy here on Friday for members of Washington's Harvard Club, who are graduates of Harvard University and are employed in various scientific sectors, and briefed them on Greek foreign policy priorities and on last year's Athens Olympic Games.
The ambassador referred in his address to Greece's participation in the European Union and the NATO alliance, to the stabilizing role played by the country in the Balkans, the upward trend in Greek-U.S. relations, developments concerning the issue of Cyprus, Greek-Turkish rapprochement, the new momentum for a solution to the Middle East problem and benefits resulting from the successful holding of the Olympic Games in the Greek capital.
Members of the Harvard Club asked questions on the proposal for the permanent holding of the Olympic Games in Greece, the country's position on the war in Iraq, Greece's relations with neighboring countries, and with Serbia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in particular, and on NATO's changing role in intra-Atlantic relations.
 Greek PM briefed over early retirement plan in Hellenic Telecoms
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)Details of an early retirement plan in Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE), recently agreed between the organization's management and workers, were discussed on Friday during a meeting between Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, Transport and Communications Minister Mihalis Liapis and OTE's president and chief executive Panagiotis Vourloumis.
Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, Alogoskoufis said that the state would participate in the plan and stressed "it is very important to promote restructuring not only in OTE but to other state enterprises as well to be able to deal with competition in a new environment".
Alogoskoufis underlined that Hellenic Telecoms must be restructured and operate on private-financial criteria and noted that an early retirement plan would help the organization's future.
The Greek minister said that the state held around 50 percent in OTE's equity capital and it is obliged to help in the restructuring of the organization. The cost of the early retirement plan, envisaging the participation of 6,000 workers, will total 1.6 billion euros.
Transport Minister Mihalis Liapis said the government supported the organization's efforts to restructure its operations and expressed his belief that Greek citizens and the society wished state enterprises to be healthy without debts and deficits.
 Economy ministry forms commission to promote capital tax reform
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)Greece's Economy and Finance ministry on Friday announced the formation of a Commission with the aim to draft proposals for the reform of capital tax regulations in the country.
The Commission, to be chaired by Economy and Finance ministry secretary-general Vassilios Stavrinos, will consult with interested parties and also hold meetings with experts or agency representatives. The ministry has announced that changes in the tax system would be put into effect from January 1, 2006, including the introduction of VAT on new buildings, reducing transfer tax on real estate and raising the tax-free ceiling on heritages.
 South African President urges Greek businessmen to invest in his country
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)South African President Thabo Mbeki urged Greek businessmen to invest in his country and praised the high level of relations between the two countries as a base of a closer economic cooperation.
Addressing a business event organized by EBEA, the Commerce and Industry Chamber of Athens, the South African President said that both government were fully prepared to offer the necessary facilities to business activity and stressed that an agreement signed between his country and the European Union was a significant factor in attracting Greek investments in South Africa. President Mbeki noted that macro-economic stability and the high level of infrastructure growth in South Africa guaranteed safe and attractive investments.
Addressing the event, EBEA's president Drakoulis Fountoukakos cited the significance of a cooperation agreement signed between South Africa and the EU and stressed that the agreement would encourage growth and deregulation of merchandise trade, services and capital movement between the two sides. The agreement covers around 90 percent of current bilateral trade.
Fountoukakos said that Greece and Greek enterprises could seek many business partnership opportunities in the South African market and stressed that Greece was the 12th biggest foreign investor in the country in the period 1999-2002, with investments totalling 250 million US dollar. Greek investments have created around 100,000 new jobs in South Africa, he said.
South Africa's GDP is almost equal to Sweden's and it is three times more compared with the Czech Republic. Its budget deficit is currently 2.3 percent, annual inflation at 4.0 percent and a positive trade balance.
Greek exports to South Africa total 15 million US dollars, while imports total 45 million dollars.
 FinMin meets Deutsche Bank's head
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Friday met with visiting Deutsche Bank's chairman Josef Ackermann and discussed the government's privatization program.
Ministry officials told reporters, after the meeting, that Deutsche Bank planned to upgrade its office in Greece, a sign of the German bank's increased interest for investments in the country.
 Finance minister briefs U.S. Congressmen on Greek economy's post Olympic Games opportunities
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)Finance and Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis briefed a group of U.S. Congressmen, who visited him on Friday, on opportunities provided by the Greek economy in the wake of the Athens Olympic Games.
The minister referred to the Greek economy's potential and explained the government's strategy in the Balkans.
The meeting was held in a good atmosphere and Alogoskoufis gave the Congressmen, as a gift, coins issued on the occasion of the Olympic Games.
The coins concerned weightlifting and wrestling, while the minister noted that they were given as a reminder that finance ministers must wrestle with deficits and bear the weight of economic growth.
 Transport minister meets US congressional delegation, discusses investments in telecoms
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)Transport and Communications Minister Mihalis Liapis on Friday received a 20-member delegation from the United States Congress, accompanied by US Ambassador to Athens Charles Ries. During the meeting, talks focused on developing the telecommunications sector, especially the Internet.
The Congressmen said the U.S. was interested in making investments in Greece, which they said was among the most rapidly expanding telecoms markets.
Such U.S. investments would include the participation of companies and groups in developing telecoms services and telecoms equipment, particularly in the Eurozone Internet, that would aim to develop Greek regions.
Liapis stressed Greece's very good performance in the telecoms and transport sectors, noting Greece's interest in investments and wider cooperation in telecommunications.
 President Stephanopoulos attends first day of GSEE Academy of Labor at Old Parliament
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)The first day of the Academy of Labor founded by the umbrella trade union organization General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) was attended on Friday by President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos, alongside government ministers at the European conference on "Trade union education, its content and prospects in modern society" held in the Old Parliament building.
The conference will take place over Friday and Saturday.
GSEE President Christos Polyzogopoulos said the start of operation of the Academy represented the fruition of a long-standing vision for an organized body for trade unionist training that put into practice the idea of life-long learning, providing knowledge and skills that will qualitatively improve trade unionists' actions, as well as their personal and social development.
President Stephanopoulos said the new Academy would help upgrade the quality of the trade union movement and in determining the rights of the workforce, stressing that there were limits to the rights and obligations that should not be exceeded in making demands.
He stressed that employers and workers had both common and conflicting interests, while the State was often called in to arbitrate and find the best compromise between the various sets of interests.
"Because the State, more than any other, takes into account the general good that is often overlooked by the various groups as they strive for their own special interests," he noted.
Through their training in the Academy, trade unionists will be better able to understand the interests of the state and the country would progress, as the demands of workers will become more easily accepted, he added.
The conference was also addressed by Labor Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos, who stressed the need for "genuine and effective representation in the trade union movement", Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou and main opposition PASOK MP Maria Damanaki.
 Greek budget deficit fell in January
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)The state budget deficit fell in January, lifting hopes of a successful outcome in a government policy to achieve fiscal restructuring in the country, the Bank of Greece said on Friday.
The central bank said the budget deficit fell by 47.5 percent compared with January 2004 to stand at 1.188 billion euros, or 0.7 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product.
The Bank of Greece attributed this favorable development to a cut in the Public Investments Programme's shortfall.
The programme's deficit was 431 million euros in January 2004 due to the Olympic Games' projects.
This year's shortfall fell to 38 million euros. The regular budget's deficit fell by 13.2 percent in January, reflecting a spending-cutting program and despite lower-than-expected budget revenues in the month.
The regular budget's shortfall fell to 1.53 billion euros in January from 1.784 billion euros in the same month last year.
 Gov't to spur private insurance as supplement to state funds
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Friday that the government would take steps in the near future to spur growth and quality in private insurance as a supplement to social insurance.
Emphasis would be placed on encouraging alliances in the public and private sectors and attracting private capital, the minister told an assembly of the Union of Insurance Companies of Greece.
Some sector tax demands had been met, and others were under discussion, Alogoskoufis said.
"My office door is open for discussion," he added.
 Tourism ministry promotes legislative framework for health tourism
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)The Ministry of Tourism Development is promoting a new, legislative framework for health and spa tourism in an effort to reinforce tourist activity in Greece year-round, which would in turn boost regional development.
The tourism ministry, in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and Social Solidarity, is recommending the adoption of activities and legal provisions in order to facilitate the development of health tourism.
The new law would also create investment incentives, for both individuals and municipalities, based on strictly-defined requirements.
Main opposition PASOK had also drafted a related bill while it was in government, but which, according to Deputy Tourism Minister Anastassios Liaskos, had many shortcomings. PASOK had tabled the bill in Parliament in January 2004, but then withdrew it.
 PPC workers to strike March 17
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)Workers at Athens-quoted Public Power Corporation are to stage a 24-hour strike on March 17 as part of a wider walkout to protest against the government's policy on incomes, pension funds, and restructuring of state firms, the GENOP-DEI trade union said on Friday.
The strike called by the General Confederation of Employees of Greece, the country's largest trade union umbrella group, is expected to lead to disruption in banks, state railways, telecoms, post offices, civil aviation, electricity and water, and other public services.
 Stocks flat after profit-takers reverse early rise
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)Stocks finished flat after profit-takers reversed an early 1.0% rise in short-term profit-taking, traders said.
The Athens general share index closed flat at 3,092.77 points. Turnover was 262.7 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.04% down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.19% higher; and the 04TSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.76% down.
Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 175 to 105 with 68 remaining unchanged.
On a weekly basis, the general index gained 0.93%.
 Three workers trapped under fallen roof in Alexandroupolis found dead
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)Three workers trapped beneath the fallen roof of a two-storey municipal building in Alexandroupolis, which is currently undergoing renovation, were found dead on Friday night by the Greek emergency rescue service EMAK.
A section of the roof had collapsed while work was underway at around 12:30. They had been working inside at the time, according to a forklift-truck operator who was outside the building.
Rescue workers had proceeded with extreme caution, due to the hazardous state of the building. According to the rescue team leader, removing the fallen debris will take a long time as there is a serious risk of a further collapse.
Surrounding residents said they heard a loud rumble, after which a cloud of dust rose up into the sky.
The building was over 100 years old and was being renovated and repaired in order to serve as a municipal library. The work had been undertaken by the joint venture Georgakopoulos-Barbopoulos.
 Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos sends get well message to Pope John Paul
II ROME 26/2/2005 (ANA/L. Hatzikyriakos)Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos sent a get well message to Pope John Paul II on Friday, expressing hope for his speedy recovery.
"We are praying with all our heart and we are appealing to the Lord, the healer of the soul and the body, for the speedy and full restoration of your health. May he give you courage to continue your holy and effective mission for the benefit of your Church and the whole world," the message said.
The Metropolitan of Italy Yennadios also wished the Pope a speedy recovery to continue his work for peace and dialogue between the two Churches.
 New type of one-day travel card to be introduced next month
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)The Athens Public Transport Organization (OASA) on Friday announced the introduction of a new type of one-day travel card, which will available from the beginning of next month.
The new one-day ticket will cost 3.00 euros and will be valid for 24 hours from when it is first used, allowing unlimited travel on all means of public transport operated by OASA for that period with the exception of express buses to the Athens airport, journeys on the Athens metro and suburban railway between Doukissis Plakentias station and the airport, and the E22 bus from Athens to Saronida.
OASA transport systems include buses and trolleys, the Athens-Piraeus electric railway, the tram and metro systems and the suburban railway.
There will be no half-price tickets for students etc.
The new ticket replaces the 2.90 euros (half-price 1.50 euros) that doubled both as a travel card and as a ticket for the airport buses, which will now only be valid for one trip to or from Eleftherios Venizelos airport using the express airport buses.
The old 2.90 tickets will continue to be available until February 28, 2005, while those issued after March 1 will be stamped to show they are only valid for one trip to the airport. People who still have the old type of one-day tickets can continue to use them as day-passes until December 31, 2005.
 Second 'ELA' trial continues
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)A second and separate trial of convicted members of the terror gang "ELA" continued in an Athens court on Friday, with several previously subpoenaed witnesses appearing at the session after appearing on judges' orders.
The trial marks the second time the suspects face a special three-justice tribunal.
 Thessaloniki Annual photo exhibit opens Saturday
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis will be inaugurating the Thessaloniki annual photo exhibit "Photosygkyria", being held for the 17th consecutive year, at the Photography Museum.
Titled "Mystique and Miracles," this year's exhibit features 22 mini-exhibits, which will be on display at various points throughout the city through the end of March.
Ninety Greek and foreign photographers are participating.
 Gov't denies that it subsidizes pro football teams
Athens, 26/2/2005 (ANA)Deputy Sports Minister George Orfanos replied, in writing, this week to European Commission questions regarding the alleged state subsidization of professional football clubs, noting that pro teams are not funded by the Greek state or via grants and subsidies by state-run enterprises and corporations.
"Whatever financial support towards pro clubs is done via trades, and based on the rules of a free market," Orfanos, the relevant government official, stated.
He further clarified that income from contracts with the state-run and bourse-listed Football Pools Organization (OPAP) is not a state support, but rather a commercial deal utilizing teams' brand names. Additionally, Orfanos said a relevant law, 3262/2004, is aimed accelerated the repayment of debts owed to the state by pro clubs and not to forgive past debts.
 Cyprus President to pay working visit to Luxembourg
NICOSIA 26/2/2005 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos leaves for Luxembourg on Sunday for a working visit at the invitation of Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European
The Cypriot president will also travel to Brussels to meet European Commission President Jose Barroso on Monday, according to the Commission schedule released on Friday for next week.|
Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said President Papadopoulos will meet Juncker on Monday and will discuss issues concerning bilateral relations, the Cyprus issue and other European
issues on the Council's agenda, including progress on the Lisbon Strategy. The two men will give a press conference after talks between delegations from both countries.
President Papadopoulos will also meet Luxembourg's President Lucien Weiler and before his departure to Brussels will have an audience with the Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg.
On Monday evening the Cypriot president will meet European Commission President Jose Barroso, according to the Commission.
In the Belgian capital, Papadopoulos will also be the main speaker at an international conference on federal issues, organized by the government.
According to reports, the meeting with Barroso is scheduled for Monday at 1930 local time after President Papadopoulos travels to Brussels from Luxembourg.
President Papadopoulos will meet on Tuesday with Cypriot Commissioner on Health and Consumer Protection Markos Kyprianou and Greek Commissioner for the Environment Stavros Demas.
Asked if during his visit to Luxembourg President Papadopoulos will raise the issue of Turkey signing the protocol extending its customs union with the ten new member states, the Cypriot spokesman said that during discussions on Cyprus "this issue will surely be examined. In substance, the EU is putting pressure to sign the soonest the protocol and it is expected that this will take place the soonest."
Chrysostomides said Turkey was obliged against the EU to sign the protocol.
A press release issued by the Luxembourg Presidency said the talks between Juncker and Papadopoulos will "mainly revolve around bilateral relations, reunification of the island and the main
European political news dossiers. Preparations for the spring European Council and, more particularly, the mid-term examination of the Lisbon Strategy will also be among the items on the agenda."
Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou will also hold talks with Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn. The heads of diplomacy will exchange views on the main international political news dossiers.
 Cyprus says dismissal of linking EU regulations significant
NICOSIA 26/2/2005 (CNA/ANA)Cypriot Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides on Friday described as an important development the dismissal by the European Parliament of an amendment for the urgent simultaneous approval of two regulations concerning the financing of the Turkish Cypriots and the direct trade between the EU and the Turkish occupied areas of the island.
The linking of the two pending regulations was proposed in an amendment by Liberal MEP Andrew Duff and was rejected by 254 votes to 250.
Commenting on the result of the voting, the spokesman said ''the fact that the amendment was rejected is noted as an important development.''
''I think that a very large portion of the European Parliament members have been convinced that our positions regarding the regulation are correct. The majority is a democratic majority, which means that the amendment has not passed,'' the spokesman added.
Chrysostomides said ''we are ready and we have approved on the one hand the Green Line Regulation with its expansions, on the other hand we have accepted the financing regulation worth 259 million euros, which can be made immediately available on the basis of the agreed regulation to the benefit of the Turkish Cypriot community but we have objections to the regulation for direct trade.''
He pointed out that the positions of the Republic of Cyprus are well known and noted that the positions of the Council of Europe Legal Committee are also well known.
Asked if the government was concerned over the close shave in Thursday's voting, the spokesman said ''democracy works with majorities."
 State Department: US opposes the militarization of Cyprus
WASHINGTON 26/2/2005 (CNA/ANA)As a matter of policy, the US has long opposed the militarization of Cyprus, US State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher has said, noting that a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem, based on the plan proposed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, would provide for a resolution of the Cyprus issue, including its security aspects.
Replying to a question on Friday about the recent transfer of arms from Turkey to the Turkish occupied areas Cyprus, Boucher said ''we have no independent confirmation of these media reports,'' adding that ''as a matter of policy, the US has long opposed the militarization of the
''A comprehensive settlement based on the Annan plan would provide for a resolution of the Cyprus issue, including its security aspects,'' he said.