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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-07-29

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

July 29, 2005

CONTENTS

  • [01] Fire in northeast Attica brought under control on Thursday evening
  • [02] PM calls interministerial meeting on Friday to discuss fire in northeast Attica
  • [03] Forest land destroyed by fire to be reforested, PM says
  • [04] DM briefs Parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on recent decisions by Government Council of Foreign Affairs and Defense
  • [05] DM invokes need for armaments balance in Aegean on question of 40 F-16 warplanes procurement
  • [06] Tourism minister meets with Ecumenical Patriarch, visits Halki Theological School, comments on Greek-Turkish relations
  • [07] PM Karamanlis confers with head of ruling ND Eurodeputies Varvitsiotis
  • [08] Deputy FM and French, German and British ambassadors discuss Iran
  • [09] SYN slams gov't over recent economic moves
  • [10] Parliament passes labor bill instituting flexible work hours
  • [11] Gov't to merge fuel taxes in anti-racketeering drive
  • [12] Workers in Greek non-listed public enterprises will get pay increases of less than 3.0 pct in 2006
  • [13] Funds amounting to 173 million euros earmarked for upgrading industrial regions and creating new ones
  • [14] Greek gov't to maintain Opal's monopoly, Fining says
  • [15] Intralot signs 10 mln-euro contract with Egypt's Post Office
  • [16] United Bulgarian Bank, a member of NBG Group, unveils expansion plans
  • [17] Federation of Civil Aviation Service Unions calls 24-hour strike on Friday
  • [18] Members of Japan's imperial family visit Greek pavilion at EXPO 2005 trade fair
  • [19] Gov't to modernize state accounting office
  • [20] Greek stocks end flat on Thursday
  • [21] Olympic Village Polyclinic, first Olympics project to be turned over to public use, inaugurated by PM
  • [22] President Papoulias attends inauguration of International Youth Convention at the Pnyx
  • [23] Ombudsman, minister publish 'good conduct guide for civil servants
  • [24] Greek cultural event to travel to Vienna in the Fall
  • [25] Transport minister inaugurates Athens sightseeing bus line
  • [26] Japanese maritime vessel to visit Piraeus port next week
  • [27] Fire breaks out in Elefsina
  • [28] Cypriot President: Satisfied over visit to Britain
  • [29] President: Turkey's obligation to sign protocol ''given and definite''
  • [30] Cypriot President sends letter to Azeri counterpart for illegal flights

  • [01] Fire in northeast Attica brought under control on Thursday evening

    Athens, 29/7/2005 ANA

    The large fire that broke out Thursday morning in the northeastern Attica coastal and port town of Rafina was brought under control in the evening, according to authorities.

    Secretary General for Civil Protection Panayiotis Fourlas said that the firefighting airplanes and helicopters would stop flying at sundown, but a team of firefighters and conscripts on foot would continue patrolling the area during the night to ensure the fire does not flare up again.

    The Public Order Ministry ordered the reopening of Marathonos Avenue but has forbidden access, for safety reasons, to the forests of Penteli, Hymettos and Egaleo.

    According to the Fire Brigade, four firefighters and four civilians have been hospitalized due to burns and respiratory problems.

    Patients of the Penteli Children's Hospital, who were initially transferred to Pallini Public School No. 4 have finally been transferred to three pediatric hospitals.

    The fire, which broke out Thursday morning near the north-eastern Attica resort of Rafina had spread and damaged houses in several areas along the northeast coast by the after-noon, fanned by gale-force winds blowing throughout the day.

    Around 17:00 the flames were licking the yards of homes on the outskirts of Kallitechnoupoli and another front had passed the area of Aghia Kyriaki and was heading for Spata.

    Separate blazes on several fronts had broken out during the course of the day in the residential areas of Neos Voutzas, Drafi, Perivolakia, Aghia Triada and Aghia Kyriaki. A number of houses in Aghia Triada and Aghia Kyriaki were extensively damaged and one woman, now being treated at the Medical Centre, suffered burns trying to put out flames threatening her home.

    The fire broke out in the heavily wooded residential area of Skoufeika at 10:30 a.m. and was blazing out of control shortly after noon on three new fronts, each roughly one kilometer from the next.

    The fire, which broke out in an area covered with pine trees, quickly fanned into major proportions by strong winds blowing in the area, and many residents were initially evacuated from their homes for precautionary reasons, as well as children staying in the summer camps of Aghia Triada and a Rafina orphanage. A second blaze broke out five kilometers away at Neos Voutzas at around 13:00, which was also blazing fiercely in a very short space of time and passed through people's gardens and yards to Kallitechnoupoli.

    Local authorities but also fire department officials strongly suspect arsonists were involved, given the large number of fronts that simultaneously caught fire.

    An investigation has been launched by the Fire Department, while two people on a moped have been taken in custody and are now being interrogated by police after they were reported by Kallitechnoupoli residents for "suspicious movements" in the area.

    Authorities evacuated the Daou Pentelis hospital and the Lyreio Foundation, due to thick smoke that covered the area, while the Penteli Children's Hospital was evacuated for precautionary reasons.

    The fire moved down the mountain toward Marathonos Avenue.

    Ranged against the blaze were some 240 fire-fighters and 80 fire-engines, of which 20 were reinforcements, sent from outside Attica. An additional 100 fire-fighters on foot, 20 water tankers sent by the General Secretariat for Civil Protection, eight fire-fighting aircraft and six fire-fighting helicopters also took part in fire-extinguishing efforts.

    Local residents also turned out en force to assist the efforts, while surrounding local authorities enlisted water tankers and staff to assist as well.

    The high winds in the area, in addition to fanning the blaze, also hampered the work of the water-dropping planes and helicopters, given the large waves they caused in the sea off Rafina, with the main bulk of the firefighting falling on the ground-based units, which were trying to create fire zones to halt the blaze's progression.

    Marathonos Avenue was closed to traffic for safety reasons but also to facilitate the quick access of the fire engines.

    Public order minister George Voulgarakis rushed to the scene early in the day, while he was later joined there by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who postponed a dinner he was to host in the evening for the MPs of his ruling New Democracy party who are sitting in on the first of three parliamentary summer recess sessions.

    At around 15:00 on Thursday, authorities ordered the evacuation of the Penteli Children's Hospital for precautionary reasons, and the young patients were transferred to other hospitals in the Athens area. Twenty-one were taken to the Aglaia Kyriakou Children's Hospital, another 21 to the Aghia Sofia Children's Hospital, eight to the Dromokaitio accompanied by their nurses and other children were taken to the 4th Primary School of Pallini, where they were met by Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis and a team of experts.

    The health ministry said that the KAT, Amalia Fleming, 1st IKA, Sismanoglio, Georgios Gennimatas, as well as the burns unit at the Thriasio Hospital had been placed on standby. Also on alert are two mobile medical units, three emergency service (EKAB) ambulances, three EKAB motorbikes, a coordinating vehicle and a Medical Disasters (ETIK) vehicle.

    Two people were taken to the Georgios Gennimatas and KAT hospitals for light burns, two were taken to KAT and Amalia Fleming hospitals with respiratory problems and a fireman was admitted to Nea Makri Health Centre for minor burns. None of the cases above give cause for grave concern, doctors said.

    Meanwhile, events scheduled at the OAKA Olympic Stadium to mark the first anniversary since the Athens Olympics were postponed due to the fire.

    Members of the opposition released statements on Thursday, commenting on the fire.

    Specifically, Mariliza Xerogiannakopoulou, Secretary of the main opposition PASOK party's National Council, visited the area in the morning and expressed her party's support and solidarity to the firefighters for their efforts to extinguish it, as well as to local authorities and residents in the affected area.

    Secretary General of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Aleka Papariga said, "It is evident that once land and housing becomes a commodity, then fires will flare in order to increase the price of that commodity." She added that the entire area which has been burned should be reforested and any construction prohibited.

    Yiannis Tolios, member of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party's Political Secretariat, said that the fire in Rafina "makes evident the serious problems related to the protection of forests from government policies that encourage arsonists-violators."

    [02] PM calls interministerial meeting on Friday to discuss fire in northeast Attica

    Athens, 29/7/2005 ANA

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has convened an interministerial meeting to be held at Maximos Mansion at 8:30 a.m. on Friday to discuss the fire that broke out in the northeast coastal town and port of Rafina.

    Attending the meeting will be Minister of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Prokopis Pavlopoulos; Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis; Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas; Minister of the Environment, Town Planning and Public Works George Souflias; Minister of Agricultural Development and Foods Vangelis Basiakos; and Minister of Health and Social Solidarity Nikitas Kaklamanis.

    [03] Forest land destroyed by fire to be reforested, PM says

    Athens, 29/7/2005 ANA

    All forest land destroyed by the fire that broke out in the northeastern Attica coastal and port town of Rafina will be reforested, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis announced on Thursday evening after visiting the Fire Brigade's Operations Centre.

    "This is a clear message to anyone scheming against our quality of life, against the environment. A new forest will be created in place of the one that was destroyed," he added.

    He also gave orders for damages to be fully and immediately recorded and for compensation to be paid out to those whose homes were destroyed, in accordance with the law.

    Furthermore, Karamanlis thanked the firefighters, policemen, members of the armed forces, local authorities, volunteers and the residents of Attica for their efforts in trying to extinguish the fire under particularly difficult conditions.

    He stressed that Thursday's fire was one of the largest to ever hit the Attica region.

    Karamanlis was briefed on the situation by Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis, Fire Brigade Chief Christos Smetis and the head of the Fire Brigade's Op Centre.

    Voulgarakis also briefed President Karolos Papoulias on the situation and promised to keep him up to date on developments, following the latter's request.

    [04] DM briefs Parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on recent decisions by Government Council of Foreign Affairs and Defense

    Athens, 29/7/2005 ANA

    The defense minister briefed the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on decisions recently taken by the Government Council of Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA), during an in camera session on Thursday.

    The briefing concerned the new structure of forces and administration for the military, as well as the procurement of 30 F-16 Block 52 warplanes, with the option of purchasing another 10 of the same type, which was ratified by KYSEA.

    According to sources close to former defense minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, the former minister termed the decision to purchase the F-16s "a surprise move which is not based on defense planning or on the structure of forces", adding that it is an "aircraft which the Turks manufacture."

    On the other hand, sources close to the defense minister said that he replied to criticism by the main opposition PASOK party by saying that the decision concerns "the satisfaction of immediate operational requirements of the air force" and added that a possible delay in the purchase of warplanes could lead to a dramatic reversal of the air force balance in the Aegean.

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) reiterated that it is a case of armaments serving the interests of NATO, while the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party requested that the Committee should be provided with financial data regarding KYSEA's relevant decisions, while assurances were given on the part of the minister.

    [05] DM invokes need for armaments balance in Aegean on question of 40 F-16 warplanes procurement

    Athens, 29/7/2005 ANA

    The defense minister on Thursday invoked the need for an armaments balance in the Aegean, in reply to a question by Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party Deputy Asimina Xyrotiri concerning the decision on the purchase of 40 F-16 warplanes. He also said that Parliament will be notified on the outcome of negotiations with the U.S. government before the relevant contract is signed.

    "Atlantism is once again dominant in the procurements of the armed forces," the deputy said, adding that despite the prime minister's declarations on a decrease in armaments expenditures the government is going ahead with this costly procurement with direct awarding, without international tendering, and without the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee being informed beforehand.

    The defense minister said that the procurement is in line with the prime minister's declarations that "in the case of major armaments procurements we shall proceed through inter-state agreements or international tendering" and stressed that mediators are excluded, everything is open and clear and auditing services exist.

    [06] Tourism minister meets with Ecumenical Patriarch, visits Halki Theological School, comments on Greek-Turkish relations

    ISTANBUL, 29/7/2005 (ANA/A.Kourkoulas)

    Minister of Tourism Development Dimitris Avramopoulos assured Patriarch Vartholomeos that the Greek government fully supports the Patriarchate's efforts in establishing its rights, during their meeting on Thursday.

    The minister also visited the School of Theology in Halki, expressing the wish that the school will re-open in comments he wrote in the guest book.

    The Bishop of Moschonissia Apostolos was there to greet Avramopoulos, who was accompanied by Mehmet Duman, advisor to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and the Greek General Consul in Istanbul Alexis Alexandris.

    While in Halki, Avramopoulos and Aristidis Kalogeropoulos, President of the Greek National Tourism Organisation (EOT), visited St. Nicholas Church which was recently refurbished and praised Georgios Gyftakis for making it possible.

    Avramopoulos also spoke at an event held by the Turkish Association of Tour Operators in his honor, noting the special role the tourism industry plays in developing Greek-Turkish ties.

    During an interview on Turkish television, the Greek minister reiterated the great benefits generated through Greek-Turkish cooperation not only in tourism, but in every sector. He announced that he's working on overcoming bureaucratic difficulties regarding Turkish tourists in Greece.

    [07] PM Karamanlis confers with head of ruling ND Eurodeputies Varvitsiotis

    Athens, 29/7/2005 ANA

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanis on Thursday met with the head of the ruling New Democracy party's (ND) group of Europarliamentarians at the government headquarters.

    Varvitsiotis told reporters after the meeting that they had discussed a wide range of topics, but declined comment on the matters discussed.

    Asked whether he believed that early general elections should be called, Varvitsiotis said that, in his personal opinion, "elections are not needed at this time". The government, he added, was in full activity, "breaking eggs to make the omelette", and was doing so very well.

    [08] Deputy FM and French, German and British ambassadors discuss Iran

    Athens, 29/7/2005 ANA

    Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis received the ambassadors of France, Germany and the UK at the ministry on Thursday, following their request for a meeting.

    The focus of the meeting was the initiative undertaken by France, Germany and the UK in regards to Iran.

    The ambassadors briefed Valinakis on a series of proposals their countries plan to submit and requested Greece's support, which would contribute to the success of the initiative.

    [09] SYN slams gov't over recent economic moves

    Athens, 29/7/2005 ANA

    Panayiotis Lafazanis, member of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party's Political Bureau and head of the party's Economic and Social Policy division, harshly criticized the government on Thursday for its decision on low pay increases for certain public sector organizations, the possibility of converting state revenues into securities and the extraordinary powers it has granted the new financial crimes squad.

    Specifically, a circular released by the Finance Ministry on Thursday said that workers in non-listed public sector enterprises (Hellenic Railways, Hellenic Post, Athens Bus Organization, Piraeus-Kifissia Metro, Athens Tram, defense industries and other organizations) will receive pay increases less than 3.0 percent in 2006. Lafazanis accused the government of effectively eliminating collective agreements at these organizations.

    According to Lafazanis, the government's decision signals a more general and harsher policy regarding wages and pensions during 2006.

    He also referred to the potential conversion of state revenues into securities that the government is considering, accusing the government of following "the unacceptable and bankrupt method of PASOK governments of converting revenues of future, actual or hypothetical state revenues into securities."

    Finally, Lafazanis also criticized the extraordinary powers given to the new financial crimes squad (previously known as SDOE), whereby squad officials can inspect homes, have access to bank accounts, etc.

    "If the financial crimes squad is not sufficiently independent from the government, it runs the risk of turning into a tool for selective governmental and party interventions in the marketplace and society," Lafazanis said.

    [10] Parliament passes labor bill instituting flexible work hours

    Athens, 29/7/2005 ANA

    The government's industrial relations bill, including articles instituting flexible working hours and lower overtime pay, was passed by the Recess Section of Parliament on Thursday.

    Earlier, a majority of MPs had approved the two controversial articles on working hours and overtime in a roll-call vote demanded by main opposition PASOK, with 55 ruling New Democracy MPs voting in favor and 41 MPs from all three opposition parties voting against them.

    On Thursday morning, parliamentarians had held another roll-call vote to approve the bill in principle, which was again passed by 55 votes in favor and 42 against.

    The Recess Section of Parliament is held during the summer months and comprises one third of the plenary session, or 100 MPs. All MPs participate in one Recess Section of Parliament during the summer months.

    The new measures change the way overtime work is calculated and compensated, with the overtime rate lowered to 25 percent of hour-payment from 50 percent at present. On an annual basis, overtime work up to 120 hours will be paid with an additional increase of 50 percent, and by 75 percent for overtime work of more than 120 hours annually.

    The bill also envisages a method of calculating working time on a four-month, or on an annual basis for seasonal enterprises, with a ceiling of 10 hours daily work. The new system calls for agreements between companies and workers' unions. In cases of disagreement, a special commission will be formed to find a mutually accepted solution on the prefectural level.

    The new legislation also foresees stricter procedures for inspecting businesses and worksites.

    Coalition party deputy slams labor bill: Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party Deputy Yiannis Dragasakis, addressing a press conference on Thursday on the government's new labor bill, said the measures it contained were "socially unfair and economically ineffective".

    "The target of convergence with the other EU countries has been replaced by measures and policies aimed at convergence at Balkan level. The measures are socially unfair, economically ineffective and will make the section of employers out for grabs more audacious," he said.

    Dragasakis also said that the bill in question is a prelude for other far worse ones to come, adding that the Coalition party placed great importance on downgraded issues such as of businesses lacking unions and the addressing of the question of handicapped people.

    Asimina Xyrotiri, another Coalition party deputy, also referred to the enlargement of the income imbalance to which, as she said, the bill contributes at a time when the profits of Greek businessmen, according to their bank deposits, are greater compared to those of their counterparts in other EU countries.

    [11] Gov't to merge fuel taxes in anti-racketeering drive

    Athens, 29/7/2005 ANA

    The government will merge fuel consumption taxes after compiling a record of end-consumers in a bid to curb racketeering in the market, Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Thursday.

    Under the new measure, end-users will pay no extra cost, the minister told reporters after meeting Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Evangelos Basiakos to finalize the decision.

    "The government is resolutely going ahead with an integrated plan to combat racketeering," Alogoskoufis said.

    Decided after consultations with trade groups, the move was designed to achieve a structural change in the domestic fuel market and ensure transparency for consumers, Sioufas said.

    Under attack will be tax evasion, adulteration of fuel, and racketeering, especially in sales and distribution.

    According to a statement released later in the day by the finance ministry, the plan will be implemented in two phases.

    From October 15, 2005 to April 30, 2006, the government will collate data on heating fuel sales from sales companies and gas stations; and from consumers including private individuals, farmers and apartment block managers. Heating oil will still carry a 21-euro tax per 1,000 liters.

    In the second phase starting in May 2006 when heating fuel and diesel oil taxes are merged, consumers will again pay the lower rate for heating oil, but shop using a government-endorsed personalized electronic card containing a record of previous purchases and the holder's tax number and address.

    The card will be inserted into portable computers at the time of purchase and the data cross-checked in ministry archives, according to the ministry.

    Wrongdoers will be fined and also face criminal proceedings with fake invoices incurring criminal charges and withdrawal of a company's operating license, the statement said.

    [12] Workers in Greek non-listed public enterprises will get pay increases of less than 3.0 pct in 2006

    Athens, 29/7/2005 ANA

    Workers in non-listed public sector enterprises (Hellenic Railways, Post Office, Athens Bus Organization, Piraeus-Kifissia Metro, Athens Tram, defense industries and other organizations) will receive pay increases less than 3.0 percent next year, an Economy and Finance ministry's circular said on Thursday.

    The circular, aimed to offer guidance on drafting next year's budgets by public sector enterprises, asked non-listed enterprises to contain their billing increases to less than 3.0 percent, to limit hiring, make a more efficient use of their real estate assets, to promote joint ventures with the private sector and to drastically cut borrowing. The circular said that pay increases should be based on a 3.0 percent cap on the precondition that total increases should not exceed 5.0 percent. The pay increases will be paid on January 1, 2006.

    Non-listed public sector enterprises should send their budget drafts for 2006 by September 16 to the Finance ministry. Under the circular, public enterprises are obliged to submit quarterly financial reports and monthly employment figures, strategic and business plan and proposals on changing their statute, internal operating and personnel regulations.

    [13] Funds amounting to 173 million euros earmarked for upgrading industrial regions and creating new ones

    Athens, 29/7/2005 ANA

    A series of decisions by which funds amounting to 173 million euros are earmarked for upgrading 27 industrial regions and creating three new ones, as well as eight new biotechnical parks, have either been signed or will be shortly.

    "It is an important day for the country's regional development and for the biotechnical and industrial fabric of our country, following many years of inertia in industrial business regions," said Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas at the end of a meeting Thursday at the ministry on the modernization and development of business infrastructures in industrial and business regions.

    "A new era is starting for the industrial fabric of our country in which over 10,000 businesses will be created, established or relocated in the years to come," the minister added.

    Sioufas expressed optimism that "our country's business world will appreciate all this effort to create infrastructures through-out the entire Greek rural region and will exploit it in the best possible way."

    [14] Greek gov't to maintain Opal's monopoly, Fining says

    Athens, 29/7/2005 ANA

    The Greek state will do anything it needs to protect Opal's monopoly in lottery and gaming services, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Thursday.

    Speaking to reporters, after a visit to the state-owned Greek Soccer Pool Organization's offices accompanied by Culture deputy Minister George Orfanos, Alogoskoufis stressed Opal's great contribution in promoting Greek sports and culture and said this trend would continue for the years to come. The Greek minister also congratulated OPAP's management for its contribution in a successful privatization of the organization and added he was confident over the organization's future plans.

    [15] Intralot signs 10 mln-euro contract with Egypt's Post Office

    Athens, 29/7/2005 ANA

    Intralot on Thursday signed an agreement with Egypt's Post Office for the development of a national lottery and gaming services network in the country.

    The initial investment will total 10 million euros. Under the agreement, Intralot will hold an 85 percent stake in a joint venture to be created with Egypt's Post Office. The project is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2006.

    The agreement was signed between Intralot's chairman Socrates Kokkalis and Egypt's Post Office president Dr. Aly El Moselhy. Egypt's Technology and Telecommunications Minister Dr Tarik Mohamed Kamel Mahmoud, who attended the signing ceremony, said: "We welcome Intralot Group in Egypt and we believe that this agreement will become a partnership of mutual benefit."

    Intralot's chairman Socrates Kokkalis said: "Our presence here underlines our faith in the Egyptian market. We believe that out partnership with Egypt's Post Office will be beneficiary for both parties and that the project will be a modernization project which will upgrade added value services in the Egyptian market."

    Intralot will install an on-line automated system, based on LOTOS platform, which will include management software, a telecommunications network, and monitors to Post Office's branches and other sales points. Egypt's Post Office operates a network of 3,400 branches around the country and plans to expand its network to around 10,000. The organization employs 45,000 workers and has 12 million active accounts, or more than 50 percent of the Egyptian market.

    [16] United Bulgarian Bank, a member of NBG Group, unveils expansion plans

    BULGARIA, 29/7/2005 ANA

    United Bulgarian Bank (UBB), a member of National Bank of Greece Group, plans to open around 30 new units in Bulgaria over the next two years and to issue two new mutual funds in 2006, aiming to further strengthen its position in the Bulgarian banking market.

    National Bank Group also examines plans to set up an insurance company in the neighboring country and to seek synergies between UBB's network and National Bank's network in Northern Greece, according to UBB's executive director Christos Katsanis. UBB operates a network of 123 large and small branches in Bulgaria and aims to expand its network to more than 150 units over the next two years, with emphasis given in Bulgarian regions close to the Greek borders awaiting the opening of new border stations.

    UBB Asset Management also plans to issue two new mutual funds in Bulgaria, an equity fund and a bond fund in early 2006. The company already operates UBB Balkan Fund in the country.

    UBB's credit rating was recently upgraded by Standard & Poor's to BBB-/A-3 from BB+/B and ranks third in Bulgaria based on its share in the banking system's asset (around 9.5 pct). The bank, however, ranks second based on its equity capital, business loans, consumer loans and housing loans. It ranks first in the issuance of credit cards accounting for 64 percent of the Bulgarian market.

    [17] Federation of Civil Aviation Service Unions calls 24-hour strike on Friday

    Athens, 29/7/2005 ANA

    The Federation of Civil Aviation Service Unions (OSYPA) has called a 24-hour strike on Friday, which might create problems for flights, particularly at the country's regional airports.

    However, the Civil Aviation Service (YPA) has already taken the case to an Athens court, requesting that the strike be declared illegal and abusive. The court ruled Thursday night that the strike was illegal and abusive.

    Air traffic controllers will not participate in the strike.

    The strikers are seeking solutions to economic and institutional demands, while they are also protesting certain issues concerning Olympic Airlines, such as aircraft checks and aircraft rentals by the company.

    [18] Members of Japan's imperial family visit Greek pavilion at EXPO 2005 trade fair

    Athens, 29/7/2005 ANA

    Prince Hitachinomiya, the brother of the Japanese Emperor, on Thursday visited the Greek pavilion at the EXPO 2005 international trade fair, accompanied by his wife and an 11-member delegation of Japanese officials.

    According to an announcement by the Hellenic Foreign Trade Board (HEPO), the Greek pavilion was one of six sites selected for a visit by Prince Hitachinomiya, who stressed his admiration for Greece and noted the successful organization of the Athens Olympics, which he had attended.

    [19] Gov't to modernize state accounting office

    Athens, 29/7/2005 ANA

    The government has launched a plan to modernize the General State Accounting Office, Deputy Finance Minister Peter Doukas said on Thursday.

    Under the plan, the ministry department will modernize operations, improve computerization and boost transparency in a move to better manage state finances, Doukas told reporters.

    [20] Greek stocks end flat on Thursday

    Athens, 29/7/2005 ANA

    Greek stocks ended Thursday's session flat as the market tried to find a new balance around the 3,300 level in the Athens Stock Exchange.

    The composite index eased 0.03 percent to end at 3,306.71 points with turnover a heavy 229.7 million euros.

    Buying activity, one again, focused on medium capitalization stocks. The IT, Food-Beverage, Wholesale and Mineral-Cement sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day (2.15 pct, 1.82 pct, 1.63 pct and 1.31 pct, respectively), while the Insurance (0.97 pct), Publications (0.89 pct), Textiles (0.88 pct) and Banks (0.78 pct), suffered the heaviest percentage losses.

    The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks eased 0.28 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index rose 1.13 pct and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index rose 0.57 pct).

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 135 to 130 with another 65 issues unchanged.

    Equity Index Futures:

  • FTSE/ASE-20 (high cap): At premium

  • Underlying Index: -0.28%

  • FTSE/ASE-40 (medium cap): At discount

  • Underlying Index: +1.13%

    Foreign Exchange Rates:

    U.S. dollar 1.219

    [21] Olympic Village Polyclinic, first Olympics project to be turned over to public use, inaugurated by PM

    Athens, 29/7/2005 ANA

    The Olympic Village Polyclinic, the first Olympics project to be turned over to public use after the Athens 2004 Olympic and Paralympic Games, was inaugurated Thursday by prime minister Costas Karamanlis, during a ceremony attended by health minister Nikitas Kaklamanis, alternate culture minister Fani Palli-Petralia, and other officials.

    The Polyclinic "is a precious part of the legacy of the Games, and together with other Olympics projects, will serve as a lever for development and a point of reference in the improvement of the lives of many," Karamanlis said.

    "It is easy to build walls. But to give life to the walls and appropriate healthcare to the average citizen is the wager," Kaklamanis said, in turn.

    The Olympic Village Polyclinic, a multi-specialty clinic, is a public benefit S.A. and belongs to the state.

    It's pilot operation commenced on Thursday immediately after the inauguration, and medical care facility will be open five days a week during the test period, with only the outpatient clinics, physical therapy department, microbiological and biochemical laboratories, and medical imaging (x-ray, CT, MRI, ultrasound) examinations department operating during the initial pilot period.

    Once all the homes in the Olympic Village are occupied, the Polyclinic will expand to regular operation in the framework of primary healthcare, and is expected to serve residents in the wider region, and not only those of the Olympic Village, with a general medical department, emergency room, short-term hospitalization unit, and a pediatrics department, as well as a model informatics system and computerized medical files on patients.

    [22] President Papoulias attends inauguration of International Youth Convention at the Pnyx

    Athens, 29/7/2005 ANA

    President Karolos Papoulias attended the inauguration of the 45th International Youth Convention at the Pnyx on Thursday. The event is organized by the International Olympic Academy.

    Deliberations will take place at Ancient Olympia from Friday until August 10, while the special issue to be examined at the convention will be "The Olympic and Paralympic Games of Athens in 2004."

    The convention will be attended by 183 young people, selected by their National Olympic Committees and National Olympic Academies, 15 speakers, 18 coordinators for discussion groups and 17 guests from 101 countries.

    [23] Ombudsman, minister publish 'good conduct guide for civil servants

    Athens, 29/7/2005 ANA

    Greek Ombudsman George Kaminis and Deputy Interior Minister Apostolos Andreoulakos presented a new publication entitled "A Guide to Good Conduct for Civil Servants" during a press conference held on Thursday.

    Andreoulakos stressed that a change in attitudes and behavior on the part of civil servants was the most fundamental change of all, without which all the money, new infrastructure and effort invested in reforming public administration would simply fail to yield the required result.

    "We have to stir up the stagnant waters in the public sector. Civil servants, like the rest of us, must change their attitude," the minister said.

    He also noted that the guide did not introduce new rules but simply reorganized those that already existed in a more systematic way and expressed them in simple language that was easy to understand.

    Andreoulakos also described the guide as attempt to teach a new administrative culture, in which the tax-paying citizen received his dues as the central reason for the existence of state services. The minister also praised the staff at the Citizens Service Centers, saying that they exemplified this new civil service culture in action.

    Kaminis pointed out that civil servants were dogged by negative stereotypes and that a vicious circle of mutual suspicion and distrust marked interactions between citizens and public-sector services. He said the guide essentially repeated the obvious - which was not necessarily adhere to in practice, however - and expressed hope that it would mark a new start in efforts for change.

    [24] Greek cultural event to travel to Vienna in the Fall

    Athens, 29/7/2005 ANA

    A series of cultural events, focusing on Greek music and titled "Greek Fall in Vienna", will open in the Austrian capital on September 16, following an initiative of the Greek Embassy in Vienna.

    The program will feature music by composer Mikis Theodorakis performed by Maria Farantouri; songs by Stavros Xarhakos performed by George Dalaras, as well as a concert by singer and songwriter Dionyssis Savvopoulos.

    Other events in the program will include an exhibit of photos taken by poet George Seferis, concerts by local performers and short films.

    Savvopoulos, present at Thursday's press conference, said he was proud and moved that he will have the chance to sing in Vienna.

    Greek Ambassador to Austria Mr. Sotiropoulos stressed that "it is the first time that brilliant performers will stage a comprehensive presentation of the Greek music abroad."

    The program is being organized by the Hellenic Culture Organization SA with the support of the Foreign Ministry, the General Secretariat of Information, Austrian State Radio, the Konzerthaus, and the Federation of Greek Associations in Austria.

    [25] Transport minister inaugurates Athens sightseeing bus line

    Athens, 29/7/2005 ANA

    Transport Minister Mihalis Liapis on Thursday inaugurated the 400 bus line, a new public bus service providing sightseeing tours of Athens.

    The new service is chiefly targeted at foreigners visiting the city and goes past major Athens museums and monuments. The new buses provide additional services, such as GPS satellite navigation and telematics programs that will give passengers information on the next stop and let them choose where to get off.

    Liapis said the new buses were a pilot program that will be further expanded next summer if the public response is good, with the acquisition of open double-deckers. The minister also took the opportunity to stress that there will be no rise in urban transport fares in 2005, though fares might be increased the following year after consideration of other cost factors, such as oil prices.

    According to an announcement about the new service last week, there will be 20 stops along the new route, at special bus stops not shared by other OASA buses, while recorded messages in Greek and English will announce the next stop for passengers.

    The bus service will operate between 7:00 and 21:00 every day, running roughly every half hour, and the entire tour will take between 80 and 90 minutes. The ticket will cost five euros and will only be on sale inside the bus. The same ticket will be valid for 24 hours after issue and can be used for unlimited journeys on all Athens-area public transport, except services to the airport and Sarande.

    [26] Japanese maritime vessel to visit Piraeus port next week

    Athens, 29/7/2005 ANA

    The Japanese National Institute of Maritime Education's training vessel "Seiunmaru" will visit the port of Piraeus next week, an announcement by the Japanese Embassy in Athens said on Thursday.

    Aboard the vessel will be 161 cadets who in the future will man merchant ships and will be trained in ocean-going travel.

    The Seiunmaru is due to arrive in Piraeus on Monday, August 1, and remain there until Saturday, August 6.

    The vessel left Japan on June 18 for a 75-day trip that will include visits to the US, the Panama Canal, Greece, Spain, the Suez Canal and Indonesia. Pireaus is the third port of call after San Diego (in the US) and Barcelona (Spain).

    On the day of the ship's arrival, its captain will call on the mayor of Piraeus, and also host a reception attended by officials from Greece's merchant marine ministry, the Piraeus Port Authority, and shipowners, for an exchange of views.

    Greece and Japan, two countries with a long maritime tradition, also share close ties of friendship, according to the embassy announcement.

    Japan is also a regular participant, with a strong contingent, at the Poseidonia international shipping exhibition that is held in Pireaus every two years, and the promotion of friendship and exchange of views among cadets of the two countries is of great importance, according to the embassy announcement.

    It added that the Japanese embassy's desire was to contribute to the greatest possible degree to the development of the cooperation between the two countries.

    [27] Fire breaks out in Elefsina

    Athens, 29/7/2005 ANA

    A fire broke out in the western suburb of Elefsina at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday.

    The fire started in the archaeological site and was destroying forest land.

    The Fire Brigade is trying to bring it under control.

    [28] Cypriot President: Satisfied over visit to Britain

    LARNACA, 29/7/2005 (CNA/ANA)

    Cyprus and Britain have decided to promote cooperation within the framework of the European Union and make renewed efforts to improve the climate in their bilateral relations, Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos said on Thursday.

    Speaking at Larnaca airport upon his return from Britain where he held discussions with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Papadopoulos expressed satisfaction with the results of his talks, adding that he explained Cyprus positions as regards the Cyprus problem.

    Noting that in the past some British acts caused feelings of bitterness to Cypriots, President Papadopoulos said: "We have agreed to reverse the climate to the extent it exists, and restore the traditionally good relations with the UK''.

    He further said that together with Blair they have decided some procedural measures that will contribute to the discussion of several problems occasionally brought up, adding that ''with the bilateral agreement we have decided on, we will be in the right path to restore relations at the higher level possible''.

    Referring to the Cyprus problem, he said he explained the positions of the Greek Cypriot side on the Annan Plan, noting that the British side has shown understanding, but he does not believe that ''one visit can achieve change in policy''.

    He said that they also discussed the humanitarian issue of the missing persons although this issue was not part of the agenda.

    Papadopoulos said he told his interlocutor that this problem cannot be solved only though exhumations and identification of remains and that a full report is needed on how those missing were treated, noting that only Turkey and the occupation army can give this information.

    [29] President: Turkey's obligation to sign protocol ''given and definite''

    LARNACA, 29/7/2005 (CNA/ANA)

    Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos said that Turkey's obligation to sign the Protocol extending its Customs Union with the ten new EU members ''is given and definite'', adding that Ankara must not set rules or conditions.

    He said that the ''existence of the Cyprus Republic does not depend on Turkey'', noting that for 31 years ''we live and operate as an independent state without recognition from Turkey''.

    He further noted that many EU member states have stated that ''either Turkey signs the Protocol or it cannot start accession negotiations''.

    Asked which are the obligations deriving from the Protocol, he said that they among others concern trade, free movement of goods and persons.

    He warned that the 25 member states ''have already taken a decision'', in the event that Turkey moves on to make a separate statement of not recognizing the Cyprus Republic.

    They will answer, he noted, ''that it is a unilateral statement that has to do with Turkey without any legal result'' adding that the 25 have decided also on the possibility the statement includes more things.

    He noted that it is not in Turkey's interest to raise such an issue at this period, adding that the Cyprus Republic will not disappear in case this issue is not settled.

    [30] Cypriot President sends letter to Azeri counterpart for illegal flights

    LARNACA, 29/7/2005 (CNA/ANA)

    Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos said Thursday he has sent a letter to his Azerbaijani counterpart regarding direct chartered flights from Azerbaijan to Cyprus Turkish occupied areas.

    He added that the Cyprus Government has decided on a series of measures and took steps at several international fora and organizations dealing with civil aviation, expressing hope that "we will have positive results''.

    A 90-member delegation comprising Azerbaijani businessmen, technocrats, journalists and artists arrived Wednesday night at the illegal airport of occupied Tymbou, on an aircraft of ''Imair'' private airlines of Azerbaijan.

    Responding to questions, Papadopoulos noted that Foreign Minister George Iacovou has contacted with his Azeri counterpart.

    ''Azerbaijan needs to make agreements or sign protocols with some of the organizations, of which we are already members and needs our vote", Papadopoulos said.

    ''When the time comes we will take steps'', the president concluded.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.


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