|Friday, 19 July 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-09-12
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>September 12, 2004
 Karamanlis says gov't steadfast over policy of 'bold reforms' with social support
THESSALONIKI, 12/9/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Saturday emphasised that his government will seek "bold reforms with social support", part of stepped up efforts to create a more effective state, one that will fulfill its social task and achieve sustainable growth for the benefit of all.
In the customary prime minister's speech to representatives of the country's business sector, social partners and trade groups -- an address held within the framework of the 70th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) -- Karamanlis stressed that this strategy was tested and would guarantee positive results.
"The world has entered a new era. An era of rapid transformations and high speeds. A revolution in knowledge and technology is changing social and economic conditions very rapidly. We live in an era of free movement of people, ideas, goods and capital; in the era of globalization. And globalization is not just something to do with trade, market and the economy. It is also a political, social and cultural phenomenon; a complex phenomenon that creates new possibilities and opportunities, but also new uncertainties.
"The challenges are huge and interdependence is increasing. The world map is taking another form. In Asia, countries vast in geography and population (such as India and China) are seeking significant shares of the world market by offering low cost products and services; in Eastern Europe new dynamic and competitive liberal democracies are developing, and in the European Union, the rejection of a European Constitution in France and the Netherlands, combined with disagreements over the EU's future budget, highlighted new speculation," Karamanlis said.
The Greek Premier stressed that in every period of major changes in history, a fear over new things and skepticism over possible problems emerged. The citizens of Europe are worried more over economic growth, employment, environment and health pushing the EU to adopt policies seeking more rapid growth rates with emphasis given on competitiveness, protecting the environment and social cohesion.
Karamanlis underlined increasing global uncertainties due to international terrorism and skyrocketing oil prices in international markets, a development with major consequences to economies, state budgets and price stability.
The Greek Premier said that all these problems especially affected Greece, since the country (in the past) lagged behind its EU partners in competitiveness, oil dependence, foreign direct investments, trade deficit, per capita income, regional and social imbalances, unemployment, fiscal deficits and public debt.
"This is the truth. And the Greek people know the truth," Karamanlis said, adding that the government was very well aware of the problems, their size and their significance. He mentioned the hardships on daily life caused by bureaucracy and corruption, environmental pollution, crime, drugs, poverty, rising prices and unemployment.
"We know the reality and we hear the citizen's needs. That's why we chose policies that will lead us, mildly but effectively, to resolving past problems and ensuring a new prospect. We chose policies resolving problems. Policies creating a healthy basis for a better life for all," he noted.
Karamanlis also unveiled the main axes of the government policies: re-inventing the state and seeking economic growth based on the people.
"Our choice is the strategy of changes and reforms. A strategy of bold reforms with the consent of the people. A strategy tested, and one guaranteeing positive results," he said.
The Greek PM referred to the government's policies during the past 18 months, saying policy priorities were moves to simplify procedures, promote electronic governance, and combat corruption and bureaucracy.
"We know that things cannot change from one day to the other. It demands consistent and hard work. We are committed to re-inventing the state and to seek a more productive public sector, strengthening central administration's executive and controlling roles, promoting a fundamental strengthening of local authorities, and introducing a new immigration policy."
Karamanlis underlined that government's policies were also seeking to encourage and support regional growth, competitiveness, business activity and attracting domestic and foreign direct investments.
"It is a model for a competitive, export-oriented Greece with a strong international presence," he said.
"The country needs more. A round of changes and reforms continues in all sectors clear from past dogma and ideas, with social responsibility and effectiveness. We proceed with a specific road map, with parallel actions in 14 sectors," Karamanlis said.
The actions he cited are:
- Privatizations: The government has exceeded its goals with revenues from privatization totalling 2.1 billion euros this year, up 30 percent from budget provisions. The government also prepared the ground to expand its privatization program with the inclusion of Athens International Airport, Post Savings bank and state-owned ports. Emporiki Bank and Agricultural Bank were also attracting large institutional investors' interest following their restructuring.
- Joint ventures between public and private sector companies in major projects in the country,
- Restructuring of enterprises in the wider public sector, a reform urgently needed by the economy, as Karamanlis referred to Olympic Airways and Hellenic Railways.
"Our decision is for all public sector enterprises to ensure their social role and to respect taxpayers' money. We will enhance supervision; introduce corporate governance principles and international accounting standards to all public sector enterprises. For those enterprises listed in the Athens Stock Exchange the government plans a gradual adjustment of labor relations to those in the private sector but for new hirings only. The government will not harm workers' rights."
- Deregulating the domestic electricity and natural gas markets, along with policies aimed to reduce the country's dependence from oil.
- Drafting a national plan for Renewable Energy Sources, tourism, industry, mountainous regions and the country's shoreline to facilitate investment decisions.
- Reforming incentives to encourage foreign and domestic enterprises - offering services exclusively abroad -- to be based in Greece.
- Facilitating procedures to set up and end business activities along with a reform of the country's bankruptcy legislation.
- Drafting a new regulatory framework for evaluating the impact of legislation on competitiveness and growth.
- Making more efficient use of public sector's real estate.
- Containing the public sector's consumer spending with stricter fiscal inspections, and new rules in defense contracts. Defense spending would be reduced to 2.96 percent in 2005-2006 from 4.1 percent of GDP in 1999-2003, while measures will be taken to support the domestic defense industry.
- Beginning a long-term dialogue on reforming the country's pension system. The government is seeking cooperation with all social partners and political parties.
- Drastically combating smuggling and tax evasion by economically strong social groups. The state will be relentless. No one stands above the law.
- Gradually reducing tax factors from 2007 aiming to further support growth, and
- Regional restructuring ahead of an EU Fourth Community Support Framework."
Karamanlis said the government was currently drafting a National Growth Plan for the period 2007-2013, aiming to make a more efficient use of national and community funds.
"A growth plan with responsibility for a dynamic and competitive economy," he noted.
The Greek prime minister reiterated the government's commitment to support regional growth, to highlight the country's competitive advantages, to use its geopolitical position and to constantly invest in human capital, education, culture, new technologies.
Karamanlis said the government aimed to link education with production and labor markets, to ensure quality in high-level education and to promote Information Society. "We invest in new technologies, research and innovation, with the aim to use new technologies throughout the economy. Our aim is a Greece with a digital advantage in the new economy".
Karamanlis stressed that the government was working hard to encourage business activity, to support farmers' income, to financially support entrepreneurship by women and younger people, self-employment and small- and medium-sized enterprises for hiring new workers.
"Neither I nor any other member of the government can feel satisfied with unemployment at current levels. We will continue our efforts," the Greek Premier added.
He also underlined the government's determination to combat profiteering in the market and cited government measures to improve conditions in the health sector.
"It is obvious there is more work ahead. We need time to overcome past problems and for new policies to have results. But early signs are already visible. The fiscal deficit will fall below 3.0 percent of GDP by the end of 2006, unemployment is down, growth rates are the highest in the Eurozone, investment activity is starting up, foreign investors are showing increased confidence in the Greek economy, and tourist arrivals rose along with Greek exports. All these justify the policy of changes and reforms promoted by the government," the prime minister said.
"We cannot afford to lose any more time. We will implement our program, approved by citizens. Our aim is a competitive and strong economy," Karamanlis said.
"Greeks did not just choose another government. They chose reform for the re-invention of state, for economic growth focused on people, for an economy with opportunities, for a society of cohesion and trust. I know that Greeks and I share the same vision. I have full confidence that the road of reforms leads safely to a better Greece. I have great confidence to citizens. I am confident we can make our vision for a Greece in the 21st century a reality. All together," Karamanlis stressed.
Meanwhile, the premier on Saturday had a private meeting with representatives of local government entities and organizations, during which he heard their demands while relevant ministers provided briefings on the status of issues concerning the city.
Afterwards, Macedonia-Thrace Minister Nikos Tsiartsionis described the meeting as productive, noting that progress had been made on certain fronts.
Opposition reactions: The main opposition PASOK party, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Progress (Synaspismos) late Saturday night sharply criticized Karamanlis' address on the national economy and the reforms and measures announced for the coming year.
PASOK press spokesman Nikos Athanassakis accused the prime minister of "trading in hope", and of postponing his commitments to the future along with the responsibilities for the past.
He further called the premier's address a "display of a lack of credibility; misleading, deceptive and wrong policies".
Athanassakis said Karamanlis has been responsible for the governance of the country over the past one-and-a-half years, and that he was judged on the basis of his accomplishments and not on his generalized announcements, "on which, in fact, he has not made any specific commitment".
The PASOK spokesman added that the Greek people had expected to hear from the prime minister specific announcements of substance regarding the economic policy of the coming year but, instead, heard Karamanlis "once again presenting himself as the great reformer, the leader of growth, and the champion of the working police and of social cohesion".
Never before has a prime minister and a government manifested such chameleon tactics, with such an extensive citing of principles, ideals, values and policies "which they neither believe in nor naturally are applying in action", and never before has a prime minister made such an effort to convince that he knows what he's doing, stating that he knows where we are and where we want to go, with vision and a 'plan of course', Athanassakis continued.
He also accused the prime minister of leading the country in "the wrong direction".
"He's leading the country to stagnation and regression, to the facilitation and reinforcement of the few at the expense of the many, to the decline of growth and the standard-of-living of the working class and middle class, he's leading the low salary and pension earners to despair," the PASOK spokesman said.
Athanassakis spoke of a collapse of (state) revenues, an inability to contain expenditures, and increases in the state debt.
As for the high prices, unemployment, a reduction in employment and all the other problems in general, the PASOK spokesman said the premier was putting the blame on the past PASOK governments.
KKE¨ A KKE announcement said the prime minister's address confirmed the need for working people to "abandon (ruling party) New Democracy and very agent of the anti-popular policy, such as PASOK … and to join forces with the communists in the action for their rights".
KKE charged that with the 14 points of his address, the prime minister was advancing the anti-popular "Lisbon Strategy" … "which crushes the rights of the working-class family on the altar of competitiveness, and of profit-making by the plutocracy, aimed at consolidating and reinforcing its position in the wider region".
The denationalizations and the liberalization of sectors of strategic importance, collaborations between public and private sector, the advancement of flexible forms of employment, all constitute packages of capitalistic restructuring that serve the above goals of the capital, the KKE announcement continued.
It said that the government's vision of Greece operating as a headquarters of research centers and of large European enterprises that were penetrating the neighboring countries expressed the cosmopolitan big idea of capital and in that context the government was attempting to "house" in Thessaloniki all types of "imperialistic organizations".
KKE concluded by saying that working people should not become entrapped in the "counterfeit, ineffective demands for crumbs being advanced by PASOK ... which pretend that it does not know that ND is governing with its (PASOK's) own laws, too".
Synaspismos: Synaspismos political bureau member Panayiotis Lafazanis said that Karamanlis, with his address in Thessaloniki, addressed himself to the business people and not the Greek people.
"The message issued by the prime minister is obvious: We give everything to the big business interests for the good, supposedly, of the working people," Lafazanis said, adding:
"In America, they used to say that what was in the interests of General Motors was in the interests of the US. The tenet of the ND government is: What is in the interests of big capital is in the interests of Greece".
He also charged that Karamanlis inaugurated, in Thessaloniki, the full breakdown of labor relations in all the public enterprises in order to sell them off quickly and without "extra burdens" to private interests, adding that "a new labor Middle Ages is being prepared for the new world".
Lafazanis warned of "super-privileges of capital" and a new harsh austerity on salaries and pensions, while pointing at even more difficult years for the Greek people, with "greater inequalities, more poverty, and nightmarish unemployment".
 Karamanlis at TIF press conference: All pledges will be met; gov't dedicated to reforms, streamlining economy
THESSALONIKI, 12/9/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Sunday reaffirmed his government's dedication to a high-profile policy of reforms, especially in the bloated public sector, as well as tidying up the economy for the benefit of Greek citizens, particularly those in the lower-income brackets, as he said.
Speaking at an across-the-board press conference during the first weekend of the 70th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), Karamanlis noted that "we are in the middle of a difficult, uphill course ... priority is on the fiscal condition, and we are continuing with persistence in that direction".
Replying to press questions, the prime minister stressed on several occasions that the government was obliged to take unpleasant decisions, but noted that the first signs that its policy was yielding results was already visible.
He explained that one could not exercise social policy "with borrowed money", stressing that the living conditions of the less privileged and economically weaker classes improves when the economy improves, whereas those social groups face greater burdens vis-a-vis economic hardships.
The prime minister also reiterated that all pledges made by the government still stood and would be fulfilled over a four-year period.
"All those who think that social policy can be exercised with words or borrowed money are seriously deluding themselves. The priority is on rendering the economy healthy. This is a policy of responsibility. It is easy to exercise a policy of impressions, but then the burden falls on the shoulders of the taxpayers," he said.
Within this context, Karamanlis said the government could not grant a heating oil subsidy under the present circumstances. "The fiscal reality does not allow such margins in the present state of affairs," he explained.
Karamanlis further explained that more flexible labor relations in state-owned public utilities and enterprises, known as "DEKOs", will apply to new hirings - such as abolition of tenure, for instance. With respect to public sector hirings, he clarified that "what is in effect today will also be in effect under the new regime ... in other words, hirings will be under the control and supervision of ASEP (public sector hiring examinations board)."
Karamanlis stressed that it was a "point of principle" for his government to combat phenomena of favoritism and partisanship, noting that he would not put that top policy choice at risk in order to serve whatever interests.
Future of OA: Regarding the future of ailing national carrier Olympic Airlines (OA), and in view of a pending European Commission decision this week on whether the company received, directly and indirectly, tens of millions of euros in illegal state subsidies, Karamanlis said it was a difficult case and that, in anticipation of the Commission's decision, the only thing he could say at this time was that "OA cannot operate in its present form and structure".
Karamanlis said that alternative options were being examined for "the morning after", while noting that the alternatives were "not many". However, he also emphasized that "no employee will find himself on the street".
Social security reform: In other matters, he premier reiterated his government's decision to hold a lengthy dialogue on the social security reforms, noting that "we are not speaking about quick or surprise decisions". He nevertheless emphasized that this (reform) is "perhaps the largest structural change".
Moreover, he addressed himself to citizens, social partners and political parties for a dialogue aimed at consensus and based on hard data, a dialogue that will precede any decisions.
Rules out gov't reshuffle: In response to the ubiquitous press questions over a possible government reshuffle, the prime minister said "governmental changes are not among my plans", adding that his government had a difficult task ahead but was progressing well and had produced substantial work in the 18 months it was in power, although it still had an uphill road ahead.
Asked about the possibility of a smaller and more flexible Cabinet, Karamanlis ruled it out at this stage, given that it was a complex issue and was related to the structure of the state's administrative mechanism.
"When we reach the point when this can be done without taking risks, without political or partisan expediencies, it may be done, but it must be well prepared," he said.
The issue of last week's expulsion of a ruling ND deputy (Evangelos Polyzos) from the party's parliamentary group, Karamanlis said it was not his intention to "seal mouths" adding, in reply to relevant questions, that freedom of speech and dialogue existed. Conversely, he stressed that serious and unsubstantiated accusations could not be cast about against the political world, especially when they came from a Parliament member. This, he stressed, was a point of principle.
Fight against corruption; tax breaks: He told reporters that another point of principle was the fight against a lack of transparency, corruption and special interests. Along those lines, he said negotiations with the EU to find common ground over the "primary shareholder" law were continuing.
Asked about reductions in tax coefficients by 2007, something the premier announced a day earlier here during his keynote address at the Thessaloniki International Fair, he said he was not yet ready to unveil the details, although he stressed that such reductions marked a commitment of his government.
 KKE, Synaspismos reactions to PM's comments
THESSALONIKI, 12/9/2005 (ANA)The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and Coalition of the Left, Movements and Progress (Synaspismos) on Sunday were quick to react to statements by Karamanlis during a customary across-the-board press conference at the Thessaloniki exhibition.
KKE said the "unpleasant decisions" that the prime minister consistently cited during his press conference as being obligated to take had only one goal: "to habituate the working people to the illusory idea that the government's anti-popular measures are being taken for their own good".
"The reality, however, is precisely the opposite. The 'unpleasant decisions' open up new avenues for greater profit-making by the big capital," a KKE announcement read, adding that "consequently, they are indeed unpleasant for the many, and very pleasant for the few … Worse days are ahead."
Synaspismos spokesman Nikos Voutsis said the prime minister was operating on an "automatic pilot of extreme neo-liberal choices".
Voutsis also criticized the prime minister of "glorifying policies that have been applied for years and have led to the extremely dire situation he himself presented and acknowledged, both in terms of economic indicators and on the every-day lives of citizens".
He added that the prime minister committed himself on nothing, and gave nothing to the lower-income classes, "which are consistently dealt blows by the anti-social policies, particularly in the present state of affairs."
Labor leaders' reactions: On his part, the head of the country's largest trade umbrella group (GSEE), Christos Polyzogopoulos, warned the government that labor unions will react "en masse and dynamically" to any policy that increases economic and social inequities, speaking a day after rallies took place outside the TIF exhibition hall where the prime minister spoke.
Additionally, he called on the government to release a list of northern Greece firms that received subsidization only to leave the country for neighboring countries or are threatening to leave - a particularly sensitive point for local communities in the country's north.
Meanwhile, the head of the civil servants' union (ADEDY), Spyros Papaspirou, said the premier's announcements were merely a "theoretical repeat of a well-known government policy to date, one expressed with the intervention in banks' labor relations and in OTE (the state-run telecoms utility)".
Papaspirou spoke during an interview at the ANA-MPA pavilion at TIF, an interview transmitted live via the Internet.
 PM meets representatives of local Thessaloniki bodies, hears their demands
THESSALONIKI, 12/9/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Saturday had an meeting with representatives of Thessaloniki bodies and organizations, without cameras present, during which he heard their demands and the relevant ministers reported on the status of issues concerning the city.
Macedonia-Thrace Minister Nikos Tsiartsionis afterwards described the meeting as fruitful, noting that progress had been made on certain fronts.
 Unions rally in Thessaloniki on Sat. during PM's keynote speech at TIF
THESSALONIKI, 12/9/2005 (ANA)Several thousands of labor union members rallied peacefully in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, on Saturday evening as Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis was addressing business people, social partners and government officials at the 70th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).
Demonstrators mostly criticized the government's economic policy, while most of their slogans concerned unemployment and stores' recently extended opening hours.
Organizers said more over 20,000 people participated in the main rally and in marches, although unofficial assessments by police cited a figure of 10-12,000 people.
Many demonstrators arrived in busses and cars from neighboring prefectures, while others came as far away as Crete, Thessaly and the Peloponnese.
Three rallies were organized at 6.30 p.m. with the Ioannis Vellidis convention centre, where Karamanlis was making his address, as the final destination.
The General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) and the Civil Servants' Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY) began their rally at the statue of Eleftherios Venizelos in downtown Thessaloniki.
Meanwhile, two tractors headed the march organized by the Communist Party of Greece-(KKE) affiliated PAME group, which began at the entrance to the city's harbor.
Additionally, leftist and anti-state groups organized a separate rally in the city's Kamara district, a mobilization that also headed towards the convention centre.
After the anti-state protesters' march concluded, about 70 youths entered Aristotelion University's campus and began throwing stones and home-made firebombs towards the adjoining TIF fairgrounds. The campus is governed by an asylum status.
Firebombs destroyed two police motorcycles and a parked car. Riot police used tear gas in order to force back demonstrators into the university's premises, where they remained.
 PM: Climate in EU not pleasant, but creates no institutional problems for enlargement candidates
THESSALONIKI, 12/9/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said on Sunday that although the current negative climate in the EU regarding enlargement was unpleasant, it nevertheless did not entail institutional hazards for the candidacies of the SE European countries.
Replying to questions during a press conference on all issues on the sidelines of the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), Karamanlis also said that the country's foreign policy is forged and exercised by the government.
Asked whether the negative climate in the EU over European Union enlargement could influence Greece's strategy on backing the candidacies of SE European countries, Karamanlis said that although the climate in the EU was "not pleasant", it did not create institutional hazards for the countries that were in an "EU orbit" and wished to join the 25-nation bloc.
"The atmosphere in the EU is not pleasant," he acknowledged, adding that, in his opinion, "there must be a frank discussion as to what kind of Europe we want".
Karamanlis said he did not believe that the negative climate created institutional hazards for the countries "in a European orbit that wish to join the EU".
"Our position, at any rate, is well-known. I do not believe, institutionally, that Bulgaria or Romania, for example, will face problems, but indisputably the climate has been influenced within the European Union," the premier said.
To another question on to what degree the Cyprus problem affects Greek-Turkish relations, Karamanlis noted that the Greek government's position backing Turkey's European prospect was well-known.
"This position is neither frivolous, nor does it mean unconditional support," the prime minister said. "There is a need for Turkey to fully meet the commitments it has assumed. One of those commitments was its signing of the Protocol (extending its Customs Union agreement with the EU to the 10 new member countries, including Cyprus). Unfortunately, however, Turkey linked its signature to the Protocol with a unilateral declaration (that Ankara continues not to recognize the Republic of Cyprus refuses the entry of Cypriot planes and ships to Turkish airports and ports) that creates problems, and this means that the EU must clear up this issue," he added.
"In other words, the question is not whether the matter of Cyprus creates problems in Greek-Turkish relations. As you know, our aim is full normalization of Greek-Turkish relations and, as I said earlier, inter alia we back the neighboring country's accession prospects. But there are also some issues of principle. It is not possible for a country to want to begin the (accession) negotiations, and tomorrow become a member of the European Union, and at the same time not respect the fundamental obligations it has previously assumed. This is a position of principle on which we are unwavering," Karamanlis stressed.
To another question, the prime minister underlined that the country's foreign policy is forged and exercised by the government.
"I must make it clear that foreign policy is made by the government. The government has a very clearcut policy on the specific issue, and also the courage to proceed with a policy that has created great difficulties for the side in this matter, which today is under pressure to be obliged to a policy that will indicate its good faith. From there on, I do not comment on conditions, hesitations and views, regardless of where they are coming from," Karamanlis said in reply to relevant press questions, prompted by a statement on the FYROM name issue made recently by Metropolitan Anthimos of Thessaloniki.
 PM visits pavilion shared by ANA-MPA at TIF
THESSALONIKI, 12/9/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Saturday visited the pavilion shared by the Athens News Agency (ANA) and the Macedonian Press Agency (MPA), during a tour of the 70th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).
Karamanlis was briefed on the services provided by the two Greek news agencies, which are on the verge of a merger, especially a Balkan News Bulletin that is already being sent out and the plans to soon establish multi-media news formats.
The prime minister, who was accompanied by Macedonia-Thrace Minister Nikos Tsiartsionis, congratulated ANA general director George Tampakopoulos and MPA general director Spyros Kouzinopoulos, wishing them good luck in their work.
 Greece has impressive foreign aid record, foreign minister stresses
THESSALONIKI, 12/9/2005 (ANA)Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis on Saturday stressed that the country had a very impressive record in the donation of economic aid to countries in the Third World and the Balkans, while visiting the pavilions of the foreign ministry and 'International Developmental Cooperation' at the 70th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).
The minister said that Greek aid to developing countries had exceeded ¬ 400 million in 2004, of which some ¬ 50 million had been given by the foreign ministry in cash form.
Molyviatis also noted that a ¬ 550 million program for aid to southeastern Europe, the National Plan for Balkan Reconstruction, was already unfolding.
"I thing that for a country like Greece, this is a very impressive contribution for the support and to assist the development of Third-World and developing countries," he said.
 Environment minister threatens to expose those delaying public works
THESSALONIKI, 12/9/2005 (ANA)Inaugurating the environment ministry's pavilion at the 70th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on Saturday, Environment, Land Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias said that he would henceforth publicly expose any body responsible for delaying the execution of public works.
As an example, he cited the case of the Thermaikos Municipality in Thessaloniki, which had currently blocked an extension of Macedonia Airport with a suit before the Council of State for what the minister claimed were purely private interests.
Overall, the minister said he was pleased with the pace at which scheduled public works for northern Greece and Thessaloniki were proceeding, as well as Greece in general. He said that several projects that had been stalled for many years were finally going forward.\
He referred to five major public works projects that will be carried out in northern Greece, noting that the environment ministry planned to hold tenders and begin construction on major projects budgeted at ¬ 13.6 billion in 2005-06.
The minister said that the Egnatia Highway, due to be completed in 2008, was running on schedule, while the start of work on the Thessaloniki metro, estimated to be completed in 6.5 years, is due to begin any time.
Regarding the Thessaloniki under-sea tunnel and the Maliakos-Kleidi road, he said that the contracts for the projects would be tabled for ratification by Parliament as soon as civil suits and complaints concerning the planned projects are processed by the courts.
 Several members of government visit TIF, inaugurate ministry pavilions
THESSALONIKI, 12/9/2005 (ANA)Several ministers and junior ministers visited the grounds of the 70th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on Saturday, several of them in order to inaugurate their ministry's pavilion at the fair.
Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos visited the pavilions of Hellenic Defense Systems and Hellenic Aid, while he also attended the inauguration of the development ministry pavilion by Development Minister George Sioufas.
Agricultural Development Minister Evangelos Basiakos visited both his own ministry's pavilion and that the Greek Sugar Industry, while Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos inaugurated the pavilions of the interior ministry and the Central Macedonia Regional Authority.
Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis presided over the inauguration of pavilions set up by the Greek Police and the Fire Department.
Also with its own pavilion at the fair was the Athens Municipality, inaugurated by Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni, with an exhibition focusing on the municipality's past and future works.
 PM Karamanlis: Government's election pledges to be fully materialized over four-year period
THESSALONIKI, 12/9/2005 (ANA)The government's election pledges will be fully respected and materialized over a four-year period, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis assured on Sunday, and at the same time ruled out the prospect of a government reshuffle, in reply to questions during a press conference on all issues at the Vellidis Congress Centre in Thessaloniki.
Replying to a relevant question, Karamanlis also said that he was satisfied with the government's work throughout its 18 first months in power, but stressed that a greater effort was necessary.
"The government is not transposing the problems, but clashing with them, and the first steps are already visible," he said.
The premier referred again to the issue of newly-hired employees in the DEKO state utilities and organizations, and stressed that the role of the ASEP (public sector hiring examinations board) continued to be in force and "is not changing in any way". The target, he added, was abolition of favoritism and partisanship, and respect of the taxpayers' money.
On the issue of a heating oil subsidy, Karamanlis said that the difficult fiscal conditions left no margins for such a benefit in the current state of affairs.
To a question regarding the ailing national carrier Olympic Airlines, the premier said the situation was difficult, the result of faulty actions in the past, adding that OA could not function in its present form. He assured, however, that in every instance the government would protect the rights of the employees and "no one will be put out on the street".
Asked whether the problem of "special interests" has been solved, Karamanlis said that the issue was a "constant struggle", and a matter of principles for his government.
To a question on whether he considered main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou an easy adversary, the prime minister said that he respected Papandreou as an institutional figure, liked him as a person, and was still awaiting specific proposals from him.
 PM arriving in New York on Tuesday to attend UN summit
NEW YORK, 12/9/2005 (ANA - P. Panagiotou)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is expected to arrive in New York on Tuesday to attend the United Nations' summit. He will be accompanied on his visit by Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, Deputy Foreign Ministers Yiannis Valinakis and Evripidis Stylianidis, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros and other government officials.
Karamanlis will be addressing the UN summit at about 5.45 p.m. (Greek time) on Friday and will also be attending the Security Council summit on Wednesday, since Greece is a non-permanent Security Council member for the two-year period of 2005-2006.
The prime minister will participate in a roundtable discussion on Security Council reforms on Thursday and will have a series of bilateral meetings with several heads of state and government.
Karamanlis will further attend a reception given by U.S. President George W. Bush in honor of the heads of state and government who will be attending the summit. He will also attend the welcoming breakfast given by the summit's joint presidents, as well as the official luncheon by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Karamanlis and Molyviatis will be honored with the "Justice for Cyprus" award during an event organized by the Cypriot Federation of America. Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos will be present at the event.
 PASOK leader addresses Global Progressive Forum in Milan
MILAN, 12/9/2005 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou addressed the annual meeting of the Global Progressive Forum in Milan on Saturday, speaking on the theme of "The Global Progressive Vision".
Other participants in the forum included former Danish premier and President of the Party of European Socialists (PES) Paul Rasmussen and the head of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Pascal Lamy.
Speaking after the end of the day's work at the forum, Papandreou stressed that "humanity is now in the position to plan its future" and that the leftist, democratic and socialist forces gathered at the meeting "are the ones that can answer the great and difficult problems of humanity."
He said the parties gathered in Milan had reconfirmed their desire to work together to put their ideals and values into action.
The forum will continue in the afternoon, coming to a close on Saturday night.
 Former Communist Party Parliamentary representative Costas Kappos dies
ATHENS, 12/9/2005 (ANA)Costas Kappos, a member of the Communist Party of Greece's (KKE) Central Committee and its Parliamentary representative until 1989, died on Saturday night. KKE's Central Committee, in an announcement, extended its condolences to the family of Kappos.
Kappos had joined the United Democratic Left (EDA) party before the dictatorship imposed in the country in April 1967 and then went to KKE.
In past years, Kappos was an active member of the Marxist Research Centre as a member of its board, while continuing his involvement in popular struggles at the side of KKE.
His funeral will take place in the Athens district of Kesariani at 5 p.m. on Monday and will be a civil funeral.
 Washington DC mayor presented with Gold Medal of City of Thessaloniki
THESSALONIKI, 12/9/2005 (ANA)Thessaloniki mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos on Sunday presented the Gold Medal of the city to Washington DC mayor Anthony Williams, who is in the northern Greek capital for the 70th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), during a ceremony at the City Hall that was also attended by US ambassador to Greece Charles Ries.
Papageorgopoulos said that the City of Thessaloniki, in honoring the mayor of the US capital, was also paying tribute to the victims of Hurricane Katrina that recently devastated New Orleans, and the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington DC, and expressed the hope that Hurricane Katrina would be the last disaster to plague the American people.
Williams expressed certainty that the American people would be able to overcome the repercussions of the natural disasters, and stressed the bonds between Washington DC and Thessaloniki, at the same time thanking the City of Thessaloniki for the honor bestowed on him.
Earlier, the Thessaloniki mayor met with Ambassador Ries, to whom he expressed his support for the hurricane-stricken US people, while he also referred to the TIF and the interest it met with.
Ries said that, for the first time in two weeks, there was good news from the areas hit by Hurricane Katrina, noting that the floodwaters had started to recede in the stricken areas.
 Human Rights Foundation organizes march in memory of September 1955 events in Istanbul
ISTANBUL, 12/9/2005 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)The Human Rights Foundation organized a march on Sunday in memory of the events taking place here on September 6-7, 1955. The march was held in the central Istiklal motorway in the region of Peran where the greatest destruction had taken place during the events.
During the march, members of the Foundation stopped and laid red carnations outside shops along the motorway.
The march ended with an address by the Foundation's President in Istanbul Eren Keskin, who revealed that while he was doing his military service in Ankara at the time "on the day of the events our commanders gathered us together and explained to us that all that has taken place is a mistake and that they are not becoming for Turkey."
 Govt's goal is fiscal restructuring combined with strong growth prospects, PM says
THESSALONIKI, 12/9/2005 (ANA)Fiscal restructuring combined with a strong growth prospect is the big bet for Greece and the government is determined to win it, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said on Saturday during a meeting with the managements of Thessaloniki International Fair and Helexpo.
The Greek PM said that the government would support the Thessaloniki International Fair and urged its managers to seek more ambitious goals.
"Our big bet is fiscal restructuring combined with a strong growth prospect. The country must be competitive because for many years it failed to produce as much as it should, while exports and investments are low. And this bet we must win. We are determined to do everything possible to win it. This is the main message coming from the inauguration of this year's Thessaloniki International Fair," Karamanlis said.
The Greek Premier stressed that the Thessaloniki Fair has a very important role to play towards this goal since one of the keys to the success of our ambitious strategic and national goals is to make the economy more export-orientated and the Fair to become the starting point for Greek exports.
TIF's president Aristotelis Thomopoulos told the Greek Premier that the fair has managed to attract more visitors (up 45 percent last year) and to improve its quality characteristics. "Our aim is to become an international trade fair centre," he said. HELEXPO president Dimitris Bakatselos said that TIF would report profits for the first time this year although he noted that major renovation works were needed in its facilities.
 Government aims at speeding up absorption of Interreg III initiative funds, deputy finance minister says
THESSALONIKI, 12/9/2005 (ANA)The government is aiming at speeding up the rate of absorption of funds through cooperation and the planning of the balance of the European Union's Interreg III initiative on cross-border cooperation, as well as at preparation for the fourth which shall have a different dimension, Deputy Finance and Economy Minister Christos Folias said on Sunday, during the pavilion's inauguration in the framework of the 70th Thessaloniki International Trade Fair (TIF).
Folias added that the performances of the EU initiative were disheartening so far and pointed out that there was slackness and a lack of planning and implementation.
The deputy minister further noted that considerable ground existed for the utilization of Interreg on cross-border cooperation and warned that no more time should be lost.
Interreg III is an EU initiative aimed at promoting cross-border cooperation, as well as cooperation between states and regions in the EU over the 2000-2006 period.
 British EU presidency considering fuel benefit for low-income groups, minister says
LONDON, 12/9/2005 (ANA - L. Tsirigotakis)The British European Union presidency is considering establishing a special benefit for low-income groups in Greece that have been hardest hit by the recent surge in oil prices, Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis confirmed on Saturday.
Alogoskoufis made the statement after emerging from an informal ECOFIN meeting in Manchester that he had just taken part in.
The minister stressed that the government was examining all alternatives that lay within the budget's tolerance levels and had asked all public sector bodies funded directly from the budget to contribute so as not to further exacerbate the deficit and create some additional income for the poorest groups, such as those without salaries, those on low salaries and those on low pensions.
He said EU finance ministers' had decided to avoid tax-based measures for dealing with the oil price crisis, at least at present, and had also discussed structural measures aimed at conserving fuel and regulating the market, such as releasing oil reserves.
Alogoskoufis departed from Manchester for Thessaloniki
 EAB and Finmeccanica sign cooperation deal for aircraft parts construction
THESSALONIKI, 12/9/2005 (ANA)The Hellenic Aircraft Industry (EAB) and the Italian firm Finmeccanica have signed an agreement under which EAB will undertake the construction of aircraft parts during the 70th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).
With the agreement, EAB gains a contract worth ¬ 300 million for the next three years that seals the intentions of the two companies to cooperate in specific areas of mutual interests, such as aircraft construction, aircraft conversions and refits, satellite and space systems, etc.
Also present at the signature of the agreement were Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos and Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas/
Earlier, Spiliotopoulos had inaugurated the pavilions of EAB and the Hellenic Arms Industry (ELBO) and had visited the pavilions of the Greek Post Offices and the joint ANA/MPA pavilion, where he was briefed by ANA general director George Tampakopoulos and MPA general director Spyros Kouzinopoulos on the imminent merger of the two news agencies and their new services.
 More than 500 investment plans applied for funding under new law, Folias reported
THESSALONIKI, 12/9/2005 (ANA)More than 500 investment plans worth some ¬ 1.5 billion have been submitted for funding under the government's new developmental law in just five months, Deputy Finance Minister Christos Folias announced while addressing the general assembly of the Central Union of Chambers of Greece (KEEE) on Saturday.
Folias said the government was determined to make the best possible use of the 4th Community Support Framework and to 'tidy-up' public finances in order to boost the national economy and enterprise.
"We want the public sector to be a supporter not to take the fore. We believe in a state that limits itself to its supervisory role, with better and fewer laws," he said.
 US country pavilion at TIF inaugurated
THESSALONIKI, 12/9/2005 (ANA)The United States' country pavilion at the 70th annual Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) was inaugurated on Sunday by Greece's deputy foreign minister Evripides Stylianidis. The inauguration was attended by Greek development minister Dimitris Sioufas and agricultural development minister Evangelos Basiakos, deputy ministers Christos Folias and Alexandros Kontos, US ambassador to Greece Charles Ries, US general consul in Thessaloniki Dimitra Papas, Washington D.C. mayor Anthony Williams, and president of the Executive Committee of the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce Stephanos Costopoulos.
Stylianidis took the opportunity to refer to Greece's assistance to the victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans: "At this time, when the American people are facing a tragic catastrophe, Greece and the Greek government, expressing the warmest sentiments of the Greek people, is undertaking initiatives of human solidarity. We are sending an organized relief caravan to New Orleans which can host, for a period of more than three months, many hundreds of homeless, who will also be provided with all the necessary health services and meals".
The deputy minister further stressed the determination of Greece and the US to further strengthen their bilateral economic relations.
"The important, continuous presence of American businessmen at TIF reflects the importance attributed by the US economy in the Greek market. Our program contains initiatives that will promote Greece and Thessaloniki among the US public, and to strengthen cooperation between Greek and American enterprises," Stylianidis said.
The official US participation in the 70th TIF is organized by the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce, in cooperation with the Commercial Services of the US Embassy in Athens.
For many consecutive years, the United States Pavilion has had the largest country official participation in the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair, which is considered the most important commercial event in Greece, according to a Chamber announcement. Through a dynamic representation of products and services attracting the interest of 300.000 visitors during the exhibition, exhibiting companies are provided with broad promotion opportunities, it said
The products that presented in the U.S. Pavilion include: Motorized vehicles, machinery, pharmaceutical products, home products, electrical appliances, technological products, among others. Furthermore, American Educational Institutions will present educational and scholarship opportunities in Greece and the United States, the announcement said.
 Civil servants announce strike mobilizations in October
ATHENS, 12/9/2005 (ANA)ADEDY, Greek civil servants' union, on Saturday announced a 24-hour strike in October demanding a restructuring of civil administration and in particular adopting an objective evaluation system for workers and integrating all social benefits into a new payroll.
The decision was taken during a regular meeting of ADEDY's council in Thessaloniki. A final date for the strike will be announced in the next few days.
Foreign Exchange Rates: Monday
Reference buying rates per euro released
by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.251
 16th Biennale of Sport in Art inaugurated in Thessaloniki
THESSALONIKI, 12/9/2005 (ANA)The 16th Biennale of Sport in Art (Bienal Internacional del Deporte en el Arte-BIDA 2005) was inaugurated in Thessaloniki on Sunday by Greece's deputy culture minister responsible for sports, George Orfanos, at the Macedonian Museum of Modern Art and the Kaftantzoglio national Stadium..
Being staged for the first time outside Spain, the BIDA is the most significant Biennale of artists that links modern art to sport. The aim is to render the BIDA a cultural and artistic event of prime importance for Europe and the Mediterranean region.
BIDA-2005, which will run through September 30, is being staged by the Consejo Superior de Deportes of Spain within the framework of the designation of 2005 as the International Year of Sport and Physical Education and the 17th European Conference on Sport. Important works by contemporary artists from Europe and the Mediterranean are taking part, and Greece has been designated as the "honored country".
At the end of the exhibition the works will be transported to Seville in Spain to be exhibited in November at the La Atarazanas Imperial Shipyard, a 13th century cultural monument of great historic significance.
The aim of the event is to give the public the opportunity to look at the exciting world of sport with a different eye, through the eyes of modern art and thus contribute to a broadening of the concept of Culture.
The Greek artists, who represent different generations, are: Manolis Babousis, Dimitris Xonoglou, Yorgos Lazongas, Leda Papakonstantinou, Danae Stratou, Chrysi Tsiota, Efi Halyvopoulou, Ersi Hatziargyrou, Elli Chryssidou, Alexandros Psychoulis, and Yioula Hadjigeorgiou (Cyprus).
The artists from other Mediterranean countries are: Fernando Baena (Spain), Yoav Ben-David (Israel), Juan Carlos Bracho (Spain), Joan Cortes (Spain), Javier Grandes (Spain), Rula Hallawani (Palestine), Frederique Lecerf (France), Clara Montoya (Spain), Tobias Putrih (Slovenia), Daniel Vega (Spain), and José Luis Vicario (Spain).
The presentation of BIDA 2005 in two different countries of the North and South (that both belong in the European Mediterranean), is reinforced by the initiative of the Deputy Ministry of Sport of Spain, so that the event can transcend the boundaries of a Museum of Modern Art (in this case the Macedonian Museum of Modern Art). For the first time, an event of this sort will be held in and around a purely sport environment, at the Kaftanzoglio National Stadium in Thessaloniki, where the works (installations, videos, photography) will be exhibited. A lively and active public space, an area where athletes of all ages exercise and train and where sporting matches are held, will host an artistic "marathon" that shall temporarily transform an athletic stadium into a stadium for sport and art.
"One year after the successful staging of the Olympic Games, which were unquestionably a sporting and cultural event of paramount importance on a global scale, the staging of the 16th International Biennale of Sport in Art, - BIDA 2005 - signals a daring venture, as well as a generous overture of friendship by sport to modern art. BIDA is the only international Biennale dedicated exclusively to Sports in Modern Art. This event, in which various cities host the work of various artists, has been organized with great success ever since 1967," Orfanos said.
This year's event hosts 28 artists from Europe and the Mediterranean and it is innovative for two reasons: the first that Greece is the country being honored and will be represented by 11 contemporary artists of different generations. The second reason is that the exhibition will be held in one of the most important historical sites in Andalusia which was inaugurated last year after a many years restoration work. This important decision to hold BIDA simultaneously in two countries with long and historical cultural exchanges marks a new era of support for and promotion of modern artistic creativity with regard to modern Sport, he added.
"The international Biennale of Sport in Art constitutes, furthermore, a bridge of friendship and cooperation between two countries with a long tradition of common cultural initiatives. Both Greece and Spain support Sport, Education and Culture, as constituent foundations of the modern European edifice. The successful Olympic and Paralympic Games of Athens in 2004 redefined Greece's place in the global geopolitical and cultural map. The Ministry of Sports' long term planning of cultural programs and exchanges could constitute a catalyst and effective vehicle for the promotion, enhancement and equitable contribution of modern Greek artistic creation in the international art arena. I am confident of the success of the exhibition and its appeal, particularly to the youth of our country, and our hope is that it can become one of the most important exhibition events in the cultural life of Thessalonica and our country in general,", Orfanos continued.
Parallel events: On the sidelines of the exhibition, on 18 and 19 September, the choreographer Constantinos Rigos will stage a performance at both the exhibition sites. The event will include dance, video projections, live music and singing. Photographs of his work at the OAKA (Athens Olympic Sports Complex) taken by the photographers Tasos Vrettos and Charis Pallas will also be presented. These photographs will also be presented at the Asteras Hotel in Vouliagmeni within the framework of the European Conference on Sport. Also to be presented on 24 to 26 September, both in Thessaloniki and the Conference in Athens, is the work of the artist Sia Kyriakakos: videos and photographs from a performance event in which the enthusiasm of children becomes transformed into an athlete thus identifying game with competition in a manner brings joy and revives both the body and spirit.
 Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos invited to visit Italian Parliament
ISTANBUL, 12/9/2005 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos has been invited by an Italian Parliamentary delegation to make an official visit to Italy's Parliament in Rome.
Such an invitation had only been extended in the past to the late Pope John Paul II, who hade made an address in the Italian Parliament.
Vartholomeos was invited by the delegation during its visit to the Fanar and he was also given an honorary plaque depicting the building housing Italy's Parliament.
 Alexandria Patriarch visits monastic community on Mount Athos
THESSALONIKI, 12/9/2005 (ANA)Alexandria Patriarch Theodoros on Saturday paid a visit to the all-male monastic community on Mount Athos in the north of Greece. On Sunday, the Patriarch will lead a memorial service at Porto Koufo in Sithonia, Halkidiki to mark the first anniversary since the tragic helicopter accident in which his predecessor, Patriarch Petros, was killed.
Theodoros arrived at the capital of Mount Athos, Karyes, at 11:00 in the morning, when he was met by a welcoming committee. The mood was strongly emotional, since Patriarch Petros and the other 16 people killed in the accident had been heading to Mount Athos for an official visit.
Sunday's service will be held at noon, near a monument being erected in memory of the 17 victims of the helicopter crash, after which the Patriarch and other officials will take a coast guard boat from the harbor of Porto Koufo to the site where the helicopter went down in the sea and cast wreaths into the water.
 Memorial services held for 9/11, hurricane 'Katrina' victims
NEW YORK, 12/9/2005 (ANA)Archbishop of America Demetrios was scheduled to hold a memorial service here on Sunday in remembrance of the victims of 9/11 as well as the victims of hurricane "Katrina" and last month's airliner crash north of Athens.
Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki was among the Greek officials expected to attend the service at the Aghia Triada (Holy Trinity) Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Manhattan.
Both Demetrios and the Greek Parliament president were later expected to visit "Ground Zero" and the small Orthodox chapel of Aghios Nikolaos (St. Nicholas) in Lower Manhattan, as the latter was severely damaged during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack.
Memorial service in Thessaloniki: Meanwhile, a memorial service was held in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, on Sunday as well, the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C.
The service came in memory of the victims of 9/11 as well as the victims of hurricane "Katrina", which recently devastated parts of Louisiana, especially New Orleans, and Mississippi.
The service was held at the Aghios Demetrios cathedral in downtown Thessaloniki and was attended by Macedonia-Thrace Minister Nikos Tsiartsionis, US ambassador to Greece Charles Ries, Washington DC Mayor Anthony Williams, the American general consul in Thessaloniki Dimitra Papas, and Thessaloniki Prefect Panayiotis Psomiadis, among others.
 Greek soccer results
ATHENS, 12/9/2005 (ANA)Reigning champion Olympiakos Piraeus beat Panionios Athens 5-0 in a spectacular match and leads the Greek first division after this weekend's matches.
Other matches played had the following results:PAOK Thessaloniki-Atromitos Athens 2-2, Apollon Thessaloniki-Levadiakos Livadia 1-1, OFI Crete-Xanthi 1-1, AEK Athens-Iraklis Thessaloniki 2-0, Ionikos Piraeus-Panathinaikos Athens 1-1 and Egaleo Athens-Akratitos Athens 1-0. Larissa and Kallithea Athens will play on Monday.
Standings after two games played:Olympiakos Piraeus 6 points, AEK Athens 4, Apollon Thessaloniki 4, Xanthi 4, Egaleo Athens 4, Akratitos Athens 3, Atromitos Athens 2, Levadiakos Livadia 2, Ionikos Piraeus 2, Larissa (one game) 1, Kallithea Athens (one game) 1, PAOK Thessaloniki 1, OFI Crete 1, Panathinaikos Athens 1, Panionios Athens 1 and Iraklis Thessaloniki 0.