|Tuesday, 21 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-09-15
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>September 15, 2004
 UN must strengthen its role as peacekeeper, PM says
NEW YORK, 15/9/2005 (ANA/P. Panagiotou)The United Nations must play a stronger role in managing, solving and preventing conflicts, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis told the UN Security Council, meeting within the framework of the 2005 World Summit that opened here on Wednesday.
In addition to preventing conflict from breaking out in the world, it is necessary that the UN adopt comprehensive and long-term strategies that will deal with the root of the problems before they result in conflict and war, Karamanlis noted.
To this end, Greece firmly supports the creation of a peace-building committee and the adoption of a UN resolution aimed at preventing conflict in Africa, the continent devastated most by strife and war, he added.
According to Karamanlis, virtuous governance, just state, solid democratic institutions, respect of human rights, development aid, reform and democratization of the security sector are the key elements in addressing existing conflicts.
As for the fight against terrorism, the premier said that human rights and basic civil liberties cannot be undermined in the process.
Karamanlis stressed that poverty, epidemics, environmental pollution, weapons of mass destruction, and organized crime are emerging as the new threat to world peace and security. These, he said, demand a stronger UN and comprehensive strategies.
He called on regional organizations to operate effectively and emphasized the need for international treaties to be respected.
The premier had the opportunity to attend the meeting since Greece is a non-permanent Security Council member for the period 2005-2006.
 PM Karamanlis discusses UN reform, Cyprus, FYROM, Kosovo with UN chief Annan on eve of world summit
NEW YORK, 15/9/2005 (ANA/P. Panagiotou)Greece's Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had a 20-minute meeting with UN secretary general Kofi Annan early Wednesday (Greek time), immediately after his arrival in New York for the United Nations General Assembly world summit.
After the meeting, Karamanlis told reporters that the purpose of the world summit that would open Wednesday at the UN, which would be attended by 170 heads of state and government, was to assess and review the implementation of the UN Millennium Declaration that was adopted in 2000 as well as a number of issues relating to the reform of the UN.
Greece, he noted, was a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the two-year term 2005-2006, and consequently he would also be taking part in the Security Council summit meeting, taking place in tandem with the General Assembly world summit, which was due to deal with combatting terrorism and with conflict prevention in Africa.
Karamanlis said that he and Annan exchanged views on the Cyprus issue, the FYROM name issue, and on matters related to the UN reform.
The Greek premier was also due to attend a reception later hosted by US president George Bush in honor of the heads of state and government attending the UN General Assembly world summit, which Karamanlis is due to address on Friday.
Karamanlis is scheduled to hold sideline meetings with a number of world leaders on Wednesday and Thursday, while on Thursday he will also attend a round-table discussion on UN reforms, and a summit meeting of the Francophone countries.
The Greek premier was also scheduled to meet with American journalists and give interviews on several US TV networks, including CNN and PBS.
According to diplomatic sources, the UN chief appeared to understand the Greek position regarding the FYROM name issue.
The sources said that Karamanlis told Annan that he welcomed UN special mediator on the FYROM name issue Matthew Nimetz's initiative for the resumption of UN-brokered talks between Greece and FYROM aimed at finding a mutually acceptable name, which would contribute to the consolidation of stability in the region and substantially help in further boosting relations between the two neighboring countries.
On the Cyprus issue, the same sources said that Karamanlis expressed his appreciation for the UN chief's personal involvement, and reiterated his support for Annan's efforts, at the same time adding that any new initiative would have to be carefully prepared so as to avoid a new failure, with the aim of reaching a comprehensive solution to the problem and reunification of the island republic.
A UN announcement said that the Greek premier and the UN secretary general had discussed Cyprus, the FYROM name issue, Kosovo, and UN reform, adding that, on the issue of Cyprus, Annan had assured Karamanlis that the secretary general's good offices remained at the disposition of the two sides.
At the same time, diplomatic sources described as "historic" Greece's presence on the international political scene, referring to Karamanlis' scheduled address to the Security Council summit on Wednesday.
The Greek premier would further attend an international meeting on Financing for Development on Wednesday.
 PM meets foreign dignitaries on sidelines of UN General Assembly
NEW YORK, 15/9/2005 (ANA - A. Panagopoulos)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis held meetings on Wednesday with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, the heir of the Saudi Arabian throne and the president of Mexico on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
Talks between the prime minister and President Papadopoulos focused on the tactics of Athens and Nicosia at the European Union, regarding the beginning of Turkey's accession negotiations on October 3, and the EU's reply to Ankara's statement that it does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus.
The good level of bilateral relations was ascertained in the prime minister's talks with Saudi Arabian Prince Bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, while Karamanlis raised the issue of Cyprus and developments in the Middle East were also discussed.
Karamanlis attended a luncheon given by the UN secretary general at noon and in the morning he participated in a meeting on financing development.
Commission says Greece granted illegal aid to Olympic Airways BRUSSELS, 15/9/2005
The European Commission on Wednesday declared illegal a number of measures taken by the Greek state which gave an unfair advantage to Olympic Airways and Olympic Airlines. This decision closes an investigation, which started on 16 March 2004, into the state aid granted since December 2002, when the airline was ordered to repay 160 million euros in illegal aid.
The Commission, in its long-awaiting decision said that between 1994 and 2000 the EU's executive took a number of decisions authorizing public aid for the restructuring of Olympic Airways. In December 2002, however, the Commission found that further aid had been granted to the airline which was incompatible with the common market, and demanded that 160 million euros be repaid.
That aid has still not been repaid. Following a detailed analysis of the finances of both Olympic Airways and Olympic Airlines, the Commission today found that Greece has continued to grant further aid to these companies, which is incompatible with the common market and therefore illegal, including:
" ¬ 40 million from the Greek State and Olympic Airways to cover part of the costs to Olympic Airlines of leasing aircraft;
" an unjustified payment of some ¬ 90 million from the Greek State to Olympic Airways when Olympic Airlines was set up and transferred to the State, achieved by overvaluing the assets transferred to the State;
" the Greek State s toleration of Olympic Airways failure to pay more than ¬ 350 million in tax and social security liabilities due between December 2002 and December 2004;
" the assumption by the Greek State of a number of Olympic Airways financial obligations, e.g. in connection with aircraft leasing contracts and the repayment of a bank loan, amounting to up to ¬ 60 million.
The exact amount to be recovered by the Greek state will be defined during the execution of today's decision.
By granting this aid, Greece has given Olympic Airways and Olympic Airlines an advantage not available to their competitors. The Commission therefore asked Greece to recover the illegal aid payments. Greece has two months in which to inform the Commission of the measures it intends to take to comply with the decision.
On 11 December 2002 the Commission took a final decision ruling that aid granted to Olympic Airways was illegal, and asked Greece to recover ¬ 160 million. At the end of 2003 Greece adopted a specific law setting up a new company, Olympic Airlines, which took over the flight operations and most of the assets of Olympic Airways, leaving behind almost all of its debts. The creation of this new company, contrary to standard economic and accounting practice, would have had the effect of circumventing the obligation to recover the aid, as the Court found in its judgment of 12 May 2005.
When it opened its investigation in March 2004, the Commission expressed doubts about the compatibility with the Treaty of the continuing non-payment by Olympic Airways of tax and social security liabilities and about the way in which Olympic Airlines was established in late 2003.
• In effect, what appears to have happened in December 2003 is that all flight operations that were previously carried out within the Olympic Airways Group by Olympic Airways, Olympic Aviation and Olympic Macedonian were concentrated in a new entity renamed Olympic Airlines. Olympic Airlines also took over the slots, traffic rights and public service obligations of Olympic Airways. All other activities - principally ground handling, maintenance and engineering - remained within Olympic Airways (which has been renamed Olympic Air Services). The latter retained ownership of a number of majority shareholdings in other aviation-related companies in Greece such as catering, information technology and fuel services.
• The Commission has therefore found that Olympic Airlines is a successor company to Olympic Airways and that since its creation it has received substantial State aid. Olympic Airlines leases aircraft either from Olympic Airways or directly from the Greek State and pays significantly less than the head-lease payments, the resultant losses being borne by the State or by Olympic Airways at the State's behest. The Commission has also found that by overvaluing the assets transferred to Olympic Airlines and by using this valuation as the basis of a 'cash pre-payment' to Olympic Airways, Greece has granted illegal and incompatible aid.
• The Commission has found that the Greek State has also granted State aid to Olympic Airways. The most important part of this aid has been its continued forbearance in relation to the company's tax and social security liabilities.
These new aid payments constitute a violation of the "one time, last time" principle, as the company had already benefited from restructuring aid in the past, the EU Commission said.
 Gov't to seek solution for OA that is sanctioned by EU and ensures job security
ATHENS, 15/9/2005 (ANA)Transport Minister Mihalis Liapis on Wednesday said that the government was seeking a solution for Olympic Airlines that would ensure the security of the workforce and had the approval of the European Commission.
Liapis made the statement after the Commission announced an anticipated decision that ordered OA to return more than ¬ 500 million in illegal government aid to the Greek state.
The minister admitted that the Commission decision was a heavy blow to the airline's already precarious financial state and made the process of its privatization even more difficult. He stressed, however, that the government would exhaust all margins for OA's sale and was already working on alternative solutions for the day after.
Liapis noted that Olympic Airlines and Olympic Airways will continue to operate until the "best possible" solution is achieved and also reiterated the government's pledge to protect the rights of the workforce.
The minister again blamed the current state of the national carrier on the policies of previous governments, which he said had driven OA and the thousands of people working for it into an absolute impasse.
Gov't to discuss Olympic Airways' future on Thursday: An inter-ministerial commission, including Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, Transport Minister Mihalis Liapis, Labor Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos, with Lazards, the foreign consultant in privatizations, on Thursday will discuss developments in Olympic Airways following Wednesday's decision by the EU Commission giving Greece a two month period to resolve the issue, government spokesman Theodore Rousopoulos said.
Speaking to reporters, Rousopoulos reiterated that the Greek state is loosing 1.5 million euros daily from the operation of Olympic Airways, while replying to questions over the alleged interest by foreign investors to buy the national airline said "I don't think anyone considers Olympic Airways to be a profitable company. A general interest is one thing and the problems facing the airline company are another. I don't think anyone has expressed interest to buy Olympic Airways as it is, with its thousands workers and its financial burdens".
The government spokesman noted that the government faced the problem as soon as it took over in March 2004 but it decided to smoothly complete the Athens 2004 Olympic Games before taking any drastic moves to deal with the situation.
First protest rally by OA staff greets Commission ruling over illegal subsidies: Olympic Airways' employees staged a protest rally at the departure terminal of the Athens International Airport on Wednesday, warning that they will step-up mobilizations against "scenarios" over the future of the ailing national carrier.
Around 2,500 employees took part in the protest accompanied by Communist Party leader Aleka Papariga, GSEE -Greece's largest trade union umbrella - president Christos Polyzogopoulos and representatives of the Coalition of the Left party.
Olympic Airways, in a press announcement, publicly thanked passengers for their "massive support" of the company, saying that after an initial reluctance and some reservation cancellations in the previous days, an astonishing number of reservations throughout its sales network, particularly abroad, have emerged.
Olympic Airlines-Services SA said it was continuing normal operations in ground services, cargo and technical maintenance of aircraft.
EU Commissioner Jacques Barrot, speaking to reporters in Brussels, said the Commission's decision on Olympic Airways and Olympic Airlines "was clearing the landscape of air transport in the Greek market".
The Commissioner sounded optimistic over future developments saying "there is room for one or more airline companies in the Greek skies" adding that Greece was one of the significant spots in international air transport.
He expressed his belief that the Greek government has the will to deal with long-term problems, saying that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis recently referred to the need of reforming Olympic Airways' operations.
The Commissioner stressed that the final amount, to be repaid by Olympic Airways to the Greek State would be determined after consultations between Greek and community agencies.
"What I can say is that there is an amount of some several hundred million euros and nothing more," Barrot told reporters.
He was adamant that the Commission would not allow the Greek state to continue offering financial aid to Olympic Airways in a way contrary to community legislation. Replying to questions over whether a new state airline company could begin operating in Greece, the Commissioner said it was a matter for the European Commission. The EU' executive's responsibility was to ensure that healthy competition rules were followed in member-states, both by state or private enterprises in the airline sector.
 Greece and Cyprus working closely for best EU counter-declaration to Turkey, gov't says
ATHENS, 15/9/2005 (ANA)The government on Wednesday stressed that Greece and Cyprus have from the first been working together in 'absolute understanding and cooperation' in order to achieve the best possible outcome concerning the EU's counter-declaration to Turkey over its statement refusing to recognize the Cyprus Republic.
"A tough negotiation is currently in progress at COREPER," government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said when asked about the Greek government's stance to the draft counter-statement presented by the British EU presidency.
He also referred reporters to the statements made on the issue by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, during a recent visit by Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos to Athens.
The counter-statement will be made in response to Ankara's unilateral declaration on July 29 that it refused to recognize the Cyprus Republic, an EU member-state, and that its ports and airports would remain closed to Cypriot ships and planes.
According to Ankara, its signature of the Association Agreement Protocol -- by virtue of which Turkey extended its customs union agreement with the EU to the 10 new member states, including Cyprus -- did not mean recognition of the internationally-recognized Republic of Cyprus.
An ongoing discussion is currently underway at the EU's Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) in Brussels aimed at formulating a reply.
Last week, Athens had criticized the British EU presidency's stance on the issue, saying it was not acting objectively on the issue.
 EU fails to finalize counter-declaration to Turkey
BRUSSELS, 15/9/2005 (ANA)The European Union's Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) made progress during its Wednesday meeting in formulating a counter-reply to Turkey over the latter's refusal to recognize the Cyprus Republic but did not adopt a final version, Foreign Ministry Spokesman George Koumoutsakos said.
The next COREPER meeting will most likely be held on September 21, he said, at which time negotiations regarding the counter-statement will resume.
The counter-statement will be made in response to Ankara's unilateral declaration on July 29 that it refuses to recognize the Cyprus Republic, an EU member-state, and that its ports and airports will remain closed to Cypriot ships and planes.
 Patriarch Bartholomew says Fanar and Vatican ready for Pope Benedict's visit to Istanbul
ISTANBUL, 15/9/2005 (ANA)Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I on Wednesday said that Fanar and the Vatican were ready for a visit by Pope Benedict XVI to Istanbul on November 30, which is the feast day of St. Andrew the First-Called of the Apostles and the Ecumenical throne.
Speaking to reporters in Edessa while on a tour of northern Greece, Bartholomew said he was waiting for an official reply to his invitation to the head of the Catholic Church and noted that "matters between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Vatican are ready".
"Between the Vatican and Ankara, I cannot say. If it is not possible during the feast of the Throne on November 30, then it can take place at another time. The Pope is always wanted and welcome," he added.
Bartholomew said Pope Benedict's visit will give a boost to dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches and help establish a better climate between them.
Asked if Pope Benedict might visit Haghia Sophia in Istanbul, the Patriarch noted that previous popes had done so but that it was strictly a matter for Benedict to decide with the Turkish government, since Haghia Sophia was now a museum.
 Israeli, Palestinian diplomats outline each side's view of historic Gaza pull-out
GAZA, 15/9/2005 (ANA)This month's unprecedented Israeli military pull-out from the Gaza Strip, along with the high-profile evacuation of nearly two dozen Jewish settlements, was the focus of statements by both the Israeli and Palestinian diplomats in Athens on Wednesday, with one press briefing following the other, in fact, at each respective embassy.
On his part, Israeli ambassador to Athens Ram Aviram detailed the risks and political volition involved in the Sharon government's contentious -- as far as Israeli society was concerned -- decision to terminate the that country's 38-year occupation of the 365-square-kilometer strip of land straddling the Mediterranean between Israel and Egypt.
"We're not through yet ... we gave the peace process a huge impetus forward. No one should now expect, however, any more unilateral steps," he emphasized, adding that Israel and world opinion will now have a diminished tolerance vis-a-vis any terrorism emanating from Gaza.
Conversely, only a few hours later Palestinian envoy Marwan Abdel Hamid cautioned that the politically charged decision by Israeli PM Ariel Sharon was an "indication that he (Sharon) is going to take unilateral steps in implementing the (peace process) 'road map' ... It's just a redeployment ... The Gaza Strip was a headache (for the Israelis) not a historical or religious site, 40,000 thousand troops to guard 7,500 settlers," as he noted.
Nevertheless, Abdel Hamid, who announced the end of his tenure in Athens as of October, prefaced his initial comments by referring to a "historic day for the Palestinians".
Asked about the "sovereign rights" issues prominently thrust onto the limelight in the wake of the pull-out, such as the control of airspace, territorial waters and land borders, Aviram pointed to the flood in cross-border (Egypt-Gaza) traffic over the past few days, while stating that an agreement over the harbor has been reached, whereas the airspace/airport issue will be decided in a "permanent status agreement".
He added that Israel backs the "freedom of movement" between Gaza and the West Bank as long as security is assured, such as precluding the possibility of suicide bombers from infiltrating Israel territory.
"Gaza, of course, is not the Palestinian state, but it is a revolutionary situation ... a Palestinian areas controlled by Palestinians.
In offering the Palestinian view, Abdel Hamid charged that Gaza was no more than an "open prison" without control of its borders, as the border post with Egypt will be closed for six-months, as per an Israeli demand. Instead, he said, the only (official) frontier crossing into Egypt will be on the southeast corner of Gaza, where the territory converges with Egyptian and Israeli soil.
Additionally, the thorny issue of the radical Hamas group's activity and political involvement in Gaza also figured prominently in both press conferences, with the Palestinian envoy saying the former has moved away from its position of liberating "all of Palestine", while echoing Palestinian leadership's "one authority, one army, multi-party democracy" pledge.
Abdel Hamid reiterated, however, that a campaign to completely disarm the various factions in Gaza would risk a civil war, while bluntly saying that civilians will not give up their weapons because they do not trust the Israeli side. He said the goal is to get "the weapons off the street".
Just as bluntly, Israeli envoy Aviram underlined that there was "nothing to discuss" with a group (Hamas) that still advocates, in its charter, the complete destruction of Israel. "There can be no political party with a bomb factory," he said, while reminding that the Sharon government "left open the political horizon" by evacuating four West Bank settlements as well and promising to continue negotiations.
Greek Orthodox Patriarchate: On the sidelines of the briefing on the ground-breaking Gaza pull-out, Aviram touched on a matter that has earned heightened attention by Athens over the past few months, namely, the status of the Jerusalem Patriarchate.
On Wednesday, he again emphasized that the Israeli side "believes that in the long-term, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate (of Jerusalem) should be Greek in nature".
The Palestinian envoy, moreover, thanked the Greek government for its cooperation ahead of the election of a new Patriarch, Theodoros -- weeks after the dethronement of previous patriarch Irineos -- and promised that "official recognition will come soon".
 Serbia and Montenegro President to visit Greece this month
BELGRADE, 15/9/2005 (ANA)Serbia and Montenegro President Svetozar Marovic is to carry out an official visit to Greece on September 21-23, accompanied by his wife, at the invitation of President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.
 Federation of 1967-1974 Imprisoned and Exiled Resistance Fighters protests reported neo-Nazi event to be held in Greece
ATHENS, 15/9/2005 (ANA)The Federation of 1967-1974 (the period over which Greece had been ruled by a military dictatorship) Imprisoned and Exiled Resistance Fighters, referring to an event neo-Nazis will reportedly be holding in Greece, called on the government on Wednesday "to forbid the neo-fascists and neo-Nazis from invading our country for their festival of hatred."
An announcement by the Federation said that "political sensitivities on the democratic rights of minorities do not apply for the fascists' festivals of hatred."
It further said that "we do not forget the monarchist and fascist dictatorship of August 4, 1936, and the military and fascist dictatorship of April 21, 1967. We do not forget the invasion of the hordes of Mussolini's fascism and of Hitler's Nazism which drowned us in blood during the Second World War."
 FinMin presents National Reform Program for 2005-08
ATHENS, 15/9/2005 (ANA)Restoring fiscal balance, boosting productivity, improving a business environment, raising employment and promoting actions to support social cohesion are the five policy priorities set by the government in a National Reform Program aimed for the period 2005-2008.
Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, presenting the program's draft plan, said "these priorities were an answer to those saying we move one without a plan, with compass and with no targets". The Greek minister stressed the government had specific targets aimed to achieve economic growth and improving living standards in the country.
Alogoskoufis said he expected political parties and the main opposition in particular, to present the positions on the program, adding: "We do not deserve to be at the rear due to failed past policies". He underlined that a National Reform Program reflected the determination and commitment of the Greek government, together with restoring fiscal discipline, to accelerate a process of structural reforms and speed up implementation of Lisbon targets, adding that all reform initiatives and actions were focusing towards the same direction.
The draft plan was presented to the public so that all interested parties would express their reaction and after a debate in parliament to be submitted by October 15 with the European Commission.
The program includes all actions needed to achieve Lisbon targets, aimed to transform the EU into the most competitive economy in the world.
Analytically, the draft plan envisages the deregulation of energy markets, improving the country's business environment, telecommunications market, transportation, deepening of internal market, knowledge society, investing in human capital, protecting the environment and others.
The draft plan of a National Reform Program is the compass to the future, Alogoskoufis said. "It guarantees that Greek economy is changing course and efficiently uses opportunities lying ahead," the Greek minister said.
 Finance minister addresses international business forum dinner
THESSALONIKI, 15/9/2005 (ANA)Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis, in an address at a dinner of the 1st international business forum of the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair (TIF) on Wednesday, conveyed to about 400 Greek and foreign delegates the Greek government's commitment to support bilateral economic ties, as well as bonds between countries in its geographical region with the European Union "with all its strength."
The minister said that Greece has the ability to "assist the development of all countries in the eastern Mediterranean decisively and it has the ambition of becoming the gateway for the businesses welcoming", which desire to be active in the region.
Alogoskoufis also outlined the five main elements of the government's economic policy, which are mild fiscal adjustment, tax reform, a new investments law, partnerships between the public and private sectors and a new generation of privatizations and expressed his conviction that the government's policy is already producing results.
 Main opposition leader slams gov't policy for agriculture in Parliament
ATHENS, 15/9/2005 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Wednesday strongly criticized the government's policies for agriculture during the debate of a draft bill for farm policy in Parliament.
"New Democracy's agricultural policy is today appraised as poverty for farmers, high prices for consumers and profits for middle men," PASOK's leader said, describing the draft bill as "highly publicized but empty of content, not an organized political plan."
Replying to Papandreou, Agriculture Minister Evangelos Basiakos accused him of not having any proposals to make for the long-term problems of the farm sector but simply a few theoretical observations.
He also defended the government's record, saying that in the first five months of 2005 it had for the first time managed to stem the downward slide of the balance of trade, with an increase in exports and a 4.7 per cent decrease in imports.
 Gov't to offer tax incentives for car purchases to families with three children
ATHENS, 15/9/2005 (ANA)The Greek government will gradually offer tax exempt incentives to families with three children for the purchase of new cars, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Wednesday.
In a television interview, the Greek minister said the government would expand a measure, currently covering families with four children, under which families are eligible to buy new cars up to 2,000 cc without paying car registration duties. For cars with a large engine the registration tax is reduced by 50 percent.
 PASOK party insists on heating subsidy being given to low wage earners
ATHENS, 15/9/2005 (ANA)The main opposition PASOK party insisted on Wednesday that a heating subsidy must be given to low wage earners and accused the government's members of "chameleonism."
PASOK spokesman Nikos Athanassakis, referring to the issue again following statements he had made on Tuesday, said "they evidently believe that chameleonism is a political tactic from which they will gain."
Athanassakis called on the relevant government members to reply to the issues raised by PASOK "and, primarily, to proceed with the granting of the heating subsidy."
 Greece wins first prize among European national travel boards
LONDON, 15/9/2005 (ANA)The Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) has won first prize in this year's World Travel Awards (WTA) in the category of Europe's national tourism boards.
"Greek tourism is acquiring prestige and international recognition, in confirmation of the government's policy. We are continuing our upward trend with steady, methodical planning and strategy," Tourism Development Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said in response to the victory.
London-based WTA, which arranges the awards with organizations including BBC World, holds an electronic ballot among tour operators, travel agents and hotel trade groups around the world. This year, more than 175,000 executives took part in the voting.
The awards ceremony will be held in London on November 13 on the eve of the UK capital's World Travel Market trade fair.
 OTE telecom chief reports success of early retirement plan
ATHENS, 15/9/2005 (ANA)An early retirement plan by Athens-quoted Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) is bearing fruit with about 70% of eligible staff expected to join, chairman and managing director Panayis Vourloumis said on Wednesday.
So far, 1,823 employees had applied, with the total expected to rise to 70%, or about 4,200 personnel, before the scheme's deadline in about two months, Vourloumis told a news conference.
Recruitment levels would become clear in October when the retirement plan ended, he said.
Vourloumis did not rule out difficulties with the European Union over a 4.0% subsidy of OTE's shares that the government sold to bolster the TAP-OTE fund due to the costly retirement plan. Handling talks with the EU is the government.
Replying to a reporter's question, Vourloumis said that OTE had no plans to sell any shares in Athens-quoted Cosmote, its mobile phone subsidiary.
Finally, Vourloumis noted that OTE's end-year results would be adverse as the retirement scheme's cost would entirely fall under 2005 finances; and management was trying to further reduce dependence on Athens-quoted Intracom for maintenance of its network, which recently acquired 20.65% of Forthnet, an Athens-listed internet provider, a move that made Intracom both a supplier and a competitor.
 PASOK party to table question in Parliament on sale of OTE shares
ATHENS, 15/9/2005 (ANA)The main opposition PASOK party will table a question in Parliament on Thursday on the recent sale of 10 percent of the shares of the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE), escalating its reaction, as had been announced last week by the party's spokesman Nikos Athanassakis.
The spokesman, referring again on Wednesday to the issue of the sale of OTE's shares, said they were sold at the price of 17.02 euros, while they had cost 20 euros and stressed that the issue "will not close and will not be forgotten."
Athanassakis also said that replies given by Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis in past days were inadequate.
 Greek, Korean industrialists forge cooperation pact
SEOUL, 15/9/2005 (ANA)Greek and Korean industrialists have forged a cooperation agreement that aims to strengthen bilateral economic ties, boost two-way investments, and improve the trade balance, which is currently in Korea's favor.
Signing the agreement in Seoul were the deputy president of the Federation of Greek Industry, Thasassis Lavidas; and the president of Daewoo, Sung-Lip Jung.
Under the terms of the pact, the two countries will form a Greek-Korean business council to further ties between the two countries.
 Communist Party leader visiting Thessaloniki International Trade Fair
THESSALONIKI, 15/9/2005 (ANA)Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga arrived in Thessaloniki on Wednesday afternoon and will be visiting the 70th Thessaloniki International Trade Fair (TIF) later in the evening for meetings with administrations and a tour of its pavilions.
At 8.30 p.m. she will be addressing a party event at the Cultural Centre in the municipality of Skydra.
On Thursday morning, Papariga will be meeting representatives of Olympic Airlines and the Civil Aviation Service, as well as employees at Macedonia airport in Thessaloniki. At noon she will be giving a press conference and addressing a party event in the evening.
Speaking on arrival in Thessaloniki, Papariga said that everything possible must be done so that Olympic Airlines will not be dissolved and employees will not lose their rights.
 Coalition party leader addresses press conference in framework of TIF visit
THESSALONIKI, 15/9/2005 (ANA)Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party leader Alekos Alavanos, addressing a press conference on Wednesday in the framework of his visit to the 70th Thessaloniki International Trade Fair (TIF), accused Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis of social indifference.
Alavanos said the policy model being implemented by the New Democracy party's government had been tried and it is incapable, it is a failure and it is dangerous, adding that it constitutes the Greek expression of the policy model of U.S. President George W. Bush.
Referring to the issue of a heating subsidy being given to weaker social classes, Alavanos said it is not charity but an obligation of the government towards consumers.
Alavanos criticized the government for its handling of the Olympic Airlines issue, saying that the ND government did nothing to prevent the European Commission's decision and called on it to take the issue to the European Court and contest it in every way.
The Coalition party leader also commented on Turkey's European prospects, saying that it is inconceivable for accession negotiations to begin and at the same time Ankara not to recognize Cyprus.
Alavanos tours ANA-MPA pavilion at TIF: Alekos Alavanos on Wednesday was the last political leader to visit the joint Athens News Agency-Macedonia Press Agency pavilion at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).
Alavanos offered his praise for the latest technological advancements promoted by the agencies, including live broadcasts over the Internet. His comments at the pavilion, in fact, were transmitted over cyberspace.
SYN leader meets with Macedonia-Thrace journalists' unionists: Executive Board members of the Journalists Union of Macedonia and Thrace Daily Newspapers (ESIEMTH) discussed the problems facing their sector during a meeting with Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) Alekos Alavanos on Wednesday.
The unionists cited job uncertainty and lack of respect for journalists' professional rights as the key problems their members face. ESIEMTH board members also stressed the importance of full implementation of collective labor agreements.
On his part, Alavanos referred to his party's initiative in raising the issue of a few media companies controlling a major portion of the media to the National Radio and Television Council (ESR).
SYN also brought to ESR's attention the trend of journalists being owed an increasing amount of money from their employers.
The union's board members gave Alavanos a memo explaining their demands and proposals regarding the country's media sector.
 BP lowers gas price in Greece
THESSALONIKI, 15/9/2005 (ANA)BP Greece said on Wednesday that it had lowered the price of unleaded petrol by 11 cents per liter over the last eight days.
The impact of the reduction has already been felt in the market, and will roll down to retail consumers in its entirety over the next two days when gas stations bring in new stock, BP said in a statement.
 Greek stocks rebound on Wednesday
THESSALONIKI, 15/9/2005 (ANA)Greek stocks rebounded on Wednesday after a five-day decline in the Athens Stock Exchange, with the composite index rising 0.24 percent to 3,245.49 points. Turnover was a moderate 186 million euros.
Traders said buying activity focused on blue chip stocks, particularly banks, after their recent fall.
Sector indices were mixed, with the Textiles (2.95 pct), Wholesale (0.80 pct), Retail (0.60 pct) and Bank (0.49 pct) indices scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day. The Mineral-Cement (1.41 pct), Insurance (0.79 pct), Publications (0.58 pct) and Food-Beverage (0.45 pct) sectors suffered the heaviest losses.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks rose 0.21 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index ended 0.26 pct lower and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index fell 0.39 percent.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 153 to 98 with another 78 issues unchanged.
Equity Index Futures:
Foreign Exchange Rates: Thursday
Reference buying rates per euro released
by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.241
 M. Theodorakis to receive int'l music prize
PARIS, 15/9/2005 (ANA)World-famous music composer Mikis Theodorakis will be awarded the 2005 IMC UNESCO International Music Prize, Greece's Permanent Representative to UNESCO Yiorgos Anastasopoulos announced in Paris on Wednesday.
Theodorakis was chosen among some 40 nominees of world-class standing for the prize, which acknowledged his worth on a global basis.
Nominations were made by members of the International Music Council as well as by Permanent Delegations and National Commissions of UNESCO member states.
"In an age when the need to underline the ecumenical language of culture is more urgent than ever before, the decision of the IMC and UNESCO to grant the 2005 Music Prize to Mikis Theodorakis acquires particular content and symbolism," Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said in a statement congratulating the composer.
"His constant struggles for freedom, social justice and human dignity rise above national boundaries and become a legacy for all humanity," Karamanlis concluded.
Theodorakis, who turned 80 this year, will receive his prize during a special ceremony on November 4, in Aachen, Germany.
The prize includes a diploma, a cash award and a UNESCO medal.
Past recipients of the IMC Music Prize include Dimitri Shostakovich, Leonard Bernstein, Yehudi Menuhin, Herbert von Karajan, Cesaria Evora, Benny Goodman and Mercedes Sosa, among others.
The IMC UNESCO International Music Prize was initiated in 1975 by Menuhin. It honors musicians or musical institutions whose activities have contributed to the enrichment and development of music and have served peace, understanding between peoples, international cooperation and other purposes proclaimed by the United Nations Charter and UNESCO's Constitution.
 Athens int'l film festival opens Thursday
ATHENS, 15/9/2005 (ANA)The 11th Annual Athens International Film Festival, titled "Premieres", will kick off on Thursday, featuring 151 films of Greek and foreign filmmakers, both established and up and coming, Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis announced on Wednesday.
According to the mayor, international film industry celebrities, among them actor Daniel Day Lewis, Korean director Kim Ki Duk, Greek directors Costas Gavras and Theodoros Angelopoulos will be attending the festival "making it a truly international, cultural event."
Bakoyannis also referred to the Athens festival's innovative element, which is that the panel of judges is made up of young adults.
This year, only students of audio-visual studies, film and drama schools from all over Europe will make up the panel.
Organizers hope to establish the festival as a dynamic 'workshop' where youngsters from throughout Europe will have the opportunity to learn, exchange ideas and be inspired.
The festival is being organized by the trade magazine "Cinema" with the support of the Municipality of Athens.
 World's largest newspaper printed in Chania, seeks place in Guinness Book of World Records
Chania, 15/9/2005 (ANA)The largest newspaper in the world has been printed in Chania, Crete, and is seeking a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
The special edition of Chillout newspaper, which has a page size of 210 centimeters (2.10 meters) in width and 295 centimeters (2.95 meters) in height, was presented Wednesday during a special ceremony in the Chania municipal market square.
Chillout publisher Andreas Garyfalis, addressing the event, said that an application had already been filed for the newspaper's inclusion in the Guinness Book of World Records.
The regular-size Chillout is published every Wednesday, in 4,000 copies, and is distributed free of charge. The newspaper contains cultural and social news, and photo spreads.
The record for the largest special-edition newspaper is held by the June 14, 1993 edition of the Het Volk daily newspaper, published in the Belgian town of Ghent, which had a page size of 99.5 centimeters in width and 142.0 centimeters (1.42 meters) in height, and sold 50,000 copies.
 Greek candidate elected to EU Council's Committee of Wise Men
ATHENS, 15/9/2005 (ANA)Professor Emmanuel Roukounas, President of the Academy of Athens, has been appointed a member of the European Council's Committee of Wise Men, according to a Foreign Ministry press release issued on Wednesday.
The Committee, created by the Council in May 2004, has been charged with conducting research into the future of the European Court of Human Rights.
According to the ministry's release, Roukounas' appointment serves as further confirmation to Greece's active participation and involvement within the context of the Council's mission, particularly in regards to promoting and safeguarding human rights and enforcing court rulings.
The Committee is expected to submit its report at the Ministerial Summit that will be held in May 2006.
Roukounas was one of 22 candidates competing for the appointment. He has been recognized for his contributions to many other UN agencies, including UNESCO.
 Researcher presents findings on Jewish, Byzantine and Ottoman clothing
ISTANBUL, 15/9/2005 (ANA/A. Kourkoulas)Nikos Stavroulakis, Director of Etz Hayyim Synagogue on the island of Crete, presented his findings regarding the clothing preferred by members of the Jewish, Byzantine and Ottoman communities at the Greek Consulate here on Wednesday.
Fabrics used for clothing came from various regions of the world due to a flourishing textiles trade during the Ottoman period, Stavroulakis said.
During his presentation, he focused particularly on the clothing worn by the Jewish community in Istanbul.
 Panathinaikos loses 3-0 to Udinese in Champions League match
UDINE, 15/9/2005 (ANA)Panathinaikos Athens lost 3-0 to Udinese of Italy (halftime 1-0) in a Champions League Group C match played at the Friuli stadium in Udine on Wednesday night.
Udinese's goals were scored by Vincenzo Iaquinta in the 28th minute, the 73rd and the 76th.
 President says recognition of Cyprus by Turkey 'serious issue'
NEW YORK, 15/9/2005 (CNA/ANA)The recognition of the Republic of Cyprus by Turkey constitutes a ''very serious'' issue, Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos said here Wednesday, stressing that the existence of the Republic of Cyprus did not depend on the Turkish recognition.
Commenting on the European Union's Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) failure to reach consensus on a draft counterstatement to Ankara's declaration that Turkey does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus, President Papadopoulos noted that ''this is not something new,'' adding that ''we determined which are the values and the points we wanted to be included (in the counterstatement) from the very beginning.''
Some other member states ''have a different interpretation from our own and the efforts are constant to achieve the inclusion of all the elements we deem important in the counterstatement,'' the president pointed out.
Replying to a question whether the British EU Presidency's code of contact is provocative, President Papadopoulos said ''our response is planned'' but he did not elaborate.
''As far as I know there was significant support of our positions in today's (COREPER) meeting,'' he added, noting that ''17 countries staunchly supported our positions.''
Asked when the negotiations on Turkey's negotiating framework will start, President Papadopoulos differentiated the negotiations for the counterstatement from the negotiations for the negotiating framework, stressing that these two issues are connected but not interdependent.
Replying to a question if Cyprus will allow Turkey to commence accession negotiations if Ankara fails to recognize the Republic of Cyprus, President Papadopoulos said he could not say what the Cypriot government would do and wondered whether ''the recognition is the most crucial issue.''
''Turkey has been failing to recognize us for thirty years. I don't underestimate this, but we are clear. It is a serious issue, however there are other matters,'' President Papadopoulos noted.
Referring to his meeting with Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis earlier on Wednesday in New York, President Papadopoulos said the meeting took place in the framework of the regular briefing and coordination of the two governments on European and UN issues, adding that there is ''absolute'' agreement between himself and Prime Minister Karamanlis.
 Government rejects Turkish PM's remarks on Cyprus
NICOSIA, 15/9/2005 (CNA/ANA)Cypriot Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides on Wednesday rejected statements made on Tuesday by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the Greek Cypriot side is intransigent on the Cyprus problem.
Speaking during a daily press briefing, Chrysostomides stressed that the key to the solution of the Cyprus problem is the withdrawal of Turkish troops occupying Cyprus' northern third since the 1974 Turkish invasion and called on Turkey to follow the example of the Israeli occupying forces, which withdrew from the Gaza Strip.
Chrysostomides' comments in the wake of Erdogan's remarks during an address on Tuesday in New York.
Erdogan contented that the Greek Cypriot side encouraged the Greek Cypriots to reject the UN Secretary General's solution plan in the April 2004 referendum, adding that since the accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the European Union, ''the Greek Cypriot side has become more intransigent.''
The Turkish prime minister's position ''is absolutely rejected,'' Chrysostomides noted, adding that ''the key, the foundation stone for the solution of the Cyprus problem is the withdrawal of the Turkish forces and the termination of the occupation of a European Union member-state.''
Calling on Erdogan to follow the example of the withdrawal of the Israeli forces from Gaza, Chrysostomides noted that ''Mr. Erdogan should realize that the forces' withdrawal would contribute to better arrangements for peace in the region.''
 Commissioner Kyprianou to pay official visit to Cyprus
NICOSIA, 15/9/2005 (CNA/ANA)Cypriot European Union Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection Markos Kyprianou will pay an official visit to Cyprus September 15-16.
During his visit, Kyprianou will hold meetings with Cypriot ministers and will present the ''Europa Diary'', which is an EU-wide effort to inform young people of their rights, increase their awareness and enable them to make more informed decisions as consumers.
On Thursday the Cypriot Commissioner will hold two separate meetings with Minister of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment Efthymios Efthymiou and Minister of Health Andreas Gavrielides.
On Friday Kyprianou will present the ''Europa Diary'' during a ceremony at Apostolos Varnavas Lyceum in Nicosia at the presence of the Minister of Education and Culture Pefkios Georgiades.
The ''Europa Diary'' covers topics such as smoking, healthy eating and physical activity, labeling of products and e-commerce.
It is aimed at students between the ages of 15 and 18 and has been distributed at no cost among schools all over the EU together with a teacher's kit to provide an additional teaching resource.
 Cyprus announces policy to attract foreign investments
NICOSIA, 15/9/2005 (CNA/ANA)Cypriot Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism George Lillikas announced here Wednesday the government's policy aiming to establish Cyprus as a services bridge between the Middle East and the European Union.
Speaking at a press conference, Lillikas said that the Cypriot policy to attract foreign investors is based on three axles, namely the creation of a Cyprus Investment Promotion Agency (CYPA), a non-profit organization with the state as its sole shareholder, which would promote Cyprus as a business and investment centre, the acceleration of the procedures for the implementation of foreign investments and a modern promotion strategy that corresponds to the most effective communication methods.|
''Our basic aim is to attract foreign funds for immediate investments in fields like the production of high technology products and the transfer of technical knowledge,'' Lillikas noted, adding that Cyprus also seeks to modernize the competitiveness of the internal market and to increase its export prospects.
He also outlined Cyprus' comparative advantages as a regional business centre, such as its geographical position, its high standard of services, favorable tax regime and high educational level, as well as the fact that Cyprus is an EU member state.
''All these advantages as well as the revolution mainly in the sectors of information and communications create the conditions to establish Cyprus as the main trade, finance and services centre in the Eastern Mediterranean, as the pipeline that will connect a market of 450 million Europeans with 300 million consumers of the Middle East,'' Lillikas added.