|Monday, 21 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-09-26
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>September 26, 2005
 Fiscal deficit to drop below 3.0% of GDP by end-2006, Greece tells IMF
WASHINGTON, 26/9/2005 (ANA/C Ziotis)Greece has repeated its pledge of lowering the fiscal deficit to below 3.0 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by the end of 2006 in order to meet a key European Union debt-control requirement.
"The government is committed to correcting the excessive deficit by end-2006 through expenditure restraint in the public sector, measures to contain borrowing by public enterprises and entities, a broadening of the tax base and systematic efforts to tackle tax evasion," Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said in the US capital.
"The target for 2006 is to further reduce the deficit to 2.8% of GDP," Alogoskoufis told an annual general assembly meeting of the International Fund (IMF) and World Bank at the weekend.
Greece's economic growth was exceptionally strong in 2004, underpinned by low interest rates and strong construction activity associated with the Athens Olympic Games. Labor market conditions improved as the unemployment rate dropped by almost a full percentage point to 10.4% in the first quarter of 2005; but inflation remained above the euro-area average, thus gradually eroding competitiveness, he noted during the joint AGM.
"Growth is expected to remain robust, at 3.6% in 2005 and rise slightly in 2006, despite the high oil prices and weak economic activity in the eurozone. This robust growth performance, well above the euro-area average, is driven by private consumption and investment, exports and tourism. Structural reforms in product and labor markets underlie this performance," the minister said.
Fiscal consolidation remained one of the government's key priorities. A fiscal audit launched in March 2004 resulted in upward revisions of the general government deficit and debt for the period 1997-2004; and the revisions have led to an increase in transparency that provides a solid basis for assessing the fiscal stance. Significant progress has been achieved in 2005, with the deficit of the general government set to decline from above 6% of GDP in 2004 to 3.6% in 2005, Alogoskoufis noted.
In parallel with fiscal consolidation, the Greek government is implementing a wide-ranging agenda of structural reforms, to help increase private investment, employment and potential growth. The agenda includes an acceleration of the privatization process, a new legal framework for joint ventures between the state and public sectors, and reforms to increase flexibility in the labor market and in retail shopping hours.
"We are also pursuing efforts to improve the competitiveness of the Greek economy by promoting competition, reducing administrative barriers, and cutting corporate taxes while improving tax administration," Alogoskoufis noted.
"The key to strong economic performance in an environment of intense global competition is downsizing the state sector, building strong institutions, removing obstacles to the efficient allocation of resources and tackling poverty. The pursuit of these objectives is greatly facilitated by international and regional policy coordination," he said.
He welcomed the IMF's lending facilities and global, regional and country surveillance, as well as the World Bank's country programs and lending policies as instrumental in the pursuit of the government's objectives; and praised the IMF's medium-term strategy to streamline surveillance and increase focus on the most pressing macroeconomic issues arising from globalization.
"We also welcome the Bank's initiatives to reduce global poverty, and strongly support the Bank's continuing presence in Southeastern Europe. We also fully endorse the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and the recent G-8 initiative for debt cancellation of eligible countries," the minister concluded.
 Deputy foreign minister visits ethnic Greeks in Ukraine
KIEV, 26/9/2005 (ANA/G Milionis)Deputy Foreign Minister Panayiotis Skandalakis at the weekend visited ethnic Greeks from the Ukraine, welcoming the maintenance of Hellenism abroad.
Skandalakis opened a festival of Greek culture in the village of Starii Krim, this year dedicated to the creation of Greek villages in Azofiki by migrants from the Crimea.
He pledged that his government and the public would do their best to help ethnic Greeks in the area.
Skandalakis also visited a Greek clinic in Starii Krim, established by the Federation of Greek Associations of Ukraine, the World Council of Hellenes Abroad, and the Illitsa metals group, and promised to seek help from Greece's pharmaceuticals industry to supply the unit.
Later, he laid the foundation stone of a Greek Orthodox Church in the village of Maloyianisol, saying the state would make a starting donation of 5,000 euros for the project, and deposited an additional 1,000-euro sum on his own account. Members of the delegation offered another 5,000 euros.
In a separate meeting with the Federation of Greek Associations of Ukraine, Skandalakis again underlined the government's support.
He said that the government had increased home purchase and maintenance grants for ethnic Greeks in Ukraine returning to their country of origin, with extra perks for those opting to live in the regions; and authorities were in close contact with consulates to accelerate naturalization.
"The problems faced by ethnic Greeks are entirely different from area to area and country to country," Skandalakis noted.
 Athens mayor in China for talks
BEIJING, 26/9/2005 (ANA)Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni is paying an official visit to Beijing invited by her counterpart in the Chinese capital, Wang Qishan.
Heading an all-party municipal delegation, Bakoyianni will meet Qishan on Monday. On Tuesday, the mayor is to hold talks with China's foreign minister and the head of the country's national Olympics organizing committee.
Talks are expected to focus on Bakoyianni's experience in hosting the Olympics in 2004 ahead of the Beijing games in 2008.
 Ruling party takes disciplinary action over accused official
ATHENS, 26/9/2005 (ANA)The ruling New Democracy party said on Saturday that it had sent the head of a local branch to its disciplinary committee following allegations of jobs offered in return for cash.
The party official on the island of Rhodes has been suspended until the hearing, ND said in a statement.
"Transparency and the war against corruption in New Democracy are matters of principle and values," the statement said.
 Greek, Turkish communist parties to hold conference
ISTANBUL, 26/9/2005 (ANA)The Communist Party of Greece and Communist Party of Turkey are to hold an international conference in Istanbul on October 1 to debate the struggle against imperialism.
"This initiative is the first opportunity for an exchange of views among communist parties on the situation in the European Union after the referendum, and the outlook," the Greek party said in a statement on Saturday.
 Mayors to be elected on less than 50% of the vote
ATHENS, 26/9/2005 (ANA/C Ziotis)Mayors are to be elected to office on less than 50% of the vote, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos told the Eleftherotypia newspaper in an interview published on Saturday.
The government had already taken a decision on the move, which also includes balloting for prefects, Pavlopoulos said.
The minister denied that the traditional second round of voting was being abolished due to fears of a united front against the ruling party.
"This is part of New Democracy's government program. Our objective is to enhance the prestige and strength of mayors and prefects," he said.
 Greece pledges aid for poorer pensioners
WASHINGTON, 26/9/2005 (ANA/C Ziotis)Greece will take concrete measures under the budget for 2006 to aid people on low pensions, Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said at the weekend.
"The government will see to improvement of the level of more vulnerable social groups, as it did last year," Alogoskoufis told a news conference Saturday on the sidelines of an annual general meeting in the US capital of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
In 2005, rises on farmers' pensions and a supplementary allowance for poorer retirees were double the inflation rate.
The minister said that the purpose of contacts he made during his four-day visit to Washington was to publicize Greece as a gateway to investment in southeastern Europe.
"There was great interest in investment in the area. Greece is a centre for the wider region, in which Greek investment has topped 8.0 billion euros," he added.
Asked to comment on the country's status among international credit rating agencies, Alogoskoufis said: "Despite a downward revision for Greece, the cost of borrowing for the public sector is the lowest that has been attained, historically."
Accompanying Alogoskoufis, Deputy Finance Minister Peter Doukas said the global ratings agencies are aware of a major improvement in Greece's finances, reflected in a drastic reduction of the fiscal debt.
"They believe we must continue our endeavor at the same pace so that we cross the road, and do not remain in the middle of the road, so to speak" Doukas said.
Central bank governor Nikos Garganas announced that measures would be taken to curb credit expansion in loans to households.
The high rate of increase in borrowing was disquieting in terms of the ability of households to service mortgages and consumer loans, the governor of the Bank of Greece said.
The central bank had asked commercial banks to tighten eligibility requirements for loans, including closer controls on the proportion of monthly salaries that would be needed for repayments by potential borrowers.
Authorities would also institute tight controls on the banks themselves, including branch loan-issue front desks, to ensure that customers were properly vetted and evaluated for borrowing, Garganas noted.
Finally, the Bank of Greece would commission ICAP, a market research organization, to conduct a fresh survey on the indebtedness of households in relation to income.
"What we wish to ascertain from households that receive loans is which ones show higher risk of an inability to meet repayments in the future," the central bank governor said.
Rise in state wages to match inflation in 2006: In an interview published on Sunday in Greece's Typos newspaper, Alogoskoufis said that pensions would be awarded above-inflation rises in 2006, with public sector wage increases to match the inflation rate.
"We will give the highest possible rises for wages, which will be at the inflation level. For pensions we will try to give more than wages, and, certainly, there will be a higher increase for farmers' pensions and low-pension supplements," he said in the interview.
A new unified pay scale for civil servants would be phased in from 2006. Policy in coming years should focus on raising base pay and reducing the importance of allowances, Alogoskoufis noted.
He added that the tax-exempt ceiling on wages and pensions would rise to 12,000 euros in 2007; and in the same year, tax brackets would begin to fall. The government's objective was a decline to 25% of the current central 30% bracket.
 Work and wage parity for civil servants
ATHENS, 26/9/2005 (ANA)The minister for the interior, public administration and decentralization, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, said in an interview to the Vradyni on Sunday newspaper that the government planned to phase in upward wage parity for civil servants performing the same work.
"There will be an equalization of salaries, an upward revision. We are not eliminating any allowances. We will equalize - upwards - the wages of people who are today failing to receive those allowances," Pavlopoulos said.
The minister declined to give further details as negotiations were underway with trade unions.
 Greece back on the global tourism map, minister says
ATHENS, 26/9/2005 (ANA)Tourism Development Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said at the weekend that Greece was back on the global tourism map.
Opening a dance and theatre performance at the ancient temple of Poseidon in Sounion to mark World Tourism Day, the minister noted that the market was rising in Greece.
"Greece is determined to transform the legacy of the Athens 2004 Olympics into concrete benefits for its tourist economy," he said.
Attending the event on Saturday was the president of the World Tourism Council, Jean-Claude Baumgarden.
 Regional insurers debate impact of Hurricane Katrina
HYDRA, 26/9/2005 (ANA)Insurers and reinsurers from the Balkans, Black Sea and eastern Mediterranean on Saturday discussed the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the market at a conference in Greece.
Speakers agreed that the rise in reinsurance due to the natural disaster would also affect the insurance market.
Arranged by a regional trade group the meeting is being held on the island of Hydra on September 22-25.
Conference delegates also heard that vehicle reinsurance in Greece had risen alarmingly in recent years to stand at 15% of the market, the highest rate in the European Union.
Also on the agenda are international accounting standards and vehicle reinsurance.
Foreign Exchange Rates: Monday
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.221
 Engineers to hear charges in fatal Santorini roof collapse
SANTORINI, 26/9/2005 (ANA)Three engineers involved in construction of a steel roof over an archaeological site in Santorini that collapsed killing a Briton are to appear before a public prosecutor, island police said on Sunday.
Charges are to be brought by a prosecutor on the island of Naxos against another three engineers from the consortium that designed and built the roof; and two engineers working for the state's archaeological service on the project in Akrotiri, a later Minoan site and key tourist attraction.
Seriously injured were two tourists from the USA, two from Slovakia, and one from Germany. A British woman identified as a friend of the UK national was released from Santorini medical centre on Saturday after suffering injuries and shock; and a Greek visitor sustained light injuries.
On completion of preliminary enquiries, Santorini police escorted the three arrested engineers to Naxos, who maintain their innocence, officials said. Fifty three people gave evidence in the first stage of investigations.
On Friday, Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis visited the scene of the accident, and expressed grief at the loss of life and injury.
Tatoulis ordered creation of an investigating committee comprising ministry officials, engineers from the National Technical University, and members of the Technical Chamber of Greece.
The roof was built by a consortium whose members were J&P Ioannou Paraskevaidis (Greece), Avax Group, Gnomon, and Impregilo SpA. The group, which won an international tender in 1999, also supplied detailed engineering for the project on the basis of an existing preliminary study.
Members of the government and the opposition across the political spectrum sent their condolences after the accident.
 President marks anniversary of Tripoli's liberation from Turkey
TRIPOLI, 26/9/2005 (ANA)President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias marked the anniversary in Tripoli at the weekend of the central Peloponnese town's liberation from Turkey 184 years ago.
"This is a historic day for Hellenism and the nation. The example of Tripoli's fighters is always timely, and I think this stands as a paradigm and memory that should always be held by all Greeks," Papoulias said.
Other speakers included State Minister Theodoros Roussopoulos, Communist Party of Greece deputy Liana Kanelli, and a deputy of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology, Fotis Kouvelis.
 Winners named in International and Greek Short Film FestivalsDRAMA, 26/9/20005 (ANA)
Winners were announced at the weekend of two annual short film festivals held in the northeastern town of Drama, following seven days of screenings in what has become a national and international cultural institution.
Awards in the11th international festival were as follows:
In the 28th Greek festival, winners were as follows:
Competing were 133 short films -79 by foreign film makers and 54 by Greek directors.
 Greece wins Eurobasket championship
BELGRADE, 26/9/2005 (ANA)Greece on Sunday beat Germany 78-62 in the European men's basketball championship, taking the gold medal for a second time in 18 years.
The team scored an effortless victory over former champion Germany in Belgrade after a last-minute 67-66 win over France the previous day.
It was Greece's first Eurobasket final since 1989 and first gold since 1987.
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and opposition leaders congratulated the national team on their victory.
 Conference on sport in Europe begins in Athens
ATHENS, 26/9/2005 (ANA)A two-day conference on the evolution of sport in Europe began in Athens on Saturday spanning structure, finances, morality, education, art and future trends of the sector.
"Sport expresses a value interwoven with Europe's history and culture. Today, one year after the successful and secure staging of the Olympic Games in their homeland, the country where they were born and revived in modern era, we Greeks, women and men alike, reformulate our commitment to set our country at the forefront of the joint effort for the sports movement in the 21st century," Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said in a message for the opening.
"In an age of changeability and rapid developments, the need to contemplate the prospects and dangers facing sport in all its manifestations and effects on all facets of our lives has become more pressing. Within this context, Europe can actively contribute to giving new meaning to this common effort through the classic and enduring values of sport: noble competition and fair play and the bringing together of peoples, the striving for measure and harmony in both body and mind," said Karamanlis, who personally holds the government's culture portfolio.
He pledged that the Greek state would maintain its active support for initiatives to advance the authentic spirit of sport.
The deputy minister of culture responsible for sports, George Orfanos, the host for this year's conference, said that sports ministers from member states of the Council of Europe and senior officials of government and non-government sports organizations would use the conference as forum for debate on the evolution of sport in Europe, as well as attend an exhibition on sport in modern art.
"The year 2005, declared International Year for Sports and Physical Education by the U.N., gave us the opportunity to highlight another aspect of sports, its contribution and participation in art. Through the kind assistance and cooperation of the Supreme Sports Council of Spain, we'll be presenting the International Sport in Modern Art Biennale, to be hosted in Thessaloniki and partly in Athens," Orfanos noted.
Receiving awards at the conference were Greece's eight Olympic gold medalists in the 2004 Athens Olympics and the country's two gold medalists from the Paralympics.
 First division football results, standings
ATHENS, 26/9/2005 (ANA)Results of the first division football matches played over the weekend:
Olympiakos Piraeus - Akratitos Athens 2-0
Panathinaikos - Panionios Athens 3-0
Larissa - AEK Athens 0-1
Xanthi - Levadiakos 1-0
Ionikos Piraeus - Kallithea Athens 2-1
OFI Crete - Iraklis Thessaloniki 0-1
PAÏÊ Thessaloniki - Agaleo Piraeus 2-0
Apollon Kalamaria - Atromitos Athens 26/09)
The standings after four games:
Atromitos 5 (3 matches)
Apollon Kalamaria 4 (3 matches)
Akratitos Athens 4
Iraklis Thessaloniki 4
 Adami reassures Cyprus of Malta's support
NICOSIA, 26/9/2005 (CNA/ANA)Maltese President Edward Fenech- Adami reassured that his country will continue supporting the people of Cyprus and the government in efforts to reunite the island.
Speaking after receiving the credentials of Cyprus' new High Commissioner to Malta, Stavros Epaminondas, Adami expressed the hope that Cyprus' accession to the EU will help solve the problems the island is facing.
He also expressed Malta's readiness to further strengthen the sincere and excellent relations between the two countries.
On his part, Epaminondas thanked the Maltese president for his support towards Cyprus and reminded the successful visit of President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos to Malta last February as well as his wish to further strengthen bilateral relations and deepen cooperation both in the EU and international organizations to promote and encourage common interests.
Adami referred to the British colonial past of the two countries and their efforts to gain independence.
"Malta was lucky because it was freed without any bloodshed. Cyprus, unfortunately, still faces some problems", he concluded.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the island's northern third.