|Wednesday, 23 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-09-30
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>September 30, 2005
 National Council for Foreign Policy ends with agreement on goals but not tactics
ATHENS, 30/9/2005 (ANA)A meeting of the National Council for Foreign Policy - a forum where the government and the parties in the opposition exchange views of major foreign affairs issues - ended on Thursday with agreement on overall strategic goals and long-term aims but not on the tactics for achieving them.
Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis said the meeting had focused primarily on Turkey's European prospects, in view of the start of accession negotiations between Turkey and the EU on October 3, as well as the recent United Nations General Assembly and the situation in the Balkans.
According to the minister, passions had run higher than usual during Thursday's meeting of the National Council and voices had been raised for the first time, while adding that this was "not in the spirit that meeting of the Council usually take place".
He stressed, however, that there had been a useful exchange of views that confirmed that the National Council was a useful institution and a place for detailed, confidential and useful mutual exchange of information and a free exchange of views.
According to Christos Papoutsis, who is in charge of foreign policy, security and defense issues on main opposition PASOK's Political Council, the main opposition was not prepared to back policies of "surrendering arms, lowered expectations for the country and Hellenism and lost opportunities".
He said PASOK continued to support Turkey's European accession but stressed that the negotiating framework for Turkey's accession currently contained no deadlines and no fail-safes for issues in which Greece had an interest.
Nikos Constantopoulos, who represented the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party, noted that Europe was currently undergoing a period of "fluidity" and a "poor climate" in Greek domestic affairs, while stressing that neither of these factors should be allowed to affect foreign policy issues.
He also noted his party's backing for Turkey's EU accession in principle, on condition of Turkey's democratization and that it respected European law and Community practices.
 'Full compliance with the criteria, full membership in the EU', foreign ministry spokesman Koumoutsakios sums up Greek position on Turkey's EU course
ATHENS, 30/9/2005 (ANA)Greece's position on Turkey's European course is summed up in a few words: "Full compliance with the criteria, full membership in the EU", foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said Thursday.
He was replying to questions, during a regular press briefing, regarding the negotiations mandate setting out the framework within which the Turkey-EU accession talks -- which are slated to begin on Monday -- would be conducted. Koumoutsakos added that its content, with respect to Greece and Cyprus, was considered "locked-in".
Koumoutsakos explained that the fact that the committee of permanent representatives (COREPER) of the 25 EU member countries had yet to reach agreement (on the negotiations mandate) was due to the desire of a specific member country for the text to explicitly state that the end of the negotiation must lead to a 'Privileged Partnership' (as an alternative to membership). He was referring to Austria's demand that Turkey be offered an explicit alternative to full membership.
The draft negotiations mandate acknowledges that the shared objective was Turkish entry into the EU, but states that the negotiations are an open-ended process, the outcome of which cannot be guaranteed beforehand.
The draft EU political declaration, or negotiations mandate, is due to be presented by the EU's British presidency to Turkey on October 3 (Monday), at the formal commencement of the Turkey-EU accession talks.
Koumoutsakos said that this was the basic point of disagreement, adding that, in the event COREPER failed to reach agreement, the British presidency has tentatively called an emergency meeting of the EU Council of Foreign Ministers-General Affairs for Sunday night in Luxembourg.
For the Greek side, he said, the target remains that, provided Turkey proves -- during the course of negotiations -- that it fulfills all the criteria, it should become a full member.
Koumoutsakos warned, however, that the process could not continue if all the 'chapters' of the negotiations were not closed along the course of negotiations. Under EU regulations, membership negotiations are divided into 35 sections or policy areas, known as chapters, which Turkey must implement into national law before it is considered ready for membership. Each of the chapters requires unanimity from all 25 member states to be declared 'closed' (fulfilled).
Replying to other questions, Koumoutsakos said that Paragraph 8 of the draft negotiations mandate explicitly stated that Turkey, as a candidate country for EU membership, must align itself with the acquis communautaire, and clarified that under sub-paragraph 5 of the same text, it is stated that this provision included everything concerning the acquis communautaire, in other words, the common actions, resolutions and the statements that have been adopted by the EU.
Asked to comment on the resolution adopted by the European Parliament on Wednesday, Koumoutsakos said it was a decision taken by the majority of Eurodeputies and comprised an indication of how the EU's institutional organ approached the EU-Turkey relations.
The Europarliament adopted a non-binding resolution on Wednesday demanding that Turkey recognise the killing of Armenians in 1915 before it can join the EU, and also postponed a vote that had been due on Wednesday to approve the Ankara Protocol -- Turkey's extended customs union with the EU to include the 10 new members, including Cyprus -- in a bid to pressure Ankara to open its ports and airports to ships and planes from EU member Cyprus.
On July 29, Ankara signed 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. In tandem, Ankara also submitted a separate, unilateral declaration stating that it refused to recognize the Cyprus Republic and that its ports and airports would remain closed to Cypriot ships and planes.
In its resolution Wednesday, the European Parliament demanded a commitment that when the Turkish parliament ratifies the protocol extending the customs union to new EU member states, it would not attach the Ankara government declaration refusing to recognize the Republic of Cyprus.
The European Parliament resolution endorsed the start of accession negotiations on Monday as scheduled, but included a series of criticisms of Turkey's record on human rights, religious freedom, and minorities, reflecting skeptical public opinion in Europe.
Koumoutsakos declined comment on press information that Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul would possibly not attend the October 3 session. The topics on the agenda for the Council of Ministers meeting included the situation in Iran, the western Balkans, EU-Russia relations, Uzbekistan and Myanmar. The EU-Turkey accession dialogue would officially commence either during the Council's luncheon or dinner, both of which will be working sessions.
According to the programme, the EU presidency was due to make the formal commencement statement, followed by a statement by the Turkish foreign minister.
Koumoutsakos also said that foreign minister Petros Molyviatis will brief President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on current affairs on Friday morning, followed by a meeting with US ambassador in Athens Charles Ries.
Molyviatis is scheduled to leave Saturday for Tunis, to take part in the Euro-Med Forum.
 COREPER fails to adopt negotiating framework for Turkey
BRUSSELS, 30/9/2005(CNA/ANA/M.Spinthourakis)The EU British presidency has called for an extraordinary meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Luxembourg Sunday, as Permanent Representatives (COREPER) of the ''25'' did not manage to adopt Thursday the negotiating framework for Turkey.
The EU foreign ministers will convene one day before the Turkey-EU talks are due to start, as Austria, according to informed sources, insisted that the text provides for a special partnership with Ankara in case there is no conclusion of the accession negotiations.
A presidency representative said that it was not possible to reach an agreement on Thursday but efforts will continue. Prior to the EU foreign ministers meeting bilateral talks will take place between Austria and the presidency.
The beginning of accession talks is not possible without the approval of the negotiating framework.
 Greece hopes Israeli withdrawal a first step towards peace, FM spokesman says
ATHENS, 30/9/2005 (ANA)Foreign Ministry Spokesman George Koumoutsakos expressed hope that the completion of Israel's withdrawal from Gaza will be a first step towards the resumption of the peace process in the Middle East, in comments he made on Thursday.
He added that he hopes the withdrawal will bring Israel and Palestine closer in achieving peaceful co-existence of their peoples and the creation of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state.
Koumoutsakos' comments were made in reference to the United Nations Security Council meeting of September 23, during which UN Envoy to the Middle East Alvaro de Soto briefed the council on recent developments in the region.
Koumoutsakos said that Greece welcomed Israel's departure from Gaza and congratulated the Israeli government on carrying out its plan decisively despite internal political pressure.
 President Karolos Papoulias attends event in memory of 49 dignitaries executed by Nazi occupation troops
PARAMYTHIA, 30/9/2005 (ANA)President Karolos Papoulias on Thursday attended an event in the municipality of Paramythia in memory of the execution of 49 local dignitaries by Nazi occupation troops on September 29, 1943.
Arriving in the town, President Papoulias attended a memorial service for the executed dignitaries at Agios Donatos Cathedral, officiated by Metropolitan Titos. A similar service was also held afterwards at the monument erected for those who died where President Papoulias laid a wreath.
The president said in a brief address that "there are aspects of the past for which when following there tracks we stand speechless before the magnitude of their tragedy".
Also speaking at the ceremony during which he was proclaimed an honorary citizen of Paramythia, President Papoulias said "I have a historical duty to distinguish Hitlerite Germany, which was responsible for all these barbaric acts, from today's democratic Germany which also feels regret together with us and is unable to answer the question 'why' was there such barbarism and 'why' were there such inhuman and paranoiac crimes."
 Cyprus announces official visit by Greek president on Oct. 16-19
NICOSIA, 30/9/2005 (ANA - A. Viketos)The Cyprus government on Thursday announced that President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias will be making an official visit to Nicosia on October 16-19.
Asked if Papoulias will be observing the military exercise Nikiforos during his visit, Cyprus government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said he did not have any information on this but noted that the Greek president would be free to observe the exercise if he wished.
 Greece will always support Cyprus, Minister of Aegean says
NICOSIA, 30/9/2005 (ANA/A.Viketos)Minister of the Aegean and Island Policy Aristotelis Pavlidis on Thursday said that his message to Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos when they meet will be that Greece will always support Nicosia in its goals.
Pavlidis, who is in Cyprus within the context of pursuing a closer cooperation regarding the Thrace-Aegean-Cyprus programme, will be meeting with the Cypriot foreign and finance ministers.
The meetings, according to Pavlidis will concentrate on "the two sides cooperating within a European framework, since we have joint possibilities for development and capitalizing on programmes related to the islands."
Greek Ambassador to Cyprus Dimitris Rallis received Pavlidis at the airport.
 Greek Aegean Minister briefs Cyprus President over ''Thrace-Aegean-Cyprus'' program
NICOSIA, 30/9/2005 (CNA/ANA)Greek Minister of the Aegean and Island Policy Aristotelis Pavlidis discussed here on Thursday with Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos ways to promote the ''Thrace-Aegean-Cyprus'' program in order to make it more effective within the EU framework.
Speaking after his meeting with President Papadopoulos, Pavlidis said that President Papadopoulos and Premier Costas Karamanlis have given their full support to the effort so that the context of the programme becomes more meaningful.
He added that he briefed President Papadopoulos over the program, which is coordinated by his ministry in the framework of the cooperation of the two sides and was pleased to hear the president stating that he fully supports this effort.
On Friday, Pavlides will outline to Cypriot Foreign Minister George Iacovou and Finance Minister Michalis Sarris his views as regards the ''Thrace- Aegean-Cyprus'' program so as to conclude on ''how to move forward''.
 Croatia optimistic of EU 'thumbs up' for accession talks, envoy in Athens stresses
ATHENS, 30/9/2005 (ANA)Croatia's ambassador to Athens on Thursday expressed his government's optimism that the country will receive a "green light" next week by the European Union to begin long-delayed accession talks.
Ambassador Neven Madey emphasized that Zagreb has done everything possible to overcome the last remaining obstacle to the start of EU-Croatia accession talks, namely, the high-profile flight of one-time Croatian general Ante Gotovina, who is wanted on war crimes charges by the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
Madey's comments come one day before ICTY chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte arrives in Zagreb on Friday, and only days before EU foreign ministers convene in Brussels for a closely watched meeting linked directly to the beginning of controversial EU-Turkey accession negotiations. A favorable ruling by the task force on Croatia could translate into an accelerated start of membership talks or lead to at least a specific date for their commencement, a goal the Croatian ambassador termed as a "top priority".
"We have absolutely cooperated with the tribunal. A lot has been done to trace the network that supports Mr. Gotovina; action has been taken," he said, pointing to international cooperation, in fact, that led to the arrest of a Croatian war crimes fugitive, Hrvoje Petrac, in extreme northwest Greece on Aug. 31.
Madey also reiterated his country's determination to resolve the Gotovina case regardless of whether accession talks begin or not.
Commenting on the major Union-related story of the day, namely, Austria's steadfast insistence that EU hopeful Turkey be offered an explicit alternative to full EU membership -- in tandem with Vienna's less-publicized but very energetic support for the immediate start of accession talks with nearby Croatia -- Madey echoed Zagreb's position that "every country should be judged individually on its achievements and its performance regarding the criteria".
Moreover, he dismissed any link between Croatia's EU prospects with concerns over possible delays in Bulgaria and Romania's accession course, as both Balkan countries have set Jan. 1, 2007 as their goal for full membership.
"We believe we should be given a date to start negotiations. We're a small country that will not bring along with it problems," the envoy noted, while adding that the 25-member bloc will most likely enforce a much stricter monitoring regime for current candidates than it did for the 10 most recent EU member-states.
Asked about the effects that potential EU membership will have on a wider region (the former Yugoslavia) plagued by ethnic violence and instability over much of the last decade, Madey stressed that regional cooperation is a requirement for member-states.
More to the point, the Croatian ambassador reminded that Zagreb has already signed a memorandum of cooperation with both Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia-Montenegro to facilitate mutual assistance vis-a-vis EU enlargement and harmonization with the Union's acquis communautaire.
"Borders will be easier to cross; there will be improved trade, communications, infrastructure, energy cooperation and transports..." Madey said in summing up the potential that EU membership will entail for the previously strife-ridden western Balkans.
Finally, the ambassador echoed Zagreb's praise for the Greek government's standing and active support of Croatian EU membership.
 Deputy FM Panayiotis Skandalakis receives South Korean candidate for post of OECD secretary general
ATHENS, 30/9/2005 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Panayiotis Skandalakis on Thursday received South Korea's candidate for the post of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) secretary general professor Han Seung-soo, who briefed him on his candidacy.
The deputy foreign minister in turn informed Seung-soo that Greece will reach its decision on the candidacies in the near future and wished him all the best in his effort.
There are six candidates for the post of OECD secretary general, who will present themselves in Paris in October where they will be outlining their positions on the OECD and the reasons why they wish to seek the post.
 ND secretary comments on Polyzos case, stresses ruling party's 'good overall image'
ATHENS, 30/9/2005 (ANA)Ruling New Democracy's Central Committee Secretary Vangelis Meimarakis on Thursday underlined that the government was gradually fulfilling the pledges contained in the programme voted for by the electorate and that its overall image could not be tarnished by recent "isolated incidents" like those that led to the expulsion of ND MP Evangelos Polyzos.
Emerging from a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, he also announced that progress was being made on changes to the system for local government elections.
Pressed further concerning a spate of generalised and non-specific allegations hinting at corruption within government circles, which culminated in the removal of Polyzos for what was essentially an unfortunately-worded reaction, Meimarakis stressed the premier had made it clear he would show zero tolerance for phenomena of corruption.
At the same time, the party secretary described the expulsion of Polyzos as a "stern" response that had "raised the bar" and created high expectations, while noting that it was impossible to remove an official every time they made a badly-phrased statement.
"Neither [main opposition] PASOK nor the media will dictate when and if someone should be removed," he added.
Polyzos was expelled from ND's parliamentary group after saying that there were "bad and good people in every party" when asked to comment on a purported statement by ND farmer trade unionist Thanassis Kokkinoulis that certain aides of ministers were guilty of accepting bribes. Kokkinoulis later denied making the statements attributed to him, while Polyzos publicly said that his own statement was general and did not refer to any specific instance.
Asked to clarify Meimarakis' statements later in the day, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said they had been general and that "high expectations were created in people by the need for a change in attitude and behavior".
On Meimarakis' statement concerning the media, Roussopoulos stressed that the government respected the media, journalists and their function.
"Every government in a democracy knows that it will be subjected to criticism. This is not the place to analyze what is acceptable criticism this should be, criticism is welcome as long as it is made in good faith," he said.
 Ecumenical Patriarch receives Romanian president, US undersecretary of state
ISTANBUL, 30/9/2005 (ANA/A.Kourkoulas)Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos received Romanian President Traian Basescu and US Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes, in two separate meetings here on Thursday.
During his meeting with Basescu, who is in Turkey on an official visit following the invitation of Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Vartholomeos discussed issues related to Orthodoxy in Europe.
The Romanian president said that the Orthodox Church could help his country make significant progress towards joining the EU.
Vartholomeos and Basescu also discussed various religions' roles in world affairs.
According to Basescu, Orthodoxy, Catholicism, Islam and Buddhism can all play a significant role in achieving peace around the world, since the Church as an institution is considered more trustworthy than politicians.
The Romanian president visited the Church of Agia Sofia after his meeting with the patriarch.
US Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen P. Hughes, serving as envoy of US President George W. Bush, said it was a great honor to meet with the Patriarch.
During their meeting, Vartholomeos and Hughes discussed the importance of religious freedom and the important role the re-opening of the Theological School of Halki has to play in the future of the Church.
 Thessaloniki prefect meets Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul
ISTANBUL, 30/9/2005 (ANA/A. Kourkoulas)Thessaloniki Prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis was received by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I on Thursday, during his visit to Istanbul at the head of a delegation of the Thessaloniki Prefecture Council.
In an exclusive statement to the ANA, Psomiadis said the delegation's visit had been unanimously decided by the Prefecture Council and stressed that the Patriarch had the prefecture's support "in his heavy and difficult work" at all times.
The Patriarch thanked Psomiadis for his kindness and said that he was always moved and strengthened by the fact that Greek politicians, regardless of their political beliefs or which political party they belonged to, invariably felt and expressed the same feelings and honors toward "the centre of the Orthodox faith, the Ecumenical Patriarchate".
"This is a source from which we draw strength and courage to continue our difficult struggle, not just to survive but to continue our history, our traditions, our heritage and the Christian presence and testimony in the city of our fathers," Bartholomew said.
 Interior ministry accuses PASOK party of "absolutely lacking proposals"
ATHENS, 30/9/2005 (ANA)The interior ministry, in an announcement on Thursday, accused the main opposition PASOK party of having the "regrettable privilege" of lacking proposals absolutely and of exercising criticism with denial being its only weapon.
Referring to the issue of dialogue, the ministry mentions that the Karamanlis government has proved and is proving that it respects public dialogue and supports many important decisions on it, in contrast to the governments of PASOK, and the Simitis governments in particular, which avoided dialogue systematically and took decisions "secretly."
On the question of the election of mayors and prefects on the first Sunday of elections with 42 percent, and without runoff elections being necessary on the second Sunday, the interior ministry "reminds" PASOK that "the Karamanlis government is fulfilling in full its government programme which was approved by the Greek people."
It further said that "of course, it is difficult for PASOK to realize what political consistency is since, when it was in government, it spent its time 'explaining' why it never fulfilled its election commitments in full."
 Education minister chairs Black Sea Economic Cooperation conference of education ministers
ATHENS, 30/9/2005 (ANA)Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou on Thursday chaired the 1st official conference of education ministers from Black Sea Economic Cooperation member-states.
Speaking after the conference, Yiannakou said the issue of higher education was discussed, adding that "many of these countries, not to say all of them, seeing the European scene of higher education, also wish to join it and to involve themselves with this topic because they are greatly interested in the common rules, the evaluation systems and the possibility of their citizens to travel to other countries."
She further said that Greece is at the disposal of the Organization's member-states and "we think that it will be acceptable for it to coordinate these countries for two years on higher education issues."
The minister also referred to Greek schools operating in these countries, saying that in many of them "we also have expatriate teachers and professors for teaching the mother tongue".
 Greek consul in Nis proclaimed honorary member of the city's community
BELGRADE, 30/9/2005 (ANA/N. Pelpas)The municipal council of the city of Nis has proclaimed Greece's consul in the city Dimitris Xenitellis an honorary member of the city's community in recognition of his contribution to the strengthening of relations between Greece and Serbia-Montenegro.
The relevant decision was delivered to Xenitellis by the Mayor of Nis Smilko Kostic during an official ceremony held at the town hall in the presence of former Serb Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic, the Bishop Irineos and Greece's Ambassador in Serbia-Montenegro Christos Panagopoulos.
Xenitellis assumed hus duties as Greek consul in Nis in August 2001 and his term will come to an end in October and he will be returning to Athens to head the Balkan Countries Department's Serbia-Montenegro sector of the Greek foreign ministry.
Athanasios Anastopoulos will be the new consul in the city of Nis.
 Deputy finance minister holds talks with business and banking circles in New York
NEW YORK, 30/9/2005 (ANA/P. Panagiotou)Deputy Finance and Economy Minister Petros Doukas, following the end of his talks with business and banking circles here, said "we hope that 2006 will be much better compared to 2005 from the point of view of investments, the creation of new jobs and monetary stability."
Doukas accompanied Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis at the annual session of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Washington, as well as at many meetings with American dignitaries, corporation officials and the executive director of the New York Stock Exchange.
He also had the opportunity of carrying out meetings with institutional investors and senior bank officials during his presence in New York.
"We had a very wide cycle of contacts with institutional investors and big banks, American, German, British and Asian ones, to which we conveyed the message that things are going well in our country and we have quite a few successes which must make them think and place their portfolios in bonds of ours and in the debt, as well as in direct and immediate investments of all kinds," he said.
 Foreign direct investment in Greece more than double in 2004 vs 2003
ATHENS, 30/9/2005 (ANA)Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Greece more than doubled in 2004 compared to a year earlier, UNCTAD said on Thursday.
According to the UN trade and development organization's World Investment Report, FDI inflows into Greece were 1,351 million US dollars, the second best performance since 1990, against 661 million dollars in 2003 and 50 million in 2002. Greenfield investments in 2004 totalled 56 investment plans from abroad, up from 42 in 2003 and 26 in 2002.
FDI outflows from Greece, or funds for investment in other countries, in 2004 totalled 607 million dollars against 47 million dollars in 2003 and 655 million in 2002.
In 2004, FDI stocks entering Greece were 27,213 million dollars from 14,114 million in 2000 and 5,681million in 1990; and Greek stocks leaving the country totalled 13,056 million dollars versus 6,094 million in 2000 and 2,882 million in 1990, the report said.
Other Greek FDI data for 2004 included the following:
In cross-border mergers and acquisitions in 2004, Greek companies and holdings worth 1,455 million dollars were sold to foreign investors against 943 million dollars in 2003 and 65 million dollars in 2002. Cross-border M&As by Greek firms targeting companies abroad totalled 74 million dollars versus 371 million in 2003 and 139 million in 2002, according to UNCTAD.
Greece took the following places in UNCTAD rankings: Inward FDI Performance Index, 129th; Inward FDI Potential Index 34th in 2003; and Outward FDI Performance Index, 52nd in 2004. In the Innovative Capacity Index, Greece ranked 28th.
Finally, 170 multinationals are based in Greece, and 750 subsidiaries of foreign multinationals operate in the country, UNCTAD reported.
 Greek delegation achieves promotion of cooperation in political sector and in bilateral economic relations in Moscow visit
MOSCOW, 30/9/2005 (ANA/N. Melissova)A three-day visit to Russia by a Greek delegation ended on Thursday with the promotion of cooperation in the political sector, bilateral economic relations and the business sector, with emphasis being placed on construction, aluminium, fresh products, plastics and shipping, as well with an ambitious proposal by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov on linking Moscow's river port with the ports of Thessaloniki and Piraeus to enable Greek products to be transported at a low cost.
"Our mission was completed with success," said Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis, while Deputy Finance Minister Christos Folias spoke of a "success which exceeded every expectation" during a press conference given by the two deputy ministers at the end of their visit.
Stylianidis met Luzhkov at the town hall in the morning with which he had cordial and fruitful talks. The two politicians agreed to promote business cooperation in the construction sector at a time when Moscow is experiencing an upsurge in construction in such sectors as infrastructures and road networks.
Cooperation providing the most tangible results concerns the construction sector, while the participation of Greek construction companies in joint business programmes both inside and outside Moscow is being scheduled.
Cooperation has also been scheduled in the Aluminium sector and scheduled agreements were signed in the fresh products and vegetables sector for Greek exports.
Cooperation was further promoted in the plastics sector, while in the shipping sector agreements were reached for the transportation of products, mainly of Russian products, in the international market.
Speaking about the preparation of the business mission, Stylianidis said it was "comprised of representatives of seven ministries and 170 Greek companies who provide services and products in the Russian market."
Greco-Russian Business Council to be created: The Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) and the Federation of Russian Industrialists and Businessmen have decided to create a Greco-Russian Business Council in the framework of the Interministerial Committee of Greece and Russia taking place in the Russian capital.
The Council will have a small number of businessmen who will have developed activities in the other country. The two Federations signed a cooperation agreement in Moscow on Wednesday, by which the two most important business agencies will aim at supporting the activities of Greek companies in Russia and of Russian ones in Greece.
The agreement includes facilitating contacts between businessmen from the two countries and conveying the views and positions of members to the state authorities of both countries on making or avoiding arrangements so as to enable bilateral transactions to improve.
Useful information will also be provided for members on trade and investment opportunities appearing on both sides, through special ads in regular circulars and in their websites.
 PM confers with public administration minister on local elections law, public sector working hours
ATHENS, 30/9/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met Thursday with interior, public administration and decentralization minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos.
Pavlopoulos told reporters after the meeting that two decisions had been taken, one concerning the electoral law vis-a-vis the election of prefects and mayors from the first Sunday of elections, and the second concerning the working hours of civil services.
Elaborating, Pavlopoulos said the government would propose the election of a mayor or prefect from the first Sunday -- first round -- of elections provided a candidate received 42 percent of the vote.
Currently, if one candidate does not receive an absolute majority of 50 percent plus one vote in the first round, a run-off election is held the following Sunday between the top two candidates.
The minister said that all the other provisions and details of the new law would be presented in the draft being advanced by the government, and would be put to public dialogue.
Regarding the working hours of the public sector, Pavlopoulos said the government proposed to ADEDY -- the Civil Servants' Supreme Administrative Council -- uniform operating hours -- from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the summer months and from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the winter months -- so as to accommodate the citizens and ensure smooth operation in cooperation with the related services of the rest of the EU member states and Brussels (the EU headquarters).
 Opposition parties react to new working hours for civil service
ATHENS, 30/9/2005 (ANA)Reacting to the government's announcement about a change to the working hours of civil servants, the opposition parties on Thursday criticized the measure as insufficient and "a diversion" to distract public opinion from awkward questions.
Main opposition PASOK spokesman Nikos Athanassakis said the government owed the public an explanation concerning the recruitment of guards at the Bank of Greece based on their interview, when other candidates with better formal qualifications were allegedly passed over. He said Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos had "returned to the issue of civil service working hours and local election law in order to open up new debates and occupy public opinion".
An announcement by the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party, meanwhile, said that the 'surprise' proposal for staggered work hours would have little impact on the ills of the civil service or the public's problems with it, which were caused by "rampant bureaucracy, confusion, multiple laws, party-political favors, bad staffing and a lack of resources".
 Main opposition presses gov't on OTE voluntary retirement scheme
ATHENS, 30/9/2005 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK Spokesman Nikos Athanassakis called on the government on Thursday to provide an update regarding the voluntary retirement scheme of the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE).
Athanassakis raised the issue following comments by European Commissioner for the Environment Stavros Dimas, who on Thursday reportedly said that the voluntary retirement plan must be in line with EU laws and that state subsidies are allowed only under certain circumstances, such as if the company in question is undergoing restructuring or if it has recorded significant losses.
PASOK's spokesman questioned whether OTE needs state subsidies given that its very good financial performance this year.
 Opposition asks gov't to cancel Olympic Airlines sale pact
ATHENS, 30/9/2005 (ANA)The Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology on Thursday asked to government to cancel a preliminary agreement for the privatization of Olympic Airways and instead create a new independent public enterprise with strategic planning and alliances.
The party's president, Alekos Alavanos, said the government had turned the national carrier into a free-for-all, claiming that airlines including Lufthansa and Aegean Airlines were eager to snatch OA's assets and routes.
 Public opinion supports civil servants' positions, survey
ATHENS, 30/9/2005 (ANA)Public opinion in Greece has changed its views over government policies and is currently supports trade union's positions, ADEDY president Spyros Papaspyros said on Thursday.
The head of the country's civil servants' union, presenting a survey over privatizations, corruption and other domestic political issues, said it showed that public opinion was steadily in favor of steady employment and fair pay and highlighted the significance of the public and social nature of several public services in the country.
The Greek society demands radical, democratic and pluralistic solutions, Papaspyrou said. The survey showed that 71 percent of public opinion believed that hirings in the public sector were made with political interventions, 53.6 percent believed civil servants should maintain their current permanent working status, 55.9 percent said labor conditions for new hirings should not change, while 61.2 percent said they opposed privatizations of public services. Another 75 percent said civil servants should enjoy a minimum salary of 1,200 euros.
 Gov't sends bill allowing creation of European Company to parliament
ATHENS, 30/9/2005 (ANA)Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas on Thursday sent to parliament a bill that allows the creation a new corporate status for firms in the European Union, known as the Societas Europea (SE).
The European Company is a milestone agreement among member states for establishment of an SE firm by merger or conversion for enterprises in more than one member state, if head office and management are both located in the same EU country. The minimum capital requirement is ¬ 120,000.
There is no EU-wide register of SEs, which is each recorded in a member state of the bloc, but each registration must be published in the Union's official journal.
Although SE status is meant to be an optional form of incorporation, it aims to offer companies an operational ease throughout Europe without the constraints of the current system whereby domestic company law can apply to multinationals.
SE firms will only need to comply with EU corporate law rather than cope with dissimilar company law regimes in the bloc's 25 members.
 National Bank of Greece reports H1 earnings rise
ATHENS, 30/9/2005 (ANA)Athens-quoted National Bank of Greece on Thursday reported that net profit attributable to shareholders for the first half of 2005 topped 330 million euros, up 62% year-on-year.
Return on equity rose to a record high of 28%, around 10 percentage points higher than 2004; and the Group's profitability grew by 10% q-o-q, despite the adverse impact of banking-sector strikes in June, management said in a statement.
"This performance reflects the Group's commitment to the key levers for growth in core business and operational restructuring, as set forth in the Business Plan 2005-2007. Accordingly, the outstanding increase in profitability in 1H 2005 reflects robust growth registered in core revenues (up 13%) and the focus on organizational and operational restructuring, which has led to a 3.6% decline in operating expenses y-o-y," the statement said.
Management attributed the increase in the Group's core revenues mainly to rising interest income. Group net interest income totaled approximately 803 million euros, up 15.3% y-o-y, on the back of expansion in retail lending in Greece and southeastern Europe. Retail loan balances stood at 16.5 billion euros at the end of first-half 2005, up 26% y-o-y, according to management.
The net interest margin rose to 3.38%, up 28 basis points since the beginning of the year; and growth of 5.4% was posted in fees and commissions in the first half of the year, despite the strikes.
"The very substantial growth in profits in 1H 2005 reflects the sustained effort that has gone into building up our core revenue sources and systematic efforts to contain operating costs, particularly administrative expenses. At the same time, wage-bill increases in 2005 were offset by the impact of the voluntary retirement program of the previous year," said chairman and CEO Takis Arapoglou.
"Furthermore, the Group is in the process of changing its structure. Accordingly, National Investment Company and National Real Estate are currently in process of merging with National Bank, while the international tender to appoint a specialized operator for the Group's hotel units has got off to a good start, with a view to better utilizing our assets in Astir Palace Vouliagmenis," Arapoglou noted.
The Group's loan book at the end of the first half totaled 29.6 billion euros, up 18% y-o-y; and the loan book in southeastern Europe grew by 59% on an annual basis to total 1.7 billion euros. Retail lending showed a rise of 128% y-o-y.
Mortgages registered the strongest performance, with balances increasing by 27% y-o-y to 10.2 billion euros at the end of June.
 Greek gov't to introduce new pricing policy for pharmaceutical products
ATHENS, 30/9/2005 (ANA)Greece's Development ministry will submit to parliament an amendment over a new pricing policy in pharmaceutical products, which will be based on the average lower price from two Eurozone member-states and one from the EU-25. The amendment also calls for an obligatory reduction of prices in pharmaceutical products with expired patents.
Development Deputy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou, speaking to reporters on Thursday said that average price increases for 4,000 product codes submitted with ministry agencies totalled 2.5 percent in the first nine months of the year, significantly down compared with a 5.2 percent rise in the corresponding period last year.
The Greek minister said a tender for a new Price Observatory was at its last stage. Under its new form, the observatory will include sample prices from 25 cities in 500 products, a significant improvement compared with an existing system of collecting sample prices from Athens and Piraeus for only 48 products.
 Intracom signs 1.14 mln euro contract with PTK Kosovo
ATHENS, 30/9/2005 (ANA)Intracom on Thursday announced the signing of a contract, worth 1.14 million euros, for the supply of 200 radio link systems of Post and Telecommunication of Kosovo J.S.C (PTK), Kosovo's telecoms monopoly.
The contract strengthens Intracom's existing cooperation with PTK and the Greek group's presence in Southeastern Europe, Middle East and North Africa, its main target regions.
 Money owed state nearly double the Greek deficit, gov't notes
ATHENS, 30/9/2005 (ANA)The money owed to the public sector currently stood at 18.5 billion euros and was nearly double the country's deficit, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said on Thursday in comments on the government's recently launched drive to collect overdue taxes.
"An effort is being made so that debtors meet their obligations," the spokesman said.
The spokesman had been asked to respond to a statement by former New Democracy leader Miltiades Evert that the government should first ask those with higher incomes to pay their debts.
Roussopoulos refused to comment on Evert's statements but said that pensioners and salaried employees were likely to make up a small portion of those falling into the category of tax debtors, since the taxes for these groups were mostly withheld at source.
 Greek stocks end at 57-month highs
ATHENS, 30/9/2005 (ANA)Greek stocks ended higher on the Athens Stock Exchange pushing the composite index to its highest closing since January 2001.
Buying interest focused on medium and high capitalization issues. The composite index rose 0.44 percent to end at 3,348.09 points, with turnover a heavy 354 million euros.
 Partial solar eclipse will be visible from Crete on Monday
ATHENS, 30/9/2005 (ANA)Weather permitting; a partial solar eclipse will be visible in Greece next Monday, October 3.
The eclipse will be total for sections of Spain, Portugal and Africa and partial in Greece, with a maximum 57 per cent coverage of the sun's surface over Irakleio, Crete.
The phenomenon will begin on Crete at around 11:42 and reach its peak coverage at 12:40, ending after three hours at 14:11.
The eclipse will be observed by astronomy students at Crete University using a telescope with a special solar filter and through a telescope owned by the Crete University Physics Department, again equipped with a special solar filter. Both telescopes will be placed on the roof of the physics department, eight kilometers outside the city of Irakleio.
Scientists also warned that special glasses or other specialized equipment are needed in order to observe a solar eclipse and cautioned the public against using ordinary sunglasses, which do not provide adequate protection. They also noted that smoked glass, which is often used in order to observe an eclipse, does not block ultraviolet rays.
 Italian Archaeological School unearths two statues on Crete
IRAKLIO, 30/9/2005 (ANA)The Italian Archaeological School on Thursday discovered two well-preserved statues during its excavations on the island of Crete.
The two statues, probably dating back to the Roman period, are sculpted in white marble and are of Goddess Hera and Goddess Athena.
According to archaeologist Anna Micheli, who is working with the Italian team, one of the statues might be sent to the Museum of Irakleio.
 International Puppet and Pantomime Festival in Kilkis on Oct. 1-10
KILKIS, 30/9/2005 (ANA)Fun and fantasy will come together in a riotous splash of color in Kilkis from Saturday, when the 7th International Puppet and Pantomime Festival kicks off in the northern Greek city.
For 10 consecutive days until the following Monday, October 10, the Kilkis Conference Centre will host performances by 10 puppet troupes from seven countries, including Greece, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Bulgaria and far away Japan.
The festival opens on Saturday with a puppet show by a Spanish troupe "Titiritran", while performances will be given daily at noon and 20:00 each day.
This annual festival is organized by the Kilkis municipality in collaboration with Spanish artistic director Juanio Corales and has an annual budget of ¬ 300,000, with partial funding from the Greek culture ministry.
According to Kilkis Mayor Dimitris Terzidis, however, the ministry's share for the past two years has yet to be paid.
 Hellenic Culture Organization acquires new offices in Vienna
VIENNA, 30/9/2005 (ANA)The Hellenic Culture Organization (HCO) has just acquired new offices in the centre of the Austrian capital following a grant made by Sylvia Goldangl.
Goldangl personally made the announcement on Thursday to HCO President Stamatis Mavros who is in Vienna on occasion of the "Hellenic Autumn in Vienna".
Goldangl is making available to the organization 600 square meters of office space. The organization will be responsible for the offices' operational costs.
HCO's Board of Directors accepted Goldangl's donation.
 Hellenic Foundation of Culture combines Greek, Arabic culture
CAIRO, 30/9/2005 (ANA/N.Katsikas)The Alexandria-based Hellenic Foundation of Culture (EIP) will be promoting Greek and Arabic culture side by side in a series of events scheduled from October through December.
The events will kick off on October 3 with the staging of Sophocles' Oedipus Rex in Arabic.
October 9-11 are dedicated to Greek poet Constantine Cavafy with a programme titled "Kavafia 2005." A concert by Stavros Xarhakos will officially inaugurate the programme.
Greek movies will be featured during the three-month period including Pantelis Voulgaris' Brides and T. Boulmetis' Politiki Kouzina.
 Turkish health minister visits Onassis Cardio surgical Centre
ATHENS, 30/9/2005 (ANA)Turkish Health Minister Recep Akdag and Alternate Deputy Health Minister Sabahattin Aydin visited the Onassis Cardio surgical Centre on Thursday, heading a Turkish delegation and accompanied by Deputy Health Minister Athanassios Yiannopoulos.
The Turkish delegation was briefed on the Center's organization and operation, the organizing of its information systems and was given a guided tour of its facilities. It also visited patients and wished them a speedy recovery.
According to an announcement by the Onassis Cardio surgical Centre, the Turkish health minister praised the establishment, saying that he considers it a model and that he desires the creation of a similar Centre in his country.
Akdag held talks with his Greek counterpart Nikitas Kaklamanis on Wednesday.
 Municipality of Athens launches e-newsletter
ATHENS, 30/9/2005 (ANA)The Municipality of Athens recently launched an electronic newsletter aimed at informing citizens of its activities on a weekly basis.
Aside from past activities, the newsletter, titled Athens News on the Net (@nn), will also provide news on upcoming events, an interview with a personality related to the municipality, links to the municipality's announcements as well as a schedule of cultural events.
Those interested in receiving the newsletter can sign up at www.cityofathens.gr.
 Top SYN cadres become organ donors
ATHENS, 30/9/2005 (ANA)Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) President Alekos Alavanos presented Alkiviades Kostakis, President of the Hellenic National Transplant Organization (EOM), during their meeting on Thursday, with a list of names of top party cadres who have registered as organ donors.
Alavanos emphasized the importance of organ donations and said that at the SYN Youth Festival, which begins on Friday, a special information desk will be set up enabling those who are interested to register as donors.
Kostakis said that SYN is the first party to participate in organ donation, while Health and Social Solidarity Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis has also pledged participation.
Kostakis briefed SYN on EOM's activities and expressed satisfaction with SYN's initiative.
 Greece search-and-rescue team to participate in earthquake-response exercise in Edirne
ATHENS, 30/9/2005 (ANA)The Hellenic Rescue Team (EOD) will participate in a large-scale exercise simulating rescue operations after an earthquake that will take place in Edirne, Turkey on October 1-2, at the invitation of its Turkish counterpart EDAK.
Also participating in the exercise are four other search-and-rescue teams from Turkey and one from Germany that uses specially-trained rescue dogs, while a team of doctors from a German university specializing in disaster-response medicine will take part as observers.
 The Athens dailies at a glance
ATHENS, 30/9/2005 (ANA)The new decline in Greek competitiveness, German interest in Greece's ailing national carrier Olympic Airlines, the changes to the changes in the overtime system, the mutual backstabbing in the ruling New Democracy party (ND) over public sector hiring and the issue of graft, the behind-the-scenes in the smuggling racket, a purported secret plan to dismiss 13,000 salaried soldiers (who have a specific-time contract), and winter without heat in the schools, were the main front-page items in Thursday's dailies.
 Cyprus President reiterates commitment to bizonal, bicommunal solution
NICOSIA, 30/9/2005 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus President reiterated here on Thursday his commitment to a bizonal, bicommunal federal solution to the Cyprus problem.
Receiving the credentials of Serbia and Montenegro's new Ambassador to Cyprus Mirko Jelic, Papadopoulos expressed Cyprus' unequivocal support to the European perspective of Serbia and Montenegro.
Presenting his credentials, Jelic said that there are many opportunities for enhancing the bilateral cooperation between Cyprus and Serbia Montenegro, particularly in the political and economic field.
Noting his country's fundamental internal reforms aimed at building a democratic society with free market economy, Jelic said that Serbia and Montenegro would appreciate ''the support of the Republic of Cyprus on our path of becoming a part of the larger European family and a full member of the European Union.''
''The experience of the Republic of Cyprus in this field is of great value for us'', Jelic added, stressing that ''the Republic of Cyprus will always have the firm support of our Government and our people in reaching a fair and viable solution to the Cyprus problem, which will be mutually and freely agreed by both communities and based on the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.''
Replying, President Papadopoulos, said that ''we unequivocally support the European perspective of Serbia and Montenegro and we are ready to share with you our experience from the pre-accession process.''
Referring to the Cyprus problem, the president stressed that ''we remain committed to working constructively for a bizonal, bicommunal federal solution that will serve the legitimate interests of the people of Cyprus as a whole.''
''Within the framework of this policy we approach positively all developments that may enable the settlement of the problem, including the European aspirations of Turkey,'' Papadopoulos added, pointing out however that ''it becomes more and more evident that Turkey does not opt for a similarly constructive stance.''
''Turkey's ultimate objective'', he added, ''is clearly not the reunification of Cyprus, but the setting up of two separate states. To this end, and since the Referendum in April 2004, Turkey has been pursuing a policy of ''upgrading'' the illegal administration in the occupied areas of Cyprus to that of a separate legal entity or 'state' - short of diplomatic recognition.''
 Cyprus Government: Europarliament sent clear messages to Turkey
NICOSIA, 30/9/2005 (CNA/ANA)The European Parliament has sent clear political messages to Turkey, said Thursday Cypriot Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides, adding that Turkey has to comply with the EU wishes and not the other way round.
Speaking during his daily briefing, Chrysostomides stressed that the most important of these messages is the one saying that ''Turkey must embrace the values on which the EU is based in order to move towards the European Union''.
Referring to the resolution adopted Wednesday by the European Parliament on Turkey's accession negotiations the spokesman said: ''There are general references as regards Turkey's obligations towards the EU, the Commission's obligations as demanded by the Europarliament and of course many references on Cyprus''.
The European Parliament sends clear messages in relation to the recognition of the Cyprus Republic, the implementation of the Protocol for the extension of Turkey's Customs Union to the new EU member states, including Cyprus, in relation to the opening of ports and airports, and the Cyprus issue, Chrysostomides said.
The spokesman added that Cyprus' accession and Turkey's EU prospect must bring Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat to his senses.
Commenting Talat's statement to the Associated Press, that if Turkey recognizes the Cyprus Republic the Turkish Cypriots will be obliged to defend themselves, something which will lead to a ''civil war'', the spokesman said that any Cypriot, Greek Cypriot or Turkish Cypriot must wonder what exactly Talat's aim is with this statement.
''It seems that Talat does not realize that what we speak about is one homeland for all Cypriots. The reason of this violent division between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, of the society and the territory, is one illegality which continues'', he concluded.