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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-12-16

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

December 16, 2005


  • [01] PM Karamanlis says an EU Summit consensus on budget 'feasible'
  • [02] Striking EU budget deal a difficult proposition, PM stresses
  • [03] U.S. Assistant Secretary of State DiCarlo discussed developments in Balkans during Athens visit
  • [04] Government denies secret U.S. deal under Greek EU presidency
  • [05] Deputy FM meets with German ambassador, Romanian MPs
  • [06] PASOK leader blasts government, policies
  • [07] Government responds, accuses PASOK of 'twisting truth'
  • [08] EU warns Greece over failure to apply Single European Sky laws
  • [09] Gov't on Iraq election
  • [10] Papoulias receives interior ministers of Iran, Pakistan and Turkey
  • [11] Interior minister receives counterparts from Iran, Pakistan and Turkey
  • [12] MRB poll shows ND leading PASOK by 2.2 pc
  • [13] European Commission and interior ministry sign agreement on readmission
  • [14] Alternate government spokesman comments on telephone call registration
  • [15] Bar Association Plenum criticises EP's decision on registration of telecommunications data
  • [16] Israeli diplomats cite closer ties with Greece during informal briefing
  • [17] Athens Bar Association wants 'in-depth investigation' into 'abduction of Pakistanis issue'
  • [18] Coalition leader outraged by Church document attacking MPs
  • [19] Ecumenical Patriarch receives former Romanian presidnet Iliescu
  • [20] PASOK's Papoutsis meets presidium of U.S. PanMacedonian Union
  • [21] Senior justice accused of corruption released on bail
  • [22] Finmin presents updated Stability and Development Programme
  • [23] Parliament passes bill to overhaul state corporations
  • [24] Public utilities, pensions system 'time bombs', EBEA President says
  • [25] Agriculture minister presents Greek positions at
  • [26] Kyriakopoulos elected as president of PPC board
  • [27] National Bank of Greece chief sees credit growth easing
  • [28] Retail sectors create more jobs in 3Q 2005
  • [29] Tourism agreement with Moldova pending
  • [30] AirSea Lines expected to begin hydroplanes routes in two months
  • [31] Greece convicted for failing to apply EU directives for company accounts
  • [32] SEBE organises meeting in Skopje on 'economic growth through international trade'
  • [33] ANA launches Digital Greece website
  • [34] Marak Electronics to supply Montenegro police
  • [35] Athens Bourse Close: General index reaches 5-year high WTO
  • [36] Deputy Culture Minister Tatoulis inaugurates Greek art exhibit in NY
  • [37] Orthodox Church decides to provide land for Moslem cemetery
  • [38] American professor Nussbaum lectures on 'Religious Intolerance and the Future of Democracy'
  • [39] Greek journalists meet with Bulgarian colleagues
  • [40] Two policemen attacked and injured by group of youths
  • [41] President Papadopoulos: UNSC doesn't equate both sides on Ledra Street deadlock
  • [42] Russian Deputy FM reaffirms position of principle on Cyprus
  • [43] Helios air crash reconstruction to take place December 19

  • [01] PM Karamanlis says an EU Summit consensus on budget 'feasible'

    BRUSSELS, 16/12/2005 (ANA/A.Panagopoulos)

    The first day of a crucial European Union Summit ended late on Thursday night here in a customary dinner, with all sides insisting on their positions regarding the EU 2007-2013 budget.

    Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in his remarks during the dinner referred to EU fiscal prospects in the 2007-20013 period underlining: "We have reached the moment of decisions. All are awaiting from us to show political courage and a European spirit. I am convinced that the sought consensus is feasible and I hope that this will appear tomorrow."

    Karamanlis asked for more funds than those proposed by the British presidency noting that "total expenditures must reflect our vision for the EU. The presidency's proposal is restrictive, taking into account the total amount of the available funds.

    A satisfactory solution for the cohesion and agricultural development funds is the basic element for the achievement of a final solution. On the other hand, the presidency's proposal alters the ceiling for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). In any case, any revision of the CAP should deal with the post-2013 period."

    [02] Striking EU budget deal a difficult proposition, PM stresses

    BRUSSELS, 16/12/2005 (ANA - A. Panagopoulos)

    Arriving in Brussels on Thursday for the crucial European Summit on the EU budget for 2007-2013, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis again stressed that European leaders would have their work cut out for them to strike a deal.

    Karamanlis, who had earlier taken part in the European People's Party (EPP) summit, essentially repeated his state-ments after meeting British Prime Minister Tony Blair last week, in which he had pointed out the difficulties of finding a common goal between 25 member-states that each had their own interests and agenda and underlined Greece's determi-nation to contend for its interests.

    "It is a difficult matter, especially after the inability to achieve an agreement last June. Finding a common ground between 25 member-states that each have their own views and set their own priorities is, by definition, a particularly difficult affair," he noted.

    "We have a tough and gruelling negotiation ahead of us. We will give battle to safeguard the interests of our country," the Greek premier added.

    The summit that begins later on Thursday evening will find European leaders divided over the new British proposal submitted on Wednesday, which is strongly opposed by many member-states.

    A similar climate dominated the EPP summit, where Luxem-bourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker called on Britain to back down and help the poorer member-states.

    European leader will begin talks at 19:00 Greek time, while the discussion on the EU budget will begin at the dinner scheduled to take place at 21:00 Greek time.

    [03] U.S. Assistant Secretary of State DiCarlo discussed developments in Balkans during Athens visit

    WASHINGTON, 16/12/2005 (ANA/T. Ellis)

    Developments in the Balkans and the role played by Greece were discussed during the recent visit to Athens by U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Rosemary Di Carlo, according to State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

    Called on to comment on the content of her discussion with Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, McCormack said that "Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Di Carlo was in Athens on November 30 for consultations with Greek officials related to Balkan issues", adding that "during her stay in Athens she discussed ways with which Greece and other countries could support the political process under way in Kosovo and developments in the region of the Balkans in general."

    [04] Government denies secret U.S. deal under Greek EU presidency

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    The Greek government on Thursday said it had found no evidence of an alleged secret deal made between the European Union and the United States when Greece held the rotating EU presidency in 2003.

    Responding to a report in the Greek newspaper "Pontiki", which said that the EU had undertaken to provide services to the aircraft of U.S. services at European airports, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said that an investigation at the foreign ministry had revealed no sign of such an agreement, either secret or open.

    The spokesman also noted that reporters should seek more details from the current leader of main opposition PASOK, George Papandreou, who was foreign minister during that period.

    Answering questions concerning a later agreement signed in November for the participation of 2000 Greeks in a European battle group, Antonaros pointed out that this had been officially announced and was well known.

    In fact, he added, the inclusion of Cyprus into the "Balkan" battle group that will be headed by Greece had been seen as something of a coup for Greek diplomacy.

    [05] Deputy FM meets with German ambassador, Romanian MPs

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    Deputy Foreign Minister Panayiotis Skandalakis on Thursday met separately with German Ambassador to Greece Wolfgang Schultheiss and a group of visiting Romanian MPs.

    The meeting with Schultheiss was primarily a courtesy visit, according to a ministry statement.

    During the meeting, Skandalakis briefed the German diplomat on issues falling under his jurisdiction as well as problems facing the Greek expatriate community in Germany and discussed ways to improve bilateral cooperation in this area.

    Skandalakis then received Romania's Parliamentary Group on Romanian-Greek friendship, headed by Greek expatriate Sotiris Fotopoulos.

    According to a ministry statement, Skandalakis discussed with the group the significance of good cooperation in further developing bilateral relations and acknowledged the close ties existing between the two peoples.

    Finally, the deputy minister expressed satisfaction with Romania's impending EU accession and offered to help in every way possible.

    [06] PASOK leader blasts government, policies

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Thurs-day launched a scathing attack on the government, while addressing his party's parliamentary group.

    Papandreou said the government was "teetering", opining that while the ruling New Democracy party (ND) had assumed the government with arrogance and the certainty that it would rule the country for an eight-year tenure (two terms in office), now its cadres were unsure, from month to month, whether they would succeed in exhausting even the four-year term.

    He said that ND entered the government with a slogan championing transparency and against collusion, "but today we have entered a crazy asylum of mutual accusations in which half the government accuses the other half and sends it before the public prospecutor" while the prime minister, playing the role of Pontius Pilate, washes his hands of the situation although hie is mainly responsible for this chaos.

    Papandreou said that the country's governance under ND was developing into a negative chapter for Greece "which the Greek people will soon close by placing their confidence once again in PASOK".

    The main opposition denied talk that PASOK and ND were "two of the same", saying that while the Karamanlis government was "with the few", PASOK was "with society". "While they hide behind lies, we seek the truth," he added.

    "ND and Karamanlis have failed and disappointed (the people). PASOK expresses hope. The ND government is dissolving social cohesion, whereas PASOK is advancing a new national and social pact," Papandreou said.

    Turning to the discussion in the EU on the community budget, Papandreou warned the government that it cannot lise another opportunity for the country, and called on the government not to lower the standard "as he does in difficult negotiations, resulting in the country missing out on historic opportunities". He set the "standard" at 28 billion euros, which he said the preceding PASOK government had secured from the Third Community Support Framework (CSF) and farm subsidies for the period up to 2013.

    He criticised the government's economic policy, saying that it was accumulating additional burdens for everyone, making major changes in critical sectors for the citizens, increasing insecurity among the working people, leading to a reduction in investments and closure of business enterprises, and abandonment of the periphery.

    Papandreou further accused the government of initiating a pogrom against the most capable officials in public administration, and of fearing to undertake diplomatic initiatives and missing opportunities.

    On the issue of terrorism, Papandreou said it was a complex problem that could not be tackled with weapons and armies, but through combatting inequalities and backing a new internationalism with solidarity, principles which he said he would promote from the post of president of the Socialist International that he was slated to assume at the end of January 2006.

    [07] Government responds, accuses PASOK of 'twisting truth'

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    The main opposition insisted on "lies and twisting the truth", government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said on Thursday in response to Papandreou's criticism.

    "The citizens are well aware that we are not all the same and can see the differences between today and yesterday [under PASOK governments]," he said.

    Stressing that the government was honouring the mandate it was given to change things and its promise to show zero tolerance toward corruption, Roussopoulos accused PASOK of saying 'no' to all reforms and of having "shone for 20 years in total cover-ups and complete licence".

    Now, he added, the main opposition was daily sliding down the dead-end path of irresponsible populism.

    [08] EU warns Greece over failure to apply Single European Sky laws

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    The European Commission on Thursday sent a reasoned opinion to Greece for failure to respect EU legislation on the establishment of a national supervisory authority in the context of the Single European Sky. A reasoned opinion is the last step before a formal complaint to the Court of Justice is lodged.

    The Regulation, which entered into force in April 2004, sets up the institutional framework for the single European sky. A main feature is the separation between the provision of air navigation services on the one hand and the supervision and regulation of these services on the other hand. Member States are required to establish an independent national supervisory authority to assume the different tasks identified in EU legislation, including certification of air navigation service providers and on-going compliance oversight.

    Up to now, Greece has failed to establish such an authority.

    [09] Gov't on Iraq election

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    Greece on Thursday expressed its hope that democratic proce-dures in Iraq "lead the country towards stability and peace that people in the region desire so much".

    Deputy government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros made the statement on the occasion of general elections in the strife-torn Middle East country.

    [10] Papoulias receives interior ministers of Iran, Pakistan and Turkey

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday received the interior ministers from Iran, Pakistan and Turkey, Mostafa Pur-Mohammadi, Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, and Abdulkadir Aksu, respectively, as the three foreign officials arrived in Athens for a conference aimed at coordinating multilateral efforts on the security front, as well as against illegal immigration and organised crime.

    The three ministers were accompanied by Greek Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis.

    [11] Interior minister receives counterparts from Iran, Pakistan and Turkey

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Thursday received his counterparts from Iran, Pakistan and Turkey, Mostafa Poor-Mohammadi, Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao, and Abdulkadir Aksu, respectively, as the three foreign officials arrived in Athens for a conference aimed at coordinating multilateral efforts on the security front, as well as against illegal immi-gration and organised crime.

    Pavlopoulos said they had discussed issues affecting immigrants, ways to better handle the migration phenomenon and improving conditions for immigrants in Greece.

    Noting that Greek authorities had very few problems with immigrants from the specific countries, the minister stressed that immigrants were "sacred" in Greece, who should live in the country legally, with full rights and equality.

    [12] MRB poll shows ND leading PASOK by 2.2 pc

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    The ruling New Democracy party is ahead of the main opposition PASOK party by 2.2 percentage points in voter intent, according to the results of the six-month nationwide poll carried out by the MRB company.

    The New Democracy party received 36.9 percent of the vote, PASOK 34.7, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) 7.3, the Popular Orthodox

    Rally (LAOS) 3.6 and the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) 3.4.

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is considered the most suitable for the premiership with 43.5 percent, followed by PASOK leader George Papandreou with 34.9.

    [13] European Commission and interior ministry sign agreement on readmission

    16/12/2005 (ANA)

    An agreement was signed between the European Commission and the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation Ministry on Thursday on the "Creation of apparatuses for the effective and viable implementation of the readmission agreement between Albania, the European Union and third countries involved."

    The proposal had been submitted in the framework of the first proclamation of the programme titled "Aineias-Economic and technical aid to third countries in the sectors of asylum and immigration" and it was approved for funding by the European Commission.

    The proposal contains a two-year programme of activities, most of which take place in Albania and aim at supporting relevant Albanian agencies for the successful implementation of the readmission agreement for illegal immigrants between the European Union and the Republic of Albania and the handling of consequences emanating from it.

    [14] Alternate government spokesman comments on telephone call registration

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, referring to the European Parliament's resolution on the monitoring and storage of the content of telephone conversa-tions concerning European Union citizens, said on Thursday that the Greek government intervened with determination from the beginning of the specific discussion at the European agencies.

    Antonaros said that Justice Minister Anastassis Papaligouras had pointed out at all ministerial meetings the "need to handle the issue soberly and in a way that would secure a balance between the benefits of freedom and security, also taking into consideration the causes of terrorism internationally."

    "Thanks to Greek interventions, which were many and dense, various amendments to initial plans submitted by the British presidency, which constituted a more strict approach to the issue, were made possible" Antonaros said.

    He further clarified that "in international politics, particularly when it concerns something binding, what counts is not for one to take a sterile opposition position but, participating in agencies, to influence the kind and the quality of decisions taken."

    [15] Bar Association Plenum criticises EP's decision on registration of telecommunications data

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    The decision taken by the European Parliament Plenum by which the new European legislation was ratified on "complete and continuous monitoring, registration and storage of all telecommunications data of citizens leads to disdain for human rights," the country's Bar Association Plenum said in an announcement on Thursday.

    "We are being led in this way to a continuous shrinking of our legal culture, to disdain for human rights, to the degradation of human dignity since everyone will be watched and his entire personal life will be monitored, as well as that of his family, with the abolition of every kind of constitutionally safeguarded protection for the secrecy of communication, of free response and of individual rights in general which our constitution anticipated," the announcement said.

    "The Plenum of the Bar Associations of the country expresses its indignation at the continuous desecration of values, democracy and freedom and states that in cooperation with the European Bar Association, which numbers 700,000 members, it will resort to the European Human Rights Court to salvage human dignity and the fundamental principles of European Culture," it added.

    [16] Israeli diplomats cite closer ties with Greece during informal briefing

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    Israeli diplomats in Athens on Thursday generally painted the year that passed as a milestone for Mideast peace efforts, while also citing the extraordinary political restructuring underway in the country's political map.

    Expectedly, discussions centred on the evacuation of settlers and IDF forces from the Gaza Strip last September, as well as the unprecedented formation of a new centrist political party, "Kadima", by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

    The mostly informal briefing of local media at Israeli ambassador Ram Aviram's official residence was repeated this December ahead of the holidays.

    In terms of Greek-Israeli relations, Aviram emphasised that robust trade relations were heightened in 2005 with the signing of four separate bilateral agreements in the economy (capital markets), agriculture, defence and cultural sectors, whereas two agreements on tourism as well as research and technology are pending.

    Along those lines, Israeli officials pointed to what they called substantial interest by the Greece-based firms in working with Israeli IT and hi-tech companies, especially after a 2nd Greek-Israeli Telecommunications and IT Forum that concluded in the Greek capital last November.

    [17] Athens Bar Association wants 'in-depth investigation' into 'abduction of Pakistanis issue'

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    The Athens Bar Association in an announcement on Thursday asks of Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras for "an in-depth investigation" to be carried out into "the issue of the abduction of Pakistanis."

    Specifically, the announcement said: "The Athens Bar Association feels the need to direct itself to the Justice Minister, who is already active and to ask for an in-depth investigation of the issue of the abduction of Pakistanis by secret services with the attribution of responsibilities, regarding either law enforcement agencies or public prosecution authorities."

    The government on Wednesday again vehemently rejected charges that a handful of Pakistani workers living in Athens were abducted and interrogated last July by either Greek of foreign intelligence services, with the relevant public order minister referring to a "provocation or farce" in the case.

    Several Athens dailies over the summer initially published allegations by the seven Pakistanis, who said they were arrested in a central Athens residence, handcuffed, hooded and inter-rogated by English-speaking agents for some 48 hours outside of Athens regarding their connections with Britain and London.

    The alleged incident took place shortly after the suicide bombings in London.

    [18] Coalition leader outraged by Church document attacking MPs

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    The leader of the left-wing Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party Alekos Alavanos on Thursday launched a full-scale attack against the head of the Greek Church, Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece, expressing outrage at a document of the Holy Synod that addresses the faithful that he said was an attack on MPs.

    He called on Christodoulos to "follow the example of [ousted Jerusalem Patriarch] Irineos" and accused him of "ultra-right-wing views".

    "A despicable text from the Holy Synod has circulated that will be read in Churches and refers to us, describing us as butchers, while it ends in a threat to Parliament that says that big decisions belong to the people and not to individuals," Alavanos said in Parliament.

    He urged the Parliament president and the minister of education and religious affairs to intervene, saying that "the only service that Mr. Christodoulos can offer is to follow the example of former Jerusalem Patriarch Irineos".

    KKE on Archbishop's statements: The Communist Party of Greece on Thursday accused Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos of using religious sentiment to "create divisions" among the Greek public on the separation of church and state.

    "He pretends not to understand that the separation of church and state does not offend anybody's religious beliefs, but is a measure that was implemented in other countries 200 years ago," KKE said in a statement.

    KKE's statement was issued in response to a document released by the Holy Synod, slamming MPs on the separation of church and state issue.

    Furthermore, KKE stresses in its statement that the mixing of church and state has traditionally been and continues to be damaging to the general public.

    [19] Ecumenical Patriarch receives former Romanian presidnet Iliescu

    ISTANBUL, 16/12/2005 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)

    Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos on Thursday met here with former Romanian president Ion Iliescu, with talks touching on the very good relations between the Patriarchate and the Orthodox Church of Romania.

    Among others, Iliescu said an ongoing dialogue between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches was a "historical step".

    [20] PASOK's Papoutsis meets presidium of U.S. PanMacedonian Union

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    A delegation of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), headed by Christos Papoutsis, respon-sible for the party's Foreign Policy, Security and Defence Sector, met in Parliament on Thursday with the presidium of the PanMacedonian Union of the United States.

    Papoutsis stated that he expounded to his interlocutors PASOK's positions for the support of the course of all of the peoples of the region of Southeast Europe towards the European Union, for peace, security and good cooperation. He added that "in this context, our steadfast objective is the finding of a solution to the name issue of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), a mutually acceptable solution which will respect the cultural, historic and geographic particularities of the two peoples."

    [21] Senior justice accused of corruption released on bail

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    The former head of the Athens' First-Instance Court administration, Gerassimos Dionysatos, was released on bail of 2000 on Thursday after appearing before an appeals exami-ning magistrate to answer charges of corruption and trial-rigging.

    Dionysatos has denied all the charges against him, which include misdemeanour charges of breach of duty, accepting bribes and conspiracy.

    The former senior justice had resigned from his post in late November after he had been ordered to answer charges, expressing surprise at the magistrate's decision to prosecute and claiming that he had fully explained his actions.

    The charges against him also relate to a possible connection with then Jerusalem Patriarch Irineos, who was dethroned in the wake of scandal concerning the sale of Patriarchate land to Israelis. The case, chiefly through the presence of a Greek ex-con in the former Patriarch's entourage, also became linked with a corruption scandal involving the Greek clergy and judges that erupted in Greece at roughly the same time.

    [22] Finmin presents updated Stability and Development Programme

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Thursday presented the key points of Greece's Updated Stability and Development Programme for 2005-2008, that will be sent to Brussels on Friday.

    The new programme forecasts that rates of growth will continue to increase combined with a reduction of the public deficit and public debt as employment rises and unemployment falls.

    Alogoskoufis said that the government's chief concern in 2005 had been to achieve satisfactory rates of growth and thus avoid a recession, noting that this effort will continue in 2006.

    Rates of growth are forecast to reach around 3.8 pct of GDP in 2006 and 2007, rising to 4 pct of GDP in 2008. According to the minister, the increased growth is expected to result from rising growth rates throughout the European Union and also the continuing structural reforms to the Greek economy.

    The Programme also sees a gradual decline in inflation, which is expected to close at 3.5 pct in 2005 and then drop to 3.2 pct in 2006 and 3pct in 2007, finally reaching 2.7 pct in 2008.

    Alogoskoufis underlined that inflation was one of the more serious problems for the economy, because of its repercussions on the real economy.

    The Programme forecasts a drop in unemployment from a 10.4 pct average for 2005 to 9.8 pct in 2006, 8.9 pct in 2007 and 8 pct in 2008.

    The public deficit is seen dropping from 4.3 pct of GDP in 2005 to 2.6 pct of GDP in 2006, 2.3 pct of GDP in 2007 and 1.7 pct of GDP in 2008. At the same time, the public debt as a percentage of GDP is forecast to fall to 104.8 pct of GDP in 2006, 101.1 pct of GDP in 2007 and 96 pct of GDP in 2008.

    Alogoskoufis described the forecasts in the programme as "moderate" and said that it contained one set of figures based on a "realistic" scenario and another set of figures based on a more unfavourable scenario.

    It will also incorporate tax reductions for individuals for 2007 and envisaged increases to the OGA farming pensions and the EKAS low-pension supplement that will be given in two installments (in 2007 and in 2008).

    The minister also referred to an increase in tax revenues from VAT, which came to 9.3 pct in October and 11.6 pct in November and said that the finance ministry was preparing a campaign to combat tax evasion and to make the public aware that tax evasion concerned everybody.

    Finmin confident deficit will hold reduction target: Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Thursday that the fiscal deficit would hold steady below 3.0% of gross domestic product over the next three years even under a worst-case scenario.

    Addressing a parliamentary committee on Greece's growth and stability pact for 2005-2008, Alogoskoufis said that along with the lower deficit, tax would be lowered.

    Critical years for the economy were 2005 and 2006, but the outlook was favourable.

    "An upturn in the eurozone and a decline in oil prices will create a positive framework, while in Greece changes in industrial relations law, faster privatisation, changes in working hours and remaining reforms advanced by the government are already bearing fruit in investment and the labour market," Alogoskoufis said.

    Investment has risen by 9% this year and unemployment fallen by 0.5%, he added.

    Addressing the same committee, Yiannos Papantoniou, a former finance minister under the main opposition PASOK party, said that since the New Democracy party assumed government, investment and growth had dropped and the fiscal deficit had risen.

    [23] Parliament passes bill to overhaul state corporations

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    Parliament on Friday passed a government bill to make state corporations operate along private sector lines.

    Deputies of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) walked out of the debate to protest against the bill and were absent for the vote.

    The protest cented on an article of the bill that scraps free collective bargaining, which PASOK says will end up in the lawcourts.

    Employment Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos told parliament that the government was united in its reform drive for state firms.

    [24] Public utilities, pensions system 'time bombs', EBEA President says

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    The debt and deficits created by public utilities and the additional expenditures necessary to keep the pensions system viable are the two 'time bombs' threatening the fiscal stability of Greece, Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) President Drakoulis Fountoukakos said on Thursday.

    Referring to the Greek economy's course in 2006, Fountou-kakos said that it will be "a good, but difficult year" and predicted that high growth rates will be maintained.

    However, the country's economic performance over the medium-term will depend on its fiscal situation.

    According to Fountoukakos, the government has taken steps to diffuse the first time bomb with its bill on reforming and restructuring public utilities and state-run enterprises.

    "We also support article 14 [of the bill] because the management of the loss-making public utilities (DEKO) and every trade union cannot agree on pay rises that are above and beyond the companies' abilities and then asking the Greek public to foot the bill," he said.

    "If pay increases are to be given out, let Parliament decide, since it represents the Greek people and everyone can assume their respective political responsibilities," he added.

    Regarding the pensions system, Fountoukakos said that the current New Democracy government, like its predecessor PASOK, "is procrastinating and instead of addressing the issue is postponing it for the future."

    Fountoukakos said that EBEA supports dialogue and consensus but also a viable solution to the problem.

    As for private consumption, it will remain high in 2006, while company investments will benefit from a contained incomes policy and from expected investments in real estate, according to Fountoukakos.

    Finally, regarding investments in 2006, Fountoukakos predicted that contracts totalling 12.5 billion for public and self-financed projects will have been signed.

    [25] Agriculture minister presents Greek positions at WTO

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    Agricultural Development Minister Evangelos Bassiakos on Thursday presented Greece's positions at the 6th ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation in Hong Kong.

    Bassiakos, who leads a Greek delegation at the meeting, underlined the need to continue protections for Europe's farmers as decided in a recent reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for nearly all agricultural products.

    He also asked for the opening of markets in developing countries in order to facilitate exports of non-agricultural products to these markets and the deregulation of trade in services.

    Bassiakos also took part in bilateral and multilateral meetings and discussions, including the EU General and External Affairs Council, to monitor the progress of talks and to promote Greek positions.

    [26] Kyriakopoulos elected as president of PPC board

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    The board of the Public Power Corporation, Greece's state-run power utility, on Thursday elected Constantine Kyriakopoulos as the non-executive president of the board.

    Kyriakopoulos was the candidate suggested by the government after the resignation of the PPC's former president Yiannis Paleokrassas.

    A former high-ranking bank executive, Kyriakopoulos served as General Manager of Alpha Bank for 20 years until May 2003 and was on the bank's board until April 2005. He was also a member of the executive committee of the Union of Greek Banks and a board member of DIAS Inter-banking Systems and a board member and executive committee member of IOBE.

    After his election, the PPC board is now led by Kyriakopoulos as president and Dimitris Maniatakis as board chairman.

    [27] National Bank of Greece chief sees credit growth easing

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    Credit growth in mortages and consumer loans in Greece will begin to ease off gradually from the new year but remain fairly high against the average in developed European economies for at least another four years when the market will mature, the chairman and managing director of the National Bank of Greece, Takis Arapoglou, said on Thursday.

    Growth in mortgages this year is anticipated to rise by 20%-25% with financing for small and medium-sized companies increasing by 10%-12%, Arapolgou noted.

    Mortgages were immediate priority business for Athens-quoted National after deposits, with the bank's housing loan portfolio totalling 11 billion euros in January-September 2005, he added.

    [28] Retail sectors create more jobs in 3Q 2005

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    The number of individuals employed in Greece's retail sectors increased by 2.4-percent in the third quarter of 2005 compared with the same period of 2004, the national statistical service (ESYE) announced on Thursday.

    A 0.5-percent increase in the same employment figure was recorded between the second and third quarters of 2005, with rising indices in the retail and super market sectors seen as creating more jobs.

    [29] Tourism agreement with Moldova pending

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    A bilateral agreement between Greece and Moldova is expected to be finalised for signing over the next few days, Greek officials said on Thursday, following a meeting here between Deputy Tourism Development Minister Anastasios Liaskos and Moldovan ambassador to Athens Iulian Magaleas.

    According to reports, cooperation is envisioned in areas such as cultural, spa, sports and youth tourism, while Athens will offer know-how in education and vocational training as well as support at international exhibitions etc.

    [30] AirSea Lines expected to begin hydroplanes routes in two months

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    The signing of a joint ministerial decision permitting hydro-planes routes in the Ionian, Cyclades and Dodecannese will produce positive repercussions for travel between islands and the mainland.

    The first official routes are expected to begin in about two months by the AirSea Lines company, which has been located in the country for two years, carrying out experimental sea flights from Corfu, Paxi and Ioannina.

    According to the company's planning, the investment of 90 million euros for the purchase of 30-40 hydroplanes is being scheduled, covering coastal urban centres, ports and parts of the mainland having lakes.

    The Greek Investments Centre cooperated closely with the foreign investors and relevant services to enable necessary procedures to be speeded up.

    [31] Greece convicted for failing to apply EU directives for company accounts

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    The European Court of Justice on Thursday ruled against Greece, finding that Greek authorities had failed to promptly institute laws implementing a European Community directive on the rules for assessing the annual and consolidated accounts of certain types of companies, as well as banks and other financial institutions.

    Greek authorities admitted that they had not incorporated the directive into Greek law within the deadline foreseen and said that a draft bill transferring the directive into domestic law will soon be ready.

    [32] SEBE organises meeting in Skopje on 'economic growth through international trade'

    SKOPJE, 16/12/2005 (ANA/N. Frankopoulos)

    A meeting on the theme "economic growth through interna-tional trade was organised in Skopje on Wednesday by the Association of Exporters of Northern Greece (SEBE) and the International Investors Council, which comprises in its ranks the biggest foreign companies in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

    Examined at the meeting were issues of the transfer of know-how and experiences from international trade, while the participants also examined prospects for strengthening business activity between Greece and FYROM.

    Taking part in the meeting were entrepreneurs from FYROM, SEBE President Evangelos Plalis, experts from Greece, while a greeting was also addressed by the head of the Liaison Office of Greece in FYROM, Ambassador Theodora Grosomanidou.

    All the programme for economic growth through international trade is financed by the Greek Foreign Ministry's international development cooperation service.

    [33] ANA launches Digital Greece website

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    The Athens News Agency has launched a Greek-language website on information society programmes for small and medium-sized enterprises, the role of digital technology in relaying cultural affairs, and broad band use.

    Digital Greece can be viewed on  HYPERLINK ""

    [34] Marak Electronics to supply Montenegro police

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    Athens-quoted Marak Electronics S.A. said on Thursday that it has won a project with a local partner in Montenegro to supply the Montenegro police force with advanced technology systems, Wimax of Redline Communications, for 225,000 euros.

    The equipment will be used to connect border stations through VoIP communications and various types of data, the Greek firm said in a statement.

    Marak promotes Redline's products in Greek and Balkan markets, the statement added.

    [35] Athens Bourse Close: General index reaches 5-year high WTO

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    The Athens general share index closed at 3,603.79 points on Thursday, reaching a five-year high to close up 1.35-percent from the previous day's closing. Turnover was a brisk 272 million euros.

    The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalisation shares ended 1.28 percent up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 1.43 percent higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished higher by 1.15 percent.

    Of stocks traded, advances led declines by 193 to 84 with 52 remaining unchanged.

    Stock Futures:

  • Most Active Contract (volume): PPC (13,074)

  • Total derivatives market turnover: 236.3 million euros

    Bond Market Close: Buyers match sellers

  • Greek benchmark 10-year bond (exp. 20.7.2015): 3.56% yield

  • German benchmark 10-year bund: 3.33%

  • Most heavily traded paper: 10-year bond, expiring 20.7.2015 (1.2 bln euros)

  • Day's Total Market Turnover: 2.7 bln euros

    Foreign Exchange Rates: Friday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.209

    [36] Deputy Culture Minister Tatoulis inaugurates Greek art exhibit in NY

    NEW YORK, 16/12/2005 (ANA/P. Panagiotou)

    Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis inaugurated an exhibit featuring Greek art created during the Turkish occupation at the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation here on Wednesday night.

    The exhibit feature 137 works of art on loan from the Athens-based Benaki Museum and spans more than four centuries from 1453-1830.

    Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, apart from Tatoulis, were former culture minister Evangelos Venizelos, the president of the Administrative Committee of the Benaki Museum, Emilia Geroulanou and the executive director of the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation in New York, Ambassador Loukas Tsilas.

    Hundreds of people, amomg them, academics and artists from the U.S. and Greece, attended the ceremony and saw artifacts including icons, paintings, sculptures, embroidery, costums, ceramics and wood carvings.

    Deputy Culture Minister Tatoulis told the ANA that "the initiative of the Onassis Foundation in essence wants to show, in the best possible way, the art of modern Greece, as shaped in its most difficult years."

    The Foundation's President, Antonis Papadimitriou, said that "today's exhibition is very significant. It does not have an ethnic or local character, but a global one, and I believe that it will attract not only the Greek community, but also the American people at large."

    [37] Orthodox Church decides to provide land for Moslem cemetery

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    The Church has decided to provide for use land belonging to it in the region of Schisto, near Piraeus, for the creation of a Moslem cemetery.

    According to the Holy Synod's press spokesman, Metropolitan of Patra Chrysostomos, the Synod dedided this "respecting the needs of these people as well since this is necessitated, in any case, by the teaching of our Church to show our love and help to all people, with no exception, as creations of God."

    The position of the Church was also reiterated that it favours the building of a mosque in Athens to serve the religious needs of Moslem immigrants.

    [38] American professor Nussbaum lectures on 'Religious Intolerance and the Future of Democracy'

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    "Religious Intolerance and the Future of Democracy" was the theme of a lecture given on Thursday night by American professor of Law and Ethics at the Chicago University, Martha Nussbaum, invited by the president of the Andreas Papandreou Foundation, main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) President George Papandreou, and the Foundation's board, in the annual lecture which the Foundation has established in memory of late prime minister and PASOK founder Andreas Papandreou.

    Tolerance is an urgent concern of modern pluralistic democracies and what is required is alertness, said Nussbaum who supported the development of a "civil religion" through Education.

    Nussbaum also referred to the problems which were expounded on the issue of intolerance and the role of the state by classical philosophers, and claimed that the state must strengthen a "culture" of critical spirit.

    Referring on how "civil religion" or "religion of humanity" through education can be developed, Nussbaum made proposals such as the public celebration of a variety of religious events, the development of a "moral ideal" through education, and the development of political insitutions which develop respect.

    Professor Nussbaum was introduced by Andrikos Papandreou, son of Andreas Papandreou.

    [39] Greek journalists meet with Bulgarian colleagues

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    Greek journalists met with Bulgarian members of the press on Thursday within the context of a European programme aimed at creating better opportunities for young professionals.

    The programme is being implemented by the Municipality of Komotini in northern Greece and Bulgaria's Kirtzali Municipality.

    The meeting's objective is to encourage exchange of views and discussion of issues related to local government and its relation with the mass media.

    The two-day meeting came to a close on Thursday.

    [40] Two policemen attacked and injured by group of youths

    ATHENS, 16/12/2005 (ANA)

    Two plainclothes security policemen riding an unmarked motorcycle were attacked by a group of about 20 youths at the corner of Acadimias amd Asklipiou streets in downtown Athens at about 8 on Thursday night.

    Police sources said that the two men were attacked with stones, sticks and crowbars and were injured. One policeman had his wallet with his money taken from him, while a small bag was taken from the other that contained his service revolver.

    The injured policemen were taken to the 401 military hospital in Athens where they are undergoing treatment.

    [41] President Papadopoulos: UNSC doesn't equate both sides on Ledra Street deadlock

    LARNACA, 16/12/2005 (CNA/ANA)

    President of the Republic of Cyprus Tassos Papadopoulos has said that the United Nations Security Council's resolution, adopted on Wednesday, regarding the renewal of the mandate of the UN force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for six more months, does not equate both sides in Cyprus regarding the deadlock in opening a new cross point at the Ledra Street.

    "The resolution calls upon both sides in Cyprus to make efforts and solve the problem that arose at the Ledra Street cross point. The resolution does not equate both sides regarding the responsibility about the deadlock at the Ledra Street," the president said responding to questions before his departure for Brussels, where he will attend the EU Summit.

    He added that the only way to solve the problem is through dialogue, "provided that the fundamental principles set by us are met."

    The president noted that great efforts have been made during the discussion at the UN Security Council so that the word "construction" of the bridge that the Turkish occupation forces have build near the Ledra Street, remains unchanged in the resolution.

    "Great efforts have been made so that the word 'construction' of the bridge remains in the text. Some countries wanted to delete the clear reference about the constructions of the occupation army," he stressed.

    About UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's report on the renewal of the

    UNIFYP's mandate, he said that it refers to violations of the status quo by the occupation army, as well as to two violations by the Greek Cypriot side.

    He noted though, that the Cypriot government's effort is to ''persuade that the unilateral actions of one person, even if this person is a European Parliament Member, can not be seen as equal to the violations that take place in an organized manner by the Turkish occupation forces."

    Regarding the pursue of the Cypriot interests before the EU decision about the accession negotiations with Turkey and the agreed revised Turkey-EU Partnership, he said that the top advisory body to the President on the Cyprus problem (the National Council) was not in favor of Cyprus vetoing Turkey's EU bid.

    He added that to a great extend, the Cypriot demands about Turkey, have been added to EU texts as EU demands.

    [42] Russian Deputy FM reaffirms position of principle on Cyprus

    NICOSIA, 16/12/2005 (CNA/ANA)

    Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Grushko has reaffirmed the position of principle of the Russian Federation to the Cyprus problem, during a meeting he had on Thursday with Acting President of the Republic, House President Demetris Christofias.

    An official press release said that during the meeting, Christofias and Grushko discussed extensively the traditional friendly relations between Cyprus and Russia and issues of common interest. They also discussed in detail the course of the Cyprus issue during the last two years and prospects for its settlement.

    They underlined the great significance of Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos' visit to Russia next year for the further development of the two countries relations.

    Grushko was received on Wednesday by President Papado-poulos, currently in Brussels for the European Council meeting.

    He also met with Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou and held consultations with Foreign Ministry Permanent Secretary Sotos Zackheos.

    Grushko was due to leave Cyprus on Thursday night.

    [43] Helios air crash reconstruction to take place December 19

    NICOSIA, 16/12/2005 (CNA/ANA)

    Head of the Cypriot Investigation Committee on Air Accidents and Incidents Costas Orphanos said the reconstruction of the fatal flight of Helios Airways that killed all

    121 people on board, will take place on Monday December 19, at 1107 local time.

    Orphanos told CNA that the reconstruction will be conducted with an aircraft of the same type (Boeing 737), which will arrive at Larnaca airport from Athens at 0845 local time Monday and belongs to the Olympic Airways fleet.

    He noted that on board the airplane will be 15 persons, among which the head of the Greek Investigation Committee into the cause of the air crash Akrivos Tslolakis, the member of the Cypriot Committee and former pilot Yiannakis Loizou, the Greek Attorney competent for the issue and two Olympic Airways pilots.

    The flight number of the flight will be symbolic, OA 121.

    Orphanos said that all procedures carried out during the fatal flight will be followed and the aircraft will land at "Eleftherios Venizelos" airport in Athens.

    He said that prior to the flight a press conference will be given during which Tsolakis will brief the press on the procedures to be followed.

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