In its spring economic forecasts report for the period 2006-2007, released in Brussels, the Commission said the country's public debt will reach 105 pct of GDP this year before falling to 102.1 pct in 2007. Greece's public debt was 81.5 pct in 1981-2001, 110.7 pct in 2002, 107.8 pct in 2003 and 108.5 pct in 2004. The EU's executive also forecast that Greek inflation would be stable at 3.3 pct in 2006 and 2007, while unemployment would fall gradually to 9.5 pct this year and to 9.1 pct in 2007.
It is the first time since 2004 that the Commission forecasts a fiscal deficit within the limits set by the Maastricht Treaty. The Commission's forecast on Greek economic growth is higher from its fall economic report and the fourth highest in the Eurozone.
The report said the country's fiscal deficit totaled 4.5 pct of GDP in 2005, up 0.75 pct from its fall predictions which included a provision for proceeds from securitization totaling 0.8 pct of GDP that never materialized.
The Commission said government measures to expand the tax base and to combat tax evasion would have resulted in an increase of budget revenues by 0.25 pct of GDP this year, while stressing that its forecast for a fiscal deficit of 3.0 pct of GDP in 2006 included only half of temporary measures included in the country's budget. The report said public spending will fall by 0.75 pct of GDP and said the Greek structural deficit will drop by 1.0 percent of GDP this year.
The Commission said it expected the fiscal deficit to rise to 3.6 pct of GDP in 2007 and said "structural measures will be needed to maintain a fiscal deficit below 3.0 pct".
Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said next week that the Commission would review its forecasts right after it was briefed over a draft budget plan for 2007.
The Commission said economic growth rates slowed slightly in 2005 to 3.6 pct, after a two-year period of strong growth, and acknowledged that despite a fiscal adjustment program implemented by the government, economic growth was slightly better compared with the Commission's initial forecasts. The report said net exports contributed to economic growth, while private consumption fell and public consumption grew more than 3.0 percent in 2005.
Greek exports grew 8.0 percent last year, contributing 1.0 percent to economic growth, the Commission said.
The EU's executive said it expected Greek economic growth at 3.5 pct this year and 3.4 pct in 2007 and noted that rising oil prices would slowdown private consumption. The Commission also forecast high growth rates in net household borrowing, mostly mortgage, while public consumption to remain unchanged and private investments to rise in the two-year period.
The Commission said that strong growth rates would raise employment by 1.0 percent annually in the 2006-07 period, while wages would also rise. The report, however, said that unchanged productivity would not lead to a significant reduction of labor cost per unit, which would continue growing above the EU average. The Commission said the inflation rate would remain above 3.25 pct in 2006 and 2007.
"The Greek government will fully adhere to its stability and growth program", Alogoskoufis said, while he emphasized that efforts must now focus on achieving this year's goals. The Greek minister said a reduction of tax factors for private taxpayers would begin in 2007 and noted that a huge progress has been made in the economy in the last few years, while he reiterated that a mild fiscal adjustment policy would be continued.
Fiscal adjustment will focus more on reducing public overspending and combating tax evasion, Alogoskoufis said. He noted that the government's goal was to bring its fiscal deficit to 2.6 pct this year.
Commenting on forecasts included in a Commission's report, Alogoskoufis said the EU executive's forecasts were more conservative both on economic growth and fiscal deficits. He noted that the Commission predicted a fiscal deficit of 3.8 pct of GDP this year, in its November 2005 forecasts, and a 3.0 pct deficit in its spring report. "The government is steadfast at its goal of reducing the deficit to 2.6 pct of GDP," he said.
"We will not allow a deficit above 3.0 pct in the coming years. Our effort must be sustainable but it could take years for Greece to present a fully balanced budget," Alogoskoufis said.
The Greek minister said the government was taking measures to reduce unemployment, but noted that special measures were designed for certain regions of the country with very high unemployment rates, such as early retirement.
Alogoskoufis sounded confident that rising oil prices would not escalate into an oil crisis. He also urged all interested parties to show a sense of responsibility in a dialogue over the country's pension system.
Speaking to reporters, Alogoskoufis said both political parties and trade unions must begin a serious discussion on the issue and leave aside petty-politics. He welcomed a series of proposals made by PASOK main opposition party, saying they were contributing in a dialogue.
A reform of the country's pension system must include a re-examination of an early retirement plan, hiring, combating contribution evasion, a more efficient management of funds' real estate assets and improving funds' functions, a report by the Bank of Greece said recently.
The central bank's report said that ensuring the viability of the pension system was also based on improving both the country's fiscal situation and the labor market's operation. It also noted that the size of adjustment needed in Greece was larger compared with other EU member-states which have already agreed on reducing public debt, boosting employment and reforming the pension system.
Almunia asks Greece for more structural measures: A reduction of Greece's fiscal deficit below 3.0 percent of GDP is feasible if Athens responds to a recommendation by ECOFIN to take all necessary measures to bring the fiscal deficit below 3.0 percent this year, EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said on Monday.
Speaking to reporters on Monday after the Commission released its spring economic forecast report, Almunia stressed, however, that for a country to be placed outside an excessive deficit procedure it must prove that a reduction of its fiscal deficit will be permanent and stable. The Spanish Commissioner said the EU's executive was awaiting the presentation of measures to be taken by Greece in order to ensure a permanent reduction of its deficit. The Greek government has said it would inform the European Commission over such measures in fall with its draft budget for 2007.
Almunia noted that a reduction in the fiscal deficit for 2007 must be based on structural measures and not one-off measures.
Main opposition sees "fiscal alchemy": The main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement on Monday charged Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis with "fiscal alchemy."
"Under the weight of his policy, which has hurt the economy and burdened the public, Mr Alogoskoufis has resorted to fiscal alchemy, indifferent to the repercussions on the country's future," the party's economics spokeswoman, Vasso Papandreou, said in a statement.
"The actual message from the budget is not encouraging. The rate of increase in revenue on a monthly basis has dropped to 3.3% in March and 1.0% in April versus the same months of 2005, despite a rise in the first two months due to circumstances," Papandreou noted.
She was responding to statements by Alogoskoufis earlier in the day.
Gov't replies to criticism of economy: The finance ministry on Monday rejected criticism by the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) of its handling of the economy.
In a statement, the ministry accused the party of misleading the public with alarmist statements, also recalling PASOK's problems with the budget when in power.
Opposition party sees new economic measures ahead: The opposition Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology on Monday forecast that the government would have to introduce new economic measures in coming years to keep the fiscal deficit below the European Union's ceiling of 3% of gross domestic product.
The measures would mean extension of austerity policies that had hurt the public in terms of wages and pensions, the Coalition's economic and social affairs spokesman, Panayiotis Lafazanis, said in a statement after release of the EU's spring forecasts.
The meeting will come in the wake of an utterly surprise development on Monday, as Tehran announced that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had conveyed a letter to US President George Bush proposing "new solutions for getting out of international problems and the current fragile situation of the world."
Larijani, who is also the secretary of Iran's powerful Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), was in Ankara, Turkey on Monday as part of efforts to rally support for Tehran's controversial nuclear program ahead of possible UN Security Council action, according to wire services.
"Twenty-five years since it joined the European family, Greece possesses the experience, plays a part and has a say in European developments. We are actively participating in European integration processes. We are developing initiatives and playing a leading role in developments focusing on our region," Karamanlis said.
"The recent enlargement achieved a historic reunion of our Continent and definitely strengthened Europe. Today, the European Union represents roughly 450 million citizens and a unique mosaic of peoples, which constitutes its strength. This strength gives Europe a greater voice on the international stage," he continued.
Looking forward, the objective is "to focus our efforts in bringing Europe closer to citizens; to address the concerns and problems of European citizens effectively; to work together with citizens in building a Europe they envision; to restore Europeans' trust in Europe," he concluded.
Europe Day marks the anniversary of May 9, 1950, when the first move was made towards creating what is now known as the European Union, when French politician Robert Schuman presented his proposal on the creation of an organized, prosperous and peaceful Europe.
The "Cafe d' Europe" will be an open forum for discussion and an exchange of views by young people all over Europe.
Twenty-seven cafes in an equal number of European capitals will host on May 9 a total of 27 writers who will write literary stories for Europe and ordinary European citizens.
In Greece, the "Cafe d' Europe" will take place at the "Ianos" cafe (24 Stadiou Street) where writer Sotiris Dimitriou will speak about his participation in the book "Stories of Europe" which will present the cultural multiformity of Europe from Dublin to Athens and from Lisbon to Riga.
The session will focus on progress achieved on issues concerning sustainable energy, the change in climate, atmospheric pollution and industrial development.
According to an announcement issued by the European Commission on Monday, Dimas will support energy policies which improve the access of poorer populations to energy services while, at the same time, maximizing on a worldwide scale energy performance and the use of renewable energy sources, leading to better environmental protection.
Dimas will also announce the beginning of the EU's facilitating financing in the energy sector through which 220 million euros will be provided for projects improving access to energy, particularly in renewable energy sources, primarily in Subsahara Africa.
Referring to the session, Dimas said "the process of the CSD offers us the unique opportunity to place the world in a sustainable energy orbit. We need an integrated approach with the purpose of improving energy performance, the promotion of technological innovation, the expansion of markets for renewable energy sources and the promotion of cleaner mineral fuel in transport."
The prime minister met Monday with Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, and conferred on the issue for two hours.
Pavlopoulos commented after the meeting that the ongoing discussions aimed at finalizing the Constitutional revision proposal soon to be tabled in Parliament. He added that more details will be given by the prime minister at the New Democracy Parliamentary group meeting.
On Monday evening at 19:30, the prime minister will attend the launch of a new book by Manolis Glezos entitled "National Resistance 1940-45" at the Evgenides Institute, while at 10:00 on Tuesday he will have a meeting with Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis.
Immediately afterward, Karamanlis will chair a meeting of the cabinet to discuss issues concerning the defense ministry.
"The citizens are those who judge, compare and finally choose," Antonaros stressed in response to questions regarding reactions in ruling New Democracy to PASOK's decision to place a Moslem woman, Gulbeyaz Karahasan, at the head of its election ticket for the Drama-Xanthi-Kavala supraprefecture.
Karahasan, a lawyer by profession, is a member of the Moslem minority in northern Greece and alternate secretary of the PASOK municipal organization of Miki in Xanthi, northeast Greece.
The spokesman, in response to questions on the statements made by Macedonia-Thrace Minister George Kalantzis regarding PASOK's candidate, also underlined that all Greek citizens have the right to vote and run for office, adding that this is beyond dispute and only one in bad faith could question this statement.
In a later statement on Monday, Kalantzis strenuously denied that he had in any way questioned whether Karahasan was Greek.
Regarding PASOK leader George Papandreou's statements "on extreme right views" in the governing party, the alternate government spokesman stated that the democratic character of New Democracy and the government do not need Papandreou's or PASOK's confirmation. He said that ND was the party that re-established democracy in Greece after the 7-year dictatorship and the party that led Greece to the European Union adding that ND is proud of its past, present and of course, its democratic future.
He accused the government of "speaking out of both sides of its mouth, saying one thing publicly, while New Democracy officials, such as Macedonia-Thrace Minister George Kalantzis", according to Athanassakis, "is demanding proof of citizenship regarding Karahasan's status".
In an earlier statement on Monday, Kalantzis strenuously denied that he had in any way questioned whether Karahasan was Greek.
"I have never disputed the Greekness of Mrs. Karahasan," the minister stressed in response to questions, pointing to the candidate's own statements that she was a "Greek Moslem". At the same time, he predicted that the ticket backed by PASOK would lose the elections.
Antonaros reiterated that Greece, as a democratic and European country, respects all its international obligations adding that Turkey should see that all its obligations to the EU will be met and observed because it will be judged based on this and not on anything else.
During a visit to Greece, Erdogan said that he had complained about Greece' failure to renovate two old mosques in Athens and 'to respect the religious leaders elected by the minority'.
In the letter, Evert asked that three heads of Vodafone technical services departments be called to testify before the committee immediately after it hears the testimony of the current head of the Greek intelligence service EYP, Ioannis Korantis, and his predecessor Pavlos Apostolidis.
The three men named by Evert were Nikos Mastorakis, the head of Vodafone's technological department, Nikos Plevris, head of the technician's department and Nikos Babalis, head of the confidentiality department.
Seven passengers, including then deputy foreign minister Yannos Kranidiotis and his son, died when the "Falcon" model jet abruptly plunged several thousand feet while approaching Bucharest, Romania. The plane's pilots finally managed to get the aircraft under control before landing in Bucharest.
Victims' relatives are seeking some 80 million euros from the plane's manufacturer in claiming construction deficiencies.
The specific aircraft had been used repeatedly by then prime minister Costas Simitis up until the accident.
"In this way we are giving a permanent and final solution to the infrastructure problem of an important educational foundation and, at the same time, we are contributing considerably to the economic and social development of one of the most neglected regions in the Attica basin," he said.
The summit is once again held under the auspices of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce and the Foreign Investors' Council.
Among others, the president of the Republic of Serbia, Boris Tadic; Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and Montenegro Prime Minister Branimir Gvozdenovic will address delegates.
Grand sponsors include the National Bank of Greece and Eurobank EFG.
The deputy minister was accompanied by Navy General Staff chief Vice Admiral Dimitris Gousis. The missile boat is the third vessel of the Super Vita type to be delivered to the Greek Navy.
Addressing the event, Mihaloliakos said that the government's commitments "are being observed steadfastly". Commenting on international developments and the issue of Iran in particular, the deputy minister reminded that the government "is working for peace and the resolving of tensions through the diplomatic channel".
The missile boat took the name of Vyronas Krystallidis, captain of the escort ship Plias which sank near the port of Patras on April 21, 1941, following a German raid.
Eurobank signed a deal with Tekfen Holding (Tekfen Group) for the purchase of 70 percent in Tekfenbank, including 100 percent in Tekfen Leasing.
Under the deal, which values the Turkish bank at 260 million US dollars, Tekfen Group will remain a strategic investor in Tekfenbank. Tekfenbank will buy EFG Istanbul Securities, EFG Eurobank's subsidiary in Turkey. The deal is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2006.
Tekfenbank offers a wide range of banking products and services in Turkey through an effective branch network covering the most wealthy regions of the country, while its customer base was mainly from small- and medium-sized enterprises.
Tekfenbank's strategy will focus on strengthening its presence in the SMEs sector, by attracting new customers through its branch network totaling 30 units, creating new branches and boosting cross-selling of products. Tekfenbank also seeks to gain access to the mortgage market and portfolio management and to strengthen its activities in the country's capital markets.
Tekfen Group, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, is one of the most distinguished, private business groups in Turkey with activities ranging from construction, to agricultural products (fertilizers), real estate development and financial services. Tekfen Group reported an annual turnover of 936 million US dollars in 2005.
EFG Eurobank expects that Turkey's economy would grow rapidly in the coming years, along with its banking system. The Greek bank believes that Tekfenbank offered a very strong base for its entry in the Turkish market since the bank operated under modern infrastructure, and has a very good quality of loan portfolio.
"Relations between the two peoples go above and beyond governments, which is why all governments serve the same purpose," he said.
Stylianidis also noted the great progress achieved in infrastructure in the region, adding that a number of Greek companies have expressed an interest in participating in the construction of the road network linking Thessaloniki in northern Greece with the Bulgarian capital.
"As you can see, the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair is urging Greek companies to participate in the Plovdiv exhibit, with the participation of 60 companies. The Greek and Bulgarian governments are cooperating in all sectors, with particular emphasis in the energy sector, having given a significant push to the Burgas-Alexandropoulis pipeline project," he said.
He also noted that Greece is Bulgaria's second-largest foreign investor.
"All these things show that both countries are headed in the right direction. And of course, Greece is determined to support, in every way it can, Bulgaria's EU accession so that it [Bulgaria] can become a full-fledged member of the European family on January 1, 2007," he said.
"Our presence here signals a further strengthening in bilateral economic cooperation, and shows in practice that our two countries, Greece and Bulgaria, stand as an example in the Balkans and the wider region," Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis told the event.
Taking part are 60 Greek companies under the aegis of the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair, and chambers of commerce and trade groups from northern Greece.
Antonopoulos mentioned that a business delegation under Stylianidis will visit Brazil and possibly Argentina. He said that the Greek export and partnership effort first targeted the Balkans followed by the Arab world, India and China adding that now the time has come to target the 400-million-people market in Latin America, a region in search of cooperation routes with the European continent. Antonopoulos pointed out that Greece can become the bridge between the EU and Latin America, mentioning that decisions like the abolition of double taxation between Greece and Mexico should be adopted with other Latin American countries as well.
Athens' Commerce and Industry Chamber chairman Drakoulis Fountoukakos stressed within the framework of his meeting with the Latin American ambassadors on Monday that the Greek economy has a high growth rate for the past 10 years while a number of positive reforms have been promoted recently aimed at further improving growth and attracting more foreign investments.
Fountoukakos also added that the strategy followed by Greece gives a special emphasis on boosting the competitiveness of the economy, the extroversion of businesses, the attraction of direct foreign investments, the use of new technology, the support of research, the creation of new innovative products and the effort to make Greece an academic, cultural and education center.
Argentina's ambassador to Athens Raul Alberto Ricardes addressing the event stressed that the effort for democratization and stabilization is effective in the majority of the Latin American countries creating the conditions necessary for economic growth.
Petralia underlined that her ministry believed in and invested in seaborne tourism, and described the upgrading of related services as a key to the growth of the sector.
The minister announced a "targeted" advertisement campaign, which she said was one of the immediate steps being taken by the government aimed at the development of seaborne tourism.
Poros mayor Spyros Spyridon said that Greece's tourism performance fell short of the country's potential, and spoke of "factors" obstructing the full development of the prospects of the Greek tourism product.
This year's festival is taking place May 7 to 11, organized by the Municipality of Portos, the Greek Society of Yacht Brokers and Experts, and the Union of Owners of Professional Pleasure Boats.
EasyCruise said the cruise ships, with a capacity of 500 passengers each, would be used for sea cruises in the Greek islands.
Stelios Hadjioannou, chairman of easyCruise, and I. Tavoularis, chief executive in Neorion Holdings, met with Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and presented their plan. Alogoskoufis reassured them over the government's support for the project.
Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, the Greek minister said the project underlined that economic environment in Greece was attractive for large investment plans. "The specific investment will strengthen tourism and the country's shipyards industry with additional positive impact on the Greek economy," he said.
Under the plan, easyCruise's vessels will operate weekend and four-day sea cruises from the Faliro marina to Mykonos and Syros and Santorini, Paros, Naxos, Milos or Serifos, respectively.
According to a relevant announcement, the position of Hellas Sat will be strengthened considerably in the television market of eastern Europe as a strong and reliable provider of satellite services in the region, as a result of the agreement, since UKR-Kosmos will broadcast its signal to small antennas by using the strong signal of the Greek telecommunications satellite.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.48% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 2.20% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 2.84% up.
Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 233 to 53 with 30 remaining unchanged.
Bond Market Close: Buyers lag sellers
Foreign Exchange Rates: Tuesday
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.285
Events open on May 14 in Sfakia and culminate on May 21 at Maleme airfield with a re-enactment of the Battle of Crete.
A total of 55 WWII veterans, the majority from New Zealand, are expected for this year's events.
The Battle of Crete began in the morning of May 20, 1941 when German forces launched an unprecedented airborne invasion of Crete, code-named "Merkur". The operation was successful in terms of finally taking the island from Allied forces although the victory was so costly in terms of paratrooper casualties that the Wehrmacht never again attempted a major airborne operation.
The stiff resistance by ANZAC troops and local Cretans is also credited, by many historians, with delaying the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.
The WWII Memorial Monument at Delvinaki is dedicated to all those killed during the fascist invasion, the Nazi German occupation and the Greek Resistance Movement against the Axis occupation.
President Papoulias is expected to arrive at Ioannina airport on Tuesday morning and after the scheduled events at the Delvinaki Memorial Monument at noon, he will visit the local Town Hall to be honored for his role in the resistance movement and declared an honorary citizen. The president will also visit Pogoniani before returning to Ioannina to depart for Athens on Tuesday afternoon.
Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos, addressing a congregation at Agios Ioannis here on Monday at the end of a service at which the Metropolitan of Pergamos Ioannis had officiated, said that "we shall continue to proclaim the message of love."
The Ecumenical Patriarch and the Metropolitan officiated at the event in the presence of hundreds of pilgrims from Mytilene, the Aegean islands and Istanbul.
Also present were the Greek Consul George Katapodis and the Mayor of Pergama Rasit Tirper.
Two protest gatherings were carried out outside the historic basilica of Agios Ioannis and in the streets of Pergama. The first was organized by the Socialist Labor Party with about 50 people who shouted anti-imperialist slogans and sang the Turkish national anthem. The second was organized by the National Action Party and the "Grey Wolves" group with the participation of less than 30 people who shouted such slogans as "Allah is great" and also sang the Turkish national anthem.
The police had taken all necessary measures and did not permit the demonstrators to interrupt the church service or bother the Ecumenical Patriarch.
Addressing the event, President Papoulias said of the two-volume work that "I am here to honor Manolis Glezos. A historic personality", adding that the book is a great contribution to young people to learn the truth about the resistance struggle, to be taught and be given as an example.
Karamanlis said in a statement that "Greek resistance was written with capital letters in world history. It was written with acts of heroism, with acts of freedom such as of Manolis Glezos and, of course, with the blood of thousands of Greeks, both known and unknown heroes."
He further pointed out that "ideals, freedom and justice remain topical as bright examples for the younger Greeks."
Speaking during the presentation of the book, Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said that "history is Ianos which refers us to the past and shows us the future".
Referring to the book, he said that the two volumes show us how a people were struggling, saying that the method followed by Manolis Glezos to register the National Resistance era is of great importance.
Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party leader Alekos Alavanos said that the book by Manolis Glezos "will continue to be written since it illuminates the National Resistance and present day, touching on issues which are also topical today and preoccupy, such as local administration, relations between the church and the state and the great value of the unity of the people."
Glezos thanked those present at the event and stressed that "your presence here constitutes confirmation that our people do not forget to be 'present' always when it is necessary to struggle" and underlined that "all who are present at the presentation of his literary work are holding the torch of vigilance lighted."
"The problem of violence against women is particularly worrying and presents many extreme forms in our everyday lives," professor of criminology Kalliopi Spinelli said, adding that it is everyone's duty to be informed about the phenomenon of violence against women and children.
On his part, Yiorgos Moschos, Assistant Ombudsman and responsible for children's rights, noted the state's obligations as defined by the international treaty on children's rights.
"As we learn from children themselves during our visits to schools, Greek children do not feel that they have the proper support regarding all types of violence inside or outside the home," Moschos said.
He called on the Greek government to show greater commitment regarding the protection of children by introducing discussions on the issue within the educational system and training teachers and all professionals who work with children in helping them to identify cases of abuse and teaching them methods of intervention.
Additionally, parents must be taught about raising their children non-violently and the consequences of abuse, Moschos added.
Paediatrician Eleni Adam said "our children live in violence," presenting findings of a study, according to which 77% of fifth-graders of Athens schools surveyed, said they had seen children hitting someone else.
The women's council will be holding a seminar on the issue at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at the amphitheatre of the General Confederation of the Employees of Greece (GSEE).
In one case, a truck driver and co-driver refused to stop when flagged down by border guards on the Ioannina-Igoumenitsa road and jumped out of the cab while driving at a low speed, leaving it driverless. When it came to a stop after coming off the road, police found 27 Albanian illegal immigrants in the trailer, who had each paid between ¬ 300-600.
In a similar incident, an Albanian truck driver was pursued by border guards after refusing to stop and crashed his truck into a concrete bridge, then injured himself during an attempt to escape on foot. A further 13 illegal immigrants were found in the truck, each having paid ¬ 650 for passage into Greece.
Another high-speed chase involved an Albanian driver near the border in a passenger car, who was carrying four Albanian women and their five children, all illegal immigrants.
Overall, police said that a total of 162 Albanian illegal immigrants were arrested and deported via Kakavia over the last three days.
In an interview on Monday, director Yiannis Smaragdis said that everything was ready to begin shooting on location in the Autumn, starting on the island of Crete and then on to Venice and Spain.
Also involved in the project is Italy, where El Greco spent a major part of his life, while British actor Nick Ashdon has been cast to play the artist at the age of 27, shortly before he begins his journey to the western Mediterranean, and UK writer Jackie Pavlenko has co-written the script that was based on the award-winning book by Dimitris Siatopoulos, "God's Painter".
According to Smaragdis, the budget for the film is far beyond the means of the Greek Film Centre but he did not reveal the exact amount.
The film will also feature local actor and comedian Lakis Lazopoulos, who will play a Cretan shepherd that was Theotokopoulos' companion and protector in his travels, as well as other local actors, while the cast will also include several Spanish actors and the music will be written by Vangelis.
According to Gray, Europe will not be able to rise to the challenge of political integration, it lacks clear goals, while enlargement only serves to weaken the European Union, as it finds itself faced with the most important strategic decision - that of Turkey's EU accession.
If Turkey is not accepted into the EU there will be problems of instability in Turkey and the Middle East, he predicted, while in the event that Turkey does become an EU member - an unlikely event, according to Gray - it will extend Europe's borders to Iraq.
Europeans do not seem to be thinking or wondering what this would mean, he said.
Gray's lecture "falls within a series of events which we are organizing in the context of developments within various ideological movements in Europe and the West, particularly [developments within] the liberal movement," the Foundation's General Manager, Constantinos Arvanitopoulos said.
The council's decision suspends in part a decision taken by the Hellenic Data Protection Authority in 2005 which allowed for the extended operation of cameras for traffic control purposes, but the removal of cameras installed in non-central locations such as squares and parks.
The Hellenic Data Protection Authority decision was to be in force until the Council of State reached a definitive decision on the matter.
Monday's decision was taken after a request made by the public order and finance ministers. However, cameras in non-central locations will not be operating until the council of state's final decision.
The festival will last until May 14 and is co-organized by the Prefecture of Evros, the local Secondary Education Department and two tourist operators from Moscow. It aims at the exchange of experience on the way geniuses and top performing students are treated in different countries. The festival program includes music concerts, painting exhibitions, Alexandroupolis' museum tours and a symposium held in cooperation with Democritus University of Thrace on "Science, Education, Culture, Third Millennium".
Appearing in court, the five suspects alleged that the excavations they carried out were legal and that they had received permission from the responsible prefecture authority.
The five suspects have appealed the sentence.
The athletes also briefed the president on the course of preparations for the next Olympic Games that will take place in 2008 in Beijing.
Asked how the Cypriot government is dealing with the continuing Turkish refusal to allow Cyprus to participate in international organizations, President Papadopoulos said Cyprus continues to make representations, calling on the European Union to implement the relevant article of the EU-Turkey negotiating framework that calls on Ankara to cease such hostile actions against the Republic of Cyprus.
President Papadopoulos' comments came after Cypriot daily newspaper ''Phileleftheros'' reported on Sunday that Turkey is vetoing the participation of Cyprus in a PSCI exercise named ''Anatolian Deer'' scheduled to be held in Turkey, from May 24 to 26.
The EU-Turkey negotiating framework notes that ''in the period up to accession, Turkey will be required to progressively align its policies towards third countries and its positions within international organizations (including in relation to the membership by all EU Member States of those organizations and arrangements) with the policies and positions adopted by the Union and its Member States.''
British sources said that the specific piece of weaponry is not in the hands of the British authorities but of the company that has undertaken its repair, and that the government simply has not issued an export license.
''The decision not to grant an export license is purely a technical application of the UK's policy on arms exports to Cyprus,'' the British High Commission sources said.
They added that ''this policy is in place for many years and is based on the 1996 UN Security Council resolution 1062, which expresses 'serious concerns about the modernization and upgrading of military forces' on the island.''
Earlier Monday, Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos said the British action to withhold weaponry belonging to the Republic of Cyprus caused surprise, adding that various representations have been made.
of the Holy See that ''as regards Cyprus, being now integrated into the European Community, there may be a more concerted effort to find ways to ensure the respect for the rights of individuals and communities and to foster collaboration for the common good of all the inhabitants of this beautiful island.''
Presenting his credentials to President Tassos Papadopoulos on Monday, Archbishop Antonio Franco said the commitment of the Republic of
Cyprus ''to the search for peace through dialogue and negotiations is well known'' and expressed, on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI, ''success in your efforts.''
He added that ''the Holy See follows with utmost attention the evolution of the history of the young Republic of Cyprus, which regained independence in 1960 but is still suffering the consequences of tensions and division.''
Receiving the credentials, President Papadopoulos noted that ''unfortunately our efforts to reach a viable settlement on the basis of a bizonal, bicommunal federation continue to be undermined by the Turkish intransigence that unacceptably aims to legitimize the division of our country.''
''We hope and expect that Turkey would eventually meet all its political and legal obligations vis-à-vis the European Union and its member states, including the unconditional ratification of the Protocol extending its Customs Union to all ten new member states,'' he added.
President Papadopoulos said that ''despite the recent initiatives of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus to pursue negotiations, Turkey continues to demonstrate its intransigence and its reluctance to approach the Cyprus issue constructively.''
''I am convinced that the outcome of my meeting with the UN Secretary General in Paris on the 28th February 2006 could give a new impetus to the efforts for a lasting and viable solution in Cyprus. We sincerely aspire to be engaged in substantive negotiations for the settlement of the Cyprus issue and the reunification of our country,'' the President noted.
Referring to the Republic of Cyprus and the Holy See, President Papadopoulos said they have ''a long history of friendly bilateral relations and cooperation,'' adding that ''throughout the centuries we have had our own valuable contribution in fostering and enriching the European civilization, and we persistently continue up to the present day to demonstrate our strong adherence to the humanistic values of freedom, peace and democracy.''
The president said the government, ''acknowledging the importance of maintaining and strengthening the respect and tolerance between different civilizations, calls upon all states to support a genuine and constructive Interfaith Dialogue.''
''In this respect, Cyprus will co-host with Malaysia in July the 2nd ASEM (Asian-Europe Meeting) Interfaith Dialogue. We are looking forward to welcome your participation to this initiative, while we are confident about your valuable and constructive contribution,'' he added.
He noted that ''this initiative constitutes a significant contribution and a fair response to the anachronistic voices of prejudice, intolerance and bigotry'' and that ''the main message of the Interfaith Dialogue Forum is the promotion of mutual understanding, tolerance and peaceful coexistence.''
Archbishop Antonio Franco expressed his ''personal joy and emotion in visiting your country for the first time in my life, remembering that Cyprus was one of the Lands touched by Saint Paul in his first missionary trip outside Palestine and that on this Land there is the tomb of St. Barnabas, one of the earliest heralds of the Gospel, native of the place and companion of Saint Paul.''