|Sunday, 20 September 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-05-11
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>May 11, 2006
 Greece improves position in IMD's world competitiveness ranking
ATHENS, 11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece improved its position in IMD‚s world competitiveness ranking for 2006, climbing to 42nd from 50th place in 2005 among 61 states and regions. The country recorded improvements in the government efficiency index (climbing from 52 to 46), business efficiency (to 47 from 49) and infrastructure (to 33 from 37).
The economic performance index, however, remained unchanged at the 49 position. IMD, in its annual report, said the "demons" of bureaucracy, hurdles in business starts, central government debt, fiscal deficit and low spending on research and education were troubling the Greek economy.
The report was presented by the president of the Federation of Northern Greek Industries (SBBE) George Mylonas. Commenting on the report, Mylonas expressed his optimism that Greece would continue improving its position on the precondition that the country achieved to attract more foreign direct investments in its regions.
Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said it was the first time since 2001 that Greece managed to improve its position in the world competitiveness ranking, reversing a five-year decline.
The Greek minister said this year‚s report was the first to solely present figures from the current government‚s tenure, while he added that Greece managed to surpass countries such as Portugal, Turkey, South Africa and Jordan, while it recorded the third biggest annual improvement after China and India.
"We won‚t stop here, we continue with the same pace to ensure an improvement in Greek business and economic competitiveness," Sioufas said.
Greek tourism, exports and portfolio investments by foreign funds were the country‚s main advantages, IMD said in its report. Greece ranked eighth among 61 countries in tourist activity as a percentage of GDP and ninth in export of services, while also ranked 15th in foreign investments‚ reserves in equities.
The country, however, ranked at the bottom of this year‚s ranking (60th) on exports of goods as a percentage of GDP and unemployment as a percentage of workforce (49th).
State support and the central government‚s external debt (seventh and 13th respective) were the main advantages in the government efficiency index. Greece lost four places (29 from 25) in the real growth of total productivity last year, while the country was not considered to be an attractive destination for foreign skilled workers and that Greek enterprises reported high corporate debt.
In the infrastructure category, Greece ranked second and ninth in the ratio of students and professors in the first and second grade of education, youths‚ strong interest in science and technology (ninth) and total spending on health as a percentage of GDP (ninth).
The United States, Hong Kong and Singapore remained at the top of IMD‚s report, with Iceland, Denmark, Australia, Switzerland, Canada, Luxembourg, and Finland completing the top 10.
Presenting the report, Mylonas said the government should focus on regional convergence, attracting more foreign investments and offering incentives and state support to boost exports. He also urged for efforts to combat bureaucracy and lowering corporate taxes, and combating corruption in the public sector.
 Greek donation to the UN World Food Program
ATHENS, 11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Deputy Foreign Minister Evripides Stylianidis on Thursday signed a memorandum of cooperation with the UN's World Food Program (WFP) while at the same time announcing an additional 1.1-million euro donation, thus increasing Greece's contribution to international aid efforts.
Last year, Greece's contribution to WFP reached its highest level ever with donations close to three million euros for emergency needs and scheduled relief programs.
After signing the Memorandum of Cooperation with Greece at the WFP headquarters in Rome on Wednesday, WFP deputy executive director John Powell stated that the organization is deeply grateful for Athens' increased commitment to assist the world's poor and hungry.
This latest contribution raises overall Greek donations to 1.7 million euros, including extra funding for several crucial but less publicized WFP programs in Guinea-Bissau, Malawi and the Central African Republic. In 2005, more than 2.5 million euros were donated by Greece for tsunami victims in the Indian Ocean archipelagos, Indonesia, Somalia and Sri Lanka, while about 500,000 euros were donated to Armenia, Djibouti, Georgia, Mali, Niger and South Africa.
The deputy foreign minister also announced that the foreign ministry will sponsor a Greek version of "Food Force", a WFP educational video game targeting children between the ages of eight and 13 afflicted by a humanitarian crisis situation.
Since April 2005, an estimated four million people have down-loaded the game to their computers and has been translated into Chinese, Italian, French, Japanese and Polish.
 Gov't to encourage businesses to participate in humanitarian aid efforts
ROME, 11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Greek Foreign Ministry plans to develop a partnership between the public and private sector in humanitarian aid efforts, Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis said while in Rome on Wednesday, where he signed a memorandum of cooperation with the UN's World Food Program (WFP).
The aim is to raise awareness within the Greek business community regarding its interests as well as sensitivity, according to the deputy minister.
To this end and after consulting with the UN's WFP, Greece will be organizing a conference and numerous seminars for each products and services sector.
"With the signing of this memorandum, the promotion of Greece's contribution to the international community is secured while more progress is made in mobilizing citizens and encouraging the Greek business community's participation in this effort through the WFP's international tenders," he said.
 PM to outline gov't proposals for constitutional revision on Thursday
ATHENS, 11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday morning will present his government's proposals for constitutional revisions to the ruling party's Parliament group.
The premier departs for Vienna later on Thursday afternoon, where he will represent Athens at an EU-Latin America summit.
Meanwhile, the alternate government spokesman said a meeting with between the premier and outgoing Federation of Greek Industries' (SEB) president Odysseas Kyriakopoulos on Thursday was a customary visit, one held every time SEB's leadership changes.
Moreover, spokesman Evangelos Antonaros dismissed any link between the meeting and Wednesday's industrial action by mostly public sector-related unions.
 Main opposition leader presents proposal for revision of Constitution
ATHENS, 11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Main opposition PASOK President George Papandreou presented his proposals for the revision of the Constitution before PASOK's committees on Wednesday.
Papandreou's 10-point proposal includes: decentralization of the government and a new tax framework for the transition of funds to local government; enabling citizens to play a more active role in developments through referenda; a change in the election system; strengthening the role of Parliament; promotion of "participation democracy"; ensuring immigrants' and foreigners' social integration; separating the role of Church and State through dialogue; ensuring state universities' competitiveness internationally; ensuring a decent standard of living for all in order to limit poverty and social marginalization; and separating the presidential election from general elections, while allowing the public to vote directly for president of the republic.
Papandreou also criticized Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, questioning his credibility and his intentions regarding the revision of the Constitution.
He said that the revision should be decided on not only by the political parties but by citizens as well, adding that PASOK will begin a broad dialogue to this end and called on all parties to follow suit.
PASOK's committees, under the guidance of PASOK MP Theodoros Pangalos, will formulate the party's final proposal.
 Former French PM meets with premier Karamanlis
ATHENS, 11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime minister Costas Karamanlis met Wednesday morning with visiting former French prime minister Lionel Jospin.
No statements were made after the meeting.
France's former socialist prime minister also held talks on Tuesday with main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou.
Jospin is in Athens for the presentation of his book "The world the way I see it".
Jospin meets president and foreign minister: Former French premier Lionel Jospin held meetings with President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, during a visit to Athens on Wednesday.
No statements were made after the three meetings.
 PM confers with Aegean-Island Policy minister
ATHENS, 11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met on Wednesday with Aegean and Island Policy Minister Aristotelis Pavlidis.
Pavlidis told reporters after the meeting that he briefed the prime minister on the programs in progress and particularly on the support program for small islands being advanced in parliament through a draft bill.
The program provides for an overall economic support of initially 120 million euros through EU funds and concerns 44 small islands in the Aegean and the Ionian Sea.
Pavlidis stated that they discussed the planning of the special programs' funding, pointing out that the southern Aegean is "not included" under "target one" the 4th Community Support Framework, and that a special discussion on the issue is underway with the Finance Ministry.
He also stated that they discussed health and education programs in progress.
 Foreign ministry spokesman comments on Turkish exercise in the Aegean
ATHENS, 11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, referring on Wednesday to the ongoing Turkish search and rescue exercise in the Aegean, said that "the history of responsibility limits on search and rescue issues is old and known and the position of Greece is absolutely clear and is summed up in the statement the ministry made yesterday."
The spokesman further said that international organizations are always informed on our position regarding the search and rescue issue and added that "the fact that our position is recorded and that the Turkish notam was declared invalid and void is the tactic, the position, the reaction that Greece has had all these years."
Koumoutsakos also said that it is an issue which has been handled in this way steadfastly. Nothing has changed in the Greek position and there is nothing new.
"When search and rescue operations are carried out in the region corresponding to the Athens FIR (Flight Information Region), control of this operation is in the hands of the Unified Search and Rescue Coordination Centre of Piraeus. This is reality. In shipping accidents, however, when a ship sends out an SOS signal the nearest ship must help informing, however, the country that has the responsibility to coordinate operations and this country is Greece," he said.
Referring to the difference in interpretation given by Greece and Turkey to international agreements, the spokesman said "this is the situation. Greece has deviations on a series of issues with Turkey. Different interpretations. This is a reality with which we have been living for many decades now. At the same time, this cannot revoke the steadfast will of Greece for moves to be made to normalize relations. Greece has determined the framework for normalizing relations with its policy to support the European course of Turkey in the sense, however, that there is an absolute acceptance and admission of commitments undertaken by the neighbor towards the European Union. There are issues which, while Greece has a special sensitivity, have become issues which have a European shade and a European character and have lost the purely bilateral character they had in the past."
 Transport minister to hold talks with Bulgarian counterpart in Sofia
SOFIA, 11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece's Transport and Communications Minister Michalis Liapis will visit Sofia on Thursday following an invitation by his Bulgarian counterpart Petar Mutafchiev.
As announced by Bulgaria's transport ministry, the Greek minister will arrive in Sofia at noon with a train of the Thessaloniki-Sofia line.
The talks between Liapis and Mutafchiev will focus on the course of the modernization of the European corridors 10 and 4, the Bulgarian ministry announcement says, that is, the electricity supply of the railway line from Plovdiv to Svilengrad at Bulgaria's borders with Greece and Turkey, which has been recently undertaken by the Greek company "Terna" which prevailed in the international tender of the Bulgarian State, as well as the implementation of advanced technologies in the Sofia-Thessaloniki railway line.
 Further revelations on phone-tap scandal from EYP chief Korantis
ATHENS, 11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The 14 'shadow' phones used by the illegal spy software in Vodafone's systems had received calls from the United States, Albania and via the Inmarsat satellite used in maritime communications, the head of the Greek intelligence service EYP revealed on Wednesday.
In testimony before a Parliamentary committee investigating the phone-tap scandal, EYP commander Ioannis Korantis also reported an apparent discrepancy between the recorded length of outgoing calls made by the phones, according to Vodafone, and the amount of money charged for them.
Korantis said EYP's investigation showed that one of the pre-paid 'shadow' mobiles had received six successive calls on December 17, 2004 from an Inmarsat terminal, each lasting a few minutes. He explained that the Inmarsat system operated via four satellites that gave global coverage and that the specific calls were relayed by the satellite covering the area from the eastern Atlantic Ocean to the east Mediterranean and Saudi Arabia.
Another 'shadow' phone received three consecutive calls of a few minutes from the U.S. on August 31, 2004 but Vodafone had only supplied EYP with the international dialing code for the calls and no other details, saying they had not been kept. The same phone then received three calls from Albania on January 5, 2005, EYP's commander told MPs.
The data supplied by Vodafone did not reveal any other incoming calls to the phone-tapping system from abroad, he added.
Korantis also corroborated earlier testimony by the head of Greece's independent communications privacy authority, ADAE chief Andreas Lambrinopoulos, that a pre-paid card-mobile issued by the mobile phone provider TIM had received calls from the 'shadow' card-mobiles.
According to Korantis, there had been just two calls made from the Vodafone 'shadow' phones to the TIM mobile, one at 14:20 on June 29, 2004 last 24 seconds and a second at 14:21 lasting 9 seconds. When EYP asked TIM to supply information on that number, they were told that the specific phone line was in operation for roughly one month, from early June until July 2004, and during that time it had neither made nor received calls via the TIM network.
Korantis additionally pointed out several instances when the recorded duration of calls made by the 'shadow' card-mobiles were too small to justify the amounts charged for them and stressed that Vodafone had been unable to supply a convincing explanation on how this was possible.
Testifying before Parliament's Institutions and Transparency Committee last week on the results of his agency's investigation, the head of the Authority of Assurance of Information and Communication Privacy and Security (ADAE) had hinted that EYP had also discovered the same evidence.
Lambrinopoulos said that ADAE had traced two outgoing calls made from the Vodafone spy mobiles to a TIM mobile. He said the TIM phone "behaved" in the same way as a 'low-phone interceptor' card-mobile but had also made calls to the United States.
According to the ADAE chief, however, phone records showed that the TIM card-mobile had made 11 calls and sent one SMS message to two numbers in the U.S. city of Laurel in Maryland, while it had also made and received calls from other TIM numbers. He also reported that six SMS messages from abroad had been sent to the phone-tapping system.
The phone-tapping plot involving Greece's top mobile phone provider Vodafone was revealed by the government in February, after a nearly year-long covert investigation by the authorities had failed to find those responsible. It said the roughly 100 phones that were tapped included those of the prime minister, members of the government, high-ranking police and armed forces personnel, activists, journalists, business people and even one U.S. Embassy employee.
It was first brought to the government's attention in March 2005 by Vodafone chief executive George Koronias, who said it operated through a piece of sophisticated intruder software that had activated a legal "low-phone interception" system developed by Ericsson to allow legal phone surveillance but was able to mask its presence when inactive.
 Government denies trimming ASEP council's powers
ATHENS, 11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The government on Wednesday strenuously denied that new legislation governing the hiring of public-sector staff had trimmed the powers of the Supreme Council for Personnel Recruitment (ASEP), a body set up to enhance meritocracy in public-sector appointments and restrict political clientelism using a currency of 'safe' state-sector jobs.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos stressed that reports claiming restricted ASEP powers in relation to recruitment in state-sector public utilities were "completely inaccurate" and attributed them to either ignorance of the law or a conscious distortion of the truth.
Nothing in the law curtailed the authorities given ASEP by the Constitution, he underlined.
According to the minister, ASEP monitors all the proclamations for new appointments and has the right to amend them as it sees fit. Also, while the public utilities will carry out the process of selecting candidates, the Council has the final say and can completely reverse their decision.
"[ASEP] is in charge of the entire process and can judge everything and change everything," Pavlopoulos underlined.
Attacking main opposition PASOK, meanwhile, the minister claimed that the previous governments had weakened the body while the ruling ND government had given it additional powers.
"If the main opposition or anyone else in Parliament wants an in-depth discussion, all they have to do is call ASEP to Parliament's Institutions and Transparency Committee to clarify what happened then and what is happening now," Pavlopoulos said.
Commenting on the headlines, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros underlined that the premier's pre-election pledge that ASEP's powers will not be curtailed still fully applies.
He denied that there had been any restriction of the body's Constitutional powers, reiterating that those claiming otherwise had not read the Constitution, the executing laws and the articles referring to state-sector public utilities well enough.
 European Parliament honours 'Europe Day' with meeting
ATHENS, 11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The European Parliament, through a meeting of about 250 deputies of national parliaments and Eurodeputies, on Tuesday honored "Europe Day".
The aim of the meeting was to discuss the future of the European Union, in view of the fact that the European Constitution is still pending.
The deputies were split into four working groups. The first concerned the positions of Europe in the world and Europe's borders, the second, globalization and the European economic and social model, the third, the sphere of freedom, security and justice and the fourth the future economic resources of the European Union.
The focus of the talks in the first group was the issue of the EU's forthcoming enlargement given that the Nice Treaty on which the EU's operation is based on, does not allow after the accession of Bulgaria and Romania, new enlargements.
According to an announcement by the European Parliament's Office in Greece, among the positions and proposals which were heard, certain were pessimistic as to the possibility for new enlargements to be made without a lengthy period of time elapsing.
 NATO squadron due in Thessaloniki
11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)A NATO squadron comprised of six vessels, including the Hellenic Navy frigate "Nikiforos Fokas", will sail into the port of Thessaloniki on Wednesday.
The Spanish frigate "Blas de lazo" is the flagship of the small flotilla, which also includes two other frigates, the Dutch and Turkish warships "HNLMS Willem van der Zaan" and "TCG Gediz", respectively, the British destroyer "HMS Nottingham" as well as the German support vessel "Rhoen".
The Greek vessel will be replaced by the frigate "Spetses" in Thessaloniki.
Spanish Adm. Teodoro Lopez Calderon, the commander of the squadron, code-named SNMG2, will host a reception in honor for local authorities on the Spetses Thursday evening.
The squadron is scheduled to leave the port of Thessaloniki on May 15.
 Country comes to a standstill following 24-hour nationwide strike by trade unionists
ATHENS, 11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Trade unions held a 24-hour nationwide strike on Wednesday, termed as "successful" by the organizers, but the turn out of participants at the rallies in Athens was less than anticipated.
The down town separate rallies were held by the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE), the Civil Servants Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY), the Public Utilities and Services (DEKO), the PAME labor group affiliated to the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and bank employees.
ADEDY was on strike demanding "an end to austerity policies" and for wages to be increased.
DEKO and the banks called for "collective labor agreements" and the demonstrators jointly marched to the National Economy and Finance Ministry where they handed a resolution with their demands.
GSEE President Christos Polyzogopoulos referred to what he termed "a critical point" for DEKO and banks and called on the government "to choose the road of agreement and not of legislative intervention." He also said that "he was willing" to discuss with the government the issue of the social insurance system, "but not at the cost of undermining the insurance rights of the insured."
In Thessaloniki, Macedonia, rallies and marches were organized by ADEDY and PAME.
 Dialogue begins on social insurance issue
ATHENS, 11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The dialogue on the social insurance issue got under way in Parliament on Wednesday with an agreement in principle between the two mainstream parties on the preconditions for carrying it out.
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) is abstaining from the whole procedure, while the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party termed the dialogue "undermined" and declared that "it will listen to all voices."
At the beginning of the joint session of the Permanent Economic Affairs Committee and the Permanent Social Affairs Committee, both Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis and Employment and Social Solidarity Minister Savvas Tsitouridis clarified that the government's intention is to have a social insurance system that will be "fair, economically rational, viable and resistant through time" but which will also maintain "the public, compulsory and redistributing character that it has today with its tripartite funding by the state, the employers and the working people."
Alogoskoufis outlined the magnitude of the existing problem, noting that according to existing studies the deficit in the social insurance system exceeds 400 billion euros, that is to say 200 percent of GDP, while in 2050 expenditures for pensions will amount to 25 percent of GDP compared to the current 13 percent.
He further said that "although many will say that the problem is not immediate, the reality is that it is quite close to us for us to decide to do something" and placed responsibility for the swelling of the deficit primarily on the "irrational promises" made in the '80s.
Tsitouridis said that stopping the climate of phobia and panic being cultivated in Greek society by certain sides is necessary.
"The bomb will not explode tomorrow," he said and added that we do not feel that "we have a hot potato in our hands which we want to pass on to others."
The employment minister also pointed out that "it is not the government's intention to impose solutions, neither now nor in the next four-year term" and that "whatever changes will not take anyone by surprise. They will be fair and gradual."
Speaking on behalf of the main opposition PASOK party, Evangelos Venizelos said that his party believes that "the target of full employment is linked to the viability and the distributing function of the pensioning system."
 Parliament approves amendment regarding laid-off textile workers
ATHENS, 11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Parliament approved an amendment on Wednesday regarding a monthly stipend to be paid out to laid off workers of a textile mill in Naoussa.
Deputies of ruling New Democracy and of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) approved the bill, while main opposition PASOK and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) MPs voted against it.
Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and Labor Minister Savvas Tsitouridis said that the monthly stipend will be equal to the employees' main and supplementary pension and will be paid until the laid-off employees find other work or retire.
They also said that a Special Social Solidarity Fund will be established by the summer, which will compensate the unemployed in regions with a high unemployment rate.
 GDP increased 4 pc in first quarter of 2006, finance minister says
ATHENS, 11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The rate of GDP increase in the first quarter of 2006, compared to the corresponding quarter in 2005, amounted to four percent. The corresponding increase in the first quarter of 2005, as against the corresponding quarter in 2004, was 3.4 percent.
This data was provided by Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis during his address at the joint session of the Parliamentary Economic and Social Affairs Committees on the "Discussion on the social insurance system."
The four percent increase in GDP during the first quarter of 2006, compared to the corresponding quarter in 2005, will be announced on Thursday by the National Statistical Service of Greece.
 Greek exports up 21.7 pct in March, yr/yr
ATHENS, 11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greek exports jumped 21.7 percent in March from the same month last year, the National Statistics Service said on Wednesday.
NSS, in its monthly report, said the total value of export-deliveries totaled 1.43 billion euros in March, up from 1.175 billion euros in March 2005, while the value of import-arrivals totaled 4.452 billion euros, down from 4.58 billion euros over the same period, respectively, a decline of 2.8 percent.
Exporters demand quick economic reforms: Exporters demanded that the government proceed as quickly as possible with announced economic reforms, during the annual meeting of the Panhellenic Exporters' Association (PSE), held in Athens on Wednesday.
Unless reforms are quickly implemented, rising energy and shipping prices and the increased cost of borrowing will not allow the exports sector to perform well, exporters said.
While exports increased during the past year and are expected to do so this year as well, "uncertainty is intensifying and basic weaknesses surrounding export activity remain," PSE President Christina Sakellaridi said.
For this reason, a new and comprehensive strategy must be implemented, she added.
One of the main weaknesses in the Greek export sector, according to PSE, is the Greek economy's difficulty in adapting to the new demands of the international environment, which does not allow a faster transition from traditional products to products which require higher technology and skilled labor.
According to Sakellaridi, the increase in exports in 2005 by 13.1% - the highest increase in the post-World War II period - is due to the euro's devaluation against the dollar and other currencies, an increase in demand in export-significant regions, the development of export activity in new markets and government policy which capitalized on favorable conditions.
 PM meets Federation of Greek Industries' head
ATHENS, 11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday received Odysseas Kyriakopoulos, the president of the Federation of Greek Industries, and was briefed over a forthcoming FGI general assembly scheduled for May 16.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Kyriakopoulos said he briefed the Greek PM over business activity, competitiveness, investments, business climate in the country.
Commenting on a government-backed amendment to aid laid-off workers of the Naoussa textile mills, Kyriakopoulos said the issue was discussed with the premier, and added that the prefect of Imathia needed support but without the use of money from a LAEK fund. The Greek business leader underlined that the government must take measures to deal with a series unemployment problem in the country.
Kyriakopoulos said he was optimistic over the outcome of a dialogue in Parliament over the pension system. He rejected talk, moreover, that he would run for Parliament in the next general elections and said he would continue his business activities.
 Employment minister speaks on 'Framework and policies for combating discrimination at work'
ATHENS, 11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Employment and Social Protection Minister Savvas Tsitouridis spoke on Wednesday at a conference organized in Athens by the Labor Institute (INE) of the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) which had as its theme "Framework and policies for combating discrimination at work in Greece."
In his address, the minister described "as a target and a great challenge for all citizens, irrespective of nationality, religion or gender, to be secured of equal and same opportunities for access to work."
Tsitouridis referred to the European Union's action program for the eradication of discrimination and assessed that "it has brought about significant impetus to the legislative work against discrimination." In this direction, he referred to "the incorporation to national law of corresponding EU directives" but also to "the strengthening of powers to relevant agencies such as the Labor Inspection Corps and the Ombudsman."
The employment minister underlined that "2007 will be proclaimed as European year of equal opportunities for all" and noted certain spheres of policy where progress must be made, such as "equality and financial independence of men and women, equal representation in decision-taking centers, the eradication of all forms of violence against women and the reconciliation between professional and private life."
 Greek delegation participating in Israeli 'Agritech' exhibition
ATHENS, 11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)A 60-member Greek delegation headed by agricultural development ministry secretary general Christos Avgoulas, comprised of company representatives, agricultural trade union agencies, academics and agriculturalists, arrived in Israel on Tuesday to participate in the Israeli "Agritech" agricultural exhibition taking place in Tel Aviv between May 9-11.
It is one of the most important agricultural technology exhibitions in the world at which Israel's latest achievements in the agricultural sector are presented, such as biological crops, poultry farming, greenhouse crops, dairy produce, nurseries, biotechnology, irrigation systems, flower cultivation and the management of water resources.
The Greek delegation, which is the fourth biggest after those of China, India and Mexico, has shown great interest in technologies concerning the management of water resources.
The delegation's visit was jointly organized by the Israeli Embassy in Athens, the Hellenic Israeli Chamber of Commerce and Israel's Exports Institute.
Greece and Israel have already developed considerable cooperation in the agricultural sector since trade transactions in the sector have amounted to about 110 million dollars.
Israeli exports to Greece in farm products amount to about 50 million dollars and concern agricultural raw materials and equipment, while Greek exports to Israel in this sector are in the region of 60 million dollars and focus on cotton, tobacco, food, olive oil, fisheries and dairy products.
 Industrial production index up 1.7 pct in March, yr/yr
ATHENS, 11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece's industrial production composite index rose 1.7 pct in March, compared with the same month last year, the National Statistics Service said on Wednesday.
NSS, in its monthly report, said the manufacturing production index rose 2.9 pct in March, reflecting higher production in oil products and base metals. The electricity-natural gas-water production index fell 2.8 pct in March, while the mining production index was 0.2 pct higher in the same period.
 Greek stocks end 0.83 pct down on Wednesday
ATHENS, 11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greek stocks ended lower on Wednesday pushing the composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange 0.83 percent down to end at 4,268.87 points.
Turnover was a heavy 504.7 million euros. Most sector indices ended lower with the Financial Services (-2.35 pct), Banks (-1.88 pct), Chemicals (-1.60 pct) and Insurance (-1.11 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day. The Raw Materials (+3.07 pct), Industrial Products (+2.72 pct), Oil (+1.72 pct) and Health (+1.41 pct) scored the biggest gains.
The Big Cap index fell 1.30 percent, the Mid Cap index rose 0.22 percent and the Small Cap index fell 0.48 percent.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 155 to 125 with another 36 issues unchanged.
Equity Index Futures:
Bond Market Close: Buyers lag sellers
Foreign Exchange Rates: Thursday
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.288
 Holy Synod criticizes 'Da Vinci Code'
ATHENS, 11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Greek Church's Holy Synod on Wednesday joined a handful of other top ecclesiastical bodies around the world in criticizing the upcoming release of the eagerly awaited Hollywood version of the global best-seller "The Da Vinci Code".
In unveiling a special pamphlet entitled "Towards the people: The truth about the novel 'The Da Vinci Code' ", the Church's leadership stressed that "from a historical and Christian viewpoint, the book's content is far and away fictitious . Religious consciences are insulted and undermined, slyly and without historical basis, by the fictional plot."
However, the Holy Synod underlined that it will not issue any recommendation on whether the faithful should or should not see the movie or read the novel, "as the proponents of suppression would expect..."
"Instead, it (Holy Synod) is certain that anyone who wishes to (view or read) it can ascertain the falsehoods and reject its absurd subject matter," the pamphlet, whose publication was announced last week, read.
In attacking the novel's premise, namely, that Jesus Christ was not crucified but lived on to marry Mary Magdalene and rear children, the Holy Synod of Greece's Autocephalous Orthodox Church also charged that best-selling author Dan Brown is attempting to "strike" at Christianity's "salvation-based tenet of faith ... that Christ was a perfect God and perfect Man. The author also strikes at Christ's humanness, as he (Brown) considers Him (Christ) as an imperfect man with weaknesses..."
 Annual memorial service held for late statesman Constantine Karamanlis
ATHENS, 11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The annual memorial service held for the late statesman and former prime minister and president of the republic Constantine Karamanlis was held in the Athens suburb of Filothei on Wednesday afternoon on the premises of the foundation bearing the name of the founder of the ruling New Democracy party.
A bust of Constantine Karamanlis was unveiled afterwards at a square located at the intersection of Eleftheriou Venizelou and March 25 streets in Filothei.
Mayor Theofrastos Economidis, who unveiled the bust, referred to the political personality of Constantine Karamanlis, while Achilleas Karamanlis thanked sculptor Tassos Vikelas, who was a friend of the deceased, and the artist Mihalis Vafiadis who arranged the place where the bust was placed.
The memorial service and the unveiling of the bust was attended by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, accompanied by his wife Natasha and his mother, former president of the republic Kostis Stephanopoulos and by a number of ministers, including Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Mihalis Liapis and Anastasios Papaligouras.
 Christodoulos comments on relationship between theology, sciences
ATHENS, 11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece on Wednesday inaugurated the 3rd symposium of Athens and Thessaloniki universities' theology faculties, as the event this year focuses on the issue of "Prospects of Inter-Science Dialogue: Theology, Humanities & Applied Sciences".
"Orthodox Christian theology does not view science as an enemy. It respects it and should always be ready to enter into a dialogue with it," Christodoulos told delegates at Thessaloniki's Aristotle University.
"Theology is not included among the sciences but it was accepted into the realm of science and academia in order to allow a readily available dialogue between scholars and scientists," he added.
Moreover, the influential head of the Greek Church described the progress made over the past few years as a "quantum explosion" in the fields of medicine, genetics, computer science and technology, adding however, that a number of new risks have been created in tandem with a few moral dilemmas; while at the same time "people have not become happier."
"Existentialist problems, loneliness, fear and the specter of death have become more pressing, while corruption of moral values increases with mathematical precision ... Scientists say that they understand 5 percent of the universe's mysteries, while death remains a terrifying mystery. True scientists do not feel like gods," the Archbishop underlined.
Regarding the Church, Christodoulos stressed that it does not operate in a vacuum as even members of the monastic communities come into contact with the rest of the world.
 Thessaloniki's French Institute celebrates 100th anniversary
11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The French Institute of Thessaloniki will be celebrating its 100th anniversary with a week-long series of events, titled "Celebration of the Year," French General Consul to Thessaloniki Paul Ortholan announced on Wednesday.
On Thursday, former French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin will be in Thessaloniki to present the Greek translation of his latest book.
The events, which will kick off on May 25 and will run through June 4, will include a gala dinner hosted by the French Ambassador to Greece, Bruno Delaye with part of the proceeds to be donated to Storgi, a charity of friends of child cancer patients.
Addressing the dinner will be philosopher Edgar Morin, who was born in Thessaloniki.
Other celebrations will include three days of Claude Lelouch films, accompanied by a round-table discussion with the director; and an exhibition of 92 works by leading Greek painters who studied at the Paris School of Fine Art.
 President Papoulias unveils a bust of air force officer Parousis
11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)President of the Republic President Karolos Papoulias on Thursday unveiled a bust of air force pilot Nikolaos Parousis at a Kaisariani-district elementary school in east Athens.
Parousis was killed in 1998 when he crash-landed his fighter plane near the Skala site in extreme northeast Attica prefecture in an effort to divert it from populated areas. He was born in Athens in 1972 and attended the specific elementary school in Kaisariani. Parliament and the Athens Academy have also honored the airman's self-sacrifice.
The ceremony attended Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis, among other officials.
 Local Government congress gets under way in Rhodes
11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The 35th congress of the Panhellenic Federation of Local Administration Unions (POE OTA) got under way in Rhodes on Wednesday with the participation of 857 representatives from 220 associations which represent 42,000 employees in local government.
The sessions of the congress will come to a close on Saturday.
In his address, the Federation's president, Themis Balasopoulos, emphasized that "the employees in local government are not second class employees."
Greetings were also addressed by Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE) president Paris Koukoulopoulos, Civil Servants Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY) president Spyros Papaspyros, the Prefect of the Dodecanese, Mr. Maheridis, Rhodes Mayor George Yiannopoulos and political party representatives.
 Four persons held in custody for incidents after European Social Forum rally in Athens
ATHENS, 11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Four out of 17 people who were arrested for incidents after the anti-war rally organized by the 4th European Social Forum in Athens last Saturday, were held in custody on Wednesday after testifying before the public prosecutor.
Sent to prison were a secondary school student, a 25-year-old unemployed Ukrainian, a 24-year-old unemployed and a 31-year-old private sector employee. The remaining 13 were released.
The 17 youths, who testified on Tuesday and Wednesday, deny the charges. They admitted that they took part in the rally but had nothing to do with the riots.
 Trafficking ring disbanded by Thessaloniki police
ATHENS, 11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Thessaloniki police Anti-Trafficking squad on Wednesday announced that it has disbanded a large ring involved in the trafficking of women from Eastern Europe that were then forced into prostitution.
Police said that the preliminary interrogation of suspects revealed that 16 people were involved, of which 13 were Greeks and three foreign nationals. The victims of the trafficking ring were lured to Greece with the promise of legal work and residence permits but were then supplied with fake passports and forced to provide sexual services to clients.
 Sotheby's to hold two Greek Sales this month
11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Works of art by notable Greek artists will be on sale in two auctions planned by Sotheby's in London, one at its New Bond Street premises on May 22 and the second at London's Olympia building on May 24.
The New Bond Street sale will feature the "Naughty Grandchild" by Nikiforos Lytras (valued between ‚¨145,000-217,000) and five works by the creator of Greece's finest seascapes, Constantine Volanakis.
These are: "Outside the harbor" (estimated value ‚¨116,000-174,000), "The 'Bonheur' Sailing Off the Coast" (estimated value ‚¨116,000-174,000), "The Port of Volos" (estimated value ‚¨28,900-43,300), "The Port of Piraeus" (estimated value ‚¨72,500-102,000) and "Sailing Offshore" (estimated value ‚¨87,000-116,000).
The sale catalogue also features three seascapes by Vasilios Chatzis and two by Emilios Prosalentis, as well as works by Theodoros Rallis. Greek art in the 20th century is represented with Michalis Economou "The Acropolis" (est. value ‚¨43,300-72,500), and works by Pavlos (Dionyssopoulos), Nicos Hadjikiriakos-Ghika, Constantinos Parthenis and others.
The sale at Olympia will feature more works of art by many of the same artists but with estimated prices ranging from just over ‚¨1,000 up to ‚¨20,000, on average.
 Signing of twinning protocol between Thessaloniki and Izmir postponed indefinitely
ISTANBUL, 11/10/206 (ANA/MPA)The Mayor of Izmir Aziz Cocaoglu announced on Wednesday that the signing of the twinning protocol between Thessaloniki and Izmir has been postponed indefinitely. The relevant protocol was due to be signed in June.
Cocaoglu said in a statement to the Anadolu news agency that the creation of a monument concerning the genocide of Greek Pontians in Thessaloniki led to the decision for the postponement.
Thessaloniki is a city located in Macedonia, northern Greece, while Izmir is a city on the west coast of Turkey.
 Olympiakos Piraeus wins soccer cup
ATHENS, 11/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Olympiakos Piraeus won the soccer cup after beating AEK Athens 3-0 in the final played at the Pangritio Stadium in Crete on Wednesday night. Olympiakos has also won this year's first division championship and has achieved the double for the second consecutive year.
Olympiakos went into the lead with a goal by Cypriot star Mihalis Konstantinou in the 61st minute, while an own goal by Ivic 10 minutes later put Olympiakos further ahead. Castillo scored the third goal in the 90th minute.
 Cypriot President and FM to attend EU-Latin America/Caribbean summit
NICOSIA, 11/5/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos and Minister of Foreign Affairs George Iacovou fly tomorrow to Vienna, Austria, to attend the EU-Latin America/Caribbean summit to be held from 11 to 13 May.
The summit of Heads of State and Government of 60 countries of the European Union, including the acceding countries Bulgaria and Romania, and of Latin America and the Caribbean is taking place on 12 May. On 11 May the ministers of foreign affairs of these countries will be having a preparatory meeting, and on 13 May there will be a number of sub-regional meetings of individual countries and sub-regions of Latin America and the Caribbean with the European Union.
The ministers of the two regions will use their meeting on May 11 to prepare the summit of the following day. They will also use this opportunity to have an open and fruitful exchange of views on issues that matter to both regions and to their partnership. Particular emphasis will be given to the opportunities and challenges of a joint EU-LAC approach to multilateral issues.
Some of the issues on the agenda of the summit are Democracy and Human Rights, Terrorism, Drugs and Organized Crime, Growth and Employment, and Migration.
Iacovou will have on the sidelines of the summit meetings with some of his counterparts, during which he will discuss bilateral issues of common interest and the latest developments in the Cyprus question.
 Cyprus government appoints Investigating Committee for air crash
NICOSIA, 11/5/2006 (CNA/ANA/MPA)The Cyprus government has decided to set up a one-member independent Investigating Committee, comprising former member of the Supreme Court Panayiotis Kallis, aiming at fully investigating the causes of the air crash of Helios Airways in August 2005, that killed 121 people on board, Government Spokesman George Lillikas said after a meeting here Wednesday of the Council of Ministers.
Lillikas said that Kallis will be assisted by two experts, Elias Nikolaides and George Bonis from Greece, as well as other personnel.
''By this decision the Cypriot President's engagement to appoint an independent and irreproachable Committee to investigate and detect responsibilities where there are and attribute them to those to whom they belong is entering its final stage,'' he added.
''As regards the air crash of last summer, the Cypriot President with public statements had undertaken the engagement that the government will do its utmost and will not omit anything for the comprehensive and in depth objective, independent and irreproachable investigation of the causes of the accident, ascertainment of responsibilities where there are and their attribution to those to which they belong, irrelevant of title, office, political party or other position, interest or connection of any persons responsible,'' Lillikas noted.
The spokesman also said that the investigation will concern the specific flight but will also be extended to the procedures, practical issues and levels of security and diligence applied, both in the near past and in the present.
''The investigation concerns the conditions under which licenses are given to companies, aircrafts and staff on board, as well as the conduct of controls in general and specifically for this flight and for this aircraft according to the commitments the Cypriot President made in public,'' Lillikas noted.
He added that the decision for the appointment of the Investigating Committee was taken in view of the forthcoming issuing of the findings of the Greek Committee for the Investigation of Air Accidents and Incidents, so that there is no delay in the detection and attribution of responsibilities.