|Thursday, 12 December 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-05-12
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>May 12, 2006
 Private universities get go-ahead in Constitutional revision proposed by PM
ATHENS, 12/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Substantial changes that focused on seven main areas, including the much-debated and controversial sanctioning of private universities and the easing of an absolute ban on MPs engaging in professional or business activity while in office, were included in a set of proposals outlined on Thursday by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis for revising the Greek Constitution.
Addressing a special meeting of ruling New Democracy's Parliamentary group, Karamanlis said the changes placed emphasis on modernizing education, independent justice, environmental protection, protection of property (including intellectual property), ensuring a state of law in the service of citizens, strong local government and laws that guaranteed transparency. Several of the proposed changes also concern Parliament and party finances.
The premier stressed that the proposed revision of the Constitution would be unaffected by party expediencies and will consolidate the refoundation of the State. He also noted that there was no need to revise articles in the Constitution that regulated the relationship between the Church and State since these had discrete and separate roles. Sundry issues regarding the Church did not require revising the Constitution and could be settled through simple acts of legislation, the premier added.
Similarly, Karamanlis said that existing articles governing the election of the president of the Republic "operate positively" and did not need revising.
Stressing that the revision of the Constitution was the foremost process through which the government would continue the changes and reforms it had promised to make to the electorate, Karamanlis invited main opposition PASOK to submit its own proposals but urged it to "avoid generalities and communications games".
During the meeting, Karamanlis additionally outlined the details of the proposed revision by article.
Media and Education: Among these are changes to article 14 governing the restrictions on media owners undertaking government contracts and changes to article 16 that allow the foundation of private, non-profit universities guaranteed by the state sector.
Regarding article 14 and paragraph 9 concerning the "primary shareholders" of media enterprises, Karamanlis said the revised version will address the concerns of the European Union and establish polyphony in the media, while at the same time dealing efficiently with graft and corruption.
He also stressed that changes to articles for education would link this with Greek and European culture.
Property, ownership, environmental protection: Changes related to property and copyright include an amendment to article 17 that will make a direct reference to the definition of ownership and the protection of intellectual property and creative work, in addition to establishing strict conditions for the expropriation of property by the state in accordance with land planning laws.
Changes to articles 24 and 117 seek to provide efficient protection of forests and ensure sustainable development. The limits of forests and forest expanses will be determined on the basis of what was in effect in June 1975, Karamanlis said. Areas then defined as forest would now remain areas earmarked for reforestation, while forest expanses will be linked with land and town planning. According to the premier, there would be changes in their destined use for public finances reasons.
State, Parliament, MPs and party finances: The interpretative clause in article 28, which governs the transfer of international rules (including EU treaties) into domestic law, is rephrased so that this is done with an absolute Parliamentary majority.
Article 29 that governs the operation of political parties is amended so that parties are financed entirely by the state budget, while introducing strict control of party finances and campaign spending by parties and individual MPs.
Karamanlis said that this control will be carried out by a special department of a Constitutional Court that will be established through a revision of article 100 of the Constitution. This will be charged with controlling the transparency of party finances and the operating expenses of MPs and candidates, as well as the statements of means and assets submitted by MPs. It will be given powers to impose stiff penalties on offenders, including stripping MPs of their office.
Other changes envisioned by the government include an increase in the proportion of state deputies in Parliament, as outlined in article 54, though the premier did not specify the exact number. State deputies are not elected directly but based on the proportion of each party's electoral strength nationwide.
Revisions are also planned to article 56, which lists the public officials and other persons that are barred from standing for election to Parliament through their office, and to articles 57 and 115 that have established absolute incompatibility between holding a seat in Parliament and engaging in any form of professional or business activity, replacing this with qualified incompatibility. The premier stressed that the absolute ban on MPs working had not acted positively.
In article 58, meanwhile, responsibility for adjudicating on the validity of elections is transferred from the Special Highest Court to the new Constitutional Court established through the revised article 100.
Parliamentary immunity is redefined in amendments to article 62 and will be confined to cases that are directly linked to the office of MP and for political reasons, Karamanlis said.
State and citizens, justice: The prime minister proposed changes to article 20, introducing the right to a person's legal protection by the courts within a "reasonable space of time", and to article 22, establishing the state's responsibility to provide social welfare to citizens in order to consolidate social justice.
Additions to article 78 will require that guarantees of the Greek State to third parties can only be given through a special law.
The government's changes also envision the conversion of the Special Highest Court in article 100 to a Constitutional Court, whose main job will be to be the final judge of whether laws are constitutional. Through changes to article 88, meanwhile, it will also adjudicate on issues concerning the salaries of the judiciary.
In article 90, proposed changes to the procedure for promotions among the top echelons of the judiciary will require that presidents are selected among the vice-presidents and these, in turn, from the longest-serving judges, while also establishing a maximum tenure of six years for vice-presidents.
There are also modifications to article 95 that establish a special section of the Supreme Administrative Court (Council of State) in charge of judging disputes concerning public contracts and a special section of the Court of Audit that will check major contracts drawn up by the public sector.
Local government and public administration: Karamanlis proposed changes to two articles referring to local government, inserting a reference emphasizing island areas in article 101 and changes related to the exercise by local authorities of competencies conceded by central government in article 102. In article 103, finally, he proposed that indefinite contracts to cover vital positions in the civil service and wider public sector be governed by an executing law.
PASOK slams PM's 'uninspired' proposals for revising Constitution: Main opposition PASOK criticized proposals for revising the Constitution presented by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday, saying that they were "uninspired" and "without vision".
PASOK spokesman Nikos Athanassakis said the premier, except in the few instances that he appeared to have adopted proposals made by PASOK, had outlined a set of perfunctory proposals were confined to a "conservative, legalistic processing".
"...[They] are proposals that serve power rather than the citizen, proposals that do not look to the future, proposals that do not extend our democracy, do not strengthen the role of Parliament, the participation of citizens or control by society," he said.
The ideas outlined by PASOK leader George Papandreou, by contrast, highlighted that the revision of the Constitution should pivot around the citizens and their rights, Athanassakis added.
PASOK spokesman also stressed that Papandreou did not agree with a proposal to increase the proportion of state deputies in Parliament.
"We don't know how the prime minister got that impression. On the contrary, PASOK's president described this debate as a pretext," he said, claiming that the proposal pointed to a desire for tighter control of party Parliamentary groups by their leaders.
Athanassakis suggested, meanwhile, that the government had initiated the debate on the Constitution for communications reasons, to divert attention from the problems of the budget and the economy and the emerging scandal over the Vodafone phone-tapping issue.
SYN on revision of the Constitution: Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) Secretary Nikos Hountis, referring on Thursday to the announcements by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on the revision of the Constitution, assessed that Karamanlis "with the announcement of the start of the process for the constitutional revision, made clear that (ruling) New Democracy, also utilizing the proposals of the leadership of (main opposition) PASOK, is seeking to advance conservative and neo-liberal options."
According to Hountis, "all these things which the government calls 'reforms' and which harm the rights of the working people, will be sought to be covered by a constitutional veil."
The Synaspismos secretary said "the establishment of private universities, the lifting of the permanency of civil servants, the establishment of a Constitutional Court, the attack to the environment are characteristic examples of the pending conservative changes."
 PM arrives in Vienna for EU/LAC summit
VIENNA, 12/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis arrived in Vienna on Thursday afternoon, where he will be attending the fourth EU-Latin America/Caribbean summit organized by the Austrian EU presidency.
On Thursday evening, Karamanlis will be attending a dinner hosted by Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel, while on Friday he will serve as moderator at a roundtable discussion. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be representing the EU during the discussion.
The 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 will be attending the summit, which will be held from May 11-13.
The issues that will be discussed include democracy and human rights, multilateral cooperation for peace, stability and respect for international law, terrorism, drugs and organized crime, the environment and energy.
 PM Costas Karamanlis to meet Turkish counterpart in Vienna on Friday
ATHENS, 12/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will be meeting his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan here on Friday morning on the sidelines of the summit between European Union countries and countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
The meeting, that will be held at 8.30 a.m. in the Austrian capital's conference centre located in the Pratter region, was requested by the Turkish prime minister.
Karamanlis will also be meeting Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos on the sidelines of the summit at 14.40 local time, while shortly afterwards he will be seeing Uruguay President Tabare Ramon Vasquez.
 Athens again points to int'l practice vis-√†-vis search & rescue missions in response to Turkish claims
ATHENS, 12/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Foreign Ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos on Thurs-day again referred to a controversial Turkish search and rescue exercise underway in parts of the Aegean by noting that "the history of jurisdiction regarding search and rescue issues is old and known, and Greece's position is absolutely clear, as outlined in yesterday's statement by the ministry".
"International bodies are always briefed on Greece's position regarding the search and rescue issue," he added, while noting that the Turkish NOTAM has been declared null and void in accordance with Athens' standing position. "Nothing has changed in the Greek position. There is nothing new."
Koumoutsakos also clarified that search and rescue operations within the Athens FIR are coordinated by a joint search and rescue centre in Piraeus. However, in the case of maritime accidents, the vessel nearest to another ship transmitting a SOS signal must offer assistance, while at the same notifying authorities of the country that has responsibility for search and rescue operations.
Regarding the different interpretations given by Athens and Ankara to international agreements, Koumoutsakos said this is "a reality" experienced for many decades.
Nevertheless, he said Greek leadership continues to work for a full normalization of bilateral relations.
"The framework for normalization of relations was defined by Greece via its policy to back Turkey's European course, under the precondition that it will meet all its obligations to the European Union. There are issues over which Greece is particularly sensitive, ones that have acquired a European aspect and character, and have lost the purely bilateral character they had in the past," he said.
Referring to a relevant document cited in several press reports over recent days, Koumoutsakos reiterated that Athens' position is clearly recorded on the specific document, while citing an excerpt stressing that Turkey cannot use all means necessary for search and rescue operations without explicit consent by Athens.
 Health minister visits Ronald McDonald House
NEW YORK, 12/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Minister of Health and Social Solidarity Dimitris Avramopoulos visited Ronald McDonald House here on Thursday, where Greek children suffering from cancer are staying while receiving medical care at New York hospitals.
Avramopoulos was given a tour of the facilities and was briefed by the organization‚s President William Sullivan and President of the Greek Department Niki Sideri about its operations.
The minister also had the opportunity to talk with children patients and their family members.
Avramopoulos congratulated all those responsible for the work carried out at Ronald McDonald House as the creators of the Greek department, which he said, provides tremendous support.
"I would sincerely like to express, from the bottom of my heart, my congratulations to all those who work all these years helping to alleviate human pain and offering meaningful support to the children and their families," he said.
"This institute, which depends primarily on donations and private contributions, fills the gap left by the public health system. This leads to the conclusion that the private and public sector can always work together towards one purpose: contributing towards the meaningful and humane support of these small children (...) and their families who under particularly difficult conditions fight to cure their children," he added.
In comments she made to the ANA-MPA, Sideri said: "To date, the Greek department of the Ronald McDonald House has provided housing, social support, meals and entertainment to tens of thousands of Greek children from Greece, Cyprus and the Greek-American community."
On Thursday evening, Avramopoulos was due to speak at a conference organized by the Greek Medical Association of New York at Cornell University Hospital. The conference is being held in honor of Greek researcher George Papanikolaou.
 Public administration in need of reform, Interior Minister says
ATHENS, 12/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Minister of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Prokopis Pavlopoulos noted the need for reform of the public administration system in order to address long-standing problems, during a speech he delivered at a seminar organized by the women's organization Panathinaiki in Athens on Thursday.
Pavlopoulos spoke of the need for a comprehensive policy to 'clean up' and modernize the public sector and referred to the National Strategic Development Plan for the 2007-2013 period and particularly the initiative 'improving the public administration's administrative ability,' so that the public sector can contribute to the success of reforms overall and serve as a pillar of competitiveness, provide better quality of service to citizens and establish the principle of transparency.
The minister also referred to the government's new 'civil servant code' - the focus of the seminar - calling it 'a basic tool' that the public sector now possesses.
The new code, which is expected to be tabled in parliament by the end of the month, introduces a series of innovations and has been approved in great part by the civil servants' union ADEDY, he said.
Referring to the code as it applies to public sector women employees, Pavlopoulos said that it provides additional support for single-parent families, for families with three children or more, and in helping employees strike a better family/work life balance.
 Albanian FM and DM comment on creation of cemeteries for Greek soldiers killed in war with Italy
TIRANA, 12/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Albanian Foreign Minister Besnik Mustafaj on Thursday termed relations between his country and Greece very good and, commenting on the creation of cemeteries for Greek soldiers killed in the war with Italy, said that "a small cemetery will be created at Vouliarates and a big one in Klisoura because bloody battles took place there between the Greek and the Italian army in the war in 1940."
He added that "respect for the fallen, primarily those fallen in the war against Fascism is a big obligation of all governments, of the peoples and societies which respect their history."
Albanian Defense Minister Fatmir Mediu said on his part that "the agreement with Greece on the creation of cemeteries for the Greek soldiers killed in Albania is under technical discussion and has not yet been ratified by the government."
He went on to say that "the agreement is at a technical stage, while the political stage has finished. When this process is completed, the agreement will be signed by the defense ministers of Greece and Albania."
 VPRC poll shows ND lead over PASOK, satisfaction with gov't efforts to solve problems
ATHENS, 12/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Ruling New Democracy maintained a three percentage point lead over main opposition PASOK with respect to voter intention, while premier Costas Karamanlis held a steady lead over PASOK leader George Papandreou as most suitable for prime minister, according to a VPRC opinion poll the results of which were released Thursday on private SKAI radio and television stations.
More specifically, ND led PASOK by three percentage points, with 42 percent against 39 percent, with respect to a question on what party the respondents would vote for if elections were held tomorrow.
As to a question on who was the most suitable for prime minister, the current premier Karamanlis maintained a strong lead over Papandreou, with 44 percent against 27 percent.
Replying to other questions, respondents placed unemployment as the biggest problem, and 46 percent believed dialogue, rather than labor action, as the means for resolving labor differences. At the same time, one in four respondents wanted a more dynamic intervention by the government, while 61 percent anticipated that numerous strikes were ahead in the immediate period.
According to the survey, dialogue was seen as the appropriate means for resolving differences by a large proportion (46 percent) of the respondents regardless of political party preferences and affiliations, while among the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) voters specifically, one in three also endorsed dialogue.
To a question on the governmental priorities, 23 percent of the respondents said top priority should be placed on the fight to contain prices, against a majority of 55 percent who said unemployment should be the number one priority.
The VPRC 'barometer' also showed that 45 percent of the respondents said they were "somewhat" or "very" satisfied with the government's efforts to solve the country's problems.
The survey was conducted among a sampling of 946 people nationwide in the period May 4-5.
 Top PASOK cadres meet with Wallstrom, Rehn in Brussels
12/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)High-ranking PASOK deputy Christos Papoutsis and Euro-deputy Panos Beglitis wound up a series of meetings with top EU officials in Brussels over the past week, including contacts with Commission Vice-President Margot Wallstr√∂m and EU Commissioner for enlargement Olli Rehn.
According to a PASOK press release, efforts to generate wider participation of EU citizens in the institutional developments for the future of Europe were discussed with Wallstr√∂m, while talks with Rehn initially focused on Bulgaria and Romania's pending EU accession. The situation in the western Balkans, as well as Turkey's closely watched EU course and the long-standing Cyprus issue were also discussed with Rehn, the press release noted.
Among others, both Papoutsis, a former EU commissioner himself and ex-minister, as well as Beglitis, a former foreign ministry spokesman, reiterated their support for the accession of Bulgaria and Romania on Jan. 1, 2007.
 KKE delegation meets with Venezuela's communist party
ATHENS, 12/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)A delegation of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and David Velasquez, member of the Political Bureau and parliamentary spokesman for Venezuela's communist party, discussed bilateral cooperation during their meeting on Thursday.
According to a KKE statement, the two sides "exchanged views on further developing bilateral cooperation, the extent of solidarity with the Venezuelan people who are facing new plans of destabilization and with military pressure and threats from the US, the European Union's character and role, and the strengthening of coordination and joint action of the international communist movement."
 Head of influential Pontian group calls on Turkey to apologize for genocide
ATHENS, 12/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The head of one of the country's largest Pontian (ethnic Greeks from the Black Sea region) groups on Thursday again called on Turkish leadership to apologize for the genocide of the Pontian residents in northeastern Turkey during and immediately after WWI.
The chairman of the Pan-Pontian Federation of Greece, Prof. George Parcharidis, also termed Ankara's latest assertion, namely, that there was, in fact, no Pontian genocide, as ignorant of historical facts. He also suggested that scholarly symposiums be jointly organized by Greek and Turkish groups in order to present either side's arguments on the issue.
Speaking from the northern port city of Thessaloniki, which hosts a substantial number of Pontian Greek descendants, Parcharidis cited historic documents and testimonies proving that genocide was committed, while he pointed out that the "guilt" of future generations would be alleviated via an official Turkish apology.
Additionally, he expressed regret for a statement a day earlier by Izmir Mayor Aziz Kocaoglu, who announced an indefinite postponement of a twinning protocol between his city and Thessaloniki. The pact was due to be signed in June, whereas the Izmir mayor's decision ostensibly stems from the unveiling of a monument dedicated to the Pontian Greek Genocide in Thessaloniki last Sunday by Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos
Finally, Parcharidis called on Athens to promote, internationally, the recognition of the Pontian Genocide committed by Turkish troops and irregulars.
 NATO naval force SNMG2 visits Thessaloniki port
12/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The NATO naval force SNMG2, which is patrolling the Mediterranean in the framework of activities against terrorism, is paying a "port diplomacy" visit to Thessaloniki, Macedonia, until Monday.
The Spanish commander of the naval force, Teodoro Lopez Calderon, told reporters on Thursday that the SNMG2, which is constantly on full operational alert, is not expected to visit the Persian Gulf.
The commander said "the (naval) force is useful because it offers security to all the Mediterranean countries,"
KKE protests presence of NATO armada at Thessaloniki port: Members of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and of its youth organization KNE held a rally and march in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, on Thursday evening to protest the presence of the NATO naval force SNMG2 which will remain at the city's port until Monday.
Hundreds of people, carrying banners and shouting slogans, gathered at the main gate of Thessaloniki Port Authority, demanding the departure of the NATO armada, which arrived at the port on Wednesday and is comprised of six ships.
 Greek bus driver honored in London for heroism in July 2005 bomb attacks
12/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The British transport employees‚ union on Wednesday honored with its highest distinction the two bus drivers who displayed heroism on July 7, 2005, the day of the terrorist bomb attacks in London.
One of the drivers, George Psaradakis, a Greek, was driving one of the four buses targeted by suicide bombers on the morning of July 7, 2005. Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, who is a member of the transport union, decorated the two heroic drivers with gold medals on Wednesday.
Speaking at the decoration ceremony, the transport union general secretary underlined that the people working on the London buses together with other public transportation employees were heroic in their efforts to provide assistance to the public on that tragic day a year ago. He stressed that the union is very proud of the contribution of its members and particularly the two bus drivers who displayed inexhaustible professionalism. They put the safety of their passengers and the public above everything else, and it is only fair that they be honored with this high distinction, he concluded.
 Gov't eyes 2.0 bln euros for railway upgrades
SOFIA, 12/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Transport and Communications Minister Mihalis Liapis on Thursday said here that the Greek government would earmark 10 percent, or 2.0 billion euros, of 4th Community Support Framework funds for works to upgrade the railway network in the east Mediterranean country.
He clarified that the proposal, to be submitted by the end of June, was dependent on approval by the Commission.
Speaking to reporters on his way to Sofia for a meeting with his Bulgarian counterpart Peter Moutafchiev, the Greek minister stressed that the ministry's priorities regarding the railway system were: operating a double electric-powered high-speed rail line; expanding a suburban railway network in Athens and Thessaloniki; upgrading the rail link to the northeastern border city of Alexandroupoli and drafting a western Greece railway line.
Liapis said the Greek Railways Organization will announce, next week, new tenders for the supply of rolling stock, worth 750 million euros, over the next five years.
"Our aim is to bring European standards to the country's railway system, since trains currently account for 4 percent of mass transportation in Greece, compared with 20 percent in Europe," Liapis said, adding that passenger traffic rose 8 percent last year, while international cargo transport jumped 40 percent and domestic cargo transport rose 12.5 percent, respectively.
He also said train schedules grew 50 percent over the 2002-2005 period, while he announced the hiring of new train conductors and station personnel.
 Greece, Egypt examine routes for nat-gas supply
ATHENS, 12/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Athens and Cairo are examining three alternative routes for the transport of natural gas from Egypt to Greece, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters after completing an official visit to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and Egypt, the Greek minister said he saw increased interest for investments in Greece by Arab interests and major opportunities for Greek enterprises in the Arab world, currently in a phase of strong economic growth.
Sioufas said a sea line between Alexandria with Crete and Piraeus would be announced in the next two weeks.
The minister said the two countries were examining three alternative solutions for the transport of natural gas from Egypt to Greece: first, through a pipeline linking Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Turkey, currently under construction, second, using LNG vessels and third, building an undersea pipeline linking Egypt with Crete (the most remote solution).
Sioufas said these discussions did not affect relations with other countries, such as Russia and Algeria which have long-term natural gas supply contracts. The Greek minister met with Egyptian businessman Sahim Sawiries, owner of Italian telecoms company Wind, which owns 50 percent plus one share and the management in Tellas, the telecommunications arm of the Public Power Corp.
Sioufas said the Egyptian entrepreneur has unveiled "interesting plans" for Telllas and for investments in other business sectors.
Commenting on a project to build an oil pipeline from Burgas, Bulgaria, to Alexandroupoli, Greece, Sioufas said both sides needed to speed up efforts, while he announced a meeting of a joint Greek-Russian commission in Athens, on June 9, to discuss energy relations between the two countries.
 Greece, Bulgaria tighten agricultural cooperation
12/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece and Bulgaria discussed the potential of strengthening bilateral cooperation in the agricultural sector on the sidelines of a forum held in the Bulgarian capital on Thursday.
Constantinos Karabinas, President of the Greek Parliament's Standing Committee for Production and Commerce, in Sofia on a two-day official visit, attended the forum "Bulgarian Agriculture in the European Union."
Karabinas discussed the prospect of further strengthening cooperation in the agricultural sector and other areas with Bulgarian Agricultural Minister Nihat Kabil, Deputy Minister Stefan Yurukov and other Bulgarian officials.
"Based on the experience and the results following Greece's [EU] accession, I can say with certainty that your decision to join [the EU] is in the right direction and will benefit the Bulgarian people," Karabinas said, addressing the forum.
"Of course, globalization which calls for targeted answers, such as productivity, investments, new jobs, social cohesion and open competitive markets, cannot be ignored," he added.
During his meeting with Kabil, Karabinas expressed the Greek government's willingness to help Bulgaria on its EU accession course.
On his part, Kabil showed an interest in Greece's experience and knowledge of EU matters regarding the absorption of EU funds and improving infrastructure.
Karabinas also met with the President of the Bulgarian Parliament's Greek Friendship Group, Georgi Yurukov.
The two officials confirmed the excellent relations existing between the two countries, while Yurukov expressed Sofia's gratitude towards the Greek government for its support as Bulgaria waits to join the EU.
 Greece promotes products in Japan
ATHENS, 12/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Evangelos Basiakos and Japan's Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries Issui Miura discussed further promoting Greek products in the Japanese market during their meeting on Thursday.
"We talked about the efforts we are making to promote Greek, quality agricultural products, such as olives and olive oil, wine, mastic, canned peaches, tomato paste, honey, feta cheese, cotton and tobacco, which recently have been moving at an improved pace," Basiakos said after the meeting.
On his part, Miura said that the Japanese recognize the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, a factor that will contribute to the increase in exports of Greek agricultural products to Japan.
 GDP increases 4 pc in first quarter of 2006
ATHENS, 12/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The country's GDP increased by 4 percent in the first quarter of 2006, compared to the corresponding quarter in 2005, and contributed to an increase in the final demand of the economy by 3.9 percent, according to the National Statistical Service of Greece.
Also according to data publicized by Eurostat on Thursday, the Greek economy's growth rate increased by 2.7 percent in the first half of 2006, compared to the fourth quarter of 2005 and is the highest between the member-states for which available data exists.
The National Statistical Service further disclosed that investments also increased by 5.3 percent and contributed to an increase in the economy's final demand by 1.1 percent.
As regards exports and imports, the following changes were recorded during the first quarter of 2006 compared to the first quarter of 2005: exports increased by 3.5 percent and contributed by 0.6 percent to the increase in the economy's demand, while imports increased by 3.2 percent.
 Deputy Development Minister Nerantzis speaks on 'Bioenergy in Greece'
ATHENS, 12/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Deputy Development Minister Anastasios Nerantzis, speaking at a symposium in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, on Thursday evening on the theme "Bioenergy in Greece", referred to the multiple benefits which Greece will gain from the import of biofuel in the energy sector, to the steps which have been taken to date and to the commitments which Greece has undertaken towards the European Union.
Nerantzis said that Macedonia and the broader region of northern Greece are called on to play a protagonist role in the energy sector, noting that "for decades they are the hub of production and supply of the greatest part of our country's energy produce." He noted that in this context, Macedonia and the broader region of northern Greece "are obliged and can capitalize on the knowledge and experience which they possess."
The foreign exchange benefit from the introduction of biofuel in the petroleum products market, is estimated for the period 2005-2010 at 164 million euros, said Nerantzis, referring to a study conducted by the Fuel and Lubricants Technology Laboratory of the National Metsovio Polytechnic.
 Union of Greek Shipowners delegation visits Washington
WASHINGTON, 12/5/2006 (ANA/MPA/T. Ellis)The role of the Greek merchant fleet in transporting energy and other aspects of world shipping was the focus of a working visit being carried out here this week by a delegation of the Union of Greek Shipowners (EEE), headed by its President Nikos Efthymiou.
The EEE delegation met with senior U.S. officials from the State, Transportation and Energy departments, the National Security Council, the US Coast Guard, the Federal Maritime Commission and members of Congress..
Efthymiou stressed the importance of the Greek merchant fleet in the global transport system since it handles 25 percent of the imports of oil and other goods by the United States.
He said the purpose of the delegation's visit is to exchange views with officials of the U.S. government and Congress on issues concerning world merchant shipping, such as the security of ports and sea transport.
Greece's Ambassador Alexandros Mallias, who hosted a reception for the delegation, underlined the contribution of Greek merchant shipping to the Greek economy, international trade and the transportation of fuel.
Mallias also called on the U.S. officials present to help so that one of the few remaining "Liberty" ships be given to Greece in recognition of the sacrifice of Greek sailors during the World War II.
 Rates for dry cargo transportation will decrease 25 pc in 2006
ATHENS, 12/5/2006(ANA/MPA)Rates for dry cargo transportation will decrease by 25 percent in 2006, compared to 2005, while the corresponding decrease in tanker rates might approach 20 percent in relation to the course of oil prices, according to a study by the National Bank.
In any case, since the influence of the healthy development rates of the international economy is balanced by the increase in the world's fleet, rates are expected to decrease by at least 15 percent in 2006 as against 2005.
The shipping sector contributes more than 4.5 percent of Greece's GDP and employs 160,000 people (4 percent of total employment), while foreign exchange obtained through shipping covers a third of the country's trade deficit.
However, the share of the Greek ocean-going fleet decreased by 2.2 percentage units over the past two years, primarily as the result of the fleet's modernization and the decline in the number of shipowners in an exclusively fragmented sector.
 Greek stocks down for third day running
ATHENS, 12/5/2006(ANA/MPA)Greek stocks fell for the third consecutive session in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, pushing the composite index 0.59 percent down to 4,243.88 points.
Turnover was a heavy 488.3 million euros. Sector indices ended lower with the Banks (-1.79 pct), Raw Materials (-0.96 pct) and the Commerce (-0.65 pct) suffering the heaviest losses, while the Oil (1.94 pct), Constructions (1.41 pct) and Utilities (1.22 pct) scored the biggest gains.
The Big Cap index fell 0.86 pct, the Mid Cap ended 0.26 pct lower and the Small Cap index rose 0.72 pct.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 138 to 135 with another 45 issues unchanged.
Equity Index Futures:
Bond Market Close: Buyers lag sellers
Foreign Exchange Rates: Friday
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.281
 Women's organization hosts seminar on violence against women, children
ATHENS, 12/5/2006(ANA/MPA)The National Council of Greek Women held a seminar on forms of violence against women and children in Athens on Thursday.
Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki inaugurated the seminar noting that violence against vulnerable groups has been on the rise in recent years.
Education Minister Marietta Giannakou said more social structures must be put in place and that non-government organizations should monitor this phenomenon.
She also announced that a special hotline for parents and students will soon be up and running.
In her address, Secretary General for Equality Evgenia Tsoumani said that violence against women reflects the unequal distribution of power, noting that women are abused because of their sex.
She said that one in three women all over the world has been abused at least once during their lifetime, while one in three who lives with an abusive spouse does not admit to the violence.
Tsoumani called on mothers in particular, to break their silence in order to protect themselves and their children from being abused and from potentially becoming abusers.
Manolis Sfakianakis, Supervisor of the Electronic Crimes Division, referred to pornography and the rate at which it is rapidly increasing.
On his part, Yiorgos Moschos, Assistant Ombudsman and responsible for children's rights, noted that many cases of abused children in Greece are never reported.
He called for the creation of social services departments staffed with social workers and psychologists that will operate both inside and outside school premises.
First Instance Prosecutor Irini Pantazi-Melista referred to the 2003 EU directive which calls for all member states to harmonize their national legislation with EU legislation on the issue of sexual abuse.
She said that while Greece passed a related law in 2002 it has yet to pass a law that calls for amendments to punishment imposed on those involved in child pornography, as well as the non-physical appearance of children in courtrooms as witnesses.
Finally, Professor of Criminology Kalliopi Spinelli, called for national and international measures, staffing social services departments with women professionals, creating women's shelters, providing 24-hour support, as well as providing victims with legal, psychological and medical support.
 Book by Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt presented in Athens
ATHENS, 12/5/2006(ANA/MPA)The book by Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt entitled "The united states of Europe-Manifesto for a new Europe", was presented in Athens on Thursday.
The book questions what role Europe will play, noting that the European Union at present does not seem to meet the standards of political expectations and appears economically exhausted.
Furthermore, on the economic sector, it appears that it has lost its drive. Prosperity also confronts pressures due to the continuous intensification of globalization.
To this challenge, the EU reacts yet again in a disorderly fashion and at a very slow pace, the book says.
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis wrote the forward of the book while Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis comments in the epilogue.
"We are faced by an option, either we will not change anything and remain marginalized or we will regroup and participate actively in the world scene. I propose that we choose the united states of Europe," the Belgian prime minister notes in his book:
Verhofstadt's book was presented by main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) deputy and former EU commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou and ruling New Democracy (ND) party Eurodeputy George Dimitrakopoulos.
 Tourism minister to attend Int'l Olympic Truce Foundation meeting in Lausanne
ATHENS, 12/5/2006(ANA/MPA)Tourism Development Minister Fanny Palli-Petralia will participate in Lausanne on Friday at the sessions of the Administrative Council of the International Olympic Truce Foundation, in her capacity as vice-resident of the Foundation.
In the context of the meeting, the minister will attend the unveiling of the statue "Olympic Truce" which is a donation by Irvin Belk to the Olympic Games Museum.
 Culture minister attends 4th Theater Olympiad in Turkey
ISTANBUL, 12/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Culture Minister George Voulgarakis said he was 'particularly happy' to be attending the 4th Theater Olympiad that began in Istanbul on Thursday.
Voulgarakis was to attend the opening event, a staging of Aeschylus' The Persians.
The play, which first dealt with the differences between East and West 25 centuries ago, was to be performed for the first time at Agia Irini, Istanbul's oldest basilica.
Greek and Turkish producers worked together on the project.
Voulgarakis also met with his Turkish counterpart Attila Koc, with whom he discussed matters of mutual interest and responsibility.
"There is a very good climate [surrounding our cooperation] and our cooperation will continue in the future," Voulgarakis said.
On his part, Koc said that the two sides are close to reaching an agreement on recording old works of art of the two countries.
 CRPM's Islands Committee assembly begins in Crete
ATHENS, 12/5/2006(ANA/MPA)The assembly of the Islands Committee of the Peripheral Maritime Regions in Europe (CRPM) began its two-day sessions in Iraklio, Crete on Thursday on the theme "The role of Islands in Europe of the Seas".
The sessions, which will deal with Europe's islands policy, were opened by Aegean and Island Policy Minister Aristotelis Pavlidis.
The president of CRPM's Islands Committee assembly is Crete Region Secretary General Serapheim Tsokas. The meeting has gathered all of Europe's peripheral islands and has attracted the interest of various Greek and European state and social agencies.
In his address, Pavlidis conveyed to the delegates the greetings of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. Pavlidis said that a major program will start being implemented in Greece in support of small and remote islands.
 Thessaloniki mayor on delay of twinning project with Izmir
12/5/2006(ANA/MPA)The Municipality of Thessaloniki conveys a message of friendship and cooperation towards the Turkish people and the Turkish city of Izmir, Thessaloniki Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos said on Thursday in reference to a delay in the signing of a twinning protocol between the two cities.
Papageorgopoulos said that he would accept the request of Izmir Mayor Aziz Cocaoglu, who on Wednesday sent a letter to Papageorgopoulos asking that the signing be postponed indefinitely.
"We must make the most of past lessons so that through a spirit of friendship and cooperation we can map out a common European course," Papageorgopoulos said.
On Wednesday, Cocaoglu told the Anadolu news agency that Thessaloniki's plans to erect a monument dedicated to the genocide of Greeks from the Black Sea region led to the decision for the postponement.
The protocol was due to be signed in June.
 New natural history museum to highlight Mt. Olympus
12/5/2006(ANA/MPA)A museum of natural history in resort town of Litohoro, located in the foothills beneath fabled Mount Olympus, central Greece, is expected to open its doors by the end of December, with the new facility‚s emphasis squarely on the eponymous summit and its surrounding verdant regions.
The new museum will host exhibits on the fauna and flora of Mt. Olympus and also highlight many of the remote mountain trails available for hiking and trekking up Greece‚s highest peak. Additionally, the museum will feature photographic exhibition.
 Seismic sequence is normal in Zagliveri, Thessaloniki
12/5/2006(ANA/MPA)Geophysics professor emeritus at Thessaloniki‚s Aristotelion University Vasilis Papazachos on Thursday described as "normal" the seismic sequence near the town of Zagliveri, the epicenter of an earthquake measuring 4.7 on the Richter scale that jolted Thessaloniki on Wednesday.
Prof. Papazachos told ANA-MPA that the earthquake was small and not unusual for the area.
Aristotelion University seismologists placed the epicenter of the earth tremor at 40 kilometers southeast of the city of Thessaloniki.
The trembler was felt throughout the prefecture of Thessaloniki and in the adjoining Halkidiki, Serres and Kilkis prefectures.
Geophysics Laboratory seismologist Manolis Skordilis told ANA-MPA on Wednesday that the quake's epicenter was located within the Serbomacedonian seismo-tectonic zone, but outside the seismic area known as the Mygdonian gaben, that produced the catastrophic 6.6R earthquake of June 20, 1978.
 Int'l earthquake response exercise to be held in Volos this week
12/5/2006(ANA/MPA)The first International Earthquake Response Exercise, organized by the Greek Rescue Squad in collaboration with the union of Magnesia municipalities and communities, will be held in Volos on the eastern coast of Greece from Friday until Sunday.
Taking part in the earthquake simulation exercise are 300 volunteers, including 65 rescue workers and observers from Turkey and doctors specializing in rescue work from the UK. It will include the artificially-induced collapse of five old buildings in the Agrias municipality in Volos and the coordination of simulated rescue operations, with search and first-aid teams for the supposed victims.
The Greek Rescue Squad will take part with four teams of 40 people each, using all the equipment supplied by the State for dealing with this type of situation.
The main portion of the exercise will take place on Saturday and will be observed by Civil Protection General Secretary Panagiotis Fourlas, as well as representatives of other services involved in handling emergencies, such as the fire department, police and local authorities.
 Six AEK soccer supporters questioned over damage caused to ferry
ATHENS, 12/5/2006(ANA/MPA)Six supporters of AEK Athens soccer club on Thursday were brought in for questioning at Rafina's port authority for damage caused by groups of about 50 people to the ferry "Ierapetra" which was chartered by AEK FC for the transportation of its fans to Iraklio, Crete and their return to Rafina after the Greek Soccer Cup final which took place on Wednesday at Iraklio's Pangritio Stadium.
AEK lost 3-0 to Olympiakos Piraeus in the Cup final.
According to Merchant Marine Ministry sources, the six AEK supporters who are youths, were pointed out by crew members. The cost of the damage to the ship is estimated to exceed 150,000 euros.
 Papadopoulos: No suppression of truth as regards causes of air crash
LARNACA, 12/5/2006 (CNA/ANA/MPA)Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos reassured on Thursday that there will be no suppression of the truth as regards the causes of the air crash of Helios Airways in August 2005 that killed 121 people on board.
President Papadopoulos who was speaking at Larnaca Airport prior to his departure for Vienna, Austria, where he will attend the EU-Latin America/Caribbean summit, added that the government will not be disturbed if responsibilities are attributed to government departments or officers.
The council of ministers appointed Wednesday a one-member independent Investigating Committee aiming at fully investigate the causes of the air crash.
Asked if experts have come from Europe, President Papadopoulos, replied affirmatively saying that they have submitted their report and ''have detected weaknesses or omissions at government departments''.
Invited to say if during his visit to Austria he will meet with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Papadopoulos said no such meeting has been arranged, but added that ''meetings during such events are unscheduled''.
Foreign Minister George Iacovou, who also flew to Austria to attend the EU-Latin America/Caribbean summit said earlier Thursday that Turkey is already having serious problems concerning its accession course and has done nothing to satisfy the EU 25 as regards the issues concerning Cyprus.
 Cyprus to be included in Paris MOU White List
NICOSIA, 12/5/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)The Executive Committee of the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on port state control (Paris MOU) has decided that Cyprus must be removed from the Grey to the White List of the Memorandum.
The committee, which met Wednesday, recognized the significant improvement Cyprus has achieved concerning the security standards of the Cyprus fleet and the drastic reduction of detentions of Cyprus ships.
A press release issued here Thursday said that the Committee also decided that Cyprus will be from now on a regular member of the Paris MOU.
''This fact is independent evidence and supports even more the picture of Cyprus as a serious and reliable navigational country,'' the press release added.