|Wednesday, 30 September 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-05-16
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>May 16, 2006
 PM Karamanlis meets with Pakistani counterpart Aziz, tourism cooperation accord signed
ATHENS, 16/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime minister Costas Karamanlis met Monday with visiting Pakistani prime minister Shaukat Aziz, while the tourism ministers of the two countries signed a tourism cooperation agreement.
Karamanlis called Aziz a "good friend of Greece", noting that the Pakistani prime minister had lived in Greece for many years. Aziz, who holds an MBA from the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi (1969), started his career as a credit officer for Citibank in Karachi in 1969, and served in various countries including Greece, the US, the UK, Malaysia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore.
The Greek premier told reporters after the meeting that Greek-Pakistani bilateral relations were on an "upward course", adding that his talks with Aziz covered a wide range of topics, including regional issues, as well as the challenges faced by the international community, such as terrorism. He said the both ascertained in their talks the interest of both countries for further development of their bilateral relations in the sectors of commerce and investments.
Karamanlis also noted that the Greece-Pakistan Joint Ministe-rial Committee, which coordinates such efforts, would meet soon, and added that there was also cooperation in the sector of culture, citing more specifically the programme for the Kalash, whose roots trace back to Alexander the Great.
Also discussed were developments in the European Union, Turkey's EU prospects, Balkan issues, the Cyprus problem, the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.
Aziz, in turn, said that both peoples had roots as back as 700 B.C., adding that the arrival of Alexander the Great in his country had left strong traces on its people and civilisation.
He also stressed the volition for expanding relations between the two countries, and referred more particularly to tourism, agricultural products such as olive oil, and commerce.
Aziz highlighted the fact that he was accompanied on his Athens visit by a group of Pakistani businessmen, and expressed hope says for increasing cooperation and agreements would be found at the meetings they will have here with Greek businessmen
The Pakistani premier said that Greece, as a member of the European Union, plays an important role, adding that Athens has played a significant role also on the issues of Iraq and Afghanistan.
He reiterated his country's devotion to peace and stability in the region, adding that matters concerning India and other country's in Pakistan's region were also discussed.
On terrorism, Aziz strongly sided with combatting the phenomenon in all its forms.
He noted that a large Pakistani community lived in Greece, contributing to the country's economic life, and thanked Greece for its hospitality.
Earlier, Aziz was received by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.
Foreign minister to meet Pakistani premier on Tuesday: Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will meet on Tuesday visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, a foreign ministry press release said on Monday.
Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) President George Papandreou will also meet Aziz on Tuesday, according to a party announcement.
Pakistani PM Aziz gives lecture on globalisation and Pakistan's role: Visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz gave a lecture at a down town Athens hotel on Monday evening on globalisation and Pakistan's role.
Premier Aziz expressed his country's opposition to the proliferation of nuclear weapons but also its support to the peaceful development of nuclear energy under terms and prerequisites set by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Aziz termed Pakistan as "a responsible nuclear power" and explained that it was India's nuclear programme that compelled Islamabad to follow the path of the development of nuclear weapons. The prime minister of Pakistan also underlined the need for the crisis surrounding Iran to be solved with peaceful means and for the causes of the growth of terrorism to be combatted.
He also underlined the need for the settlement of the Kashmir problem in a way which will find Pakistan, India and the people of Kashmir agreeable, while he stressed that the electoral preferences of the Palestinian people must be respected.
Aziz also underlined his country's high rate of growth and the quality of its democracy. He also referred to Greek-Pakistani relations from the time of antiquity while he reminded that Greek architect Doxiadis designed the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad.
 Premier Karamanlis to chair OECD's ministerial meeting in Paris
16/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will chair an OECD ministerial meeting in Paris, to be held on May 23-24, within the framework of the Greek chairmanship of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Speaking to reporters during a press conference held in Paris on Monday, Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, accompanied by OECD's secretary-general Donald J. Jonhston, said the agenda of the meeting focused on the international economic situation and outlook for the global economy, as well as ensuring world prosperity and improving economic performance, implementing reforms for growth and employment, OECD's future outlook and trade policies.
The Greek minister said the main issue of this year's meeting was "strengthening prosperity worldwide" and would focus on reforms that could made the world a safer place and the global economy more dynamic.
"The meeting is a significant opportunity for member-states to exchange views on international economic developments, to discuss some successful policies, to discuss economic policy priorities and to further enhance cooperation and coordination of policies," Alogoskoufis said.
Global growth is strong for the fourth consecutive year, although significant imbalances needed to be dealt with effecitively, such as high oil prices, fiscal deficits or trade surpluses and pressures on asset prices, he noted.
The OECD ministers will also examine the nature of structural policies needed to reduce imbalances and generate sustainable long-term growth. They will also exchange views on policies to support innovation, research and development, updating educational systems and life-long education. All these issues are directly related with improving productivity.
The Greek minister said policies aimed to boost growth and employment needed careful planning, strong social cohesion and determination by national governments.
 EU General Affairs Council discusses Iran, Middle East
BRUSSELS, 16/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)European proposals on the issue of Iran's nuclear energy, developments in the Middle East and what will become of the European constitution in the future were the main issues discussed here on Monday at the European Union's Council of General Affairs. Greece was represented at the meeting by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and Deputy Minister Yiannis Valynakis.
Speaking to the press on the issue of Iran's nuclear energy, the foreign minister said that "we are in the middle of a considerable diplomatic initiative" whose aim is for Iran "to have the nuclear energy it needs and for it to be, in parallel, a foregone conclusion that it will use it for peaceful purposes".
Commenting on the European proposals, Bakoyannis said that they comprise a package to Iran, which has both an economic and a scientific aspect.
As regards the nature of the package, she said that it will be binding for Iran and clarified, however, that the term binding concerns the diplomatic aspect of the issue and not the use of force.
On the question of developments in the Middle East, the "25" appeared to agree with the need for the creation of a special fund in support of the Palestinians which will function independently from the Hamas-controlled Palestinian government.
On the part of Greece, Bakoyannis stressed the need for the activation of the EU to meet the needs of a humanitarian nature of the Palestinian Authority, while also stressing the need for a positive response from the government of Israel as well.
Defence Minister Meimarakis: Improving the procedures of the European Defence Organisation, the EU's military potential, the EU's presence in the Congo, Sudan and Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as the more effective provision of aid by the EU in handling emergencies and disasters were issues examined by the EU's foreign and defence ministers. On the part of the defence ministry, Greece was represented by Defence Minister Vangelis Meimarakis.
Addressing the meeting, Meimarakis said that Greece is ready to participate in the planning of a body which will promote and implement the EU's ambitious targets, particularly in the sector of research and technology.
Referring to the issue of military potential, the defence minister said that "the naval forces of the EU, being in a state of readiness, remain the most effective way for immediate reaction."
As regards the EU's presence during the election process in the Congo, following a request by the UN, the Council pointed out that it must be reliable and have clear-cut targets and a suitable exit policy.
Meimarakis reiterated at the Council Greece's intention for active contribution with a C-130 aircraft and with the corresponding support group in the Congo.
 Deputy FM Yiannis Valinakis participates in EU General Affairs Council discussions
BRUSSELS, 16/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valynakis participated in discussions held in the framework of the European Union's General Affairs Council here on Monday that focused on communication, the need for dialogue with European citizens on the future of Europe and transparency in the operation of the EU's institutional bodies and organisations.
Valynakis also had a meeting with European Commission vice president for communication issues Margot Walstrom.
The active involvement of citizens, through a process of substantive and corporate dialogue, in the discussion taking place at European level on the future of the EU, was the issue dominating the deputy foreign minister's talks.
Valynakis discussed with his counterparts and Walstrom the need for a common and systematic effort by all to restore the confidence of citizens in the European venture.
In this context, he termed both the so-called "Plan D" concerning the batch of proposals submitted by the European Commission on an open and productive dialogue with citizens, and the White Paper on the European Communication Policy, considerable initiatives in the right direction.
During th working luncheon for the ministers, the deputy foreign minister had the opportunity of presenting the main points of the action programme planned and implemented on a national level by the Greek government in the framework of the "Plan D", utilising in parallel the conjuncture of the 25th anniversary of Greece's participation in the EU.
"Our target is the Europe of Citizens. Meaning, Europe that will respond to the needs and concerns of its citizens, Europe that will concern them directly and will urge them to participate actively in the unifying undertaking," Valynakis said.
The deputy minister and Walstrom also referred to the enlargement process, particularly for the countries of southeastern Europe. Valynakis reiterated Greece's steadfast position for support for the European prospects of all the countries in our neighbourhood with the purpose of turning it into a European neighbourhood of peace, security and prosperity.
 US-Turkey relations the focus of news program in Washington
WASHINGTON, 16/5/2006 (ANA)Relations between Washington and Ankara were the focus of a special television program here late last week, entitled "America and Turkey: The Uncertain Partnership", which was broadcast across Turkey by the CNN Turk network.
The program included a live segment from Istanbul and a studio audience in Washington, while guests included Amb. Daniel Fried, US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs; Amb. Marc Grossman, a former US ambassador to Turkey, as well as former Turkish ambassador to Washington Faruk Logoglu and Namik Tan, Turkey's foreign ministry spokesman.
According to Fried, Turkey's success demonstrates that the theory regarding a "clash of civilisations" is absolutely erroneous, while noting that the US and Turkey are cooperating more and more against the PKK, which he referred to as a terrorist group.
Moreover, he reiterated that Washington seeks a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis and not a military solution.
On his part, when asked to comment on what was termed "Turkey's human rights deficits", Grossman merely noted that Turkey will never become the United States or Switzerland. "The question is to what degree it will become a tolerant and pluralistic society." He also said that Washington is well-aware of Ankara's sensitivity vis-à-vis the PKK issue.
Finally, Grossman estimated that no one should expect US recognition of the Turkish-Cypriot pseudo-state.
Both Turkish diplomats agreed that more actions by the US side against the PKK will be decisive in improving Turkish public opinion vis-à-vis American policy, as the issue is particularly sensitive for the Turkish people.
 PASOK leader has phone contact with IAEA director
ATHENS, 16/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader and Socialist International (SI) president George Papandreou had a new telephone conversation on Monday with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei.
According to PASOK Spokesman Nikos Athanassakis, the discussion between the two men concerned developments regarding Iran, under the prism also of the process of shaping the European Union's proposals.
Papandreou briefed ElBaradei on the meeeting he had last week with Iran's Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani, while he insisted that "a solution to the problem must be diplomatic and is feasible."
 Antonaros on the seismographic research off the coast of Crete
ATHENS, 16/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Monday denied reports that Ankara had demanded the right to jointly issue permission for seismographic research off the coasts of the island of Crete, south Aegean, saying that they had no basis in fact.
Responding to questions regarding the report, he cited a statement issued by the foreign ministry on Friday.
In this, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos noted that "the strong seismicity of the entire Mediterranean is well known, as is the need for continuous scientific monitoring. In the specific case, this purely scientific seismographic research is being conducted by a German university which applied for permission to Greece".
Antonaros added that research was and is conducted within the scheduled period.
The research is carried out by the University of Kiel, Germany and the ship “Poseidon” based on a permit granted in April.
 Alternate government spokesman comments on Deputy Ilhan Ahmed
ATHENS, 16/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Alternate Government Spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, commenting on the government's reaction to the fact that the Deputy of the ruling New Democracy party Ilhan Ahmed "jointly signed an appeal by 606 representatives of the moslem minority who call themselves a 'Turkish minority'," stressed the government's sensitivity on issues concerning minority protection.
"The sensitivity of the Greek government on issues concerning the protection of minorities is a given fact. In Thrace, the present government is building on a daily basis, with its policy, a democratic society that is a model which is absolutely compatible with the principles and values of the European family," the spokesman said.
Antonaros further said that "every elected representative of the (moslem) minority has the right, in the framework of the constitution and of laws, to express his views and to participate in public dialogue."
He added that "the isolation promoted by a big section of the mass media, in the person of the deputy in question, is selective, since this text has been signed by hundreds of representatives of the minority, including certain elected representatives of the minority in the previous Parliament who came from the present-day opposition parties."
Antonaros said that "what is taking place is very hypocritical" and, replying to a question on whether "the right of self-determining nationality is recognised for the deputy in question", stressed that "Greece has a specific position on the issue that is internationally acceptable."
 Messages on the 65th anniversary of the Battle of Crete
16/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Events commemorating the 65th anniversary of the Battle of Crete began in Sfakia, on the south Aegean island of Crete, and will culminate on Sunday, May 21 with the reenactment of the battle at the historic Maleme airfield.
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in a message on Monday to mark the Battle of Crete anniversary referred to the role and significance of the Cretan and allied resistance and to Greece’s role today.
He mentioned that the sacrifice of the Cretan people not only delayed the advance of the Nazi German troops in a crucial period for the outcome of the war but showed that the ideals of freedom and national independence when they inspire and instil courage into a people can cancel out any advantage that military supremacy might have.
Greece today is a force for peace and stability in the wider region of SE Europe and the Middle East, promotes progress, growth and the values of freedom, democracy and the dignity of the peoples, the prime minister said. This commitment undertaken by all Greeks is the best tangible way to honor the Fighters of Crete and all those Greeks and foreigners who gave their lives for freedom, he concluded.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard in his message stressed that many of those who witnessed these events 65 years ago are no longer amongst us. Their most important legacy was the strong and warm friendship between Greece and Australia forged by adversities and strengthened by close personal ties and the important contribution of the Greek community in Australia, he mentioned.
Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark said in her message that the ties forged during the Battle of Crete were an important basis for relations between Greece and New Zealand. "Even though many years have passed, the commitment we share on the principles of freedom, justice and equality and our duty to defend them still stand. We will continue to cooperate on the new world challenges for peace and security so that we won’t have ever again to face the ordeals and sacrifices of 1941," she stressed.
Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis stressed in her message that the Battle of Crete is a historic symbol, a symbol of resistance. The memory of the Cretan struggle, a struggle known worldwide as the Battle of Crete, is still alive in spite of the fact that many years have gone by since the invasion of Crete by the Axis powers, Bakoyannis said.
The fighters of Crete will never be forgotten and time cannot erase the courage of those people, men and women, who made the ultimate sacrifice, according to British MP for Islwyn Don Touhig and a former ministry of defence secretary until May 2006.
The Battle of Crete began in the morning of May 20, 1941 when German forces launched an unprecedented airborne invasion of Crete, code-named "Merkur". The operation was successful in that it wrested control of the island from Allied forces, although the victory was so costly in terms of paratrooper casualties that the Wehrmacht never again attempted a major airborne operation.
The stiff resistance by ANZAC troops and local Cretans is also credited, by many historians, with delaying the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.
 Government on Pakistani abductions, judicial investigation
ATHENS, 16/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The government on Monday stressed that there was no change to its position on the Pakistani abductions issue since the previous week.
Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros reiterated, meanwhile, that the judicial investigation into the affair was being handled as a priority issue at the government's request.
The spokesman also denied that then public order minister George Voulgarakis had secret meetings with U.S. officials, stressing that all the minister's meetings had been openly announced.
On Friday, in the wake of a decision by the public prosecutor's office to press charges against unknown parties for the abduction of Pakistani nationals in Athens, Antonaros had said that the government would wait until the judicial investigation was fully concluded.
He also underlined that the charges had not been filed against any specific suspects.
On Thursday, Supreme Court Prosecutor Dimitris Linos announced that the public prosecutors' office was pressing criminal charges against unknown persons for the Pakistani abductions, based on the report of investigating public prosecutor Nikos Degaitis. This found indications that two officers of the Greek intelligence service EYP might be involved in the affair and that the abductions were carried out by members of the Greek state services.
The case will now go to an examining magistrate, who will investigate the extent of their involvement, if any.
Degaitis had been assigned the case last December and instructed to look into the allegations of 20 Pakistani nationals that they had been abducted held for interrogation by Greek and British intelligence agents last summer, after the terror attacks in London.
The abduction and interrogation claims had earlier been denied by Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis and by the Pakistani Embassy in Greece, which said that it had received no complaints from the relatives or friends of the alleged victims, as well as Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao when he was in Greece for a quadrilateral meeting on preventing organised crime two weeks ago. British foreign secretary Jack Straw also denied the allegations as "utter nonsense".
Voulgarakis comments on reports: Asked to comment on the latest developments concerning the affair, Culture Minister George Voulgarakis referred reporters to statements he had made in Parliament at the time.
"I spoke before Parliament in detail. My statements at that time still stand," he said.
Regarding calls from main opposition PASOK asking for his resignation, meanwhile, the minister said that PASOK seemed to do nothing else in past months.
 Deputy DM receives commander of Naples joint allied command
ATHENS, 16/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Deputy Defence Minister Vassilis Mihaloliakos on Monday received a courtesy call from the commander of the Joint Allied Command of Naples and commander of the American Naval Forces of Europe, Admiral Harry G. Ulrich, who is on an official visit to Greece.
Issues of joint interest concerning the modern-day geostrategic role of NATO were discussed during the meeting.
 Foreign ministry's Skylakakis speaks on 'Greece's economic diplomacy'
ATHENS, 16/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Foreign Ministry's International Economic Relations (DOS) and Development Cooperation (AS) Secretary General Theodoros Skylakakis, in a debate on Monday on the theme "Greece's economic diplomacy: Management and prospects", said that "the extroversion of the Greek economy constitutes an overall effort, at the head of which is the prime minister."
He said that "over the past two years, a serious effort is being made with openings in the Balkans, China, the Arab World and Turkey."
"The sectors of services and energy acquire increased importance in the international globalised environment. Regional development has particular value for the support of small and medium-sized businesses. Economic diplomacy weaves a web of mutual relations and interests which can contribute in the more general improvement of relations," Skylakakis added.
Taking part in the debate, which was organised by the Insitute of International Economic Relations (IDOS), were, among others main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) deputy and former deputy foreign minister Andreas Loverdos, Greek-Turkish Chamber of Commerce President P. Koutsikos, and Athens Univesrity professor and adviser to the prime minister on issues of public administration A. Makrydimitris.
 ANA presented with Botsis Award
ATHENS, 16/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Monday attended a journalistic awards ceremony organised by the Athanasios V. Botsis Foundation, bestowing several of the awards to noted journalists.
Among others, Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos presented the Athens News Agency (ANA) with an honorary distinction for its more than 100 years of operation and contributions to newsgathering.
ANA-MPA General Director George Tambakopoulos accepted the award on behalf of the Agency.
 Macedonia-Thrace minister gives interview to Serb newspaper
BELGRADE, 16/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Minister of Macedonia and Thrace George Kalantzis gave an interview to the Belgrade-based newspaper "Politika" titled "Thessaloniki the bridge of the Balkans" and published in Monday's edition.
Kalantzis referred in his interview to prospects of developing inter-Balkan cooperation and stressed the important role that Greece can play in this direction.
"Greece is the only European Union member-state and it has great experience in issues concerning European adjustment policy with 'European legislation'. At the same time, the investing activity of Greek companies in southeastern Europe is presenting a considerable momentum. Greece is the main foreign investor in Albania, Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and one of the three greatest investors in Romania," the minister said.
 Gov't tenders first private electricity plant
ATHENS, 16/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The government on Monday tendered its first private electricity output plant, which should begin operations in 2009, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said.
"This is a major development for the economy, for growth and energy. The conditions have been ensured through rules of transparency for large-scale investments that in coming years will exceed four billion euros in the energy sector," the minister said in April when he first announced the scheme.
Another two private plants are due to be tendered at the end of 2006 and in April 2007.
Total investment in the three natural-gas fired plants is estimated at 750 million euros in current prices in the tender called for the development ministry by DESMIE, the state's electricity transmission system manager.
In the current tender, whose winner should be named early in 2007, bids should fall within a range of 75,000 and 92,000 euros per megawatt per year.
The deadline for bids is due in November, six months after publication of the tender in the European Union's official publication.
 New gov't schemes to aid young jobless
ATHENS, 16/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The government on Monday announced two new schemes to help unemployed youth start up businesses.
Under the programmes by the Labour Manpower Recruitment Organisation, 12,000 euros have been earmarked each for 1,000 jobless self-employed in Attica and Thessaloniki to set up a business in other prefectures.
If the business remains afloat for at least 18 months, the owners will receive an added 3,000 euros.
The second programme is for 1,000 self-employed jobless from large families, with a grant of 12,000 euros each.
Endorsing the programmes were National Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and Deputy Employment Minister Gerassimos Yiakoumatos.
Yiakoumatos also endoresed an emergency payment of 800 euros each for 170 people made redundant at Athens-quoted Sex Form.
 Development minister comments on inflation in April
ATHENS, 16/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and Deputy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou said on Monday that according to data announced by the National Statistical Service on inflation in April, 2006, it appears that the "housewife's basket" is constantly improving since the greatest part of commodities and services comprising it are presenting increases which are clearly below inflation, in contrast to what was taking place in the corresponding month in 2003.
They said in a joint statement that despite the repercussions from the increase in international oil prices by 0.82 percentage points, inflation in April was contained at the same levels with those in March 2006 (3.3 percent).
"Inflation in our country throughout the entire period of the New Governance was shaped at the lowest levels compared to the corresponding ones in 2003, while the difference from the corresponding eurozone rate -0.9 percentage points in April, 2006, compared to 1.8 percentage points in the corresponding month in 2003, when repercussions on fuel prices for inflation was negative- is also decreasing," they noted.
 Merchant marine minister congratulates Polemis for election as ICS and ISF chief
ATHENS, 16/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Merchant marine minister Manolis Kefaloyannis on Monday sent a letter of congratulations to Spyros Polemis for his election as Chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and President of the International Shipping Federation (ISF), noting that the "selection of a Greek for such an important position in the global shipping community" and constituted indirect recognition of Greek shipping in the vanguard of global maritime throughout the ages, as well as its important position in international developments as well as in the regulatory sector and entrepreneurship.
He said that the ministry and its leadership acknowledge the immense contribution of the Greeks, who have distinguished themselves in the international shipping arena, with their election to the highest posts of the international maritime organisations and who, with their accomplishments, advance the interests of Greek merchant shipping from within their dedication to the international dialogue and cooperation.
The minister noted that similiar distinctions ahve been the election of Efthymos Mitropoulos to the post of secretary general of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in elections among the representatives of the 166 IMO member countries (who assumed the two-year post on January 1, 2004), and the award of Epaminondas Embiricos, chairman of the London-based Greek Shipping Cooperation Committee (known as The Committee), as the "Seatrade Personality 2006" by the internationally-respected Seatrade maritime organisation.
 20-year lease signed for Olympics Badminton Hall
ATHENS, 16/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)A 20-year lease for the Badminton Hall at the Goudi Olympic Centre was signed on Monday between Hellenic Olympic Properties SA and a consortium of three companies in the entertainment and recreation industries. Hellenic Olympic Properties chairman Christos Hatziemmanouil said the state would receive €12.5 million under the deal and would also save on estimated annual costs of €1.2 million for the facility's maintenance.
The members of the consortium include event organisers Adam Productions, owned by Mihalis Adam, club owners and event organisers Half Note Jazz Club owned by George and Panagiotis Georgas and Allou Fun Park, Greece's largest amusement park, owned by Dimitris Kontogiannis.
An agreement leasing the property to the three-member consortium was signed in the presence of Culture Minister George Voulgarakis within another former Olympic facility, the Press Centre in Maroussi.
The interior of the Olympic Badminton Hall covers 8,200 square metres and covers 5,945 square metres in a property of 25,500 square metres in total. The consortium, which was short-listed among five bidders in the first phase of an international tender, intends to convert the structure into an arts, theatre and entertainment centre that will form part of the Metropolitan park that is envisaged to eventually arise at the Goudi Olympic Complex.
Voulgarakis on agreement: At a press conference afterward, Voulgarakis said the signature of the lease marked the start of a new era for the post-Games use of Olympics infrastructure and vindicated the government's strategy for the use of Olympic properties, based on the three parameters of growth, new jobs and quality of life for citizens.
Asked about the long delays in making use of Olympic properties, meanwhile, he said that this was unavoidable because the government had found no plan prepared for the post-Olympic use of the properties when it took over power in March 2004, just month's before the Athens Olympics took place.
Hatziemmanouil also announced that good progress was being made in the processing of tenders for the disposal of eight out of the remaining 15 Olympic properties.
 Development minister meets outgoing SEB president
ATHENS, 16/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas on Monday met with the outgoing president of the Federation of Greek Industries (SEB), Oddyseas Kyriakopoulos, in light of SEB's annual general assembly on Tuesday, at which the Federation's new president will be elected.
"Mr. Kyriakopoulos, after three terms, is leaving SEB's presidency. It was extremely polite on his part the fact that in view of his departure, he also visited Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, National Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and the Development Ministry and met with me," Sioufas said following the meeting.
 Greek mining industry reports intense activity in 2005
ATHENS, 16/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The year 2005 was a period of intense activity for the Greek mining industry, Efthimios Vidalis, president of the Federation of Mining Enterprises, said on Monday.
Addressing a general assembly of the Federation, Vidalis said the driving force behind last year's positive performance was the maintainance of high demand for raw materials and mining products and their relatively higher prices in international markets.
On the other hand, however, a return to pre-Olympic levels in Greece negatively affected the construction sector and the mining industry, Vidalis said. He undelrined that high shipping fares and record high oil prices pushed production costs upwards negatively affecting the industry's international competitiveness.
The mining industry covered the country's raw material supplies in aluminium, cement, lignite and other mining products, while it recorded significant exports in perlite, betonite, magnesium, marbles, etc.
The assembly agreed it was significant for the industry's competitiveness and growth to effectively deal with new challenges facing the sector, such as bureaucratic hurdles in licensing, lack of town planning legislation and non-implementation of EU directives into national law.
 PASOK deputies table question regarding ferry boat routes
ATHENS, 16/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Nineteen main opposition PASOK deputies on Monday tabled a question in Parliament requesting information on the coastal shipping sector, particularly ferry boat routes between the Greek mainland and islands.
In requesting the appearance of the relevant merchant marine minister, the PASOK deputies referred to the "unfavorable situation in coastal shipping and prospects ahead of the summer season" following a ministry decision to deregulate fares on the ferry routes, among others.
 Athens Bourse Close: Stocks drop, tracking markets abroad
ATHENS, 16/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Athens share index closed at 4,102.05 points, showing a decline of 2.47%. Turnover was 363.3 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalisation shares ended 2.51% down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 2.71% lower; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 2.43% down.
Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 224 to 62 with 30 remaining unchanged.
Bond Market Close: Buyers lag sellers
Foreign Exchange Rates: Tuesday
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.292
 The Olive Tree Routes awarded title of CoE "Major European Cultural Route"
16/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)"The Olive Tree Routes" were formally awarded the title of "Major European Cultural Route" during a ceremony at the European Cultural Centre in Delphi on the weekend. These routes share the olive tree as common element of culture and dialogue among people in the Euro-Mediterranean area. The title of "Major European Cultural Route" was presented by Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, Council of Europe Director of Education, Culture and Heritage, in the presence of culture minister George Voulgarakis.
The ceremony was held in the framework of a Forum on the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe as geopolitical instruments for international dialogue, sustainable development, cultural tourism and European integration.
Culture ministry secretary general Christos Zachopoulos highlighted the importance of this distinction, particularly given that 2006 has been declared the "Year of Olive Oil" by the Greek government, while development ministry secretary general Manousos Voloudakis noted the importance and uniqueness of the olive tree, the economic aspect of its products, and their significance in nature and throughout Greece's centuries-old civilisation and culture.
The Council of Europe's relevant committee recently awarded the title of "Major Cultural Route of the Council of Europe" to The Routes of the Olive Tree, organised by the homonymous Cultural Foundation (www.olivetreeroute.gr) and the Messinia Chamber of Commerce. This honorary distinction was awarded following nomination by the Greek culture ministry's Directorate of International Relations and Organisations, and constitutes a further step in the international recognition of the route, which was elected the "2nd World Cultural Itinerary" by UNESCO in 2003.
The Routes of the Olive Tree are itineraries of sustainable development and intercultural dialogue, realized around a common theme. They consist in the rediscovery and recognition of this diverse natural heritage, linked to the technical, economic, social and cultural development of the civilisations inhabiting the Mediterranean basin since ancient times up until today. The initiative rests on the importance of the presence of the Olive Tree in the Mediterranean as an element, which unifies the people who live in its environment. These itineraries work towards a common valorising of the history of this tree, for the benefit of oil-producing regions, and towards expanding the universal symbol of prosperity, spirituality, and peace that it represents.
These itineraries wish to create "interactive synergies" between conservation, tourism and development by: These itineraries wish to create "interactive synergies" between conservation, tourism and development by: • favouring dialogue between the regions concerned, between developed areas and those in difficulty, between urban and rural spaces • encouraging thematic tourism and sustainable development through setting up exemplary initiatives in oil-producing regions • carrying out an inventory of the material and immaterial heritage of the olive tree, and increasing its value • contributing to public awareness and educating young people • leading specialised, multidisciplinary research on the widened theme of the olive tree.
The Routes of the Olive Tree are part of a common initiative by the Cultural Foundation The Routes of the Olive Tree and the Chamber of Commerce in Messinia, with the cooperation of an important network of international organisations: Greek and Mediterranean Chambers of Industry and Commerce, European universities and research centres, Olive Tree Museums and Non-Governmental Organisations from olive-growing countries. It has been placed under the aegis of the International Oil-producing Council, of Hellenic Ministries of Culture, Development, Tourism and Foreign Affairs, of the Peloponnesian Region, of the Athens Town Council, of the International Federation of Motorcycling, etc.
The first cultural itinerary of The Routes of the Olive Tree was inaugurated in 1999 in the ancient town of Pylos, where tablets of linear B writing were discovered with the ideogram of the Olive tree (which became the logo of the Foundation): 16 000 kilometres and 40 days of motorbike circuits, realized from Greece to France, passing through Cyprus, Israel, Egypt and Italy. These routes, which take place once a year, are made up of a course of relays across all of the olive-growing Mediterranean countries with the participation of "Friends of the Olive Tree" and the motorcycle clubs of the IFM. The journey is divided into several stages and continues towards several destinations, from a predetermined town to another town of arrival, where all the participants meet. The meeting of the “Olive Tree Messengers” is celebrated through several events, organised in cooperation with local organisations.
Beyond the Mediterranean countries, The Routes of the Olive Tree have, since 2004, participated in the promotion of the olive tree in non-olive-growing countries, such as Austria, Germany, France, Switzerland etc. These particular routes are called Eleodromia.
Photograph and painting exhibitions, commercial and cultural meetings, olive oil competitions, information days etc. have been achieved in Greece and various countries, as well as the publication of editions about the history and the importance of the Olive tree and the nutritional value of its products, and the publication of calendars.
For example, from 2001 to 2003, a series of cultural and commercial meetings and exhibitions, entitled "Life Cycles under the Light of the Olive Tree" were organised in Marseille, Bal Amand, Topruk, Montreal, Paris, Constantine, Damask, Moura, Brussels et Izmir, in the framework of the "European heritage Days". The first "Festival of the Routes of the Olive Tree" took place from the 14th to 19th December 2004 in the Exhibition Hall of the "Syntagma" metro in Athens, with 5 days of exhibitions, educational workshops, round tables, musical animations and culinary tasting sessions dedicated to the history and the civilisation of the Olive Tree.
The euro-mediterranean importance of the theme: Through its geographic and historic extent, the olive tree has not only marked the landscape, but also the daily life of Mediterranean civilisations; it is associated with their rites and religious traditions, and it has influenced their habits and techniques.
A mythical and sacred tree for the three monotheistic religions, a material and spiritual reference for the whole of the Mediterranean, a universal symbol of peace and reconciliation, the Olive tree represents a wide variety of living natural and cultural landscapes. Together with wine and wheat, the Olive Tree has enabled communities in the Mediterranean, thanks to maritime or terrestrial trade routes, to contribute to the formation of harbour towns such as Marseilles, Genoa, Barcelona, Piraeus. The ports and towns of the Mediterranean, both East and West, North and South, the bazaars and markets, the olive groves and the both ancient and modern oil factories, all constitute an exceptional common heritage, important witnesses to the history and development of technology, soap-production factories etc.
Today, it is in the Mediterranean that 98% of the world production of olive oil takes place. The techniques and traditions continue to cross over around the culture of the Olive Tree. Globally, the production of olive oil plays a deciding role for economies and employment, as well as for the biodiversity of Mediterranean regions. The areas with olive tree plantations cover almost 4.5 million hectares, whilst the sector includes 2,240,000 producers.
 The Olive Tree Routes and the 2008 Olympic Games
16/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)In the years to come, the Council of Europe's Olive Tree Routes Foundation wishes to pursue and develop its issues and activities along the maritime routes of the Mediterranean and beyond the Euro-Mediterranean olive-growing region. In 2006, it will inaugurate the first Maritime Route of the Olive Tree, towards Mediterranean ports by following the traces of the distribution of the olive tree and of merchant vessels. Another significant event is forecast for the 2008 Olympic Games, in Beijing. On this occasion, the Routes of the Olive Tree and Eleodromia will depart from the Ancient town of Pylos and Ancient Olympia in the direction of Asia, where they will meet the Silk Routes to transport the Olympic Flame.
More specifically, according to Messinia chamber of Commerce president George Karambatos, 5,000 motorcyclists from all over the world will depart from Pylos for Beijing, and from there they will return via Moscow, where, at a special ceremony, "1,000 olive trees will decorate the Red Square, with 1,000 violins playing in the background and 1,000 doves will be set free to convey a message of peace to all the world".
The actions envisaged aim to reinforce intercultural dialogue, as well as to engage or develop international cooperation.
Other initiatives promoting the civilisation of the olive tree are also being developed:
History: The Cultural Routes programme was launched by the Council of Europe in 1987. The initial concept was to demonstrate in a visible way, by means of a journey through space and time, how the heritage of the different countries of Europe represented a shared cultural heritage.
The Cultural Routes also provide a concrete demonstration of the fundamental principles of the Council of Europe: human rights, cultural democracy, European cultural diversity and identity, dialogue, mutual exchange and enrichment across boundaries and centuries.
he first example, the Santiago de Compostela Pilgrim Routes, served initially as a source of inspiration, then became the reference point for the development of future activities.
The main aims are:
Major Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe to date to date are:
• The Santiago De Compostela Pilgrim Routes ; Pilgrim Routes
• The Mozart Route; Historical and Legendary Figures of Europe
• The Legacy of Al-Andalus
• The Route of the Castilian Language and its Expansion in the Mediterranean: The Sephardic Routes
• The Hansa
• Parks and Gardens, landscape
• The Viking Routes; Vikings and Normans
• The Via Francigena; Pilgrim Routes
• Saint Martin de Tours, a great European figure, a Symbol of sharing
• The Jewish Heritage Routes
• The Clunisian Sites in Europe
• The Olive Routes
• The Via Regia
Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe
• Architecture without Frontiers: Rural Habitat
• The Schickhardt Route; Historical and Legendary Figures of Europe
• The Wenzel and Vauban Routes; Military Architecture in Europe
• The Iron Route in The Pyrenees; Industrial Heritage in Europe
 Kavala and Thassos projected at events in Vienna
VIENNA, 16/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Two major events projecting Kavala Prefecture and Thassos island, Macedonia, which took place over the weekend at Vienna's historic Town Hall, were paricularly successful.
The events were held at the initiative of Kavala's prefectural administration in cooperation with the "Federation of Greek Societies of Austria" and ANA-MPA.
The aim of the events was for representatives of Kavala to present to the Austrian public, travel agencies, businesspersons, mass media representatives and to Austria's Greek community, this region of Greece which possesses a historic and cultural past, present and future, as well as its unique tourism and development potential.
The events, which are part of Kavala Prefecture's "opening" to the tourism and business markets of Scandinavia and Central Europe, included audiovisual projection of Kavala Prefecture and Thassos island, reference to their cultural and spiritual life, and live Greek music.
In his address, Kavala Prefect Theodoros Kalliontzis stressed the great importance which is given to the prefecture's projection and to the benefits which have already been gained from similar events which were held in Denmark and Sweden last year. He also noted the regular participation of Kavala Prefecture and of Thassos island in the previous years in Vienna's International Tourism Exhibition.
 Part of relics of St. Nicholas given to Syros Metropolis by Milan church
16/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece was on the Aegean island of Syros on Sunday, May 14 to receive a part of the holy relics of Saint Nikolaos offered by the Church of Milan to the Holy Metropolis of Syros.
Addressing the faithful in the church of St. Nikolaos in Ermoupolis, Syros, the Archbishop said that the holy relics are surrounded with love, respect and honor.
The Archbishop expressed deep thanks to the Roman Catholic Church and the Cardinal of Milan in particular for the offer of the relics and congratulated Metropolitan Bishop Dorotheos of Syros for his efforts.
The Archbishop stated that we pray that the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics will find their lost unity and the division of the Christians will be lifted. He also noted that the theological dialogue, which was interrupted 15 years ago, would resume next September by joint decision by the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Christians.
The Archbishop stated that there is great hope that the outcome of the dialogue will be the union of the Churches. The obstacles are immense, but we believe in miracles, which we witness every day in our lives and in the Church, he stressed.
 Transport minister discusses changes in Road Traffic Code
16/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Upcoming changes in the Road Traffic Code were the focus of attention in talks held on Monday between Transport and Communications Minister Mihalis Liapis and professionals from the road transport sector.
During the meeting, held in the framework of public dialogue that got under way last week, views were exchanged on the entire spectrum concerning road safety and the smooth functioning of the city.
Emphasis was placed on speed limits along motorways for professional vehicles, the amendment of sanctions for public use trucks, the revision of the Point System and the use of safety belts.
Both sides also raised the issue of illegal parking, stressing that measures must be taken so that the phenomenon can be handled radically.
The minister underlined at this point that the new Road Traffic Code will include strict measures, even reaching the temporary withdrawal of driving licences, particularly for those drivers who block special ramps for handicapped people and obstruct their movement.
 Increase in smoking in past decade, survey shows
16/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)A large proportion of 41.7 percent of the Greek population aged 14 and up are cigarette smokers, according to a survey of family budgets for the 2004-2005 period conducted by the National Statistics Service of Greece (ESYE) released on Monday.
According to the study, men were more frequent smokers than women, while average consumption of cigarettes was also shown to increase with age, up to 54 years of age.
Also, the average monthly consumption of cigarettes has been on the rise over the past decade. Between 1994 and 1999, average monthly consumption rose by 7.0 percent, and between 1999 and 2004 average monthly consumption rose by 4.0 percent, while in the decade 1994-2004 the average monthly consumption rose by 10.0 percent, reaching 496 cigarettes per month.
More specifically, men accounted for 52.2 percent of the smokers from ages 14 and up, while 11.4 percent of Greeks over 75 years of age were smokers.
Also, 14.6 percent of cigarette smokers started smoking as minors, while 8.3 percent of 14-year-olds, 10.1 percent of 15-year-olds, 14.1 percent of 16-year-olds, 14.4 percent of 17-year-olds, and 27.5 percent of 18-year-olds were also smokers.
 Commerce Minister says indications positive about hydrocarbon deposits
NICOSIA, 16/5/2006 (CNA/ANA/MPA)Indications regarding hydrocarbon deposits in the sea area south of Cyprus are positive and the Cypriot government, in utmost secrecy and protecting its national interests, is proceeding with the evaluation of the island's energy potential.
Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism George Lillikas told a press conference Monday that there are possibilities of finding hydrocarbon deposits in the southeastern Mediterranean, according to the results of research in Egypt.
He added that the Eastern Mediterranean would become an important centre for international oil companies in the future and that in five to ten years gigantic steps were expected in the area on a research level.
''We do not want to raise premature and high hopes among the people. What we can say at this point is that the first messages we received are positive and encouraging,'' he said.
 Parliamentary elections - Five days to go
NICOSIA, 16/5/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)With only five days to go before the parliamentary elections, political parties and their candidates are bracing themselves for what promises to be yet another week full of statements and counterstatements, on issues that have dominated the political arena in Cyprus in the past few months.
Some 500.000 Cypriots will go to the polls on Sunday to elect the 56 members of the House of Representatives.
Campaigning ends by law on Friday at midnight and for the first time in parliamentary elections the votes will be counted at the 1216 polling stations, to be set up in the southern government controlled part of the republic.
A total of 487 candidates are contesting the elections and 8 persons are standing for the post of representative of the three religious groups represented in the House (Maronites, Latins and Armenians). The three representatives have no right to vote at the House.
In these parliamentary elections about 270 Turkish Cypriots will also vote to elect the Greek Cypriot members of parliament.
First official results are expected at around 2100 (1900 GMT) on Sunday.
The cost of the elections is estimated at around 2,5 million pounds, slightly higher than the cost of the previous parliamentary elections in May 2001.