|Friday, 18 September 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-05-18
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>May 18, 2006
 President Papoulias formally addresses European Parliament
STRASBOURG, 18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias addressed a formal session of the European Parliament on Wednesday, to mark the 25th anniversary since Greece joined the European Union.
The Greek president's address appealed for a return to the founding principles of freedom, equality and social justice that had inspired the early steps of the Community, with policies centered on people, and included references to international terrorism, Turkey's bid to join the EU, enlargement, the continued division of Cyprus and European integration.
The last Greek president to formally address the European Parliament was Constantine Karamanlis in 1983, when Greece took over the rotating presidency of the EEC for the first time since the country joined the Community on January 1, 1981.
On his arrival, Papoulias met with a warm reception from European Parliament President Josep Borrell Fontelles, who greeted him and introduced him to the packed assembly, stressing his political credentials as a dedicated pro-European, his efforts for peace and even his role as a resistance fighter against fascism in WWII.
In his speech, Papoulias stressed that EU development strategies were doomed to fail unless they were centered on people, particularly against the scourge of unemployment. Conditions in many parts of Europe were difficult and small victories in the struggle against unemployment were not enough to make an impact on this major problem, he added. "Instead of an increase in the number of jobs, in many countries there is an increase in the indicators for unemployment and the underemployed. Instead of vulnerable groups acquiring greater social protection, the regiments of the excluded are constantly swelling," he said.
He called for development strategies based on the principle of protecting the weaker members of society, that did not consider market forces the sole regulating factor in the global arena and emphasized quality of education, research and new technologies.
At the same time, Papoulias underlined that this was not political 'romanticism' but respect for the principles on which the EU had been founded, principles of equality and solidarity, as well as political realism, since inequality and exclusion had more than once been shown to have extreme and unpredictable social repercussions.
"Human societies have been through various phases of dominant economic theories, but whenever the voice of the people went unheard the tensions and upheavals swept away both theories and theoreticians," the Greek president noted.
In the face of new challenges and sweeping global changes, the European Union was now called on to return to the ideals of European enlightenment that had inspired its beginnings, he added.
In this context, Papoulias also referred to the asymmetric threat of international terrorism and its impact, noting that this had caused the ideas of freedom and security to be considered in relation to one another.
European citizens did not want to feel threatened in a world under attack from international terrorists but at the same time rejected any restriction in the protection of individual rights and freedoms.
"We support the dogma 'security and freedom' not 'security or freedom'," Papoulias told MEPs.
The Greek president defended European enlargement, saying it had restored Europe's historical integrity, and welcomed the accession of Romania and Bulgaria. He also pointed out that Greece supported the completion of Turkey's accession process, with provisions.
"It must be made clear that joining the Union presupposes full adoption of its principles and rules, that this is not negotiable and will not be circumvented in the name of wider geopolitical interests of any sort," he stressed.
Referring to the Cyprus problem, meanwhile, Papoulias pointed out that the 'green line' dividing the island was the last remaining dividing line within Europe after the end of the Cold War and that this was "a major European problem that still awaits a solution".
Turning to the process of European integration, especially in view of the results of referendums for the European Constitution, the Greek president underlined that the only way forward was to accelerate the process of deepening political integration.
The EU could only exist and prosper as an autonomous, strong and unified presence on the international scene, he emphasized, adding that this could not be achieved by a common currency or a common flag but through a system of principles and values, a common political and social culture.
Listing emerging global crises and challenges, such as Iran's nuclear program, a looming energy crisis, terrorism, events in Kosovo, Africa and others, Papoulias stressed that all these required the EU to have its own single voice and determine its own strategy.
For Iran, in particular, he said Greece was opposed to the proliferation of nuclear weapons but also believed that the potential for achieving consensus through diplomacy should be exhausted.
"This consensus is sought by European and all societies, which are constantly sending loud messages in favor of peace and dialogue between cultures," he added.
Finally, the Greek president underlined that Europe's future will be determined by European citizens and will depend on their participation in public affairs. He called for a future Europe that was a "bastion of democracy and human rights but also a model for the right to employment, growth and social cohesion. A European Union that will be a humane superpower".
 European Parliament welcomes President Karolos Papoulias
STRASBOURG, 18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)European Parliament President Josep Borell Fontelles welcomed President Karolos Papoulias in a full House on Wednesday.
"The European Parliament welcomes you today as a man of peace and a person who has committed himself in favor of European construction," Borrell said.
He referred to the personality of President Papoulias and to the fact that he had the support of the entire political spectrum during his election to the Presidency.
"They say in Greece that you are the personification of the human measure," Borrell further said, adding that "at a time when the rifle was better than your stature, you struggled against fascism, then you struggled against the dictatorship and for the return of democracy to your country. You continued to work for peace with the neighboring countries and dialogue with the Moslem world is a constant concern of yours and the ambitious target of the two sides to approach each other."
Making special reference to Tuesday's visit by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the European Parliament president reminded that thanks to the intervention of Karolos Papoulias as foreign minister in 1983 many Palestinians escaped at a dramatic time, boarding Greek ships.
Borrell also referred to the positions that have been supported by the Greek president concerning the accession of Balkan countries.
"You had always reminded that there will be no final peace for Europe since the Balkans have not fully joined the European Union politically, economically and lawfully," he said.
 President Papoulias gives joint press conference with European Parliament president
STRASBOURG, 18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)President Karolos Papoulias expressed his positions on the continuation of support for the Palestinian people and on issues concerning Turkey, Cyprus and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) during a joint press conference with European Parliament President Josep Borrell, following his address before the plenum on Wednesday.
"Europe has a historic course. It always stood by the just struggle of the Palestinian people looking, however, in parallel at the security of the state of Israel as well in order to facilitate a balance between the two. As years went by many things occurred. We had two steps forward and 10 backwards. Today, we have the considerable effort being made by the quartet. Europe must strengthen its presence and its role in the region," President Papoulias said.
He also said that during a private meeting with Borrrell he hailed the position of the European Union that the Palestinian people must be supported financially.
Referring to the latest elections, he said "we must not condemn the Palestinian people for the result that brought Hamas into power since observers say that the elections were held well."
"The survival of the Palestinain people is the duty of all Europeans," he said, adding that "the EU must proceed with the generous financial support of the Palestinian people. If we disappoint the Palestinian people, who are expecting a great deal from the EU, we might lead them to other paths which will not help peace."
Commenting on Turkey, President Papoulias said that "the EU has set the framework of principles in which Turkey must move for its effort to join the EU to have a positive result. The issue of human rights is a serious problem which should concern the government of Turkey because failure to respect them is not compatible with its approach to the EU. The EU has raised this issue and it is now a problem of the government of Turkey to overcome all these difficulties it has."
Speaking about the issue of Cyprus, President Papoulias said that "I have always claimed and I am claiming today as well that the occupation of a part of the Republic of Cyprus by Turkish troops constitutes an acute and flagrant violation of human rights. For this alone, the EU must play a leading role and help the looming beginning of new negotiations for a just solution to the issue of Cyprus."
Focusing on the ban for Cypriot ships and planes to use Turkish ports and airports, President Papoulias said that "the attitude of Turkey towards the Republic of Cyprus is not what it should be."
Asked whether geopolitical expediences can affect and override the values of European civilization, President Papoulias said that "I would be naive if I rejected the idea that in our times geopolitical expediences do not play any role. However, I do not believe that these expediences will downgrade the principles of the EU."
Addressing a journalist from FYROM, President Papoulias said "take a step forward to enable us to find a solution to the only pending problem of the name (of the neighboring country). In this way we will live together in peace and it is in the interests of your country."
 Valinakis comments on European Commission's report on Bulgarian and Romanian EU accession
ATHENS, 18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis said on Wednesday that the European Commission's report confirms the correct direction that Romania and Bulgaria are finding themselves in as regards the completion of their European Union accession course.
The European Commission ascertains certain delays in the adoption and implementation of the acquis communautaire by the two countries, by Bulgaria in particular, he added.
"However, we believe that in the time that remains it is possible that these shortcomings can be covered and the two countries can join the EU on January 1, 2007," Valinakis said expressing hope "that we will welcome Bulgaria and Romania as full EU members this coming January."
The deputy foreign minister further said that consistency regarding the fulfillment of their commitments will result in the rewarding of the efforts of the Bulgarian and Romanian people and stressed that their accession will constitute a message concerning the European prospects of the Western Balkans and the possibility of all candidate countries to become members of the European family, given that they accept and implement the acquis communautaire and completely fulfill the criteria and conditions set by the EU.
Valinakis said that the "strategic option of our country is to turn the Balkans into a European neighborhood of peace, cooperation and development and to promote Greece as a guide of these changes through this process of European adjustment of our neighborhood."
Valinakis to meet France's Colonna on Thursday: Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis will meet on Thursday morning with French European Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna, who will be visiting Athens.
After their talks, the two ministers will make statements to the press at the foreign ministry, a foreign press release said.
 U.S. deputy assistant defense secretary acknowledges Greece's substantive contribution to stability
ATHENS, 18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)U.S. Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for European and NATO policy Daniel P. Fata, heading an American delegation at the session of the 12th Greece-U.S. High Level Advisory Committee taking place in Athens, on Wednesday once again acknowledged the leading role of Greece in the Balkan region and its substantive contribution to the stability and development of neighboring countries.
The Greek delegation is headed by Deputy Defense Minister Vassilis Mihaloliakos.
Issues discussed during Wednesday's talks concerned the security situation in the wider region of southeastern Europe and the Middle East and Greece's participation in international peacekeeping missions, as well as its contribution to the struggle against terrorism.
Also examined were issues regarding bilateral defense cooperation, while views were exchanged on the process of NATO's transformation in light of decisions to be taken during the alliance's summit in Riga, Latvia.
The session will be concluded on Thursday.
 PM confers with health minister on reforms program
ATHENS, 18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime minister Costas Karamanlis conferred Wednesday with health minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, who briefed him on the reforms program currently being drafted by the ministry.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Avramopoulos said that in the three months he has been at the ministry's helm he has acquired a deep knowledge of the sector, and stressed his volition to carry on the government's program based on respect for human dignity but also intensification of the structures, mainly in the periphery, where he said weaknesses have been ascertained.
Avramopoulos said that it is quality that determines the services, noting that the Greek citizens "must find us at their side when they need us".
 Gov't dismisses criticism over education spending
ATHENS, 18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The government on Wednesday dismissed criticism that it has not fulfilled a pre-election promise to increase spending for education as a percentage of GDP (a target of 5 percent), with the alternate government spokesman stressing that the government is still only midway through its four-year term.
"We began from a very low starting point, while several steps have been taken within an economic framework we inherited from the previous (PASOK) government, which was quite unfavorable," spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said, adding:
"The previous government's responsibilities remain ingrained in the Greek people's memory. We cannot forget what they did over 20 years, and this is something that cannot be improved in two years. It would also be positive if the opposition's proposals, as presented by certain media outlets as innovative and impressive, were more specific. Specific proposals and measures are being promoted only by the current government," he stressed.
 Alogoskoufis, Yannakou discuss university funding
ATHENS, 18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and Education Minister Marietta Yannakou on Wednesday discussed the prospect of future university funding via the Information Society program and the upcoming 4th Community Support Framework (CSF) package.
 Social Insurance secretary general submits his resignation
ATHENS, 18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Social Insurance secretary general Dimitris Kostopoulos submitted his resignation to Employment and Social Solidarity Minister Savvas Tsitouridis and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday, which was accepted.
 PASOK Parliamentary Group coordinating body convenes
ATHENS, 18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The coordinating body of the Parliamentary Group of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) convened on Wednesday and the basic topics discussed concerned the economy and the issue of the alleged abduction of Pakistani immigrants.
Alternate Economy coordinator Costas Spiliotopoulos proposed that a special session of the coordinating body be held to discuss the state of the economy, because, as he said, "the government is presenting fictitious data which concern economic growth."
As for the alleged abduction of Pakistani immigrants by "secret services", coordinator Miltiadis Papaioannou said that "this issue burdens overall the government and therefore all the responsibilities should not be directed only towards (former public order minister) George Voulgarakis and maybe PASOK should not continuously ask for his resignation."
Meanwhile, PASOK Spokesman Nikos Athanassakis, in reference to the issue of the Pakistanis, on Wednesday referred anew to the matter "of the stay in the government" of current Culture Minister George Voulgarakis. Athanassakis termed the issue as "political" and not judicial.
 Russian ambassador refers to bilateral and international energy issues
ATHENS, 18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Russian Ambassador to Athens Andrei Vdovin, speaking at a business luncheon organized by the Energy Institute of Southeastern Europe (IENE) on Wednesday, referred to bilateral relations between Greece and Russia, focusing on energy, the international environment and energy security.
Vdovin said that a worsening of problems concerning energy is appearing lately, stressing that energy security has a global character and every country has a share of responsibility. Russia, presiding over the G8, is promoting for discussion the issue of energy security which will be on the table at the summit taking place in St. Petersburg in July, he added.
Referring to relations between Greece and Russia, the Russian ambassador reminded the audience which, apart from businessmen, included diplomats and technocrats from many countries that they run many hundreds of years back.
Speaking about modern-day relations, he said that the strengthening of Greek-Russian cooperation is being observed.
There is a "multifaceted political dialogue" between Russia and Greece concerning security, regional conflicts and bilateral issues, Vdovin said. Cooperation also exists in the defense sector which is being developed "despite the fact that many do not like it", adding that the political will is also confirmed by the latest meetings between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
Giving certain data about the Russian economy, he said that the GDP increase rate for 2005 was 6.4 percent, the increase in the services sector 7 percent and the participation of the latter in GDP 54 percent.
"We had a difficult time in the '90s, but now the Russian economy is being strengthened in the framework of the free market economy," he said.
On the question of the energy relationship between Greece and Russia, he said that Greece's dependence on Russia for natural gas amounts to 75 percent and for oil to 35 percent.
Speaking about the prospects of the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline, the ambassador said that the memorandum signed between the three countries, Greece, Russia and Bulgaria, constitutes a "qualitative progress" and a "political support" for the plan, while the rest will be resolved by the companies.
He conceded that the plan is proceeding at a slow rate but expressed the conviction that "we will soon witness its implementation."
Lastly, Vdovin said that an "anti-Gazprom campaign is taking place with the argument that it is unreliable, but the 40 years that Russia and the then USSR had cooperated with the West did not show signs of unreliability." As regards Greece, he said that it had never faced a supply problem.
 Russian Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin on visit to Athens
ATHENS, 18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The harsh and intense social problems of daily life, but also corruption and the abuse of power by police are the basic matters which preoccupy Russian Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, as he himself described at a press conference he gave on Wednesday at the office in Athens of the Greek Ombudsman.
Lukin is currently on a visit to Greece, at the invitation of the Greek Independent Authority, in the context of the "Evnomia" program which is conducted under the auspices of the Council of Europe.
Greek Ombudsman George Kaminis said that he would brief his Russian counterpart on all the issues which preoccupy the Independent Authority in Greece. Kaminis noted that "the Greek Ombudsman is much closer to the problems which the corresponding Authority of Russia is called upon to settle, than one of a Western European Ombudsman."
 Deputy DM Lambropoulos watches 'Sarisa 2006' military exercise
ATHENS, 18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Deputy Defense Minister Ioannis Lambropoulos watched part of the final phase of the military exercise codenamed "Sarisa 2006" at Langadas, in the prefecture of Thessaloniki, at noon on Wednesday.
Also present were National Defense General Staff chief Panayiotis Hinofotis, second army corps commander Dimitris Hatzis, the land forces general commander of Serbia-Montenegro Mladen Serkovic, Thessaloniki Prefect Panayiotis Psomiadis, the Metropolitan of Langadas Spyridon and foreign military attaches.
The scenario of the exercise, which began on Saturday and will be completed on Thursday, anticipated the rescue of an injured soldier from the battlefield with the use of coordinated fire from the army and helicopter gunships and transport helicopters with support by fighter planes.
It also anticipated cleaning up operations and bombing by air, the firing of mortar and artillery shells, the advance of medium-size tanks, the recapturing of hills and the prevention of attacks by commandos and parachutists.
The deputy minister hailed the role of the armed forces that "safeguard stability in the region and the integrity of the country and of our people to enable them to apply themselves to peace projects."
 Greek delegation of MPs in Japan this month
ATHENS, 18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greek deputies, members of Parliament's Greece-Japan friendship committee, will visit the Far East country from May 14 to May 20, it was announced on Wednesday.
The visit comes after an official invitation by the Yohei Kono, the Speaker of Japan's House of Representatives, who is also the chairman of the Japan-Greece friendship committee in his legislature.
Environmental protection issues and international political developments are expected to top the agenda of talks.
A Japanese parliament delegation, led by Kono, had toured Greece in January.
Ruling New Democracy deputy Evgenios Haitidis will lead the Greek delegation.
 Tax ratio in Greece at 35.1 pct of GDP in 2004
ATHENS, 18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The tax ratio in Greece totaled 35.1 pct of GDP in 2004, lower compared with the EU-25 average ratio of 39.3 pct, Eurostat said on Wednesday.
The EU executive’s statistics agency in a report said overall tax burden (including both taxes and social contributions) fell to 35.1 percent of GDP in 2004 from 36.4 pct in 2003, but it was up from 32.6 pct of GDP in 1995.
Eurostat said taxation of consumption and capital was lower in Greece compared with the EU-25 average, while labor taxes were higher. Consumption tax was 17.5 pct in Greece in 2004 (21.9 pct in the EU-25), capital tax was 17.4 pct (25.8 pct), while labor tax was 37.9 pct (35.9 pct).
Incomes taxation ceiling was 40 percent currently in Greece, Eurostat’s report said, down from 45.2 pct in the Eurozone and 41 pct in the EU-25, while the corporate tax ceiling was 29 percent in Greece from 29.7 pct in the Eurozone and 25.9 pct in the EU-25.
The report said that environmental taxes accounted for 6.8 pct of overall tax proceeds in Greece in 2004, up from 6.6 pct in the EU-25.
In 2004, the overall tax ratio (i.e. the total amount of taxes and social security contributions) in the EU252 stood at 39.3% of GDP. Compared to the year before, the weighted average declined by 0.2 percentage points, restarting the gradual downward trend that had been apparent since the turn of the century, but which had been interrupted in 2003. The decline is due essentially to developments in the euro area, notably to marked declines in Germany and Italy.
EU tax levels remain generally high in comparison with the rest of the world; the EU25 tax ratio exceeds those of the USA and of Japan by some 14 percentage points. However, the tax burden varies significantly between Member States, ranging in 2004 from 28.4% in Lithuania and 28.6% in Latvia to 50.5% in Sweden and 48.8% in Denmark. Generally, the new Member States tend to have lower tax ratios; however Ireland (30.2%), Portugal (34.5%) and Spain (34.6%) also display notably low overall tax ratios.
For the EU25 as a whole, the average implicit tax rate (ITR) on labor, the preferred indicator for the average tax burden, amounted to 35.9% in 2004.
The average implicit tax rate on capital in the EU25 increased steadily from 23.1% in 1995 to 27.7% in 2000, then fell to 25.8% by 2003 (2004 data are missing for several Member States). There is considerable disparity in this ratio: among the Member States, the highest implicit tax rates on capital were recorded in Denmark (43.8% in 2004), France (36.9% in 2004), the United Kingdom (34.9% in 2004) and Belgium (34.8% in 2004) and the lowest in Lithuania (6.8% in 2003), Latvia (9.3% in 2003) and Estonia (10.3% in 2003).
 Unemployment down 16.16 pct in April
ATHENS, 18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The number of registered unemployed people totaled 459,808 in April 2006, down from 511,985 in April 2005, a decline of 16.16 percent, Deputy Labor Minister Gerassimos Yiakoumatos said on Wednesday.
The minister said the number of job-seekers also fell to 385,479 in April 2006, down from 476,934 in the same month last year.
Opposition party raps gov't over economy: The opposition Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology on Wednesday sharply criticized the government for its policies to tackle high consumer prices and unemployment.
"A new rise to 3.5% in the country's inflation rate in April comes to completely refute the government's talk of victory and the success of economic policy," shadow economic and social spokesman, Panayiotis Lafazanis, noted.
In a separate statement, the party's shadow labor spokesman, Dimitris Stratoulis, complained that the current New Democracy had merely perpetuated ineffectual moves to lower joblessness.
 Gov't: Need to cut dependence on oil
ATHENS, 18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece should further reduce its dependence on oil, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said on Wednesday.
"In this new era of expensive fuel that we are experiencing, the importance is strategic of the government's policy of reducing dependence on oil and saving energy," Sioufas told a celebration for the Greek Aluminium Union's 20th birthday.
"It is very important for this industrial sector to act through its trade group in declaring 2006 as energy saving year for the entire sector," Sioufas urged.
He added that the ministry was studying proposals by the trade group including energy saving and the use of aluminium in traditional housing.
The aluminium sector in Greece grew almost four times faster than the overall industrial average in 2000-2004, representing 6% of Greek manufacturing and 6% of the value of the country's total exports.
Gov't on diesel-powered cars: Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Wednesday noted that a ban on diesel-powered cars in Athens and Thessaloniki existed for environmental reasons.
"It is well known that levels of particles in the atmosphere of the two cities are well above internationally accepted limits. For diesel-powered motors to be allowed, these environmental reasons must cease to apply and responsibility with these matters lies with the environment ministry," he said.
He noted that the environment ministry was now looking into the matter and would make a proposal to the cabinet.
Ecologists oppose use of diesel-run cars in Athens and Thessaloniki: The Panhellenic Network of Ecological Organizations on Wednesday expressed its opposition to the use of diesel for private cars in Athens and Thessaloniki.
In an announcement from Thessaloniki, Macedonia, the organization said "such a measure will worsen the atmosphere of the cities, which is already quite burdened with various filfth."
The organization noted that the diesel-run vehicles "have a significant share of the overall pollution of Athens and Thessaloniki and of the other cities, which is due to traffic despite the fact that they constitute a small part of the fleet of cars."
The ecological organization said that "the effects of the air-borne particles to the health of the citizens are long-term according to recent studies," adding that "they contribute to the increase in deaths as a result of lung illnesses."
Concluding, the Panhellenic Network of Ecological Organizations said "the state's role in the decision of the deregulation of diesel-run cars in Athens and Thessaloniki must take into consideration the studies on its repercussions to the environment and health."
 FinMin Alogoskoufis meets Evros prefecture deputies
18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)National Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis met in Athens on Wednesday with deputies from the border prefecture of Evros who told him that a special program for the reconstruction of Evros prefecture must be set up. They also discussed the region's problems.
Discussion also focused on Evros prefecture being declared a region affected from floods this winter and for damage caused to farmers and stockbreeders to be resolved.
According to the region's deputies, the basic damage caused to the infrastructure alone amounts to 30 million euros and that more money would be needed.
Alogoskoufis gave directives for the confrontation of the problems caused by the floods and announced the setting up of a committee which will discuss the possibility of declaring Evros prefecture as an affected region and will submit a recommendation for immediate measures to be taken for the relief of citizens who suffered damage from the floods.
 Greek inflation up to 3.5 pct in April, Eurostat
ATHENS, 18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece's annual inflation rose to 3.5 pct in April from 3.3 pct in March, Eurostat said on Wednesday.
The EU executive's statistics agency said annual inflation in the Eurozone rose to 2.4 pct in April from 2.2 pct in March and 2.1 pct in April 2005, while the inflation rate in the EU-25 rose to 2.3 pct in April from 2.1 pct in March.
Poland (1.2 pct), Finland (1.5 pct), Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden (1.8 pct each) recorded the lowest inflation rates, while Latvia (6.1 pct), Slovakia (4.4 pct), Estonia (4.3 pct) and Spain (3.9 pct) recorded the highest rates in April.
The consumer price index rose in 16 member states in April, it fell in six and was unchanged in three EU member-states.
 Athens Bourse Close: Stocks slump in bulk selling
ATHENS, 18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Athens share index closed at 4,020.85 points, showing a decline of 2.28%. Turnover was 473.2 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 1.95% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 2.21% lower; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 3.86% down.
Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 229 to 51 with 39 remaining unchanged.
Bond Market Close: Buyers lag sellers
Foreign Exchange Rates: Thursday
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.298
 FM Bakoyannis meets Battle of Crete veterans
18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis met on Wednesday with a delegation of the Greek-New Zealander Association of Fighters of the Battle of Crete, "a battle of deep historic importance," as the minister said.
Addressing the Battle of Crete veterans, Bakoyannis said "it is a history of courage and heroism, of a great battle for freedom and democracy," adding that "for 12 endless tough days, New Zealander, British, Australian and Greek soldiers, with the important steadfastness of the people of Crete, gave a battle to repel a without precedence air attack."
The foreign minister told the Battle of Crete veterans that "what we honor is the courage, dedication and sense of solidarity which you showed."
Bakoyannis added:"I am deeply moved by your presence here today. Through your sacrifices, you won the love, gratitude and respect of all the Greek people. Despite the distance that separates Crete from New Zealand, the feeling of friendship and solidarity is equally strong today, as was the courage and persistence which you all showed 65 years ago."
Concluding, the foreign minister said:” I am certain that your pilgrimage to Crete will awaken some memories which no one wishes to remember. However, I am also certain that this visit of yours to Crete, which is taking place under completely different conditions, will also be positive and satisfactory."
 German headmaster's abductor led before prosecutor
ATHENS, 18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)A convict on furlough that abducted the headmaster of the German School in Thessaloniki along with another official on Tuesday was led before a local prosecutor on Wednesday, as the incident marked the third time the same suspect has abducted German nationals.
Costas Arabatzis, 52, was already serving a 24-year prison term for abducting three German bankers in the late 1990s as part of a scheme to write-off bank debts he had in Germany, his second conviction after yet another kidnapping of a German businessman from whom the suspect had imported motorcycles.
Arabatzis told police he released headmaster Joachim Voegeding and bookkeeping department head Xenofontas Altidis (who was initially and erroneously identified as a custodian) in the afternoon after first taking them from the school by threatening to detonate explosives he had in his possession.
After releasing the two hostages he subsequently headed to the central Greece city of Volos where he turned himself in to authorities.
Headmaster describes incident: In a press conference on Wednesday, Voegeding said such kidnappings are a distinct concern of German schools abroad, while a special seminar is held in Germany annually to instruct school officials on how to react to similar situations.
He added that from the moment the hostage situation began he had three goals: not to allow the situation to affect the school; lure the suspect away from the pupils and to persuade him to free any hostages, himself included.
When he came face to face with the suspect, Voegeding said his first reaction was to lock the office door behind him so that no one else could get inside and to avoid a situation with more hostages. He added that after calling the German consul general on the phone and holding negotiations, he persuaded the suspect to take him and the other man from the school.
The headmaster said that they took his car at 1:35 p.m. and went to a location where Arabatzis had parked his own vehicle. There he freed Altidis. Voegeding said that at first he thought that the suspect was following a premeditated plan but as time passed he realized that this was not the case.
Voegeding said he tried to win the confidence of the abductor by asking him different things about himself and his family. The headmaster said the suspect finally tired of driving around and decided to return to prison and end the hostage situation.
Finally, authorities reported that the suspect possessed an assault rifle, six hand grenades, two detonators, a pistol and three kilos of explosives in a bag he had with him during the entire incident.
The bag was discovered by police abandoned off a highway near the city of Larissa, central Greece.
Asked by reporters about the delay in responding to the case, Thessaloniki police director Stergios Apostolidis stressed that law enforcement officials were only informed by a source a full three hours after the abductions occurred.
 Gov't on agreement with Getty Museum
ATHENS, 18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Athens on Wednesday welcomed a commitment by the leadership of the Getty Museum in Malibu, Calif. -- the world's largest private museum -- to recommend to the institution's board of directors that several antiquities claimed by the Greek state be returned.
"Discussions are underway and both sides will appoint representatives to seek a resolution of pending issues over the next two or three months," alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros told reporters on Wednesday.
The spokesman added that the agreement with the Getty Museum's representatives provides the framework for a permanent resolution to a matter, namely, Greece's demand that certain artifacts be returned because they were the product of antiquities smuggling, and also allows for a "fruitful cooperation with the Getty Museum, which may include the long-term loaning of works of art."
 Transport Minister Liapis addresses event marking World Telecommunications Day
ATHENS, 18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Transport and Communications Minister Michalis Liapis, on the occasion of Word Telecommunications Day, on Wednesday visited the Athens Metro station at Syntagma where an event was held on the theme "Telecommunications and informatics at the service of the citizen".
Liapis said at the event, organized by the transport ministry, that "the government's decision to grant cheap and speedy Internet to students has been met with particularly great acceptance, given that to date more than five thousand students have enrolled, while the rate of registration is marking an upward trend and more than 150 people are registering daily."
Transport Minister Liapis admitted, however, that "Greece is not one of the pioneers in the spread of Internet and of Euro-zone services, but we are making a great effort with the development of infrastructures to gain the lost ground and every day we are winning it."
 Seminar on Aegean island media organized by Athens University
ATHENS, 18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)A two-day seminar on "Mass Media in the Aegean: Problems and Prospects" has been organized by the Athens University media and communications department, via the Social Studies in the Media Workshop, and will take place on June 2-3 at Astypalea with the patronage of the Ministry of State.
The seminar will focus on mass media enterprises based on Aegean islands, the problems that they have to contend with and the opportunities and prospects emerging in the light of recent developments.
It will be made up of five discussion panels, one focusing on all media and one each for the press, radio, television and new technologies.
 Journalism congress to be held in Samothrace
18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The 14th Journalism Congress will be held in Samothrace from June 22-25 and will have as its theme "Greek television today".
The congress is organized by the Evros Prefecture Department and Samothrace Municipality, in cooperation with Greece's journalism unions, including that of the Athens Journalists Union.
Also taking part will be representatives of the European Federation of Journalists.
Also invited to take part in the congress are journalists from Bulgaria and Turkey as well as university students from Greece and Turkey.
 Classes for disabled children in hospital
ATHENS, 18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Each year an estimated 700 disabled children take school courses while undergoing treatment at Thessaloniki’s “Georgios Yennimatas” Hospital. The teachers of the 11th Special Elementary School which operates in the hospital teach them privately in their hospital rooms due to a lack of classrooms.
Teachers from this special school with colleagues from similar schools in Turkey, Italy and Romania are participating in the European program “Socrates - Comenius 1”, on the cooperation and development of school units.
Eleven teachers from countries participating in the program are currently on a working visit to Thessaloniki. Program coordinator and 11th Elementary School teacher Stratos Alexiou told ANA-MPA that the program’s goal is to draw up a personalized intervention framework for disabled people that will take under consideration the special needs each child might have. Also, a special website will be created where teachers from different countries will be able to find useful information.
 Greek grandmothers the main care-givers for Greece's under-2s
ATHENS, 18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Grandmothers are the main care-givers for children aged up to two years old, putting in more than 30 hours a week on average, according to the results of a survey on household income and living conditions released by Greece's National Statistics Service on Wednesday.
The survey conducted in 2004 showed that 80.5 per cent of care for under-twos for periods of 30 hours a week or more was provided mainly by grandmothers or other relatives. Grandmothers and relatives also provided more than 30 hours a week of care for 56.8 per cent of preschoolers aged three to five.
Conversely, the percentage of care provided by private and state day-care centers for under-twos was relatively low at 16.6 per cent, while after-school care programs in schools served just 7.3 per cent of children aged three to five and 20.1 per cent of children aged six to 12.
Less than 1.5 per cent of children were cared for by programs not associated with schools, while nannies and child-minders in either the children's or their own home cared for up to 19.8 percent of children under two and 6.2 per cent of children in total.
Grandmothers and other relatives also account for 41 percent of care provided for under-twos for periods less than 30 hours a week.
 Press conference on Rally Acropolis 2006
ATHENS, 18/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The President of the Greek Car and Tours Club Vassilis Despotopoulos and the umpire of the race Anita Passali gave a press conference on Wednesday in light of the 53rd Rally Acropolis to be held between June 1-4.
The opening of the 8th rally of the World Championship will occur on June 1 at 6 p.m. with the ultraspecial course of the Athens Olympic Stadium, following the great success it had last year when it was watched by 66,000 spectators.
A total of 91 crews have declared participation in the ultraspecial 2.8 kilometer course, that will also take place at the Athens Olympic Stadium with which the Rally Acropolis will come to an end on June 4. A display by historic cars will also follow.
The Rally Acropolis will take place this year in the prefectures of Attica, Korinthia and Viotia with eight different special courses which will be repeated (giving 16 in all), plus the ultraspecial course of the Athens Olympic Stadium (twice). The total length of the race is 1,278.55 kilometers.
Athens Run on June 4: Registration for the 23rd Athens Run, to be held on Sunday, June 4, began on Wednesday, with all residents eligible. Interested parties can sign-up at any of the city’s municipal offices, sports facilities or daycare centers as well as OPAP betting pools branches and post offices.
For more information, visit the www.cityofathens.gr and www.ona.gr sites.
 Cyprus expects EU to show consistency regarding decisions on Turkey
NICOSIA, 18/5/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)Government Spokesman George Lillikas said on Wednesday that the government of Cyprus would adhere to the unanimous position of the Council of the European Union on September 21, 2005 (EU counterstatement to the Turkish unilateral declaration of not recognizing the Republic of Cyprus) and trusts that the EU will respect its unanimous decisions and show credibility and consistency.
Invited to comment on press information that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has asked to postpone the implementation of the
Ankara Agreement (Customs Union Protocol) for one year, Lillikas said that no such demand has been officially submitted to the government of Cyprus or the EU by Turkey or any EU member state.
''The government of Cyprus adheres to the unanimous position taken by the Council of the European Union on September 21, 2005 and trusts that the EU will respect its unanimous decisions and show credibility and consistency,'' he said.
Lillikas added that the government has the means and the ways to protect its national interests within the EU.
Invited to comment on Erdogan's statement that unless the so-called isolation of the Turkish Cypriots is lifted, Turkey, being a guarantor power of Cyprus, would take action, Lillikas said that this statement is provocative and unacceptable.
''There is no isolation of the Turkish Cypriots that is due to the Greek Cypriots or the Republic of Cyprus. If there is any problem, this is due to the Turkish invasion of 1974 and the continuous occupation of Cyprus. Erdogan's reference to the Treaty of Guarantee is a provocation, since the most serious violation of the Treaty is the invasion and occupation with the continuation of the Turkish army's presence in Cyprus,'' he said.
The spokesman noted that the promotion of direct trade with the Turkish Cypriots and the political upgrading of the regime in the Turkish occupied areas is yet another serious violation of the Treaty of Guarantee, because it leads to secession, which is forbidden by the Treaty of Guarantee itself.
''Erdogan's statement is provocative and unacceptable. With this statement, Erdogan shows how Turkey understands its EU obligations. It also gives an indication that Turkey is far from comprehending and respecting European values,'' he added.
The 1960 Treaty of Guarantee is one of the documents that founded the Republic of Cyprus, designed to preserve the territorial independence of the Republic of Cyprus. The guarantor powers of Cyprus are Great Britain, Greece and Turkey.
 British High Commissioner says Turkey must fulfill its EU obligations
LIMASSOL, 18/5/2006 (CNA/ANA/MPA)British High Commissioner in Nicosia Peter Millet pointed out on Wednesday that Turkey must fulfill its obligations towards the EU, adding that there should be an evaluation report of Turkey before the end of the year.
''We have to have the report before the end of the year. It is clear that Turkey has obligations that it has to fulfill,'' Millet said.
Replying to questions regarding Britain's stance on Turkey's evaluation by the EU, Millet said ''There are some rumors but it is not Britain's position that we want the postponement of the report.''
The British High Commissioner pointed out that Cyprus and Britain should work together with the other EU member states so that ''we do not miss the chance to change Turkey.''
''I want us to work together with the government of Cyprus so that we can have a common strategy towards this goal,'' he said.
 Cypriot Archbishop's seat honorably vacated
NICOSIA, 18/5/2006 (CNA/ANA/MPA)A broad meeting of senior clergymen, chaired by the head of the Greek Orthodox Church Patriarch Bartholomew, convened in Switzerland and decided to honorably vacate the position of Archbishop of the Church of Cyprus, a move that will lead to elections for a new Archbishop.
Archbishop Chrysostomos has been incapacitated for the past four years and is unable to perform his duties as the head of the Church.
The decision was taken by majority, with 15 members voting in favor and seven against.
Wednesday's meeting was attended, apart from Patriarch Bartholomew, by Cypriot Metropolitan Bishops of Paphos, Kitium, Limassol, Kyrenia and Morphou, and the Bishops of Arsinoe, Trimithounta and Kykkos. The Bishop of Salamina did not attend the broad meeting but sent his position in writing. Also present were the Patriarchs of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem.
The Cypriot Metropolitan Bishops of Paphos, Kitium, Limassol and Kyrenia, as well as the Bishops of Arsinoe and Salamina voted against, along with the Patriarch of Antioch.