|Thursday, 3 December 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-05-19
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>May 19, 2006
 Valinakis, Colonna discuss EU expansion in SE Europe
ATHENS, 19/5/2006 (ANA)European and bilateral issues, especially European Union expansion in SE Europe, dominated talks here between Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis and visiting French Minister Delegate for European Affairs Catherine Colonna.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis received Colonna.
During a joint press conference, Valinakis reiterated Athens' standing position vis-a-vis the European prospects of the entire SE Europe region, "for us it is a necessary condition for transforming the area into one of security, peace and cooperation. This is occurring with Bulgaria and Romania. I believe developments will proceed normally and that these two countries will enter the European Union on the set timetable."
Moreover, he said specific procedures and fulfillment of conditions exist for other candidates in the region.
On her part, Colonna said Paris backs the accession of Sofia and Bucharest into the EU as soon as possible, while calling on both countries to intensify their efforts so that a report out in the fall approves their accession for 2007.
Asked about the possibility of an extension being given to Turkey for signing the Ankara Protocol, Colonna said:
"Things are clear. Turkey has assumed obligations that must be met before the foreign ministers' council meeting in the fall ... we must not confuse obligations with negotiations the specific country is holding with member-states."
Valinakis echoed the statement, noting that "at every turn candidate-countries are evaluated, we are not providing carte blanche to anyone; obligations cannot be linked with other issues".
Regarding Greek-French relations, Colonna said they were "excellent" and characterized by "mutual trust", adding that Paris considers Athens a significant European partner.
 Government on Erdogan statements, relations with Turkey
ATHENS, 19/5/2006 (ANA)Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Thursday stressed that Turkey's behavior was being closely monitored by the European Union and that it had to fulfill specific obligations and commitments toward the Community.
He was commenting on reports that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during statements to reporters in Finland, had said that Ankara would not implement an extension of the EU-Turkey Customs Union agreement to Cyprus until "the isolation of Turkish-Cypriots is lifted".
Other reports claimed that Erdogan was seeking to postpone implementation of the Ankara Agreement, with which it agreed to extend customs union to the 10 new member-states of the EU, for one year.
On the same issue, meanwhile, Greek foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos rejected Erdogan's statement that it was a "mistake" to think that Turkey would be monitored on its implementation of the extended customs union protocol in 2006.
"I do not think that the view of the entire European Union, its agencies and its member-states is mistaken," Koumoutsakos underlined.
In response to other questions, meanwhile, Koumoutsakos said that any change in the EU's counter-statement to Turkey, when Ankara had first declared its defiance of EU requirements to extend customs union to Cyprus, would have to be unanimous, given that the original EU statement had been unanimous.
Regarding the positions expressed by Nicosia on this issue on Wednesday, the spokesman underlined that both Greece and Cyprus were working to ensure that the EU's decisions were respected and Turkey's European course was not adversely affected.
"The goal for all sides at this stage - which is particularly delicate since there is a visible shortage of time for fulfillment of the specific obligation by Turkey - is to all work in such a way so that the decision of the European Union is respected and, as a result, Turkey does not have to face the negative repercussions of not fulfilling the obligations it has undertaken," he stressed.
Regarding Turkey's relations with Greece, meanwhile, the spokesman said that Athens was carefully watching Ankara's recent behavior:
"Recently, we have certainly been seeing various positions expressed and various actions undertaken by the Turkish side. There is an impression that possibly Turkey's policy on a series of issues is being served in this way. These are the object of constant and very careful study on the Greek side but, at the same time, Greece is confidently pursuing its choices and calmly following the policy that you all know," Koumoutsakos said.
Greece's policy of supporting Turkey's European course and working steadily to improve bilateral relations was clear and in no way gave Turkey any "blank cheques", he stressed.
 Foreign ministry spokesman comments on issue of German ocean research vessel
ATHENS, 19/5/2006 (ANA)Foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, commenting on Thursday on claims by Turkey regarding the scientific work of the German ocean research vessel "Poseidon", reiterated the ministry's initial position and explained that he does not intend to participate in a process of public statements, a kind of public negotiating.
"Both the process of the application submitted to Greece by the German university institute and research itself which is under way are absolutely compatible with international law and international practice," he said.
Asked how Athens will react if the German institute submits a request to Turkey as well for the granting of a corresponding license, the spokesman said that "there has been no information officially from the German side on the possible submission of second request for the granting of a license for the same scientific research."
Replying to another question on whether Greece, at a general principles level, has the right to carry out research in international waters in the Aegean or to grant a license to a university foundation without requesting the consent of a third country, Koumoutsakos said "Greece has signed the Convention on the Law of the Sea. And on the basis of the provisions of the convention it takes all its relevant decisions."
Called on to comment on the view of the Turkish foreign ministry that the German side became involved in a Greek-Turkish dispute, the spokesman pointed out that "sovereignty, the university foundation followed the specific process because it believed that was right."
 Greek and German DMs satisfied with level of Greek-German cooperation in all sectors
BERLIL, 19/5/2006 (ANA-MPA/P. Stangos)Defense Minister Vangelis Meimarakis and his German counterpart Franz Joseph Jung expressed their particular satisfaction over the level of Greek-German cooperation in all sectors, following talks they held here on Thursday.
Statements made by the two politicians made it clear that the issue of Eurofighter warplanes constituted an object of consultations but its examination still remains at the level of relevant experts combined, probably, with other pending armaments issues.
"Of course, as it was natural, we discussed bilateral military and defense and technical cooperation", underlining "the high level of relations in this sector," Meimarakis told reporters.
The German minister in his own initial statement expressed himself at length and praised German-Greek cooperation, such as from participation in the European Union's peacekeeping mission in the Congo until joint consultations for the transformation of NATO and the consolidation of stability in the Balkans, but entirely "omitted" the sector of cooperation in the armaments sector.
Asked about the prospects he sees for the purchase of Eurofighter planes by Greece, Jung said that "my Greek colleague had the opportunity today, at the exhibition of ILA, to be convinced of the excellent qualitative characteristics of the Eurofighter."
The German minister further said that "I am aware, however, that the economic situation, in light of such a decision, is not so simple and for this reason we agreed that our experts must include this factor in their assessments and, maybe, combined with other armaments issues that exist and in this way to enable us to find a good and consensual solution."
Meimarakis and the delegation accompanying him were due to return to Athens late on Thursday night.
 DM addresses international conference in Berlin
BERLIN, 19/5/2006 (ANA-MPA/P. Stangos)Defense Minister Vangelis Meimarakis, addressing the international conference on global security here on Thursday, stressed the role of Greece as a "pylon country" for security, stability and development in the region.
Referring in particular to Kosovo, the Greek minister outlined the position of the Greek government that "procedures to settle the problem and relevant consultations must go ahead with care and wisdom."
"A viable and realistic solution can only come through dialogue and cannot be the product of imposition by outside factors," Meimarakis also said.
Speaking to Greek reporters earlier, Meimarakis indicated that nothing can be ruled out regarding option procedures for the "4th generation" fighter plane for the Greek air force and that the Greek government was not in a hurry to take a decision.
It is reminded that the issue of the purchase by Greece of Eurofighter planes, for which a relevant decision had been taken during the previous Simitis administration, and whose implementation had been suspended in principle by the same government, had also been an issue during the recent visit to the German capital (February 15) by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Meimarakis stressed, however, that any contract signed concerning the procurement of "4th generation" fighter planes will be presented to Parliament for ratification, while stressing his intention to follow "a very open process" that includes the public presentation, in Greece, of tenders on the part of companies interested.
 PM to visit Paris next week
ATHENS, 19/5/2006 (ANA)Prime minister Costas Karamanlis and foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis will visit Paris next week, for talks on bilateral relations and European affairs with French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, it was made known on Thursday.
 Minister Voulgarakis says 'Europe's growth must be based on its enormous cultural wealth'
BRUSSELS, 19/5/2006 (ANA-MPA)Greece's Culture Minister George Voulgarakis, speaking here on Thursday at the EU Council of Culture Ministers, said that "Europe's growth must be based on its enormous cultural wealth and the activation of the impetus of its creative businesses will help in the implementation of the targets of the Lisbon Process."
Voulgarakis referred to the sectors of publications, cinema and television productions, music and theatre "which must be secured with particular motivations so as to demonstrate the possibilities of their contribution to economic growth." He added that "emphasis must be given to the safeguarding of the rules of healthy competition and the avoidance of monopolistic regimes."
The Greek culture minister said that "cultural diversity is obliged to be put in practice on a European level for all the states and not constitute the privilege of the few."
He noted that "the European Commission's approach for the promotion of the 'economy of culture' on a level of the European Union's regional policy is judged positive."
 Gov't opposed to Parliamentary probe into Pakistani abductions at present
ATHENS, 19/5/2006 (ANA)Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Thursday stressed that it was the government's standing policy not to propose Parliamentary inquiries into issues that were still being investigated by the Greek courts.
The spokesman was responding to questions regarding the emerging scandal over the abduction of a number of Pakistanis living in Athens in the summer of 2005, following the terrorist attacks in London, and recent revelations that members of the Greek intelligence service EYP might have been involved.
Asked about main opposition PASOK's actions proposing a Parliamentary investigating committee to look into the affair, he simply noted that this was "every party's right".
Antonaros also underlined that there was no "issue" for the government concerning then public order minister George Voulgarakis - minister of culture in the present cabinet - and refused to comment on a suit filed against the minister related to the issue.
 PM ducking question on Pakistani abductions, Alavanos says
ATHENS, 19/5/2006 (ANA)The leader of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party (Synaspismos) Alekos Alavanos on Thursday accused Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis of ducking a question tabled in Parliament on the Pakistani abductions issue by having Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras answer in his place.
According to Alavanos, the prime minister's silence confirmed in the loudest way that the government was responsible for both the cover-up of the abductions but also for creating the conditions that allowed them to take place at all.
Synaspismos' leader said the party intended to ask for a parliamentary investigation into whether members of the government were involved and hoped for the support of the other opposition parties for this demand.
 Interior minister holds talks with Russian ombudsman
ATHENS, 19/5/2006 (ANA)Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and visiting Russian ombudsman Vladimir Lukin held talks on Thursday on issues of cooperation between Greece and Russia that concern the duties of the interior ministry, issues concerning the ombudsman and the immigration question.
The talks were attended by the Russian Ambassador to Athens Andrei Vdovin and Greek ombudsman George Kaminis.
Pavlopoulos termed cooperation with the Russian official excellent and assured him that Greece is at the disposal of Russia to provide information and expertise since, as he said, problems are common.
Lukin, who is in Athens at the invitation of the Greek ombudsman in the framework of the "Evnomia" program and who had meetings with government officials, termed his meeting with Pavlopoulos "the most important since the problem of immigration is one of the main issues of his work in Russia".
According to Lukin, the approach to the problem of immigration has many common points between the two countries.
 PASOK party spokesman comments on issue of prefectural candidate Karahasan
ATHENS, 19/5/2006 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK party spokesman Nikos Athanasakis on Thursday accused the government of "hiding behind the attacks against the candidate for the Drama-Xanthi-Kavala supraprefecture Gulbeyaz Karahasan".
As a result of reports appearing on Thursday on the issue of the election or appointment of muftis, Athanasakis said "the ND government must realize that it will not get away from its problems and the problems it is creating for citizens with its policies by hiding behind the fragmental use of statements by Mrs. Karahasan and their conveyance to a focal political level."
The PASOK party's spokesman, referring to the issue of the resignation of Social Insurance Secretary General Dimitris Kostopoulos, said that the list of government cadres who are leaving is "growing continuously and with an unprecedented speed" and predicted that "the phenomenon will not stop."
Athanasakis accused Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis of refusing to remove George Voulgarakis from the government "who provably lied to the Greek people and to the Greek Parliament" on the alleged abduction of a number of Pakistanis living in Athens in the summer of 2005, following the terrorist attacks in London.
 New Social Insurance secretary general appointed
ATHENS, 19/5/2006 (ANA)Dimosthenis Mammonas was appointed as the new Social Insurance secretary general on Thursday by a joint decision of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Employment and Social Solidarity Minister Savvas Tsitouridis.
Mammonas succeeds Dimitris Kostopoulos who resigned on Wednesday night.
The new secretary general is a lawyer, holds a PhD in European Law and a member of the Council of the European Union's Legal Service.
 11 Parliament MPs refer to observance for Pontian Greek genocide
ATHENS, 19/5/2006 (ANA)Eleven parliament deputies from the country's two major political parties, ruling New Democracy and main opposition PASOK, have called for a minute of silence to be observed during a Parliament plenary session on May 19 in memory of the Pontian Greek genocide victims.
In a letter addressed to Parliament President Anna Benaki-Psarouda, the 11 MPs stressed that the Pontian Greek genocide is a historically documented event, as the persecutions endured by the Pontians (ethnic Greeks of the Black Sea region, particularly in modern-day northeastern Turkey) were part of an organized extermination plan targeting all minorities living in Asia Minor prior, during and following the First World War by successive Turkish regimes.
MPs also noted that Parliament, via a unanimous decision in March 1994, declared May 19 as "Pontian Greek Genocide Commemoration Day".
 Parliamentary initiative on building of places of worship
ATHENS, 19/5/2006 (ANA)The building of churches and of places of worship, but also the issue of conversion was the focus of all-party initiative in Parliament on Thursday.
Specifically, with two amendments tabled to the national education and religious affairs ministry's bill on the "Selection of primary and secondary education teachers", 12 deputies from all the parties proposed that "for the building of churches or places of worship for all religious confessions and dogmas, a relevant building permit must be issued by the urban planning authority, following opinion by the Architectural Inspection Committee."
The deputies, in their second proposal, call for "the objective existence of the offense of conversion must be redefined in a manner to abide by the Constitution".
The deputies said that "whoever exerts undesirable pressure on another person with the purpose of forcing him to change his religious convictions should be punished with a fine and in the case when the victim is a minor, to six months in prison."
 Greece's new ambassador to Bulgaria assumes her duties
SOFIA, 19/5/2006 (ANA)Greece's new ambassador to Sofia, Danai-Magdalini Koumanakou, chose the Exohi Customs Office, to travel to the Bulgarian capital and assume her duties.
With this symbolic move, Koumanakou wished to show the importance which the Greek government attaches to the Exohi-Goce Delchev toll and the level of good relations between the two countries.
Koumanakou initially visited Drama where she met with prefect Constantine Evmoiridis. In the afternoon of Wednesday, accompanied by the prefect of Drama, she began her trip to Sofia.
She was received at the Bulgarian customs office by a delegation of local officials of Goce Delchev, at the head of which was Mayor Vladimir Moskov. Later, they all together visited the Town Hall of Goce Delchev where the mayor gave a briefing on local matters.
 Greece ranks 14th in EU-25 on per capita GDP level
BRUSSELS, 19/5/2006 (ANA)Average per capita GDP in Greece reached 81.1 pct of the average EU level in 2003, Eurostat said on Thursday, ranking Greece 14th in the EU-25.
The EU executive's statistics agency, in a report, said the average per capita GDP of EU regions ranged from 33 percent in Lubelski, Poland, to 278 pct in a London district. The UK capital along with Brussels (238 pct) and Luxembourg (234 pct) were the richest regions of the EU, while five of the poorest regions in the EU, with a per capita GDP ranging from 32 pct to 36 pct, were in Poland.
Five Greek regions were below the 75 pct average EU level in 2003, Eurostat said. These were the Ionian Islands (74.6 pct), Thessaly (73.2 pct), Epirus (66.4 pct), Eastern Macedonia and Thrace (62.4 pct) and Western Greece (62.7 pct).
Central Greece (115.7 pct), South Aegean (89.5 pct), Attica (86.7 pct), Crete (81.5 pct), North Aegean (81.2 pct), Western Macedonia (80.8 pct), Central Macedonia (78.7 pct) and the Peloponese (77.5 pct) recorded the highest per capita GDP.
Luxembourg (233.9 pct), Ireland (134.1 pct), Holland (124.8 pct) and Denmark (121 pct) were the countries with the highest per capita GDP in the EU, while Latvia, Lithuania and Poland recorded the lowest per capita GDP levels (40.9 pct, 45.3 pcta and 47 pct respectively).
 Gov't cites heightened interest in joint public-private sector projects
ATHENS, 19/5/2006 (ANA)Investment plans, worth 548 million euros, have been submitted to a special secretariat for joint ventures between the public and private sectors in the few months since ratification of a relevant law, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister said he expected the submission of new investment plans -- budgeted at 300 million euros -- this month, covering projects for building state agencies' facilities, tourism and environmental infrastructure, healthcare and justice ministry-affiliated projects.
Alogoskoufis sounded optimistic, saying joint projects would play a decisive role in the development of the Greek economy and society over the next few years.
"By attracting funds, know-how and the dynamism of the private sector we ensure better quality, lower costs and the speedier completion of projects," he emphasized.
 PASOK deputy questions unemployment figures
ATHENS, 19/5/2006 (ANA)A top main opposition PASOK deputy on Thursday questioned the latest unemployment figures released by the government showing a drop in April's joblessness numbers.
According to deputy Evi Christofilopoulou, who heads PASOK's social affairs portfolio, claimed that OAED (the state-run Manpower Employment Organization) has "resorted to tricks and numbers-crunching to exclude thousands of unemployed from the jobless rolls, like those insured by OGA (the Agricultural Insurance Organization), in order to present lower official unemployment."
 Greenpeace: Diesel-powered cars are a problem
ATHENS, 19/5/2006 (ANA)A ban on diesel-powered private cars in Athens and Thessaloniki should remain in effect, according to the Greek branch of the environmental organization Greenpeace, which warned on Thursday that smog problems would otherwise increase and cause a sharp rise in the victims of atmospheric pollution.
In response to proposals for lifting the ban on diesel-powered cars in Athens and Thessaloniki, Greenpeace argued that diesel fuel for cars is not only disastrous for the environment and public health but also uneconomical.
The international ecological organization backs its position with a report under the title: "Diesel: the silent killer" that debunks the allegedly environmentally friendly dimension of diesel and validates all the reasons that make the continuation of the ban necessary.
Greenpeace wants the ban on diesel-powered cars to continue in Athens and Thessaloniki and suggests a shift to alternative cleaner forms of fuel (e.g. bio-fuel) particularly, for environment polluting vehicles like taxi cabs, buses, garbage trucks and state agency cars.
 Alavanos visits Elefsina district
ELEFSINA, 19/5/2006 (ANA)Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) party leader Alekos Alavanos visited the industrial town of Elefsina, west of Athens, on Thursday for talks with local government officials and municipal employees.
Alavanos also visited the Thriassio Hospital and the Elefsina Shipyard, while noting that the major problems facing the region of western Attica prefecture are unemployment and environmental damage in the heavily industrial area.
During his visit to the hospital he again stressed the need for the hiring of more personnel in the public healthcare system.
 Five Greece-based companies win Best Workplaces awards
BERLIN, 19/5/2006 (ANA)Five Greece-based companies - Colgate Palmolive Hellas, Piscines Ideales, Genesis Pharma, Wyeth Hellas, Procter & Gamble Hellas -- have been included in a list of 100 European companies with the best working environment.
The five companies received their awards during a special event held in Berlin on Wednesday, organized by the Great Place to Work Institute Europe.
Colgate Palmolive Hellas ranked first in Europe for its internal communication, practices balancing professional and family life, use of integrated systems of professional growth and its commitment to the well-being of its employees.
The best 100 companies were selected from a total of more than 1,000 enterprises included in national "Best Workplaces" contests, held in 15 countries.
 Annual contribution evasion to Social Security Foundation increases
ATHENS, 19/5/2006 (ANA)Annual contribution evasion to the Social Security Foundation (IKA) has increased and approaches the huge amount of 1.8 billion euros, while at the same time debts owed to IKA by private sector businesses exceed 3 billion euros.
This data was publicized during a press conference on Thursday by the employee's federation of the foundation (POSE-IKA).
According to the federation's president, Christos Kokkalis, if these two basic problems had been addressed, the foundation's finances would be balanced and there would be no cause for concern.
 Thessaloniki and Lahore chambers of commerce and industry sign cooperation agreement
THESSALONIKI, 19/5/2006 (ANA)A cooperation agreement has been signed between the representatives of the Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBETH) with their counterparts of the corresponding organization of Pakistan's Lahore, within the context of the twinning of the two entrepreneurial agencies.
The agreement bears the signatures of the president of the Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dimitris Bakatselos and the vice-president of the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Abdul Bari, who took part in the business delegation which accompanied Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz during his recent official visit to Greece.
On the sidelines of the event for the signing of the cooperation agreement, Bakatselos and EBETH vice-president Ioannis Dabasinas met with the Pakistani prime minister and businesspersons.
At the meeting, particular emphasis was given to the sectors and products of interest to Greek entrepreneurs, such as agricultural produce, shipping, energy, tourism and mining.
 Thessaloniki, Bucharest chambers to cooperate
BUCHARES, 19/5/2006 (ANA-MPA/ I Randou)The Thessaloniki Chamber of Trade and Industry and the Trade Chamber of Bucharest have signed a cooperation agreement, officials said on Thursday.
The pact will simplify cooperation between firms of the two countries, officials in the Romanian capital noted.
 Fewer Greeks to go on vacations this year, poll
ATHENS, 19/5/2006 (ANA)More than 44 percent of Greeks said they would not go on vacations this summer, a panhellenic poll conducted by INKA, a consumer group, said on Thursday.
The poll, conducted in the period 9-13 May through telephone interviews, showed that financial reasons (73 pct), professional reasons (20 pct) and other reasons (7.0 pct) were the main obstacles for summer vacations in 2006.
The poll also showed that 72 pct of respondent said they would spend their vacations in privately owned houses, with the remaining 28 percent in hotels or rented rooms.
INKA said an average Greek family would have a seven-day vacation this summer (25 pct), 10 days (39 pct), 15 days (28 pct), 20 days (6.5 pct) and 30 days (1.5 pct). Most Greeks prefer seaside destinations (75 pct), while another 15 pct prefer mountain destinations and 15 pct prefer vacations abroad. INKA said the average vacation cost for a four-member family totaled 3,300 euros for a period of 15 days.
This year's results were worse compared with 2005, when 41 pct of Greeks said they would not go on vacations and 39.6 pct in 2004.
 Blue Star appeal rejected over EU fine
ATHENS, 19/5/2006 (ANA)Blue Star Maritime S.A. announced on Thursday that the European Court of Justice rejected management's appeal against a decision of the European Court of First Instance on December 11, 2003 concerning a fine of 1.5 million euros imposed in 1998 by the EU Commission.
"Following this decision, the amount of Euro 2,094,000, which includes capital plus accrued interest, will be paid by May 31, 2006. It should be noted, that a provision for the full amount has already been posted to company's accounts in previous financial years and therefore there will be no effect to the financial results of year 2006," management said in a statement to the Athens Stock Exchange.
 Semi-final of Eurovision song contest held in Athens late Thursday night
ATHENS, 19/5/2006 (ANA)The semi-final of the 51st Eurovision song contest began late Thursday night at OAKA's Olympic indoor hall in Athens and was expected to finish in the early hours of Friday.
The television viewers were to vote the ten best songs which will compete in the final on Saturday night.
Taking part in Thursday night's semi-final were 23 countries: Armenia (which is taking part for the first time in the history of the competition), Bulgaria, Slovenia, Andorra, Belarus, Albania, Belgium, Ireland, Cyprus, Monaco, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Poland, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, Finland, The Netherlands, Lithuania, Portugal, Sweden, Estonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iceland.
The ten best that were to be elected late Thursday night will compete in Saturday's final with the best top songs of last year's Eurovision, that is, Switzerland, Moldova, Israel, Latvia, Norway, Malta, Denmark, Romania, Croatia, the four major countries which traditionally participate in the competition - Spain, Germany, France and the United Kingdom - and Greece which won the Eurovision song contest in 2005.
 24-hour electric train service for Eurovision
ATHENS, 19/5/2006 (ANA)Greater Athens' electric rail company (ISAP) on Thursday announced 24-hour service for the three-day period between Thursday and Saturday due to the Eurovision song contest, which is being held at the Athens Olympic Complex's (OAKA) indoor arena.
The Irini station serves the complex.
Trains will run at 15-minute intervals between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., ISAP said.
 Court rejects motion to prevent screening of Da Vinci Code
ATHENS, 19/5/2006 (ANA)An Athens first instance court on Thursday, as expected, threw out a motion by a member of a fundamentalist Orthodox Christian organization requesting a temporary injunction against the screening of the film "The Da Vinci Code", which premieres in Athens movie theatres on Thursday afternoon.
More than 100,000 tickets have already been pre-sold in movie theatres around the east Mediterranean and predominantly Orthodox Christian nation, by far a record.
The motion was discussed in court on Wednesday and was attended by members of several fundamentalist Christian organizations and Old Calendarist clergy.
Representatives of the groups, upon learning of the court's decision, vowed to continue protests outside the movie theatres showing the film.
The Greek Orthodox Church's powerful Holy Synod last week joined a handful of other top ecclesiastical bodies around the world in criticizing the eagerly-awaited Hollywood version of Dan Brown's global best-seller, issuing a pamphlet titled "Towards the people: The truth about the novel 'The Da Vinci Code' ".
In the pamphlet, it stressed that "from a historical and Christian viewpoint, the book's content is by far fictitious...Religious consciences are insulted and undermined, slyly and without historical basis, by the fictitious plot".
However, the Holy Synod underlined that it would not issue any recommendation on whether the faithful should or should not see the movie or read the novel, "as the proponents of suppression would expect", but added that, instead, it (the Synod) was "certain that anyone who wishes to (view or read) it can ascertain the falsehoods and reject its absurd subject matter".
 4.5R quake jolts Pieria
THESSALONIKI, 19/5/2006 (ANA)An earthquake measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale jolted Pieria prefecture early Thursday, following two weak tremors late Wednesday night. No damage was immediately reported, while seismologists were reassuring.
The earthquake was recorded at 5:25 a.m., at a distance of 58 kilometers southwest of Thessaloniki, with its epicenter in the sea off the coasts of Katerini and Litochoro.
Thessaloniki Aristotelion University's Geophysics Laboratory seismologist Prof. Vassilis Karacostas told ANA-MPA that there was no cause for alarm, and described the phenomenon as "normal".
"It is a normal development. The area has not produced earthquakes of over 5R magnitude in the past. The seismicity is rather low, and consequently there is no reason for concern," he said.
Two smaller tremblers were recorded Wednesday night, registering 3.3R (at 8:04 p.m.) and 3.2R (at 10:57 p.m.).
 German School kidnapper indicted
THESSALONIKI, 19/5/2006 (ANA)Costas Arabatzis, 52, who abducted the headmaster and caretaker of Thessaloniki's German School on Tuesday, was indicted for five felonies and three misdemeanors on Thursday.
Arabatzis was led before a prosecutor who charged him with repeated counts of abduction, attempted extortion, supply, possession and construction of explosives.
He is also indicted for illegal arms possession, importing weapons and objects, which are misdemeanor charges.
Arabatzis will appear before the Thessaloniki court examiner later on Thursday.
 Development minister visits Athens Academy's Medical and Biological Research Foundation
ATHENS, 19/5/2006 (ANA)Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and Deputy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou met on Thursday with the president of the Athens Academy's Medical and Biological Research Foundation, professor and academic Grigoris Skalkeas and the administration of the foundation.
The ministers visited all the centers and installations of the foundation and met with research professors and postgraduate students expressing satisfaction over the modern building facilities, the laboratories' equipment and the high scientific level of researchers.
Sioufas, addressing academics on the premises, the foundation's officials and trainees, expressed "the profound respect of the development ministry's leadership in the foundation of the Athens Academy and its great contribution to the country's scientific and cultural affairs."
 Parliamentary committee report on people with disabilities
ATHENS, 19/5/2006 (ANA)Parliament's all-party Committee Report on the confrontation of problems faced by persons with disabilities was submitted to Parliament and the government on Thursday for consideration.
"In our country citizens with disability are often confronted as patients and people who need charity. The main reasons for the creation of these stereotypes and of the negative prejudices, in most cases are the incorrect briefing of the citizen, as well as the lack of public opinion's sensitivity," the report said.
According to the president of the Committee, ruling New Democracy (ND) Deputy of State Eleftheria Bernidaki-Aldous, "these past years positive changes have been made in the manner with which the Greek State and society approaches the matters of disability. However, in Greek society there are still obstacles which do not allow citizens with disability to equally exercise their rights."
 Students hold protest rally in Athens
ATHENS, 19/5/2006 (ANA)Students held a protest rally in Athens on Thursday in reaction to the revision of Article 16 of the Constitution for the establishment of non-profit, non-state universities.
The students, although they had initially planned to go to the National Education and Religious Affairs Ministry, changed their mind and headed towards Parliament where a strong police force awaited them. The leaders of the march tried to break the police cordon resulting in them clashing with the police who used teargas to obstruct the demonstrators from reaching Parliament.
Mayhem prevailed at Syntagma where traffic came to a halt at Panepistimiou Street.
 Police report rise in illegal immigrants from Albania
ATHENS, 19/5/2006 (ANA)The number of illegal immigrants seeking to cross the border with Albania into Greece is tending to rise, according to figures released western Macedonia region police headquarters on Thursday.
Police arrested 4,693 illegal immigrants in the region from January-April 2006, up from 3,850 during the same months in 2005.
Greek authorities said the rise in illegal immigration was triggered by younger generations of Albanian citizens seeking seasonal employment and the implementation of laws legalizing illegal immigrants in Greece.
 Man arrested on charges of supplying forged permits
THESSALONIKI, 19/5/2006 (ANA)A 30-year-old local man was arrested and charged in Thessaloniki with supplying forged residence and work permits to foreigners in Greece.
According to police, the suspect operated the scheme out of his real estate office in the northern city, charging 2,000 euros for the forgeries.
Additionally, two foreign women were also arrested outside the suspect's office.
All three suspects were led before a local prosecutor. An investigation is continuing.
 Event on promotion of Messinia prefecture held at Stockholm Mediterranean Museum
STOCKHOLM, 19/5/2006 (ANA-MPA)An event was held recently on the promotion of the city of Kalamata and the prefecture of Messinia, organized at the Mediterranean Museum in Stockholm by the Greek embassy in Sweden in cooperation with the Museum, the Greek Tourist Organization and the office of the National Bank of Greece in Stockholm.
According to the Greek-Swedish website 'greek.swedishportal.net', the event was attended among other people by the ambassadors of Greece and Cyprus in Sweden Evangelos Karokis and Pavlos Anastasiadis and the Mayor of Kalamata George Koutsoulis.
Swedish writer and friend of Greece Staffan Stople, who has lived in the past in Messinia, spoke of "his Messinia".
 New Athens University rector elected
ATHENS, 19/5/2006 (ANA)Professor and deputy rector Christos Kittas was elected as the new rector of the Athens University on Thursday with 52.27 percent of the vote.
Professors Dimosthenis Asimakopoulos, Ioannis Karakostas and George Kreatsas were elected deputy rectors.
Kittas' opponent in the elections, Theodosios Pelegrinis, received 47.73 percent of the vote.
 Exhibition of old maps of Peloponnese in Athens
ATHENS, 19/5/2006 (ANA)A cartography exhibition focusing on old maps of the Peloponnesus from the 16th-18th centuries will open at the Eynardos Building on Agiou Konstantinou and Menandrou streets in Athens on Thursday. It will run until October 29 before transferring to Patras.
The maps are from the Greek Cartography Archives collections founded in 2002, wile the exhibition is organized in collaboration with Parliament's Library.
 Cypriot president warns Ankara of halt of accession process
VIENNA, 19/5/2006 (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos has sent an indirect and clear warning to Ankara that Turkey's accession course to the European Union could be halted.
In an interview in Thursday's edition of the Austrian newspaper Der Standard, Papadopoulos said "the issue is not whether we will 'veto' but whether we will open further chapters of negotiation, something which requires the approval of all the 25 member-states."
The Cypriot president reminded that Turkey's progress will be examined in October or November.
To a question whether he spoke about this with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the recent EU-Latin America-Caribbean Summit in Vienna, the Cypriot president noted that "for two years now" he has tried to have a meeting with Erdogan but to date he has "not received any positive reply."
When they meet they "exchange handshakes and a few words," however they have "not discussed anything substantial, despite the fact that Austria has recently tried to promote this issue," President Papadopoulos said in his interview to the Austrian newspaper.
 Cyprus FM says Turkish statements a mere ''bravado''
NICOSIA, 19/5/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)Cypriot Minister of Foreign Affairs George Iacovou has described as "bravado" that can not be accepted by the European Union statements by the Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan that if the so called embargo on the Turkish Cypriots is not lifted, Ankara will make certain moves which he did not specify.
Speaking at Larnaca airport upon his departure for Strasbourg, to participate in the 116th session of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers (May 18-19), Iacovou said Erdogan should reconsider his country's European aspirations and ''ask himself if Turkey is serious when referring to its European course".
Responding to a question, he said that that the Commission's report for Turkey will not be ready before September so the first discussion for Turkey's evaluation is not expected to take place before October.
Iacovou noted that the evaluation does not consist only of issues of Cypriot interest and that Ankara has many obligations towards the 25 EU member states, which directly concern the Cyprus Republic.
He further noted the obligations that have to do with internal matters of Turkey, such as the protection of the human rights of minorities, underlining that the general impression is that Turkey has not made substantial progress towards Europe.
Apart from the Cyprus problem, he said, the European Union will have to name all those issues, on which Turkey has not made any progress at all.
As regards the Annan plan, the Cypriot FM said that up to a certain point the UN sponsored plan was extensively discussed at an international level as well but "no one brings forward the Annan plan nowadays".
He noted however that it is a clearly realistic approach that the UN plans never fully disappear.
 Draft report on HELIOS air crash submitted to Cyprus authority
NICOSIA , 19/5/2006 (ANA-MPA/CNA)Akrivos Tsolakis, head of the Hellenic Air Accident and Incidents Investigation Committee, submitted on Thursday the draft report regarding the crash of Cypriot airliner Helios Airways' Boeing 737-300 in Athens last August that killed all 121 persons on board.
Tsolakis submitted the draft report to head of Cypriot Air Accident and Incidents Investigation Committee Costas Orfanos at the presidential building in Nicosia in the presence of Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos and Transport Minister Charis Thrassou.
The draft report was forwarded on Thursday to the responsible US and French air accident investigation committees while it will also be forwarded to HELIOS and BOEING.
In statements after arriving in Cyprus on Wednesday, Tsolakis said that the Committee's draft report will be finalized in sixty days (July 18), after the parties involved also submitted their comments.
According to Tsolakis, the comments submitted to the Committee will be incorporated into the report and the comments it does not accept will be incorporated as an appendix. The finalized version of the report will be submitted to the Greek authorities. Until its finalization, the draft will remain confidential.
Replying to questions, Tsolakis said that the report ''refers to the causes of the crash and not to responsibilities.''
The Cypriot government assigned on May 10 a one-member independent Investigating Committee, comprising former member of the Supreme Court Panayiotis Kallis, to fully investigate the causes of the crash.