|Tuesday, 22 June 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-05-24
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>May 24, 2006
 PM addresses OECD Ministerial Council
PARIS, 24/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)"Delivering prosperity represents the fundamental political message that we wish to transmit to our countries and the rest of the world," Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said on Tuesday as he opened the Ministerial Council of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which convenes under his chairmanship on Tuesday and Wednesday.
According to the Greek premier the agenda of the meeting, whose central theme was 'Delivering Prosperity', would allow an exchange of views focused on this issue.
He also noted that the short-term estimates for continued growth of the global economy were optimistic.
At the same time, a number of dangers and tensions had to be dealt with because they could lead to isolation and restrict the cycle of growth, he added.
"The prospects are positive. The strong global growth that we have seen in recent years is expected to continue and, in certain parts of the world, to accelerate. Unemployment is expected to drop and inflation to remain under control. But we must be careful in relation to the dangers that arise from increasing prices of energy and the security of energy supply, the recent increase in interest rates, increasing imbalance in fiscal indices and foreign balances of trade. Dealing with these dangers but also further strengthening the positive prospects require responsible long-term policies and appropriate restructuring reforms," he said.
 Rising oil prices a stimulus to work together, PM tells 'Les Echos'
PARIS, 24/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Rising oil prices were a stimulus for European countries to work together even more closely and put into effect a European policy for energy, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said in an interview with the French daily "Les Echos" published on Tuesday.
"The [European] Commission has presented this target in its Green Book. The discussion has been underway for years. We must now move forward. The solutions are well known. We must diversify our sources of energy and supply locations, we must reduce our dependence on oil and promote renewable energy sources," Karamanlis said.
The Greek premier played down the risk that higher oil prices would trigger a re-emergence of rising inflation, though he said that the situation required careful monitoring and stability, while adding that the European Central Bank was a guarantee of this stability.
Questioned on tough austerity measures taken by his government to reduce the Greek deficit to below the 3 percent GDP ceiling required by EU treaties - and whether larger European countries showed equal determination in returning to Stability Pact limits - Karamanlis stressed that Greece was determined to reduce its deficit, not only in order to conform with Eurozone standards but also because this formed the basis of good economic policy.
Asked whether the jump in the Greek public deficit to more than 6 percent of GDP in 2004 had been caused mainly by the 2004 Olympics hosted in Athens, Karamanlis confirmed that this had played a large part but stressed that there were also other factors.
"Greece had been spending a lot for a long time. We put an end to this divergence. It is painful but necessary, and not just because we must respect the Maastricht criteria. This restructuring, I underline, did not occur at the expense of the real economy, the economy of action. Growth is strong; it came near to 4 per cent at the beginning of this year. Unemployment is declining. Investments are increasing. The competitiveness of the economy is improving," he stressed.
He also underlined the government's determination to reduce the size of the public sector through privatizations:
"We wish to create a more efficient state. The majority of Greeks supports this policy of reforms, regardless of party affiliations," Karamanlis added.
Regarding the accession of Romania and Bulgaria in 2007 while other Balkan countries were on the brink of joining - and whether EU enlargement might be moving too fast - the Greek premier underlined the need to give Balkan countries a European prospect in order to promote peace, stability and prosperity in that region.
"We must now consider the effectiveness of European institutions. We must regulate these now, without sending negative messages to the countries that aspire to join the EU. All the world will benefit from these future enlargements, especially Greece. Our political and economic relations with our neighbors will improve and develop. Greece will become a privileged gateway to their markets for all those who want to set up in business there. Greeks have, already, penetrated these countries," he pointed out.
With respect to Turkey's accession prospects, in particular, Karamanlis underlined that there must be rules, principles and terms for all candidate countries.
"Turkey has the status of a candidate-state. As long as it meets the requirements expressed by the European Union it must preserve its European prospects," he said.
He also denied that the European Constitution had been permanently put on hold after the no vote in the French and Dutch referendums:
"We respect the result of the French and Dutch referendum, but the majority of member-states have ratified the Treaty. We must find ways to go forward. This is one of the main issues at the upcoming EU summit in June," he said.
Karamanlis underlined that the enlarged Community of 25 or 30 members could not operate in the same way as a Community of six or 15 and advised against substantial modifications of the EU Constitutional Treaty, pointing out that it was the result of long and painstaking negotiations and compromises and that changes to certain points would disrupt the balance of the whole.
 OECD seeks policy coordination
PARIS, 24/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Tuesday that ministers at an annual meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) focused on the economic outlook, ways of improving economic performance, and implementation of economic reforms for growth and employment.
"During the session, we agreed to sound out the extent to which we can cooperate to achieve a specific level of policy coordination that will help us to tackle imbalances," Alogoskoufis told a news conference.
"As we all know, world growth has been strong for the past few years. Nevertheless, there are some notable and sizeable imbalances that have to be addressed, such as soaring energy and commodity prices, and issues such as fiscal imbalances, current account deficits or surpluses and asset markets. The discussions have helped us reach some very interesting conclusions," the minister said.
Debated were the nature of structural policies that can help reduce imbalances and lead to sustainable long-run growth in the areas of labor utilization, productivity, innovation and financial markets.
In addition, the ministers discussed the implementation of reforms that will promote jobs and growth.
"Adjusting to domestic and global economic and political requirements, which are sometimes contradictory in nature, is one of the greatest challenges for policymakers around the globe," the minister noted.
Views were exchanged on key topics including policies for innovation and R&D, modernizing educational systems, and life-long learning programs.
"Such policies can lay the foundations for considerable gains in productivity and hence help reduce the risks associated with an ageing population in most OECD members," Alogoskoufis said.
Required for reform were careful planning, solid social consensus and determination to attain successful implementation. Building consensus, in particular, entailed an exhaustive explanation of problems and detailed clarification of the costs and benefits of proposed reforms, he stated.
"This is particularly true in socially sensitive areas, such as labor market or social security reform. Consequently, wide ownership of a reform agenda is essential; otherwise reforms can backfire and lead to the derailment of economic policies, as often has been the case in many countries," the minister cautioned.
A formal presentation of the findings of the meeting, which was chaired by Greece, will be given in the French capital on Wednesday by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
 Greek, Turkish jetfighters collide over Aegean Sea
ATHENS, 24/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)A Turkish and a Greek jetfighter collided over the southern Aegean Sea on Tuesday, apparently during the routine interception of the Turkish jetfighter when it had entered the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) by a Greek Airforce plane.
A massive search and rescue operation by air and sea was immediately mounted for the pilots of the two airforce jets, which collided at around 12:50 p.m., 15 miles south-southeast of Karpathos island.
Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros told a scheduled press briefing shortly afterwards that Greek search and rescue vessels, including a Super Puma helicopter and seagoing vessels, were speeding to the area of the crash.
"It is an extremely regrettable incident," he said.
According to a later report by the Greek Armed Forces General Staff, the Turkish pilot was safe and had been picked up by the Panama-flagged and Japanese-owned merchant ship "Gaz Century", while a Greek 'Super Puma' search-and-rescue helicopter that arrived on the scene 20 minutes after the crash was still searching for the Greek pilot.
It also confirmed that the Turkish aircraft had not submitted a flight plan to the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR).
Antonaros said that prime minister Costas Karamanlis, who was in Paris for the OECD ministerial council, was immediately informed of the incident by Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis, and added, in reply to press questions, that the prime minister's was not hastening his return to Athens.
According to an ANA correspondent in Paris, meanwhile, the prime minister immediately contacted Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis in Finland, where she is currently on a visit, and asked her to return to Athens.
Though he will not be returning to Athens early, Karamanlis has decided to leave an OECD official dinner early this afternoon and return to his hotel room, in order to contact his government in Athens and be updated on the latest developments.
The Greek premier intends to go through with plans to host a dinner for ministers and foreign dignitaries attending the OECD Forum scheduled to take place on Tuesday night, however.
The foreign ministry in Athens, meanwhile, later issued a press release announcing that Bakoyannis and her Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul had spoken on the phone on Tuesday, expressing their regret over the incident and agreeing that it should not be allowed to affect the efforts of Greece and Turkey to improve bilateral relations.
Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis and the leadership of the Greek Armed Forces have been in session since the incident occurred to monitor developments.
Helmet and survival kit of missing Greek pilot found: The helmet of missing Greek pilot Constantine Iliakis, whose fighter plane was involved in a collision with a Turkish warplane earlier in the day, as well as the survival kit bearing Greek markings were found late on Tuesday night. Rescue crews are continuing their efforts to locate the missing pilot, according to the National Defense General Staff.
It was also revealed that the National Defense General Staff chiefs of the two countries had telephone conversations concerning both the event and the issue of the handing over of the Turkish pilot to the Turkish authorities.
The will of both sides to prevent possible tension in the Aegean appeared in these conversations, a will which had been expressed by the political leaderships of the two countries.
Iliakis is married and has two young children.
Foreign ministry spokesman comments on collision between Greek and Turkish fighter planes: Foreign Ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, commenting on Tuesday evening on the collision between a Greek and a Turkish fighter plane south of the Greek island of Karpathos earlier in the day, said that the Greek authorities acted with extreme responsibility.
"The Greek authorities, as always, acted with extreme responsibility, with the criterion of the safety of international navigation and the defense of national interests and our sovereign rights," he said.
"The Greek government will continue to implement this practice both at political and practical level. We have stated repeatedly that in our bilateral relations with Turkey attitudes are necessary which strengthen good neighborliness and will help the European course of Turkey," the spokesman added.
Koumoutsakos stressed that as soon as the event was made known the relevant Search and Rescue Centre in Piraeus was instructed to call on the Panama-flag freighter sailing nearby to head for the area and proceed with necessary search and rescue activities.
The spokesman also conveyed the anxiety of Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis over the fate of the Greek pilot, as well as her hope that he will be found alive and her support for his family.
It was also disclosed by the foreign ministry that NATO has already been briefed, while the relevant services of the European Union will also be briefed and the ministry will be making a protest demarche to Turkey on Wednesday.
FM Dora Bakoyannis holds telephone conversation with PASOK party leader: Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis held a telephone conversation with main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) party leader George Papandreou on Tuesday night.
Bakoyannis briefed the main opposition party leader on the incident that had occurred over the Aegean earlier in the day when a Greek and a Turkish fighter plane had collided.
The pilot of the Greek fighter jet is still missing, while the Turkish pilot was rescued.
PASOK leader, Alavanos on Greek-Turkish jet collision: Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Tuesday stressed that Greece's sovereign rights were "given and not negotiable" in comments on a collision between Turkish and Greek fighter jets near the island of Karpathos earlier that day.
He also criticized the government for failing to make use of opportunities to improve bilateral relations between Greece and Turkey and resolve problems, as well as for "delayed reactions" in its handling of Tuesday's collision.
Papandreou stressed that Turkey was obliged to respect Greece's sovereign rights and to operate in a good neighborly way as a neighbor and as a candidate-state for EU accession.
PASOK's president noted that his party, when in government, had a plan for de-escalating tension and a time-schedule for resolving the issue of the Aegean continental shelf that the government of Costas Karamanlis had failed to use, as well as missing many other opportunities.
He urged the government to promptly inform international bodies, NATO, the European Union and all international organizations about Tuesday incident and defend Greece's rights, noting that there appeared to be a delay in the Greek side's reaction. He also cautioned against further escalation of tension, advising the government to handle the issue calmly and responsibly.
Earlier, Papandreou had contacted Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis, who briefed him on all the latest developments.
Speaking in Parliament, Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party leader Alekos Alavanos said Tuesday's incident was a "pre-announced collision" and it was only luck that it had not claimed more victims.
He attributed the crash to internal problems within Turkey and said that escalation of the crisis must be avoided, reiterating his party's proposal for a large-scale reduction in armaments on both sides and an agreement on FIR zones of responsibility.
"The government must take immediate measures to resolve the differences," he said.
 U.S. State Department spokesman expresses regret over Greek-Turkish air accident
WASHINGTON, 24/5/2006 (ANA/MPA/T. Ellis)U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, commenting on the collision between a Greek and a Turkish fighter plane over the Aegean on Tuesday, expressed his regret over the accident and said that the governments of the two countries are handling the issue.
McCormack avoided going into details of the event, stressing that he does not have a clear picture of what exactly happened and saying that he hoped the two countries will cooperate with the aim of avoiding similar events in the future.
"We don't have all the facts, but according to the first indications it appears to be a sad accident," he said.
"I understand that a Greek pilot is missing and that a Turkish pilot was rescued. Of course, our thoughts and prayers are with the two pilots, as well as with the families of the people involved. I think that the Greek and the Turkish governments are in contact as regards the event. And, of course, we hope that they will resolve whatever issues possibly exist on this event, so that we shall not see something similar again," he added.
Asked to comment on the fact that the Turkish aircraft was flying within the limits of the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR), McCormack said "I will not hurry into conclusions on whether the one aircraft was in the air space of the other or not. These are issues that must be ascertained. I don't have all the facts. Look, the Aegean is a small region and we are all aware of the differences existing between Greece and Turkey on this issue. So, what we would like to see is these two NATO allies cooperating so that such accidents are not repeated. When these take place it is sad. Nobody wants to see such a thing happening. And what we are hoping for and what we would encourage is that the two countries will cooperate so that it does not happen again."
Asked further whether a detailed report of what happened would be useful, the spokesman said "of course, one wants to know this for two reasons: First, to have the facts and realize what exactly happened and, second, to be possibly taught by them (the facts) about what happened, what could have happened which led to this accident so that it will not happen again."
Lastly, asked whether the U.S. government contacted the sides involved, McCormack requested relevant information from his assistant and, after being informed, said that there had been contact at embassy level.
"Our embassies communicated with the two governments," he said.
U.S. embassy official comments: A U.S. embassy official on Tuesday declined any comment on the collision occurring between a Greek and Turkish F-16 fighter jet over the Aegean Sea, earlier in the day, stressing that information was still being collected.
Deputy Chief of Mission Thomas Countryman said "I don't have any comment on what happened because we are still collecting information on what exactly happened."
He pointed out that this information will be obtained from the Greek government first and then from the Turkish government and NATO.
Countryman further said that "Greece and Turkey are both important friends and allies" and stressed confidence that "both governments will do the right thing."
Asked about possible mediation by the United States in the issue, he indicated that this was not necessary.
 Gov't remains firm on position concerning Iran, spokesman says
ATHENS, 24/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Greek government's position on the issue of Iran has been repeatedly stipulated, with absolute clarity, by foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis, and looks to the preservation of a climate of peace and stability in the wider region, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said Tuesday, replying to questions during a regular press briefing.
"This position serves the interests of the country, looks to the preservation of a climate of peace and stability in the wider region, and this position remains completely in force," Antonaros said.
The statement was in reply to a press question concerning a comment by the US charge d'affaires in Athens that the Greek government should move from its position of neutrality on the Iran issue.
 First goal of a PASOK gov't will be to tackle cost of education
ATHENS, 24/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Tuesday said that the first goal of a PASOK government would be to tackle the cost of education, addresses a meeting of the party parliamentary group's coordinating body as some 98,000 pupils began university entrance examinations throughout the country.
Papandreou wished the candidate higher education students good luck in their examinations, and expressed his support for their families, teachers, and all those who took part in their preparation.
The main opposition leader said that the cost of education today was unbearable for the average Greek family, adding that the psychological cost for the families was multiple, in addition to the financial cost.
He said that the high cost of education was rendering public education into education for the privileged, adding that a wide reform was necessary in the education sector.
Papandreou also expressed regret that consensus and agreement was lacking on such a major issue as education, and accused Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis of "concealing a different program than that which he presented to the people, behind the mask of consensus he put on for Education, too".
He spoke of "partisan" bills tabled by the education ministry in parliament while dialogue was ongoing with the politicians and the social agencies, "and thus the parties were forced to walk out of the dialogue", and charged that a "secret plan" existed "to the benefit of the (financially) powerful", referring to the energy sector, which was the topic of Tuesday's meeting of the coordinating body.
 President Papoulias meets officials from China, Bahrain
ATHENS, 24/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday had separate meetings with China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee Chairman Wu Bangguo and deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister of Bahrain Sheikh Ali Bin Khalifa Al Khalifa.
President Papoulias stated that Greece has close political, cultural, economic and trade relations with China adding that when he was serving as foreign minister himself, he had contributed to the improvement and dynamic development of Greek-Chinese relations.
The president stressed that the recent visit by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to China was a milestone in Greek-Chinese relations, especially after the promotion of an agreement for a strategic relation between Greece and China. Papoulias said that “we are the children of two great ancient civilizations that have marked our way of life, our ideas and our philosophy of life. You had Confucius and we had Socrates”. He concluded by saying that relations today are at a very good level.
Referring to the visit of deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister of Bahrain Sheikh Ali Bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, President Papoulias said that it was very important and demonstrated the interest of both countries in the further development of bilateral relations.
He noted that he visited Bahrain recently and expressed satisfaction with the agreement signed between the two countries.
Bilateral relations are extremely friendly, said the President, adding that he had the opportunity to discuss the whole spectrum of bilateral relations in a meeting he had had with the King of Bahrain.
 Parliament President meets visiting Chinese official
ATHENS, 24/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The high level of bilateral relations and the very good prospects at all levels, mainly in the economy, were reaffirmed during a meeting between Greek Parliament President Anna Benaki-Psarouda and China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee Chairman Wu Bangguo on Tuesday.
Benaki accepted an invitation for a formal visit to China and stressed that there is room for cooperation between the two parliaments and not just in the sectors of economy and culture.
On his part, the Chinese official pointed out that after Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’ visit to China in January and the signing of a Greek-Chinese agreement, the national strategic partnership relationship is being promoted to higher levels.
The goal is to further advance bilateral trade and economic relations, pointed out Wu Bangguo, adding that the Greek Cultural Year will be inaugurated in Beijing next Thursday.
 Public order minister receives Russian and British ambassadors
ATHENS, 24/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras received courtesy calls on Tuesday from the ambassadors of Russia and Britain, Andrei Vdovin and Simon Gass respectively, with whom he discussed issues of mutual interest.
According to an announcement by the public order ministry, Polydoras stressed the excellent level of cooperation existing between Greece and Russia during his meeting with Vdovin and the need to strengthen it further with the aim of finding ways of tackling organized crime, trafficking, illegal immigration, drugs and terrorism.
He also said that an effort must be made to enable ways of combating organized crime to be part of general planning within the framework of the European Union.
Polydoras extended an invitation to the Russian ambassador concerning the hosting in Greece of Russian officers and members of their families who were injured during the incidents at Beslan in September 2004.
The time of the public order minister's official visit to Russia, expected to take place during the next two months, was also discussed.
According to the same announcement, the public order minister accepted an invitation to a dinner to be given by Vdovin for the ambassadors of the countries participating in the G8 to enable Polydoras to present his views on the issue of terrorism in relation to the international environment.
Polydoras and the British ambassador exchanged views on all issues of mutual concern, while both sides expressed the will for excellent and productive cooperation in the future, according to the ministry's announcement.
 Positive OECD report on Greek economic outlook
ATHENS, 24/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)OECD, in its report, said Greek GDP grew 3.7 pct in 2005, down from a 4.7 pct growth rate in 2004, reflecting a sharp decline in public investments in the post-Olympic Games period, and slower consumption growth despite a rapid credit expansion in the country.
Net exports, after a several years of negative contribution, contributed in GDP growth last year, with the harmonized consumer price index up 3.5 pct. The organization foresees a 3.3 pct inflation rate this year and a 3.0 pct rate in 2007.
Unemployment rate fell to 10.4 pct of active workforce, but remained one of the highest internationally. OECD said the unemployment rate would fall to 10 pct this year and to 9.7 pct in 2007.
The current accounts deficit widened to 8.0 pct of GDP in 2005, from 6.4 pct in 2004, reflecting higher fuel prices and despite a small increase in the services’ surplus. The organization, however, expects the current accounts deficit to ease to 7.8 pct of GDP this year and to 7.6 pct next year.
The Paris-based organization said the country’s fiscal condition improved significantly in 2005, with the general government deficit down 2.5 percentage points to 4.4 pct of GDP. The OECD said the country’s fiscal deficit would fall to 3.0 pct of GDP in 2006 and to 3.3 pct next year.
Real GDP is expected at 3.75 pct in the next two years -3.7 pct in 2006 and 3.6 pct in 2007- above the Eurozone’s average growth rate, with domestic investment activity projected to rebound. Greek exports are expected to rise 7.9 pct this year and 8.2 pct in 2007, while imports are also projected to rise by 5.9 pct in 2006 and 6.3 pct in 2007.
 Deputy FM addresses Greek-Chinese trade and economic cooperation forum
ATHENS, 24/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis, addressing a Greek-Chinese trade and economic cooperation forum on Tuesday, stressed that a wide margin for Chinese investments activity is opening in our country.
Stylianidis pointed out that as a result of China's increasing investments extroversion, our country expects considerable Chinese investments in certain sectors.
The forum was organized by the Greece-China Business Council, the Greek-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and China's trade ministry under the auspices of the Greek foreign ministry and the trade ministry of China.
 Greek gov’t determined to support employment, minister says
ATHENS, 24/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The government's aim is to reach a maximum agreement in a National Strategy of Strengthening Employment for the period 2007-2013, Greek Labor Minister Savvas Tsitouridis said on Tuesday.
Addressing a conference in Athens, Tsitouridis said the government aimed at exploiting progress made in previous years, although he stressed that government policies from 1999 onwards failed to ensure that high economic growth rates resulted to higher employment, Greek citizens did not participate in training programs, while poverty levels fell less than expected despite higher social protection spending.
The Greek minister stressed that the government aimed at strengthening employment through policies promoting knowledge, innovation and creating an effective social state to soothe the consequences of a temporary unemployment.
To achieve these goals, the government needed to upgrade the operations of OAED, the organization for workforce employment, developing workforce's skills through training, promoting geographical and professional mobility and combating discrimination.
Labor Deputy Minister Gerasimos Giakoumatos, addressing the conference, said the EU aimed to create a single European framework to promoting research, innovation and business activity. He stressed that ministry policies in the period 2007-2013 aimed at strengthening adjustability of human resources and enterprises, facilitating access to labor markets and making a more efficient use of funds from a Fourth Community Support Framework program.
Giakoumatos said the government would fulfill its pre-election pledge of raising a supplementary pension payment EKAS to 230 euros next year.
 Bill to spur renewable energy in parliament
ATHENS, 24/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The government on Tuesday sent a bill to parliament that aims to boost investment in the production of electricity from renewable energy by offering financial incentives, including tax relief.
"We are making a new beginning through simpler bureaucracy, the reduction of time needed to obtain an operating license, and the provision of far more financial incentives for the production of electricity from photovoltaic and solar systems, as well as co-production of electricity and heat," Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said on Tuesday.
The goal is to meet a national target in line with a European Union directive for electricity output from renewable energy that should total 20.1% of overall output by 2010 and 29% by 2020, Sioufas noted.
"It is a fact that we are starting from a low level. Despite major progress over the last two years, with installed capacity in renewable energy systems rising by 50%, we are behind in comparison with other European countries, and far from the opportunities afforded by our rich potential in renewable energy sources in Greece," he added.
 Deputy FM addresses seminar on Japanese economy
ATHENS, 24/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis, addressing a seminar on the Japanese economy, held at the foreign ministry's auditorium on Tuesday, referred to the need for further promoting and strengthening Greece's economic, trade and investments relations with Japan.
Stylianidis said that Japan is one of the most important trade partners of Greece. Every year it exports to Greece goods worth over 1.1 billion dollars, while Greek exports to Japan only just reach 54 million dollars.
"We are being called on, therefore, to examine ways of tackling the existing trade deficit since I believe that it does not reflect the real potential of Greece," he said.
The deputy foreign minister further said in his address that Japanese investors can take advantage of the new business environment in Greece, as well as of the opportunities presented for cooperation between the business communities of the two countries in the wider region of southeastern Europe, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
As regards the sectors in which cooperation can develop between Greek and Japanese businessmen, they include shipping, energy, construction and tourism.
 National Bank postpones general shareholders' meeting for June 1
ATHENS, 24/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)National Bank on Tuesday announced it was postponing its repeat general shareholders’ meeting for June 1, after the bank’s workers funds -representing more than 6.0 pct of the bank’s equity capital- demanded a postponement of the meeting demanding more details over a plan by National Bank to buy Turkey’s Finansbank.
Takis Arapoglou, the bank’s chairman and chief executive, said he was willing to brief the Greek parliament over the acquisition plan, although he was not obliged to.
The Greek banker defender the board’s plan to acquire Finansbank saying the bank was the ideal choice for an expansion drive in the neighboring country, as it was the most high performance bank in Turkey in the last few years.
“National Bank’s goal is for the bank to remain independent and to grow to the benefit of its shareholders,” Arapoglou said. Commenting on a recent slide of the Turkish lira and on a likely impact on the cost of the acquisition, Arapoglou said a combination of a lower US dollar and of a weaker Turkish lira would result to more favorable conditions for National Bank.
Since the announcement of the deal, the US dollar fell by 5.8 pct against the euro currency, resulting to a benefit of 264 million euros for National Bank, the Greek banker said. “It is obvious that National Bank will pay 264 million euros less for the deal and Finansbank’s net book position in euros was 164 million euros less as a result of currency fluctuations,” Arapoglou said.
He stressed that National Bank was paying 3.6 times the book value of Finansbank, based on 2005 figures, but based on projected profitability for 2006 the multiple was significantly lower, while he noted that National Bank’s shares were currently traded three times above its book value. Arapoglou said National Bank was putting 20 percent of its capital in Turkey.
The Greek banker said foreign institutional investors currently owned 39.5 pct in National Bank and that they preferred to sell a stock if they did not approve of a board instead of waiting for a general shareholders’ meeting to vote against board decisions.
Arapoglou categorically denied that Citigroup acted as a consultant to National Bank in the acquisition of Finansbank.
KKE on 'developments' in National Bank: The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) in an announcement on Tuesday expressed its "categorical opposition to the participation of social insurance funds to the share capital of the banks and to the game of the Stock Exchange, as shown in recent developments in the National Bank of Greece."
The KKE said that "this participation forebodes great dangers for the reserves of the social insurance funds and the social insurance rights of the employees."
The announcement added that the ruling New Democracy (ND) party, but also the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) and the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party (Synaspismos) "are equally responsible because they promote this anti-popular direction."
SYN on postponement of National Bank's general assembly meeting: Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) Political Bureau member Panagiotis Lafazanis on Tuesday said that "today's postponement of the National Bank of Greece's General Assembly meeting which the bank's board was obliged to resort to, must be utilized so as to avert the further buyout of the National Bank to foreign speculative capital."
He said that "with the passing of time, the major questions are becoming all the more intense on the deeper reasons why the National Bank of Greece's board decided the buyout of Finansbank, as well as on the procedures of this agreement and the final cost."
 Residents of western Macedonia lignite-rich villages relocate
24/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The residents of the lignite-rich villages of Kleitos and Komanos in western Macedonia, northwest Greece, abandoned their homes and fields on Tuesday to relocate 10-20 kms away by the end of 2007 as a result of the expropriation of their land by the Public Power Corporation S.A. (PPC S.A.) that has undertaken to exploit the lignite deposits found in the area for the purpose of electricity production.
The residents of three more villages, Kardia, Haravgi and Exohi, have already left their homes for the same reason. The first relocation was that of the village of Kardia with 700 residents and took place in 1972-1976 followed by Haravgi and Exohi, with 2,000 and 300 residents respectively, in 1979-1982.
The Public Power Corporation S.A. (DEH) has expropriated over 220,000 stremma of land in Ptolemaida, Amynteo and Megalopolis. DEH compensates the relocated residents and the state finds for them new areas to set up their new homes while, at the same time, the relocated residents have the right to be hired by DEH., deputy director of the Lignite Centre of Western Macedonia, Philippos Filios, told ANA-MPA.
Several more villages bordering the lignite mines have also expressed the wish to relocate, citing health reasons, but DEH cannot meet their request due to the high cost entailed, said Filios.
 Thrace 2006 exhibition opens in Komotini on Thursday
24/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The 15th Thrace 2006 Exhibition opens in Komotini, northeast Greece, on Thursday, May 25 organized by the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair. The exhibition will last until May 28 and over 100 exhibitors are expected to participate.
Visitors will find farm equipment, textile products, ready-to-wear clothing, footwear, interior design items, household items, folk art, transportation means, and electronic and telecommunications equipment.
The goals of the exhibition are to attract dynamic enterprises and the participation of foreign exhibitors, mainly from Bulgaria and Turkey.
 Greece, Bahrain sign air transport agreement
ATHENS, 24/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece and Bahrain on Tuesday signed a bilateral air transport agreement aimed at increasing air transport and passenger traffic between the two countries, offering access to Persian Gulf countries and expanding air travel to Europe and the East.
The agreement was signed by Greek Transport and Communications Minister Mihalis Liapis and deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister of Bahrain Sheikh Ali Bin Khalifa Al Khalifa.
The two ministers, during a meeting in Athens, also discussed developments in the communications sector in the framework of an EU policy to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge economy in the world by 2010.
 Greece tops EU list in software piracy
ATHENS, 24/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece remained at the top of a list in software piracy in the European Union, with a piracy rate of 64 percent, a report by Business Software Alliance (BSA) said on Tuesday.
A global report by IDC for 2005, said 35 percent of computer software used was illegal, while it stressed that software piracy in Greece accounted for economic losses of around 125 million euros last year. Greece maintained its top position for the third year running and failed to lower its piracy rate, being along with Italy the only EU states with a software piracy rate of more than 50 percent, BSA said.
Greece raised its software piracy rate by two percentage points in 2005, sharply exceeding the EU average rate of 28 percent and the Middle East average of 7 percent.
From the 97 countries included in the report, more than half (51) recorded a decline in their software piracy rates and 19 an increase. The global piracy rate was stable last year. "Progress made in combating software piracy in several developing countries is encouraging," Robert Holleyman, president and CEO of BSA said.
Economic losses resulting from software piracy totaled 34 billion US dollars last year, up 1.6 billion from 2004.
An IDC/BSA report said that a fall in Greece's software piracy rate by 10 percentage points could add 351 million euros to the country's economy, creating 1,300 new jobs and raising the local IT industry's tax revenues by at least 223 million euros.
 Athens Bourse Close: Stocks surge in volatile trade
ATHENS, 24/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Athens share index closed at 3,763.92 points, showing a rise of 3.15%. Turnover was 655.0 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 3.49% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 2.82% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 4.46% up.
Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 227 to 39 with 18 remaining unchanged.
Bond Market Close: Buyers lag sellers
Foreign Exchange Rates: Wednesday
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.294
 Nationwide university entrance exams begin for more than 98,000 candidates
ATHENS, 24/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Over 98,000 candidates are competing for a place in the country’s universities or technological institutes in the nationwide university entrance exams that began on Tuesday.
Education Minister Marietta Yannakou visited candidates taking the entrance exams at the 190th School in Athens to wish them good luck. The minister stated that everything will go well reminding that this year students will be tested in fewer courses, 6 instead of 9.
She also reminded that this year 10 (with 20 as the top grade) will be the minimum passing grade, so as to avoid having candidates with very low grades being admitted in higher education institutions.
The same school was visited by main opposition Socialist Party PASOK deputy Sylvana Rapti, who criticized the government for its decision to institute 10 as the minimum passing grade. She also stated that with fewer courses to be tested in, candidates have fewer chances of getting good overall grades but she, nevertheless, wished them good luck.
The candidates were tested in Modern Greek, including essay writing, on Tuesday.
 US Navy delegation honors Battle of Crete dead
24/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)A high-ranking US naval delegation on Tuesday paid homage to the Allied dead of the Battle of Crete in light of the decisive battle’s 65th anniversary this past week, with a wreath-laying ceremony taking place at the Commonwealth cemetery of Souda (Suda), near the port-town of Hania.
The US Navy delegation, accompanied by an honor guard and military band, was led by Rear Adm. Raymond A. Spicer, the commander of carrier group XII, as the task force’s flagship, the USS Enterprise, docked in Souda Bay only hours earlier.
Spicer, along with Enterprise Capt. Lawrence Rice, praised the valor and courage of the local Cretan population and the Allied forces - New Zealanders, Australians, Greeks and British - in tenaciously defending the large east Mediterranean island against crack German airborne forces in May 1941.
The somber event was held only a few kilometers from a Hellenic Air Force base where a missing-in-action F-16 fighter pilot -- whose plane collided with a Turkish warplane in the southeast quadrant of the Athens FIR earlier on Tuesday -- was stationed, a development that was also referred to by the US embassy in Athens’ Deputy Chief of Mission, Thomas Countryman.
“The tragic event in the skies above the Aegean remind us of the dangers we face each day…” the diplomat, who attended the ceremony in place of the US ambassador, told an audience of Commonwealth expatriates, local officials, military officers from various nations and a handful Battle of Crete veterans.
 Fernando Botero sculptures at the Athens Concert Hall
ATHENS, 24/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Twenty eight sculptures by Colombian sculptor and painter Fernando Botero, one of the world's most celebrated Latin American artists, will be exhibited at Athens’ Concert Hall from May 24 to September 10.
The exhibition will include some of his bronze sculptures, tracking the course of the artist from the '70s until today.
His favorite themes are human forms, animals and compositions. A number of his paintings will be exhibited at the National Gallery of Greece simultaneously with the sculpture exhibition at Athens’ Megaron, completing the presentation of the artist’s work.
Botero will address the art-loving public in a lecture on Tuesday evening and enter a discussion with The Hague Municipal Museum curator.
The “Botero-Sculpture” exhibition will feature five colossal size sculptures in the Athens Concert Hall courtyard, while “Adam” and “Eva”, two impressive works of exaggerated proportions, will welcome the public at the entrance leading to the hall where the exhibition with 21 works of the artist is held.
 International Realistic Comics Festival in Thessaloniki
24/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Galera magazine will move its entire comics exhibition to Thessaloniki after the big success of the International Realistic Comics Festival in Athens, it was announced on Tuesday. At the same time, the Thessaloniki Aristotelion University students will present their works in the Student Week Comics Exhibition “Sixth Sense”.
Within the framework of the comics festival will be presented works by artists from the United States, Spain, Slovenia, Italy, Serbia and Greece.
 Mavroyiannis: Talat distorting Papadopoulos' position for settlement
NICOSIA, 24/5/2006 (CNA/ANA/MPA)Cyprus' Permanent Representative to the UN Andreas Mavroyiannis, in a letter to the UN Secretary General, restores the truth as regards the distortion of Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos' position regarding the issue of a federal solution by Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, an official press release issued here on Tuesday said.
Mavroyiannis said that Talat's letter of May 8, 2006 ''makes various incorrect assertions and draws distorted conclusions about the content of an interview of the President of the Republic of Cyprus,
Mr. Tassos Papadopoulos, which was published in the French Magazine L' Express on May 4, 2006.''
The Cypriot diplomat noted that Talat took out of its context a phrase and jumped into the precipitous conclusion that the Greek Cypriot leadership rejects ''the settlement parameters set in the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions on Cyprus, the conclusions of the 1977-1979 Summit meetings agreed on between the leaders of the two sides.''
Mavroyiannis included in his letter the paragraph from which the said phrase ''was arbitrarily extracted'' and noted that ''it comes out that what the President of the Republic of Cyprus said during his interview to the magazine L' Express was the exact opposite of what Mr. Talat so inadvertently claimed.''
''In fact and as reiterated on several occasions, the Greek Cypriot side remains committed to a fair and sustainable resolution of the Cyprus problem, which will be mutually and freely agree by both communities, and 'based on a state of Cyprus with a single sovereignty and international personality and a single citizenship, with its independence and territorial integrity safeguarded, and comprising two politically equal communities as described in the relevant Security Council resolutions, in a bicommunal and bizonal federation' pursuant to Security Council resolution 939 (1994),'' he added.
Mavroyiannis also noted that the letter was circulated as a document of the General Assembly and the Security Council, upon a request of the Permanent Representative of Turkey to the UN, ''whose country continues to defy, instead of implementing, relevant Security Council resolutions, in particular 541 (1983) and 550 (1984), by which the Council considered the declaration which purported to create an independent state in northern Cyprus as legally invalid, called for its withdrawal and called upon all states not to recognize the purported state of the 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus' set by secessionist acts, and not to facilitate or in any way assist the aforesaid entity.''
''We hope that Mr. Talat, instead of engaging in fallacious and unfounded assertions, will at last realize that it is now more than ever imperative to adopt a constructive approach, taking into account the legitimate concerns of all Cypriots, and allow the cautious but promising approach adopted by the UN, in the aftermath of Paris meeting between President Papadopoulos and the Secretary-General of the UN, to move forward in order to prepare, through technical discussions, the ground for the full resumption of the good offices mission of the Secretary General and of meaningful negotiations for the settlement of the Cyprus problem,'' he concluded.
 Russian official holds meetings on Cyprus issue
NICOSIA, 24/5/2006 (CNA/ANA/MPA)The Cyprus problem was discussed on Tuesday at a meeting held in the occupied areas of the Republic between the Special Representative for Cyprus at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Leonid Abramov and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.
On Wednesday, Abramov will be received by President of the House of Representatives Demetris Christofias.
CNA has learnt that the Russian official has already held several meetings in the government controlled areas and on Tuesday he was due to meet with Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Cyprus, Michael Moller.
 EU Commissioner for Environment to pay official visit to Cyprus
NICOSIA, 24/5/2006 (CNA/ANA/MPA)Stavros Dimas, Commissioner for Environment will pay an official visit to Cyprus 25-26 May at the invitation of Cypriot Minister of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment Timmy Efthymiou.
During his stay the European Commissioner will be received Friday by Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos and hold meetings with Minister of Foreign Affairs George Iacovou, municipal authorities, civil society groups and non-governmental organizations.
On Thursday Dimas will hold talks with Efthmiou in the presence of Cypriot officials on issues of common interest and the implementation of the aquis in Cyprus on environment issues.
On Friday, the European Commissioner will give a lecture on the "Environmental challenges for Cyprus and the world" at an event organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ombudsman's office at the Hilton hotel in Nicosia.
 President of the Congress of Local & Regional Authorities of CoE to visit Cyprus
NICOSIA, 24/5/2006 (CNA/ANA/MPA)President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe (CoE) Giovanni di Stasi arrives Wednesday for an official visit to Cyprus.
During his stay, di Stasi, who will be accompanied by a delegation, will ascertain the situation in Cyprus as regards Local Authorities and how Turkish Cypriot local representatives can take part in the Congress' deliberations. Currently, the Turkish Cypriot local representatives take part in the Congress on an ad hoc basis.
A statement by the Union of Cyprus Municipalities stressed that the UCM's position is that Turkish Cypriots should continue to take part in the Congress on an ad hoc basis.
Di Stasi will meet with Minister of Interior Andreas Christou, the Acting Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, President of the UCM Demetris Kontides, President of the Union of Cyprus
Communities George Iacovou and Head of the Cypriot Delegation to the Congress Michael Zampelas.
He will be escorted by General Secretary of the Congress Ulrich Bohner and member of the Congress' Presidency Ian Micallef.