|Sunday, 20 September 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-05-25
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>May 25, 2006
 PM: No additional tax measures necessary; deficit under 3%
PARIS, 25/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday reiterated that the government would not take any additional tax measures, speaking here during a press conference on the sidelines of his meetings with French leadership and his chairing of an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) ministerial meeting.
The Greek prime minister reiterated that his government's high-profile "mild adjustment" strategy for the economy continues to bears fruit, with the budget deficit now below the euro-zone mandated 3 percent of GDP.
"As a result, the prospect of new measures is not being considered, but this doesn't mean that our resolve, discipline and devotion to the citizen aren’t still essential," he told reporters.
Moreover, he said the current spike in international oil prices has not dented the country's growth, while citing cooperation with partner countries to ensure the reliability of energy supplies and the replacement of oil with other forms of energy.
Regarding the OECD's recommendations for Greek's shaky social security system, he said the government has a specific timetable in mind, opening a dialogue of all parties affected "so that society, special interest groups and political parties agree on the basic parameters of the problem ... and the next government to emerge from national elections will implement the necessary reforms."
Asked about the most recent slide of stock markets around the world, a development that thoroughly jolted Athens' bourse downward, Karamanlis said the government is closely monitoring the situation but is wary of any type of intervention, "which most of the time led to even worse results, and in particular, we've seen that in our country on many occasions in the past".
On a broader front, Karamanlis said the conclusion from the OECD session in Paris that Greece chaired here is that trade remains the primary mechanism from increasing development and prosperity worldwide.
Additionally, he estimated that unemployment will remain at stable levels in the United States and Japan and begin a gradual decline in Europe. He added that skyrocketing energy costs have, to a certain degree, disrupted international economies, whereas certain markets must do more to rejuvenate and remove investment obstacles.
Finally, he said the OECD has an important institutional role to play in order to pinpoint areas where reform is imperative.
He also thanked outgoing OECD secretary general Donald Johnston (since June 1996) and welcomed his successor, Angel Gurria of Mexico, before announcing that an OECD education ministers' council will take place in Athens at the end of June.
 PM: Aegean collision should make Turkey review its stance
PARIS, 25/5/2006 (ANA-MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday called on Turkey to "seriously reconsider" its attitude and actions, following Tuesday's collision between Greek and Turkish fighter jets above the Aegean.
"Yesterday's incident should make the neighboring country think seriously, so as to finally revise its stance, abandoning once and for all practices and behaviors that are not compatible with good neighborly relations and which are factored into assessments of its European course," he stressed.
The two aircraft collided in the air above the Aegean on Tuesday, about 15 miles south-southeast of the island of Karpathos, when the Greek Airforce plane engaged in maneuvers to intercept a formation of Turkish planes that had entered the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) without submitting flight plans to Greek authorities.
The pilot of the Turkish F-16 was rescued shortly afterward but a search-and-rescue operation has so far discovered only the helmet and survival kit of missing Greek pilot Constantine Iliakis, father of two.
Stressing that the Greek government had taken all necessary steps in response to the incident, Karamanlis once again underlined that everything was taken into account in assessing Turkey's progress toward EU accession.
He reiterated that statement when asked if Greece would consent to Turkey's continued EU progress in October if the neighboring country continued its present tactics of frequent violations of Greek airspace and infringements of the Athens' Flight Information Region (FIR).
"Greece defends its national interests and its sovereign rights," the Greek premier said, noting that Athens' handling of the incident on all levels demonstrated "the responsible and serious way that the government and Greek authorities handle sensitive foreign and defense policy issues".
He also expressed his support for the family of the Greek Airforce pilot that is still missing and said that he had not contacted his Turkish counterpart since the accident.
The Greek premier said that he had fully briefed French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin regarding the incident during a meeting earlier on Wednesday. Asked about his talks with Villepin over the Cyprus issue, meanwhile, Karamanlis said that he had ascertained a desire to resolve the problem and noted that the Cyprus government was determined to help.
At the same time, he again emphasized the need to carefully prepare all initiatives for the Cyprus problem in order to avoid another failure and arrive at a viable solution.
Karamanlis was in Paris to chair the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Ministerial Council that began here on Tuesday.
 PM and French counterpart discuss Aegean collision, Turkey's EU course
PARIS, 25/5/2006 (ANA-MPA)The collision between a Turkish and a Greek fighter jet in the Aegean and Turkey's EU accession course dominated talks on Wednesday between Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin in Paris.
Karamanlis briefed his French counterpart on the collision between the two fighter aircraft on Tuesday, based on an announcement issued by the Greek defense ministry.
During talks on Turkey's EU accession prospects, meanwhile, the Greek premier underlined that Turkey's European prospects depend on fulfilling the commitments it has undertaken toward Europe and on maintaining good neighborly relations.
The two men also discussed the progress of the EU generally and the European Constitution, which will be the main topic discussed by EU leaders at the upcoming European Council in June.
During the meeting, Karamanlis reiterated Greek positions in favor of the European prospects of the Balkan states, while the French premier pointed out that French President Jacques Chirac had also backed the European prospects of South Eastern Europe.
In talks concerning Kosovo, Karamanlis and Villepin stressed the need for stability, while they reiterated the need for a diplomatic resolution in the issue of Iran's nuclear program, discussing the proposals made by the EU and Russia on this issue.
Karamanlis also repeated the standing Greek positions on resolving the Cyprus issue within the framework of the United Nations and stressed that every move must be well prepared so that it will lead to results.
Villepin raised the issue of a possible purchase by Greece of fourth-generation fighter jets from France, to which Karamanlis replied that the Greek defense ministry had not completed its assessment of the proposal and that he could not make any further comment at this time.
The French premier also thanked Karamanlis for Greece's support in the activities of the Francophonie organization.
 Gov't on fate of missing pilot, demarche to Turkey
ATHENS, 25/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The search for the Greek Airforce pilot that went down after his F-16 jet collided with a Turkish fighter plane above the Aegean is still continuing, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros announced on Wednesday during the regular press briefing.
"Our hearts and our thoughts are with the Greek pilot who has been missing since yesterday afternoon. We hope and pray that the search that continues today will have the happy outcome we desire," he told reporters.
The two aircraft collided in the air above the Aegean, about 15 miles south-southeast of the island of Karpathos, when the Greek Airforce plane engaged in maneuvers to intercept a formation of Turkish planes that had entered the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) without submitting flight plans to Greek authorities.
The pilot of the Turkish F-16 was rescued shortly afterward but a search-and-rescue operation has so far discovered only the helmet and survival kit of missing Greek pilot Constantine Iliakis, father of two.
Antonaros also confirmed that Greece has lodged a demarche with Turkey over the incident, as well as informing NATO and the European Union.
He said that the precise causes of the collision were being investigation but stressed that there had been a "clear infringement of the Athens FIR".
He stressed, meanwhile, that the government's actions in response to the incident on Tuesday - on an operational, diplomatic and political level - had dealt with a dangerous situation in a way that was responsible, determined, level-headed and efficient.
"Greek sovereign rights and duties were fully secured. A steadfast goal on our side is the progress of Greek-Turkish relations toward a better future, with peace and stability, and of course with the simultaneous protection of Greek interests," he added.
Antonaros expressed conviction, meanwhile, that Ankara, first of all, would take advantage of the "European chapter that opened for Turkey on October 3".
"This means that it must abandon behaviors that are incompatible with good-neighborly relations. On our side, as a standing practice, we take all the required actions," he said.
Antonaros referred reporters to an announcement issued by the Greek Armed Forces General Staff regarding the mission of the Turkish formation that the Greek pilot had been sent to intercept and a reported Turkish request to pick up the Turkish pilot. He was unable to confirm reports that the Turkish pilot who was rescued had pulled a gun on a Greek rescue team.
On a political level, the spokesman said there was no change to an agreement made by Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan during their latest meeting to ensure "calm waters" in the Aegean over the summer.
He also pointed to an agreement between Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and her Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul during talks over the phone on Tuesday that the incident should not affect the two countries' efforts to improve bilateral relations.
In response to other questions, the spokesman said he had not been informed of any decision by Bakoyannis to alter her plans to visit Istanbul on June 10.
Antonaros said that Bakoyannis, who at the time of the incident had been in Finland for talks with the Finnish government, which is due to take over the next EU presidency, had also fully briefed Helsinki on the incident, underlining the immediate response of Greek search and rescue teams, by air and sea.
He emphasized, meanwhile, that a Greek Super Puma rescue helicopter had arrived on the scene fully half an hour sooner than the equivalent Turkish rescuers. He denied reports, however, that dozens of fighter aircraft from both the Greek and Turkish sides had been sent up, saying that this was not the information he had received.
Karamanlis and Erdogan had not spoken on the phone after Tuesday's collision, he added.
Regarding the response of the Greek defense ministry, Antonaros said that the Greek Armed Forces and the ministry's leadership "are doing their job thoroughly and with full competency". He said that President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and the leaders of the political parties were briefed on the events by Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis, as soon as he had a complete picture of what happened.
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.
 PASOK party leader criticizes government's foreign policy
ATHENS, 25/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou on Wednesday criticized both the government and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis over the way with which they handled Tuesday's incident in the Aegean, involving a collision between a Greek and a Turkish fighter plane, while speaking at the inauguration of the party's new local offices in the Athens district of Ilion.
Papandreou said that the government believed that with so-called personal relations it could carry out high policy in the Aegean, but it was shown to be wrong in a dramatic way.
The PASOK party leader further said that the government's nudity in foreign policy appeared, adding that the Karamanlis government is moving without a plan, without initiatives, without strategy and without action and vigilance.
He also reiterated that the policy of the Karamanlis government will lead to minor and major incidents and great tension and will even result in Greece backing down on basic issues.
Referring to the missing Greek Air Force pilot, Papandreou said that he acted with heroism and self-sacrifice and all the Greeks owe a great deal to him, as they do to everyone in the armed forces.
 U.S. encouraging Greece and Turkey to examine details of air accident
WASHINGTON, 25/5/2006 (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)The United States is encouraging Greece and Turkey to examine the details of the tragic accident (when a Greek and Turkish warplane collided over the Aegean on Tuesday) to avoid a repetition of it in the future.
At the same time it believes that in the course of time the two countries must be in a position to examine the entire spectrum of differences separating those regarding territorial waters with the aim of further improving their relations.
Asked on Wednesday whether the U.S. has contacted Athens and Ankara on the Aegean incident, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said "well, with issues specifically related to the plane crash, we would hope that they are in contact, so, you know, A, they can learn exactly what happened and, B, that from that, take any steps that might be required so that there is not a repeat of it."
Called on to comment in general on the situation prevailing in the Aegean, McCormack said "as for larger issues in the Aegean, that's for Greece and Turkey to resolve. I'm not aware of any particular contact that we have had with them on those issues. It's a small place. There are a lot of disputes about sea lanes and territory and all those sorts of things, and those are things that we would hope that over time Greece and Turkey would be able to work through."
Lastly, asked to state his position on Greece proposing to take the dispute on the Aegean issue to the International Court at The Hague, the State Department spokesman said "the Aegean issue? I'll have to ask our experts on this issue exactly what fora of forum we think is most appropriate, but certainly whatever forum a resolution might take place in, you know, a prerequisite for that is bilateral contact on the issue."
 NATO spokesman refers to collision between warplanes over Aegean
BRUSSELS, 25/5/2006 (ANA-MPA)A spokesman for NATO, replying to a question by the press here on Wednesday, declined any comment on Tuesday's collision between a Greek and a Turkish warplane over the Aegean, southeast of the island of Karpathos, but stressed that the alliance plays no role in these issues.
The spokesman also said that issues such as Tuesday's, that is related to air traffic control, primarily concern the two countries involved.
 FM Dora Bakoyannis to attend informal council of EU foreign ministers
VIENNA, 25/5/2006 (ANA-MPA)Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will participate in the two-day special informal Council of European Union Foreign Ministers, organized by the Austrian EU presidency in a suburb of Vienna on Saturday and Sunday.
The meeting will focus on the future of Europe in light of the European summit due to take place in Brussels on June 15-16.
 Danish royal couple pays official visit
ATHENS, 25/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Queen Margrethe II of Denmark was received here on Wednesday morning by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias. The Danish monarch, accompanied by her spouse, Prince Henrik, had arrived in the Greek capital only hours earlier aboard a yacht that docked at the Faliro marina of southern coastal Athens.
Margrethe II was greeted by Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos and the ambassadors of Copenhagen to Athens and of Athens' envoy to Denmark, respectively.
The Danish royal couple subsequently laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier before being received by Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki.
Courtesy meetings also took place with main opposition PASOK secretary Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou and Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) leader Alekos Alavanos.
Margrethe was also scheduled to be honored with the City of Athens' Gold Medal of Merit in the afternoon at Athens City Hall.
 Commission president to address event marking 25th anniversary of Greece's EU accession
ATHENS, 25/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso will pay a brief visit to Athens on Sunday, at the invitation of prime minister Costas Karamanlis, to address an event marking the 25th anniversary of Greece's accession to the European Union.
Barroso will deliver an address during a celebration at the Pnyka archaeological site at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, marking the 25th anniversary of Greece's accession to the European Union (January 1, 1981).
The Commission president will depart Athens for his return to Brussels on Monday morning.
 KKE leader blasts ND, PASOK and SYN policies
ATHENS, 25/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Communist Party of Greece (KKE) secretary general Aleka Papariga on Wednesday launched a scathing attack on both the ruling New Democracy and main opposition PASOK parties, as well as the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Progress (SYN).
She accused New Democracy of an "underhanded political games at the expense of the people and the KKE", referring to the ruling party's backing of local government candidates that are affiliated with the KKE, and called PASOK a "slanderer" of the KKE's policies.
The attack was prompted by an article appearing in a Patras local newspaper claiming that ND intended to also back the candidate that was backed by the KKE, DHKKI, the Communist Renewal group, and the Leftist Citizens' Intervention group, headed by DHKKI member K. Keramidas.
New Democracy was seeking, at all sacrifice, to use the local elections to entertain, and chiefly to legitimize, its anti-popular measures and win the government authority again, Papariga said, adding that it used direct and indirect means that bordered the margins of political provocation, with selective backing of candidates of the cooperation tickets backed by the KKE. The goal, she said, was to grab the people's votes from the first round in the upcoming local government elections, but chiefly in the second round.
Papariga clarified that the KKE did not want "seats in which our hands will be tied behind our backs". Th ultimate aim, she said, was for ND to lose seats, and also for PASOK or the PASOK-SYN collaboration, to lose seats.
The KKE, she said, will aspire to winning its seats through the vote of the popular strata that comprehended that both the mainstream parties (ND and PASOK) must suffer defeats in the local government elections.
As for PASOK, Papariga said it was "playing the role of slanderer", knowingly, if one were to judge from the interventions of its leading cadres, "while the SYN leadership is also taking part in the chorus".
Also, she said, that which irritated PASOK and SYN was that her party would not "sing second voice" to the centre-left plans for governance.
The KKE, Papariga said, had a clear-cut policy and choices that caused aggravation.
Asked to comment on PASOK leader George Papandreou's criticism of the government's handling regarding Tuesday's collision of two Greek and Turkish fighter planes over the Aegean, she recalled earlier PASOK government policy vis-à-vis Turkey, and accused Papandreou of wearing a different mask as foreign minister and a different mask as main opposition leader.
Papariga opposed referral of border differences to the International Court of Justice at The Hague, although she conceded that referral of the continental shelf issue could be referred to The Hague.
 Finmin: Healthy outlook for 2006 budget
PARIS, 25/5/2006 (ANA-MPA)Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said that the outlook was sound for the 2006 budget.
"All the indications we have for the 2006 budget are positive. Revenue from taxation has increased and spending has been reduced," Alogoskoufis told the Le Monde newspaper in an interview published on Wednesday.
"No-one expected the fiscal deficit to fall in this manner while growth rates were maintained. We accomplished this by implementing a policy of mild fiscal adaptation, laying emphasis on spending in 2005," the minister noted.
He added that he was certain that the fiscal deficit would fall to 2.6% of gross domestic product in 2006 with a greater decrease targeted for 2007.
 Greece's economic sentiment index up in April
ATHENS, 25/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece's economic sentiment index rose to 99 points in April from 98.5 in March, and was sharply up from 91.4 points in April 2005, a monthly report by the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Wednesday.
The index, however, remained low compared with the EU-25 average (107.8 points) and the Eurozone average (105.3 points) and its advance focused mainly on the services sector.
The construction sector was a negative contributor to the index in April, while the retail and consumer confidence index also fell, and the industry index was unchanged.
IOBE said Greek industry witnessed increased demand in early 2006, compared with the same period last year, while forecasts for industrial production remained high, along with expectations on sales, exports and inventories. The industrial capacity utilization index eased slightly in April (74.5 pct) from March but remain higher compared with April 2005.
Business expectations in the construction sector fell in April, after a four-month increase, business expectations in the retail sector fell to 121.4 points in April from 125.2 in March, while business expectations in the services sector jumped to 101.8 points in April from 94 in March.
The consumers' confidence index fell to -40 points in April from -38 in March reflecting worsening predictions over savings and unemployment. Greek households remained very pessimistic over their financial situation over the next 12 months.
 Greece unveils web site to promote agro-tourism
ATHENS, 25/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Tourism Minister Fanny Palli-Petralia on Wednesday unveiled a new web site to promote agro-tourism in Greece and said it was a significant step towards developing countryside tourism ahead of the submission of a draft legislation on agro-tourism in parliament.
Brigita Papastavros, president of Agrotouristic, said the new site (www.agrotravel.gr) was designed to attract high quality tourists from Greece and abroad and to support all those interested in investing in the services sector.
 Greek trade deficit up 34.8 pct in Jan-March, yr/yr
ATHENS, 25/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece's current accounts deficit widened by 74.4 percent in the first quarter of 2006 to 8.0 billion euros, reflecting a sharp increase in international oil prices, the Bank of Greece said on Wednesday.
The central bank, in its report, said the country paid 86.4 percent more for fuel purchases compared with the same period last year, while it stressed the encouraging development of a 19-percent increase in exports.
The country's trade deficit rose 34.8 percent to 2.394 billion euros in the January-March period, reflecting net payments of 1.184 billion euros for fuel imports and a 230 million euros rise in the vessel balance deficit.
The services surplus fell by 312 million euros, reflecting lower net proceeds from transport services and higher net payments for other services.
The Bank of Greece said the country's tourism foreign exchange inflow fell by 10 percent in the first three months of the year to 555 million euros from 617 million euros last year. Payments for travels abroad fell 33.5 percent in March and by 13.8 pct in the first quarter.
The current transfers' surplus fell by 304 million euros, reflecting lower net current transfers to the general government (mainly from EU funds) by 418 million euros, while net current transfers to other rose by 114 million euros.
The capital transfer balance showed a surplus of 738 million euros, down 74 million from the same period last year, while the financial transactions balance showed a net inflow of 59 million euros in the foreign direct investments category in March 2006.
Non-residents' direct investments to Greece showed a net inflow of 138 million euros, while the portfolio investments category showed a net inflow of 1.672 billion euros. Foreign direct investments' inflows totaled 423 million euros in the first three months of 2006 (from a net inflow of 45 million euros last year).
The other investments category showed a net inflow of 1.684 million euros in March and a net inflow of 6.337 billion euros in the three-month period.
 Olympics facility leased for 40 years
ATHENS, 25/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Galatsi Olympic Centre will be leased to a consortium for 40 years.
The winning consortium in an international tender was Akropol Haragionis and Sonae Sierra, each with an equal stake.
The two firms intend to run a shopping and entertainment centre on the site, due for completion in the middle of 2008.
The consortium said in a statement that they would invest 78 million euros in the project.
 Greenpeace expresses satisfaction over renewable energy sources draft bill
ATHENS, 25/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)A current draft bill regarding renewable energy sources (RES) is "notably improved compared with a previous version" tabled in Parliament by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, according to the local chapter of the Greenpeace organization on Wednesday.
However, the group pointed out that there is still room for considerable improvement in the draft bill to ensure the comprehensive development of clean energy sources in Greece.
"The minister finally proved that he takes under serious consideration the comments and reactions of Greenpeace and other social partners active for many years in the promotion of clean energy and efforts against climate change," local Greenpeace activist Dimitris Ibrahim said.
 First budget flight linking UK, Rhodes
25/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)GB Airways, a subsidiary of British Airways, on Wednesday became the first low-cost airline to fly a route linking the tourist island of Rhodes to the United Kingdom.
The project is backed by the Greek National Tourism Organization’s London office, the Organization for the Promotion of Rhodes Tourism, the Union of Rhodes Hoteliers, and the Dodecanese Chamber of Commerce.
 Louis Hellenic Cruises launches fourth vessel in Aegean Sea cruises
ATHENS, 25/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Louis Hellenic Cruises on Wednesday unveiled its fourth cruise vessel to begin sea cruises in the Greek islands.
The "Ivory" -a 12,609 ton vessel- has a capacity of 690 passengers in 254 cabins and will begin three- and four-day cruises in the Aegean Sea.
Louis Hellenic Cruises has already started sea cruises in the Greek islands with its cruise vessels "Perla", "Emerald" and "Sea Diamond".
 Event held in Piraeus on promotion of Greek-Chinese cooperation
ATHENS, 25/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)In the context of the promotion of Greek-Chinese cooperation and the use of Greek ports and maritime services for Chinese transit trade, a ceremony was held in Piraeus on Wednesday in the presence of Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis and Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis. On the part of the Chinese side, present at the event was China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee Chairman Wu Bangguo.
Wednesday's meeting shows the importance which the Chinese leadership attributes to its cooperation with Greece, stressed the Chinese officials during of the event, which was organized by Cosco Hellas, a branch of China's very powerful state foreign trade company, Cosco.
 Greece, Bahrain discuss shipping
ATHENS, 25/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece and Bahrain are in talks on the outlook for cooperation in shipping as part of a bilateral sector agreement forged earlier this month.
On Wednesday, Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis and Bahrain's minister of transport, Khalif al Khalifa, also discussed wider economic cooperation between the two countries during a meeting in the port of Piraeus.
The meeting was a follow-up to Kefaloyiannis' recent visit to the Gulf states.
Khalifa is also his country's deputy premier.
 Stock Exchange officials skeptical over buyout prospects of Turkish Finansbank
ATHENS, 25/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The president of the Federation of Athens Stock Exchange Company Members (SMEHA) and the president of the Union of Athens Stock Exchange Small Shareholders Dimitris Karagounis on Wednesday expressed skepticism over the buyout prospects of the Turkish Finansbank by the National Bank of Greece.
At the same time they expressed their annoyance at the "lack of information" regarding the terms of the agreement and the National Bank's business plans.
Commenting on this issue, the bank's managing director, Yiannis Pechlivanidis, replied that the National Bank, being listed with the New York Stock Exchange, is "subject to commitments" and as a result the briefing of shareholders is being delayed.
Representatives of social insurance bodies participating in the National Bank's share capital appeared more confident of the outlook of this business move and expressed support for an increase in the bank's share capital, but made no commitments as to whether their funds will participate in this increase.
 Athens Bourse Close: Stocks slump, tracking markets abroad
ATHENS, 25/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Athens share index closed at 3,642.64 points, showing a decline of 3.22%. Turnover was 429.5 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 3.04% down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 4.41% lower; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 4.85% down.
Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 267 to 24 with 20 remaining unchanged.
Bond Market Close: Buyers lag sellers
Foreign Exchange Rates: Thursday
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.295
Information Society sec't promotes digital gov't services
Every municipal and prefectural entity in the country can develop digital citizens’ assistance programs allowing easy access to information regarding state agencies, certificate issuing, electronic transactions and other useful information for their area.
According to Information Society special secretary Prof. Vassilis Asimakopoulos, a total of 102 municipalities have already submitted proposals, while more local governments can participate in the program.
He spoke during an event in Athens focusing on the challenges and prospects for modern local governments.
Asimakopoulos used as an example the Dutch city of Almere, which managed to accelerate local development by using broadband technology. The initiative attracted investments and created more than 5,000 new jobs, he said.
 Conference on European social policy and the modernization of local government actions
ATHENS, 25/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)A conference on European social policy and the modernization of actions in local government was held in Athens on Wednesday, organized by the municipality of Zografou as a follow-up to the conference on European Social Policy held last November.
Addressing the conference, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas referred to the social dimension of entrepreneurship, stressing that the ministry offers financial backing through a special program to enterprises set up by people with disabilities. He pointed out that 117 business plans with a total budget of 9.22 million euros have been funded, while approval has been given to 3,680 new investment proposals with an overall budget of 300 million euros and 2,852 investment proposals submitted by women entrepreneurs with a total budget of 230 million euros.
He also stated that the government plans to launch a new action aimed at boosting the entrepreneurship of other population groups, such as the Roma and repatriated Greeks.
Addressing the conference, Tourism Minister Fanny Palli-Petralia referred to sensitive social groups, particularly women, stressing that many steps have been made toward equality but there is still a lot to be done at an institutional, educational and social level to overcome stereotypes and prejudices found even among women themselves.
The conference was attended by ruling New Democracy Party Central Committee secretary Lefteris Zagoritis, interior ministry general secretary Athanasios Vezirgiannis, Immigration Policy Institute President Alexandros Zavos, New Democracy deputy Dimitris Konstantaras and Zografou mayor Yiannis Kazakos.
 Ecumenical Patriarch to visit Samos in August
25/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos is scheduled to arrive on the eastern Aegean island of Samos on August 16 for a four-day visit, it was announced on Wednesday.
The visit comes following an invitation extended to Vartholomeos by Samos Metropolitan Eusebios, Samos prefect K. Karlas, and the mayors of the cities of Vathi and Pythagorio, during a recent visit to Istanbul.
Vartholomeos will visit Ayiasos on the neighboring island of Lesvos on August 15, before touring Samos, Ikaria and Fourni islands.
This will be the first visit by an Ecumenical Patriarch to the region.
 US. Armed Forces National Day honored
ATHENS, 25/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)U.S. Ambassador to Athens Charles Ries on Wednesday evening hosted a reception at the ambassadorial residence marking the 56th National Day of the US Armed Forces.
"The men and women who wear the uniform of their country share the same tradition of service which precedes themselves. Whether they serve on the ground, the air or sea, they all share the basic conviction that actions speak louder than words. And that alert and self-sacrifice is the eternal cost of freedom," Ambassador Ries said,
During the reception, honored, on behalf on the U.S. President George W. Bush, were Major-General Christos Militsis and Brigadier Antonios Mihalakopoulos.
Present at the reception were National Defense General Staff Chief Admiral Panagiotis Hinofotis, Navy General Staff Chief Vice-Admiral Dimitrios Gousis, Harbour Corps commander Vice-Admiral Ilias Sionidis, as well as many Greek and foreign diplomats.
 UNSG: parties should re-engage in search for Cyprus solution
UNITED NATIONS, 25/5/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has stressed the importance at this juncture for the parties in Cyprus to resume contacts and to begin to think about how to re-engage in the search for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.
In his report to the Security Council for the renewal of the mandate of the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces in Cyprus (UNFICYP), which he recommends, due to the absence of a comprehensive settlement, Annan notes that he will that he intends to dispatch the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari to Cyprus, Greece and Turkey in the near future to assess the political situation in and around Cyprus and the prospects "for a full resumption of my good offices."
The report, which will circulate on Friday as an official Security Council document with the aim to adopt it by 5th June, Annan covers developments from November 30, 2005 to May 17, 2006 and notes that "over the past six months, both the Greek Cypriot leader and the Turkish Cypriot leader renewed their calls for a resumption of my good offices mission. While there were signals of some willingness to begin to re-engage, there have been no tangible indicators of an evolution in the respective positions."
Referring to his meeting with Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos in Paris on February 28, Annan said that he conveyed his "assessment that the situation was not yet ripe for the resumption of full-fledged political talks and expressed my concern that the gap between words and deeds was still too wide."
"I encouraged him to do what he could to narrow these gaps," Annan added.
He also said that in March, he conveyed to the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mehmet Ali Talat, his "readiness to meet with him at a mutually convenient time following his full recovery from a recent medical intervention."
The report also mentions that his new Special Representative Michael Moller, took up his duties in early January and "started to explore options for encouraging progress on the ground and possibilities for a resumption of contacts between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots, which have been suspended for over two years."
Noting that in February, both sides "agreed to a proposal to establish a mechanism for them to engage on issues of common concern through bi-communal discussions at the technical level." Annan stresses that his Special Representative has "since been involved in efforts aimed at reaching an agreement on the modalities for these discussions."
"In order to gauge the pulse of the communities, and build a broad base of support for progress toward the re-unification of Cyprus, my Special Representative has also been in contact with wide sectors of civil society and with the wider diplomatic community on the island."
Annan stressed that "the bi-communal discussions at the technical level are not intended to be a substitute for the negotiating process toward a comprehensive settlement in the framework of my good offices mission, but a step aimed at building trust and understanding, paving the way for the resumption of full-scale negotiations leading to a comprehensive settlement."
He also pointed out that "for the time being, both leaders have agreed in principle to my proposal that they meet on the occasion of the installation of the new Third Member of the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus, anticipated for June 2006."
In his observations, Annan said he continues to "believe that only the achievement of a comprehensive settlement will bring an end to the Cyprus problem. In the absence of such a comprehensive settlement, the presence of UNFICYP on the island continues to be necessary."
"At this juncture, it is important for the parties to resume contacts and to begin to think about how to re-engage in the search for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem. I continue to believe that there is a need to match words with action," Annan stressed.
To this end, "my Special Representative has engaged in a process aimed at encouraging renewed contacts," said Annan, adding that he intends to dispatch the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari to Cyprus, Greece and Turkey "in the near future to assess the political situation in and around Cyprus and the prospects for a full resumption of my good offices."
Annan pointed out however that his Special Representative "will continue to function as the point of contact on the ground for the two sides at the highest level."
In his observations, Annan also noted that "the increase in civilian construction in the buffer zone may be a consequence of greater confidence in the security situation. While this would constitute a positive development as an indicator of normalization of conditions, UNFICYP's ability to ensure security will be steadily eroded by continued construction, without UNFICYP's approval, of residential and commercial facilities outside designated civil use areas." At this point he hopes that "both sides will extend their cooperation to UNFICYP in this matter."
Annan further said that it is clear that an early completion of the work of the Committee on Missing Persons and a solution to the issue of the missing persons would greatly contribute to reconciliation on the island. "The appointment of the Third Member affords an opportunity to all concerned to redouble their efforts and put aside political considerations, in order to close this painful humanitarian chapter. I would urge the donor community to contribute to this effort," he added.
Furthermore, he noted with "satisfaction the progress in demining efforts in the buffer zone" and appealed to the international community to lend its full support to the successful completion of the demining efforts in the Nicosia area, in the whole of the buffer zone and ultimately the whole of the island.
 US support Cyprus settlement on basis of Annan plan
NICOSIA, 25/5/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)The United States continue to believe that there should be a peaceful resolution of the Cyprus problem based on the settlement plan proposed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Acting Spokesman of the US State Department Tom Casey, replying to questions regarding Sunday's parliamentary elections in Cyprus and to a remark that it seems the political forces that opposed the Annan plan came out strengthened, said he had not yet seen the final results and thus did not want to comment.
''In terms of our policy towards Cyprus, though, US policy remains the same on that. We continue to believe that there should be a peaceful resolution to the disputes on the island using the Annan plan's basis,'' he added.
 Russian envoy says UN role on Cyprus should be strengthened
NICOSIA, 25/5/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)Russian Foreign Ministry's Special Representative for Cyprus Leonid Abramov has said the UN role in efforts to solve the Cyprus problem should be further strengthened within the framework of the UN Security Council five permanent members, adding that his country has not changed and will not change its principled position on Cyprus.
Abramov, who is visiting Cyprus, was received on Wednesday by House President Demetris Christofias, with whom he discussed the present phase of the Cyprus problem.
According to a House of Representatives press release, Christofias expressed the Cypriot people's appreciation for the consistent position of principles, which the friendly country of Russia maintains on the Cyprus problem.
Abramov, the release said, assured Christofias that the Russian Federation has not changed and will not change its policy on Cyprus, because it is always based on principles.
The Russian Federation, he added, supports that the UN role on Cyprus should be a primary one and should be further strengthened within the framework of the Security Council five permanent members.