|Wednesday, 30 September 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-05-26
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>May 26, 2006
 Congress standing committee chairman Bangguo
ATHENS, 26/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis held talks on Thursday with China's National People's Congress Standing Committee Chairman, Wu Bangguo, during a meeting also attended by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and Deputy Foreign Minister Evripides Stylianidis.
The two sides reaffirmed the good climate in bilateral relations following Karamanlis' official visit to Beijing last January, and their desire to further develop bilateral relations in the sectors of investments and trade.
The high-ranking Chinese official conveyed to Karamanlis greetings from the Chinese prime minister, underlining the historical relations and ties between the two countries.
On his part, Karamanlis said he has instructed his Cabinet to intensify efforts related to closer Greek-Chinese cooperation, while Bangguo cited his interest in expanded port facilities in Greece. Additionally, he expressed an interest in increasing the number of Chinese tourists visiting Greece, the presence of Greece-based construction firms in Chinese road projects, as well as greater cooperation and the transfer of Olympic know-how from Athens to Beijing.
The top Chinese official, who also presides over the economy and international economic cooperation portfolio, called the budding economic cooperation between the two countries "extremely positive", noting that Karamanlis' visit to China helped establish a strategic relationship, whereas his visit to Greece aims to further upgrade this relationship.
The first practical benefits for Greece following Athens' initiative include a rise in olive oil exports to China -- 30 percent -- while talks continue for the establishment of direct flights between Athens and Beijing.
Also, the largest container ship in the world, with a capacity of 9,500 containers, is due to sail into the port of Piraeus next month. The vessel belongs to Greek interests and its christening will take place in Piraeus.
Crete visit: Afterwards, Wu Bangguo departed with a large PRC delegation to Irakleio, Crete, where he was greeted by local officials.
While on the large south Aegean island, he will meet with Bakoyannis later in the afternoon.
Earlier, the Chinese official was due to visit the Irakleio archaeological museum before touring the Knossos site.
He will depart the island on Friday.
 DM Meimarakis issues warning to Ankara
ATHENS, 26/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)National Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis, referring on Thursday to the air collision that occurred between a Greek and Turkish warplane over the Aegean on Tuesday, issued a severe warning to Ankara, stressing with emphasis that "we do not make aggressive moves, but to provocations the necessary reply will be given."
The minister was speaking from Larissa, central Greece, where he visited the Tactical Airforce Headquarters.
Meimarakis said that "Turkey must understand that the development of our relations depends on its conduct as well as on its European course, and for this reason, its full abidance is required, to the principles of good neighborliness."
The defense minister called on Ankara "to cease the violations of Greek air space and to change logic and approach to the matter."
Meimarakis was accompanied on his visit to Larissa by Deputy National Defense Ministers Vassilis Michaloliakos and Yiannis Lambropoulos and Chief of the Armed Forces General Staff Admiral Panagiotis Hinofotis.
EU requires that Turkey behave as a good neighbor, Greece stresses
The European Union has set out specific criteria for admitting Turkey into its ranks and one of these is good neighborly behavior, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros stressed on Thursday.
Responding to questions about the collision of a Turkish and Greek military jet above the Aegean on Tuesday, the spokesman stressed that Turkey was obliged to fulfill all the conditions set by the 25 EU member-states in its course toward EU accession.
Emphasizing that this was a standing Greek position that had been repeatedly expressed by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, he also stressed that Karamanlis had left no doubts that all elements would be taken into account in assessing Turkey's progress toward Europe.
"It is necessary for Turkey to fully meet the obligations it has undertaken and that concern specific behavior. This behavior is monitored and assessed by the 25 EU member-states," Antonaros added.
Asked about the possibility of a veto to Turkey's further EU progress, however, the spokesman said that the right of veto was exercised as a last resort, when all other ways of reaching an understanding had failed.
"There is no instance when a country has used its veto," he pointed out.
Regarding dialogue between Greece and Turkey, Antonaros pointed out that there were frequent meetings and talks between politicians in the two countries, while dialogue between EU member-states and candidate-states was constant.
Greece's goal was to fully normalize Greek-Turkish relations and the government had succeeded in placing Turkey under continual scrutiny through its steady and unswerving policies, he added.
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 discovered only the helmet and survival kit of missing Greek pilot Constantine Iliakis, father of two.
 Foreign ministry: Greece did not concede sovereign rights or functions
ATHENS, 26/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)During the regular briefing at the Greek foreign ministry, meanwhile, ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos stressed that Greece had at no time during the incident allowed room for ambiguity regarding the protection of its sovereign rights and accompanying functions, fully confirming that search-and rescue operations in the area were Greece's responsibility.
"This incident could have had elements of danger that no one desires and might have led to more dangerous situations," he added.
He also pointed out that the EU had stressed policies of respecting good neighborly relations as a prerequisite for Euro-Turkish progress.
"Turkey's stance does not demonstrate signs of respect for good neighborly relations and all these events form part of Greece's assessment," Koumoutsakos said, when asked if the policy being followed with respect to Ankara was effective.
At the same time, he pointed out that Greece had expected Turkey's compliance to take time and encounter difficulties.
"No one had the illusion that Turkey would immediately change its behavior after October 3," Koumoutsakos told reporters, adding that Greece was dealing with the problem with calm, level-headedness and determination.
He refused to comment on NATO's reaction to the incident, however.
Koumoutsakos also underlined that communication with Turkey had helped de-escalate tension and avoid misunderstandings that might have arisen otherwise.
Asked whether Athens had demanded an apology from Ankara for the incident, and whether such an apology was given, the spokesman said that Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul had expressed his sorrow over the event when he contacted Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis.
"This is an unfortunate event that in which there are clear elements of chance and this is how it must be viewed. Greece handled it with determination and calmness," he added.
Finally, when asked whether Athens would set a limit for tolerating such activities by Turkey, the spokesman reiterated statements by Karamanlis and Bakoyannis that the present situation could not continue.
Violations of Greek airspace and infringements of the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) by Turkey above the Aegean are almost routine, since Ankara disputes the extent of airspace claimed by NATO-ally Greece and routinely sends its aircraft into the region without informing Athens. As a result, Turkish fighter aircraft are frequently engaged in mock dogfights with Greek jets that are scrambled to intercept them.
 PASOK party spokesman comments on air accident over Aegean
ATHENS, 26/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Main opposition PASOK party spokesman Nikos Athanassakis, commenting on Thursday on the collision between a Greek and a Turkish warplane over the Aegean on Tuesday, reiterated the initial statement made by PASOK leader George Papandreou that the country's sovereign rights are not negotiable, adding that "until now we have not launched criticism regarding the operational handling of the day before yesterday."
Athanassakis said that PASOK's positions until now were based on information it had from the government and which Papandreou had requested from the defense minister "since nobody took the initiative to brief the main opposition party."
However, he mentioned that Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis communicated with Papandreou on the night of the same day.
The spokesman once again criticized the government for lacking strategy, saying that as a result of this the government "is functioning like a pendulum, going from yielding to tension."
 Parliament to pay for education of downed pilot's children
ATHENS, 26/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Greek Parliament on Thursday announced that it will undertake to pay for the education of the underage children, until they complete their university studies, of downed Airforce pilot Constantine Iliakis, who lost his life when his plane collided with that of a Turkish fighter jet above the Aegean on Tuesday.
The decision was made at the Parliament presidents council following a proposal by Apostolos Kaklamanis, while there is a similar precedent in the past.
 Danish Queen received by PM
ATHENS, 26/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and Prince Henrik met with Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday at the premier's Maximos Mansion office.
Margrethe II was received in the Greek capital a day earlier by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias. The Danish monarch, accompanied by her spouse, Prince Henrik, had arrived in the Greek capital on Wednesday morning aboard a yacht that docked at the Faliro marina of southern coastal Athens.
Greece sees room for closer business ties with Denmark: Greece sees more room for closer economic ties with Denmark against a backdrop of excellent political relations between the two countries, Deputy Foreign Minister Euripides Stylianidis said on Thursday.
Addressing a Greek-Danish business forum during a visit by the north European country's queen and prince, Stylianidis said the event was an opportunity to assess the outlook in sectors including shipping, energy, textiles, tourism and services.
He noted a rise in bilateral trade and a strong presence in Greece by Danish companies or their subsidiaries, and Danish tourists.
Stylianidis outlined the government's plans to make Greece a trade hub in the Balkans and energy hub between East and West.
Prince Henrik addresses Greek-Danish Business Forum: Prince Henrik of Denmark addressed the Greek-Danish Business Forum in Athens on Thursday, referring to the further development and strengthening of economic and trade relations between Greece and Denmark which have many similarities.
He said that Greek-Danish relations are at a very good level. As regards economic relations, trade between the two countries has more than doubled over the past two years, while many Danish businesses are active in the Greek market. The Danish delegation includes businessmen who are interested in benefiting from investments opportunities in the Greek market.
On his part, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas referred to possibilities appearing to widen trade and economic relations between Greece and Denmark, underlining favorable arrangements that the Greek government is promoting that are creating suitable ground for making investments.
Sioufas added that more than 30 Danish businesses are already active in the Greek market in various sectors such as energy, fisheries, sea transport, pharmaceuticals and dairy products.
Sioufas also had a private meeting with Danish Transport and Energy Minister Flemming Hansen in the framework of the Forum and discussed bilateral and European issues of mutual interest with him.
 New Democracy MPs table proposal for revising Greek Constitution
ATHENS, 26/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The general secretary of ruling New Democracy's Parliamentary group, Apostolos Stavrou, on Thursday submitted a proposal for a revision of the Greek Constitution to Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki.
The proposal was signed by all the MPs in the party, led by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said.
 PASOK leader, SI president Papandreou invited to open Australian Labor Party conference in April
MELBOURNE, 26/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece's main opposition leader and new Socialist International President George Papandreou is due to visit Australia next April, at the invitation of the Australian Labor Party, it was announced on Thursday.
According to an exclusive report in the Neos Kosmos Greek-Australian newspaper, Papandreou has been invited by the Australian Labor Party to open the party's Annual Conference, to be held in Sidney April 27-29, 2007.
 PASOK hosts event on immigrants
ATHENS, 26/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Second generation immigrants, addressing an event in Athens on Thursday organized by main opposition PASOK party, urged that Greek nationality should be given at least to second generation immigrants i.e. those born in Greece.
Their request was endorsed by PASOK Euro-deputy Stavros Lambrinidis and PASOK Political Council member and Panteion University Professor Marilena Koppa in charge of the party’s Rights Division.
The event was also held to honor second generation immigrants who have distinguished themselves in the academic field and in the arts, as well as for their work as immigrant rights activists. Four of them originally coming from Kenya, Albania and Nigeria had the opportunity to share with the audience their personal struggle for social integration and recognition.
 Foreign ministry comments on Montenegro referendum
ATHENS, 26/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The foreign ministry issued an announcement on Thursday on the outcome of the referendum concerning the independence of Montenegro, stressing that the people of Montenegro expressed the will for the future of their motherland in a democratic way and the high percentage of voters turning up to vote certifies their democratic maturity.
Greece, the announcement added, hails the will expressed by the majority of the traditionally friendly people of Montenegro and expresses the wish that the new situation being shaped in the Balkans will contribute to the further consolidation of conditions of stability and to the development of friendly neighborly relations between all the countries in the region.
"We look forward to Serbia and Montenegro starting a friendly and constructive dialogue on the implementation of the will of the people of Montenegro," the announcement further said.
Lastly, it noted that Greece will continue its very friendly relations of cooperation both with Serbia and Montenegro, supporting their European prospects.
 Public order minister to meet Albanian interior minister
ATHENS, 26/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras and Albanian Interior Minister Sokol Olidashi will be signing an agreement in Ioannina, northern Greece, on Saturday on cooperation between the fire brigades of the two countries.
The signing ceremony will be attended by the two chiefs of the fire brigades Andreas Kois and Alfred Christuli. The signing of the agreement will be followed by the official delivery of material and technical aid by the fire brigade of Greece to the corresponding Albanian fire brigade.
The donation includes two fully-equipped fire engines which will be provided for the fire brigades in Sarande and Delvine.
The bilateral agreement is aimed at extending cooperation on issues concerning the handling of big fires and serious natural disasters, while the exchange of information and knowledge in the firefighting sector is also anticipated.
 Public Order minister meets with US ambassador
ATHENS, 26/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Issues of mutual interest falling under the public order ministry's area of responsibility were discussed on Thursday at a meeting Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras had in his office with US Ambassador to Athens Charles Ries.
No statements were made after the meeting.
 Education minister makes statement on building of churches
ATHENS, 26/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Education and Religion Minister Marietta Yannakou, participating in the discussion in Parliament on Thursday on the bill concerning the "selection of first and second stage education cadres", said that an arrangement by which the opinion of the relevant Metropolitan in the building of churches of other faiths will be abolished will be presented by the government in Parliament on Tuesday.
A relevant amendment had been submitted by 12 deputies from all the parties in Parliament.
On the question of the issue of approval for the building of churches, Yannakou said that this concerns the Environment, Town Planning and Public Works ministry and the building service of the Church.
"I am aware that in a law on building licenses provided for consultations by the Environment, Town Planning and Public Works minister there will be a similar arrangement. It will be coming after September and we shall be discussing these there. We have no jurisdiction for this," she said.
Yannakou also said that over the past two years the education and religion ministry has never refused to give a license to the 65 known religions and faiths.
 FinMin: Gov't won't raise pension funds' investment ceilings
ATHENS, 26/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Thursday all but excluded Greek pension funds from participating in a 3.0-billion-euro share capital increase by National Bank of Greece, stressing that the government would not raise the ceiling of funds' investments into stocks.
Speaking to reporters, Alogoskoufis said the ceiling was currently 23 percent of reserves for each pension fund and that this level would not be raised.
Commenting on a deal by National Bank to buy Turkey's Finansbank, Alogoskoufis said decisions were taken by enterprises and that the role of politicians was not to consult enterprises on their moves. The minister, added, however, that when political parameters exist in certain deals, then firms would talk with members of the government. Alogoskoufis said that expanding business activities in the wider region was to everyone's benefit.
He added that an OECD ministerial meeting in Paris this past week focused on several interesting issues, such as the implementation of reforms, the OECD's initiatives to promote investments, the significance of open markets and the urgent need for a rapid completion of the Doha round of World Trade Organization talks.
 Development ministry sets policy priorities for 2007-2013 period
ATHENS, 26/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greek Development Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou on Thursday unveiled a plan on a National Benchmark Strategy Framework for the period 2007-2013, due to be discussed with the government's social partners.
The plan was drafted by a ministry commission headed by Commerce secretary-general Manousos Voloudakis and tries to set development priorities and goals for the period 2007-2013. Under the plan, main priorities are: ensuring healthy competition in domestic markets, creating a favorable business climate, restructuring a framework on public procurements and boosting transparency, supporting Greek exports, adopting innovation, promoting actions to improve product and service quality, reducing production costs, creating new and flexible funding tools and strengthening human resources.
The plan will be discussed with all interested parties in a meeting June 7.
 Main opposition on National Bank of Greece
ATHENS, 26/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) said on Thursday that National Bank of Greece should renegotiate the terms of its acquisition of a major stake in Finansbank of Turkey.
"The latest developments in Turkey render even more imperative the withdrawal by National's management of the proposal. It must go to shareholders with a substantively different proposal that benefits shareholders and the Greek economy," PASOK shadow economy spokeswoman Vasso Papandreou said in a statement.
She was responding to statements earlier in the day by Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis.
"If the government is convinced of a bright future for the bank, how can it justify its refusal to allow social insurance funds to take part in National's unprecedented share capital increase," Papandreou asked.
 ATEbank shows Q1 profit rise
ATHENS, 26/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Athens-quoted ATEbank said on Thursday that consolidated profits after tax and minority interests increased by 33.0% in the first quarter of 2006 to total Euro 47.7 million versus Euro 35.9 million in the corresponding period a year ago.
Net interest income was Euro 140.1 million, a 4.7% increase on a recurrent basis, excluding non-recurring interest income of around Euro 30 million during the first quarter of 2005 due to loan restructuring under law 3259/04 on overdue loan penalty rates, management said in a statement.
The Net Interest Margin (net interest income over average interest earning assets) as of 31 March 2006 stood at 3.09%, compared to 3.04% at the end of 2005 and 3.17%, on a recurrent basis, at the end of March 2005.
Net fee and commission income showed an increase of 23.2% compared to the corresponding period of 2005 to total Euro 18.1 million, mainly due to the increase in fees and commissions of loans and money transfers.
Other non-interest income reached Euro 38.3 million, showing a decrease of 6.7% versus the corresponding period in the previous year, mainly due to the reduced turnover of the subsidiary Hellenic Sugar Company, following the recent EU decisions regarding sugar production, the statement said.
As a result, operating income was Euro 196.5 million, an increase on a recurrent basis of 3.7%, while on a reported basis it showed a decrease of 10.5% compared to the corresponding period of the previous year.
Operating expenses remained almost stable, as they increased 0.03% compared to the corresponding period in 2005, reaching Euro 121.9 million.
"This trend, which appears for a fifth continuous quarter, reflects the effectiveness of the cost containment policy that is being implemented throughout the ATEbank Group of companies. As a result, the Group cost income ratio was reduced, on a recurrent basis, to 62.0% in the first three months of the year, compared to 64.3% in the same period of 2005," management said.
Total loans at the end of March 2006 reached Euro 13.4 billion, an increase of 9.2% compared to end of March 2005.
"The combination of new retail products combined with aggressive marketing campaigns that continued in 2006 has resulted in a remarkable increase in new disbursements. Average monthly mortgage lending new disbursements have gone up in the first quarter of 2006 by 240% compared to first quarter of 2005 and by 54% compared to the average of 2005," management said.
 Aid for poultry farming sector
ATHENS, 26/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The government has created a 92-million-euro aid program to restructure and spur the poultry farming sector, Agriculture and Foods Minister Evangelos Basiakos said on Thursday.
The program, which is slated for EU financing of 45 million euros, has been given to the European Union for approval. Remaining financing will come from the state budget, the minister reported.
 UAE developers eye Greek projects
ATHENS, 26/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Major business groups in the United Arab Emirates are interested in Greek urban development and tourism projects, the finance ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
The ministry was relaying the outcome of a visit to Dubai by Deputy Finance Minister Peter Doukas on May 23-24 for talks on attracting investment, tightening business ties between the two countries, and promoting Greek exports.
Doukas held talks with the finance and industry minister, Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, on closer political and economic cooperation. With the Emirates Group, he discussed the outlook for cooperation in air transportation and tourism.
The ministry statement also urged Greek firms to take advantage of opportunities in Dubai, especially banking, metallurgy, construction, tourism, foodstuffs and shipping links.
 Greece, Cyprus seek closer business ties
NICOSIA, 26/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece's visiting Deputy Finance Minister, Christos Folias, on Thursday held talks with Cyprus' Finance Minister Michalis Sarris.
"We agreed that closer cooperation and links between the business communities of Cyprus and Greece are essential to advance our economies for mutual benefit," Folias told reporters after the meeting.
Folias is representing the Greek government at the island republic's international trade fair.
 Athens Bourse Close: Stocks rise
ATHENS, 26/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Athens share index closed at 3,670.62 points, showing a rise of 0.77%. Turnover was 261.2 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.34% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 1.14% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 1.31% up.
Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 178 to 76 with 57 remaining unchanged.
Bond Market Close: Buyers outpace sellers
Foreign Exchange Rates: Friday
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.285
 Eurovision 2006 made a net profit in Athens, state broadcaster says
ATHENS, 26/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Hosting the Eurovision song contest did not cost Greek tax-payers a cent and actually made the organizers a net profit, the state broadcaster ERT said during a press conference on Thursday.
According to ERT president Christos Panagopoulos, ERT's net revenues from organizing the contest came to €7.28 million, while its total costs were €5.5 million.
"All that about wasting the Greek taxpayers’ money is not true...It was a commercial and profitable event and the money we spent was that of the sponsors," Panagopoulos said.
According to Panagopoulos, the cost of programs to promote the contest had not been factored into the final estimate but was somewhere around €1.0 million, while ERT's net profits were somewhere in the region of €745,000.
ERT's president also slammed a pamphlet distributed to the press last week by group of audiovisual media bodies, in which they accused ERT of lack of transparency and wasting money, saying that it was "insulting and possibly grounds to sue".
He noted that three of the associations involved had so far denied adopting the pamphlet's contents and that he intended to take matters to court for those not prepared to retract.
According to figures presented by ERT consultant George Houliaras, ERT's revenues for hosting the event amounted to €3.63 million from national sponsors, €2.2 million from ticket sales and €1.45 million from the share of international sponsors, other advertising revenue, SMS messages etc.
The overall cost of the event for both ERT and EBU together was €9.0 million, of which €5.5 was paid by ERT and €3.5 by EBU, he clarified.
These sums included the cost of the television production, the entertainment program, technical production, payment of contributors and all other spending directly linked to hosting Eurovision 2006, he said.
Production of the 47 advertising spots promoting Greece, that were aired during the breaks in the semi-final and the final, was paid for by the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) and cost €3.5 million, Houliaras added, while noting that overtime pay due to staff that had worked for the event had still not been calculated into the final sum.
According to Houliaras, hosting the contest was expected to have a major beneficial impact for Greece in the future, while he also pointed to the event's high TV ratings abroad.
Viewer ratings for the BBC had reached 60 per cent, he said, compared with 18-20 per cent for the previous Eurovision contest, while in France they had jumped to 30-32 per cent, compared with 12 per cent the previous year. In Greece, meanwhile, the contest had been watched by some 3.5 million viewers in a country of just over 10 million overall.
ERT had paid nothing to veteran star Anna Vissi and songwriter Nikos Karvelas, who represented Greece, nor for the Vissi's costume on stage, while all other participants were paid at the going market rate, Houliaras said.
 Greece, Egypt in science, technology pact
CAIRO, 26/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece and Egypt are to set up a committee to implement an agreement between the two countries on cooperation in science and technology.
The decision was taken by senior Egyptian officials and the visiting secretary general of research and technology at the development ministry, Ioannis Tsoukalas.
The committee's first meeting will be at the end of June.
The talks were a follow-up to a recent visit to Egypt by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas.
 Events on the occasion of the Int'l Missing Children's Day
ATHENS, 26/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)One of the lesser known World Days is International Missing Children’s Day celebrated on May 25, whose goal is to send a world message of hope and solidarity to the parents of missing children and, at the same time, sensitize all responsible agencies to undertake joint actions against this phenomenon. The Day’s symbol globally is the "Forget-me-not" flower.
The Greek non-profit organization "The Smile of the Child" that currently holds the vice-presidency in the European federation for missing and sexually abused children, an EU advisory body, organized an event on Thursday, in parallel with tens of capital cities around the world in the presence of figures from politics, sports and culture. More than 2,000 Forget-me-not flowers were offered by volunteers to the guests and passers-by while a total of 2,000 balloons were released into the sky.
During the event, the president of "The Smile of the Child" organization announced that the AMBER Alert program will be soon going into effect in Greece.
An AMBER Alert is a message that conveys information about a recently missing or abducted person, usually displayed on electronic signs positioned along roadways and broadcast by mass media, intended to enlist the public's help in finding the abducted person and often in catching the abductor.
In the United States and Canada, an AMBER Alert is a notification to the general public, by various media outlets, that a confirmed abduction of a child has happened. AMBER is a acronym for "America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response," and was named for 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas in 1996.
AMBER Alerts are distributed via commercial radio, satellite radio, broadcast television, e-mail, electronic traffic-condition signs, and wireless device SMS text messages.
Experience and statistics prove that the biggest enemy in the abductions of children is time and an AMBER Alert minimizes the delay in the search operations for the location of the victim.
Meanwhile, the pupils of the 1st Elementary School in Veria, north Greece, participated in their own way in an event held in the city by "The Smile of the Child" organization. They wrote on a banner "Alex we don’t forget, we are expecting you" referring to their classmate Alex Meshisvili, 11, who disappeared on February 3, 2006 on his way to his painting class.
 Speedboat chase off Corfu with exchange of gunfire
ATHENS, 26/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Three unidentified men on board a 10-meter long speedboat opened fire Thursday on a Coastguard patrol boat approaching their vessel for an inspection in the sea region of the Ionian Sea island of Corfu. The speedboat had originated from the neighboring coasts and its destination was the island of Corfu.
The reason for the heavy gunfire, to which the patrol boat crew responded, was the speedboat’s cargo of 40 bags of cannabis destined for the Greek market.
During the chase and the gunfire exchange the three passengers of the speedboat, one of them the captain, managed to throw a total of 17 bags overboard. Without stopping the shooting they abandoned their boat at a remote coast on north Corfu and escaped on foot.
No one was injured in the shootout, while and 11 bags containing cannabis were found in the speedboat, which was confiscated by the authorities.
 Ceremony commemorating the victims of the Battle of Crete
ATHENS, 26/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The dead of the Battle of Crete will be honored by German ambassador to Athens Wolfgang Schultheiss in a ceremony on May 26 at the German military cemetery in Maleme, on the south Aegean island of Crete.
Sixty five years ago Nazi German and allied forces suffered heavy losses in the Battle of Crete during WWII and 4,500 German soldiers are buried in the cemetery of Maleme.
The ceremony, organized by the German embassy in Athens, will be attended by representatives of the Greek authorities, the British and Australian embassies in Athens, German veteran associations and the German Military Cemeteries Management Association.
 Fashion show in support of children refugees in Greece
ATHENS, 26/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Greek Council for Refugees, ESP, and South African ambassador to Athens Jannie Momberg will present the new collection of Greek fashion designer Michalis Aslanis, named "Wo.Men", in a show that will be held in the gardens of the ambassador’s residence on June 5 to mark World Refugee Day, celebrated on June 20.
The proceeds of the event will be offered to support child refugees that often arrive in Greece without feeling the security enjoyed by most of the children in the world, who live in a protective family environment. Many times the only help they get comes from the ESP people, whom they see as their family.
 Spokesman says Greek Cypriot side supports efforts towards Cyprus settlement
NICOSIA, 26/5/2006 (CNA/ANA/MPA)Cypriot Government Spokesman George Lillikas said on Thursday that the Greek Cypriot side supports every efforts towards discussions on a technical level of issues that could facilitate the resumption of talks to solve the Cyprus problem, adding that if UN
Secretary General Kofi Annan expected something specific from the Greek Cypriot side, he would have said so in his recent report on the renewal of the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).
Asked about Annan's report, in which he says he expects certain things from both sides on the island, Lillikas said that ''if there was something specific, I think it would be written in the report.''
''We must understand that the Secretary General, in a transitional period when efforts are indeed being made by his representative here and which was preceded by the meeting in Paris'' between Annan and Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, ''and the aim of the Secretary General is to achieve the preparation of a new round or a new initiative of talks on the Cyprus problem, in his reports he must maintain a balance, otherwise he hinders the efforts of the UN,'' Lillikas added.
Replying to questions, Lillikas said ''efforts are underway and we will do everything possible and everything that depends on us, at least, to maintain the best possible climate to give a real chance for a new process that will be able to bring us to well prepared talks with possibilities of reaching an agreed solution.''
Asked about the possible visit to Cyprus of UN Undersecretary General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari, Lillikas said there is such a possibility and noted that such a visit would be welcome.
He added that ''the position of the President of the Republic is that Mr. Gambari's visit could have preceded the parliamentary elections,'' since the Cyprus problem is dealt with by the government and the National Council, and not the House of Representatives.
Lillikas also said he did not have any specific dates to announce regarding the possible arrival of Gambari in Cyprus.
Referring to Turkey's stance, the Spokesman said that ''if Turkey wanted a solution, it has all the ways to show it in practice and to help, by ceasing to violate all principles of international law, the UN Charter and the acquis communautaire.''
 EU Commissioner Dimas meets Cyprus environment minister
NICOSIA, 26/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)European Commissioner for the environment Stavros Dimas on Thursday held talks with Cyprus' Environment, Agriculture and Natural Resources Minister Timis Efthymiou during a two-day visit to Cyprus.
According to the Greek Commissioner, water shortages, waste and management of the natural environment, as well as air quality, were all aspects that required improvement on Cyprus.
Dimas said that his visit aimed to find satisfactory solutions to these issues. Pointing out that Cyprus had the cleanest beaches in Europe, he also pointed out that environmental issues had a direct impact on tourism and the island's economy.
 CoE Congress President to promote Cyprus problem
NICOSIA, 26/5/2006 (CNA/ANA/MPA)President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the CoE Giovanni di Stasi said on Thursday ''we cannot accept to have the last capital in Europe as a divided capital, we cannot accept to have ghosts cities in our continent'' and that his aim is to be together with the Mayors of Cyprus while working hard to accelerate the process of reunification.
In statements made after a meeting he had with representatives of local authorities, di Stasi said ''the delegation of Cyprus in the Congress is very active and we have decided to organize this visit in order to contribute to the solution of this enormous European problem because this is not only a problem belonging to Cyprus and its population."
''What we are trying to do now is to understand if there is a possibility for Mayors for citizens to take part in the reconciliation process, and we believe we can take an initiative," he said.
We were speaking, he added, about the possibility starting from September to elaborate a document to have a confrontation with the citizens because in this process not only head of states or governments have to take responsibilities but also Mayors who live next to citizens.
''And in order to change the situation we want to take our part of responsibilities. We are ready to do so," he pointed out.
Asked with what concrete steps the Congress might help he said ''concretely we can prepare a sort of plan shared and supported by Mayors and we can also deliver a strong message to Europe through the Council of Europe."
He also said that he is going to have meetings with Turkish Cypriot political representatives adding that this is necessary ''if we want to promote dialogue but respecting the rule of law first of all."
Head of the Cypriot Delegation to the Congress Michael Zampelas said di Stasi and his delegation will ascertain the situation in Cyprus as regards local authorities and how Turkish Cypriot local representatives can take part in the Congress' deliberations.
He expressed belief the Cypriot delegation to the Congress will not be reduced but Turkish Cypriot local representatives will continue to take part in the Congress on an ad hoc basis.
President of the Union of Cyprus Municipalities Demetris Kontides expressed joy and honor for di Stasi's visit to Cyprus.
''We had a constructive discussion on all issues and mainly the Cyprus problem," he concluded.
 31st Cyprus International Fair opens in Nicosia
NICOSIA, 26/5/2006 (CNA/ANA/MPA)The 31st Cyprus International Fair opened on Thursday with the participation of over 350 exhibitors and the display of products and services by 1,500 companies from Cyprus and 25 other countries.
The official opening of the Fair, which will last until June 4, was declared by Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, in the presence of ministers, members of the House of Representatives, members of the diplomatic corps, representatives of the production sectors and other guests.
At the Fair, the official national participations are Egypt, France, Greece, the USA, Italy Malaysia, South Africa, Poland, Romania and Syria, while the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce, with the participation of 20 exhibitors, is participating for the second consecutive year.