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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-05-31

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

May 31, 2006

CONTENTS

  • [01] Budget revenue up
  • [02] FM and DM assess Greek-Turkish relations before Parliamentary Committee
  • [03] Gov't on Stephanopoulos proposal, relations with Turkey
  • [04] Gov't lacks plan for foreign policy, Papandreou tells PASOK MPs
  • [05] Explosion near Culture minister's home - Voulgarakis reveals he has received threats
  • [06] PM meets defense minister
  • [07] Inner cabinet discusses education issues
  • [08] Kassimis on 2-day official visit to Romania this week
  • [09] Greek coastguard vessel near Imia islets after Turkish provocation
  • [10] 'Hellenic Aid' to undertake new initiatives for 2006
  • [11] Archbishop Christodoulos meets UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Geneva mayor
  • [12] Parliament unanimously approves amendment for building of churches of other religions
  • [13] Funeral service for Airforce pilot Iliakis
  • [14] NBG chief: Turkey offers a unique opportunity for us to expand
  • [15] Council of Competitiveness Ministers convenes in Brussels
  • [16] Greece seeks long-term EU farm policy
  • [17] DEH invoice policy responsibility of government, development minister says
  • [18] Hellenic Aerospace Industry in 92-mln-dollar contract with Alenia
  • [19] Employment minister meets Social Security Foundation leadership
  • [20] Papandreou speaks to PASOK MPs on SMEs
  • [21] Merchant marine and transport ministers visit port of Piraeus
  • [22] Hoteliers optimistic over 2006 tourist season
  • [23] Greece a popular destination for Serb tourists
  • [24] Greek retail sales index up 7.7 pct in March, yr/yr
  • [25] Hellenic Telecoms reports improved 1st quarter results
  • [26] Delta Airlines launches daily Athens-Atlanta connection
  • [27] Athens Bourse Close: Stocks slump, tracking markets abroad
  • [28] Rion-Antirion bridge management blasts report on severed cable
  • [29] Mount Athos treasures in Helsinki
  • [30] European Parliament Women's Rights Committee visiting Greece
  • [31] Wildfire early warning system tested in Çalkidiki
  • [32] Palestinian and Turkish women authors present their books in
  • [33] President: Reference of protocol to Turkish Assembly first positive step
  • [34] Cyprus FM's meetings in Berlin
  • [35] Attracting tourists from Asia a joint target for Greece and Cyprus
  • [36] Meeting with Cyprus president

  • [01] Budget revenue up

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Budgetary revenue rose by 14.3% in January-April 2006 compared with the same period a year earlier, the finance ministry said on Tuesday.

    The figure was above a targeted 10.3% increase, the ministry said in a statement.

    Regular budgetary revenue grew by 8.4% in the same period without taking into account non-regular income of 409 million euros. After deduction of tax rebates, net revenue was up 14.3%, the statement noted.

    Spending fell by 2.4% versus a targeted increase of 4.4%.

    "I am satisfied with this improvement in terms of targets. The main aim is to implement the government's economic policy of further lowering the deficit and the debt, making more effective use of public funds, and strengthening investment and the rate of growth," Deputy Finance Minister Peter Doukas said.

    Primary spending rose by 3.1% against a target of 6.0%. Spending on interest fell by 18.6% versus a target of 1.8% down.

    As a result the state budget deficit narrowed by 46.0% in January-April versus the same period a year earlier to total 2,720 million euros.

    Revenue in the public investment program rose by 25.6% against a targeted increase of 26.2%, the ministry said.

    [02] FM and DM assess Greek-Turkish relations before Parliamentary Committee

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and Defense Minister Vangelis Meimarakis made an assessment of latest developments in Greek-Turkish relations before the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday.

    "The option of supporting the European prospects of Turkey constitutes a strategic option and strategic options cannot be doubted in a hurry and in the heat of the moment," Bakoyannis said.

    In the wake of the loss of air force pilot Constantine Iliakis over the Aegean when a Greek and a Turkish aircraft collided last week, Bakoyannis said that what is to blame for such situations is the "beyond any logic mass military activity of the neighbor (Turkey)", while for a change in this situation "we must utilize all possibilities offered to us by the accession process of Turkey. This control is a control that passes through many stages. It is not an apparatus producing immediate results, but it does not mean that we must treat it with disdain and abandon it."

    Meimarakis confirmed that the flight of the Turkish aircraft was of an espionage nature and stressed that the Greek armed forces moved "very quickly" to intercept the Turkish fighter planes and to carry out the rescue of the Turkish pilot in accordance with commitments emanating for Greece from international treaties.

    Both Meimarakis and Bakoyannis rejected criticism (mainly from the main opposition PASOK party) concerning a delay in notifying local and international media, reminding of statements made by government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros a few minutes after the incident and stressed that information was provided for the diplomatic missions of EU and NATO member-states.

    Given that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is sensitive about the security of civilian aircraft flights (security which was jeopardized by the latest Turkish espionage undertaking in the Athens FIR), Meimarakis stressed that "the Turks were in the wrong and this was realized by all."

    [03] Gov't on Stephanopoulos proposal, relations with Turkey

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Tuesday reiterated the government's position regarding a proposal made by Greece's former president Kostis Stephanopoulos for a change in Greece's policy toward Turkey, referring reporters to the statements made on the issue by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis the previous day.

    Bakoyannis on Monday underlined that Athens had a steady policy toward Turkey and had refused to be drawn into an answer on what she called "simplistic lines of black-and-white" regarding Greece's policy toward the neighboring country.

    The spokesman also repeated that there was no differentiation between the views expressed by Bakoyannis and Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis regarding Stephanopoulos' proposals, noting that their statements had been "in the same spirit" and that Greek strategy toward Turkey remained "steadily the same for many years now".

    Regarding last week's mid-air collision between Greek and Turkish fighter jets over the Aegean, Roussopoulos said that the possibility of a joint Greek-Turkish fact-finding committee to look into the causes of the incident was not under consideration.

    In response to other questions, meanwhile, he noted that it was a standing Greek policy to recognize only one outstanding difference with Turkey, that of delineating the extent of the Aegean continental shelf.

    He also echoed Bakoyannis' view on Monday regarding the Stephanopoulos proposal, saying that the former president's intervention was "interesting as an event in itself and as a result of the discussion that had arisen from it", while noting that the government "was keeping its ears open".

    In an article appearing in a Sunday newspaper, Stephanopoulos had said that Greece should now take recourse to the International Court at The Hague for all outstanding differences with Turkey - and not just that of delineating the Aegean continental shelf - in accordance with the Helsinki decisions, noting that attempts to reach a solution with Turkey via other means had failed.

    Roussopoulos said that the cabinet had been informed about an incident on Tuesday involving a Turkish patrol boat near the Imia islets, which the defense minister later said was concluded, while noting that the government was not currently considering a meeting of the political party leaders to discuss major foreign policy issues.

    He also noted that all announcements concerning a summer 'moratorium' with Turkey in the Aegean continued to apply.

    "Maintaining some sort of calm requires great effort. The government has, however, repeatedly stated that all this comes under the framework of monitoring conducted by the EU during Turkey's European accession course," he added.

    [04] Gov't lacks plan for foreign policy, Papandreou tells PASOK MPs

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Main opposition leader George Papandreou on Tuesday slammed the government's handling of foreign policy issues, saying that it lacked any kind of plan or strategy, and stressed that the country needed a new path.

    "A new strategy is needed. We will call it a new 'Helsinki'. We cannot continue the dogma of inactivity," he emphasized.

    Addressing a meeting of PASOK's Parliamentary group, Papandreou told main opposition MPs that the present government was "dangerous" and was following a "policy of incoherence", while he backed a proposal by Greece's former president Kostis Stephanopoulos for a change in Greece's policy toward Turkey.

    "PASOK continues to seek Turkey's referral to the [International Court of Justice] at The Hague for the issue of delineating the continental shelf [in the Aegean Sea]," he said.

    In an article appearing in a Sunday newspaper, Stephanopoulos had said that Greece should now take recourse to the International Court at The Hague for all outstanding differences with Turkey - and not just that of delineating the Aegean continental shelf - in accordance with the Helsinki decisions, noting that attempts to reach a solution with Turkey via other means had failed.

    He also accused the government of missing two great historic opportunities, in 2004 and in 2005, to send a clear message to Turkey that it must establish a framework of principles and values that it would respect both within its own borders and in its dealings with its neighbors and to link this with Turkey's European course.

    Papandreou criticized the stance adopted in 2004 by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and the premier's failure to pressure Turkey into going to the international court over the Aegean continental shelf issue, saying that Greece had effectively "put down its arms before the battle" by not setting any terms or demanding any commitments from Turkey at that time.

    PASOK's leader defended the original Helsinki agreement, saying that it had succeeded in getting Cyprus into the EU without a single incident in the Aegean, and dismissed Karamanlis' arguments that the Helsinki agreement could be interpreted in different ways.

    "Even our Constitution can be interpreted in different ways. The question is whether you can use diplomacy to impose the interpretation that you want," Papandreou stressed, calling on Karamanlis to adopt a clear position regarding the International Court of The Hague and "make use of a new national strategy".

    During his address, Papandreou also criticized the purchase of Turkey's Finansbank by the National Bank of Greece (NBG), saying that "we are giving our vote to the Turkish economy but not to the Greek economy". He suggested that the acquisition of the Turkish bank may form part of a hidden foreign policy agenda and demanded that Greek interests be fully protected.

    [05] Explosion near Culture minister's home - Voulgarakis reveals he has received threats

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    A strong explosion occurred early Tuesday at the foot of Lycabettus Hill in central Athens, near culture minister George Voulgarakis' home, and police believe the minister was the target of the home-made explosive device, but there was no previous warning of the explosion nor has any group claimed responsibility as at noon. Afterwards, Voulgarakis revealed that he has received a barrage of threats, adding "I have been targeted".

    The explosion, at 7:42 a.m. on the corner of Doxapatri and Sarantapichou streets, just 200 meters from Voulgarakis' apartment, was due to a home-made bomb placed in a travel satchel that the perpetrators had hung on a bicycle they placed between two parked cars, a senior police official told ANA-MPA.

    Parked exactly across the street, at the time of the explosion, was a car belonging to the bomb-disposal squad (TEEM), as two TEEM officers with a trained sniffer dog were checking the parked cars in the area, as they do every morning, just minutes before the minister was due to pass by the spot.

    Police told ANA-MPA they believed that Voulgarakis was the target, given that the minister was due to pass by the spot three minutes after the explosion occurred.

    It was as yet unknown how the bomb was detonated, since the explosion destroyed the entire mechanism and remnants have not been found, but bomb-disposal experts said that, given the strength of the explosive material, which was equal to about 2 kilograms of ammonia dynamite, it was very likely that the device was detonated by remote control.

    Also, according to the TEEM officers, a car was approaching the spot when the bomb went off, and police believe this could have misled the perpetrators who possibly thought that the approaching car was an escort for the minister's car, thus causing them to detonate the explosive device earlier.

    The strong explosion causes extensive damage to the two cars between which the bicycle had been placed, the TEEM car, and to other cars parked along the curb, while debris from the cars was hurled at least 10 meters away, breaking the windows of a nearby school, which was empty at the time.

    Shortly afterwards, Voulgarakis said that "every bomb, in a period of democracy, is targeted against democracy itself, and not against specific individuals".

    He added that he had "complete confidence" in the police force, who "have great abilities".

    The minister noted that there has been a barrage of threats against him throughout this time, "which has climaxed".

    "I have been targeted," Voulgarakis said.

    The area around the explosion site has been cordoned off, and traffic was being detoured, as bomb disposal experts and counter-terrorism police were collecting evidence and investigating the incident.

    Attica Police chief Asimakis Golfis and counter-terrorism squad officers also rushed to the site.

    A remote control devise was found on Tuesday afternoon by police at the slope of Lycabettus, near the point where the explosion occurred and which targeted Culture Minister George Voulgarakis.

    The pistol-shaped, children's game, remote control is being examined by the criminology department to establish whether it is this with which the explosive devise was detonated.

    However, its finding reinforces the initial assessment of anti-terrorism officers that the detonation of the bomb was made by a remote control.

    Culture Minister Voulgarakis comments on bomb attack near his home: Culture Minister George Voulgarakis, on his way on Tuesday evening to attend an event for the proclamation of President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias as Honorary Member of the Athens Tennis Club, said "every bomb during a period of democracy is a blow against democracy and not only against an individual."

    Voulgarakis added:» I have complete confidence in the security authorities and I am certain that the culprits will be led before justice. However, I want something else to also be made clear, that no criminal can rattle our democracy. This is guaranteed by the whole of the political world and the Greek people."

    Voulgarakis was referring to a strong explosion which occurred early Tuesday at the foot of Lycabettus Hill in central Athens, near his home. Police believe the culture minister was the target of the home-made explosive device, but there was no previous warning of the explosion nor has any group claimed responsibility. Afterwards, Voulgarakis revealed that he has received a barrage of threats, adding "I have been targeted".

    The explosion, at 7:42 a.m. on the corner of Doxapatri and Sarantapichou streets, just 200 meters from Voulgarakis' apartment, was due to a home-made bomb placed in a travel satchel that the perpetrators had hung on a bicycle they placed between two parked cars, a senior police official told ANA-MPA.

    On his part, Transport and Communications Minister Michalis Liapis said on Tuesday evening that "such cowardly attacks cannot bend the will of the Greek state to eradicate terrorism."

    "This will is expressed by all the country's political forces," Liapis added.

    Political leadership condemns bomb attack on Voulgarakis: The government, ruling party and main opposition PASOK on Tuesday united in their condemnation of a bomb attack against Culture Minister George Voulgarakis that occurred in the early hours of Tuesday morning, outside his home on Lycabettus Hill in Athens. Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos condemned the attack and expressed the government's support for Voulgarakis' family, which he said had become the target of such an attack for the second time in three years.

    Such attacks actually targeted democracy itself, the spokesman added, while noting that Greek democracy was strong and not threatened by such incidents.

    PASOK leader George Papandreou stressed that his party's support for Voulgarakis and absolute condemnation of such attacks was self-evident, as was the hope that the culprits would be caught.

    "Our criticism may at times be intense and substantive but terrorism is a blow against democracy," he said before the start of a PASOK Parliamentary group meeting.

    Ruling New Democracy Central Committee Secretary Lefteris Zagoritis also categorically condemned the attack, stressing that terrorism had taken a heavy toll both in Greece and other countries and that its victims were mainly innocent citizens.

    The explosion occurred at 7:42 a.m. on the corner of Doxapatri and Sarantapichou streets, at the foot of Lycabettus Hill in central Athens just 200 meters from Voulgarakis' apartment. It was due to a home-made bomb placed in a travel satchel that the perpetrators had hung on a bicycle placed between two parked cars, a senior police official told ANA-MPA.

    There was no previous warning, nor had any group claimed responsibility for the attack by noon the same day. Later, Voulgarakis revealed that he has received a barrage of threats, adding "I have been targeted".

    Police told ANA-MPA they believed that Voulgarakis was the target, given that the minister was due to pass by the spot three minutes after the explosion occurred. They said the perpetrators might have mistaken a car going past at the time for the minister's escort and detonated the bomb earlier than they intended.

    The strong explosion causes extensive damage to surrounding cars, while debris was hurled at least 10 meters away, breaking the windows of a nearby school, which was empty at the time.

    [06] PM meets defense minister

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday received Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis.

    After the meeting, Meimarakis stressed in statements to reporters that there was no difference in view between him and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis regarding relations with Turkey and on taking outstanding issues to the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

    He said that taking matters to the international court was a standing position of Greek policy but stressed that he disagreed with a proposal for the demilitarization of the Greek islands.

    The minister also noted that an incident involving a Turkish patrol boat that had approached the Imia islets earlier on Tuesday had now ended.

    [07] Inner cabinet discusses education issues

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The inner cabinet on Tuesday discussed proposals concerning tertiary education, during a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

    Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou said the meeting was an initial detailed discussion on the proposals of the National Education Council, university rectors and others.

    [08] Kassimis on 2-day official visit to Romania this week

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis, who holds the expatriate Greeks portfolio, departs on Wednesday for a two-day official visit to Romania, where he will be received on Thursday by Attila MarkĂł, Romania's State Secretary for interethnic relations.

    Additionally, Kassimis will be received by Romanian Foreign Affairs Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu and Romanian Orthodox Patriarch Theoktistos.

    Additionally, he will hold meetings with representatives of various ethnic Greek groups in the country as well as with the leadership of the Greek Business Council of Romania.

    [09] Greek coastguard vessel near Imia islets after Turkish provocation

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    A Greek Coastguard patrol boat was in the sea region off the Imia islets as of early Tuesday, after a Turkish patrol boat told a Greek fisherman to abandon the area.

    Both vessels were still in the region shortly after noon.

    [10] 'Hellenic Aid' to undertake new initiatives for 2006

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    By decision of Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis, "Hellenic Aid" will undertake new initiatives for 2006.

    These initiatives are within the framework of the policy of development cooperation and aid with the purpose of fulfilling the United Nations' "Millennium Targets".

    The initiatives include the granting of food and development aid to African countries, as well as for the confrontation of bird flu (avian influenza).

    Specifically, "Hellenic Aid", will offer 70,000 euros for the granting of food aid to Niger through the World Food Program (WFP), 60,000 euros to support the agricultural development of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to the People's Republic of Congo and 30,000 euros to the international committee of the Red Cross for the confrontation of the famine crisis in Somalia which is suffering from drought.

    For the confrontation of bird flu, the Greek foreign ministry will offer 150,000 euros to FAO and another 150,000 euros to the World Health Organization (WHO).

    [11] Archbishop Christodoulos meets UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Geneva mayor

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos on Tuesday met with UN High Commissioner for Refugees and former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres. The Archbishop is continuing his visit to the seat of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva.

    Guterres said that "in Greece, the Church has developed great activity in the sensitive sector of refugees through 'Solidarity' (non-governmental organization of the Church) but also through the 'Holy Synod Committee of Mutual Help' which deals with issues of expatriates returning home, immigrants and refugees."

    On his part, Archbishop Christodoulos told the UN High Commissioner for Refugees that "for the Greek Church, the protection of the rights of refugees as well as their care with humanism, constitutes our primary target and a duty of utmost importance and for this reason it contributes to this sector with all the strength it possesses."

    Earlier, Christodoulos met with Geneva Mayor Manuel Tornare, who referred in particular to the historic presence of the Greek community in Geneva, which, as he stressed, "is one of the most active and dynamic."

    WCC Secretary General Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia also hosted a luncheon in honor of Archbishop Christodoulos.

    [12] Parliament unanimously approves amendment for building of churches of other religions

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    An amendment by 12 deputies from all the parties was unanimously accepted in Parliament on Tuesday, as amended by Education and Religious Affairs Minister Marietta Yiannakou, with which permission will not be required from local bishops for the building of churches of other religions or dogmas.

    Parliament unanimously voted the amendment to the bill for the "Selection of members of primary and secondary education", on the basis of which "for the founding, building or operation of a church or place of worship of any dogma or religion, except of the Orthodox Church of Greece, does not require permit or opinion from the local church authority of the Orthodox Church of Greece." All applications should be addressed to the Education and Religious Affairs Ministry.

    [13] Funeral service for Airforce pilot Iliakis

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The funeral service for 36-year-old Air force pilot Costas Iliakis, whose F16 fighter jet went down last Tuesday following a mid-air collision with a Turkish fighter jet over the sea region of the Aegean island of Karpathos, will be held in Chania, Crete on Wednesday.

    His family decided to hold a funeral even though his body has not been recovered yet and requested that instead of funeral wreaths donations be given to a centre for the disabled and a support centre.

    Air force pilot Costas Iliakis was an experienced pilot with a total of 1,000 flight hours with A7 aircraft and 700 flight hours with F16 jets. He was married and a father of two.

    [14] NBG chief: Turkey offers a unique opportunity for us to expand

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    National Bank of Greece (NBG) chairman Takis Arapoglou on Tuesday stoutly defended an eyebrow-raising decision to purchase Turkey-based Finansbank, the seventh largest financial institution in the neighboring country, telling a relevant Parliament committee that such deals will ensure NBG's dominant position in the entire SE Europe region.

    In beginning his statement, and in response to heated criticism domestically, particularly from opposition political parties and the press, Arapoglou said decisions by the bank's leadership aimed to ensure National Bank's independence, to maintain its control by Greek interests and its dominance in the local banking market.

    Moreover, he again defended his decision not to brief Parliament's economy committee before addressing a NBG general shareholders' meeting, saying this was a legal obligation.

    "We need new dynamic markets in order to compete with major European competitor (banks), especially in our region, as there are very limited prospects in mature West European markets," he said, before the question-&-answer portion of the briefing.

    "Turkey offers a unique opportunity for us to expand ... it has a population of 70 million and a high growth rate ... as well as improved macro-economic conditions after 2000," Arapoglou said, before repeating that the deal aimed to directly strengthen NBG's position throughout SE Europe and its leading position in Greece.

    National Bank in early April announced the purchase of 46 percent in Istanbul-based FinansBank's common shares and 100 percent of its preferred shares from Fiba Holding group for 2.774 billion US dollars.

    Arapoglou's appearance before the Greek Parliament's economy committee comes a day after the International Finance Corp. (IFC), a member of the World Bank group, announced on Monday that it will acquire a minority stake in Finansbank upon completion of the deal.

    The politically charged climate surrounding Arapoglou's appearance surfaced prior to the opening of the session -- which was scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m. but commenced at 2:50 p.m. -- when a handful of main opposition New Democracy (ND) party deputies sharply criticized the fact that an address by the main opposition PASOK leader, to his party's Parliament group, overlapped into the slot reserved for the briefing, and in the same venue (Parliament's senate hall) as well.

    Opposition queries National Bank over Turkish buyout: Three parliamentary opposition parties on Tuesday questioned the planned acquisition by Athens-quoted National Bank of Greece of Turkey's Finansbank in a hearing before parliament's standing economic affairs committee.

    National's chairman and managing director, Takis Arapoglou, was summoned before the committee to explain management's decision to make the acquisition.

    The Panhellenic Socialist Movement's shadow economy spokeswoman, Vasso Papandreou, queried the purchase price for the bank and the risk factor in Turkey, also claiming that National's management had offered inadequate information on the deal.

    "This is a massive investment, with massive economic, political and military risk. From a business point of view, the acquisition is very expensive. It is globally unprecedented for a bank to place 70% of its shareholders' equity in a very risky market," Papandreou noted.

    Addressing the committee, Arapoglou said the purchase price for Finansbank as a multiple of book value was at least comparable to other deals in the region, if not significantly lower. Examples were BCR (Romania) at 5.8 times, purchased by Erste Bank of Austria; Aval (Ukraine) at 4.3 times by Reiffeisen of Austria; and Ukrsotsbank at 5.2 times by Intesa of Italy.

    Arapoglou also stated that information given by management on the terms of the acquisition was detailed, and met regulatory requirements.

    Parliamentary deputy Nikolaos Gatzis of the Communist Party of Greece complained that the acquisition contained no benefits for employees, also asking for clarification on the participation of social insurance funds in National's share capital rise.

    Speaking for the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology, deputy Yiannis Dragasakis said he wanted to see 33% of National's share capital controlled in the future by social insurance funds and the state.

    A deputy for the ruling New Democracy party, K. Agorastos, brought up the impact on National's share price sparked by opposition to the acquisition.

    [15] Council of Competitiveness Ministers convenes in Brussels

    BRUSSELS, 31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The EU Council of Competitiveness Ministers convened here on Tuesday and reached a political agreement on the draft directive concerning domestic market services (the so-called "Bolkestein" directive).

    Greece's positions were supported at the Council by Deputy Finance and Economy Minister Christos Folias who expressed his satisfaction over the agreement.

    "It is a big step by the European economy and market towards its integration and a strong implement for achieving the targets set in Lisbon," he said.

    Addressing the Council, Folias said that "today is a historic day for the domestic market of the EU since a mutually acceptable solution is being found for a draft directive which has caused unprecedented reactions all over the EU. It is being proved today that when there is a will for a convergence of views it is achieved, no matter how difficult it may seem."

    [16] Greece seeks long-term EU farm policy

    VIENNA, 31/5/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    Greece on Tuesday asked the European Union to introduce a new long-term farm policy for the 25-member bloc that would extend beyond 2013.

    Addressing an informal EU farm ministers meeting, Agriculture Minister Evangelos Basiakos also noted that funding for the policy should be ensured.

    "The European agricultural model should be retained within multi-functional rural areas, European competitiveness should be raised in the global environment, and the income of Greek and European producers should be safeguarded in the long term," Basiakos noted.

    In addition, the Greek minister sought further reinforcement for the production of quality agricultural foodstuffs, coupled with plans for sustainable development and protection of the environment.

    [17] DEH invoice policy responsibility of government, development minister says

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, speaking during a discussion on Tuesday on a question put by main opposition PASOK party deputies "concerning negative developments in the petroleum products market", said that the invoice policy of the Public Power Corporation (DEH) is the responsibility of the government.

    Sioufas pointed out that increases will follow the same policy applied over the past two years, while the health of DEH, the needs of households and the competitiveness of businesses will be taken into consideration.

    The development minister further said that, "without there being a relevant announcement by the development ministry, the deputies of PASOK are creating scenarios about the prices of electricity, causing concern among consumers."

    [18] Hellenic Aerospace Industry in 92-mln-dollar contract with Alenia

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Hellenic Aerospace Industry (EAB) on Tuesday signed a 92-mln-US dollar contract with Italy's Alenia Aeronautica. Under the contract EAB will participate in the assembly of door frameworks in the cargo department of Boeing 787 aircrafts, with a duration up to 2021.

    The long-term international partnership is part of EAB's strategy to develop know-how that will enable the company to meet increasing demands in the international industry and its membership in new programs and penetration of new markets.

    Alenia Aeronautica will also forge a partnership with the Athens Polytechnic and the University of Patras to promote research in the aerospace field.

    [19] Employment minister meets Social Security Foundation leadership

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Employment and Social Solidarity Minister Savvas Tsitouridis held a meeting on Tuesday with the leadership of the Social Security Foundation (IKA), in the context of his visit to the foundation's Central Service.

    Tsitouridis said afterwards that "by the end of the year at the latest, the situation of the 295 health units of IKA throughout the country will markedly improve."

    Tsitouridis also underlined:» During summer, an initiative will be taken for the confrontation of the phenomenon of non-payment of social insurance contributions. In early July, there will be a major three-day working meeting along with the boards of all the social insurance funds. The results of this meeting will come during summer for discussion in Parliament with the political parties, but also in general with the social partners."

    [20] Papandreou speaks to PASOK MPs on SMEs

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Tuesday addressed his party's Parliament group on the issue of small-to-medium-sized businesses, noting that the area is of "vital importance" for his party and that "one-sided support towards big businesses gradually weakens smaller ones".

    He once again criticized the government's economic policy, saying it did not fulfill its pre-election promises to strengthened businesses' competitiveness.

    Finally, he dismissed criticism that PASOK has not tabled proposals on the specific issue, merely noting that "some television pundits are probably not paying attention to our program."

    [21] Merchant marine and transport ministers visit port of Piraeus

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis and Transport and Communications Minister Mihalis Liapis on Tuesday visited the port of Piraeus which will function during the summer season on the models of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and will serve over six million passengers.

    Liapis announced the transfer of the bus terminals from the Tzelepi region to the region of "Dock 3" in the port of Piraeus. He also announced the creation of a special lane at seven locations in the port of Piraeus with taxi stops and facilitating passengers with night Piraeus-Syntagma, Piraeus-Athens airport and Piraeus-Kifisia bus routes.

    On his part, Kefaloyiannis announced a number of measures aimed at facilitating passengers that will include the building of a pedestrian bridge in the summer that will link the passenger port of Piraeus with the electric train station.

    New cruise terminal inaugurated at port of Piraeus 31/5/2006

    Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis on Tuesday inaugurated the new cruise terminal in the region of "Kanellos" at the port of Piraeus.

    Speaking during the inauguration, Kefaloyiannis said that one of the priorities of the Merchant Marine Ministry is the development of cruises and supporting the effort undertaken by the country to attract a large number of tourists.

    An increase in the number of cruise ship passengers by 22 percent occurred in 2005. The number reached 925,000 passengers compared to 757,000 in 2004.

    The capacity of the new terminal will double with the new project due to take place in 2007 and shows the work being accomplished in continuously improving services provided for passengers with the aim of making the port of Piraeus the cruise centre of the Mediterranean.

    [22] Hoteliers optimistic over 2006 tourist season

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Greek hoteliers on Tuesday expressed their optimism over this year's tourist season, with Andreas Andreadis, the Panhellenic Hoteliers' Federation president saying "things will go better than last year".

    In a meeting with reporters, the federation's leadership said early signs supported views over a robust tourism season this year, although growth rates are not expected to be much higher compared with 2005. The Dodecanese islands and Crete were expected to be major winners once again, with the Ionian Islands following behind and central and northern Greece expected to witness increased arrivals in June.

    Andreadis said hotels would follow last year's pricing policy and underlined the federation's intention to promote a new "price policy" image of Greek hotels, including lower rates for traditional Greek products, such as coffee, ouzo and other amenities offered by local hotels to guests.

    Andreadis announced a plan to issue a special bank card-member for Greek hoteliers, offering favorable terms of use and a series of special discounts in other bank transactions. The federation also plans to upgrade its website with a new portal.

    [23] Greece a popular destination for Serb tourists

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    A total of 7,000 visa applications have been filed with the Greek embassy in Belgrade, Serbia since early May, a number three times higher than the same month last year, according to Greek embassy consulate office director Vasilis Vikas.

    This notable increase is mainly due to the new visa-issue telephone service launched on May 2, he said.

    According to a market research conducted by the Union of Serb Tour Operators, JUTA, 59% of Serb tourists will choose Greece for their vacations this summer.

    Meanwhile, the Greeks occupy the seventh place on the list of foreign tourists visiting Serbia after the tourists from Bosnia, Slovenia, Germany, Italy, Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

    [24] Greek retail sales index up 7.7 pct in March, yr/yr

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Greece's retail sales turnover index jumped 7.7 percent in March from the same month last year, the National Statistics Service said on Tuesday.

    NSS, in its monthly report, attributed the improved figure to a 9.5 pct increase in food stores and a 7.0 pct increase in department stores in March. The supermarket index rose 11.7 pct in March, the department store index was up 15.2 pct, the furniture-electric appliances index rose 15.2 pct and bookstore index was up 17.1 pct in the month.

    The retail sales volume index (turnover in fixed prices) rose 5.9 pct in March compared with the same month last year.

    [25] Hellenic Telecoms reports improved 1st quarter results

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) on Tuesday reported a 6.5 pct increase in its consolidated first quarter turnover to 1.387 billion euros, compared with the same period last year, reflecting high growth rates in mobile telephony operations' profits.

    Revenues from mobile telephony operations totalled 449.3 million euros, up 15.5 percent, while other Group revenues rose 14.4 pct compared with the corresponding quarter last year, to 281.4 million euros, mainly reflecting increased revenues from Internet and ADSL services.

    Operating earnings, after minorities, totalled 109.7 million euros in the January-March period, up 38.3 percent, from the same period in 2005.

    Parent turnover totalled 684.7 million euros in the first three months of the year, up 3.3 pct from 2005, net profits fell 88.9 pct to 20.5 million euros and EBITDA rose 16.9 pct to 183.6 million euros.

    Cosmote said its consolidated turnover rose 30.5 pct in the first quarter of 2006 to 496.4 million euros, while net consolidated profits rose 0.8 pct to 75.2 million euros.

    OTEnet said its turnover rose 25 percent to 25.5 million euros in the January-March period, pre-tax, interest and amortization earnings rose 11.4 pct to 2.9 million euros, while its customer base jumped 29 percent to 437,400 on March 31, 2006.

    Romtelecom, OTE's subsidiary in Romania, reported a 2.4 pct decline in its revenues in the first quarter, a 33.6 pct increase in its EBITDA to 95 million euros and a 43.5 percent rise in net profits to 18.8 million euros.

    [26] Delta Airlines launches daily Athens-Atlanta connection

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Delta Airlines on Tuesday launched direct flights from Athens to Atlanta, Georgia. The US airline said its daily flights will depart from Athens' Eleftherios Venizelos Airport at 12.50 and arrive in Atlanta at 17:45 local time.

    The route is expected to contribute to increasing tourist arrivals from the United States to Greece, Delta officials said during a press conference attended by US ambassador in Athens Charles Ries and Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) chairman Dimitris Lambadarios.

    [27] Athens Bourse Close: Stocks slump, tracking markets abroad

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The Athens share index closed at 3,717.18 points, showing a decline of 2.85%. Turnover was 295.0 million euros.

    The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 2.81% down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 3.34% lower; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 3.74% down.

    Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 254 to 32 with 26 remaining unchanged.

    Stock Futures:

  • Most Active Contract (volume): Intracom (1504)

  • Total derivatives market turnover: 305.9 million euros

    Bond Market Close: Buyers match sellers

  • Greek benchmark 10-year bond (exp. 20.7.2016): 4.25% yield

  • German benchmark 10-year bond: 3.95%

  • Most heavily traded paper: 10-year bond, expiring 20.7.2016 (575 mln euros)

  • Day's Total Market Turnover: 2.0 bln euros

    Foreign Exchange Rates: Wednesday

    Reference buying rates per euro released

    by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.294

    [28] Rion-Antirion bridge management blasts report on severed cable

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The Gefyra SA Company, which manages the state-of-the-art Rion-Antirion Bridge, on Tuesday again reiterated that a severed cable on the bridge in February 2005 was caused by a lightning bolt, while blasting a report a day earlier citing material failure as the cause.

    In an unusually blunt response, the companies managing the world’s longest cable stayed bridge -- with a continuous deck of 2,250 meters -- said claims of material failure have not been proven, whereas the report's conclusion creates a "serious and inappropriate bias vis-à-vis the bridge's image and its contractors, who reserve the option to exercise all their legal rights."

    The report, compiled by an experts' committee set up by the public works ministry, dismissed Gefyra's contention of a lightning bolt.

    Conversely, the bridge's concessionaire said the committee did not take into account an engineering report it submitted in early May 2006 that points to the lightning scenario, adding that the severed cable was also thoroughly examined after the incident and judged as meeting technical specifications.

    The Rion-Antirion Bridge links the Peloponnese with western Greece's mainland.

    [29] Mount Athos treasures in Helsinki

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    A major Byzantine art exhibition on “Athos-Monastic life on the Holy Mountain” organized by the Helsinki City Art Museum is scheduled to open in August on the occasion of the Finnish EU Presidency in the second half of 2006. The exhibition will run from August 18 until January 21, 2007.

    Helsinki City Art Museum director Berndt Arell stated in a press conference that the exhibition is a historic event, stressing that the holy land of Orthodoxy exhibits its treasures for the first time outside Greece.

    The treasures to be exhibited come from Mount Athos monasteries, in Halkidiki northern Greece and 15 European museums covering a historical period of 1,000 years. The estimated 500 treasures include priceless icons, rare manuscripts and relics, jewelry, textiles, hand carved wood objects.

    Contributing to the exhibition are 10 Mount Athos monasteries, the Benaki Museum and the Byzantine Museum in Athens, private collections and museums in Russia, Cyprus, Serbia-Montenegro and Germany.

    The Helsinki City Art Museum director said that Finns show great interest in the exhibition, even though only 1 percent of the population is Christian Orthodox because the influence of the Orthodox Church in Finland is huge.

    An international seminar on Mount Athos will be held during the exhibition, while an area on the museum grounds has been transformed to look like a monastery and visitors will learn about the history of Mount Athos, the everyday life of the monks, and the monastery feasts.

    [30] European Parliament Women's Rights Committee visiting Greece

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Issues concerning women immigrants and the exploitation of women were examined by an eight-member delegation of the European Parliament's Committee for Women's Rights and the Equality of Genders during an official visit to the country.

    The purpose of the visit, which ended on Tuesday, was to assess measures being taken by Greece to protect women immigrants and combat the trafficking of women for sexual exploitation.

    A press conference by the delegation on Tuesday, was told that 800,000 people all over Europe, both women and children, are victims of illegal trafficking with an annual "turnover" amounting to 32 billion euros, of which 28 billion euros come from the procuring of women.

    The President of the Committee for Women's Rights, Anna Zaborska, congratulated the Greeks for their successful effort concerning measures to protect women immigrants and combat the procuring of women, saying that over a small period of time Greece had to handle large immigration waves.

    [31] Wildfire early warning system tested in Çalkidiki

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    An exercise to test the operational readiness of an early warning system for forest fires recently installed in Sithonia forest in Halkidiki, northern Greece, will take place in Nikiti, Halkidiki on June 6.

    The exercise hopes to demonstrate that the system is effective and can provide firefighters with valuable information in the case of a fire.

    The Sithon system includes a high-tech monitoring network featuring 10 fixed cameras installed throughout the 400,000 hectares of the Sithonia forest and a helicopter with an infrared scanner capable of recording any unusual rise in ground temperature.

    Its use in the region reduces the firefighters’ intervention time and provides them with necessary information about the area --accessibility, population density, type of forest.

    [32] Palestinian and Turkish women authors present their books in

    Athens 31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Two women authors, a Palestinian and a Turk, gave a joint press conference in Athens on Tuesday at the "Ianos" bookshop on the occasion of the publication, for the first time in Greek, of their books.

    Palestinian author Souad Amir, in her book "Sharon and my mother-in-law", describes, with humor, the tragedy in the Palestinian Territories, with highlights of every day life in Ramallah, where she was born.

    Turkish author Erendiz Atasu, in her novel "Dream in Menopause", describes the struggle of an ordinary woman in Turkey, a widow in a patriarchal society.

    [33] President: Reference of protocol to Turkish Assembly first positive step

    NICOSIA, 31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos on Tuesday said that the intention of the Turkish side to send to the Turkish Grand National Assembly the issue of the protocol extending its customs union to the ten new EU member states "will be the first positive step for the fulfillment of the obligations Turkey has towards the EU."

    Invited to say if there is a strategy followed by Athens and Nicosia, Papadopoulos replied affirmatively.

    As regards a story by Greek newspaper 'Eleftherotypia' saying that the Greek government is working on proposals so as to push forward efforts for a Cyprus settlement and give an answer to European and US pressure to lift the so called ''isolation'' of the Turkish Cypriot community, Papadopoulos said that when this was published there was a representative of him in Athens "in the framework of this weekly planning we are making with Greece."

    And this is the third visit to plan the strategy and policy, he added.

    He said he was very astonished to hear about a Greek plan, while his representative was in Athens and he himself was fully informed about what his representative had discussed and there was not such a thing.

    Replying to another question he noted that his proposal regarding Famagusta (for the return of Famagusta to its legal owners and the

    opening of the port of the Turkish occupied area) is on the table since the two regulations of the EU (financial aid for Turkish Cypriots and direct trade with Turkish Cypriots) have been submitted.

    "We have proposed in detail and in writing this plan a good while ago, so these aspects that we are discussing are not new," he added.

    [34] Cyprus FM's meetings in Berlin

    NICOSIA, 31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou met Tuesday in Berlin with German Minister of State for Europe Gunter

    Gloser, with whom he reviewed the excellent bilateral relations between Cyprus and Germany, discussed various issues which concern the EU at present, as the Constitutional Treaty and its future.

    An official press release issued in Nicosia said that Iacovou and Gloser also discussed the problem of the flow of illegal immigrants to Europe as well as the EU enlargement, for which the foreign minister explained extensively the positions of the Cypriot government on the issue of Turkey's obligations towards the EU 25 member states in relation to Cyprus.

    Iacovou also met with Germany's former Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher.

    The meeting took place in a very overwhelming climate. Iacovou and Genscher discussed various international issues and the Cyprus question.

    Iacovou also attended a working lunch hosted by the Cypriot Ambassador to Berlin Leonidas Markides for a group of journalists and media representatives.

    He had the opportunity to brief participants on the Cyprus question and the positions of the Cyprus government on Turkey's European course.

    [35] Attracting tourists from Asia a joint target for Greece and Cyprus

    NICOSIA, 31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Joint efforts to attract tourists from Asia will be promoted by Greece and Cyprus, according to statements by visiting Tourist Development Minister Fani Palli-Petralia during the Annual General Assembly of the Pancyprian Hoteliers Federation on Tuesday.

    Invoking trends in the world's economy, Petralia said that the safe conclusion is that the new visitors to Europe will primarily come from China.

    The minister said that she will soon be in Beijing and that Greece aims at having a strong presence in the Beijing Olympic Games, adding that "we have decided to proceed immediately with initiatives to open the 'Paths of Tourism' from China to Greece even more. What I also wish to stress today is that Greece and Cyprus can go ahead with joint actions to approach the Chinese market."

    Petralia further said that according to research in 2020 world tourism in the number of arrivals will be double that of today and will be about 1.6 billion visitors.

    [36] Meeting with Cyprus president

    31/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Petralia also met with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and said afterwards that "Turkey must realize that its European path passes through the 'green line'."

    She added that tensions and everything taking place in the Aegean in no way help the European prospects of Turkey.

    Petralia went on to say that Turkey "must realize that it must respect international rules and its commitments towards the member-states and it must prove this in practice."

    Referring to her meeting with President Papadopoulos, Petralia said she had an interesting discussion on issues of mutual interest, with particular emphasis on tourist development issues.

    She also said that Greece and Cyprus will develop their very close cooperation in tourism in the framework of the European Union as well which, as she said, "can and must be the safety umbrella for the development of the region and the catalyst for a solution to the issue of Cyprus."

    The minister concluded her two-day visit to Cyprus and was due back in Athens late on Tuesday night.


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