|Monday, 21 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-06-28
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>June 28, 2006
 EU affairs and Turkey top PM's agenda in Sweden
STOCKHOLM 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)European affairs and the European Union's relations with Turkey were at the top of the agenda during talks held here on Tuesday between Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his Swedish counterpart Goran Persson, while the Swedish side raised the issue of EU-Russia relations and international energy policy.
Outlining Greek positions regarding Turkey, Karamanlis reiterated Greece's support for Turkey's European prospects and said it should be able to expect full EU membership, provided that it fulfilled all the criteria set by the EU.
Persson noted that accession talks for EU enlargement always had problems in the early stages, while commenting that the problems between Turkey and Cyprus did not surprise him.
He predicted that the problems would be overcome, however, and that Turkey's accession negotiations would continue. Persson also emphasized that all chapters in EU accession talks should be opened and that when Turkey fully implemented the criteria and incorporated Community legislation it should then become a full member of the EU.
According to the Swedish prime minister, however, this would be a lengthy process.
The two leaders also discussed issues related to the Balkans, with Karamanlis referring to the outstanding dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) over the tiny republic's adopted name of 'Macedonia' and stressing that Greece has exhausted all margins for compromise on this issue.
Greece objects to the use of the name Macedonia by its northern neighbor on the grounds that the name is shared by a northern Greek province on FYROM's border and might give rise to future expansionist claims against Greece, as well as being historically misleading.
Karamanlis also called for an end to the "period of reflection" for the EU Constitution and said that the EU should start moving forward on this issue.
Persson referred to the EU's relations with Russia and said that Sweden was not interested in Russian natural gas because it was developing alternative forms of energy, while noting that Sweden does not encourage the Russo-German natural gas pipeline.
Prior to his meeting with the Swedish prime minister, Karamanlis met the leader of Sweden's main opposition Moderaterna party Fredrik Reinsfeldt and visited the Vasa Museum, featuring the salvaged and now complete 17th-century ship "Vasa".
 PASOK party leader concludes contacts in Israel, Palestinian territory
JERUSALEM 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou concluded his contacts in Israel and in Palestinian territory late on Tuesday night, during the second stage of his Middle East tour, in his capacity as Socialist International President.
Talks with Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Jerusalem Patriarch Theofilos III and former Israeli justice minister and one of the protagonists of the Geneva Initiative, Yossi Beilin, as well as the telephone conversation he held with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, focused on new developments following the abduction of an Israeli soldier by the forces of Hamas, as well as on the escalation of tension, that appears to be a one-way street following the decision by the Israeli military to invade Gaza.
Peretz briefed him on the Israeli government's skepticism over the loss of control of the situation by the security forces of the Palestinian Authority in Palestinian territory and in the Gaza Strip in particular.
The Israeli defense minister also told Papandreou that following the abduction of the Israeli soldier by Hamas militants, an extensive operation in the Gaza Strip by the Israeli army would be difficult to prevent.
Papandreou, on his part, stressed the need for both sides to show self-restraint, while expressing his concern over the escalation of the crisis.
During a meeting with Yossi Beilin, the two men discussed developments on the international political scene, while probing the Palestinian issue and possibilities of defusing the crisis in the Palestinian territory.
The meeting with Shimon Peres followed the same lines, while the increasing tension and the possible invasion of Gaza by the Israeli army obliged Papandreou to postpone his visit to the city of Gaza and his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The reason for the postponement of the meeting was the fact that neither Israel nor the Palestinians could guarantee his safe passage to the region. However, he held a telephone conversation with the Palestinian leader, who briefed him on efforts he is making to prevent matters from worsening, even at the last moment.
 Papandreou in Israel for Socialist Int'l peace initiative
JERUSALEM 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)Socialist International President George Papandreou, the leader of Greece's main opposition PASOK party, arrived in Israel on Tuesday for talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials over an intended SI-brokered peace initiative, even as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict escalated to new heights following the abduction of an Israeli soldier by Hamas gunmen.
Papandreou had a 40-minute meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni that focused on the latest developments in the conflict in light of the abduction and the new situation it had created, as well as the steps that Israel intends to take next unless the hostage is released.
Livni also expressed concern that the Fatah security forces appeared to have lost control of the situation in the Palestinian territories.
Papandreou proposed a regional conference to promote dialogue and attempt to rebuild a climate a trust between the two sides once the present crisis had been overcome.
Earlier, the Greek main opposition leader had also met with the new Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos, who replaced the ousted Irineos following last year's highly damaging property and corruption scandal.
Papandreou stressed that he had arrived in Jerusalem at a very difficult time for the Middle East, while noting that in talks with Palestinians and Israelis the goal was to stand by and support the work of the Patriarchate, which he said was very important.
PASOK's leader arrived in Israel from Tehran, which he had visited for an SI initiative concerning Iran's nuclear program. After a meeting with Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, Papandreou said they had discussed efforts for a peaceful resolution of the crisis and an SI initiative that might contribute to finding such a solution and highlight the possibilities for cooperation between Iran and the international community.
He also noted that the Iranian side appeared willing to contribute to finding a solution to the problem and said that he was prepared to continue contacts and initiatives on an international level with other leaders who are influential in the region.
 Univ. reform bill debuts in Parliament com't; opposition boycotts
ATHENS 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)Debate on the government's long-awaited draft bill for higher education reforms officially began on Tuesday with the tabling of the legislation in Parliament's education committee, although the opposition appeared determined to boycott discussions at the committee level.
Specifically, main opposition PASOK said it was only willing to discuss procedural matters, given that Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou will be attending an OECD education ministers' conference at a seaside resort southeast of downtown Athens. Additionally, representatives for the two smaller parties represented in Parliament, the Communist Party (KKE) and the Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos), declined to attend.
The parties' absence, especially Synaspismos, generated a sharp reaction by Yiannakou, who accused the latter's leader, Alekos Alavanos, of reneging on a promise to participate in Parliamentary debate on the draft bill.
"...Mr. Alavanos came and met with me at the ministry, where he said that his party would participate in the dialogue if the draft bill was tabled in Parliament's plenum in October ... from now on, discussions at the ministry will be conducted only with television cameras present so that certain parties don't appear to say one thing inside and another outside," she charged.
On his part, Alavanos, whose small Parliament-represented party has vociferously backed college student protests against university reforms throughout the past month, merely noted that "a basis for dialogue must be proposals by the university community, by educators and the students..."
True to its ideological roots, a representative for KKE had earlier announced that there was no point in conducting dialogue over the specific draft bill, "as its foundation and philosophy are in complete opposition with demands for public, free, working-class and a modern education that serves the interests of working people and not big capital."
Finally, a top PASOK deputy in charge of the main opposition's education sector, Milena Apostolaki, said PASOK the minister's absence was a poor omen for beginning deliberations at the committee level.
The draft bill foreseeing reforms for Greece's increasingly bloated and unspectacular tertiary education system, including changes to the university asylum regime, a ceiling on the numbers years of study, introduction of student loans, election of university administrations and the regulation of colleges' finances, was unveiled last week amid a firestorm of protests by the professors' union and groups of students, leftist parties etc.
A key focus of the proposed reforms appears aimed at eliminating the phenomenon of so-called "eternal students", by placing a maximum limit on the number of years in which undergraduates must obtain their first degree.
In presenting the draft bill, Yiannakou underlined that the reforms were exclusively designed to upgrade state universities and were in no way connected to a possible revision of Article 16 of the Constitution to allow the establishment of private, non-profit universities.
"The good state university primarily supports the young men and women of economically weaker classes and is a serious mechanism for redistributing income, given that those with economic power can send their children to any foreign university they want," she noted last week. Dialogue could not last forever but all sides will be given sufficient time to express their views, she stressed.
Reforms: The draft bill includes measures to boost the independence of tertiary education institutes through four-year academic programs, including measures to increase their financial independence like the abolition of spending inspections, tax incentives and relief and others.
The bill also refers to measures for support of students, such as studies advisors, reciprocal scholarships and student loans with no interest and the provision of free textbooks from a list of books provided by the universities themselves.
University asylum is made stronger, according to the ministry, with the rules remaining the same except that the rectors' council will henceforth be responsible for lifting asylum and only in the presence of a judicial official at all times.
With regard to the maximum length of studies, the ministry proposes allowing students that enrol after the bill is passed to complete their first degree studies within the minimum number of terms required plus 50 percent extra, so that the average four-year degree can be completed in six years. An additional year can also be given at the discretion of the university's administrators.
Students will, however, have the option of suspending their studies for an indefinite period of time and then applying to resume them at a later date.
For students that have already begun their studies when the bill is passed, the ministry proposes that they should have an additional five years to complete their studies.
Another measure refers to the election of the administration in universities, technical educational institutes, their departments and schools. Here the ministry proposes the direct and universal participation of all members of the academic community, including students and staff, but without reducing the percentage of the electors.
 Students and professors protest education reform bill
ATHENS 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)Students and professors gathered outside the Athens University on Tuesday, calling for the withdrawal of a bill on third stage education.
Shortly after 3 in the afternoon, the demonstrators started a rally from Stadiou street to Syntagma Square and from there back to the University through Panepistimiou street, where the main bulk of the demonstrators dispersed.
However, a group of youths broke away from the rally in Syntagma Square and started hurling stones at the police.
Police retaliated with teargas near the University and the group of youths took refuge in the Law Faculty building in Solonos street, where they continued to stay until nightfall.
In the street outside the Law Faculty, the youths created barricades with garbage dumpsters and set them on fire.
The centre of Athens remained closed to traffic for many hours due to the student rally.
 Education minister inaugurates OECD education ministers summit
ATHENS 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou on Tuesday inaugurated the OECD's education minister's summit at a hotel in Lagonissi, south of Athens.
Yiannakou, who presides over the summit, said "the aim of the presidency is the creation of preconditions for achieving a common target for the qualitative upgrading and the best possible improvement of third stage education systems."
Yiannakou termed education as being "the most important guarantee for investing in the future", adding that "it is necessary for us to delineate challenges and outstrip retarding factors which dissociate higher education from wider society and decrease its social dividends. We also hope for the sensitization of all sides."
The education minister went on to say that "the social and institutional mission of the university must be reconsidered through the prism of new social and economic factors and necessities."
She also stressed that a quality university "constitutes a factor promoting social cohesion by providing the equal possibility and participation in knowledge for the socially and financially weaker."
Yiannakou pointed out that "we are being called upon to secure the greatest possible consensus, guaranteeing the viability of an upgraded model of higher education that will meet the need for the continuous updating of knowledge and of the citizens' skills."
The education minister was followed by OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria, who expressed satisfaction because the summit is taking place in Athens, where the first Academy was created, adding that education issues will be discussed in a modern Academy.
Lastly, he said that, "unfortunately, many member-states have adopted higher education models which are largely financed by the state." He noted that solutions should be found, while the financially weaker students should be helped with subsidized loans and scholarships.
 OECD chief Gurria meets with President Papoulias
ATHENS 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday morning received visiting Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) secretary general Angel Gurria, who is in Athens for talks with the Greek government and to attend a two-day meeting of the organizations education ministers that opens at noon at the coastal resort of Lagonissi, south of the capital.
No statements were made to the press after the meeting, which took place at the Presidential Mansion.
The OECD meeting at Lagonissi, chaired by Greece's education minister Marietta Yannakou, will be attended by the education of some 35 OECD member countries and the organization's new secretary general Angel Gurria, as well as 200 observers from around the world.
The meeting, entitled "Higher Education: Quality-Equality-Effectiveness", is the first t be held away from the OECD's Paris headquarters by the organization's education ministers.
Gurria had separate meetings on Monday with national economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis, agricultural development and food minister Evangelos Basiakos, and Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) president Dimitris Daskalopoulos.
 Protest outside OECD ministers' conference in Lagonissi
ATHENS 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)A scuffle broke out at noon on Tuesday outside the gates of the Grand Resort Lagonissi hotel, where education ministers from countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) were holding a meeting, when a picket attempted to go up to the entrance and hand over a resolution.
Roughly 500 members of the PAME trade union group, which is affiliated to the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), approached the gates at 11:30 but security forces were ordered to keep them away.
The protestors attempted to break through a police cordon but were finally repelled by riot police using tear gas, without further incidents.
 Gov't dismisses insinuations of heavy-handed security measures at OECD event
ATHENS 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)The government on Wednesday flatly dismissed claims that it was creating a "police-state" atmosphere around a southeast Athens coastal resort hosting a two-day OECD education ministers' meeting.
"I absolutely do not accept the suggestion that the government is allowing or has the intention of imposing a police-state environment," alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said in reply to a press question during his normal briefing on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, asked about "clashes" outside the OECD conference's site and over who is to blame, Antonaros merely noted that "given that the conference is now beginning, I am the last person that will put the blame on anyone. If you or your colleagues (reporters) want to ascertain what you referred to as responsibility (for whatever incidents), they should go there and find out what is going on."
He also sternly defended the security measures in place, stressing that OECD delegates have the right to meet and confer, "and conversely, groups of Greek citizens (also have the right) to protest.
"They (demonstrators) can protest and express their views peacefully, as is usually the case during such events around the world," he concluded.
 UN's Gambari in Athens, Ankara, Nicosia next week
NEW YORK 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)UN Undersecretary General for political affairs Ibrahim Gambari was expected to inform Tuesday night (Greek time) the Security Council plenum on his scheduled visit to Greece, Turkey and Cyprus next week.
Gambari will be in the Turkish capital on July 2 and in Athens on July 4. On July 6 he will be visiting Nicosia until July 9.
The UN official's mission is to examine the possibilities for the undertaking of a new UN initiative in resolving the protracted Cyprus problem.
In Cyprus, Gambari will meet with President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.
He is due to brief UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Security Council members on the results of his mission at the end of his tour of the three capitals.
On June 15, Annan announced during a press conference that Gambari would be sent to the region "very soon" to visit Cyprus, Greece and Turkey, with a view to "take the pulse on whether there is enough movement for the UN to begin to look at what further steps can be taken to move the process forward."
 Greece to continue participating in Cyprus' defense issues, Meimarakis says
ATHENS 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece will continue to actively participate in Cyprus' defense issues until the situation on the island republic is normalized and a viable, functional and just solution for the reunification of the island is found, Greece's National Defense Minister Evagelos Meimarakis told reporters on Tuesday after talks with visiting Cyprus new Defense Minister Phivos Klokkaris.
"Greece's active participation in issues pertaining to Cyprus' defense, until the situation becomes normal and a viable, functional and just solution for the reunification of the island is found, goes without saying," Meimarakis said.
As regards the joint defense pact between Greece and Cyprus, Meimarakis said that the Greek position "has been steadfast all these years".
"The visit today by the Cypriot defense minister sends a strong message that the two governments and the two defense ministers can cooperate with the best possible perspectives and orientations, extending the cooperation we had with the previous defense minister," the Greek minister added.
Klokkaris, on his part, said that the "security environment on the island is heavy due to the presence of the (Turkish) occupation forces and Turkey's intransigence, which does not fulfill its obligations towards the Cyprus Republic."
Greece's support in the building up of Cyprus' defense is very important and there is a common volition for the strengthening of these bonds, Klokkaris said.
Meimarakis noted that there were "movements on the part of the neighboring country (Turkey) that are disappointing for the Greek people and which, we believe, are not helpful neither in Turkey's European Union accession course nor in good neighborliness relations."
"We are steadfastly fixed to the peaceful resolution of issues, considering that we must have open channels of communication and a substantive dialogue for the finding of necessary solutions," Meimarakis said.
"When one becomes a member of a family such as the European Union one is obliged to respect the rules, principles and values set by all in order to live together. Consequently, I believe that anyone who desires cohabitation must adjust to these facts. Nobody is exercising pressure on nobody. The rules are a fact and one should accept them in order to participate," he said in relation to Turkey's EU accession course.
Regarding a U.S demand for the withdrawal of arms of U.S. origin from Cyprus, Meimarakis said that talks were still going on for a positive settlement of the issue.
The talks also focused on cooperation between the two countries on a European level, with the Greek minister saying that Cyprus could play an important role in the framework of European defense and security policy due to its geo-strategic position.
 National Defense General Staff chief Panayiotis Hinofotis to visit Turkey
ISTANBUL 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)National Defense General Staff chief, general Hilmi Ozkiok, will host his Greek counterpart admiral Panayiotis Hinofotis, as an official guest in Turkey during the last week in July.
Turkish military analysts consider the event to be very important since it will be the last public event for general Ozkiok, whose tenure at the National Defense General Staff is coming to an end.
General Ozkiok and admiral Hinofotis had served during the same period, between 1992-1995, at NATO's headquarters in Brussels.
 Parliament president on mistaken arrest of MP Dragassakis at Orly airport
ATHENS 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greek Parliament President Anna Benaki-Psarouda, in a letter addressed to her French counterpart Jean Louis Debre released on Tuesday, expressed surprise and indignation over an incident involving the arrest of Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology Party (SYN) Parliament deputy Yiannis Dragassakis at Paris' Orly International Airport on June 25.
Benaki stressed that despite of the fact that Dragassakis had emphatically stated his parliament deputy status, displayed a diplomatic passport, possessed a regular airplane ticket and had already boarded an Air France plane, the MP was forcibly led out of the plane by police, was handcuffed and taken to the airport police station, where it was established that the whole incident was the result of an airline employee's mistake.
Benaki concluded in her letter that those responsible for this unfortunate incident should hasten to apologies to Dragassakis, while she also expressed hope that every effort will be made on behalf of her French counterpart to prevent such incidents from happening again.
In a statement, Dragassakis demanded a full investigation into the circumstances that led to his arrest, while SYN also issued a statement condemning the incident, stressing that Dragassakis was in France within the framework of a Greek Parliament delegation to the Council of Europe.
 FM sends condolences to Russian counterpart over killing of 4 embassy employees in Baghdad
ATHENS 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Tuesday conveyed her condolences and solidarity to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov over the recent murder of four kidnapped employees of the Russian Federation's embassy in Baghdad.
In a press release, meanwhile, the foreign ministry also condemned the murder.
"Greece condemns in the most categorical manner such acts of blind violence and reiterates its steadfast position for the effective handling of international terrorism," the press release noted.
 Coalition (SYN) party on revising Constitution
ATHENS 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party on Tuesday presented its positions regarding the revision of the Constitution, saying that these were essentially diametrically opposed to the positions of the two main parties.
SYN leader Alekos Alavanos said that "nothing good" could come from the changes being planned and called on the opposition parties in Parliament not to endorse any of the articles under revision so that they did not amass the required majority of 180 votes in the 300-seat Parliament.
He said the aim was to avoid giving a "carte blanche" to the next Parliament - which was empowered to revise the Constitution - to pass the proposed changes with a simple majority of 151 votes.
Alavanos predicted that the revision would be an attack on the social state and public sector in general, while he opposed the establishment of a Constitutional court. He stressed, however, that his party would take an active part in the debate in Parliament and would seek to take the debate beyond the walls of Parliament into society.
Outlining the changes that SYN will attempt to promote, Alavanos also emphasized that frequent changes to the Constitution irreparably damaged its prestige and its symbolic effectiveness.
 OECD welcomes reform in Greece, urges more
ATHENS 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)The visiting secretary general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on Tuesday welcomed reform carried out in Greece, but stated that work still needs to be done.
In a speech to finance ministry and central bank officials, Angel Gurria said one priority was a pensions overhaul, due to forecasts of high costs as a proportion of gross domestic product, especially in Greece, linked to an ageing population.
Another was improvement of the education system as the transfer of youth to the labor market from education was slow in Greece on the basis of global standards. More flexibility was required in the obtainment of new skills, and trade groups should advise on training programs so that youth would gain knowledge that was linked to the job market.
In addition, Greek law on protection for workers was one of the most stringent among OECD members and may have contributed to a low rate of "recycling" of workers in jobs, and to persistent unemployment among young people and women. Discrimination against part-time work should halt, Gurria noted.
Formulation of wages also needed to be more flexible, easing deviation from collective labor pacts, especially in high unemployment areas. Non-payroll labor costs should be lowered through containment of social insurance contributions for people on low wages.
Despite progress made in lowering the fiscal deficit, more measures were needed including better controls on primary spending and tax evasion. Both employment and productivity needed to rise, accompanied by investment in human resources.
Greece's per capita gross domestic product was 23% lower than the eurozone average and 46% than the USA average.
The OECD forecast growth in Greece of about 3% in 2006 and 2007, well above the eurozone average; and inflation of about 3% in 2007, also above the eurozone average.
During his visit, Gurria met senior officials including central bank governor Nicholas Garganas and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis.
 Sioufas meets with OECD's Gurria
ATHENS 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas on Tuesday met with visiting Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) new secretary general Angel Gurria, who is in Athens for talks with the Greek government and to attend a two-day meeting of the organization's education ministers that opened at noon at the coastal resort of Lagonissi, south of the capital.
Gurria told reporters after the meeting that he had ascertained "all the work done by the development ministry regarding competitiveness, the upgrading of infrastructures and of the legal framework in sectors such as energy, research and development and industrial zones." He also said that the OECD was ready to assist Greece's efforts to increase its competitiveness.
Sioufas on his part assured Gurria over Greece's wish to have a continuous and constructive cooperation with the organization.
 No use of privileged info seen at National Bank
ATHENS 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)Athens-quoted National Bank of Greece has not been found to have committed a breach of the law on privileged information in its planned acquisition of Finansbank of Turkey, the president of the Capital Market Commission, Alexis Pilavios, said on Tuesday.
At the same time, Pilavios said that the commission was investigating, transactions on the Athens Stock Exchange to see if anyone had internal information between the beginning of March and April 4 when the planned buyout was announced.
He was addressing a parliamentary committee after the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement queried terms of the stock-acquisition contract made by state-run National and Finansbank.
 Commissioner welcomes EU council position on 'Life+'
BRUSSELS 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greek European Commissioner for the environment Stavros Dimas on Tuesday welcomed the common position of the EU environment ministers' council regarding the new Life+ funding instrument for the environment in the period 2007-2013.
The Life+ budget will be ¬ 2.1 billion over that period, according to the European Commission's revised recommendation, with 40 percent destined for spending on the nature and biodiversity themes of the program.
"Life+ will be a unified, modern and flexible instrument for funding and programming several EU environmental activities," Dimas told reporters, stressing that the program's focus on specific measures will help improve Europe's environment.
 Greek budget deficit down 41.2 pct in January-May, yr/yr
ATHENS 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece's budget deficit fell by 41.2 percent to 3.625 billion euros in the first five months of 2006, compared with 6.164 billion euros in the same period last year, official figures showed on Tuesday.
Budget revenues rose 10.5 percent in the January-May period, slightly exceeding a 10.3 percent annual growth rate envisaged in the budget, while budget spending fell 2.1 percent over the same period, compared with a 4.4 percent annual growth provision.
Primary spending rose 4.1 pct, down from a budget target of 6.0 percent, while spending on interest fell 16.2 percent in the five-month period, from a budget target for a 1.8 percent annual decline.
Revenues of a Public Investments Program jumped 44 percent in the January-May period, exceeding a budget target for an annual growth rate of 26.2 percent, while spending was up 7.5 pct.
 Gov't sees unemployment at 8.0% in 2008
ATHENS 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)Employment and Social Protection Minister Savvas Tsitouridis said on Tuesday that jobs would rise by 1.6% in coming years, lowering unemployment to 8.0% in 2008.
Addressing the National Employment Commission, the minister said the decisive part played by social partners was at the centre of government policy, along with better use of European Union funds in employment policy.
He also suggested creation of a social solidarity fund for business sectors or areas with high joblessness that would support the unemployed over 50 years old.
 Interior minister and civil servants president discuss working hours
ATHENS 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Civil Servants Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY) President Spyros Papaspyros met on Tuesday to discuss details of the new working hours timetable that will be implemented in public services after the summer.
Both sides expressed satisfaction over the promotion of the new unified working hours timetable, while Pavlopoulos is expected to sign the relevant decision on Wednesday.
 Piraeus Bank buys stock in Bank of Cyprus
ATHENS 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)Athens-quoted Piraeus Bank S.A announced on Tuesday that from 22.6.2006 to 26.6.2006 it acquired 3,869,326 shares in Bank of Cyprus Public Company Ltd., representing 0.71% of voting rights.
The average acquisition price of the shares bought on the Athens Stock Exchange was 7.23 euros per share, Piraeus said in a statement to the bourse.
On 21.6.2006, Piraeus held 5.99% of voting rights in the Bank of Cyprus, the statement added.
 Lavipharm launches product in Canada
ATHENS 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)Athens-quoted Lavipharm SA on Tuesday announced the launch of a proprietary transdermal nitroglycerine patch in the Canadian market by pharmaceuticals multinational Novartis.
Under the terms of the agreement, Lavipharm has licensed Novartis with rights to exclusively distribute and sell the product, and will supply the finished product from its manufacturing facilities in Greece, the Greek firm said in a statement to the bourse.
Lavipharm's chairman and CEO, Athanase Lavidas, noted: "Novartis is a strategic partner for Lavipharm, as this is not the first time both companies join forces. Novartis has been selling Trinipatch' in the Italian market since 1995".
Trinipatch is a nitroglycerine transdermal delivery system indicated in Canada for the prevention of anginal attacks in patients with stable angina pectoris associated with coronary artery disease.
It has so far been successfully marketed in many European countries including Belgium, France, and Spain by major pharmaceutical companies. Lavipharm has also received approval to market the product in Brazil, Israel, Sweden, Norway and Cyprus.
 Athens Bourse Close: Stocks drop
ATHENS 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Athens share index closed at 3,553.24 points, showing a decline of 0.40%. Turnover was 287.2 million euros.
 Greece 17th among 26 European nations for national health system quality
BRUSSELS 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece holds 17th place -together with Spain- among 26 European nations (the 25 European Union countries and Switzerland) as regards the effectiveness and quality of its national health system.
The evaluation was based on research conducted by the Swedish consultants company "Health Consumer Powerhouse", based in Brussels. The report covers five main categories and 28 different indicators are assessed, with emphasis being placed on the patients' information and rights, the time they have to wait to be treated, the results of treatment, the amount of compensation paid for medical care, access to new pharmaceutical methods and their effectiveness.
According to the report, the top position on the list is occupied by France, followed by the Netherlands and Germany, while the last places are occupied by Lithuania, Ireland and Latvia.
 President Karolos Papoulias inaugurates National Glyptotheca
ATHENS 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)President Karolos Papoulias inaugurated the National Glyptotheca in the Athens district of Goudi on Tuesday night, drawing great interest from the public.
The dream of housing the permanent selections of post-revolutionary Greek sculpture, which had been kept for years in unsuitable halls in the National Gallery, became a reality thanks to the generous sponsorship of the "Stavros Niarchos" Foundation, with which studies for renovating the two historic buildings at the Goudi camp were carried out to enable the project to be included in the 3rd Community Support Framework (CSF).
The old royal stables, according to the inscription revealed at the historic buildings, were renovated in an exemplary fashion and one of the buildings is housing 150 sculptures from the permanent collections, as well as in the space outside covering an area of about 1.5 acres, and periodic exhibitions in the other building, such as the one inaugurated on Tuesday, parallel to the permanent collections, by the leading Tuscan sculptor Marino Marini.
The director of the National Gallery, Marina Lambraki-Plaka, termed the inauguration a great historic moment.
 Cyprus-Macedonia anti-drugs marathon on July 3
THESSALONIKI 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)Cypriot and Greek athletes will join forces on July 3 in an anti-drugs marathon that begins in Nicosia on Cyprus and ends in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, in order to sensitize public opinion to the ever-increasing drugs problem.
The event was organized by the Thessaloniki Prefecture Youth Bureau in collaboration with Cypriot anti-drug groups, the Federation of Cypriot Organizations in Greece and the Cyprus Consulate in Thessaloniki.
Athletes from Cyprus will begin the marathon in Nicosia, running to Limassol. From there they will fly to Macedonia Airport in Thessaloniki and continue the marathon with Greek athletes and members of the public that want to take part until the finish line, at the statue of Alexander the Great on Thessaloniki's seafront.
At the finish line, organizers have also set up other events, including an outdoor extreme sports arena and a 5-a-side soccer pitch.
Announcing the planned marathon at a press conference on Tuesday, Thessaloniki Prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis and representatives of drug rehabilitation centres noted that the profile of those addicted to drugs had changed in recent years, with the average age now at 25 instead of 33, while the average age at which people started to use drugs was now 14.
 Digitalized film and video competition Micropolis awards
ATHENS 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)The awards ceremony for the winners of the Micropolis international internet competition for digitalized film and video, organized by the Hellenic Culture Organization SA, took place in Athens on Monday.
The competition was warmly received by competitors with the majority of the projects (80%) being digitalized films and videos while 20% was animation.
The majority of the 187 participants, aged between 18 and 32, were Greek, mainly from Athens and Thessaloniki, while most foreign participations came from Great Britain followed by Cyprus, United States, France, Italy, Sweden, Serbia, Germany and Belgium.
 Int'l Church historians' conference opens on CorfuCORFU 28/62006 (ANA/MPA)
An international Church historians' conference opens on the island of Corfu, in the Ionian Sea, on Tuesday with the participation of scientists from Greece, Russia and other countries, specializing in the study of the work by Archbishops Eugenios and Nikiforos. The idea to hold the conference was born in 2005 during the "Russian Week on Corfu" Russian-Greek Friendship Forum held on the island.
The theme of the conference is the work by two leading apologists of the Christian Orthodox Faith, Eugenios Voulgaris and Nikiforos Theotokis, who contributed greatly to the Russian and Greek cultural and spiritual evolvement.
The two, known as the "wise men from Corfu", went to Russia in the 18th century and defended Orthodoxy, earning the respect of Empress Catherine II and the entire Russian people.
Archbishop Eugene of Cherson and Archbishop Nikiforos of Astrakhan and Stavropol died in Russia after dedicating their lives to the service of Greece and Russia.
 Rare coin depicting Brutus returned to Greece
ATHENS 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)A rare silver coin -- denarium -- bearing the bust of Marcus Junius Brutus, dated 42 BC, and issued during the Roman Civil Wars by a mobile military mint, was returned to Athens on Tuesday and delivered to Culture Minister George Voulgarakis by the Greek embassy in London's cultural attaché.
According to Voulgarakis, the coin is the fifth valuable ancient artifact returned to Greece over the last three years. It will be kept at the Numismatic Museum of Athens, where it is scheduled for display in 2007.
Official figures point to 58 similar coins around the world today.
Brutus committed suicide during the second battle at Philippi on Oct. 23, 42 BC, using the dagger with which he assassinated Julius Caesar.
In June 2005, the Greek embassy in London was informed that unidentified Greek nationals had sold the coin to Classical Numismatic Groups Inc for 18,000 pounds. The company returned the coin unconditionally at the Greek state's request based on the EU directive regarding illegally exported cultural goods.
Other repatriated artifacts over the last three years include a marble statue piece, returned by Gorny & Mosch House in Munich, dated the Augustus' time and bearing a relief presentation of Nereus and Hercules; a bronze figurine from Samos removed from the Museum of Vathi during the Second World War, and coins from the Asini archaeological site in the northeastern Peloponnese discovered during the Swedish Archaeological Institute's excavations in the 1920s.
 Book on Greek Jews presented at U.S. Capitol
WASHINGTON 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)The presentation of the book titled "Holocaust of the Greek Jews: Monuments and Memories" in Congress met with a great response from members, members of the diplomatic corps, State Department officials, members of Jewish organizations, members of the Greek community, journalists and Greek Jews who are living in the United States.
The event regarding the promotion of the book, which is a publication by the Central Israelite Council of Greece, with the support of the education ministry-General New Generation Secretariat, was organized by the Greek embassy in Washington and was held in a moving atmosphere.
Greece's Ambassador to Washington Alexandros Mallias read out messages by Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou describing the merits of the book which "keeps alive the memory and the course of an inseparable part of the Greek society" and stressing the need for younger generations to "reject once and for all racism, xenophobia and intolerance."
 Opening ceremony of 13th ISF World Gymnasia 2006 held in presence of President Papoulias
ATHENS 28/6/2006 (ANA/MPA)The opening ceremony of the 13th ISF (International School Sport Federation) World Gymnasia 2006 was held at the indoor Olympic Stadium in the Athens district of Galatsi on Tuesday evening in the presence of President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.
The event is being held in Greece for the first time, beginning on Wednesday and ending on Sunday July 2.
President Papoulias proclaimed the opening of the sports event in which 1,800 boys and girls from all over the world participate. Education and Religion Minister Marietta Yiannakou and Deputy Sports Minister George Orfanos were also present during the ceremony.
Yiannakou said in her address that "the Gymnasia, created with the Olympiad as its model, is in essence a miniature replica of the Olympic Games, a celebration of sport and culture which is gathering young people from all the widths and breadths of the earth here in Athens."
 Cypriot FM: Position on technical committees is ''final and irrevocable''
NICOSIA 28/6/2006(CNA/ANA-MPA)The Cyprus government's position on the discussion of core issues of the Cyprus question with a parallel discussion on everyday issues at the technical committees is "final and irrevocable", Cypriot Foreign Minister George Lillikas said on Tuesday.
Responding to questions after a meeting with US Ambassador in Nicosia Ronald Schlicher and invited to comment information that the US favors the beginning of discussions on everyday issues, the FM said:
"Firstly we are interested in what we have agreed with the UN SG, that is to discuss issues that will be included in any solution plan of the Cyprus problem, with a view to minimize the differences, or to prepare the common ground, or to collect elements that will be mutually accepted by both communities, so as to make it easier for the SG to move on to a new initiative for negotiations".
He noted that ''we are willing in parallel with this process to discuss everyday issues, in which the Turkish Cypriots are interested", adding that if the T/Cs and Turkey change their stance they will do so from the beginning.
''We do not accept the approach that we must only discuss everyday issues nor that the process should start with everyday issues waiting for the T/C side and Turkey to change their stance and discuss core issues'', he stressed.
A joint statement issued after a meeting in Paris on February 28, 2006, between UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos said that ''the leaders of both communities (in Cyprus) have agreed that bicommunal discussions on a series of issues, agreement on which is needed for the benefit of all Cypriots, will be undertaken at the technical level.''
 Cyprus will ask for clarifications from US over aircraft landings
NICOSIA 28/6/2006 (CNA/ANA/MPA)Cyprus Foreign Ministry will ask for clarifications from the US as regards reports on landings of CIA aircrafts to Cyprus airports carrying terrorism suspects.
Cypriot Foreign Minister George Lillikas said that his ministry together with Ministry of Communications and Works, the Department of Civil Aviation and the Attorney General's office will meet next week to examine the issue which was discussed during a meeting here Tuesday between Lillikas and US Ambassador to Cyprus Ronald Schlicher.
Lillikas briefed the US Ambassador on the discussion held this morning at a House of Representatives Committee, on this issue, noting that the ministry will ask for clarifications from the Embassy officials, starting from Wednesday.
He noted that the US Ambassador "was positive and they will give us the clarifications we are asking for".
Speaking at the House, he assured the parliamentary Committee of Human Rights that there is no agreement of Cyprus with the US as regards the use of airports of the Republic, by CIA, or any other US services.
A report by Reporter of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe PACE Dick Marty said Cyprus along with Germany, Turkey and Spain was a "staging point" for flights involving the unlawful transfer of detainees.
Lillikas said he is aware of the PACE report as well as relevant reports of Amnesty International and the Foreign Ministry has given detailed answers as regards them.