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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-09-06

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

September 6, 2006


  • [01] EU Commission approves regional support plan for Greece
  • [02] PM Karamanlis meets with S. Korean president Roh
  • [03] Thailand deputy premier, UN sec. gen. candidate, meets with premier Karamanlis, FM Bakoyannis
  • [04] Greece and Thailand sign tourism cooperation memorandum
  • [05] Gov't fields questions over stepped up efforts to build pipeline
  • [06] Ambassador Vassilakis presents UN Security Council's program for September
  • [07] UN Security Council ratifies Greek Presidency program
  • [08] Swedish PM Persson receives Papandreou
  • [09] Gov't cites 22% increase in first-half 2006 exports
  • [10] Greece, Austria seek to improve SE European energy
  • [11] Thessaloniki underwater tunnel project to be signed September 29
  • [12] Direct Beijing-Athens air link envisioned
  • [13] Reform of special farm status for Aegean islands
  • [14] Greek annual inflation at 3.5 pct in August
  • [15] Competition watchdog cites 'poor' conditions in domestic markets
  • [16] OPAP to improve betting agencies
  • [17] Athens Bourse Close: Stocks rise
  • [18] Parthenon fragment returns home
  • [19] Acropolis amongst 21 candidates for 'Wonder of the World' site
  • [20] Papoulias receives students of month-long course in Greek language, culture
  • [21] Italian Institute of Athens returns to its original historic building
  • [22] 29th Documentary Film Festival taking place in Drama September 17-23
  • [23] Number of Albanian illegal immigrants attempting to reach Greece has increased
  • [24] Danish PM expects full implementation of Ankara protocol by Turkey
  • [25] MEPs: Turkey must recognize Cyprus and open its borders to Cypriot vessels
  • [26] Dutch Foreign Minister to visit Cyprus

  • [01] EU Commission approves regional support plan for Greece

    ATHENS, 6/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Tuesday said ministry agencies would accept the submission of investment projects -based on an existing development law- by October 15 and stressed that approval of dismissal of project would have been completed by December 31, 2006 before new increased financial support was offered to private investors from January 1, 2007.

    Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister said the European Commission approved a new charter of regional support for the period 2007-2013, the first country to have the Commission's approval. Alogoskoufis said financial support to investment projects reached 60 percent, with support for larger enterprises at 40 percent, medium-sized enterprises 50 percent and smaller enterprises (97 pct of total Greek enterprises) at 60 percent. The Greek minister said the Com-mission approved new higher financial subsidies on investments after tough negotiations that lasted almost two years. The upper limit of regional investment subsidies was set at 40 percent for the regions of eastern Macedonia-Thrace, Epirus and Western Greece, at 30 percent for Thessaly, Ionian Islands and Crete and 40 percent for the Peloponnese and Northern Aegean (to be reduced to 30 percent from January 1, 2011).

    Financial subsidies for investments in central and western Macedonia and Attica were set at 30 percent (to be reduced to 20 percent from January 1, 2011) and for the south Aegean region 30 percent and 15 percent, over the same periods, respectively.

    Alogoskoufis said a total of 1,456 investment projects have been submitted so far, budgeted at 2.3 billion euros, and that ministry agencies have approved 682 projects.

    A draft plan of a new development law is expected to be completed by October 15 and to be tabled to parliament as soon as possible to be valid from January 1, 2007.

    [02] PM Karamanlis meets with S. Korean president Roh

    ATHENS, 6/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Visiting South Korean president Roh Moo-Hyun on Tuesday invited prime minister Costas Karamanlis to visit Korea, during a meeting at the Maximos Mansion.

    Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Karamanlis described the relations between the two countries as excellent, noting that the discussion had focused particularly on issues of shipping, investments, tourism, air transports and commerce.

    The premier noted that Greece was the biggest investor in the S. Korean shipyards and, in that context, invited similar investments from Korea in Greece, stressing "we have opportunities for joint action in the region".

    Karamanlis was due to host a luncheon in honor of Roh, during which bilateral issues would be further discussed, as well as the situation in the Balkans, the Cyprus issue, and matters of international interest.

    President Roh expressed appreciation for his warm welcome, adding that his first meeting with Karamanlis had taken place 16 years ago, in 1990, adding that Tuesday's meeting constituted a landmark in the important cooperation between the two countries, which exists since the Korean War.

    Roh said that he and Karamanlis had an in-depth discussion on advancing cooperation in the shipping sector, maritime transports, air transports, industry, culture and tourism, but also in the academic sector.

    He said the two sides shared the view that cooperation in the sector of shipyards and seaborne transports would be beneficial for both countries.

    Roh further said that Korean could transfer know-how in the sector of informatics, and on matters concerning ports, transports and equipment.

    The S. Korean president stressed that Greek experience in the maritime sector and also tourism, due to the Aegean islands, would be utilized, adding that it had also been agreed that Greece will advise S. Korea on such matters.

    Roh said that the situation in SE Asia and SE Europe would be examined during the luncheon, while the issue of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons would also be discussed.

    Cooperation memo by Greek, Korean firms: Small and medium-sized companies from Greece and South Korea on Tuesday signed a memorandum of cooperation in a move to close business ties between the two countries.

    Through the pact, the two sides hope to create and evolve infrastructure to promote cooperation in industry.

    Signing the pact in Athens were the Athens Chamber of Light Industry and Korea's Union of Small and Medium Enterprises (SBC).

    SBC implements the government's policy for the sector, also providing financing, education and advisory services.

    South Korean president meets Greek ship-owners: Visiting South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun met on Tuesday evening with Nikos Efthymiou, president of the Union of Greek Ship-owners. Talks focused on cooperation between the two countries in the maritime sector.

    [03] Thailand deputy premier, UN sec. gen. candidate, meets with premier Karamanlis, FM Bakoyannis

    ATHENS, 6/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Prime minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday met with the deputy prime minister of Thailand and candidate for UN Secretary General Surakiat Sathianthai.

    Foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis also met with Surakiat, shortly before an Inner Cabinet meeting.

    In statements after their talks, Bakoyannis noted the good relations between the two countries at both political and economic level, despite the large geographical distance between them, adding that the two sides had agreed that more steps could be taken to strengthen the bilateral cooperation.

    Bakoyannis reiterated its position concerning the Thai deputy prime minister's candidacy, noting that Greece was in favor of an Asian candidacy, adding that a detailed discussion would be made at the next UN General Assembly on both the changes to the UN's operation and the candidacies for the post of Secretary General, voting on which was slated for the end of the year.

    Surakiat, who is on his third visit to Greece, said he had agreed with both Karamanlis and Bakoyannis that cooperation needed to be strengthened so that the two countries would serve as a hub for each other. Thailand, he added, could become a hub for Greece through the creation of a consortium of 10 Asian countries, in other that Greece could penetrate other markets as well.

    Thailand, he explained, had similar bilateral agreements with several countries, including China and New Zealand. Surakiat noted that he was accompanied on his visit by a representative of the Thai business community, aimed at Greece becoming a hub for Thailand.

    Surakiat further said that a tourism cooperation agreement would be signed later in the day (with tourism development minister Fani Palli-Petralia) which would boost the existing agreement in the sector of culture.

    On his UN candidacy, Surakiat stressed that there were many areas for close cooperation with Greece in foreign policy, given that Greece plays an important role in external affairs.

    Referring to the Cyprus issue, he said that the UN, in cooperation with Greece, could play a role in resolution of the long-standing problem.

    Surakiat noted that his candidacy is backed by 10 countries in SE Asia.

    [04] Greece and Thailand sign tourism cooperation memorandum

    ATHENS, 6/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    A memorandum of cooperation in the tourism sector was signed in Athens on Tuesday between Tourism Development Minister Fani Palli-Petralia and the deputy prime minister of the Kingdom of Thailand, Dr Surakiart Sathirathai.

    In the context of the memorandum, the two countries agreed to facilitate the flow of tourists between their countries, to mutually strengthen the projection of tourism through an exchange of information and advertisements, to promote special forms of tourism and strengthen the investments of Greek and Thai entrepreneurs to their corresponding tourism sectors.

    After the signing of the memorandum, the Greek tourism minister said "it is a very significant and optimistic step for the development of relations between the two countries."

    On his part, Surakiart Sathirathai said:” We wait in anticipation to cooperate with Greece in various sectors and one country can learn from the other. We can cooperate on a cultural, economic and commercial level."

    [05] Gov't fields questions over stepped up efforts to build pipeline

    ATHENS, 6/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The government on Tuesday fielded several press questions related to a "mini-summit" a day earlier in Athens by the leaders of Greece, Russia and Bulgaria focusing on the finalization of plans and agreements for a long-delayed oil pipeline linking the Black Sea and the northern Aegean, billed as an auxiliary "energy corridor" for the busy Bosporus Strait.

    In response to extensive press coverage here of the Karamanlis-Putin-Purvanov meeting, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos clarified that the exact level of each side’s participation in the oil pipeline project remains to be decided, something expected to be cleared up at yet another meeting, in Athens, of relevant energy ministers of the three countries and representatives of interested companies within the year.

    On his part, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, who holds the energy portfolio, said Monday’s joint commitment by the three leaders to sign a final inter-state agreement within the year upgrades Athens’ international position.

    "In March 2004 we (the government) found the plan in a state of complete inertia, while since the summer of 2004 all three governments have worked closely to promote the plan," he added, referring particularly to the development boost expected to be reaped by the Thrace province.

    The 285-kilometre pipeline is expected to connect the Bulgarian port of Burgas, on the western shores of the Black Sea, with the Greek port of Alexandroupolis, in the northeastern Aegean.

    [06] Ambassador Vassilakis presents UN Security Council's program for September

    NEW YORK, 6/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The program of the UN Security Council for the month on September was presented by the council's president, Greek Permanent Representative at the United Nations, Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis, during a press conference he gave on Tuesday night at the organization’s headquarters.

    Vassilakis referred to the issues which will concern the members of the Security Council.

    Matters relating the Middle East and Africa will dominate in the Security Council's work program for the month of September.

    Also planned are discussions on Afghanistan and Kosovo, while at the same time, the members of the Security Council are expected to also discuss during this month Iran's nuclear program.

    Most of the topics are linked with the re-examination of the mission of the peacekeeping forces, both in the region of the Middle East as well as of Africa.

    Finally, Ambassador Vassilakis referred to the talks which are being organized by Greece, as presiding country of the UN Security Council. The debate will take place on September 20, on a foreign ministers level, on the topic "Cooperation of the United Nations with regional organizations for the maintenance of international peace and security."

    Replying to a question on the Cyprus issue, the permanent representative of Greece at the UN said that the issue is not expected to be discussed during September "unless there are dramatic developments."

    Present during the press conference were also deputy permanent representative of Greece at the UN, Alexandra Papadopoulou, and the director of the Greek Press Office in New York, Theodosis Dimitrakopoulos.

    [07] UN Security Council ratifies Greek Presidency program

    NEW YORK, 6/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The UN Security Council on Tuesday ratified, following bilateral consultations by the Greek Presidency, its work program for the month of September.

    The main issues to preoccupy the Security Council during the Greek Presidency will be the situation in Lebanon, the assassination of the country's former prime minister Hariri, based on the report by the Independent International Fact-finding Committee, the Middle East question, the future of Kosovo and the crisis in Sudan, on the occasion of the invitation extended by the Security Council to the government of Sudan, the Arab Federation and the African Union on an exchange of views regarding the issue of Darfur.

    Apart from the issues on the agenda, current issues such as Iran's nuclear program are expected to be brought to the attention of the Security Council's members.

    [08] Swedish PM Persson receives Papandreou

    STOCKHOLM, 6/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson on Tuesday met here with main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, who arrived in the country in his capacity as Socialist International (SI) president.

    In a brief statement after the meeting, Papandreou said the environment and energy policy was a particular concern of the SI group, "we want viable development, friendly towards the environment and alternative forms of energy ... This is the only way out of the major energy crisis that Europe and the entire world face today."

    He also praised the incumbent Swedish PM's initiative in promoting alternative forms of energy on a massive scale, before expressing his best wishes to Persson for his re-election.

    [09] Gov't cites 22% increase in first-half 2006 exports

    ATHENS, 6/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Greek exports increased by more than 13 percent last year, while the rate of increase exceeds 22 percent in the first half of 2006, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis announced on Tuesday, following an Inner Cabinet meeting that focused on the country's export policy, a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

    Alogoskoufis briefed the Inner Cabinet on the course of exports and, speaking to reporters after the meeting, referred to a "satisfactory performance", adding that exports had a positive contribution to the national economy.

    In 2005, exports increased by more than 13 percent, while in the first half of 2006 the rate of growth exceeded 22 percent, he said.

    Alogoskoufis said Greek products were exported to all countries, but added that 17 countries and major markets were being particularly targeted with modern policies and advertising techniques.

    On the role of the Hellenic Exports Promotion Organization (HEPO) and the Exports Council, the minister stressed that in today's era, "where commerce played a significant role in the global economy, exports was an important sector."

    He also stressed that the country must become extroverted, adding that efforts to that end would be intensified.

    Replying to a question regarding public sector corruption, Alogoskoufis said specific procedures have been instituted and, in cooperation with the interior and public administration ministry, a provision was recently advanced for stricter inspections of source of wealth statements of the ministry department directors.

    Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos later echoed the FinMin's statements during a regular press briefing.

    Roussopoulos one of the factors contributing to the rise in exports was a robust promotions campaign in various overseas markets and international trade exhibitions.

    Opposition parties criticize: Main opposition PASOK party economy sector chief Vasso Papandreou on Tuesday criticized statements made by Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis, saying that "he is the only satisfied Greek".

    "Mr. Alogoskoufis is the only satisfied Greek. According to data that he publicized himself, over a period of 18 months 1,456 investment plans amounting to 2.3 billion euros have been approved and only 70 million euros have been disbursed. The investments, in other words, are only on paper," she said.

    "At the same time, the Public Investments Program is being drastically reduced and huge funds from the 3rd Community Support Framework are in danger of being lost. Also due to the lack of understanding between the jointly responsible ministers the implementation plan for the 4th Community Support Framework, which must begin to 'run' as of January 2007, remains 'up in the air'," Papandreou added.

    In another development on the occasion of the National Statistical Service's announcement on the inflation rate in August, PASOK's Development, Competitiveness and Consumer Policy Sector chief Theodoros Pangalos and the party's Development Sector coordinator Christos Protopapas pointed out that the relevant announcement "not only highlights the major issue of the high cost of living, but also overturns the government's claim that 'the international price of oil is to blame for everything'."

    The Political Bureau member responsible for the economic and social policy of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology, Panayiotis Lafazanis, said on the occasion of Alogoskoufis's address to the inner cabinet on exports that "Mr. Alogoskoufis might appear to be enthusiastic over the increase in exports in 2005 and the first six months in 2006, but he is concealing the fact that, despite this increase, the trade deficit and the deficit in the balance of payments have soared to new heights during the first six months of the current year."

    Also referring to the inflation rate for August, Lafazanis said that "it is a social tragedy at a time when, according to official data, the profits of listed companies are increasing by 50 percent during the first six months and the increase in GDP is running at a rate of 4.1 percent, the salary-earners and pensioners are surviving with increases below inflation that are crumbs."

    [10] Greece, Austria seek to improve SE European energy

    VIENNA, 6/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Greece and Austria are seeking to improve operation of the Southeast European Energy Community, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said in the Austrian capital on Tuesday.

    "Smooth functioning of the Energy Community is a joint aim of the two countries," Sioufas told reporters after a meeting with the Austrian minister of finance, labor and energy, Martin Bartenstein.

    The two officials examined improvement of two Athens-based organizations, the Council of Energy Regulators and Electricity Forum.

    "Greece and Austria will continue to take the lead in energy matters of southeast Europe, which, in coming years, will see investment of tens of millions of euros only in the electrical network and electrical output along with natural gas transmission," Sioufas noted

    The Energy Community's secretariat is headquartered in Vienna.

    [11] Thessaloniki underwater tunnel project to be signed September 29

    6/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias said on Tuesday that the contract concerning the building of the Thessaloniki underwater tunnel is expected to be signed on September 29, with the prospect of worksites starting to operate in February or March 2007. The minister was speaking at a press conference in Thessaloniki, Macedonia.

    The project budgeted at 472 million euros and 6.5 kilometers in length is already at the stage of the checking of the fiscal obligations of the candidate constructor and is expected to be completed in four years from the beginning of its construction, linking the streets of Koletti, at the western entrance of the city, and Syndika in the east.

    Souflias also said that procedures required for the construction of the Thessaloniki Metro are proceeding at a rapid rate, as four worksites have been created since last April, while in the case of Athens 17 months had been necessary for the first one.

    PASOK criticizes environment minister's statements in Thessaloniki: The branch in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) on Tuesday evening commented on statements made in the city earlier in the day by Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias, accusing him of "a cunning communication act."

    The PASOK announcement noted that "Mr. Souflias fenced in certain parts of the city's centre with placards" of the ministry on the planned construction of the Thessaloniki Metro.

    The main opposition party said that Souflias did so, in light of the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair which begins on September 8 and in view of the local government elections on October 15.

    [12] Direct Beijing-Athens air link envisioned

    6/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Greece and the People's Republic of China on Tuesday signed a handful of bilateral agreements promoting cooperation in the field of transports, especially air transport, following a memorandum opening the way for a direct Beijing-Athens flight.

    The agreements were signed in Beijing by visiting Greek Transport Minister Mihalis Liapis and the director of the Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC), Yang Yuanyuan, in the presence of Air China President Li Jiaxiang.

    Technical, financial and institutional details of the agreement will be determined by a special work group due to meet in Athens this month.

    The two countries also signed an agreement to promote Euro-Asian connections, the basis of developing a transport network linking Pan-European corridors with Asia’s road and railway networks

    Both sides also discussed ways to jointly develop infrastructure projects in the transport sector in Greece, as China’s transport minister will visit Athens this month to discuss details of the agreement.

    Liapis also met with high-ranking Beijing 2008 Olympic Games organizing committee members.

    [13] Reform of special farm status for Aegean islands

    STRASBOURG, 6/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The European Parliament on Tuesday approved a resolution that reforms special status for the Aegean Sea's smaller islands in terms of agriculture.

    The move was voted by 555 in favor, 25 against and 19 abstentions.

    The status entailing special measures for specified farm products was introduced in 1993 to boost agriculture and supply the islands with the products.

    The measures were reported as efficient but management was poor, leading to a proposal by the farm committee for reform.

    Exempted from the measure are Crete and Evia, both classed as large islands.

    [14] Greek annual inflation at 3.5 pct in August

    ATHENS, 6/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Greek annual inflation, measured by the consumer's price index, slowed to 3.5 percent in August, from 3.7 percent in the same month last year, the National Statistics Service said on Tuesday.

    The consumer's price index fell 0.7 percent in August from July, after a decline of 0.4 pct in the corresponding period last year.

    The statistics service attributed the 3.5 pct growth rate in the annual inflation in August to a 7.6 pct increase in housing prices, a 4.7 pct rise in food and beverage prices, a 4.2 pct increase in alcohol and tobacco, a 3.9 pct rise in education prices and a 3.4 pct increase in transportation prices.

    NSS said Greece's harmonized inflation rate slowed to 3.4 pct in August 2006 from 3.6 pct in the same month last year. The harmonized rate fell 1.0 pct in August from July, after a decline of 0.6 pct in the corresponding period in 2005.

    Speaking to reporters, NSS's secretary-general Manolis Kontopyrakis said the inflation rate would average at 3.4 pct this year from 3.5 pct in 2005 and predicted a fall to 3.3 pct if international oil prices continued falling in the remaining of the year. The harmonized consumer's price index rose an average 3.36 pct in the first eight months of 2006, down from 3.44 pct last year.

    [15] Competition watchdog cites 'poor' conditions in domestic markets

    ATHENS, 6/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The head of Greece's Competition Commission on Tuesday criticized what it called the "poor" competition conditions prevailing in the domestic markets, and added that if these conditions were improved, more competitive prices could also arise.

    Speaking to reporters, Spyros Zisimopoulos said a total of 354 competition cases were currently pending, while Competition authorities have completed recommendations for 36, another 70 were currently under investigation and 250 were filed.

    Zisimopoulos attributed delays in the agency's work to a lack of the necessary staff and urged for the immediate hiring of another 100 employees.

    The Competition Commission was currently investigating the domestic dairy and oil products markets and plans to begin an investigation in the securities firms market soon.

    Commenting on competition conditions in the public sector, he said the agency has the right to investigate state actions, while he noted that the Commission would re-open the files of cases, such as dentists, that failed to comply with the agency's decisions.

    Zisimopoulos said investigations were currently pending in the sectors of detergents, frozen food and cosmetics, while it expected to begin investigating the sectors of flour and beer soon.

    [16] OPAP to improve betting agencies

    ATHENS, 6/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Athens-quoted OPAP SA, a state-run gaming operator whose stock is heavily traded, said on Tuesday that it planned to improve the image and resources of its betting agencies in order to attract more custom and give the company a profile abroad.

    The firm's 5,500 outlets throughout Greece will see improvements in 2007 including a standardized corporate design and logo coupled with facilities to aid recreation on the premises, Deputy Culture Minister George Orfanos told a news conference.

    "This is a major opportunity for OPAP, which must be seized, so that the name the company has acquired abroad may also acquire an image," said Orfanos, who holds the sports portfolio.

    [17] Athens Bourse Close: Stocks rise

    ATHENS, 6/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The Athens share index closed at 3,953.35 points, showing a rise of 0.24%. Turnover was 245.7 million euros.

    The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.06% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks 0.11% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.487% up.

    Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 125 to 118 with 63 remaining unchanged.

    Stock Futures:

  • Most Active Contract (volume): PPC (5312)

  • Total derivatives market turnover: 122.5 million euros

    Bond Market Close: 10-yr benchmark at 4.08%

  • Greek benchmark 10-year bond (exp. 20.7.2016): 4.08% yield

  • Most heavily traded paper: 10-year bond, expiring 20.7.2016 (1.2 bln euros)

  • Day's Total Market Turnover: 2.5 bln euros

    Foreign Exchange Rates

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.291

    [18] Parthenon fragment returns home

    ATHENS, 6/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Culture Minister George Voulgarakis on Tuesday unveiled a repatriated fragment belonging to the 8th block of the Parthenon's northern frieze, following its return by the University of Heidelberg.

    The fragment is part of a carving of a man's heel, which measures 11cm by 8cm, and is to be re-attached to the temple.

    Voulgarakis arrived at the renowned German university a day earlier to attend a handing-over ceremony, calling the development "momentous," as for the first time a standing demand for repatriating portions of the Classical Era Parthenon was granted.

    "Our duty to repatriate the Parthenon Marbles back to their rightful place is a duty of all humanity towards civilization," the minister said in a direct reference to Athens' persistence in returning the friezes saw-off the Parthenon in the early 19th century by a rogue English diplomat, Lord Elgin.

    [19] Acropolis amongst 21 candidates for 'Wonder of the World' site

    ATHENS, 6/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    A novel idea to select, via SMS voting, the world's foremost ancient, medieval or even contemporary monument got underway in Athens on Tuesday, with an event held atop the Acropolis, one of the 21 finalist sites proposed by a private firm sponsoring the competition.

    The "New7Wonders Tour" concept was outlined during a press conference in Athens on Tuesday as a "tribute to the ancient Greek concept of the wonders of the world", according to organizers.

    Among others, a massive hot-air balloon will raised over the Acropolis on Wednesday at daybreak, 7 a.m., to mark the occasion.

    According to a press release, some 20 million votes, nominations and comments have been submitted.

    Other finalist candidates include:

    Alhambra, in Granada, Spain

    Angkor Wat, in Angkor, Cambodia

    Chichen Itza, in the Yucatan, Mexico

    Christ Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro

    Colosseum, Rome

    Easter Island Statues, Chile

    Eiffel Tower, Paris

    Great Wall of China

    Hagia Sofia, Istanbul, Turkey

    Kiyomizu Temple, in Kyoto, Japan

    Kremlin/St. Basil's, in Moscow

    Machu Picchu, in the Andes, Peru

    Neuschwanstein Castle, in Füssen, Germany

    Petra, in Jordan

    Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

    Statue of Liberty, New York City

    Stonehenge, in Amesbury, England

    Sydney Opera House, Australia

    Taj Mahal, in Agra, India

    Timbuktu, in Mali

    The winning site is expected to be announced on July 7, 2007.

    According to the organisers, half of all net revenues raised by the New7Wonders campaign will be put towards restoration efforts worldwide.

    [20] Papoulias receives students of month-long course in Greek language, culture

    ATHENS, 6/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday received a group of youths from the Mediterranean and the Balkans, as well as expatriate Greek teens, who attended a month-long series of courses at the International Summer School of Greek Language and Culture, which is hosted at the ancient Abdera site of Thrace province, the birthplace of philosopher Democritus.

    [21] Italian Institute of Athens returns to its original historic building

    ATHENS, 6/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The Italian Institute of Athens has opened its doors again at its original historic building, on Patission Street, opposite the Polytechnic, restored in an exemplary fashion and with its activities enriched.

    The "jewel" building, which was constructed in the early 1990s, had sustained serious damage from the 1999 strong earthquake and the operations of the Italian Institute of Athens were temporarily housed in other buildings of the area.

    The work for the restoration of the building began then with financing by the Italian foreign ministry and was headed by Greek architect Evgenios Ninios.

    The renowned "Casa d'Italia", begins dynamically in September with a new program of Italian language lessons and a week of events from October 22-28, dedicated to Italian gastronomy.

    [22] 29th Documentary Film Festival taking place in Drama September 17-23

    6/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The 29th Documentary Film Festival will be taking place in Drama, northern Greece, between September 17-23.

    The 12th International Documentary Film Festival will also be taking place in the framework of this year's festival, while the program will include a series of parallel events.

    [23] Number of Albanian illegal immigrants attempting to reach Greece has increased

    ATHENS, 6/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The number of Albanian illegal immigrants who attempt to enter Greece and who pay considerable amounts of money to compatriots to transport them to the heartland of the country, has increased.

    Their traffickers await them on Greek territory with stolen, rented or with their own cars near the borders, where the illegal immigrants pass through unguarded entry points.

    In many cases, police and border guards give chase and quite a number of traffic accidents have occurred during the pursuit.

    [24] Danish PM expects full implementation of Ankara protocol by Turkey

    NICOSIA, 6/9/2006 (CNA/ANA/MPA)

    Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Tuesday he expected from Turkey the full, unconditional and non-discriminatory implementation of the Ankara protocol, "which implies removal of all obstacles to the free movement of goods that is free access to ports and airports for all EU member states including the Republic of Cyprus."

    Replying to questions, after official talks here with Cyprus President Tassos Papapoulos, Rasmussen said the opening of accession negotiations on a number of chapters will depend on Turkey's implementation of its contractual obligations to all member-states.

    ''A non compliance with this may have severe consequences with regard to the opening of negotiations on a certain number of chapters and a failure to implement Turkey's obligation in full will affect the overall progress in the negotiations between Turkey and the EU and Turkey should take stock of that," he warned.

    Referring to the Cyprus question, he said "the objective is very clear, Cyprus should be reunited. I strongly regret that it was not possible to find a solution to that before the entrance of Cyprus into the EU but now we should do our outmost to find a solution to that problem," within the framework of the UN, he added.

    Rasmussen thanked Cyprus for its close cooperation and help during the evacuation of Danes from Lebanon.

    In his remarks, Papadopoulos stressed the need for good preparation and a show of willingness on the part of the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot sides to negotiate constructively towards reunification.

    Papadopoulos said they had a very useful and friendly meeting, which covered a wide range of issues concerning European issues, bilateral relations and the Cyprus problem.

    The two leaders had a private meeting before they were joined by their respective delegations for officials talks.

    Rasmussen said he expressed his gratitude for the close cooperation and help during the evacuation of Danes from Lebanon (1,500 out of 5,800 were evacuated through Cyprus).

    He said he discussed how to further develop bilateral ties with Cyprus and explore a certain number of areas for future cooperation.

    Rasmussen expressed hope that a recent meeting between the President and the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat ''will pave the way for a positive and constructive process''.

    On July 8 Papadopoulos met Talat agreed the commencement of meetings between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots on a technical level on issues that affect the day to day life of people and concurrently those that concern substantive issues.

    Rasmussen said they also exchanged views "on the problems we have seen because Turkey has not yet fully implemented the so called Ankara protocol and I would like to stress that I expect from Turkey full, unconditional and non-discriminatory implementation of the this protocol, which implies removal of all obstacles to the free movement of goods, that is also free access to ports and airports for all EU member states, including the Republic of Cyprus."

    Asked what should happen to Turkey if it does not lift the embargo on Cyprus, Rasmussen reiterated that he expects full implementation of the additional protocol that is free access to Turkish ports and airports.

    "And then the question is what will happen if Turkey does not fully implement the Ankara protocol. In my opinion Turkey has a legal obligation to allow free access to ports and airports, according to the Association Agreement between Turkey and the EU and its member states. So if Turkey does not fulfill this requirement we must look closer into the legal aspects of that," he added.

    Asked about the participation of his country in the formation of the UN international force on Lebanon, Rasmussen said "we have discussed the situation in Lebanon and I can confirm that Denmark is ready to contribute to the UN operation through a maritime contribution. As a member of the UN Security Council, Denmark is very much focused now on full implementation of the SC resolution 1701 and of course we feel an obligation to contribute to that through the UN military operation."

    "We have not discussed the possibility of having Danish military facilities on Cyprus. I don't think it will be necessary in relation to a maritime contribution. But we appreciate very much that Cyprus has invited other countries to establish military facilities here," he added.

    Asked about what he has done towards a political settlement in the past two years, since the Greek Cypriots rejected a UN solution plan,

    Papadopoulos said "reunification naturally takes the will and the willingness of two sides. We have always been exerting ourselves in efforts to regain this reunification. As also the Prime Minister has said, we believe the solution of the Cyprus problem must remain under the aegis of the UN. Therefore we have been always asking the UN to commence a new effort, a new round of negotiations."

    "It is the view of the SG that for him to embark upon a new effort concerning the reunification of Cyprus we need good preparation between the two sides and a show of willingness from both sides to negotiate constructively towards the end of reunification. We have different interpretations of what reunification means between us and the Turkish Cypriot side. For them reunification is the creation of two separate legal entities on the island and for us reunification means reunification of the territory, of the economy, of the institutions and of course of the society."

    Invited to comment on press reports that top officials in Brussels regret that they let Cyprus join the EU, without a political settlement, Papadopoulos said "we join in their regret that a solution of reunification has not yet come to Cyprus. We do all our efforts but as I said before it takes two to bring about reunification and of course Turkey, which has invaded the island in 1974 and occupies 37% of our land, prevents the closer cooperation between the two communities and bringing about the reunification by imposing on the Turkish Cypriots whatever isolation they are now suffering under."

    Asked about the release of three British soldiers, who had been serving a life sentence for the murder of a Danish tourist guide, Papadopoulos said "no punishment for murder, such a heinous crime, can ever be fair. We haven't got death punishment in Cyprus, naturally but we have laws which impose the conditions under which convicted criminals have to serve in prison."

    "They gained remission of their sentence when my predecessor was elected. I gave them none and then under the law they are entitled to certain days per month of remission of their sentence. That's the law. And they have the right and this is a country where the rule of law prevails and there was nothing that could be done to keep them in prison. Parents of the victim wrote to me and I wrote back to them and I know that this is a very emotional issue. I wish that the law would allow me to do something else," he added.

    [25] MEPs: Turkey must recognize Cyprus and open its borders to Cypriot vessels

    NICOSIA, 6/9/2006 (CNA/ANA/MPA)

    The European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee urged Turkey to recognize the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member state since May 1st 2004, and open its borders to Cypriot vessels and airplanes.

    In a report adopted on Monday, the Committee urges Turkey ''to take concrete steps for the normalization of bilateral relations with Cyprus as soon as possible'' and refers to the EU Council declaration of 21 September 2005, which said that continuing negotiations would depend on Turkey opening its borders to Cypriot vessels and airplanes and that the recognition of Cyprus is a necessary component of the negotiating process.

    Regarding Cyprus itself, MEPs welcomed the meeting between the leader of the Greek Cypriot community Tassos Papadopoulos and the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community Mehmet Ali Talat, that led to the agreement of 8 July, 2006.

    The Foreign Affairs Committee called on Turkey to recognize the Armenian genocide as a precondition for its EU accession and although welcoming the start of the accession negotiations with Turkey, it expressed regret that the reform process in Turkey has slowed down.

    The report, prepared by Camiel Eurlings (EPP-ED, NL) and adopted by 53 votes in favor to six against with eight abstentions, notes ''persistent shortcomings'' in areas such as freedom of expression, religious and minority rights, the role of the military, policing, women's rights, trade union rights and cultural rights. It urges Turkey to ''reinvigorate'' the reform process.

    MEPs repeated that negotiations do no lead automatically to accession and said that whether or not negotiations are successfully concluded,

    Turkey must remain ''fully anchored in European structures.''

    It also called for a lowering of the threshold of ten percent of the votes below which political parties cannot enter the Turkish parliament.

    The text will be debated by the Parliament during the EP plenary session of 25 - 28 September.

    Before the start of the vote, Eurlings said that ''unfortunately, reforms have clearly slowed down'' and expressed hope that the Turkish government would regard his report ''as a signal and an incentive to reintroduce the vigorous speed of reform it had shown in the year before accession negotiations started.''

    Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Talat agreed on July 8th 2006, during a meeting here in the presence of UN Undersecretary General for political affairs Ibrahim Gambari, to begin a process of bicommunal discussions on issues that affect the day to day life of the people and concurrently those that concern substantive issues, both contributing to a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Turkey refuses to open its ports and airports to Cyprus and thus implement the EU Trade Union Protocol, a precondition for EU membership. Although aspiring to become a full EU member state, Ankara still does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus.

    [26] Dutch Foreign Minister to visit Cyprus

    NICOSIA, 6/9/2006 (CNA/ANA/MPA)

    Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Bernard Bot will pay a working visit to Cyprus on September 6 and 7, at the invitation of his Cypriot counterpart George Lillikas.

    During his stay on the island, Bot will be received by President Tassos Papadopoulos and hold talks with Lillikas.

    The talks will focus on bilateral relations between The Netherlands and Cyprus, the Cyprus problem, Turkey's EU accession course, the situation in the Middle East, the European Constitution and other EU matters, an official press release said.

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