|Thursday, 5 December 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-09-11
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>September 11, 2006
 Greek PM pledges to move forward with reforms, says no to pre-election benefits
THESSALONIKI, 11/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Saturday reiterated his governmentâ€™s commitment to move forward with reforms and to implement its pre-election pledges while he underlined that he did not intend to undermine the economy by offering irresponsible social benefits to citizens.
In his traditional speech to the countryâ€™s producer classes, in the framework of the 71st Thessaloniki International Fair, the Greek premier was clear: â€śThere will be no irresponsible benefits that the economy cannot afford. This vicious circle of pre-election benefits, destabilizing the economy and leading to new harder measures after the elections, must end. The country cannot afford it. The citizens donâ€™t want it. A relation of trust with citizens is based on our responsible policy. Not on irresponsible benefits. I am not going to undermine the economy for any short-lived party benefits. We behave and will continue to behave as a responsible government towards mature citizensâ€ť.
Karamanlis underlined that the government was fulfilling its pledges: "We move forward with a plan and a sense of responsibility, to improving farm and supplementary pensions. Farm pensions will rise from 227 to 330 euros per month and a supplementary pension payment will rise from 160 to 230 euros per month in early 2008".
The Greek Prime Minister stressed that, for the first time since joining EMU, the country's fiscal deficit would fall below 3.0 percent of GDP, while the government was promoting a tax reform and raising unemployment benefit payments.
Karamanlis said the government's tax reform was the highest reform, since it was based on a principle of lowering taxes. "We lowered tax factors to enterprises and received positive results. Now we proceed to phase two: lowering income taxes". He insisted on a policy of reforms saying: "in a rapidly changing world you don't just have to deal with problems. Progress means reforms, demanded by an international environment, changing more fast, leading, to be prepared, strong and united".
The premier called for a reform pact with citizens saying conditions now are more mature than ever to draft -all together- a common reform pact.
"My faith in this country is strong. Greece can move aside past problems to be among the winners, the leaders of a new age. This is a goal to create. This is the vision to unite," he said.
He insisted on promoting educational reform saying: "our top priority is to upgrade the public highest education system to achieve a more open, more creative, more quality education, through dialogue with all interested parties. We need to offer to our youth the necessary supplies to excel in their lives. This is our goal. A goal of responsibility on which we insist. We owe it to the country, to every Greek family child".
Reforms: "Greece moves with a vision and a plan to tomorrow. We prepare (through understanding and synthesis) the next big institutional reforms," he said referring to a Constitutional reform, changes in municipal authorities and the pension system. "We move, with continuous public consultation, to the grouping of similar pension funds, to combating contribution-evasion, strengthening a system of pensions to handicapped people. We seek a synthesis of views to create a regulatory framework to be introduced by the next government (with the approval of the society). We want a social insurance system to be viable and socially fair. All changes and reforms favor the attraction of new investments, the opening of new businesses, creating new job positions. This is the only safe way to deal with unemployment, although additional actions are needed," Karamanlis said.
The prime minister also referred to reforms currently underway in public sector enterprises, privatizations, efforts to make a more efficient use of public sector's real estate assets, the flotation of DEPA (Natural Gas Company) in the Athens Stock Exchange, a more efficient management of the state's participation in the Athens International Airport and auctioning Olympic Games' sports facilities.
Privatizations: "Privatization made so far this year offer another proof of the confidence showed by foreign investors to the Greek economy. Our priority is to seek a strategic partner for Hellenic Telecommunications Organization and offering participation in the group's management," Karamanlis said.
The Greek premier said a series of reforms and changes was currently in full swing in the country, such as a transparency system in public sector works, faster licensing procedures for enterprises, drafting a National Town Planning Plan, completing a tax reform, drafting a new development law, and revising bankruptcy legislation.
"Price increases are a disease from the past. We are fighting the problem. Inspections are intensifying along with regulatory interventions to strengthen healthy competition. Our decision is an alliance with consumers, citizens," Karamanlis said.
The premier committed that 80 percent of funds from a Fourth Community Support Framework, worth 40 billion euros, would be earmarked for regional development. "Our goal is to help the country rise among the pioneers of the European Union. We want and can achieve this. In a new global environment, we can achieve only when we set specific targets and know how to achieve them. This is our strategy. A strategy of reforms and changes, based on the support of society. We share will all citizens the vision of a productive, competitive and socially fair Greece. A Greek with national confidence and optimism. I have strong faith the country's capabilities. I have full faith to all Greeks," he noted.
Karamanlis stressed that Greece, after joining the European Union, has earned a lot, such as 80 billion euros from structural funds, subsidies to farmers, creating infrastructure projects, but failed to promote changes and reforms to ensure sustainable growth, a solid social state, higher incomes and more job positions. He noted that the government's commitment was to open a new historic circle, by promoting the necessary changes and reforms and presented the government's policies so far to restructuring the economy, combating bureaucracy and ensuring economic growth.
The prime minister said results of this policy were positive so far, but stressed that this did not mean all problems were solved: "These results do no mean that all problems were solved. They do not mean we reached our goals in satisfactory levels. They prove, however, that we move on the right track. They certify that Greece moves on a safe road. They guarantee an increasing financial result. Our policy aims to offer a better life to all citizens".
Karamanlis said the country's fiscal deficit would fall below 3.0 pct of GDP this, for the first time since Greece joined the EMU, while economic growth reached 4.1 percent in the first six months of 2006, almost double the Eurozone's growth rate. Greece has improved its position in the world list of competitiveness, recording the third best performance after China and India, while the EU funds' absorption rate more than doubled to 45 percent from 21 percent in the last two-and-a-half years.
Government agencies approved new investment projects worth 2.7 billion euros in the last 18 months, creating thousands of new jobs, while more new enterprises opened last year compared with those that closed. In the first eight months of 2006, investments rose more than 10 percent, building activity jumped 12 percent and net capital inflow on foreign direct investments exceeded 1.0 billion euros, from 145 million euros last year.
Greek exports jumped 22 percent in the first half of 2006, tourist arrivals rose 8.0 percent last year and rising in 2006, shipping foreign exchange and the Greek shipping fleet grew further, while Greek investments in the wider Southeast European market established the country as a leading player in the region.
Karamanlis noted Greek per capita GDP rose from 75.5 pct in 2004 to 77.3 pct in 2005, compared with the average EU-15 figures, the real available income of Greek households rose an average annual rate of 4.3 pct in the last two years, more than double compared with the figure in the period 1998-2003. Finally, the unemployment rate fell to 9.7 pct of the workforce in the first quarter of 2006, from 11.3 pct in March 2004.
 Reform is a 'one-way street', PM says
THESSALONIKI, 11/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Sunday restated his government's pledge for wide-ranging reform, saying no other option existed.
"There are not many roads to success, although there may be differing opinions and tactics, but reform is a one-way street," Karamanlis told the premier's annual across-the-board news conference at Thessaloniki international trade fair.
"I don't believe in talk of the political cost, and it is has no relevance to me," he stated.
As Greece was lagging in productivity and efficiency, improvement would lead to a rise in wealth and output, benefiting the public's standard of living.
"The country has to move forward and it needs change and reform," the prime minister underlined.
He also ruled out early national elections. "In my (economic policy) speech yesterday you will have ascertained that we have a full agenda for this coming period of time, and I have no other thought (early polls) in my mind."
In addition, the economy would not be held hostage to concessions before local elections in October, which would lead to a vicious circle.
"I have no political or moral right to mortgage the country's future, and at a time when we lean towards tidying up the economy," Karamanlis noted.
"The government is keeping its pledges (from March 2004 elections) and will continue to do so. Adhering to pledges is one thing and election concessions are another. The country has paid dearly for this phenomenon, and we must show that we are mature enough to take a step forward," he added.
Education reform key to future: The premier said he was unhappy with a decision by political parties and political trade union tendencies to withdraw from talks with the government on educational reform, which he termed key to the future.
"These are trade union ploys of the old school....During talks, the government was criticized for not stating its position. But when we produced a draft, we were asked to begin talks from a zero basis," he complained. "Something has to change in education, as the chief means of producing wealth is the use of knowledge."
Investor interest in Olympic Airlines: Asked to comment on the future of Olympic Airlines, Karamanlis reported that investor interest existed and the government still supported privatization of the embattled operator - but stumbling blocks remained.
"Despite an onerous legacy of wasteful spending and mismanagement, there is also an enormous complex of legal problems. Tough, lengthy negotiations are being conducted with the European Union on this issue," he noted.
Zero tolerance of corruption: The prime minister repeated that there was zero tolerance of state corruption, for which a head-on approach was employed.
At the same time, corruption could not be eliminated from one day to the next.
"The government is bolstering mechanisms that will reduce the opportunities for corruption. And breach of faith in services has been made into a crime from a misdemeanor," he noted.
Furthermore, a new system of tendering public works has been introduced and the powers increased of inspectors of public administration, who now had the right to check the means declaration of supervisors in town planning authorities and tax offices.
"At the same time, I'm not satisfied yet, but the drive is continuing. Only in 2005, 43 civil servants were dismissed from the disciplinary council, and 33 in the first half of 2006," the premier reported.
"The whole of society has to contribute to this effort, so that instances of corruption may decline," he added.
No sign of opposition to oil pipeline: Asked if the USA was anxious about a plan to build a pipeline that would carry Russian oil to Greece through Bulgaria, Karamanlis replied: "I have no indication that any country has a differing view."
The prime minister said that the project was of historical significance, partly due to the function it would perform, and partly because it had been delayed for around 13 years.
Drive to curb tax evasion: High on the government's agenda was a campaign to crack down on tax evasion as part of moves to tidy up the economy, Karamanlis reported.
At the same time, the new drive would not incorporate blanket tax burdens or tax measures.
"A great attempt has been made at fiscal adaptation, which is clearly recognized by the European Commission. This drive is continuing...Our aim is to reduce public spending...This year for the first time, the deficit will fall below 3% of gross domestic spending," the premier said.
Joblessness still too high: Turning to unemployment, Karamanlis reported that progress had been made but the jobless rate was still high at 9.7% in the first half of 2006.
"We will lower the rate, but in order to achieve that we must go ahead with our policy. Unemployment can only be tackled by growth, which generates jobs and attracts investment," he added.
 Greece awaiting EU report on Turkey
THESSALONIKI, 11/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece is awaiting with interest a report by the European Union on Turkey, due for release in October, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said on Sunday.
The premier was replying to a reporter's question on whether Greece would veto Turkey's bid to join the 25-member bloc if Ankara failed to open its ports to Cypriot ships.
"We support Turkey's move towards Europe, with one very clear rider. Some may disagree. But we have a very clear rider," he told the premier's traditional across-the-board news conference at the Thessaloniki international trade fair.
"A Turkey that will walk the way of Europe, or in other words that will adopt - even gradually - regulations, behavioral criteria for a European state, a European society, is a Turkey that will benefit all of its citizens, in our estimation, and certainly its neighbors," he noted.
As part of its bid for membership, Turkey had made a pact with the European Union, which contained its commitments.
"These obligations must be met. It cannot be otherwise...All I can tell you today is that we are awaiting with special interest October's report (by the EU Commission) in order to evaluate it," he added.
 Main opposition sees blanket gov't failure
11/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)The government has failed on all fronts, George Papandreou, head of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), said on Sunday.
Papandreou told an open rally in the northwestern town of Ioannina that the government's incompetence was revealed in Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' annual economic policy speech and across-the-board news conference at the weekend.
"(Revealed) are his failure in all areas, his inability to handle major issues of the time, his removal from the day-to-day problems of Greeks, his indifference to the income of Greek citizens, indifference to what Greek citizens experience very day," the PASOK leader claimed.
"With the premier's speech in Thessaloniki, the government's cycle has ended," he forecast.
The government was also incapable of cracking down on corruption, lowering inflation, boosting regional growth, reforming education, handling the country's social insurance problem, and curbing high consumer prices along with profiteering by banks, Papandreou charged.
"When the premier pledges a rise in a low-pension supplement and farmers' pensions, he conceals the fact that the money is (already) owed by the government, and that increases promised today are no more than backdated cheques, money taken over 2.5 years from the pockets of Greek working people and pensioners," he stated.
Turning to tax relief and exemption promised by the government for the public, Papandreou claimed that major assistance had been given to the wealthy totaling one billion euros a year as evidenced in legislation since Karamanlis assumed power.
Earlier, Papandreou spoke in the northwestern town of Preveza.
Speech in Lefkada: The main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) on Saturday blasted the government for hurting the public with its economic policy.
"(Ruling) New Democracy's policy has clearly failed to advance a just society. Economic policy has failed to take the country forward and has hurt the majority of people while aiding the few, the powerful and its own party people," PASOK leader George Papandreou told a party meeting in Lefkada.
Working people and households were seeing their income evaporate in steep consumer prices, with the government sitting back as middle-men became wealthy, banks increased their profits, and certain large vested interests reaped benefits, Papandreou claimed.
In addition, the government had lowered spending on security, pensions, education, health, welfare, local government and the regions, also failing to absorb key funding from the European Union. The government should also act to lower interest rates for the public.
Papandreou renewed his criticism of mergers and acquisitions involving state-run firms, saying that the state bought at high prices but sold cheap, employing public money.
Finally, the party leader complained of corruption in state services, saying that even the government admitted that the situation had further deteriorated.
"The government is operating without values, rules or principles," Papandreou added.
Gov't strikes back: Goverment spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos replied in a statement that the previous PASOK government was responsible for allowing problems to emerge and become more severe over the two decades it held power.
The current government had produced tangible and measurable results for both the country as a whole and its citizens, Roussopoulos said.
Opposition parties, unions counter PM: The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Sunday criticized Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis for statements he made at an annual across-the-board news conference earlier in the day.
"The premier condemned people who do not take part in the so-called social dialogue. As far as the party is concerned, we repeat: The KKE does not take part in 'dialogue' that has a pre-determined outcome and whose aim is to strip workers and the people of their rights," the party said in a statement.
Turning to Karamanlis' annual economic policy speech on Saturday at Thessaloniki international trade fair, the party claimed that "big capital had cause to rejoice," as expounded in over two thirds of the oration.
In Larissa, KKE leader Aleka Papariga told a news conference that the party was radically opposed to both the ruling New Democracy party and the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement.
"New Democracy is consistent in serving the oligarchy of the wealthy, scattering a few crumbs and bits of tax relief to people on low wages and pensions in order to make a good impression and pull votes," Papariga complained.
The Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology shrugged off the prime minister's annual economic policy speech.
"It's a great mistake that the trade fair is held in early September. It should take place at the beginning of April. Only on April Fool's Day would you hear so many lies," party leader Alekos Alavanos replied to a reporter's question.
"The prime minister gave a picture of an idyllic Greece, failing to inform us that out of the 10 basic economic indicators for social protection, poverty, education and research, Greece comes last in the EU-15," Alavanos stated.
According to the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE), the content of Karamanlis' speech had totally disillusioned people on low wages and pensions but pleased the wealthy.
"Working people have given a Red Card to the government's economic policy, and they will do the same with the 2007 budget," GSEE leader Yiannis Panagopoulos told a news conference.
The head of the ADEDY civil servants union, Ilias Vrettakos, said that real incomes for his members had shrunk.
In a second day Saturday of protests outside the trade fair, one person was detained by Thessaloniki police and another 69 released after hooded youths threw fire bombs at parked cars, set fire to garbage cans, and smashed windows.
The rioting followed a peaceful march to protest against the government's economic policy arranged by GSEE and ADEDY.
 PM welcomes ANA-MPA's performance
THESSALONIKI, 11/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Saturday welcomed operations of ANA-MPA S.A, calling the national news agency's progress 'impressive.'
Visiting the company's pavilion at the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair, the premier heard details of the ANA-MPA's business, which includes news in Greek, English, French and Russian, internet services and publications.
He was greeted at the pavilion by Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos, who holds the media and information portfolio; the ANA-MPA's president and general director, George Tambakopoulos; and Spyros Kouzinopoulos, head of the agency's northern division, which also handles Balkan news.
"Of great importance is the penetration of areas that were terra incognita for very many years. Areas in which Greece has played a key role, and we believe will continue to do so, such as southeastern Europe," Roussopoulos, who is also government spokesman, noted.
"Equally important is the fact that foreign languages incorporated in the agency's news services, including French and Russian, will be of great help not only to residents of Greece but also to people who wish to visit the country via the ANA-MPA," he added.
The minister welcomed modernization of the news agency and its ability to target a wide audience from youth to market players, who use news and information as part of their day-to-day lives.
Among other visitors to the pavilion were Macedonia-Thrace Minister George Kalantzis and deputy ministers of finance and foreign affairs.
PM tours the trade fair: During his visit to the trade fair, premier Karamanlis also held talks with management of Thessaloniki International Fair SA and the exhibition's state-owned organizer, Helexpo SA.
He underlined that the government's reform policy was unwavering and non-negotiable; and that reform would be affected through dialogue.
Policy aimed at affording Greece a leading role in Europe, as the country was still lagging in the European Union, despite progress, Karamanlis noted.
Escorted by ministers and their deputies, he also visited pavilions representing the borough of Thessaloniki, fire brigade, development ministry, police force, Macedonia-Thrace ministry and Thessaloniki prefecture.
Later in the day, Karamanlis held a meeting in a Thessaloniki hotel with 38 representatives of local authorities and other groups from the city, and much of his cabinet.
The premier asked the representatives for their views on major projects in the area, and the city's needs.
The minister for the northern prefectures of Macedonia and Thrace called the talks constructive.
 Thessaloniki pavilions, events launched
THESSALONIKI, 11/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)Members of the government inaugurated pavilions and sideline events at the country's largest trade fair, held in the northern port city of Thessaloniki and arranged by Helexpo SA, the state exhibition organizer. The exhibition ends on September 17.
Speaking at the International Growth Cooperation Service pavilion, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis reported on Greece's robust record in acts of humanitarian and political intervention over the last three years.
The minister also heard demands from the Association of Northern Greek Exporters for coordinated action in economic diplomacy by all embassy authorities.
Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas launched an exhibition on innovation; and reported that the government would lay special emphasis on energy and innovation, also working to boost growth in the regions.
Deputy Culture Minister for Sport George Orfanos opened an art exhibition on Greek artists at the Munich Academy in the 19th and 20th centuries with the German ambassador in Athens; and Deputy Finance Minister Antonis Bezas inaugurated a seminar on the digital economy in service to the public.
Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece said the Church was the largest social welfare organization after the state as he inaugurated a pavilion for the church's Allelengii welfare group
New Leopard tank on display at trade fair: Visitors to Thessaloniki's international trade fair on Saturday viewed the Greek army's new Leopard 2 HEL battle tank, fresh from the production line.
The Leopard 2 is a main battle tank developed by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) of Munich, Germany.
Greece has ordered 170 of the vehicles, with 140 of the total to be manufactured domestically by Hellenic Vehicles Industry (ELBO).
On display is the first of the batch assigned to ELBO. The tank was built and tested for two months at the company's plant in Sindos, near the port city of Thessaloniki.
Delivery of the remaining tanks is due for completion in June 2009.
 Govâ€™t to appoint consultant for the privatization of Hellenic Telecoms in October
11/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Greek government will appoint a consultant to a further privatization of Hellenic Telecommunications Organization in October, Transport and Communications Minister Mihalis Liapis said on Saturday.
Speaking to reporters, in Thessaloniki, the Greek minister said it was premature to comment on reports that a Russian group has expressed interest in buying a stake in Hellenic Telecoms. Commenting on the Olympic Airways' issue, Liapis said it was a complex matter that needed to be addressed within the reasoning of privatization. The Greek minister expressed his hope that before the end of the government's four-year term, Hellenic Railways (OSE) would have completed the biggest part of a new railway line linking Athens with Patras and Athens with Thessaloniki through a high-speed electrical double track.
Hellenic Telecommunications Organizationâ€™s chairman, Panagis Vourloumis, speaking to reporters in Thessaloniki, said the management would remain steadfast at promoting its strategic plan regardless of the entry of a strategic investment in the group. "We will continue as planned. Our job is the make Hellenic Telecoms better," Vourloumis said, while he dismissed talk of higher telephone bill rates after the entry of a strategic investor in the group. Vourloumis expressed the hope that Armentel could be sold this year.
 National Bank has not received any takeover offers, Arapoglou says
11/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)National Bank of Greece has not received any takeover offer although its large capitalization could attract a large foreign investor, Takis Arapoglou, the bank's governor said on Saturday.
Commenting on a report by Financial Times, presenting a profile of attractive banks, Arapoglou said: "When your capitalization has a size of between 5-20 billion euros, as in the case of National Bank, then you are big enough to be noticed, but not big enough to create problems to the four, five or at least six largest banking groups in Europe. The closer you get to 20 billion euros, the harder things are".
The Greek banker said that National Bank's extensive and integrated presence in the Balkans, along with other Greek financial institutions such as Alpha Bank or EFG Eurobank, was another reason to look attractive to a foreign investor. Arapoglou said 2008 would be a significant year for the bank. "The acquisition of Finansbank is a directly increasing investment, but we want -if we can achieve new acquisitions in Romania and Serbia- to take our time and absorb new acquisitions for the next 18 months," he said.
 Gov't hopes for gas firm's bourse entry 2007
11/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said on Sunday that he hoped state-owned Public Gas Company SA (DEPA) would gain entry into the Athens bourse in 2007.
"Listing for DEPA would aim at financing for a mammoth investment program," the minister told inauguration of the company's pavilion at Thessaloniki international trade fair.
He also opened pavilions of Hellenic Petroleum and Public Power Corporation, which are both Athens-quoted, state-run firms; and of the Greek-German Chamber of Trade and Industry.
 ATEbank plans expansion in Balkans
11/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)Athens-quoted ATEbank plans to further expand in the Balkans through the acquisition of credit institutions, its chairman, Dimitris Miliakos, said on Saturday.
Miliakos was launching the bank's pavilion at the Thessaloniki international trade fair.
 Apprenticeships: No labor without social insurance
11/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)Employment and Social Protection Minister Savvas Tsitouridis on Saturday repeated the government's opposition to cheap labor without social insurance as part of a debate on the terms of apprenticeship.
"We are redefining very many issues to do with apprenticeship in the industrial sector. This system can be made more effective," Tsitouridis told reporters after a meeting in Thessaloniki with the Association of Northern Greek Industry.
The trade group's president, George Mylonas, said that northern industrialists also opposed low-paid work with no social insurance cover.
"What we have talked about is apprenticeship situations, which is a measure to actively boost employment," Mylonas noted.
 Memorial service for Lebanon, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina
11/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)A memorial service was held in the northern port city of Thessaloniki on Sunday for victims of the war in Lebanon, the September 11 attack on New York's World Trade Centre, and Hurricane Katrina.
The service in the Aghia Sophia Orthodox church was requested by the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association, an international Greek American advocacy group.
Among public figures attending the service were Macedonia-Thrace Minister George Kalantzis and the US ambassador in Athens, Charles Ries.
 Fugitive in helicopter jailbreak before prosecutor
11/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)An Albanian fugitive, who staged a spectacular jailbreak by helicopter with notorious convict Vassilis Paleokostas, appeared before a public prosecutor on Saturday amid tight security following an armed standoff with police that led to his re-arrest.
Police located Alket Rizaj, 32, and a cousin in a private home in the prefecture of Viotia. Special forces who surrounded the house and blew open the entrance at daybreak on Friday was confronted with a grenade-wielding suspect. Rizaj eventually surrendered.
A grenade, handgun and semi-automatic Uzi-style assault rifle were confiscated in the raid. The other man was also arrested.
On June 4 this year, Paleokostas, 40, and Rizaj were spirited away by helicopter from the courtyard of Korydallos jail near Piraeus in an escape reportedly masterminded by another fugitive, Paleokostas' brother Nikos.
The hijacked pilot of the sight-seeing helicopter dropped the men off at a cemetery near the prison, where a pair of getaway motorcycles were waiting.
Rizaj, who reportedly dyed his hair blond and wore glasses to alter his appearance, is due for fresh appearances before prosecutors on Monday.
Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras praised the police for the operational success of the raid to arrest the fugitive, stating that every precaution was taken to avoid bloodshed.
 Youths charged after violent soccer protest
11/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)A public prosecutor in the northern city of Thessaloniki on Saturday charged seven youths with disturbing the peace and violating arms legislation after soccer fans tried to hand the prime minister a resolution seeking financial aid for premier-league PAOK but ended up clashing with police.
The incident occurred on Friday outside Thessaloniki's international trade fair, where the premier was scheduled to open the annual event.
Police fired tear gas at the fans who hurled rocks and flares after entry was barred. Gangs of youths then set fire to garbage cans and vandalized nearby shops and cars.
"Yesterday's incidents are not about the police. They were an act of exploitation for television," Public Order Minster Byron Polydoras, who was also in Thessaloniki for the trade fair, told reporters on Saturday.
 Swedish UN peacekeeper dies in road accident
11/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)A Swedish member of the UN peacekeeping force in Kosovo was killed in a road accident in the northern prefecture of Halkidiki on Sunday during a few days of leave in Greece.
A car reportedly knocked down the 25-year-old man and a fellow national, who was slightly injured, police said.
An enquiry is being conducted into the circumstances of the accident.
 Earthquake in Gulf of Corinth, no injuries
11/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)A tremor measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale was recorded in the Gulf of Corinth on Sunday. No injuries or damage were reported.
The epicenter of the tremor at 07:40 hours was north of Kiato, the Athens observatory's Geodynamic Institute said in a statement.
 'Homage to the Olive Tree' exhibition opens at UN on Sept 19
NEW YORK, 11/9/2006 (ANA-MPA)UN Secretary General Kofi Annan along with Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will inaugurate the 'Homage to the Olive Tree' exhibition at the organizationâ€™s headquarters on September 19, Greece's permanent representative at the UN Adamantios Vasilakis announced at a press conference here over the weekend.
Also present at the inauguration will be Culture Minister George Voulgarakis.
Announcing a series of cultural events on the occasion of September's Greek Security Council presidency, Vasilakis said that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has proclaimed 2006 as year of the "Olive Tree", and that Greece has planned activities for the promotion of "this very important product" both inside and outside Greece.
The exhibition was first presented during the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
A Greek Food Festival is scheduled for October 9-20 while a concert by the Greek Radio-Television Orchestra will be given at the UN's great hall on October 25, the Greek diplomat said.
 Greek super league results
11/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)Olympiakos Piraeus, last seasonâ€™s champions, remained alone atop the Greek Superleague standings on Sunday after three weeks of play by downing PAOK Thessaloniki 2-0, in a match played at home on Saturday.
AEK Athens, meanwhile, posted a third straight tie, leaving precious points on the pitch in a match played away against Atromitos Athens with 1-1.
Olympiakos and AEK are the Greek leagueâ€™s representatives in the 2006-2007 Champions League competition.
Finally, Panathinaikos Athens bit 1-0 Xanthi at the Athens Olympic Stadium, on Saturday.
In other action:
Iraklis Thessaloniki - OFI Crete 2-3
Ionikos Piraeus - Apollon Kalamaria 1-0
Egaleo Athens - Aris Thessaloniki 1-1
Kerkyra - Larissa 0-0
Ergotelis Crete - Panionios Athens 2-1
Standings after three weeks of play:
Olympiakos 9 points
 Papadopoulos discussed Turkey's EU obligations with Vanhanen â€" Prescott
NICOSIA, 11/9/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)The Cyprus problem and Turkey's non compliance with its EU obligations have been the focus of two separate meetings Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos held Sunday in Helsinki with British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and Prime Minister of Finland, Matti Vanhanen, whose country holds the current EU rotating presidency.
CNA has learnt that the meeting between Papadopoulos and Vanhanen focused on TurkeyÔs obligations towards the EU and Ankara's refusal to implement the Customs Union Protocol with the ten new EU member states, in particular as regards to its denial to open its ports and airports to Cypriot vessel and aircraft.
The discussion took place in connection to the European Commission's report on Turkey's progress regarding its accession negotiations, to be published end of this October.
President Papadopoulos, who is in Helsinki attending the ASEM 6 Summit (Asia-Europe Meeting), met earlier Sunday with British Deputy Prime Minister in the presence of delegations from Cyprus and Britain.
They discussed the recent developments of the Cyprus problem, Turkey's EU accession negotiations as well as the course of the structural dialogue between Cyprus and Britain in various areas, that has been agreed upon last year between President Papadopoulos and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
President Papadopoulos is accompanied in Finland by Minister of Foreign Affairs George Lillikas and Director of his Diplomatic Office Tasos Tzionis.
From Finland, he will head for New York, to address the United Nations' General Assembly.
Cyprus is an EU member state since May 1st 2004. The Republic of Cyprus is divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third.
Although Turkey signed in July 2005 the protocol extending its customs union with all ten EU member states, including the Republic of Cyprus, it still refuses to ratify it and open its ports and airports to Cypriot vessel and aircraft, claiming that it does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus.
At the ASEM 6 Summit, the leaders of 38 Asian and European countries and representatives of the European Commission will meet to engage in an open and genuine dialogue under the overarching theme of ''Global Challenges - Joint Responses''.
The Summit will focus on ways to respond to the challenges of globalization.
ASEM 6 is chaired by the Prime Minister of Finland, Matti Vanhanen.
Papadopoulos: Consequences for Turkey if no compliance with EU obligations LARNACA, 11/9/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA) President of the Republic of Cyprus Tassos Papadopoulos underlined that Turkey is obliged to meet the commitments it undertook towards the European Union otherwise, Ankara's accession effort would have unfavorable consequences.
In statements before departing Saturday to Helsinki, where he will participate in the 6th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), President Papadopoulos said that the EU should not give the impression "that Turkey can continue unhindered its EU procedure, without even respecting the obligations it undertook towards the EU".
He explained that in such an event, the credibility of the EU would be at stake, and it would lead to further dispute regarding the EU- Turkey relations.
Invited to comment on Ankara's refusal to meet its EU obligations, President Papadopoulos said that the EU adheres by its position that Turkey should respect its commitments, including the ones it undertook towards the Republic of Cyprus, in line with the EU-Turkey negotiating framework and the September 21, 2005 EU counterstatement, on Turkey's unilateral statement that it does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus.
"We seek to avert any kind of crisis, because I believe that the general impression in Europe is that it would be a bad development if Turkey's EU course faces insurmountable difficulties", the president stated.
He added that this would be a negative development, for all parties involved, including Cyprus.
"There is something even worse. To give the impression that Turkey can continue, unhindered, its EU course, without meeting its obligations it undertook towards the EU", he continued.
The EU, the president said, is working on various proposals to overcome any difficulties regarding the EU-Turkey relations, and expressed hope that the European Commission's assessment report on Turkey in October, will offer "some ways out".
All countries, aspiring to become EU member states, are subject to the same rules and regulations, President Papadopoulos said, adding ''Turkey should not be treated differently, regardless of how much important this country is for Europe and our region''.
''Turkey is obliged to respect its obligations, otherwise its accession procedure will have unfavorable consequences'', he told reporters.
Referring to the bicommunal discussions aiming to implement the July 8th agreement between the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot community, Tassos Papadopoulos and Mehmet Ali Talat respectively, he said that both sides must have the good will to comply with the July 8th statement.
Papadopoulos and Talat agreed on 8 July 2006, during a meeting in Nicosia 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.
"It is not enough only to have a good climate, nor is it possible to start full discussion, for two reasons. Firsty, UN Secretary
General has clearly stated that he is not willing to begin a new initiative unless there is good will on both sides and progress on the ground in promoting the issues of substance", he said.
"Secondly, because one or more meetings between the leaders of both communities for the discussion of core issues of the Cyprus problem, without preparation, analysis, and negotiation on the aspects of substantive issues, would inevitably lead to a new deadlock", the president continued.
''A second failure", he stressed, "would be a very bad development, because wrong messages will be given, that the Cyprus problem can not be solved and the only conclusion would be to either attain the status quo or partition''.
 French minister calls for suspension of EU talks with Turkey
NICOSIA, 11/9/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)French Interior Minister Nicholas Sarkozy has called for the suspension of EU membership talks with Turkey unless
Ankara changes its stance on Cyprus.
According to AFP, Sarkozy, a front-runner ahead of next year's French presidential election, specifically called for a break in accession talks while Turkey persists with its embargo against Cypriot ships and aircraft using its ports and airports.
Turkey signed in July 2005 a protocol extending its customs accord with the EU to the 10 new states that joined in 2004, including the island of Cyprus which Ankara refuses to recognize.
But its parliament has yet to ratify the document and Ankara continues to block the access of Cypriot ships.
Turkey is the only country in the world to recognize the breakaway state in Cyprus' northern part occupied by Turkish troops since 1974.
UN Security Council resolution 541 of 1983 branded ''legally invalid'' the unilateral declaration of independence in the occupied areas on 15 November 1983 and called upon all states ''not to recognize any Cypriot state other than the Republic of Cyprus'' and ''to respect the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and non-alignment of the Republic of Cyprus.''
''I call for the suspension of opening new adhesion chapters with Turkey while it has not ratified and clearly has not implemented the Ankara protocol (customs agreement),'' Sarkozy said Friday in a speech in Brussels.
The French minister earlier insisted that there was no place for Turkey in the 25-nation bloc.
He called instead for a ''privileged partnership'', saying links with Turkey should be enhanced but without full membership. Germany and Austria also support that position, the AFP reported.
''The geographical and political map of the EU'' should be fixed, with the bloc open to states which are ''clearly part of the continent of Europe,'' he said, citing Switzerland, Norway and the Balkan states.