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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-09-18

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

September 18, 2006


  • [01] Government will be merciless on corruption, prime minister tells ND central committee meeting
  • [02] PASOK leader renews attack on government at TIF
  • [03] US policy harmful for region, PASOK leader warns
  • [04] KKE leader criticizes ND, PASOK on corruption problem
  • [05] Most Greeks believe that corruption existed in the past and continues to exist, poll shows
  • [06] President Papoulias begins 5-day state visit to Germany on Monday
  • [07] FM Bakoyannis speaks to AP, Reuters on EU, Turkey
  • [08] Deputy FM Yiannis Valinakis addresses UN General Assembly on immigration
  • [09] Deputy FM Yiannis Valinakis gives interview to Greek community newspaper in U.S.
  • [10] FM spokesman on Erdogan's statements
  • [11] Culture Minister George Voulgarakis to visit New York
  • [12] U.S. State Department report ascertains improvements in religious freedoms in Greece
  • [13] U.S. State Department disappointed that Halki School of Theology not reopening
  • [14] Cyprus House president in Thessaloniki, meets Papandreou
  • [15] Ecumenical Patriarch profoundly saddened over course of relations between Christianity and Islam
  • [16] Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos visits Kazakhstan
  • [17] Government spokesman praises late Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci
  • [18] Deputy FM Stylianidis on Greece's new energy role
  • [19] Turkish delegation visiting Samos calls for strengthening of business relations
  • [20] President inaugurates 35th Book Festival
  • [21] Police arrest three drug traffickers in Athens
  • [22] Greek superleague results
  • [23] Cypriot President Papadopoulos to meet UN SG Kofi Annan

  • [01] Government will be merciless on corruption, prime minister tells ND central committee meeting

    ATHENS, 18/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Prime minister Costas Karamanlis on Sunday warned that the government would be tough, inexorable and merciless in all instances of corruption and illegality, addressing a meeting of his ruling New Democracy party's (ND) Central Committee, where the governmental policy of "zero tolerance" on corruption was also reiterated by party secretary Lefteris Zagoritis and other speakers.

    "We are particularly strict in every direction. We are in a constant clash with corruption. We do not tolerate any deviation from legality, we will not be partial to anyone. There will be no exception for anyone. The eras of tolerance, cover-up and impunity are irrevocably a thing of the past. Let no one have delusions. The social mandate is for zero tolerance to corruption and illegality. Our strength is the broad social alliance," Karamanlis stressed.

    He added that the duty of the political leadership is to set the good example, and the government will not be partial to anyone, regardless of who he was, where he was, his political convictions, and what party he voted for.

    The premier said that the most difficult battles were those that concern deeply-rooted pathogenies, and specifically mentioned tax evasion, contribution evasion, corruption, problems that are not confronted from one day to the next. "Our position is clear. We do not hide the problems, but bring them to light and confront them," Karamanlis said, adding that the government was reinforcing the institutional framework for tackling corruption, tax evasion, and contribution evasion, outlining a series of measures that have already been taken, such as rendering breach of trust in a public service from a misdemeanor into a felony, and the creation of the Public Administration Auditors' Corps.

    Karamanlis said that the path of reforms was being continued, and made special reference to the reforms in the State, the economy, and the health and education sectors. "The first goal, and an imperative necessity in the coming period were the reforms that were leading to the Education of the future," such as the upgrading of the public universities, the premier said, warning that populist backtracking was harmful to the entire society.

    "We are holding and continuing dialogue, we want everyone's views. Refusal of dialogue is unfathomable, and reflects a deeply undemocratic, outdated and reactionary mentality," he said.

    Karamanlis made specific mention of the dialogue on the major reforms, which he said would continue after the next general elections, focusing on the constitutional revision, the reform and decentralization of the administrative structure, the reform of the social insurance system so that it will be just and viable.

    Economy: The prime minister also spoke at length on the government's policy on the economy, noting that the doom-sayers had been belied and that the government had succeeded in its choice of mild adaptation despite the negative international state of affairs due to the high petrol prices.

    Karamanlis underlined that the rate of growth of the Greek economy had reached 4.1 percent in the first half of 2006, nearly double the Eurozone average, while the deficit would be contained to below 3 percentage points by the end of the year, and the unemployment rate had already declined by 1.5 percentage points.

    "The results of our policy thus far indicate that we are on the right path," the premier said, adding that it would continue in that direction with consistency and without populism. "We are escalating the reforms with bold changes in the structures of the state and the economy," he said, making special note of the taxation reform which, he said, would be completed with a reduction of the taxation rates, which would relieve the lower income brackets, and an increase in the tax exemption ceiling for natural entities.

    Karamanlis further said that the denationalizations would continue, and made particular reference to the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE), noting that the government was currently seeking a strategic partner, aimed at boosting OTE's competitive operation and providing inexpensive quality services for the citizens, while at the same time ensuring the national interest.

    Further reforms were the revision of the developmental law through simplification of the procedures for corporate licenses, the national spatial plan and the individual spatial plans, reform of the legislation on bankruptcy, improvement of the public sector's operation with the creation of a fiscal audits department, and the plan for the abolition and/or merger of public services.

    The premier wound up his address with an outline of his policy for next month's local government elections. "Our strategy is unwavering. It is a strategy of the modern social centre. We address ourselves to all the citizens. We will not sacrifice the interests of the local communities on the altar of acrimony, incomprehensible fanaticism, and cheap populism. We are proving, in action, that we are a force of respnsibility," Karamanlis said.

    ND secretary, other speakers: New Democracy party secretary Lefteris Zagoritis said that the phrase "zero tolerance" encapsulated the essence and substance of ND's stance on the issue of corruption, in his own address to the ND Central Committee meeting.

    "Our position is clear-cut. The words 'silence', 'tolerance', 'concealment' do not express us. The rationale heard in recent days which says that all these are taking place and will continue to occur comes from the past, which belongs to the past. We abide by principles and values. The confrontation of corruption is a priority," Zagoritis said, adding that the "sick phenomena are being uncovered and punished, and this is the result of our own effort. We will not allow, and will not tolerate, those who are to blame for the past to become the champions of the present."

    Turning to the October 15 municipal and prefectural elections, Zagoritis said that ND's strategic choice was that the local government electoral showdown should be based on the problems of the local societies, through comparison of the abilities of the candidates of all the tickets, and their platforms.

    "They are elections of the local societies, and this is how we approach them. We support the most capable, the best, candidates, individuals with knowledge, a plan, and the ability to contribute to the local society," Zagoritis said.

    Defense minister Evangelis Meimarakis told the Central Committee that the government had, from the outset, clarified that it was in a head-on collision with the issues of corruption.

    "We do not want to be compared with PASOK (the main opposition party and preceding government) quantitatively with respect to how many instances of corruption there existed then and how many exist now. We want to be compared qualitatively, with respect to what we have done in these years (that ND has been in power), so that the instances of corruption are tackled and revealed, and for the citizen to sense the different attitude and perception being cultivated," Meimarakis said.

    He said that two-and-a-half years ago (just before ND took over the government), the citizen considered the battle with corruption to be in vain, and had conciled himself with the phenomenon. Today, however, the citizen believes that the train of transparency being driven by Costas Karamanlis was moving forward, picking up speed, and nothing will stop it, Meimarakis added.

    Turning to the local government elections, Meimarakis said that "we must all be present in this battle, no one must be absent, but without giving them the political party character which some sides in PASOK wish to give them, without responding to the acrimony and polarization that PASOK is trying to create".

    The political parties are judged in the national elections. That is where we will be judged, and we believe that, with the help of the citizens, we will win, he said. Now, however, in the municipal and prefectural elections, the criteria are those of local administration, they are neither athletic, nor criteria of sympathy, nor criteria that can supposedly send a message, painlessly, to the government, Meimarakis added.

    Interior, public administration and decentralization minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos spoke at length on the shielding the supervisory mechanisms at both institutional level and infrastructures and personnel level which the government has been doing over the past two-and-a-half years.

    He listed 19 measures which have untied the hands of the Public Administration General Inspector and the other supervisory mechanisms, as well as the intensification of inspections, which he said proved the government's political volition to eliminate corruption and mismanagement.

    "All the phenomena of lack of transparency, of corruption and mismanagement, are not only not concealed, as was the case in the past, but instead are brought to light and put under the microscope," Pavlopoulos said, adding that corruption had been bred and grown to dimensions under the PASOK governments, due to the rationale of complicity and cover-up they cultivated, which proliferated the mentality of impunity.

    He said the inspection mechanisms were under-functioning and the citizens, disappointed, were unable to assist in combating the phenomena of corruption with the charges they submitted. Whereas today, the citizen perceived the change being made, and the political will that existed in that direction, and was assisting in the effort that was underway, Pavlopoulos added.

    The minister spoke at length on the government's policy on regional development and reinforcing social cohesion.

    "The hour of the periphery has arrived," he said, noting that 80 percent of the funds from the EU's Fourth Community Support Framework (CSF) will be channeled to boost the periphery.

    In the two-and-a-half years of ND governance, he said, the municipalities and communities have been financially and institutionally reinforced with instituted resources, without withholdings or "creative accounting".

    Pavlopoulos made specific mention of the THISEAS developmental program, budgeted at 3.5 billion euros, which concerns the reinforcement of the first-degree local government.

    Education minister Marietta Yannakou also spoke on the issue of corruption, saying that the mass media should be helping the government in combating those phenomena. The media, however, was not playing that role but, on the contrary, there was a generalized attack against the government, she said.

    The battle against corruption must take place at many levels, the minister added.

    The meeting was also addressed by ND-backed candidates for several prefectures and municipalities, and MPs.

    [02] PASOK leader renews attack on government at TIF

    THESSALONIKI, 18/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou renewed his attack on the government and on prime minister Costas Karamanlis personally, whom he placed responsibility on for the cases of corruption that have recently come to light, in an address at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on Saturday night.

    He also presented the main aspects of PASOK policy during his address while, on Sunday, Papandreou toured the TIF pavilions before returning to Athens.

    During his address on Saturday night, Papandreou spoke of "failure" of the government and the prime minister, and also spoke of "organized gangs", as well as "some who came waving the flag of fighting corruption and, instead, are organizing corruption".

    "Instead of codes of values, we have codes of the party, codes of blood, codes of relatives and friends," Papandreou said.

    The PASOK leader accused the government and the prime minister of "revealing only what they cannot conceal", adding that no one was shouldering the political responsibility, "as if there is no government, as if there is no prime minister".

    "When they speak of zero tolerance, they seek zero tolerance for themselves," Papandreou said, adding that certain ministers should have resigned and, since that was not the case, the responsibility lay with the prime minister.

    He also accused the New Democracy government of "creating, since 2004, the incubator of corruption with partisanship, lack of meritocracy, and the society of the 'relatives'".

    Papandreou pledged personally, and on behalf of PASOK, that there would be no compromises on matters of moral order, and accused the prime minister of being "a captive of networks and interests, which does not allow him to confront the issue of corruption, much less clash with the establishment inside and outside his party".

    Contrasting himself with Karamanlis, Papandreou said that "I have no interest in becoming a prime minister in a state of captivity, the captive of interests, or in order to serve some of my friends" and, recalling the history of his family, he said that they "never sought positions, but values for which some members (of the family) went into exile and to prison".

    He said he was fighting for those same values, and said he was ready to wage the battle, together with the citizens, "to rid the country from the power rationale, which needs to be replaced by respect for the values".

    PASOK's priority was a radical change in the state, "to finish with political favors, with corruption, and with partisan nomenclatures", Papandreou said, adding that the country was undergoing perhaps the biggest crisis in the last decades, a crisis that was economic, political and moral.

    Papandreou charged that the government's policy undermined the future of the country, and "under the veil of decency and modesty, the biggest bribery scandals took place and are taking place".

    Under the PASOK governments, on the contrary, Papandreou said, the policy applied by the late former prime minister Andreas Papandreou (his father and PASOK founder) had restored social cohesion and united the Greeks while, under Costas Simitis as prime minister, the country had approached the other European countries. The goal for the "third period" under PASOK rule, his own, will be to "build a just society" which will be "a society of values and not a society of rulers".

    Papandreou spoke of a new social pact, a PASOK government that would place priority on work, investment, and the education system, which would formulate a modern and efficient state in services provided to the citizen, with responsible fiscal management, a government that would give developmental opportunities and a just distribution of the growth to the working people, and one that will also support healthy entrepreneurship and reinforce public and private investments.

    Papandreou also pledged that the bracket of pensioners receiving the EKAS low-pension benefit would be expanded while, regarding employment for the jobless, he said that social work in areas such as environmental protection, protection of the forests, guarding of schools, clean-up of coasts, and welfare services would be subsidized.

    The PASOK leader further pledged that a just job market would be created, in which private sector workers would not be second-class workers, and endorsed an increase in the unemployment benefit, adding that the increase must be generous, bringing the benefit to 65-70 percent of the minimum salary as was the case in other European countries. He also said that the duration of the unemployment benefit would be increased.

    Papandreou also spoke of a "peace dividend" that could arise from a mutual reduction in defense spending by Greece and Turkey, and said that PASOK, as government, would re-examine all the armament procurement programs of the ND government.

    The main opposition leader further accused the government of provocatively transferring wealth from the lower incomes to the higher incomes, through its taxation policy, while also charging evasion in real estate taxes.

    Papandreou pledged that PASOK, as government, would create a new taxation system so as to formulate a relationship of confidence with the taxpayers and reverse the ratio of direct and indirect taxes.

    On corporate taxation, Papandreou said that the tax rates on profits channeled into investments, thus creating new jobs, would be further reduced, while stock dividends would be taxed as income from paid work.

    Papandreou also disagreed with the government's choice of further denationalization of the Hellenic Telecoms Organization (OTE), saying that the reasoning of the public interest must prevail.

    Earlier, in statements to PASOK supporters gathered at Macedonia Airport upon his arrival in Thessaloniki, Papandreou reiterated his criticism of the government and the prime minister with respect to the problem of corruption, and that no ministers had resigned over the issue, while he also accused the prime minister and government of using the "PASOK is to blame for everything" placebo.

    Responding to Papandreou's statements later, government spokesman Theodoros Rousopoulos said that when Mr. Papandreou and PASOK go to Thessaloniki, they remember the word "fairytales", adding that "this is not at all coincidental, since they have filled the city and its residents with them".

    Rousopoulos accused Papandreou of permanently resorting to the "usual PASOK recipe", which was big, empty words, negativism and populism, "but the only thing he manages to reveal, in the clearest way, is his own and his party's impasse".

    [03] US policy harmful for region, PASOK leader warns

    THESSALONIKI, 18/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Sunday described US policy on the Middle East, Iraq and Iran as harmful for the wider region, during a press conference at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).

    Papandreou said that "if the collapse of the Soviet Union demerited socialism, then the current policy being implemented by the US on the Middle East, Iraq and Iran is harmful and could demerit democracy".

    Regarding Turkey's course to the European Union, the PASOK leader assessed that the entire accession procedure was entering a critical stage.

    "There is a chance that the European Union may change stance towards Turkey, and that the latter may lose interest. In such an eventuality, we will remain alone with the problems between us, including that of the (Aegean) continental shelf, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the minority," Papandreou said, adding that the Greek side did not want that.

    Papandreou called on Turkey to fulfill its obligations and the requirements placed by the EU and, with respect to the Greek positions, reiterated PASOK's position calling for a new national strategy.

    During the press conference, Papandreou reiterated his criticism of the New Democracy government over the problem of corruption in his opening remarks, as well as in reply to press questions.

    Papandreou stressed that PASOK had a different policy from ND on the corruption issues, as well as on other issues, and once again put the blame personally blamed on prime minister Costas Karamanlis.

    He said that the country was undergoing a major moral, social, economic and political crisis over the past two-and-a-half years (since ND's assumption of the government), adding that the prime minister not only did not seem prepared to combat corruption and clash with the interests but, on the contrary, appeared to serve them.

    Papandreou also reiterated his criticism that Karamanlis was nowhere to be found during the difficulties.

    Although he did not call for early general elections or resignations of ministers, Papandreou nevertheless said that the sooner elections were held the better for the country, adding that whenever they took place, PASOK would win. Regarding the resignation of ministers, the PASOK leader said that it was the responsibility of the prime minister to seek out which minister or ministers had blame and to place the blame on them.

    Papandreou further intimated that the central issue in the next general elections would be the problem of corruption.

    Abstract: Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou described US policy on the Middle East, Iraq and Iran as harmful for the wider region, during a press conference at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF). "If the collapse of the Soviet Union demerited socialism, then the current policy being implemented by the US on the Middle East, Iraq and Iran is harmful and could demerit democracy".

    [04] KKE leader criticizes ND, PASOK on corruption problem

    18/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) secretary general Aleka Papariga outlined her party's positions on combating corruption, addressing the 32nd KKE Youth Organization (KNE) Festival on Saturday night.

    Papariga mainly criticized the two mainstream parties -- the ruling New Democracy party and main opposition PASOK party -- saying that everyone was calling for the combating of corruption, but were concentrating their attention on the "faces" and the "connections" which, although an important parameter, did not comprise a solution to the problem, since corruption was produced at individual level and reproduced by the immoral and rotten capitalistic system.

    The KKE leader said that the institutional framework for transparency, too, was not efficient, since the law was weak and was not applied.

    Responding to criticism of the KKE stance, Papariga said that her party was not giving up the effort for measures to be taken, and would not reconcile itself with any scandal, nor was it indifferent, "because indifference, too, is dangerous".

    She stressed that this was not a fatalistic attitude, adding that the fight against corruption was part of the KKE's battle against the political choices of the capital, the fight for improvement of the people's living standards.

    The KKE leader further referred to next month's local government elections, saying that there were no independent candidates, since all the candidates had some (political party) platform as a point of reference, even if they did not have the official backing of that party, adding that the policy of all the parties was apparent at the polls, as were the major problems of work, education, housing, health, infrastructures, the environment and culture.

    Policy on all subjects, foreign policy, the Cyprus issue, the Aegean, and Greece's participation in imperialistic wars, were also being judged, she said.

    Local government was not at all unrelated with all those, Papariga stressed, noting a recent law introduced by the government under which the local governments acquired significant authorities concerning the everyday problems.

    [05] Most Greeks believe that corruption existed in the past and continues to exist, poll shows

    ATHENS, 18/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    A poll carried out by the Kappa Research company, part of which was aired during the main news bulletin of "Antenna" on Saturday and was republished in the Sunday newspaper "Typos tis Kyriakis" shows that 75.9 percent of Greeks believe that corruption existed in the past and is continuing to exist, but it is being revealed now, while 23.8 percent of respondents believe that corruption has increased over the past three years.

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis leads main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou in the public's confidence in combating corruption by 14.6 percent.

    The majority of public opinion has not changed views about the government and will not change their voting intentions in next month's municipal elections, with 56.8 percent saying that they have the same opinion about the government, 32.2 percent a worse one and 10.7 percent a better one.

    Another poll conducted by the Metron Analysis company for the Sunday newspaper "Kyriakatiki Eleftherotypia", on the issue of corruption, showed that 44.5 percent believe that corruption has remained at the same level over the past two years, 35.2 percent that it has increased and 16 percent that things are improving.

    On the question of which party is concerned most by phenomena of corruption, 44.8 percent place responsibility on the two major parties, 24.8 percent blame PASOK and 14.1 percent blame the New Democracy party.

    [06] President Papoulias begins 5-day state visit to Germany on Monday

    18/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias begins a five-day state visit to Germany on Monday, at the invitation of his German counterpart Horst Koehler, during which he will met and have talks with most of the German political leadership and representatives of the more than 300,000-strong Greek community in Germany.

    Strengthening relations between Greece and Germany will be at the focus of talks, and both countries have expressed a desire for this, while the framework is expected to become more specific in view of Germany's assumption of the rotating EU presidency in the first half of 2007, during which it will shoulder the difficult task of moving the issue of the European Constitution forward while at the same time preserving the cohesion of the EU '25', as well as facing a plethora of outstanding issues linked to the EU's role and identity on the international political scene.

    In an interview appearing in Sunday's issue of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAS) newspaper, Papoulias reiterated his confidence that Germany and chancellor Angela Merkel can contribute decisively to the restructuring of Europe, with the thrust on maintaining the welfare state and respect for the democratic and humanistic values, differentiated from the American models.

    Papoulias spent 14 years in Germany as a student and for work, both before and during the military dictatorship in Greece, while he has visited the country a number of times afterwards throughout his 30-year political career and as foreign minister, and also because his family lived in Cologne, but this will be his first visit to Germany as President of the Republic.

    Papoulias, who will be accompanied by his wife May, education minister Marietta Yannakou, deputy foreign minister Evrypides Stylianidis and his close associates, arrives in Berlin on Monday morning, where he will meet at noon with Keler, while on Tuesday noon he is scheduled to attend a luncheon in his honor hosted by Merkel, which may be followed by a private meeting with the Chancellor.

    Earlier on Tuesday, Papoulias will receive the leaders of the three opposition parties (FDP, Linkspartei-PDS, and Greens Party) in separate meetings.

    Papoulias' busy schedule also includes visits to museums and cultural events, meetings with the president of the German parliament and the mayor of Berlin on Tuesday, while on Wednesday he will begin a tour of Potsdam, North Rhine-Westfalia, Dusseldorf, Bonn and Cologne.

    In his interview with FAS, on the occasion of his visit to Germany, Papoulias stressed that if the peoples of the European countries were convinced that their political leaderships were truly determined to defend the European social model and genuine respect of the principles of democracy and liberty, differentiating themselves from the policy and practices of the US, then it would be possible to overcome the basic problems faced by the EU.

    The interview, which gives a preview of the talks he will have with Koehler and Merkel, Papoulias stressed the necessity for Europe to "speak with one voice", and expressed confidence that Germany, which assumes the EU presidency on January 1, 2007, can give a boost to the stagnating process of the so-called European Constitution, making it clear that the issue concerns first of all the people and not the Brussels bureaucracy, and that the essence was in reinforcing both political and economic democracy.

    The main cause of the so-called "Euro-fatigue", Papoulias said, was due to the fact that the political leaderships were not listening to the peoples, and he recommended more honesty and greater self-confidence. "The governments in the European Union must frankly tell their peoples that they wish to maintain the social state, even if at this time, in certain countries, it seems difficult to do so due to the economic problems. The European Union must thus, and with self-confidence, present itself different from the US. Not only with respect to this issue: In the European Union, freedom and democracy must truly be the highest values. It is not allowable that any EU country allow CIA prisons or a Guantanamo, as our friend President Bush does."

    Papoulias also referred to the issues of Turkey and the Balkans, which are high on the Greek foreign policy agenda.

    Regarding Turkey and its prospects for EU accession, Papoulias said with respect to its fulfillment of the membership criteria that "there can be no exceptions due to geostrategic or economic interests".

    Particularly with respect to Cyprus, Papoulias stressed that "Turkey, as a member of the EU, will not be able to maintain its occupation army" on the island, thus ruling out the accession into the EU of a country that "besieges" an EU country.

    "The Turkish government must abandon its obstinacy on the Cyprus issue and withdraw its troops," he said, and did not rule out a re-orientation of the Turkish political leadership, due to 'fatigue' and the domestic political cost entailed by the reforms for Turkey's adaptation to the European standards.

    "The Turkish society is divided: One part wants to join the EU, another part, however, which belongs to the military, does not...," Papoulias explained.

    Turning to the Balkan parameter of EU enlargement, Papoulias stressed that Bulgaria's and Romania's accession in 2007 must not be the end by the beginning of the next round of EU enlargement in the region. "If we truly want to consolidate peace in all of Europe, then sooner or later all the Balkan states must become EU members...EU will never stand firmly on its feet if countries such as Albania or Serbia are excluded from the EU.

    More particularly regarding Serbia, in a question on the unsuccessful effort he had undertaken in 1995 as Greek foreign minister to negotiate peace in Kosovo with then president Slobodan Milosevic, Papoulias rejected talk that the Serbs were anti-Europe. "The Serbs were and are a Europe-oriented people," Papoulias said, and criticized the NATO bombings of Serbia, which he said "do not belong among the bright moments of European history".

    [07] FM Bakoyannis speaks to AP, Reuters on EU, Turkey

    NEW YORK, 18/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis told the Associated Press news agency on Sunday that Greece wanted Turkey to become full European Union member adding, however, "that Ankara must recognize Cyprus if it wished to become EU member".

    Bakoyannis, currently in New York to participate in the United Nations' general assembly sessions, added that just as all other countries that aspire to join the 25-nation bloc, Turkey must fulfill its EU entry conditions, which include respect of human rights and religious freedom, good relations with its neighboring countries and free customs union.

    The Greek foreign minister also spoke to Reuters.

    "There is no Europe a la carte. The criteria that have been put up by the EU for every member also apply to Turkey," Bakoyannis said.

    "Greece has supported Turkey for the European Union," she said. "This came as a surprise to a lot of people around the world. But it is very simple. For us it is important to have European democratic Turkey on our borders."

    The Greek foreign minister also met with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos on Sunday. Talks focused on the Cyprus issue in light of Bakoyannis' meeting with her Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul here on Monday.

    [08] Deputy FM Yiannis Valinakis addresses UN General Assembly on immigration

    NEW YORK, 18/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis addressed the UN General Assembly on Friday night in the framework of the UN's high-level dialogue on international immigration and development, stressing that if immigration is handled appropriately and effectively it will have a positive impact for both the country of destination and the country of origin.

    Valinakis stressed the importance of such a dialogue, reminding that it was during the Greek European Union Presidency that the Council had adopted for the first time (in May 2003) conclusions on immigration and development, including a series of specific measures.

    The deputy foreign minister further stressed the need for the recognition and tackling of the causes of immigration and the development of cooperation with Third World countries to curb poverty and for good governance and human rights protection.

    Valinakis pointed out that illegal immigration has taken on "great and uncontrollable dimensions" and that it is a matter of "top priority" for the Greek government, pointing to the fact that the length of the Greek coast exceeds 16,000 kilometers.

    He and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will be participating in the UN General Assembly's 61st session and will be having a series of contacts with ministers, deputy ministers and representatives of the international organization’s member-states.

    [09] Deputy FM Yiannis Valinakis gives interview to Greek community newspaper in U.S.

    NEW YORK, 18/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis, speaking in an interview with the Greek community newspaper "Ethnikos Kyrikas" (National Herald) over the weekend, said that "it is a mistake if Turkey is facing the European Union with bazaar terms, particularly oriental ones."

    Valinakis also said that "Greece has encouraged with sincerity the European adjustment of Turkey. And this is a strategic option and not a 'circumstantial suit'. But, from the very beginning, we declared that our target is the European transformation of the neighboring country. This does not only apply to Turkey. Its accession to European structures has functioned beneficially for all the countries that pursued and achieved it. And this is so because the EU has been built on specific principles and values: Democracy, a state of law, respect for human rights, commitment for cooperation and relations of good neighborliness. Whatever country has European ambitions is obliged to adjust absolutely to the criteria and the prerequisites that the EU has set."

    The deputy foreign minister further said that "Turkey is already faced with a specific framework of decisions and options. It must change its attitude because, otherwise, it will have the consequences to face."

    Replying to a question on the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Valinakis said that "the negotiations that, as it is known, have been taking place for a long time between Greece and FYROM, concern the issue of the neighboring country's international name. This is the object of negotiating and not the way with which Greece will call FYROM at a bilateral level. We hope that the new government of FYROM will show the necessary spirit of cooperation to enable a mutually acceptable solution to be found."

    Valinakis, who is in New York accompanying Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis for the sessions of the 61st UN General Assembly and for the Greek Security Council Presidency, will be holding a series of contacts at the UN's headquarters and will be participating in multipartite meetings on the promotion of democracy, human rights and inter-cultural dialogue.

    [10] FM spokesman on Erdogan's statements

    NEW YORK, 18/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Greek Foreign Ministry Spokesman George Koumoutsakos on Sunday said that Turkey, as any other European Union candidate country, has a standing obligation to fulfill its commitments.

    "Turkey, as any other candidate country, has undertaken the obligation to fulfill specific conditions and commitments towards the European Union. This obligation is a lasting one and it stands by itself. It is not linked to, nor of course can it offset anything else, which is alien to the process of Turkey's European adaptation," Koumoutsakos said in reply to a question by ANA-MPA on Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's statements.

    According to an AFP dispatch from Istanbul Saturday, Erdogan called on Greece to respect the Greek Moslem minority's rights in the process of electing its religious leader in Western Thrace and referred to reprisals on the part of Ankara in the opposite case.

    "In any event," Koumoutsakos went on, "one thing should be absolutely clear: equality before the law and the state, which Greece firmly applies for all is citizens without discrimination, can not be used by Turkey in its search for alibis for its observed fatigue in reforms."

    Koumoutsakos accompanies Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis in York for the UN's 61st general assembly sessions.

    [11] Culture Minister George Voulgarakis to visit New York

    NEW YORK, 18/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Culture Minister George Voulgarakis is expected to arrive here over the weekend to attend the inauguration of an exhibition at the building housing the UN General Assembly.

    The exhibition will be inaugurated at 7.30 p.m. on Tuesday in the presence of the minister, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

    During his stay here, the culture minister will be meeting Archbishop of America Demetrios and will be attending a luncheon given in his honor by the Pancretian Union of America, while he will also be visiting Yale University for a meeting with the heads of the Greek Program and Greek students.

    Voulgarakis will also be attending a performance of "The Persians" by Aeschylus, by the Greek National Theatre at the City Center in Manhattan on Wednesday.

    [12] U.S. State Department report ascertains improvements in religious freedoms in Greece

    WASHINGTON, 15/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    This year's report by the U.S. State Department on religious freedoms ascertains improvements in Greece.

    The chapter referring to Greece says that the constitution establishes the Greek Orthodox Church as the prevailing religion, but at the same time it protects the right of every citizen to choose his religion.

    It adds, however, that although the government respects this right in general, non-Orthodox religious groups are sometimes faced with administrative obstacles or legal restrictions in exercising their worshipping.

    Improvements taking place in the past year regarding respect for religious freedoms are pointed out, while it is underlined that the Greek government enacted a law permitting the cremation of the dead and ratified a law abolishing the obligation of local bishops to issue licenses for the founding of places of worship by other religions or denominations.

    [13] U.S. State Department disappointed that Halki School of Theology not reopening

    WASHINGTON, 15/9/2006 (ANA-MPA - T. Ellis)

    The U.S. State Department has expressed disappointment because American officials are obliged to continuously address the issue of the Halki School of Theology not reopening.

    The State Department official responsible for the issue of religious freedoms, ambassador John Hanford, spoke of his personal disappointment during a briefing following the publication of the State Department's annual report.

    Replying to a question on whether progress has been achieved regarding issues of religious freedom in Turkey and the question of Halki in particular, Hanford said that he and other American diplomats have had contacts with the Turkish authorities on this issue and feels disappointed over the lack of progress, while he believes that the School of Theology is in a position to reopen in a matter of days.

    [14] Cyprus House president in Thessaloniki, meets Papandreou

    THESSALONIKI, 18/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The Cyprus House of Representatives President Demetris Christofias on Sunday called on the European Union to "honor the principles on which it is based and oblige Turkey, at the present phase, to implement its commitments towards the Republic of Cyprus."

    Christofias was addressing an event at the Kalamaria municipality, Thessaloniki, on the 1974 Cyprus tragedy.

    "With the publication of the report on Turkey's progress at the end of October, the big powers of the European Union will show whether they still have the strength to resist to pressures by the well known allies of Turkey aiming at letting this country continue its European course without fulfilling the terms which have been set for her," Christofias said.

    On Saturday evening, Christofias had a meeting with main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader and Socialist International President George Papandreou.

    The Cyprus House speaker was in Greece where on Saturday he was present at the unveiling of a monument at Vergina, Imathia, dedicated to the missing persons of the Cyprus tragedy.

    [15] Ecumenical Patriarch profoundly saddened over course of relations between Christianity and Islam

    ISTANBUL, 18/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    An announcement issued by the Fanar on Saturday said that "the course of relations between Christianity and Islam, that has been preoccupying world public opinion in the past days, is causing profound sadness for Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos."

    It added that "at a time when humanity is being faced with so many dangers, while in parallel it has so many possibilities of cooperation and common values, particularly between the three monotheistic religions, it is essential that we avoid situations that might harm the beliefs of each other and not displease each other, showing the necessary sensitivity and care with determination."

    The announcement concluded by saying that "today, dialogue is more important, useful and necessary in relation to the past. For this reason, our aim and our only direction must be sincere dialogue that is based on tolerance."

    [16] Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos visits Kazakhstan

    ALMA ALTI, 18/9/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    Visiting Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos held a private meeting with the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev on Saturday at the newly-built presidential mansion in Astana.

    The Patriarch visited this country in central Asia to address the second conference of the leaders of global religions, organized in Kazakhstan.

    Speaking to representatives of the Greek Orthodox Youth in the country, with whom he met during his visit, the Patriarch said "love Greece and the Greek language and Orthodoxy", encouraging them "to go to Greece as often as you can so as to have all the blessings of God and to try and learn Greek which is a very rich and difficult language."

    [17] Government spokesman praises late Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci

    18/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Saturday praised Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, who died earlier in the week at the age of 77.

    "Oriana Fallaci succeeded during her life in becoming a symbol of the journalistic profession and of the movement for women's rights," the spokesman said.

    Focusing on her indomitable commitment to defending values and ideals, Roussopoulos said that "Greek women and men honor Fallaci, a strong voice in support of democracy in difficult times for the country", adding that "it is certain that the deposit of her life and work will be continued by the journalists and active citizens of the present and the future."

    [18] Deputy FM Stylianidis on Greece's new energy role

    18/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Deputy foreign minister Evrypides Stylianidis outlined the new energy role Greece has started to play, at the crossroads of the natural gas and oil pipelines in northern Greece, and also spoke on the alliances with difficult countries such as Turkey and Albania and on the diversification of the country's energy supply so as not to be dependent on only one country, in the insert 'Economy' appearing in the Sunday edition of Eleftherotypia newspaper.

    "Our central goal is to transform Greece from an energy-consuming country into an energy transit and production country," Stylianidis said, adding that Greece must be a player in the energy field and not in the stands.

    On the Baku-Tbilisi-Karacabey-Komotini-Italy natural gas pipeline, he said that for the first time such an important field of joint economic interests was being created, with the creation of pressure groups of significant economic and political influence which had more reasons to work for stability rather than conflict.

    he said a common field of interests was also created by the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline between Greece, Bulgaria and Russia. This pipeline, Stylianidis said, was upgrade the region geostrategicaly and 'shield' Thrace.

    [19] Turkish delegation visiting Samos calls for strengthening of business relations

    18/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    A large Turkish business delegation from the Industries Union of the region of the Aegean and local authorities and businessmen from the Aegean island of Samos discussed such issues as visas, the abolition of the 70-pound tax paid by Turkish tourists, cooperation at Intereg III level, the abolition of port tax and business relations concerning the purchase of Turkish products in talks between the two sides.

    The Turkish mission, headed by the Greek consul in Izmir, George Katopodos, arrived on the island on Friday and had a series of contacts with the president of the Samos Chamber of Commerce, businessmen, trade agencies and the Prefectural Tourist Promotion Committee.

    The Turkish delegation will leave for Kusadasi, in Turkey, on Sunday afternoon, while on the sidelines of talks they will have the opportunity of visiting archaeological sites.

    [20] President inaugurates 35th Book Festival

    ATHENS, 18/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias inaugurated the 35th Book Festival on Saturday evening, which will run through October 1 at the Dionissiou Areopagitou pedestrian walk in Athens.

    Papoulias expressed pleasure at opening the annual Book Festival again this year, stressing that the book was a path of creative restlessness and fruitful questioning that cultivated critical thought and substantive quest. "A pat which, when we follow it, we discover the beauty of thought, knowledge and the language," he said.

    Papoulias also spoke of Greece's late Nobel poetry laureate Odysseas Elytis, in whose memory this year's Book Festival is dedicated, saying that Elytis had been one of the most important Greek literaries, whose poetry brought an aura of daring and light.

    "From within his works, we discover the magic of the Greek language," Papoulias said, adding that Elytis' works highlighted the miracle of the Greek language.

    Deputy foreign minister Theodoros Kassimis, who was also present at the inauguration, and Papoulias toured the exhibition, where some 250 publishing houses are displaying their Greek and foreign publications.

    [21] Police arrest three drug traffickers in Athens

    ATHENS, 18/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Police have arrested three drug traffickers after they attempted to smuggle a large quantity of cocaine out of Eleftherios Venizelos airport in Athens.

    The three people arrested were a 25-year-old woman from Lithuania and two men, a 49-year-old Greek and a 30-year-old Nigerian.

    According to the police, the woman had set out from Caracas, Venezuela, and arrived in Greece, via Frankfurt airport, carrying 1,774 grams of cocaine in her suitcase, that had been concealed in the lining of the suitcase.

    The woman had met the Greek at the airport, with whose help she was to pass on the suitcase to the Nigerian to sell the drug in the country.


    [22] Greek superleague results

    ATHENS, 18/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Olympiakos Piraeus, last season's champions, retained its position atop the superleague standings after four weeks of play after beating OFI Crete 2-1 away on Sunday.

    In other action:

    Aris Thessaloniki - Ionikos Piraeus 1-0

    PAOK Thessaloniki - Ergotelis Crete 1-0

    Kerkyra - Atromitos Athens 1-0

    Larissa - Egaleo Athens 2-2

    Apollon Kalamaria â€" Xanthi 2-0

    Panionios Athens - Panathinaikos Athens 0-1

    AEK Athens - Iraklis Thessaloniki

    (Match to be played on Monday)

    Standings after four weeks of play:

    Olympiakos 12 points

    Panathinaikos 9

    Kerkyra 8

    PAOK 7

    Ionikos 7

    Aris 6

    Larissa 6

    Ergotelis 5

    OFI 5

    Egaleo 5

    AEK (3 games) 3

    Apollon 3

    Atromitos 2

    Iraklis (3 games) 1

    Xanthi 1

    Panionios 1

    [23] Cypriot President Papadopoulos to meet UN SG Kofi Annan

    NEW YORK, 18/9/2006 (ANA/MPA/CNA)

    Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos said the main issue of discussion at the meeting with Secretary General Kofi Annan on Tuesday will be the implementation of the July 8 agreement between himself and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.

    Papadopoulos who arrived on Saturday in New York to address the United Nations General Assembly, said ''Annan had exhibited particular interest for the preparation of the July 8 meeting which essentially implemented all agreed in Paris last February''.

    President Papadopoulos and Talat agreed on July 8th 2006, during a meeting 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.

    President Papadopoulos expressed certainty that Annan "will want to be briefed about the perspectives which in my opinion exist. I do not know if this will be the last meeting. If there is progress no one can exclude a new meeting with the Secretary General. I mean if there is progress in the implementation of the July 8 agreement. Just as UN Undersecretary General for political affairs Ibrahim Gambari helped in making the agreement, surely he will have a particular interest to see the implementation of the agreement which was achieved in his presence'', Papadopoulos pointed out.

    To a question that following leaks in the Turkish press that after UN Secretary General's Special Representative in Cyprus Michael Moller had submitted proposals to the parties regarding the work of the technical committees, the procedure has changed in such a way that prospects are indeed created, President Papadopoulos clarified that in the 17 meetings with Moller and in the remaining direct meetings ''ideas are exchanged, thoughts are made, each side is sounded out".

    "That is exactly what occurred at the last meeting before the talks were interrupted", he noted adding that "we had said from the beginning that we are not willing to be involved in a so-called 'blame game'''.

    ''That is why you should have noticed by now that despite what the Turkish side is saying, either it makes accusations or accuses us of delaying tactics, we will not answer or be involved in this game", the president stressed.

    The fact is, President Papadopoulos said, "that the implementation of the agreement to set up and operate the technical committees which will prepare the issues which we consider issues of substance has been not been achieved".

    ''Nor of course committees have been set up for discussion of issues that affect the day to day life of the people, as it is said, since the July 8 agreement provides that work in the two fields should be carried in parallel", the president added.

    President Papadopoulos pointed out that is not possible for anyone to hope for the resumption of substantive talks if the issues are not well prepared. ''So, if the committees are not formed to properly prepare the issues in order to hold substantial talks, then the negotiations will not proceed, and this is an implicit development'', he added.

    He pointed out that if he is to meet with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat without good preparation, what will follow in a few weeks is the complete collapse of the talks, something which may favor the Turks who want to show that the Cyprus problem can only be solved with the creation of two separate states.

    Regarding Turkey' s EU bid, President Papadopoulos said ''Turkey has an obligation to implement the commitments it has undertaken towards Europe, and these commitments are irrelevant with the Cyprus issue''.

    Papadopoulos reminded that the Cypriot government has exhibited flexibility and this was proven with its well known proposal for the opening of Famagusta Port under EU administration.

    He pointed out that this will have to be connected with the return of the fenced-off area of Famagusta and with the statement for an end to the embezzlement of Greek-Cypriot properties in the Turkish occupied north of Cyprus.

    ''This proposal with details, was submitted in writing, first under the Luxembourg Presidency, later under Austria's Presidency and with the agreement that what was promoted by Austria would bind the Finnish Presidency as well as the German presidency. We insist on this proposal'', President Papadopoulos concluded.

    On Monday, the Cypriot President will attend a lunch hosted by Kofi Annan for heads of state or government and will meet the UN SG on Tuesday morning.

    The president will also meet UN Security Council members and as well as head of state or government and will give a press conference at the UN headquarters.

    He will also give a speech at the New York University and will also meet the leadership of overseas Cypriots. The president is accompanied by Foreign Minister George Lillikas who was due in New York late Sunday.

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