|Thursday, 17 October 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-11-10
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>November 10, 2006
 Karamanlis addresses EPP-Orthodox Churches 10th Dialogue in Bratislava
BRATISLAVA, 10/11/2006 (ANA-MPA)"Respect and full implementation of the criteria and requirements set out by the EU on the part of all countries wishing to accede the Union is non-negotiable," Greece's prime minister Costas Karamanlis stressed on Thursday during a keynote address at the opening session of the 10th Dialogue between the Orthodox Churches and the European People's Party (EPP-ED) grouping of the European Parliament.
The EPP-Orthodox Churches 10th Dialogue convened in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava.
In a message clearly directed at Turkey, Karamanlis added that "respect of International Law, the inviolability of national borders, the resolution of differences through peaceful means, regional cooperation, and good-neighborly relations comprise principles of vital importance".
"These principles comprise the very foundations of the EU, and full conformity with them is a condition for accession," he stressed.
Regarding the EPP-Orthodox Church Dialogue, Karamanlis said political and religious leaders have a common goal to achieve, that of "advancing the peaceful co-existence and conciliation among cultures and religious convictions and, above all, to ensure peace and prosperity for our peoples"
He explained that one of Greece's fundamental priorities in efforts to ensure peace, stability and prosperity in Southeastern Europe was its backing for the EU accession of the region's countries.
Greece, he said, was playing a primary role -- aiding all the countries of the region in their efforts to attain that goal -- both at bilateral level and through active participation in all the efforts of the international community. This, he added, was the "biggest strategic challenge": To ensure political and economic stability in our neighborhood and irreversibly transform it.
He recalled that the 2003 Thessaloniki Declaration had comprised an important step in this direction, but explained that the speed with which the relevant procedures will proceed depended on each individual country of the region.
Karamanlis further noted that, with the increase of the Orthodox population in the EU resulting from the Union's recent enlargement, this Dialogue was acquiring increasing significance, given not only the imminent accession by Bulgaria and Romania, but also the future accession of other countries from SE Europe, "since the inter-relationship between religion and politics, in this region, has historically been very intense".
The Greek premier noted that when this initiative first commenced 10 years ago, it was impossible for one to imagine how timely this Dialogue would prove to be today, adding that it was "a dialogue that advances understanding among different religions and doctrines, which gives us citizens the opportunity to lend an open ear to the religious communities on a series of timely issues facing our societies today".
The 10th dialogue between the Orthodox Churches and the EPP-ED Group, which closes on Friday, will focus on the interaction between politics and religion in South-East Europe, the role which religious communities can play in bringing countries in the Western Balkans into the European mosaic.
The meeting is being chaired by Alojz Peterle MEP, EPP-ED Group Co-ordinator for Dialogue with the Orthodox Church, and was opened by Metropolitan Chrystof of the Czech Lands and Slovakia.
Other keynote addresses were given by Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader and EPP-ED Group chairman Hans-Gert Poettering (MEP).
The 10th dialogue is thematically divided into three sessions: a) Thessaloniki process: progress reports from Croatia and Serbia; b) Thessaloniki Process: Embracing the Peoples of the Western Balkans in the European Mosaic, and c) The lesser-known Europeans: Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine.
Karamanlis later met with Sanader and former Slovakian prime minister Mikulas Dzurinda on the sidelines of the conference in Bratislava.
In statements afterwards, Karamanlis referred directly to the significance of the EPP-Orthodox Dialogue as well as to the European prospects of Balkan states, as well as of Croatia, prospects he said are continuously and responsibly supported by Greece.
Asked about an upcoming visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul by Pope Benedict XVI, the Greek prime minister said it was "the international community's obligation to help the Patriarchate fulfill its ecumenical role".
Moreover, in his message to the conference, Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos stressed that the "Patriarchate faces obstacles in its efforts for religious freedom ... I hope that we will be given the opportunity to fully enjoy our rights, just as every citizen of Turkey."
Amongst the conclusions of the conference is a call on Ankara to allow the reopening of the Halki theological seminary and to return the property belonging to Christian communities on the islands of Imvros and Tenedos.
 PM says reforms will continue, rules out early elections
BRATISLAVA, 11/10/2006 (ANA-MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis indicated on Thursday that he is determined to go ahead with reforms, but with prudence, and dissociated the issue from the time of holding general elections.
Speaking to reporters here, the prime minister pointed out that "he does not see the reason for early elections" and noted that reforms will not slow down.
"Sixteen months are left until the elections. We always made reforms carefully. With prudence and with the widest possible consent. Everything takes place in a prudent way. In politics this does no harm. It benefits. Reformist policy is acceptable by the people. It is a social necessity. The conventional logic that we slow down before the elections does not hold. Reforms are not linked to elections," the prime minister said.
Karamanlis ruled out the possibility of early elections and stressed that "I do not see why we should have early elections. We shall not slow down reforms. We shall continue our policy at the same rate. The citizens want the reforms. When there is the feeling that things are moving faster, it is understood by all. It is also reflected in opinion polls. In municipal elections, I believe and indeed I said this from the first day, criteria as to how one votes are many and different. But whatever political criteria one sees, it is not deduced that some kind of dissatisfaction for our policy was expressed. We shall continue, therefore, without losing the momentum. A year and a half is a long time."
Referring to benefits, the prime minister said that "the country does not have the luxury of an extravagant policy, as was the case in the past. I reject the policy of 'we are getting out of (EU) supervision and so come on boys I am handing out thoughtlessly'. It will be a national drama."
On the question of Turkey, Karamanlis said "it is difficult for one to predict what will happen. Europe always finds a way out. The finding of a common policy is more difficult in the Europe of the '25' than in the Europe of the '15'. We are expecting the proposal by the European Commission shortly before the summit and it appears that the issue will be referred to the leaders."
As regards the results of elections in the United States, Karamanlis said that "the democratic system functions in America. Everything showed lately, as well as opinion polls, that this would be the result."
 Greek, Slovak FMs focus on trade ties, Kosovo
BRATISLAVA, 11/10/2006 (ANA-MPA)Boosting bilateral trade ties and the Kosovo issue dominated talks here on Thursday between Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and her visiting Slovak counterpart Jan Kubis.
Specifically, better promotion of Greek investments in the central European country and jumpstarting cooperation in the tourism sector were discussed, during a meeting that came a day after Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met with Slovak Premier Robert Fico in Bratislava.
In terms of Kosovo and ongoing discussions over the province's final status, Bakoyannis said both sides agreed over the need to avoid "hasty and forced" actions.
On his part, Kubis referred to the excellent cooperation with Athens within the EU, NATO and the UN Security Council, while noting that only the trade sector remains to be improved.
He also thanked Athens for opening up Greece's job market to Slovak citizens following the country's accession into the European Union.
Asked about a recent decision by Bratislava to remove its military forces from Iraq, he confirmed that the majority of troops will depart, save for a small contingent of officers assisting in various NATO duties and training exercises.
 FM Dora Bakoyannis and Moroccan counterpart discuss bilateral relations, Middle East
ATHENS, 11/10/2006 (ANA/MPA)Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and her Moroccan counter-part Mohamed Benhaissa discussed bilateral relations, developments in the Middle East and in the Mediterranean basin in general, as well as the course of Euro-Mediterranean cooperation in talks held in Athens on Thursday evening.
The two ministers, who had also met again recently at the ministerial meeting of the Euro-Mediterranean conference in Alicante, Spain, had the opportunity of referring to a series of issues of mutual concern, they ascertained the good level of political and economic relations and made a review of cooperation developing in the framework of Euro-Mediterranean cooperation, whose Presidency Greece will be exercising in 2007.
"We reached the conclusion that there are many possibilities to strengthen our relations further. As far as Greece is concerned, the Mediterranean is not the place separating us but the place uniting peoples and cultures," Bakoyannis said after meeting Benhaissa, for whom she hosted a dinner later on.
Bakoyannis expressed concern over the situation developing in the Middle East and stressed that Greece is watching the increase in clashes in Gaza with particular concern.
Lastly, she reiterated Greece's position that she had expressed during the exercising of the UN Security Council's Presidency, that the international community must make every effort for peace to be achieved in the region.
Benhaissa said on his part that he identifies himself fully with the views of his Greek counterpart, he thanked Greece which, being a member-state of the EU and exercising its duties at the Security Council Presidency, encouraged dialogue and cooperation with the countries of the Mediterranean and mentioned that it was agreed that the 6th meeting of the Joint Morocco-Greece Committee in early 2007, be held in Morocco. The two sides will previously convene a meeting between relevant experts to ensure the success of the meeting.
The Moroccan foreign minister also expressed hope that trade and economic relations between Greece and Morocco will be strengthened even more and mentioned that "the Euro-Mediterranean, as well as the mid-Mediterranean dialogue will forge ahead even more in 2007."
 New defense agreement signed by Greece and Serbia
BELGRADE, 11/10/2006 (ANA/MPA)Bilateral relations between Greece and Serbia and the situation in the wider region - focusing particularly on the Kosovo â€" dominated talks held by Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis in Belgrade on Thursday.
Meimarakis was formally received by his Serb counterpart Zoran Stankovic at Topcider military base in Belgrade.
Talks focused on bilateral defense cooperation while a new broader defense agreement was signed by the two sides.
Meimarakis stressed in a press conference that the new agreement gives special emphasis to military training and cooperation between training centers for peace operations in Belgrade, Serbia and Kilkis, Greece, while he assured his Serb counterpart that the Greek government supports Serbiaâ€™s Euro-Atlantic prospect.
On his part, Stankovic thanked the Greek minister for the support and revealed that Greece will back Serbiaâ€™s accession into the NATO Partnership for Peace initiative in the imminent NATO summit to take place in Riga, Latvia in late November.
Kosovo was the dominant issue at the meeting Meimarakis had with Serb Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, who reiterated that his country cannot accept a solution that will not respect its sovereign rights in the region.
The Greek minister pointed out the need for a mutually acceptable solution soon, stating that a likely extension of uncertainty would have a negative effect on stability in the wider region.
Meimarakis wrapped up his contacts in Belgrade by meeting Serb Patriarch Pavle. The head of the Serb Orthodox Church referred to the historical ties shared by the two peoples and thanked the Greeks for their support to the Serbs.
Before leaving the Serb capital, Meimarakis visited the newly built St. Sava Cathedral, the largest Orthodox Christian church in the Balkans.
 FM again dismisses comment over 'Turkish minority'
ATHENS, 11/10/2006 (ANA/MPA)Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Thursday was again asked to comment on press reports citing a reference by a US diplomat here last week to a so-called "Turkish minority" in the Thrace province, hours after she received US ambassador to Athens Charles Ries at the foreign ministry.
In response to press questions, Bakoyannis merely noted that "we do not have the same opinion on this issue with the United States."
Speaking after a meeting with visiting Slovak Foreign Minister Jan Kubius, the Greek FM added that Athens' position was once again clearly articulated to the US envoy.
"Greece has recognized a minority based on the (1923) Treaty of Lausanne, which is none other than the Muslim minority of Thrace. Of course, in Greece the right to (individual) self-determination exists, it's a personal liberty enjoyed by all Greek citizens. Greece is a European country where all human rights are in force. In the Thrace region, moreover, equality and equality before the law are entrenched concepts," she said, echoing repeated statements this week by Greek foreign ministry officials vis-Ă -vis the "Turkish minority" quip by a US embassy diplomat last week.
PASOK party official comments on U.S. views on minorities, EU report on Turkey: Main opposition PASOK party foreign policy sector chief Christos Papoutsis, referring on Thursday to statements by U.S. officials on the Moslem minority in Thrace, said that "Greece is a law-abiding state with a strong democratic form of government and institutions that guarantee the rights of all citizens, including those of the Moslem minorities living in Thrace, the only minorities recognized by international legal order and the Lausanne Treaty."
He added that "apart from that, whatever other interpretations from wherever they may come must be replied to with a strong and clear message from the Greek government. Greece will not tolerate whatever distortion of international legality."
Also referring to reactions concerning the European Commission's report on Turkey, Papoutsis said that "we appreciate that the European Commission's report is a text having considerable political value. Of course, the decisions will be taken at the summit in December, but until then I think that the message to Turkey is clear."
 Turkey always desires good neighborly relations with Greece, Turkish foreign ministry spokesman says
ISTANBUL, 10/11/2006 (ANA-MPA)Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Namik Tan said on Thursday that Turkey always desires to maintain good neighborly relations with Greece and that it wishes to resolve its disagreements with Greece through dialogue.
Asked whether there will be new developments on the issue of Turkey's demand of compensation from Greece over the collision of the Turkish and Greek warplanes over the Aegean in May, following the visit to Greece by Turkish National Defense General Staff chief Yasar Buyukanit, Tan said that "work is continuing on this issue and when the time comes a necessary announcement will be made for the public."
The spokesman further said that, following a more constructive view, the sides will promote their relations and will take the measures that will ensure that such problems will not arise.
"The visit by general Buyukanit was a step in this direction and we are pleased for this," Tan concluded.
 AHEPA delegation meets with President Papoulias and Parliament President Psarouda-Benaki
ATHENS, 11/10/2006 (ANA/MPA)Hellenic Republic President Karolos Papoulias on Thursday met with a visiting delegation of the AHEPA Greek American organization and expressed satisfaction for the success of Greek American candidates in the recent US midterm elections.
Meanwhile, Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki also met with the AHEPA supreme president heading an eight-member delegation.
The AHEPANS formally announced to the Parliament President that their Supreme Convention in 2008 will be held in Greece for the first time after 40 years and requested the parliamentâ€™s cooperation in this endeavor.
The Parliament President stated that the Hellenic Parliament is firmly on the side of the Greek Americans who contribute in a meaningful manner to the projection and promotion of issues of Greek national interest. She also invited the delegation to visit the exhibition on the Greek Diaspora to be inaugurated next month in the parliament building.
The delegation later had a meeting with Greek agriculture minister Evangelos Basiakos and exchanged views on Greek-American trade ties, especially the export of brand-name quality products to markets in the U.S., Canada and Australia.
 FM has meetings with US ambassador, AHEPA presidium
ATHENS, 11/10/2006 (ANA/MPA)Foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis met separately on Thursday with US ambassador to Greece Charles Ries, and with the visiting presidium of the Hellenic American Educational and Progressive Association (AHEPA).
No statements were made after the meetings.
During the meeting with Ries, held at the ambassador's request in view of his imminent departure for Washington, the discussion covered the entire spectrum of Greek-US relations.
Immediately afterwards, Bakoyannis met with the AHEPA presidium headed by the Greek-American organizationâ€™s Supreme President Gus J. James.
 Ruling ND maintains 4 point lead over PASOK in opinion poll
ATHENS, 11/10/2006 (ANA/MPA)The ruling New Democracy party (ND) maintains a 4 percentage point lead over main opposition PASOK party, according to the results of a monthly political "barometer" opinion poll conducted by VPRC on behalf of SKAI private television and radio station which was released on Thursday.
With respect to voter intent -- what party the respondent would vote for if general elections were held today -- ND amassed 42.5 percent of the respondents' preference, against 38.5 percent for PASOK, 8.0 percent for the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), 4.5 percent for the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN), and 4.0 percent for the Popular Orthodox Rally party (LAOS).
To a question on which party emerged with gains from the recent local government (municipal/prefectural) elections, 40 percent believe that the government emerged the winner, 16 percent said PASOK, while 21 percent said "neither of the two mainstream parties".
Prime minister Costas Karamanlis also maintained a wide 25 percentage point lead over PASOK leader George Papandreou in a question on who was the most suitable for prime minister, with 47 percent of the respondents preferring Karamanlis against 22 percent for Papandreou.
In October's monthly barometer by VPRC on behalf of SKAI, held in the final campaign week before the local government elections, ND posted a 4 percentage point lead over PASOK with respect to voter intent, with the ruling party amassing 42.5 percent of the respondents' preference, followed by PASOK with 38.5 percent, the KKE with 8.0 percent, SYN with 4.0 percent, and LAOS also with 4.0 percent.
Regarding who was the most suitable for prime minister, Karamanlis posted a 30 percentage point lead over Papandreou, with 54 percent of the respondents' vote against 24 percent for Papandreou in the October opinion poll.
 Government on court ruling for higher salaries to judiciary
ATHENS, 11/10/2006 (ANA/MPA)The government on Thursday stressed that the economy could ill withstand moves that "affect the balance of our economic policy" when asked to comment on a preliminary court ruling on Wednesday that granted a significantly higher salary to a judge in the administrative appeals court.
"As a rule, the government does not comment on court decisions, except for the aspects that concern it, since it is responsible for dealing with the problems of the economy. The present conjuncture cannot withstand moves that affect the balances of economic policy we are following, in order to emerge from the difficult situation that we received and are handling," alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros told reporters.
He said the government intended to "carefully study all aspects of the issue".
Supreme Court President Romilos Kedikoglou said the preliminary ruling had only examined the legal aspects of the case - namely that the salaries of civil service officials could not be higher than those of the presidents of higher-level courts - and had referred the adjudication of the actual sums to the courts responsible.
"The real difference in earnings of each judicial official that will arise will not exceed 15-25%, while payment of this sum will be made after the passage of several years, so that the state budget will not be immediately affected," he said.
The issue was also raised in Parliament on Thursday, where Parliament Vice-President Ioannis Tragakis said that the court ruling only applied once and only for those who had filed a suit in court. He had been asked whether the ruling might lead to an increase in salaries for MPs via the Supreme Court president, whose salary was linked to that of MPs.
In its preliminary ruling on Wednesday, a specialized salary court accepted a suit filed by Administrative Courts appeals judge Georgia Pavlopoulou, who sought a salary increase of 250,240.87 euros for the years 2000-2005 and compensation of 5,000 euros for failure to increase her salary over that time.
Justifying its decision, the court found that the salaries of higher court presidents in Greece (Supreme Court, Council of State and Audit Council) had to be equivalent with the salary earned by the president of the Telecommunications Commission, citing relevant articles in the Greek Constitution which stipulate that the income of judges must be clearly distinguished and higher than those of functionaries or employees in the other two branches of government, "without exception or deviation".
The case was referred to an Athens Administrative First-Instance Court, which has the task of deciding the amount of Pavlopoulou's salary increase.
PASOK party leader calls on senior judges to abandon demands for pay hikes: Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou criticized the government in Parliament on Thursday, while calling on senior judges to abandon their demands for increases in their salaries.
Speaking during a discussion on the ratification of the account and balance sheet for the fiscal year 2004, Papandreou accused the government of lack of transparency, reliability and social sensitivity.
Deputy Finance Minister Petros Doukas, replying to Papandreou, said that the Greek people "are paying for the sins and practices of the PASOK government."
Papandreou placed emphasis on the issue of the audit of state books, terming it "false", adding that "we will be paying for it for a long time, whether we are inside or outside supervision, for which the New Democracy government is exclusively responsible."
The PASOK party leader further said that "soon, in the upcoming elections, to which the ND government wants to go with a new round of promises, the Greek people will condemn its irresponsible and socially unfair policy."
Papandreou also referred to the issue of the naturalization of people from Northern Epirus, saying that PASOK agrees in principle since, as he said, it was a proposal which the party itself had made in the past and ND had not accepted at the time. He added, however, that his party will be watching the process closely and will not be allowing partisan games to take place in light of elections.
 Municipalities union seeks more funds for local government; Minister reacts
ATHENS, 11/10/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE) on Thursday charged that the government was failing to cover its obligations to fund local government from the state budget, in spite of repeated promises by ministers and the premier.
Replying to the union's complaints, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos attributed them to upcoming elections for a new KEDKE leadership and rejected the "unacceptable and unfair attack" against him.
According to KEDKE, the government had not yet fulfilled a pledge to cover the cost of giving permanent jobs to contract workers, such as school guards and staff in the "Help at Home" program.
"The government covered and is covering the cost of school guards and people with special needs working in local government until the end of the current year, in all municipalities that carried out the required procedures," Pavlopoulos replied. He also noted that the neglected "Help at Home" program had been given a new lease of life with EU funds until July 2007.
The union additionally slammed the government for failing to initiate a process to return funds withheld from municipal authorities in past years, which according to its calculations come to â‚¬2.6 billion in total (â‚¬2.0 billion from 1989-2003 and â‚¬582 million for 2004-2006). The State General Accounting Office, by contrast, places the figure at â‚¬1.7 billion and just for the period 1989-2003.
KEDKE demanded that the 2007 budget include additional sums to cover the cost of new areas of responsibility transferred to local government, the operating costs of municipal police, part-time employees and operation of Citizens' Service Centers as in 2006 and immediate payment of funds withheld from local government, among others.
Regarding the demand for the return of withheld funds, Pavlopoulos said the present government had paid established funds due to local government to the last penny, set up the "Theseus" developmental program and drafted one of the most modern codes for local government in existence.
"It is strange, to say the least, that those who for years made not the slightest complaint when funds due to local authorities were being withheld by PASOK governments should now protest because these funds are not immediately paid by the present government, which since taking over had paid the funds due in full and has done so much for local government," he added.
 Coalition party officials call for National Foreign Policy Council meeting
ATHENS, 11/10/2006 (ANA/MPA)Former Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party leader and member of the National Foreign Policy Council Nikos Constantopoulos and Panos Trigazis, a member of the party's Political Bureau, have addressed a letter to Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, calling for a meeting of the National Foreign Policy Council.
The reason for the meeting is to discuss latest developments in the region, particularly relations between Europe and Turkey and the issue of Cyprus, the Coalition officials stressed in their letter.
 Dep. FM Kassisis meets with Greek-Americans of Houston
HOUSTON, 10/11/2006 (ANA-MPA)Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis continued his tour of Greek-American communities in the United States this week by visiting Houston, Texas, home to roughly 30,000 expatriates.
Kassimis held meetings at the Greek consulate of Houston with representatives of Greek-American associations and the Greek school of Houston's principals.
The deputy minister also visited Rice University, one of the most prestigious liberal arts universities (private) in the United States, as the school has up to 15 professors of Greek descent in its faculty. The university also features one of the best classical studies departments in America.
Kassimis also met with Archimandrite Gabriel Katsabis.
The next stop of Kassimis' tour will be Tampa, Florida, home to a sizable Greek-American community.
 New Hungarian ambassador to Greece presents credentials
ATHENS, 11/10/2006 (ANA/MPA)New Hungarian Ambassador to Greece JĂłzsef TĂłth presented his credentials to President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.
According to an embassy press release, Ambassadort TĂłth, having graduated from the Faculty of International Affairs at the University of Economics in Budapest, entered the foreign service as a specialist working on the German and Austrian Desks. After a brief foreign assignment to West-Berlin, he had two increasingly important postings first in London then in Washington, D.C. the latter as Deputy Chief of Mission.
From 2003 till his present assignment he was the Head of the I. EU Bilateral Department, responsible for Hungaryâ€™s bilateral relations with 20 European countries.
During a press conference, held at the Hungarian Embassy, the new ambassador referred to his "aspirations to further developing the fruitful cooperation" between Greece and Hungary.
"Greece and Hungary, both members of EU and NATO, are similar in size and occupy a strategic position. There is great potential in their political and economic cooperation, be it in the field of energy security or immigration, the Western Balkans or the further development of the EU ," TĂłth said.
 Japanese envoy meets Macedonia-Thrace minister
11/10/2006 (ANA/MPA)Japanese Ambassador to Greece Takanori Kitamura paid a courtesy visit to Macedonia-Thrace Minister George Kalantzis on Thursday.
Takanori Kitamura was accompanied by Japan's General Consul in Thessaloniki Dimitris Bakatselos.
 Greek gov't to hire three consultants for the privatization of Hellenic Telecoms
ATHENS, 11/10/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Greek government's inter-ministerial privatization commission on Thursday announced a decision to hire three consultants in the privatization of Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE).
Speaking to reporters, after the meeting with Labor Minister Savvas Tsitouridis, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and Transport and Communications Minister Mihalis Liapis, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said the privatizations special secretary would begin talks to select the three consultants in the next two weeks. The Greek minister said two consultants would be foreign firms and one from the domestic market.
The inter-ministerial commission for public enterprises and organizations, in a meeting before the privatizations commission including the same ministers, agreed to implement a new company charter in OTE after talks between workers and the management of the organization failed to reach a compromise deal. The new charter aims to make OTE more efficient in the framework of increasing competition in the telecommunications market. Alogoskoufis said the new charter would not affect workers hired by OTE by May 25, 2005.
 Interest in joint public, private sector ventures
ATHENS, 11/10/2006 (ANA/MPA)Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Thursday that proposals to the government for joint private and public sector ventures totaled 1.6 billion euros since the start of the scheme a year ago.
A ministerial committee handling the joint ventures has so far approved eight projects worth 800 million euros in education, premises for state services, the judiciary system, and conference tourism, Alogoskoufis told a European sector conference held in Athens.
In coming weeks, approval was expected for further projects in health, port infrastructure and sports facilities, he said.
Greece has undertaken three major projects under the joint venture system: the Attica ring road, Rio-Antirrio bridge and Athens International Airport.
Under a law passed in September 2005, small and medium-sized projects may be undertaken as joint private and public sector ventures, the minister added.
 Int'l tourism forum on Rhodes this month
11/10/2006 (ANA/MPA)The 2nd International Rhodes Tourism Forum opens on the eponymous holiday island on Friday, organized by the Dodecanese Chamber of Commerce, the Association for the Development and Progress of Dodecanese (ADEPDO), among others.
The two-day forum, entitled "Competitiveness Through Sustainability: Opportunities and Challenges for the Mediterranean Tourism Destinations", will focus on international trends and practices regarding competitiveness and balanced tourism development. Its program includes presentations by government officials, representatives of Greek and international tourism enterprises and academics.
The 2006 International RTF objective is to provide information concerning the trends and changes in the tourism market.
The Forum is organized under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Division of Technology, Industry and Economics. Official sponsors are the Ministry of Tourism, the Greek National Tourism Organization and the South Aegean Regional Authority.
The first day of the forum will close with the Royal Accommodation Awards for tourist businesses held under the auspices of the Prince of Denmark and the Prince of Spain. A total of 5 businesses selected out of a list of 60 candidates will receive prizes for adopting innovative and sustainable practices to boost their competitiveness.
The forum's opening will attend Tourism Minister Fani Palli-Petralia, Aegean and Island Policy Minister Aristotelis Pavlidis and Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis.
 Gov't backs Greek firms operating abroad
ATHENS, 11/10/2006 (ANA/MPA)The government has laid the foundation for growth in economic ties with Russia, China, India, Japan, and countries in the Balkans, central Europe, and Middle East, Deputy Foreign Minister Euripides Stylianidis said on Thursday.
"Local trade and economic representatives from embassies have clear-cut instructions to provide all possible assistance to Greek entrepreneurs operating abroad," Stylianidis, who handles economic diplomacy for the government, told a meeting of the Association of Retail Sales Companies of Greece.
A foreign ministry service was available to Greek investors and executives who wished to turn their company's sights outward and expand abroad, he added.
 Gov't: 2 sugar manufacturing plants switching to bio-ethanol units
11/10/2006 (ANA/MPA)The government on Thursday announced that construction to transform two sugar manufacturing units -- in Larissa and Xanthis -- into bio-ethanol plants will take anywhere from 18 to 24 months, with the workforce at the latter expected to be higher than the current staff
Speaking in Parliament, Deputy Agriculture Development Minister Alexandros Kontos said while the sugar units operated for three to four months a year, the bio-fuel units will operate year-round. Additionally, he briefed MPs that 120,000 tons of produced bio-ethanol requires roughly 300,000 tons of sugar beats, 53,000 tons of molasses and 266,000 tons of grains.
 Greek inflation rate slowed to 2.8 pct in October, yr/yr
ATHENS, 11/10/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece's annual inflation rate, measured by the consumer's price index, slowed to 2.8 pct in October from 2.9 pct in September and 3.8 pct in October 2005, the National Statistics Service said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in its monthly report, said fresh potatoes (39.4 pct), olive oil (13.2 pct), tobacco (12.3 pct) and fresh vegetables (11.9 pct) recorded the biggest percentage increases in October compared with the same month last year.
The average inflation rate in 2006 was 3.23 pct in October from 3.52 pct in the same month in 2005. Commenting on October figures, Manolis Kontopyrakis, NSS's secretary-general, said the average inflation rate would fall to 3.2 pct this year from 3.5 pct in 2005. He said he expected November figure to rise by 0.2 pct. Greece's harmonized inflation rate was 3.1 pct in October, unchanged from September, but down compared with a 3.7 pct figure in October 2005.
The core inflation rate was 2.4 pct in October, unchanged from September, but down from 2.9 pct in October 2005.
 Greek exports up 20.4 pct in September, yr/yr
ATHENS, 11/10/2006 (ANA/MPA)The value of Greek exports jumped 20.4 pct in September to 1.514 billion euros, from 1.258 billion euros in the same month last year, the National Statistics Service said on Thursday.
NSS, in its provisional figures for the country's trade balance, said the value of imports rose 7.3 pct in September to 4.514 billion euros from 4.205 billion euros last year.
 Cosmote Group reports significantly improved nine-month results
ATHENS, 11/10/2006 (ANA/MPA)Cosmote Group on Thursday said its nine-month turnover rose 26.2 percent, its EBITDA increased by 12.9 pct and net profits were up 7.3 pct, while its customer base totaled around 10 million euros, up 26.7 percent compared with the same period last year.
Cosmote said both its turnover and profits rose to record highs in the third quarter of 2006. More analytically, in Greece, Cosmote said it attracted 141,514 new customers in the nine-month period from January to September, its turnover rose 7.0 pct to 1.218 billion euros, its pre-tax, interest and amortization earnings (EBITDA) rose 7.2 pct to 526 million euros and its EBITDA margin rose to 43.2 pct in the nine-month period and to 46.2 pct in the third quarter. Net profits totaled 267.6 million euros, up 12.5 pct from the same period last year, while net profit margin rose to 22 pct.
Its customer base exceeded five million at the end of September, up 11 pct from the same month last year.
AMC, Albania: Its subsidiary in Albania reported 51,499 new customers by the end of September, up 18.2 pct, to 900,965 customers. EBITDA rose 6.2 pct, net profits rose 11.9 pct and the net profit margin rose to 32.7 pct in September from 31.5 pct in September 2005.
GLOBUL, Bulgaria: Globul reported a 25.9 pct increase in its nine-month turnover to 249 million euros. EBITDA margin jumped to 37 pct from 35.8 pct last year, while pre-tax, interest and amortization earnings totaled 92 million euros and net profits rose 21.6 pct to 26.5 million euros. Globul accounts for around 15 percent Cosmote Group's consolidated revenues and for around 10 pct in net profits.
COSMOFON, FYROM: Revenues jumped 37 pct in the January-September period to 39.5 million euros, its customer base rose 25.7 pct and its EBITDA margin rose to 29.5 pct in the third quarter from 14.5 pct in the second quarter and 20.4 pct in the third quarter 2005. Its customer base totaled 450,321.
COSMOTE, Romania: The company reported 138,066 net new connections in the third quarter, to a total of 669,685 customers, while its turnover totaled 26.5 million euros in the nine-month period. EBITDA rose 13 percent to -15.8 million euros.
Cosmote Group said investments totaled 293 million euros in the January-September period, while its net borrowing totaled 1.4 billion euros.
 2001 figures show average annual family income of 17,800 euros in Athens
ATHENS, 11/10/2006 (ANA/MPA)The average family in Athens, living in the north, east and southern suburbs of Greek capital, has an official annual income of 17,800 euros, while families living in western and southeastern Attica prefecture (the greater Athens area) and along the Athens-Halkida national road have an average income of around 15,700 euros. For the rest of Attica the average income is -- officially, at least -- 10,200 euros, a report by the Center of Programming and Economic Research (KEPE) said on Thursday.
The report, based on 2001 tax income returns, showed that private income accounted for 46.5 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product, while the average pre-tax income per tax income report was 12,300 euros.
The report stated that the average income in Thessaloniki and the main mining and electricity-production regions of the country (western Macedonia) was 14,100 and 14,700 euros, respectively, while the average income of families living in the Ionian islands, eastern Aegean, Crete and certain tourist places, was 15,700 euros.
In the remaining islands regions of southern Aegean, an average family's income was 9,400 euros, while in the remaining central Greece and northern Aegean islands the annual income was 8,700-8,900 euros. In central Macedonia the average was 8,300 euros and in eastern Macedonia-Thrace, western Macedonia, Thessaly, Epirus, western Greece and the Peloponnese it was 7,500-7,900 euros.
 Turkish business delegation to Greece
ATHENS, 11/10/2006 (ANA/MPA)A 25-member Turkish business delegation from the Denizli Chamber of Commerce visited Athens on Thursday, headed by its president, Mehmet Yuksel.
Accompanying the group was the Turkish embassy's commercial attachĂ©, Necmi Urgurlu.
Ioulia Tseti, head of the Athens Chamber of Trade and Industry's Turkey department, received the group, urging closer economic relations between the two countries, especially as their bilateral trade was rising continuously.
 Athens Bourse Close: Stocks rise
ATHENS, 11/10/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Athens share index closed at 4,215.40 points, showing a rise of 0.54%. Turnover was 334.1 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.50% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks 0.57% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.59% up.
Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 159 to 89 with 62 remaining unchanged.
Bond Market Close: 10-yr benchmark at 4.01 pct
Foreign Exchange Rates
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.289
 Scare in the air for Thai Airways passengers
ATHENS, 11/10/2006 (ANA/MPA)A Thai Airways International passenger plane en route to Athens from Bangkok had to carry out a precautionary emergency landing in a Turkmenistan airport on Thursday after an engine failure warning lit up on the cockpit instrument panel.
The Boeing 77-330, flight 946 was carrying 126 people on board, among them 86 Greeks, and was originally scheduled to land at Athensâ€™ â€śEleftherios Venizelosâ€ť International Airport at 6:15 am on Thursday.
Based on available information, the passenger plane took off as scheduled from Bangkok and, while it was in mid-flight, the captain saw an indication on the instrument panel warning of problems in one of its engines. Following procedure, he was allowed to land safely at Turkmenistanâ€™s Ashgabad airport to have the airplane checked.
The Thai Airways desk in Greece stated that the airplane was checked by Lufthansa technicians on the ground and the problem was fixed. The plane was allowed to take off shortly after 16:00 and is expected to arrive in Athens at about 20:30, delayed by approximately 14 hours.
 Greek ombudsman on official visit to Sofia
11/10/2006 (ANA/MPA)The effectiveness of the ombudsman institution in Greece is as high as 80 percent, resolving eight out of 10 disputes between citizens and authorities, Greek ombudsman Giorgos Kaminis said during comments in Sofia.
Greeceâ€™s ombudsman arrived in Sofia at the invitation of his Bulgarian counterpart Ginyo Ganev.
Kaminis referred to the principles and practical aspects of the institution, which currently serves some 10,000 local and foreign nationals on an annual basis. Disputes and problems mainly deal social insurances, taxation, town planning.
Kaminis, who assisted in the creation of the ombudsman institution in Bulgaria, also referred to the cooperation with his Bulgarian counterpart.
Ganev, a legal expert, politician and one of the authors of the new Bulgarian constitution, stressed that cooperation with Athens has its roots in the fact that Bulgaria will become an EU member as of Jan. 1.
Kaminis met on Wednesday with State Administration and Administrative Reform Minister Nikolay Vasilev, while on Thursday he is expected to meet with Bulgarian Culture and Tourism Minister Stefan Danailov.
 Justice minister participates in conference on combating crime
ATHENS, 11/10/2006 (ANA/MPA)Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras participated in the conference of Council of Europe justice and internal affairs ministers in Moscow, under Russian chairmanship, on the issue of improving cooperation in the sector of combating crime.
Papaligouras was the rapporteur for one of the four issues examined at the conference in Moscow, where the 46 member-states of the Council of Europe were represented at a ministerial level.
Speaking on the issue of resolving differences during the implementation of the international agreements of the Council of Europe, the justice minister referred at length to the framework of present-day apparatuses and made a series of proposals on changes and institutional reforms that will lead to the curbing of differences, their more effective solution and an increase in trust between member-states on the judicial systems of all countries.
The Greek minister's address met with general approval from the member-states and the general secretariat of the Council of Europe will submit specific measures for reforms in the direction proposed by Papaligouras.
The justice minister also had the opportunity, in the framework of the conference, to explain in detail Greece's initiative on facilitating the transfer of foreign detainees to serve their sentences in their countries of origin, given that 40 percent of the Greek prison population are foreigners.
 Former premier Mitsotakis opens conference on '1946 general elections'
ATHENS, 11/10/2006 (ANA/MPA)Former prime minister and Honorary President of the ruling New Democracy (ND) party Constantine Mitsotakis opened on Thursday evening a two-day scientific conference on the theme "The 1946 general elections: a milestone in modern Greece's political history".
The conference is organized by the 'Constantine K. Mitsotakis Foundation" and on the occasion of the former premier's 60 years in politics.
Mitsotakis announced during his speech that the foundation, in cooperation with the Fulbright Foundation of Greece, has prepared a program for the granting of three scholarships every year for post graduate studies in U.S. universities in sociology and political science.
 Papandreou attends presentation of book on Greek political cartoons
ATHENS, 11/10/2006 (ANA/MPA)Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Thurs-day attended the presentation of the second volume of a history of Greek political cartoons at the Athens journalists' union ESHEA.
Papandreou said that politicians should take cartoons seriously, without becoming offended by even the most scathing and "irreverent" criticism.
"Our stance toward cartoons is at the same time an indicator of sensitivity, political culture and our stance toward democracy," Papandreou said in his address to the event.
 New building for Greek Children's Village Youth Shelter in Thessaloniki
ATHENS, 11/10/2006 (ANA/MPA)Children in need of a refuge will find it in the Greek Childrenâ€™s Village Youth Shelter facilities under construction in Filiro, Thessaloniki. The 1.5 million-euro-project falls under the auspices of the Regional Operational Programs (ROP) in Central Macedonia, north Greece, includes a two-storey building featuring 12 dormitories per floor.
Currently, the Greek Childrenâ€™s Village in Filiro hosts a total of 46 children aged between 2.5 and 15.
The Youth Shelter under construction will host children over the age of 12.
 Spokesman: slim prospects for a change in Turkey's stance
NICOSIA, 11/10/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)Prospects for a change in Turkey's stance towards Cyprus are rather slim, Government Spokesman Christodoulos Pashiardes said on Thursday, adding that Nicosia does not expect a ''pleasant surprise'' from Ankara by mid-December in this respect.
At the same time, Pashiardes stressed that Cyprus is not rejoicing in the criticism of Turkey contained in the European Commission progress report, which is highly critical of the country's efforts to align itself with EU norms.
''Ankara is the only obstacle to a normal and unhindered accession course and has now a time framework of a few weeks to prove in practice that it does meet its obligations,'' he added.
Commenting on statements by the Turkish prime minister that some rejoice by the Commission's report on Turkey, the spokesman said that "we don't know how other partners feel. But I want to assure the Turkish prime minister that the Republic of Cyprus does not rejoice in the critical contents of the Commission report."
"The government is not happy that Ankara has proved to be, through words and deeds, inconsistent with its European obligations. This attitude is not cause for celebration. It is sad to see a candidate country behaving in this manner,'' the spokesman said.
He described as provocative Ankara's declaration, following the publication of the report, that it will not implement its obligations towards Cyprus and that it is not particularly concerned with the impact of its actions on membership talks.
He said that now we are entering the final phase of very intensive efforts and consultations, the result of which will be the judge of Turkey's course towards the EU.
Commenting on statements by the Turkish prime minister that he is not concerned if some chapters in membership talks are frozen, Pashiardes said that "what we are concerned about is that Turkey's obligations and engagements are not frozen."
The spokesman refrained from outlining any possible scenarios about measures the EU may take, should Ankara fail by mid-December to meet its obligations, as laid down in the progress report.
''Negotiating chapters cannot open and close while Turkey refuses to meet its obligations towards the EU,'' he stressed.
Asked what could someone expect from the European Council in December, Pashiardes said that "the Summit is expected to evaluate the Commission report and decide how it will react to Turkey's stance by that time,'' he concluded.
 Papadopoulos conveys Cyprus support for Croatia's EU bid SPLIT, Croatia,
10/11/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos stated on Thursday that Cyprus will support Croatia's European course.
Papadopoulos, who is paying an official visit to Croatia, met with Split-Dalmatian county Prefect Ande Sanader.
Welcoming Papadopoulos, Sanader thanked the Cypriot president for all that Cyprus has done for his country. He also said that the talks Papadopoulos had in Croatia on the future cooperation between the two countries were fruitful.
Papadopoulos said that the talks he had in Croatia focused on the country's EU course and noted that Cyprus supports Croatia's EU bid.
Croatia, which is in the heart of Europe, must not be left out ''and for that we will continue to provide every support,'' the Cypriot president noted.
Referring to Turkey, Papadopoulos said that Ankara's EU bid has particular interest for Cyprus and the Cyprus problem, adding that "we support Turkey's EU course, provided that it will fulfill its EU obligations".
He also said he believed that Croatia's EU course must not be connected in any way with that of Turkey and that every candidate country should be assessed on its own merits and value.
Regarding relations between Cyprus and Croatia, Papadopoulos said that they are good, adding that there is room for further improvement and great prospects for strengthening commercial and economic relations.
Asked by a Croat journalist whether Zagreb can count on Cyprus as supporter in its European course, Papadopoulos said ''definitely,'' as long as Croatia performs its obligations towards Europe.
''You have to have a program of aligning your economic, social and democratic institutions with those of the EU. From what I know until now you are very successful in making great progress in that direction. In that respect yes you can count on our support,'' he concluded.