|Friday, 13 December 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-03-01
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Saturday, 1 March 2008 Issue No: 2833
 PM: FYROM's intransigence closes the road to its NATO-EU accession ambitionsGreece has informed the UN secretary general's personal envoy on the FYROM name issue (Matthew Nimetz) on the country's objections, observations and proposals regarding the text of ideas he has submitted, prime minister Costas Karamanlis said on Friday, and explained that the series of alternative names proposed in the text did not exhaust all the possibilities, nor were they binding.
"A clear, practical, viable solution cannot be built on the basis of a name that simply describes the existing regime in the neighboring country. Such a name is not a composite one, and therefore cannot comprise a solution," he said.
Karamanlis was speaking during the Hour of the Prime Minister, in response to a question tabled by Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis on the government's handling at the present phase of the FYROM name talks.
Karamanlis underlined that "nothing we have said to date is changing - the rationale, the aspirations, the framework. Our strategy is known and firm. The individual handlings are formulated following extensive assessment. We are not lowering the standard but, on the contrary, we are increasing the pressure for a solution".
"The neighboring country's intransigence closes the road to its ambitions for NATO and EU accession," the prime minister said.
"Greece has the means to safeguard its interests, and is not abandoning them. I am fully aware of the adversities, but neither danger-mongering nor scenario-mongering or the cultivation of a climate of introversion are of any benefit," he said.
In his question, Karatzaferis said that the prime minister, "in refusing to convene the Council of Political Party Leaders, under the chairmanship of the President of the Republic, assumes total responsibility for the course of the negotiations and for the national consequences of his decisions", and asked the premier if he intended to bring any agreement reached, in the FYROM name talks, to parliament for ratification or before the people with a referendum.
Elaborating on his question, Karatzaferis cited the proclamation of the "Communist Party of 'Macedonia' " of 1944, which called for "unification of 'Macedonia' which was partitioned by the imperialists of the Balkans", and referring to the more recent past, noted statements by former foreign minister Michalis Papaconstantinou that "that country wants to take all of Macedonia", as well as statements by the late Andreas Papandreou (former prime minister and PASOK founder) that "there is no possibility that I will accept the term 'Macedonia' in any form being contained in a name for Skopje".
Addressing himself to main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou (a former foreign minister and son of the late Andreas Papandreou), Karatzaferis asked: "Do you believe that, Mr. Papandreou? Your father had said this, verbatim".
Karatzaferis further recalled statements by Karamanlis himself (in 1995) calling for a convening of the Council of Political Party Leaders under the President of the Republic.
Karamanlis, with respect to Karatzaferis' question on whether he intended to put any agreement reached to the judgement of the people via a referendum, replied: "The government, the Parliament of the Hellenes, are not institutions of lesser democracy or lesser representability, nor institutions of limited responsibility. Our Constitution does not make gradations in legitimacy and responsibility. We are all elected representatives of the people".
"Passing off responsibilities is not a solution. There is nothing more important than daring in the decisions that contribute to the country and its future. Patriotism is not the facile, big words that in the end lead the country to more difficult positions. Patriotism is assuming the responsibilities demanded by the circumstances, for safeguarding the just national rights. And we are meeting this obligation with prudence and daring, with cool-headedness and determination, and with full awareness of our historical responsibility," the prime minister concluded.
 Greek FYROM name issue representative Vassilakis concludes talks with UN envoyNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
Talks between the UN secretary general's envoy, Matthew Nimetz, and Greece's representative in negotiations on the issue of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis, lasted for a total of three hours on Friday.
The luncheon and the meeting were held at a hotel in Manhattan, where Vassilakis is staying.
Nimetz was due to meet FYROM's representative, Nikola Dimitrov, at 11 on Friday night (Greek time), possibly in the UN envoy's office.
Both Nimetz and Vassilakis made no statements.
 US State Department, Burns, on FYROM name talksWASHINGTON(ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)
The US state department on Thursday reiterated its position of encouraging the governments of Greece and FYROM to work with UN mediator Matthew Nimetz towards finding a mutually acceptable solution to the FYROM name issue, which it considers important for both countries.
Asked to comment on the new round of UN-brokered name talks to begin in New York on Friday, with separate meetings between the UN secretary general's special mediator on the name issue Matthew Nimetz and the Greek and FYROM negotiators, Ambassadors Adamantios Vassilakis and Nikolai Dimitrov, respectively, and given the upcoming NATO summit in Bucharest in early April, US State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said during a regular press briefing that the US position on the issue was well-known.
"Certainly, we want to encourage both the Greek and 'Macedonian' governments to work through the good offices of Mr. Nimetz to reach a mutually acceptable conclusion on the name issue. And that is something that we believe is important for both countries," he said.
"In terms of the NATO summit and any decisions that might be made there, obviously, we'll just have to see what happens. As I mentioned yesterday, Secretary (of State Condoleezza) Rice will be going to the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting (on Thursday), which is something of a prelude to the summit itself. And I'm sure there will be a variety of discussions there about the full issues on NATO's agenda, including Kosovo and the ongoing NATO military operations in that country; Afghanistan, where of course, NATO is, as just mentioned, rather heavily engaged in leading the International Security Assistance Force; and certainly, internal subjects related to NATO, including the possibilities for NATO enlargement and the course that various countries are charting will be on the agenda, too. But I think we're quite a bit away from a decision on that," Casey continued.
"Greece is an important friend and a NATO ally for the United States," Casey said, adding that "we also have good relations with the Government of 'Macedonia'. And for us, we think this is an issue that clearly is important for the two countries, and that's why we certainly hope that they will be able to work together through the UN and through Mr. Nimetz to come to a resolution."
Asked whether there had been any recent communication between the US Department of State, Athens and Skopje, Casey noted that Rice had met recently, over the past 2-3 weeks, with both the Greek and FYROM foreign ministers, and recalled that the relevant State Department announcement had said that Rice "very strongly encouraged both of them to work with Mr. Nimetz to reach a resolution of this.
"This is an issue that certainly comes up on a regular basis in our discussions with both Greeks and 'Macedonians', but obviously, the message remains what the Secretary said to those senior officials," Casey said, adding that he was "not aware of any new particular high-level contacts on the subject, though".
Meanwhile, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, during a briefing on Thursday at the Foreign Press Center in Washington, said he understood the sensitivity of the Greek people and government on the FYROM name issue, given his four-year tenure as US Ambassador to Greece (1997-2001).
Asked to comment on the new round of FYROM name talks to open on Friday in New York, Burns said that "having been American Ambassador to Greece for four years, I certainly understand, and our government understands, the great sensitivity within Greece, among the Greek people, inside the Greek Government about this issue".
"We realize its importance, and that's why we've put our faith in Ambassador Nimetz, the United Nations mediator. We fully support him, and we hope that he can be successful in working out an arrangement that would be acceptable both to Greece and to 'Macedonia', snd so we hope very much that will take place, Burns said, adding that "it's an important question, because we have a NATO summit in the first week of April in Bucharest, where this issue, or at least the issue of 'Macedonia's' candidacy to become a member of NATO, will be on the table".
"We hope therefore that there can be an arrangement worked out before that summit," Burns said.
Asked how he assessed Greece's right to exercise a veto, Burns replied: "I don't think it would be helpful for me to comment, to give public advice to the Greek Government. I've tried always never to give public advice to any government."
"I think that I would rather accentuate the positive here, and that is that the United Nations mediator, a very experienced international arbiter, Matt Nimetz, has, of course, put several ideas in front of both governments, and we hope that one of them might be acceptable to both. If that's the case, we'll have a deal; we'll never have to then encounter the worst-case scenario that you have put before us. So I'll decline very politely to answer that question," Burns said.
To a question on what the US position would be in the event that the Serbs in northern Kosovo declare independence from Kosovo, Burns replied that the US is "absolutely opposed to partition of Kosovo. And the great majority of countries around the world are not going to stand for that."
In that framework, Burns said that "my European Union colleague, Peter Feith, had a very strong statement this morning, as head of the EU mission, saying that we would not support and tolerate any move towards partition, either a de facto partition, or creeping partition by trying to take over the United Nations-administered institutions north of the Ibar River, or de jure partition. We will not support it."
"I think what's being lost in all of the words coming out of Belgrade...is this: They can't forget the history of what happened in the Balkans in the 1990s. And it really is quite curious to see this continued, I must say, invective from the government in Belgrade about what's happening in Kosovo, when their predecessor government, in the name of the country, marched into Kosovo in 1999 and tried to drive a million Kosovar Albanian Muslims out of the country, or what happened, of course, in Bosnia a few years earlier. That's the history," Burns said.
"Because of that history, the United Nations took Kosovo away from Serbia in June of 1999, and the United Nations has administered the province since then. And now the United States and all of Europe, with very few exceptions, is strongly supporting the independence of Kosovo. With good reason, because we haven't forgotten the history of what happened there," he continued.
Burns further said that it was "not convincing" and "hypocritical" for the Serb foreign minister "to go in our newspapers, on our media, and to act as if nothing happened in 1998 and 1999 when those terrible injustices were suffered by the Kosovar Albanian Muslim population. In remembering that history, we are seeking a stable Balkans.", and particularly noted "that very artful but not very convincing op-ed (opinion editorial) by the Serb Foreign Minister in The New York Times yesterday".
"We are seeking an independent Kosovo, to support it, that will one day have an option to join the EU and NATO," Burns stressed, adding that the US strongly supported Kosovo independence.
The US official also said that the US wanted a "close relationship with Serbia. "Serbia is an important country. I suppose when passions cool, that relationship between Europe and Serbia, the United States and Serbia, will continue to develop," he said.
"In the meantime, we hold the Serb Government responsible for what happens in the streets of Belgrade; we have been assured by that government that there will be no repetition of the attacks that we saw against many embassies last week. We will hold the Serb Government to that commitment to us.
 PM, PASOK leader clash in parliament on freedom of expression, cybercrimePrime minister Costas Karamanlis and main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou clashed in parliament over freedom of expression on the Internet and cybercrime, during the Hour of the Prime Minister on Friday, prompted by the recent furore over the use of Internet blogs for slander and blackmail.
Karamanlis said that Greece was obliged to adopt rules for combating crimes over the Internet against the life and dignity of the citizens, replying to accusations by Papandreou that the government was trying to penalize the internet.
"Your rejection of providing free laptops and free internet connection to students is explained by your interest in having 'controlled information, controlled media, controlled prosecutors", Papandreou said, adding that the government "sees every youth with a PC as a potential blogger".
The PASOK leader said he considered "unacceptable" what he called "the new bill for penalization of the Internet", accusing the government of targeting the young generation.
Replying, Karamanlis said that the hundreds of thousands of Greece who surfed the web were not voters of only one political party, so as to be exploited by anyone.
He stressed that the government had no intention whatsoever to not support the inalienable right of expression on the web.
"What our country, like so many other countries, is obliged to do is to incorporate the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime into Greek national legislation. In other words, the minimum rules for combating penal crimes against the life and dignity of the citizen," the prime minister said.
He also called on Papandreou "not to monopolize an international commodity with millions of users" and to not overlook "the right of defense of the human values', which he said "everyone equally has the right to enjoy".
 Karamanlis replies to PASOK leader on education issues"Today we are building the school of the future," Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said on Friday in his reply to criticism from main opposition PASOK's leader George Papandreou in Parliament regarding the state of education in the country. At the same time, he dismissed the proposals put forward by PASOK as "commonplace wishful thinking paraded as policy".
"The big difference between us is that you offer words and we offer works," the prime minister said in response to a pledge by Papandreou to devote 5 percent of GDP to education and distribute free computers to students.
Stressing that education was an area that required national consensus and not petty party-political disputes, Karamanlis said the government was carrying out a series of innovative reforms, introducing modern books, providing each student with a laptop, investing in human resources and the life-long education of teachers. He also pointed to a building programme for 1200 new schools throughout Greece and hundreds of school renovations.
At the same time, Karamanlis stressed that the government will not deviate from implementing the framework law on education exactly as it was voted and that this reform would be neither abandoned nor changed.
The prime minister rejected Papandreou's claim of a reduction in spending on Education, saying that the money spent in absolute terms in 2004-2008 came to 2.2 billion euros, which was almost double the 1.3 billion euros spent in 1999-2003. Regarding a proposal for one computer per student, Karamanlis said this was happening at the present for the first time.
He roundly criticized Papandreou's stance on revising article 16 of the Constitution, which he said had undermined the entire process of revising the Constitution.
PASOK's leader had attacked the government over a "stifling air of scandal and degradation of public benefits, such as that of education" and spoke of shortages and delays in teachers, books and infrastructure.
While noting that past PASOK governments bore a share of the responsibility for the current domination of private crammers offering extra tuition in Greek education, he said the party was "ready to use its experience and wanted to offer solutions".
Among the pledges made by Papandreou was a radically different exam system for entering universities, that lower high schools would provide children with knowledge of computers and a certificate in at least one foreign language.
During the debate, both Karamanlis, Papandreou and the leaders of the other political parties expressed their best wishes for the speedy recovery of former education minister Marietta Yiannakou, who recently experienced major health problems, while Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas expressed the solidarity of Parliament.
 PM to meet NATO chief, visiting foreign leaders next weekPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis will have a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer next Monday at 11:15, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said on Friday.
At 12:30, the Greek premier will also be meeting visiting Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico and the two of them will sit down to a working dinner after making statements.
The new Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias is to carry out an official visit to Greece on March 4-6 and is scheduled to meet Karamanlis next Wednesday at 12:15, after which they will hold a joint press conference and have a working dinner.
Replying to questions about Scheffer's visit and whether this was related to pressure being put on Athens over the negotiations with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) for the name dispute, Antonaros simply noted that it was not uncommon for the head of the Alliance to visit member-states, especially in view of the upcoming NATO summit in April.
 PM Karamanlis meets presidium of Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary AssemblyPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday met with the presidium of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly, comprised of the presiding chairman, Greek Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas, European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering, President of the House of Representatives of Tunisia, Fouad Mebazaa and the representative of the Popular National Assembly of Egypt, Mohammed Elenein.
During the meeting, Sioufas briefed the prime minister on the results of the preparations of the 4th Plenum of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly, which will be held in Athens from March 26-27, and the sessions of which will be declared open by Karamanlis.
 PM counters SYRIZA criticism over culture ministry scandalResponding to harsh criticism from the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) regarding a recent scandal at the culture ministry on Friday, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis mounted a counter-offensive against those that he said "promoted leveling views" that downgraded public life for petty party benefits.
"Meritocracy, transparency and protection of personal data are goals of major importance and it is contradictory, to say the least, when the government finds itself being accused while efforts to achieve these goals are being systematically undermined," Karamanlis stressed,
The case was being investigated by the courts and "those responsible, whoever they are, will be made to answer," the prime minister added.
Regarding the decision to appoint former culture ministry general secretary Christos Zachopoulos and other New Democracy party members to executive positions in the state, Karamanlis said that the appointment of political figures to political posts was "self-evident" but also pointed out that, unlike in the past, several positions had been given to people not connected to the ruling party or remained with those appointed under previous PASOK governments.
The premier also listed measures taken by the government to promote transparency, such as the new civil service code, the public posting of all information regarding state advertising in the media and strengthening the National Radio and Television Council.
SYRIZA's parliamentary spokesman Alekos Alavanos, a former leader of the party, countered that the government was not actually implementing many of the measures its announced.
"If you do not exercise self-criticism with regard to this question, when will you," he asked, while criticizing Karamanlis for his failure to appear before Parliament's Educational Affairs committee to give an account of his term as culture minister and Zachopoulos' actions at the ministry.
"When you were handing over the culture ministry you made a speech concerning the doings of the ministry and you were most voluble. Now that things are difficult, you are trying to escape," Alavanos said.
 Papandreou slams foreign policy handling at PASOK meetingGreece's clout and its negotiating position in the Mediterranean, the Balkans and worldwide had slipped during the years that New Democracy had been in power, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou claimed on Friday while addressing the PASOK Central Conference-Organizing Committee.
This will be the last meeting held by the specific committee before the conference begins.
A former foreign minister, Papandreou said that under the present government Greece had "lost its say in relations between Turkey and the EU" while failing both to defend its interests and to guide Turkey's progress. He also criticized the "abandonment of the Helsinki agreement" through the prime minister's interview with CNN, which he said could have led to a solutions regarding the differences with Turkey over the Aegean continental shelf, but also abandoning all thought of exercising Greece' veto.
Noting that PASOK had "opened the door to the EU for Turkey", he urged the neighboring country to meet, without exceptions, all the commitments it has undertaken toward the EU".
PASOK's leader criticism also extended to Balkan affairs in general, saying that the region had been "left helpless" and that the "huge gains of the Greek EU presidency of 2003 were lost and we slid back into a re-Balkanization of the region".
Regarding Kosovo, in particular, he criticized unilateral recognitions outside a UN framework and said the handling of the issue by Greece and Europe was "a blow to the entire region". He predicted that the developments in Kosovo would stall the European progress of the western Balkans and open a new vicious circle of instability while "official Europe washed its hands" of the area.
Turning to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Papandreou pointed out that Russia had first recognized it as 'Macedonia' under the Mitsotakis ND government and the same had happened with the United States and Canada under the present ND government. He criticized the government for agreeing to negotiate on a double name and underlined that PASOK's position called for a single name for all uses, that was composite and included a geographic term".
"I understand the Greek people's exasperation with the government's policy; we don't need rallies but serious foreign policy," he added.
With respect to the Cyprus problem, he first reiterated his congratulations to the new Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias and pledged to stand by his side and contribute to a just solution to the Cyprus issue within the framework of the UN, as main opposition leader but also in his capacity as Socialist International president, which the party of Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat had applied to join.
The government's record on corruption and transparency next came under fire, with Papandreou criticizing the government for policies that "rewarded parasitism" and caused capital to flee abroad while the economy was made less Greek in the guise of foreign investments, as well as its record on environmental issues and attempts to muzzle blog users.
"PASOK is again becoming a force for change and our conference is a step toward convincing the younger generation and the Greek people that we are ready to turn over a new leaf for the country," Papandreou concluded and pledged to proceed with the party united.
"We will walk forward together, without winners and losers," he underlined, stressing that he was demanding discipline and loyalty not to himself but to the common goal of the party and describing the upcoming conference as a top political event for the country.
 Macedonia-Thrace minister in GermanyMacedonia-Thrace Minister Margaritis Tzimas will had meetings with members of the Greek community in Munich, where he arrived on Friday for a two-day visit.
Earlier, he had a meeting with Greece's General Consul in Munich Anna Korka.
 Australia announces new Ambassador to GreeceMELBOURNE (ANA-MPA/S. Hatzimanolis)
Australian minister for foreign affairs Stephen Smith announced the appointment of Jeremy Newman as Australia's new Ambassador to Greece.
Newman, who will also have non-resident accreditation to Albania and Bulgaria well, will take up his post in March, replacing Paul Tighe, who has been ambassador to the three countries, resident in Greece, since January 2005.
Announcing the appointment, Smith stressed that "Australia and Greece enjoy a warm bilateral relationship based on strong community links, important historical connections, shared values of democracy, respect for human rights and participation in the world's major international institutions", adding that "the depth of the relationship between Australia and Greece is strengthened by the significant contributions of Australia's large Greek community, which includes many dual nationals".
"The relationship continues to grow as demonstrated by the historic visit of Greek Prime Minister Karamanlis to Australia in May last year, when a social security agreement was signed between our two countries. In addition to our bilateral and cultural links, Australia engages with Greece in its capacity as a member of the European Union and as a long-standing member of the NATO alliance, including the deployment of Greek and Australian forces to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan." he said.
"Australia has maintained a diplomatic presence in Athens since 1955," Smith continued, adding that the Australian Embassy in Athens provides comprehensive consular services to the estimated 100,000 Australians regularly in Greece during the European summer.
Jeremy Newman is a senior career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and is currently First Assistant Secretary, Europe Division, a position he has held since 2006. Newman served as Australia's Ambassador to Iran from 2001 to 2005, and has also served in Washington (1982-85), Dublin (1979) and Belgrade (1977-79).
Newman was born in Melbourne and educated in Singapore, Sri Lanka and Britain where he graduated from the University of Cambridge with first class honours in History.
 PM pledges to protect jobs at ports and airportsPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday repeated the government's pledge to protect the jobs of workers at the country's ports and airports, replying to a question put to him in Parliament by Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga regarding the civil aviation service and Greek airports.
"We will not favour monopoly-type situations," Karamanlis said and stressed that deregulating markets would boost healthy competition, create new jobs and improve the quality of services given.
In comments on the problems that arose with at the 'Eleftherios Venizelos' international airport during a recent bout of bad weather, saying Greece's civil aviation service YPA had been asked to investigate the complaints made regarding the airport's operation.
"Based on the evidence that arises, YPA will draw the necessary conclusions about the action that should be taken," he said.
On her part, Papariga claimed that the "modernization" of airports referred to by the government actually meant the privatization of the larger airports, such as those in Rhodes, Iraklion, Corfu, Kos and Thessaloniki.
KKE's leader said these five profitable airports, whose income currently financed the operation of the smaller airports around the country and especially those serving the islands, were being eyed by multinational corporations.
She also expressed concern that the Greek civil aviation authority would be scrapped as a result of European Union plans for a "Single European Sky" that would set up nine 'Flight Information Regions' in Europe, with Greece would belong to two of these, one passing through Italy and the other Romania. KKE's leader said this would undermine the security of national airspace and that it would intensify confusion in terms of search-and-rescue jurisdiction in the Aegean.
Karamanlis assured her that the single and public civil aviation authority would not be scrapped.
"There is no private body providing aeronautical services and no interest in something like this has been expressed," he stressed.
The prime minister also underlined that there was no reason for concern over national airspace and national security issues, either through the improvement of airports or as a result of measures for the Single European Sky initiative.
"The regulatory framework of the EU is absolutely harmonized with national sovereignty. The purpose of the Single European Sky is the safety of air traffic and optimizing transport capacity," he said.
With respect to the islands, the prime minister noted that both national and Community legislation ensured their unobstructed air transport coverage.
Outlining the government's plans for airports, meanwhile, he said the government's aim was to attract investment partners to help upgrade and improve these:
"We do not plan to sell airports but seek partnerships aiming at their improvement. The aim is to attract new investments and secure more income for the public sector, without burdening the citizens," he said.
Referring to the new airport at Kasteli on Crete, he said that "processes were underway for the construction of a new international airport. It is a very large and important project, and modern funding methods that include the contribution of private capital are being examined for carrying this out."
 Merchant marine minister attends Greek shipowner directorate meeting in LondonLONDON (ANA-MPA/L. Tsirigotakis)
The annual meeting of the Greek ship-owners and the Greek Maritime Cooperation Committee's directorate in London was held in the British capital on Friday and was attended for the first time by Greek Merchant Marine and Island Policy Minister George Voulgarakis, a development that was underlined by the president of the Greek ship-owners in London, Epaminondas Empirikos, who termed the meeting "very successful."
Issues discussed concerned the development of Greek and international shipping, such as the Greek register, dockers' issues, collective labour agreements, maritime training, the attraction of young people to the seamen's profession, development in the social security sector, Greece's participation in the European Union's agencies and in other international organizations and other international developments and agreements.
"We remain steadfast in our position that all decisions concerning shipping must be adopted by the relevant international organizations and must be implemented in a uniform manner by all the countries of the international shipping community. This position of ours is being expressed with vigor at all forums and in relation to all sectors having an impact on shipping," Voulgarakis said in his address to the Greek ship-owners.
 Greek inflation unchanged at 3.9 pct in January, EurostatBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V.Demiris)
Greek inflation was unchanged at 3.9 pct in January, compared with December 2007, Eurostat said on Friday. The EU executive's statistics agency, in its monthly report, said the inflation rate in the Eurozone rose to 3.2 pct in January, from 3.1 pct in December, and compared with a 2.3 pct rate in January 2007, while in the EU, the inflation rate also rose to 3.4 pct in January, from 3.2 pct in December and 2.1 pct in January 2007.
Eurostat said Holland (1.8 pct), Great Britain (2.2 pct), Germany and Portugal (2.9 pct each) recorded the lowest inflation rates, while Latvia (15.6 pct), Bulgaria (11.7 pct) and Estonia (11.3 pct) the highest inflation ates.
The inflation rate rose in 29 EU member-states in January, it was unchanged in two and fell in four EU states.
 Development ministry to present results of 'Competitiveness' operational programmeThe development ministry will be presenting the results of the "Competitiveness" operational programme (EPAN) in the country's 13 regions, while the ministry will also be obtaining useful information for the new "Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship" operational programme (EPAN II) that will cover the period between 2007 and 2013.
The aim of the development ministry's leadership is to discuss and listen to the concerns, scepticism and interventions of local community agencies.
It will pursue, through open events, substantive contribution to the new programme's improvement, the safeguarding of its good functioning and its immediate response to citizens' needs and pursuits.
The "trip" will begin in the northern city of Komotini on March 5 and will end in Athens on May 9, with the celebration of the Day of Europe.
 Retail sales' turnover index up 3.2 pct in December 2007Retail sales' turnover index (in current prices) grew 3.2 percent in December 2007, compared with the corresponding month in 2006, the National Statistics Service said on Friday.
The statistics service attributed the increase to a 5.6 pct rise in the food store category and an 1.2 pct increase in the other stores category.
The retail sales volume index rose 0.1 pct in December 2007, compared with the same month in 2006.
 Greek producer's price index up 9.4 pct in JanuaryGreece's producer's price composite index in the industrial sector (measuring both the domestic and external markets) grew by 9.4 pct in January, compared with the same month in 2007, the National Statistics Service said on Friday.
The statistics service, in a report, said the producer's price index was up 0.4 pct in January from December and noted that the 9.4 pct increase (compared with January 2007) reflected a 10.2 pct jump in the domestic market index and a 7.4 pct increase in the external market index.
 Intralot signs one-year extension in sports betting contract in TurkeyIntralot has signed an one-year contract with Spor Toto in Turkey to continue the operation of a popula sports bet game "Iddaa", Inteltek -Intralot's subsidiary in Turkey- said.
Inteltek will continue the operation of the game through a network of 4,000 sales points established in the country. Under a new Turkish law, a new international tender will be held this year for the operator of the sports bet game in the next 10 years.
 Vienna mayor declared 'Ambassador of Greek wine'VIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)
The mayor and local governor of the federal state of Vienna, Michael Haupl, on Thursday was declared "Ambassador of Greek wine". It was the first time internationally that this title was given, along with the "Dionysos Award".
The event took place on Thursday night at a special ceremony which was organized at the historic building of the Greek Embassy in Vienna by Greek Ambassador to Austria, Panagiotis Zografos, and the counselor of Economic and Commercial Affairs, Christos Dokomes.
The event was held in cooperation with the National Inter-Professional Organization of Vinery and Wine and with the support of Deputy Foreign Minister Petros Doukas and the Secretary of International Economic Relations and Developmental Cooperation of the foreign ministry, Theodoros Skylakakis, within the framework of the programme for the strengthening of the extroversion of Greek wine production.
Haupl received the distinction for his distinguished personality in public Austrian life, his particular relation with Greece and with Greek wine production, as well as the city of Vienna's relation with the cultivation of vine yards.
 Alapis Group reports sharply improved 2007 resultsAlapis Group on Friday said its 2007 turnover totaled 442.5 million euros, while its pre-tax, interest and amortization earnings (EBITDA) rose to 117.3 million euros and after tax and minorities profits rose to 83.2 million euros.
Alapis said its board planned to pay a 0.025 euros per share dividend to its shareholders. The Group expects this year's turnover to reach 900 million euros, EBITDA to rise to 250 million euros and after tax and minorities earnings to reach 160 million euros.
 Inform Lycos sells 35-mln-euro bond issueInform Lycos on Friday announced the successful completion of a bond issue, worth 35 million euros. The proceeds from the bond sale will be used to fund the purchase of an 85 percent equity stake in Austria GARD GmbH.
 Greek stocks end 1.79 pct down on FridayGreek stocks ended more substantial ground during the last trading session of the Athens Stock Exchange on Friday. The composite index ended at 4,133.03 points, off 1.79 percent with turnover remaining a heavy 690 million euros, of which 179.6 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved lower. The Healthcare (2.21 pct), Chemicals (1.65 pct) and Insurance (0.37 pct) sectors scored gains, while the Food/Beverage (2.84 pct), Industrial Products (2.53 pct), Personal/Home Products (2.34 pct), Financial Services (2.21 pct) and Travel (2.16 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.
The Big Cap index ended 1.93 pct lower, the Mid Cap index fell 0.67 pct and the Small Cap index eased 0.22 pct. Mediterra (11.27 pct), Alsinco (9.57 pct) and Altius (7.34 pct) were top gainers, while Klonatex (8.33 pct) and Desmos (7.41 pct) were top losers. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 143 to 96 with another 55 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -1.58%
Personal & Household: -2.34%
Raw Materials: -2.00%
Travel & Leisure: -2.16%
Food & Beverages: -2.84%
Financial Services: -2.21%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Marfin Popular Bank, National Bank, Alpha Bank and Bank of Cyprus.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 20.10
Public Power Corp (PPC): 28.20
HBC Coca Cola: 29.08
Hellenic Petroleum: 9.28
National Bank of Greece: 36.20
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 19.10
Titan Cement Company: 28.46
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 1.914 billion euros on Friday, of which 744 million were buy orders and the remaining 1.12 billion euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 845 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 0.46 percent, with the Greek bond yielding 4.35 pct and the German Bund 3.75 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were mixed. National Bank's overnight rose to 4.12 pct from 4.05 pct on Thursday, the two-day rate fell to 4.05 pct from 4.12 percent, the one-month rate was 4.23 percent and the 12-month rate 4.36 pct.
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices saw their discount widening further in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Friday, with turnover rising to 183.721 million euros. The March contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 1.16 pct, while the February contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 1.75 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 14,636 contracts worth 155.255 million euros, with 27,051 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 136 contracts worth 3.415 million euros, with 481 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 11,346 contracts worth 15.857 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Marfin Popular Bank's contracts (1,315), followed by Marfin Popular Bank (496), OTE (1,166), Piraeus Bank (445), National Bank (1,146), Alpha Bank (679), Intracom (355), GEK (558), Mytilineos (391), Postal Savings Bank (906) and Sidenor (1,011).
 Foreign Exchange Rates - Saturday/MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.528
Pound sterling 0.771
Danish kroner 7.511
Swedish kroner 9.47
Japanese yen 159.29
Swiss franc 1.601
Norwegian kroner 7.977
Canadian dollar 1.501
Australian dollar 1.635
 President meets with Rare Diseases FederationPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Friday called for the Greek society's sensitivity to the major problem of persons suffering from rare diseases, following a meeting with members of the Panhellenic Federation of Rare Diseases.
On the occasion of the designation of February 29 as Rare Disease Day in Europe, Papoulias, his spouse May Panou Papoulia, and deputy health minister George Papageorgiou met with the presidents of the associations of rare disease sufferers, sufferers' relatives, specialists and volunteers.
An estimated 750,000 children and 250,000 adults in Greece suffer from rare diseases.
The Federation is seeking greater awareness of the scientific community and the public on their issues, improvement of the quality of life and life duration of the patients, who spend the greater part of their life as invalids, and the reinforcement of scientific and clinical research.
Papoulias called on the pharmaceutical industries to operate not only with profit as their target, but also with solidarity towards the human being, thus enabling the discovery of medicines to tackle the approximately 8,000 rare diseases that threaten the lives of sufferers.
 Justice minister addresses EU Justice Ministers CouncilJustice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis addressed the European Union's Council of Justice and Internal Affairs in Brussels and mentioned, according to an announcement issued by the justice ministry on Friday, that "every proposal on combating terrorism must necessarily aim at securing the balancing of two rights."
The minister said that the first right "concerns the safeguarding of public interest, meaning of law and order and, consequently, the protection of society in its entirety from terrorist acts and the second aims at respect for the constitutionally consolidated rights of citizens' freedom of expression, freedom of the press and of the mass media and of assembling and joining partnerships."
In addition, the justice minister pointed out that "any effort at legislative level to confront terrorism will be ineffectual if the justice ministers forget the social role of justice and this is the protection of society and of every person separately."
Hatzigakis further stressed that "in examining the causes, we understand the circumstances that incite terrorist criminal behavior and we are led to the path of prevention, which is a basic principle of Penal Law."
 Deputy interior minister inaugurates conference on state responsibilityDeputy Interior Minister Christos Zois inaugurated a scientific conference on "The state's responsibility for compensation resulting from illegal and legal actions of its agencies" on Friday, that is being organized in Delphi by the National Public Administration and Self-Administration Centre in cooperation with the State Union of Legal Council Members.
The conference is appealing to senior judicial and state functionaries and is aimed at promoting scientific dialogue between the administration, the judicial authority and the legal world in general.
Zois stressed that the state's "civil responsibility" constitutes an institution and its importance is that "it also constitutes a sanctioning apparatus for violations of legality during the development of the activities of state bodies, sanction which is imposed by the Administrative Courts that are responsible for trying substantive administrative disputes."
He added that the government's goal "is a state that is democratic, modern and productive, that respects the rules of law which it lays out, takes care to burden the citizen as less as possible and that cannot discard its relevant responsibilities and duties."
 Culture minister gives tour of New Acropolis Museum to international travel agentsCulture minister Michalis Liapis on Friday gave a tour of the New Acropolis Museum to more than 350 travel agents of the "Virtuoso" travel organization, who are in Greece for their annual conference, which is being held in Athens for the first time.
In a brief address, Liapis said that "tourism and culture go hand-in-hand, as the country's tourism identity bears the stamp of its cultural heritage".
Referring to Athens in particular, he said it was a city that played a leading role in all sectors in the Balkan neighborhood.
He further noted that the New Acropolis Museum's official inauguration would take place in the coming autumn.
New Acropolis Museum Organization president, Professor Dimitris Pantermalis, underlined the importance of the new Museum, and also its role regarding Greece's standing demand for the return of the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum.
 4.4 Richter earthquake jolts KozaniAn light earthquake measuring 4.4 on the Ricther scale shook the northern Greek prefecture of Kozani on Friday just a minute after noon, upsetting local residents.
According to the Thessaloniki University Geophysics Laboratory, the epicentre of the quake was 108 kilometres south-southwest of Thessaloniki, near Lake Polyfytos. The tremor was felt in the nearby regions of Kozani and Grevena.
Seismologist Manolis Skordilis, in statements to the ANA-MPA, said the quake did not engender concern. He described it as an "isolated incident in an area of low seismic activity" and said that there was no sign that the earthquake-prone region of Kozani had been stimulated, while noting that a recent strong earthquake that had occurred in the region was a positive and reassuring sign.
 Partly cloudy on SaturdayPartly cloudy weather with westerly, southwesterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Saturday, with wind velocity reaching 6-7 beaufort. Fog in the morning. Temperatures will range between 3C and 20C.
Overcast in Athens, with westerly, southwesterly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 8C to 20C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 7C to 18C.
 The Friday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe FYROM name issue, given the commencement of a new round of UN-brokered negotiations between Greece and FYROM that opens in New York on Friday, the planned social security reforms, and imminent changes in the education sector, were the main front-page items in Friday's dailies.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Barrage of robberies - Public very worried".
APOGEVMATINI: "Examinations also in junior year of high school - PASOK (main opposition party) proposal for AEI and TEI (tertiary education) entrance examinations", according to which the results of the highschool (lyceum) students' nationwide examinations in their junior and senior years will be tallied, and the final result examined by the individual AEI and TEI themselves for approval of the candidates on the basis of minimum requirements to be set out by each individual AEI and TEI.
AVGHI: "The US escalating pressure on Athens - New round of (FYROM name) negotiations today in New York".
AVRIANI: "Dimitris Sioufas (parliament president) 'president of all the Greeks' - He prohibited police and prosecutors from examining parliament's PCs, from which journalists, MPs and ministers uploaded articles freely and anonymously on the internet", adding that Sioufas proved to be a protector of the laws, and mainly the Greek citizens' constitutionally-guaranteed right to freely express their views orally, in written form, and via the press.
CHORA: "Hard poker with hot bullets - Athens sees traps in Nimetz's proposals - Today the first meeting between Vassilakis (Greece's negotiator in the FYROM name talks) and Nimetz (the UN special mediator on the FYROM name issue)".
ELEFTHEROS: "Suddenly, George (PASOK leader Papandreou) following same policy line as Karamanlis: On veto, demonstration over FYROM, and the bloggers", in a change of PASOK's political tactics so as to avert his party's isolation.
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "End to the 'eternal' students (in higher education) - Education minister to deliver tomorrow to the Rectors the internal rules of operation of the Universities - Fear of new round of clashes over Education".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "6 regulations toughen the social security reforms".
ESTIA: "Euro-Dollar: the repercussions - In six years, the euro parity (over the dollar) rose by 70 percent" (from 0.88 cents to the dollar in 2002 when the euro was established as the official currency of the then 12 members of the euro-zone).
ETHNOS: "Pardon granted 37 times - Ministerial impunity to 'blue' businessman over plethora of court convictions (for bounced checks)".
KATHIMERINI: "FYROM intransigence before the talks - Greek political parties take negative stance to 'extreme' manifestations (of protests)".
NIKI: "Triple vise from US, NATO, EU - Government in a tight squeeze over the FYROM issue".
PARASKEVI+13 (weekly): "Greece-US 'war' over FYROM - The first official diplomatic clash will take place on Thursday in NATO (at the meeting of foreign ministers of NATO member countries)".
RIZOSPASTIS: "The ports to pass to private concerns, with the seal of ND and PASOK -The relevant bill tabled".
TA NEA: "Double brake on social security reforms - They're re-cooking the regulations".
TO VIMA: "Ultimatum from Brussels (EU headquarters) on OTE (Hellenic Telecommunications Organization, calling on government not to apply the law prohibiting the acquisition of a share package in OTE higher than 20 percent) and on OPAP (Greece's lottery operator)".
VRADYNI: "Post-graduate degrees from the TEI (technical institutions of higher education) too - 3 bround-breaking bills on higher education".
 Christofias presides over first cabinet meetingNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cypriot President Demetris Christofias said on Friday that his government was beginning hard work and called on the new members of the Council of Ministers to be consistent with the declarations of the government and never forget that credibility and success were the gamble of the government's service.
Addressing the first cabinet meeting after the new Ministers were sworn in, apart from the Minister of Foreign Affairs who will be sworn in on Monday, Christofias thanked and congratulated the new Ministers for accepting his invitation to participate in the government and said that ''as of today we begin hard work.''
''You have before you the programme of our government. This is the guiding light and compass for all of us. It must continuously be your constant reference point. The programme binds us to work towards a just solution of the Cyprus problem and a fairer society. If we manage to implement these two fundamental aims, then we will truly inaugurate a new era for our homeland and our people,'' he said.
Christofias said unity and consent would be cultivated through dialogue and transparency, adding that ''in decision making there must be control, decisiveness and speed'' and that ''all ministries must have their doors open to the citizens.''
He called on his cabinet to be consistent with the declarations of the government and ''never forget that credibility and success are the gamble of the government's service,'' adding that ''we must all work hard to justify the faith of the people who gave us the mandate to govern.''
''I will always be on hour side, a friend, an assistant and a supporter to your work. The people have demands from us, so as their attorney I have demands of you. I wish you all success in the task you have undertaken,'' he said.
He furthermore informed the cabinet that he would be flying to Athens on Tuesday for a working visit that will last until Thursday, and that the next meeting of the Council of Ministers would be held on March 11.
 UN SG Representative sees ''good mood'' for a Cyprus settlementNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
UN Secretary-General's Special Representative in Cyprus Michael Moller said here Friday that he sees a ''good mood'' concerning the efforts to bring about a Cyprus settlement, as the P5 Ambassadors hope for a meeting between the leaders of the two communities as soon as possible.
In statements after a reception hosted for Diplomats by Cyprus President Demetris Christofias at the Presidential Palace, Moler said that he met earlier Friday Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat and will meet on Monday Christofias with a view to ''arrange for Mr. Talat and Mr. Christofias to get together as soon as possible.''
Moller said that he cannot announce a date for the meeting between the two leaders and expressed hope that he will ''be able to come up with something more concrete,'' after his meeting with Christofias.
Replying to a question, Moller said that he raised the issue of the opening of Ledra street crossing point during his meeting with Talat, adding that he will discuss the issue with Mr Christofias on Monday.
''Mr Talat is quite ready to open it (Ledra Street crossing point) and I hope Mr Christofias is as well. So with a bid of luck we will finally manage,'' he said, adding that the date of the opening of the crossing point is up to the two leaders.
''The sooner the better as far as I am concerned,'' he added. Moller did not comment on a letter Talat sent to the UN SG Ban Ki-moon, noting that both Christofias and Talat already commented on the issue.
Furthermore, British High Commissioner to Cyprus Peter Millett said ''the sooner we can get the two leaders meeting face to face the better''.
''I hope that can happen very soon,'' he concluded.
On his part, Chinese Ambassador to Cyprus Zhao Yali expressed hope that the efforts expected to commence for a Cyprus settlement bear fruit.
''We hope that the contacts between the two leaders commence and we hope for the best for this process'', Zhao added.
The Chinese Ambassador also referred to a meeting he had with President Christofias, adding that they agreed to exert efforts for the promotion of the excellent relations and friendly ties between China and Cyprus.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
 Barroso accepts nomination of new Cypriot EU CommissionerBRUSSELS (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso accepted Friday the proposal of the Cypriot government to nominate Androulla Vassiliou as the Cypriot member in the European Commission.
Vassiliou will take over the 'Health' portofolio succeeding former Cypriot EU Commissioner Markos Kyprianou who resigned to assume new duties as Foreign Minister in the new Cabinet of Sunday's elected President Demetris Christofias.
A press release by the European Commission says that Barroso "has today (Friday) written to the President of the Council and to the President of the European Parliament, transmitting the resignation of Markos Kyprianou as a member of the European Commission, and President Barroso's agreement with the nomination by the Republic of Cyprus of Mrs Androula Vassiliou as a member of the Commission. Mrs. Vassiliou will take over the Health portfolio".
In the letter to the President of the Council, President Barroso has asked the Council to put in place as soon as possible the procedure foreseen by the Treaty for Kyprianou's replacement.
In the letter to the President of the European Parliament, President Barroso informs that following the Council's appointment and in accordance with the Framework Agreement between the European Parliament and the Commission, Mrs Vassiliou will be available to appear before the Parliament, in full compliance with the prerogatives of the institutions.
Vassiliou started her career as a lawyer. She was an elected Member of the House of Representatives of Cyprus for two terms (1996-2001 and 2001-2006). She served among others on the European Affairs Committee and on the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Cyprus and the EU.
She was an Alternate Representative of the Cyprus Parliament to the Convention for the Future of Europe (2001-2003). She was also Vice President of the European Liberal Democrats and Reform Party (ELDR, 2001-2006) and as such chairperson of the European Liberal Women's Network.
Since 2002, she serves as chairperson of the board of trustees of the Cyprus Oncology Centre. She was also President of the Cyprus Federation of Business and Professional Women.
She is married to Dr George Vassiliou, former President of the Republic of Cyprus (1988-1993) and Chief Negotiator for Cyprus' accession to the EU. She has three children.
In addition to Greek, her mother tongue, she is fluent in English and speaks French, moderately.
36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana-mpa.gr * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: GEORGE TAMBAKOPOULOS