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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-05-19

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] 51st Eurovision song contest semi-finals held in Athens
  • [02] Rehn presses Turkey over customs union, Cyprus
  • [03] PM stresses policy for public sector reforms
  • [04] Deputy FM Kassimis to visit Patriarchate

  • [01] 51st Eurovision song contest semi-finals held in Athens

    First-time contestant Armenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Finland, FYROM, Ireland, Lithuania, Russia, Sweden, Turkey, and Ukraine are the 10 countries that qualified in the early hours of Friday for the 51st Eurovision song contest Final on Saturday night, following viewer voting late Thursday among the 23 contestants at the spectacular semi-final held in the indoor basketball venue at Athens' OAKA main Olympic complex.

    The 23 countries taking part in Thursday night's semi-final were: Armenia (which is taking part for the first time in the history of the competition), Bulgaria, Slovenia, Andora, Belarus, Albania, Belgium, Ireland, Cyprus, Monaco, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Poland, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, Finland, The Netherlands, Lithuania, Portugal, Sweden, Estonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iceland.

    The ten best semi-finalists elected late Thursday night will now compete in Saturday's final with the 14 top songs of last year's Eurovision song contest: Switzerland, Moldova, Israel, Latvia, Norway, Malta, Denmark, Romania, Croatia (which was the first runner up and took the slot following the withdrawal of Serbia-Montenegro), the four major countries which traditionally participate in the competition -- Spain, Germany, France and the United Kingdom -- and 2006 host country Greece, which won the Eurovision song contest in 2005 with "My Number One" performed by Elena Paparizou.

    Thursday night's qualifiers were Armenia, with "Without your Love" performed by Andre; Bosnia-Herzegovina, with "Lejla" performed by Hari Mata Hari and his band; Finland, with "Hard Rock Hallelujah" performed by the heavy metal band Lordi; FYROM, with "Ninanajna" performed by Elena Rusteska; Ireland, with the ballad "Every song is a cry for love" performed by Brian Kennedy; Lithuania, with "We are the Winners (of Eurovision)" performed by LT United; Russia, with "Never let you go" performed by Dima; Sweden, with "Invicible" performed by Carola; Turkey, with "Superstar" performed by Sibel Tuzun; and Ukraine, with "Show me your Love" performed by Tina Karol.

    The event was hosted by Greece's Eurovision 2004 third-place winner and pop heartthrob Sakis Rouvas ("Shake It") and Greek-American model, reporter and actress Maria Menounos, who will also host the Final on Saturday night.

    Caption: Ireland was one of the 10 of 23 competing countries in the Eurovision song contest semi-finals on Thursday evening in Athens to qualify for the final, to take place Saturday at the indoor arena at Athens' main Olympic complex (OAKA). Brian Kennedy brought Ireland to the finals with a performance of "Every song is a cry for love". (ANA-MPA photo/Orestis Panagiotou)

    [02] Rehn presses Turkey over customs union, Cyprus

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - V. Demiris) European Commissioner for enlargement Olli Rehn on Friday pressed Turkey to fully implement a customs union agreement with the EU, opening its ports and airports to Cyprus traffic, and warned that Turkey's EU accession negotiations would run into trouble over the slow pace of reforms.

    After talks on Friday with Turkish Economy Minister Ali Babacan, the country's chief negotiator with the EU, Rehn stressed that extending customs union to the 10 new member-states of the Community, including Cyprus, was an obligation that Turkey had undertaken to fulfil at the start of its EU entry talks.

    In response to questions, meanwhile, Rehn said that Turkey's obligation to implement the extended customs union agreement, known as the Ankara Protocol, was not linked to either a trade and aid package designed to end the economic isolation of Turkish-Cypriots in occupied northern Cyprus or efforts to resolve the Cyprus issue.

    The commissioner said that there were two important aspects to EU-Turkey relations: the Cyprus issue and the pace of reforms to enhance human rights and democracy in Turkey.

    "There is a sense of urgency and it is now the time more clearly to regain the momentum of reforms that enhance the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms," Rehn stressed.

    He also pointed to the EU's commitment to work for a solution to the Cyprus problem under the auspices of the United Nations.

    According to Babacan, the European Commission and the Turkish government had "different views" on how the Ankara Protocol should be interpreted and what was required.

    On Thursday, the Greek and Cyprus governments rejected attempts by Turkey to link the opening of its ports to Cyprus craft with the end of a ban on direct trade with Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus. Nicosia opposes a lifting of the embargo, fearing that it would grant de facto recognition to the illegal regime set up in the occupied north, which is recognised only by Turkey.

    Speaking to the European Policy Centre earlier on Friday, Rehn urged the international community to more actively seek a solution to the Cyprus problem in the near future, stressing that the coming months were particularly crucial and would provide a "window of opportunity" for finding a solution.

    He also stressed that the European Commission was anxious to unblock measures to aid the Turkish-Cypriots and hoped that progress might be made after the general elections on Cyprus.

    "I trust that after the parliamentary elections in Cyprus, we could soon start serious work to get the remaining part of the trade and aid package...namely the trade regulation with certain accompanying measures, soon adopted in the (EU) Council," Rehn said.

    Photo: Rehn in Greek Parliament (supplied by ANA-MPA)

    [03] PM stresses policy for public sector reforms

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday reiterated his government's volition to implement reforms and restructuring of Greece's often cavernous public administration, one of ruling New Democracy (ND) primary pre-election campaign planks.

    "Reforms launched since the first day ND came to power will continue firmly and with more rapid and decisive steps in order to make the re-establishment of the state and public administration deeper; to promote decentralisation and to further strengthen local government," the premier stressed in a brief message to delegates at a conference on local government held at the Delphi archaeological site in south-central Greece.

    The conference is co-organised by former PASOK minister Gerassimos Arsenis' Institute for Research and Strategic Policy, the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE), the Local Government Institute and the European Cultural Centre of Delphi.

    Karamanlis pointed out that reforms are necessary given the growing international trend for change and reforms, whereas the focus now revolves around the citizen and his active participation in decision making.

    In a direct reference and criticism of the preceding PASOK government's funding of local governments, he said municipalities and communities have now been relieved of excessive borrowing, while prefectural governments enjoy stable funding -- three times higher compared to 2004, he said.

    Caption: PM Karamanlis. ANA-MPA photo / V. Vardoulakis.

    [04] Deputy FM Kassimis to visit Patriarchate

    Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis will travel to Istanbul over the weekend to attend ecclesiastical services at the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the feast day of St Constantine and St. Helen on Sunday, which in the Orthodox calendar also celebrates the memory of the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchs.

    Kassimis will also be received by Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos and travel to the Sea of Marmara island of Halki.

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