In a reply to the congratulatory message he received from Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, United States President-elect George W. Bush said he is looking forward to cooperating with Greece toward the consolidation of peace, stability and democracy in southeastern Europe.
President Bush also said that he is convinced relations between Greece and the US are based on stable foundations and common values.
"I am aware that challenges await us in the international community. We shall respond to them with a spirit of respect, cooperation and open dialogue, looking forward always to strengthen our understanding, so as to achieve the aims of peace, freedom and prosperity for our peoples. And I am looking forward to our cooperation for the promotion of peace, stability and democracy in southeastern Europe," he stated in his message.
The construction of the Thessaloniki metro will be completed in about four to five years, according to the Minister of Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Costas Laliotis.
The cabinet approved yesterday the fiscal plan of the project's funding, which is to be submitted for approval to the European Investments Bank.
According to Mr. Laliotis, July 1, 2001 is a key date for the project, since it will mark the project's "fiscal closure" and render it ready for loan contracts. Time required for the project's construction will commence on this date.
The project's finalized fiscal plan will imminently be submitted to the European Investments Bank.
The international organizations and the governments of the developed countries must make every effort so that the so-called "Balkans Syndrome" will not slow down the reconstruction process in southeastern Europe.
Both minister of Macedonia-Thrace Giorgos Paschalidis and US ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns speaking in the one-day conference that was held in Thessaloniki today organized by the ministry of Macedonia-Thrace, the US embassy and the Inter-Balkan Black Sea Business Center in cooperation with the Hellenic-US Chamber of Commerce, expressed the belief that the public uproar over the depleted uranium used in the NATO bombs that hit Yugoslavia could become an obstacle for the reconstruction process in the region.
Mr. Paschalidis stated that Greece will contribute to the development of the countries in the region with 1% of its GNP or 180 billion drachmas.
US ambassador Nicholas Burns stated that the US investments in Greece are US$ 2.2 billion and they are expected to be increased considerably in the next five years, while there is strong interest for investments in northern Greece namely, Thessaloniki, Kilkis, Serres, Kavala, Komotini and Alexandroupolis.
Meanwhile, the Black Sea Board of Directors has approved the funding of 15 projects with more than US$100 million, stated the bank's president Ersoi Volkan. In addition the bank has approved export credits of US$17.5 million.
Also, Greece and seven more governments in cooperation with IFC, a World Bank branch, will offer US$33 million by 2005 for the economic support of small and medium sized companies in southeastern Europe, according to Marian Kurts, head of the IFC's Southeast Europe Enterprise Development program (SEED). The program is currently in effect in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, FYROM and selectively in Kosovo, while it is likely to be expanded in the future to the small-medium sized companies in Serbia and Montenegro. The program concerns the businesses that are active for a period from one to three years and have over 10 employees.
There is no radiation contamination risk from the consumption of vegetables and therefore, the Greeks can consume them without fear, pointed out epidemiology professor Dimitris Trichopoulos, stressing that the depleted uranium contamination risk is greater for those who were in military vehicles that were directly hit by depleted uranium shells during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.
In an interview to the Athens radio station "Planet", professor Trichopoulos stated that the risk for those who were in military vehicles and were directly hit is greater because they were exposed to the metal fumes that were created by uranium and the impact on the steel the military vehicles are made of. He said that they should be concerned but at a reasonable level, adding that the contamination risk for the local population is smaller, while the contamination risk for the Greeks is practically zero.
The unemployment rate figures in Greece included in a Statistics Agency report are based on 1999 polls, stated government spokesman Dimitris Reppas, adding that the solution of the problem of unemployment is a priority and a challenge for the government.
The government has undertaken legislative initiatives aimed at cutting unemployment in the country, said Mr. Reppas.
The Greek government is aware of Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All of Greece visit to Kosovo where he will be accompanied by Greek foreign ministry adviser Alexandros Rontos at the request of the Archbishop himself, stated government spokesman Dimitris Reppas.
Responding to a relevant question, Mr. Reppas mentioned that Mr. Rontos is responsible for humanitarian issues in the Greek foreign ministry and reiterated that his role in the region is positive, constructive and internationally recognized.
The Greek government is waiting for the findings of the scientific research conducted by the Greek Atomic Energy Committee on the issue of the depleted uranium and the radiation pollution in Yugoslavia as a result of the NATO bombings, stated government spokesman Dimitris Reppas in the briefing of reporters, pointing out that those issues must be handled with a sense of responsibility.
He also maintained that the views expressed by different sides on the issue have their own value, are taken into account and evaluated within the framework of the research conducted by the scientific community.
Losses were recorded again today in the Athens Stock Exchange. The general index closed down by 0.96% to 3.153,10 points, while the volume of transactions was small at 114.8 million Euro or 39.125 billion drachmas.
Of the stocks trading today, 301 recorded losses and 45 had gains, while the value of 29 stocks remained unchanged.
Greece may have the lowest per capita income among the eurozone's member-states, but when it comes to household consumption, then the country has no equal, according to Eurostat, the European Union's statistics agency.
According to the Eurostat report, released in Brussels yesterday, Greece produces a mere 1.9 percent of the Eurozone's gross domestic product (GDP), but has the highest household consumption rate (72.3%) among all 12 members of the Eurozone whose average is 56.7 percent.
The report also finds that per capita income in Greece (14,200 euros) is the lowest within the zone, whose average is 21,000 euros, although the country has presented higher-than-average growth rates during the past five-year period and showed a vertical rise in the investment sector.
Agriculture continues to play a strong role in the GDP, accounting for 8.9 percent of total value, when the zone's average is 2.8%; it is followed by the sector of transport-communications-trade which contributed 28.3% to the total value, as opposed to the average of 21.9 percent.
On the other hand, the industry sector's contribution to the GDP wasn't at all impressive; with a 15.7 percent, as opposed to the zone average of 23.3%, it placed Greece in the second to last seat among the 12 Eurozone members.
This year's cost of living in Athens is lower than last year, according to a survey conducted in 133 cities by the "Economist Intelligence Unit" as a means to provide a guide to companies sending executives and their families overseas.
According to the survey, Athens ranks in the 94th position, considerably lower than last year's 63rd. A similar trend is noted in other European cities, especially those from member-states of the Eurozone, and is attributed to euro's weakness.
Tokyo continues to be the priciest city in the world, respectively followed by Osaka and, surprisingly, Belgrade whose almost thirty-fold jump from last year's 83rd rank is attributed to the scarcity of goods. Bucharest and Budapest are Europe's cheapest billet.
NATO's use of violence against Kosovo was politically justified and morally correct, since it had no other option in light of the intransigence displayed by the Milosevic regime, according to United States Ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns.
Ambassador Burns stated that the raids helped "put an end to the ethnic cleansing" and consolidate peace in the region, adding that "Slobodan Milosevic was the bad guy whose government caused four wars during the past decade, leaving behind it more than 250,000 dead and two million homeless."
Furthermore, the American diplomat, whose term in Greece ends in July, defended the Alliance's position that the use of depleted uranium in bombs dropped on Yugoslavia during its 1999 campaign in Kosovo and on Bosnia in an earlier campaign was not linked to the recent incidents of leukemia among peacekeepers in the region.
"That is not biologically feasible," he stated, adding that "we must not rush to conclusions" or found conclusions on sentiment of unconfirmed reports not founded on scientific data. He further stressed that NATO's experts have found no proven correlation between the use of depleted uranium and leukemia.
Mr. Burns also refuted recent claims that plutonium was used during the raids against Kosovo, while he pledged transparency on any data that might surface.
Ancient artifacts stolen from a Greek museum ten years ago and discovered at Miami in 1999 have been handed over by the FBI to Greek authorities and are to be returned to Greece this weekend.
The 271 artifacts were stolen from the Archaeological Museum of Corinth on April 12, 1990 during an armed robbery.
Working closely with Greek police officials and the Greek Ministry of Culture, the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) discovered that several of the stolen artifacts had been consigned for auction at Christie's New York.
According to a US Embassy press release, the authorities recovered approximately 265 of the stolen artifacts in Miami, Florida on September 7, 1999. The announcement also added that Wilma Sabala was identified as having possession of the entire collection of stolen artifacts at the time they were consigned to Christie's. Sabala was arrested by the FBI on June 9, 2000, in Miami and was sentenced to one year in jail.
In a ceremony hosted by Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, the artifacts' return is to officially be announced on Monday. Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysohoides and US Ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns will also attend the event.
The Greek Telecommunications Organization, OTE, received a mobile phone service provider license in Bulgaria and deposited the sum of US$ 135 million provided in a relevant agreement. The company name will be Cosmo-Bulgaria Mobile and its subscribers will have telephone numbers starting with 098.
OTE vice-president Panagiotis Kargatos, who received the license by Bulgarian State Telecommunications Committee chairman Ivan Tausanov in Sofia today, promised to the company's future subscribers lower rates compared to those offered by Mobiltel, the other mobile phone company active in the Bulgarian market.
The Greek Bank of Piraeus will open a new branch in Plovdiv, Bulgaria in February.
According to Sofia newspaper "Pari", a branch of the bank will open in Pleven by mid 2001, while its branches in the cities of Burgas, Varna and Blagoevgrad will open by the end of the current year.
A protocol of cooperation will be signed by the mayors of Kazantzakis municipality in Crete and Nilufer municipality in Prussa within the framework of the meeting of Turkish Cretans and Greek refugees who had to leave their homes as a result of the 1923 Population Exchange. The meeting will take place in Crete on March 6.
Turkish refugees, members of the Instanbul based Population Exchange Lausanne Foundation made a visit-pilgrimage to Thessaloniki and other central Greek cities last October and in March they will visit Chania, Rethimno, Iraklion and Ierapetra in Crete together with their children and grandchildren to look for their old neighbors and the houses where they lived themselves or their ancestors.
The foundation seeks the rapprochement of the Turkish and Greek refugees aimed at the protection of the cultural, artistic and folklore heritage and the promotion of the scientific research on the recent past for the consolidation of friendship between the two peoples.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice-president Canadian Dick Pound spoke of problems in the organizing of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, while at the same time he clarified that the fact that the Greek government has intensified its efforts in this area is encouraging.
Speaking in new York last night, Mr. Pound characterized the organizing of the games as problematic and added that the "Athens 2004" Organizing Committee has many more challenges to face.
He also said that the importance of the Athens Olympic Games does not allow for failures in the organizing sector.
Clothing items worth about 400 million drachmas will be delivered to the Greek communities in five Black Sea countries by April within the framework of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad medical care program.
The above was announced by its president Mr. Andrew Athens expressing satisfaction over the fact. The Greek communities that will receive the clothes are in the former soviet republics of Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Armenia and Kazakstan. The aid is expected to arrive to the Greek Association in Tashkent, Uzbekistan by February 16.
The clothing items came from private donations and will arrive in containers under the supervision of Counterpart International, a non profit organization appointed by the World Council of Hellenes Abroad to oversee its aid programs in the former soviet republics.