Former banker and publisher George Koskotas, who spearheaded a financial scandal that brought down the government in 1989, was paroled on Thursday and will be released from prison today.
Koskotas, the former CEO of the Bank of Crete and publisher of an Athens daily, was incarcerated on an embezzlement conviction after a shortfall of 132 million dollars was discovered in the bank.
In the months that followed, Koskotas, who had by then fled to the United States, claimed that the late prime minister and PASOK party founder Andreas Papandreou ordered state companies to deposit funds with the bank, and took bribes from stolen money. The allegations resulted in the resignations of several ministers and demands for a vote of no confidence in the government. Mr. Papandreou, who died in 1996, was cleared of all charges by a special court in 1992 and was re-elected in 1993.
Koskotas was arrested on November 23, 1988, in Massachusetts, and was jailed in the United States until his extradition to Greece in 1991. He has served 12 years of a 25-year sentence for embezzlement, forgery and obstruction of justice felonies. Barred from leaving the country, Koskotas has also been ordered to report to an Athens police precinct twice a month.
Orthodoxy in Africa and the historical relations of the Orthodox Christians, Copts and Muslims with the African religions will be discussed in the international scientific symposium that will be held in Johannesburg on March 22-25.
The conference is organized by Thessaloniki's Aristotle University, Johannesburg University and the Institute of Greek-African Studies in Johannesburg.
About 40 university professors and special researchers from Greece and South Africa will attend the conference that will be completed in Pretoria on March 25. The conference participants will also attend the festivities organized by the Greek community in Pretoria on the occasion of the Greek national holiday commemorating the Greek uprising against the Ottoman Turks in 1821.
NATO secretary-general Lord George Robertson, who is on a visit to Greece, met in Athens today with prime minister Kostas Simitis.
Mr. Simitis condemned the violence in FYROM and expressed Greece's respect to its territorial integrity. He stressed that Greece backs the FYROM government in its efforts to deal with the issue in a democratic way, while he made an appeal to all political forces in FYROM to move toward the direction of a dialogue.
Regarding the stance adopted by the Albanian government, he said that it is a prudent stance and expressed the hope that the Albanian political forces in FYROM and Kosovo will adopt a similar position.
He said that the situation should not be left to deteriorate, stressing that in a different case the negative stereotypes regarding the region will be confirmed and its countries will move away from the European procedures, a development that can be extremely negative.
Losses were recorded in the Athens Stock Exchange today. The general index dropped to 0.33% at 3.125,67 points, while the volume of transactions was satisfactory at 254 million Euro or 86.5 billion drachmas.
Of the stocks trading today, 141 recorded gains and 198 had losses, while the value of 35 stocks remained stable.
NATO secretary-general Lord George Robertson met in Athens today with the ministers of foreign affairs and defense and the main issues they discussed were the developments in FYROM and the actions of the Albanian extremists.
In the meeting he had with foreign minister Giorgos Papandreou, Mr. Robertson condemned the actions of the Albanian extremists and stressed that NATO will protect the borders in the region and offer the greater possible political assistance with the appointment of an envoy to Skopje. He reiterated, however, that the alliance has no mandate to be engaged in Skopje and the measures it takes concern the better guarding of the borders with Kosovo and the political support of the FYROM government.
Foreign minister Giorgos Papandreou expressed the concern of the Greek government regarding the developments in the region of FYROM and Kosovo and reiterated that there is a need to protect the territorial integrity of FYROM. He also called for the reinforcement of the KFOR operational effectiveness.
The NATO secretary-general also met with defense minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos, who stated that Greek troops are among the forces that have been deployed at the borders of FYROM and Kosovo.
Right wing main opposition party of New Democracy leader Kostas Karamanlis met with NATO secretary-general Lord George Robertson in Athens.
After the meeting, Mr. Karamanlis stated that he had a constructive talk with Mr. Robertson and the main issues that were discussed concerned the situation in the Balkans and the crisis in FYROM.
He said that for the problem to be solved the international community must guarantee the inviolability of the borders, adding that no border changes can be accepted in the Balkans. He said that extremist and nationalist actions and moves can not be encouraged and no new states can be created in the Balkans.
In a written statement seven parliament deputies from the governing socialist party of PASOK expressed their opposition to the likelihood of an agreement that will allow the use of the term Macedonia in FYROM's name.
The seven parliament deputies are Stelios Papathemelis, Panagiotis Kritikos, Nora Katselis, Charis Kastanidis, Panagiotis Fotiadis, Panagiotis Kourouplis and Alexandros Chrisanthakopoulos.
The "Polis" municipality network protocol of cooperation will be signed by Greece and Turkey in Sapes, northeastern Greece tomorrow in the presence of foreign minister Giorgos Papandreou. The signing ceremony will be attended by parliamentary delegations and local administration representatives from Turkey and Bulgaria.
In the "Polis" network participate 16 municipalities from western Thrace, while in the Turkish "Trakyakent" network, participate 22 municipalities from eastern Thrace.
Among the goals of the cooperation are the promotion of inter-regional and inter-border activities and the strengthening of the social, cultural, educational, agricultural, tourist, trade and economic relations between the Greek and Turkish municipalities aimed at strengthening the friendship relations between the two countries.
Greece ranks 13th among Romania's foreign investors list, with traded capital amounting to 1.47 billion dollars for the time period between December 1990-November 2000.
Specifically, Greek investments in Romania during the aforementioned decade correspond to 2.9 percent of the overall foreign capital invested in the country.
According to the latest data provided by Romania's National Statistics Service, bilateral trade experienced a meteoric rise last year, when Greek exports to Romania increased by 185.3%, amounting to $327.8 million, between January and November of 2000.
At the same time, Romanian exports to Greece during 2000 rose by 149.6% since 1999, amounting to $290 million. Nevertheless, Romania's trade balance with Greece continues to show a deficit, presently standing at $37.8 million.
Cigarette packs sold in Greece will be subject to a steep price hike if the state enforces a plan proposed issued by the European Commission which calls for the imposition of an EU minimum tax on smokes.
According to the Commission, the proposal will ensure a fair and reasonable taxation of all tobacco products sold within the EU, while it will also help the anti-smoking campaign.
Greece is among the EU's five countries, along with Spain, Portugal, Italy and Luxembourg, that currently have lower duties on cigarettes than the proposed minimum rate. The proposal, if passed, will also strike be a major blow to Greece's multi-billion drachma tobacco production sector which fears that the higher prices will increase the potential of cigarettes smuggled into the EU from non-EU countries where tobacco products are sold much cheaper.
Foreign Minister George Papandreou is to arrive at the city of Sapes tomorrow were he will attend the signing of a cooperation memorandum between the polis network municipalities of Greece and Turkey.
The signing ceremony will also be attended by parliamentary delegations from Greece and Turkey.
The polis network features the participation of 16 municipalities from western Thrace, while Turkey's comparative network Trakyakent features the participation of 22 municipalities from eastern Thrace.
The cooperation memorandum aims at promoting intra-regional and intra-border action and strengthening social, cultural, academic, commercial and economic ties between the Greek and Turkish municipalities.
The developments in FYROM as a result of the Albanian extremists' actions were discussed in the meeting of ambassador Giorgos Kaklikis head of the Greek Liaison Office in Skopje with FYROM interior minister Dosta Dimovska.
The state radio station in Skopje reported that Mr. Kaklikis expressed the complete support of the Greek government to the FYROM authorities and the measures that are being implemented to stabilize the situation and avert the spread of the armed attacks inside the country.
One of the leaders of the Albanian armed extremists has upped the ante against the government of FYROM, warning that his men are capable of setting the whole country on fire.
In a telephone conversation with the French news agency AFP from the village of Malino, the guerrilla leader warned that the clashes around Tetovo were merely a warming of what might follow.
The FYROM government is narrow-minded, but we're not going to stop. We'll continue until Skopje understands our demands, he told AFP, adding that we will continue to fight on all fronts and if Skopje strikes in one place, an explosion will occur in another, referring to a possible attack against the city of Kumanovo, northeast of Skopje.
Greek minister of public order Michalis Chrisochoidis proposed the creation of a European observation post in the European Union to collect statistical data, study the illegal immigration phenomenon in Europe and its effects and establish policies that will deal with the problem. The proposals were made in the EU internal affairs council meeting that was held in Brussels yesterday.
Mr. Chrisochoidis spoke of a common problem with distinct characteristics in each country and stressed that there must be an effort for common solutions.
He also referred to the recent initiative undertaken by Germany, Italy, Greece and Albania against organized crime at the Adriatic coasts.
A low rate of births has resulted in a declining population among the European Union's member-states, according to Sweden's national statistics office (SCB), which also warned that fertility in the 12 EU applicant countries -with the exception of Turkey- is also too low to maintain their populations at current levels.
According to the SCB, every woman should have an average of 2.1 children in order to prevent a further decline in the population rate. Presently, women in Ireland, France, Finland, Luxembourg, Denmark, Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium are giving birth to more than 1.5 but less than two children each in average, while Greece, Italy, Spain, Austria and Germany have fertility rates below the EU average of 1.5. Sweden, which presently holds the EU's rotating presidency, is exactly on the mean rate.
Among applicant countries, women in Turkey are giving birth to an average of 2.5 children, while Cyprus and Malta have birth rates over 1.5 but below two.
Fertility in all other candidate member-states is between one and 1.5.
The challenges of demographic change will be discussed during next week's EU Summit in Stockholm on March 23-24.
The US-Canada Pan-Macedonian Association Youth Section held its first meeting this year.
According to the New York based Greek-American newspaper "Ethnikos Kirix", the meeting was attended by 70 young association members from Canada, Boston, Philadelphia, New York and Houston.
Pan-Macedonian Association president Ms. Nina Peropoulos stressed that young members had to be informed on the developments concerning the issue of the name that will be used by FYROM and added that a double name that will include the term Macedonia or any of its derivatives will not be accepted.