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Macedonian Press Agency: News in English, 04-12-16
From: The Macedonian Press Agency at http://www.mpa.gr and http://www.hri.org/MPA.
 TURKEY'S DATE FOR THE OPENING OF EU ACCESSION NEGOTIATIONSAthens, 16 December 2004 (13:39 UTC+2)
The leaders of the EU member states will make the crucial decision today concerning the adoption of a date for the opening of Turkey's EU accession negotiations.
Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos, in an interview with the state-run NET television station yesterday, predicted that Turkey will receive a date for the opening of the accession negotiations with the EU. Responding to the question if Athens and Nicosia are optimistic that they will meet their goals, he stressed that, at this moment, things have entered a course that allows for positive results expectations.
Athens University Professor Thanos Veremis, also speaking to NET, predicted that Turkey will receive a date for the opening of the EU accession negotiations in the second half of 2005.
Yesterday, the European Parliament with an absolute majority supported the opening of negotiations.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that Turkey wants a date to be set unconditionally.
Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis departed for Brussels this morning after the meeting he had with Minister of Public Order Giorgos Voulgarakis, who briefed him on the successful way the bus hijack was handled.
Mr. Karamanlis postponed his departure scheduled to take place yesterday due to the hijack.
At noon today, he will attend the European People's Party meeting and later in the afternoon will attend the EU Summit meeting which will be completed tomorrow with main topic of discussion the date for the opening of Turkey's EU accession negotiations.
Cypriot Republic President Tassos Papadopoulos did not rule out the likelihood of a veto, while he expects a very tough negotiation until the last minute in the European Council meeting that opens its proceedings in Brussels today. .
 THESSALONIKI LOST EXPO RACEParis, 16 December 2004 (20:38 UTC+2)
World's fair organisers today awarded Expo 2008 to Zaragoza, Spain, which edged Trieste and Thessaloniki to host the international exhibition. The winner was announced following an afternoon secret-ballot vote by delegates to the Paris-based International Exhibitions Bureau.
Despite the fact that it contested on equal terms, Thessaloniki didn't make it to obtain the much wanted result.
In the first round Zaragoza received 47 votes, Trieste (Italy) 35 and Thessaloniki 12, while in the second round Zaragoza gathered 57 votes and Trieste 37.
 EXCELLENT CRISIS MANAGEMENTAthens, 16 December 2004 (13:11 UTC+2)
Satisfaction is widespread in the Greek Police ranks after the successful and bloodless end at 12:40 am this morning of the hostage situation that took place inside an Athens intercity bus and lasted almost 19 hours.
Minister of Public Order Giorgos Voulgarakis after the meeting he had with the Prime Minister, who congratulated him for the way the situation was handled, expressed discontent over the fact that the bus hijackers were able to find a podium through certain mass media a fact that jeopardized negotiations because the hijackers adopted an irrational behavior and at some point they believed that they control the system and proceeded with the desperate move to open fire.
The two Albanian bus hijackers, both 24 years old, who lived in Greece during the past few years, told Police that they planned the bus hijack for a week.
The two will be led before the prosecutor this afternoon. According to details given to publicity so far based on their testimonies to police, their goal was to get a ransom of 1 million euros, while they also asked for a bus driver to take them to Tirana.
Initially, they maintained that they were Russians to mislead police. They testified that they were going to free the hostages as soon as they received the ransom money. The two hijackers were friends from school in Albania and one of them was in Greece illegally.
They also said that they planned the bus hijack for a week and acted as copycats of the previous bus hijackings. No explosives were found inside the bus.
The hijack lasted almost over 19 hours and ended after most of the 23 hostages had been released through the mediation of police negotiators, who finally persuaded the hijackers to give themselves up and free the remaining 6 hostages. A decisive fact to the way the situation developed was the move by the bus driver, when the hijack got underway, to open the bus doors take the keys and jump out of the bus together with the ticket collector and a female passenger.
 THE EUROPEAN UNION POSITION ON FYROM HAS NOT CHANGEDAthens, 16 December 2004 (18:21 UTC+2)
The European Union Council underlines that its position has not changed after the US decision to recognize FYROM under its constitutional name, this was the first paragraph of the response given by the EU Council to a relevant question by Greek Coalition Party Euro-deputy Dimitris Papadimoulis.
In his question the Greek Euro-deputy underlined the US decision to proceed with the unilateral and surprise recognition of FYROM under the name Republic of Macedonia after completely ignoring the European Union and Greece. He expressed the view that this US act has as a result to undermine the dialogue held under the auspices of the UN Secretary General and based on the interim agreement. Mr. Papadimoulis also called on the European Council to undertake initiatives for the continuation of a meaningful dialogue aimed at reaching a mutually acceptable solution.
 GAINS IN THE ASEAthens, 16 December 2004 (17:21 UTC+2)
Gains were recorded in the Athens Stock Exchange today. The general index rose to +0.87% at 2720.86 points, while the volume of transactions was at 169,6 million euros.
Of the stocks trading today, 140 had gains and 141 had losses, while the value of 139 stocks remained unchanged.
 THE ACTING GOV'T SPOKESMAN ON THE EU SUMMIT MEETINGAthens, 16 December 2004 (16:05 UTC+2)
Acting government spokesman Vangelis Antonaros stated that a mini Summit on Cyprus under UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is unlikely to take place after the EU Summit meeting in Brussels, a position allegedly stated by the Turkish Industrialists Association.
Mr. Antonaros reiterated that the government is in favor of Turkey's European prospect under the preconditions set. Asked to comment if the government is concerned over the fact that in the European People's Party there are different opinions about Turkey's EU accession, he said that not all views in political party groups are the same, adding that the positions of the governing party of New Democracy and the Greek government are clear.
 HOSTAGE CRISIS CONTINUES IN ATHENSAthens, 15 December 2004 (22:27 UTC+2)
A KTEL bus, which was hijacked this morning at ten to six, remains up until now immobilized on the street. As night fell, hours after the early morning drama began, the gunmen had freed 17 of an original 23 hostages.
Gunshots were heard at 20:23.
Three people, the bus driver, who took the bus keys with him, the ticket collector and a female passenger managed to jump out of the bus when the hijack got underway in Athens this morning.
The two hijackers demand to be allowed to leave the country and 1 million euros.
 KARAMANLIS' CONTACTS IN BRUSSELSBrussels, 16 December 2004 (18:46 UTC+2)
Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis met in Brussels with Cypriot Republic President Tassos Papadopoulos and then he will have a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the latter's request. Mr. Karamanlis will also meet with European Commission President Jose Manuel Durao Baroso.
Earlier, the Greek Prime Minister attended the European People's Party meeting. He stressed that in today's meeting they discussed the issue of the EU enlargement, which is the main issue under discussion in the European Council.
The goal is for the European Council to send a clear message to Turkey that in order to be able to become an EU member it will have to meet all the preconditions and comply with the EU principles and values, stated Mr. Karamanlis.
He also stated that they examined the issue of the EU accession of Bulgaria and Romania in 2007 and the opening of the EU accession negotiations with Croatia and Turkey.
Mr. Karamanlis stated that he had the opportunity to reiterate that Greece supports Turkey's European course, stressing that it will ensure security, stability and cooperation. He added that Turkey's European course will be long and difficult and the outcome of the undertaking depends exclusively on Turkey itself and if it will adjust completely to the European acquis and international law.
 PAPASTAMKOS ON THE BALKAN STATES-EU RELATIONSStrasbourg, 16 December 2004 (17:16 UTC+2)
Greek governing party of New Democracy Euro-deputy professor Giorgos Papastamkos referred to the notable progress made in the transition of Bulgaria to a pluralistic democracy and a functional market economy. Speaking in a discussion held in the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg he, also, stressed the need for further efforts until full accession is achieved.
Mr. Papastamkos characterized Bulgaria's accession into the EU in 2007 as a very positive development both for the country itself and the wider region of southeastern Europe. He also asked the European Commission to prepare a new study on the effects of the EU accession of Bulgaria and Romania on the bordering regions of member states given the fact that the regions in northeastern Greece, bordering with the two countries, face most problems at EU level according to estimates made by the Commission itself.
Referring to Romania's EU course, Mr. Papastamkos characterized it as feasible to take place at the same time with Bulgaria under the precondition that efforts will intensify and Romania is willing to make further reforms in public administration and the judicial system as well as, adopt more effective actions regarding border control, asylum and immigration policies and measures against organized crime and corruption.
In the first meeting of the presiding board of the Inter-Parliamentary Delegation of the European Parliament on FYROM, Mr. Papastamkos as the chairman of the European Parliament delegation, expressed support to FYROM in the efforts to bring relations with the EU to higher and more stable levels of cooperation.
He pointed out that the European integration of FYROM will benefit the country itself and contribute to the efforts for political stability in the wider region. However, the European course presupposes determination to proceed with radical political, economic and social reforms toward the direction of the full implementation of the framework-agreement and the adjustment to the European acquis.
Mr. Papastamkos also expressed the hope that the FYROM political leadership, in line with the European values and principles, will respond to the efforts for a mutually acceptable solution to the problem of the FYROM name underlining the institutional and political position Greece has in the European Union.
 DECISION FOR THESSALONIKIParis, 16 December 2004 (14:53 UTC+2)
The general assembly of the International Bureau of Exhibitions, BIE, that meets in Paris today will decide with a secret vote which city among Thessaloniki (Greece), Trieste (Italy) and Zaragoza (Spain) will host EXPO 2008.
Thessaloniki is at the center of a region to which the architecture of new Europe expands, a region where its peoples make a strong effort for development and it is time for the BIE by promoting its role and the significance of world exhibitions to shift its center of gravity to such regions, stated Minister of Macedonia-Thrace Nikos Tsiartsionis, who is heading the Greek delegation.
The clear superiority of Thessaloniki over the other candidate host cities became evident during the joint press conference all three candidates gave in Paris yesterday.
It became evident that Thessaloniki, which is the largest of the three in terms of population, is the only one with an international airport and a huge Balkan mainland that can attract a larger number of visitors, while its main theme is Terra Mater inspired by the world nutrition crisis and the famine problems in the poor countries. The Minister of Macedonia-Thrace also stated that Thessaloniki has an infrastructure of 140,000 beds to accommodate the estimated 7 million visitors expected in EXPO2008.