Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou made light of recent tension between Athens and Ankara yesterday, saying there had been "worse moments" in relations between the two countries. He said the rise in temperature was not surprising because "as long as Turkey has enormous economic, social and political problems, it will export them".
The prime minister was referring to statements at the weekend by Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller criticising Greece over an incident last week when a group of Kurds, Armenians, Cypriots and Greeks demonstrated outside the Turkish consulate in Thessaloniki as visiting Turkish Minister of State Yildirim Aktuna arrived. Ms Ciller's comments were accompanied by rowdy scenes of the crowd burning the Greek flag; the Greek embassy in Ankara has also received threatening phone calls.
Replying to questions, Mr. Papandreou said that his letter of reply to US President Bill Clinton referred to the problems in the region and particularly Greece's national problems.
Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias, when asked to comment on the Turkish premier's accusations against Greece, said "Ms Ciller has problems". Mr. Papoulias also cited political observers in Turkey who said that Ankara was trying to "export" its problems in order to distract the Turkish people from domestic problems.
These problems "are many, with unknown repercussions on the political developments in Turkey," Mr. Papoulias said. "We should not pay particular attention to these insulting outbursts by Ms Ciller," he told reporters shortly before his departure for Hungary on a two-day visit.
Government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos yesterday welcomed statements by US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke published in Sunday's edition of the newspaper 'To Ethnos', acknowledging that the settlement of the Cyprus problem was the crucial factor for the improvement of Greek-Turkish relations.
Mr. Holbrooke told the newspaper that peace in south-eastern Europe hinged on an improvement in Greek-Turkish relations, and, therefore, the United States had "a significant national interest in a solution of the Cyprus problem".
The American official's statements are not discordant with Greek positions, and acquire special significance, coming, as they do, only a few days after the Cypriot National Council's visit to Athens which established agreement on both the short - and long-term handling of the issue, and ascertained that Cyprus is the top national priority.
Mr. Holbrooke went further by saying that Greece had dangerous neighbours -- without naming them -- thus according substance to the Greek claim of being a factor of stability and peace in the region.
Mr. Venizelos also said that Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou had sent a letter to President Bill Clinton, replying to a letter delivered to the premier recently by Mr. Holbrooke. The spokesman said that the content of Mr. Papandreou's letter of reply would not be made public.
Turkey claimed yesterday to have arrested a Kurdish guerrilla who had been trained in Greece. Announcing the arrest of three Kurds, a Turkish police spokesman in Izmir claimed that Mehmet Kavak, 28, received training in bomb-making at a Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) camp allegedly situated some 200 km from Athens.
Hungary, current chairman of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), has offered to mediate between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, according to an announcement yesterday.
The announcement was made after talks between visiting Greek Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias and his Hungarian counterpart Laszlo Kovacs. Hungary currently chairs the OSCE, which groups nearly all the European states.
Mr. Kovacs said his Greek counterpart agreed on the role which the OSCE could play in helping resolve a long-standing dispute between Athens and Skopje, but did not elaborate. Mr. Kovacs was considering sending personal envoys to Athens and Skopje to assist in mediation efforts.
Mr. Papoulias said leading efforts by UN mediator Cyrus Vance and US special envoy Matthew Nimetz were being met with continued intransigence from the Skopje side. "Greece hopes that the crisis will be overcome with the assistance of its friends," Mr. Papoulias said, whose visit comes a week after FYROM Foreign Minister Stevo Crvenkovski visited Budapest.
Athens has been at odds with the former Yugoslav republic for years, urging it to change its name, flag and constitution. Greece argues Skopje's persistent use of the name "Macedonia" harbours territorial ambition on the northern Greek province of the same name.
Mr. Kovacs voiced support for Skopje's entry to the OSCE but conceded the need for Athens to consent to the move.
Speaking at Athens airport before his departure, Mr. Papoulias said talks between Greece and FYROM should have already started, "but, unfortunately, there is a (FYROM president Kiro) Gligorov who constantly changes positions depending on the domestic problems he is facing".
In Budapest, Mr. Papoulias also reiterated Greece's calls for the lifting of UN sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, saying the effects have been "unfair" on the Greek economy. "Greece has suffered a trade loss of three billion dollars as a result of the embargo," Mr. Papoulias said. "It is extremely unfair that Greece and other nations shoulder the effects of the embargo. The Greek government is in favour of the lifting of the embargo."
Turning to bilateral relations, Mr. Papoulias said relations with Hungary had always been good and the target was to further improve them at all levels. "Greece, as a member of the European Union and NATO, supports and will continue to support the Euro-Atlantic orientation of Hungary," Mr. Papoulias said after his talks with Mr. Kovacs.
He said Greece considered Hungary to be a major European nation and it would be remiss of Europe for Hungary not to participate in a "large organised European family." He said that he and Mr. Kovacs had agreed there was great opportunity for further bilateral collaboration and that political relations between the two were "excellent, a model for unsullied political relations".
The two men also discussed European security and regional issues. Other issues discussed were the possibility of Hungarian firms participating in Greek infrastructure projects; the possibility of joint collaboration between the two nations' public order ministries on the issues of organised crime, terrorism and drug trafficking was also broached.
Mr. Papoulias also met with Parliament President Zoltan Gal and stressed the usefulness of regular meetings and contacts between the two. It was announced that Mr. Gal and the president of Hungary would visit Athens before the year's end. Mr. Papoulias will meet with Prime Minister Gyula Horn today and with representatives of Hungary's Greek community before returning to Athens.
President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos' acceptance of an invitation from his Albanian counterpart Sali Berisha to visit Tirana "will give a new impetus to Greek-Albanian relations", Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias said yesterday.
Speaking to reporters shortly before his departure for Hungary for a two-day visit, Mr. Papoulias said that Mr. Stephanopoulos' visit "will provide an opportunity to lay new foundations to Greek-Albanian relations" which Mr. Papoulias inaugurated during his recent visit to Tirana, after a period of tension.
Mr. Papoulias disagreed with press views that Greek-Albanian relations were "just good weather" without any progress having been taken towards solving the problems between the two countries. He cited the recent Greek-Albanian meeting in Athens and the forthcoming meetings of joint subcommittees saying that "they show that progress exists on the agreements reached in Tirana", and expressed certainty that "there will be good results".
The Commander of Allied Forces Southern Europe, Admiral Leighton W. Smith Jr., will pay an official visit to Greece on May 10-11 at the invitation of the Chief of the National Defence General Staff, Admiral Christos Lymberis.
During his visit, Admiral Smith will have talks with the political leadership of the National Defence Ministry and participate in a meeting of the National Defence General Staff. The visit is within the framework of regular contacts between Greece's military leadership and NATO commanders.
While in Greece, Admiral Smith is expected to visit a number of monasteries in the all-male monastic community of Mt. Athos.
An earthquake measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale struck in the sea region of the Corinthian Gulf at 8:11 am yesterday. The quake, which was felt in Achaia and Aigialia, had its epicentre 140 km west of Athens between Aigio and Eratini, according to the Athens Observatory.
Veterans of the Greek resistance in the Second World War yesterday expressed concern over the present course of the world and protested the inhumanity of the "new order" being established.
The event was organised last night by the Panhellenic Union of National Resistance Fighters (PEAEA) at the Pedion tou Areos Square in Athens.
They further criticised the "new order" of creating a "fourth world" in the region, particularly in eastern European countries, with unemployment, poverty, prostitution, alcoholism and drug abuse.
Singing resistance songs and chanting slogans honouring their dead, the participants pledged to continue their struggle for the visions of freedom, democracy and social justice. The veteran resistance fighters' main claim was the official recognition of the National Liberation Front's (EAM) resistance struggle, calling on the government to honour its pledge and ratify a relevant draft law in Parliament.
In a proclamation, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) hailed primarily the contribution of the former Soviet Union in winning W.W.II as well as the Greek national resistance. "Today, that the big heart of the Soviet Union has stopped beating, the most aggressive capitalist forces are taking back the rights and acquisitions of the Soviet people and are crudely offending the millions of victims of fascism," the proclamation added.
Praising the contribution made by the Greek people, the proclamation said they created the national resistance era after the KKE called for a struggle. The KKE called on resistance fighters to strive the keep the ideals of the big struggle alive.
Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou said yesterday the establishment of the Strategic and Development Studies Institute (ISTAME) was a watershed in the history of his PASOK party. ISTAME, which was formally launched yesterday, was founded by PASOK and will operate parallel to and outside the party mechanism.
Mr. Papandreou said the presence of similar foundations operating parallel to parties were an applied and successful experience in almost all west European countries. He said although the need for such foundations existed in the past it had been delayed.
Mr. Papandreou said ISTAME was called on to provide a new impetus to processing party policies with scientific substantiation and analyses based on adequate information. ISTAME President Yiannis Souladakis, a member of PASOK's Executive Bureau, referred to the foundation's nature, adding that its political and ideological framework was wide and was that of democratic socialism.
Former deputy premier and foreign minister George Mavros, who died on Saturday at the age of 86 of respiratory problems, was buried yesterday at the Athens First Cemetery. Before the funeral his body lay in state at the Athens Cathedral. Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis delivered the funeral oration, singling out the moderation and moral and intellectual stature of the deceased.
President Kostis Stephanopoulos, attending VE-day celebrations in Paris, expressed his deep sorrow at the death of George Mavros, stressing that he was a political figure of the highest stature, who served the country in the best way possible. A message of condolences was also sent to the family of the deceased by former Cyprus president Spyros Kyprianou.
The Political Spring party Executive Committee yesterday adopted a series of important decisions concerning internal functions. These include the activation of procedures for the holding of internal elections and the party conference, the setting up of a Planning Council which will be responsible for political and organisational guidance, planning strategy and tactics, and preparing the party's manifesto.
In statements after the meeting, Mr. Samaras stressed that prospects for the party were especially favourable, and this, he said, dictated an intensification of party activity.
Commenting on President Kostis Stephanopoulos' recent acceptance of an invitation to visit Albania and a refusal to visit the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Mr. Samaras said the president had acted correctly.
A Thessaloniki public prosecutor has been instructed to carry out an inquiry to ascertain whether any recent offences have been committed at an orphanage currently at the centre of a scandal involving the sale of children in the 1940s and 1950s.
The head of the public prosecutor's office of the Thessaloniki Courts of First Instance, Theodore Strongilis, has assigned the inquiry to public prosecutor Stephanos Katsarelis. The records of the Ayios Stylianos orphanage and foster home in Thessaloniki were yesterday officially handed over to the public prosecutor's office after the Athens daily "Ta Nea" revealed that hundreds of children had been sold during the period 1935- 1975. The paper said that the children at the city-run orphanage were sold to childless couples after being falsely declared dead, particularly during the 1946-49 civil war in Greece.
Most of the orphanage employees allegedly involved in the racket cannot be brought to trial since the offences are prescribed by the statute of limitations or because they have since died. Mr. Katsarelis' task will be to ascertain whether any of the alleged offences were committed during the last five years so that those responsible can be brought to justice.
Greek President Kostis Stephanopoulos yesterday voiced strong support for European integration, saying it provided a source of optimism for Greece in its struggle to fully participate in the bloc's unification.
"More than ever before, Greece is looking forward to the speedy completion of European unification, in the conviction that only a united Europe will have the potential of exercising a decisive influence on world affairs," Mr. Stephanopoulos said, marking today's 45th anniversary of the Schuman declaration. Robert Schuman, then French foreign minister, proposed on May 9, 1950, that the people of Europe should work towards an eventual union to avoid future wars.
"United Europe is a source of optimism for the future, despite the difficult times we are currently going through ... (but) we must strive to the end to gain the position which we deserve in the European whole," the president said. "Amidst prevailing international instability, the European Union can respond to its historical mission only through the completion of its economic, political and defence cohesion."
European Affairs Minister George Mangakis also noted the anniversary yesterday. "On the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the Schuman declaration for Europe, Greece as a member of the European Union greets with satisfaction the long, successful course of the European Community and predicts ... a common future for the European UN ion which will full of hope for the peoples of Europe," he said in an announcement.
"Democracy, the respect for cultural diversity and identity, and the equal participation of the European people, and joint action on the economy, defence, institutions and every type of co-operation, will lead the European family to a common future with security, prosperity and progress in all areas."
Noting that the anniversary of the Schuman declaration this year coincided with celebrations marking the end of the Second World War, he said "these two anniversaries -- so different in substance and message and yet so closely related -- illustrate the ... necessity for the construction of a united federal Europe, which, with peace, democracy and progress, will lead the peoples of Europe forward.
Main opposition New Democracy party leader Miltiades Evert said the 45th anniversary of the Schuman declaration and the 50th anniversary of the end of the war showed that the issue was "co-operation between nations rather than enmity between countries".
"The European Union is a magnet for all the European peoples," he said. "Since (the declaration) the Community has focused on the democratic tradition, economic progress and the prosperity of its citizens. The nations of eastern Europe and the Balkans have focused on the Union as an answer to many of their problems."
European Affairs Minister George Mangakis met with his visiting Dutch counterpart, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday. The two officials discussed preparatory talks for the 1996 inter-governmental conference, bilateral issues and developments in the Balkans.
President Kostis Stephanopoulos yesterday said he hoped that Serbs would not be drawn into a new conflict in light of continuing Croat attacks, and said he hoped the crisis "will end as soon as possible."
President Stephanopoulos, in Paris to attend events marking the end of World War Two, made the statement after holding talks on the sidelines of an official dinner with Yugoslav President Zoran Lilic, who briefed him on developments in the new crisis flaring in the region.
The president met briefly with French President Francois Mitterrand and President-elect Jacques Chirac. Both expressed the need to further strengthen relations between Greece and France. He held similar talks with French Prime Minister Eduard Balladur and French Parliament President Philippe Sengen.
President Stephanopoulos met Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev and confirmed his forthcoming visit to Sophia. He greeted Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller but discreetly avoided former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) President Kiro Gligorov. Lastly, he met Portuguese President Mario Soares and the Crown Prince of the Netherlands.
Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos begins his visit to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem today. The visit is part of a programme of visits to other Orthodox Churches and had been delayed by decisions of the Major Synod which had isolated the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
Patriarch Vartholomeos will be accompanied on his visit by Metropolitan of Traianoupolis Germanos, Metropolitan of Belgium Panteleimon, Metropolitan of Philadelphia Meliton and the Metropolitan of Tyanon Philippos.
The government yesterday announced a 730 billion drachma package of measures to assist small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) after a meeting of the Economic Policy Committee.
The measures, announced by National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and Industry and Trade Minister Costas Simitis, include income tax breaks and subsidies. For a period of five years, 20-25 per cent of the net profits of SMEs which merge will be exempt from income tax. In addition, the interest rate on loans contracted by SMEs for investments will be subsidised by 20 per cent for a period of two years. A similar interest rate subsidy will also apply for financial leasing agreements.
These subsidies will be granted to some 6,000 companies for loans and leasing agreements totalling 90 billion drachmas.
The two ministers also announced the completion of a draft law providing for the establishment of mutual guarantee companies, which will soon be tabled in Parliament. Other measures include assistance for credit co-operatives and the establishment of venture capital and seed capital companies.
Mr. Papantoniou and Mr. Simitis clarified however that the system of calculating income tax on the basis of "objective criteria" would remain in place and only instances in which there was a manifest injustice would be examined.
They said programmes to assist SMEs had been prepared by the competent ministries, which would receive financing of 370 billion drachmas from European Union funds during the period 1995-1999.
Meanwhile, main opposition New Democracy party spokesman Vassilis Manginas said yesterday the government's announcements were "offhand and ineffectual settlements from which no substantive result will be derived." "The government's haste to announce measures, supposedly favouring SMEs, shortly before their nation-wide mobilisation, once again proves the non-existence of its policy and the lack of any seriousness," he added.
Political Spring party spokesman Notis Martakis said "the measures announced by the government today bear no trace of development prospects." "By merely subsidising profits and loan interest rates, (the problem of) the lack of competitiveness for our products remains and, as a result, the continuation of their displacement from the local and foreign markets," he added.
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said "the government's announcements reply to none of the big problems faced by small and medium-size enterprises. Professionals and craftsmen have no other course than to intensify their struggles and co-ordinate them with the struggles of the other popular strata. The KKE will support this effort with all its strength."
The Coalition of the Left and Progress said "instead of announcing a package of substantive measures to support SMEs, the government relied on half-measures and vague promises for reasons aimed at creating impressions." "The government is making policy as if it were not aware of the tragic deadlocks faced by SMEs," it added.