The Greek Parliament yesterday observed a minute's silence in tribute to the victims of World War II, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the end of the war.
"In 1940, Greece showed the whole world the only path it knows, the path of struggle and virtue, of sacrifice and victory," Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou told the House and dozens of war heroes in the public gallery after a special religious service to commemorate the dead. Referring to the present period, Mr. Papandreou said that "the situation in our region is not idyllic".
Former presidents Michalis Stasinopoulos and Christos Sartzetakis, former premiers Xenofon Zolotas and Ioannis Grivas, the armed forces leadership, foreign diplomats and state officials were also present at the ceremony.
Main opposition New Democracy party leader Miltiades Evert stressed the need "to safeguard our national integrity against the various provocations", adding that "the Greek people are at all times ready to say an emphatic 'OXI' (No)", referring to the Greek response to the Italian ultimatum that it surrender or be invaded.
Political Spring leader Antonis Samaras said it was a paradox of our times that "Turkey should be upgraded by the allies and Greece, which offered so much, to be downgraded".
Communist Party of Greece Secretary-General Aleka Papariga underlined that there was presently "a danger of a more general conflagration in the Balkans".
Foreign Under-Secretary Grigoris Niotis is attending events here marking the 50th anniversary of the Nazi surrender. He is accompanied by Greek wartime resistance hero Manolis Glezos.
The two men yesterday laid a wreath at the statue of Rigas Ferraios, the 18th century Greek visionary of a Balkan federation, who died at the hands of the Ottomans.
Mr. Niotis yesterday had various meetings with Yugoslav officials, while, speaking on state television, he drew attention to the common struggles of Serbs and Greeks for freedom and in the victory over fascism.
Greece and Hungary yesterday concurred on aspects of the crisis in former Yugoslavia and agreed that the foreign ministries of the two countries monitor the situation and jointly co-ordinate their actions aimed at promoting the peace process.
Visiting Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias had talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn during which the two sides ascertained "great room" for the further development of bilateral relations.
It was decided that joint committees should be set up in a number of sectors and contacts increased for co-operation not only in Greek-Hungarian matters but also with regard to European institutions.
Mr. Papoulias said that Greece supported Hungary's efforts to join the European Union and NATO, noting that Budapest had made much progress in democratisation and the development of the country's economy. He also briefed Mr. Horn on the latest developments in the Cyprus problem, Greek-Turkish relations and Greece's role in the Balkans.
Along with other world leaders, President Kostis Stephanopoulos yesterday attended an impressive parade of World War II veterans in Red Square and laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
In statements afterwards, the president stressed the prominent role of the Russian people and the Red Army in the Allied victory, underlining that the Soviet Union and Greece had, on a relative scale, suffered the highest number of casualties in the war.
Speaking on Russian television, he referred to Greece's important contribution to the final defeat of Nazism and fascism, offering the first Allied victory through successfully resisting the Italian attack, and thereby forcing a crucial delay in the implementation of the 'Barbarossa' plan against the Soviet Union. He quoted the Moscow radio message to the Greeks then, "Both as Russians and as human beings we are grateful to you..."
President Stephanopoulos also met Orthodox Patriarch of Russia Alexios at the monastery of St. George, and in the afternoon attended a memorial service for 19th century Greek benefactors at the Donskoi monastery.
Prompted by German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, European Union leaders and heads of state, including the Greek president, did not attend the military parade, to protest the Russian intervention in Chechnya. Greece was represented by its military attachi. Mr. Stephanopoulos was to attend a scheduled official dinner for foreign dignitaries hosted by President Yeltsin last night.
Sources close to the Foreign Relations Committee of the House of Representatives, which was due to meet yesterday to discuss the allocation of military aid in 1996 and 1997, said it would propose the maintenance of the 7:10 ratio for Greece and Turkey.
US lawmakers are reportedly "especially annoyed" with Turkey, both on account of continuing human rights violations and the recent military activities against the Kurds, and because of Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller's exhibition of arrogance in not accepting the 10 per cent of this year's allocation which was withheld and linked to Turkey's stand on the Kurdish and Cyprus disputes.
Greece said yesterday it would continue to block the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) from joining the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) until the government in Skopje made constitutional changes.
"Greece will continue to exercise its veto. It is not possible for Skopje to become an OSCE member when its constitution contains articles that conceal territorial ambitions against Greece," Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias said on his return from a two-day official visit to Budapest. "Such ideas contradict principles upheld by the OSCE," he told reporters on arrival in Athens.
During Mr. Papoulias' visit, Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs offered to assist in mediation efforts between Greece and the former Yugoslav republic. "As current president of the organisation, Hungary pledged to take on an initiative aimed at persuading Skopje to change its constitution," Mr. Papoulias said.
Athens has been at odds with the former Yugoslav republic for years, urging it to change its name, flag and constitution. Special envoys appointed by the United Nations and Washington have led mediation efforts but little progress has been made. Greece blames Skopje President Kiro Gligorov for the deadlock, accusing him of persistent intransigence.
"I hope that at some point the Skopje leader will rid himself of the domestic difficulties he currently faces and proceed to the negotiating table," Mr. Papoulias said.
During his visit in Budapest, Mr. Papoulias stressed to the Hungarian leadership the goodwill shown by Greece contrasted with Mr. Gligorov's intransigence and back-pedalling, citing in particular the latter's last minute decision not to take part in direct talks under UN auspices in New York last month.
An Albanian army unit will take part in joint exercises with Greece on rendering humanitarian aid in exercises, code-named "New Spirit", in Kalamata May 22-26, according to yesterday's edition of the newspaper Rilindja Demokratike.
Albania will participate as part of the Partnership for Peace programme, the first time Albanian soldiers and officers will participate in multinational exercises abroad. Units from Greece, the US, Albania, Bulgaria and Romania will participate in the exercises.
According to the Albanian newspaper, the exercises will be conducted under Greek command, while Albanian officers will participate in the joint military staff.
Main opposition New Democracy party leader Miltiades Evert yesterday met with the party's honorary president and former premier Constantine Mitsotakis in what was widely billed in the media as an effort to ease rivalry between the two. In statements after the 50-minute meeting, however, both men said that they had discussed only national issues in view of Mr. Evert's trip to the US today.
Mr. Evert described as "constructive" the climate of the talks which dealt with national issues and the problems in the greater region of the Balkans and the Southeast Mediterranean. Asked if party matters had been discussed, Mr. Evert replied that "'the Greek people are interested in national issues, unemployment and the economic recession".
Mr. Mitsotakis said that the climate of the meeting had been very good, adding that they had had a "substantial" discussion on the handling of national issues by New Democracy and that there had been "an identity of views". He clarified that party issues were not the subject of today's (yesterday's) meeting and that he would be having another meeting with Mr. Evert after he returned from the US.
An earth tremor registering 3.9 on the Richter scale was felt in Crete at 7:40 pm yesterday. According to the Athens Observatory, the epicentre of the quake was located in the sea 20 km Northeast of the island's capital of Iraklion. Apart from the city of Iraklion, the tremor was felt on the northern coast of the Iraklion prefecture. No damage was reported.
Simon Wilkinson, representing the BBC's international trade department, officially announced yesterday the signing of an agreement with Hellenic Radio and Television (ERT) anticipating close co-operation between the two TV networks in all sectors and ERT securing exclusive rights to all of BBC's TV programmes.
"This agreement is an important step for our organisation. It is the first time we are undertaking such a big commitment but we are very satisfied to be resuming our co-operation with ERT. We are undertaking to offer to it, exclusively for Greece, all quality programmes in various sectors such as theatre, education and other TV series," Mr. Wilkinson said.
ERT General Director Evgenios Yiannakopoulos said the most crucial point in the agreement was the exclusive rights for the BBC's TV programme over the next three years.
The head of the fund for the development of US-Albanian relations, Domenick Scaglione, told the Association of Exporters of Northern Greece (SEBE) in Thessaloniki yesterday that the US has approved credits to the tune of $30 million for the development of small and medium size Albanian enterprises, while approval is pending for another $100 million.
The meeting was attended by the US ambassador to Albania Joseph Lake, the US consul in Thessaloniki Myriam Hughes, and representatives of Greek companies active in Albania.
SEBE proposed joint ventures between American and Greek businesses in the neighbour. Mr. Scaglione is expected to report to SEBE again on further developments in June.
Turkish claims that Kurds were receiving military training at camps in Greece were fabricated, government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said yesterday.
Referring to a "confession" by a Kurd activist, Mehmet Kavak, Monday in Ankara that he had received training at a camp 200 kilometres from Athens, Mr. Venizelos attributed the Kavak "confession" to coercion. "It is not the first time that a Kurd has been forced to say in front of the TV cameras that he had supposedly been trained at a 'terrorist camp' near Athens," Mr. Venizelos said.
Izmir police chief Kemal Yazicioglu claimed earlier this year that Nuri Akbulut, a high-ranking Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) member, received military training in a forest near Athens. The government described the claims as "totally ridiculous" at the time.
Mr. Venizelos described the recurring allegation as "naive" and "simplistic" and said that Greece was accessible to all and "anybody can come and see for themselves". "Unfortunately, this does not apply in the case of neighbouring Turkey where even its own citizens are prohibited from conducting investigations," Mr. Venizelos said.
Citing the findings of a police administrative inquiry into last week's incident in which a visiting Turkish minister was the target of a rowdy demonstration in Thessaloniki, Mr. Venizelos confirmed that the Thessaloniki police authorities had proposed that the Turkish official use the rear entrance to the Turkish consulate in order to avoid any disturbances.
Mr. Venizelos added that the refusal of the Turks to accept the proposal was "indicative of their desire for incidents and the creation of artificial tension".
Public Order Minister Sifis Valyrakis also said that the protest was fuelled because Mr. Aktuna ignored local police arrangements that he enter by a rear entrance to avoid any incidents. Referring to the Turkish claims of Greece training Kurdish guerrillas, Mr. Valyrakis said: "We do not accept the story presented by Turkey that a person of Kurdish origin was trained at a camp outside Athens. He said that Greece was fighting against terrorism and would conduct its own investigation into the allegations.
Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos left for Jerusalem yesterday. His visit to Jerusalem had been delayed by decisions taken by the Major Synod isolating the Jerusalem Patriarchate. The Ecumenical Patriarch is accompanied by Metropolitan of Traianoupolis Germanos, Metropolitan of Belgium Panteleimon, Metropolitan of Philadelphia Meliton, Metropolitan of Tyanon Philippos, Great Archdeacon Chrysostomos and members of the Patriarchal Court.
European Affairs Minister George Mangakis will attend the Council of Europe's 96th Foreign Ministers' session tomorrow expected to discuss, among others, the Parliamentary Assembly's waning to Turkey to improve its human rights record.
Mr. Mangakis, due to arrive in Strasbourg at noon today, will be accompanied by diplomatic director Mr. D. Kodellas, Foreign Ministry adviser on Council of Europe affairs Mr. D. Koumantreas and political bureau director Mr. A. Koimisis. The session will be attended by Greece's permanent representative at the Council of Europe Mr. A. Exarchos, his deputy Gavriel Kosmidis and deputy secretary Ms V. Dikopoulou.
According to reports, many countries, primarily from the European Union, are promoting the speeding up of the adoption of the Parliamentary Assembly's warning on measures Turkey should take immediately and which caused the walkout of the Turkish parliamentary delegation. The issue is expected to be examined as part of the discussion on respect of member-states' commitments towards the Council of Europe.
Other issues included on the agenda are the position and role of the Council of Europe in the European institutional framework under way, the consequences and repercussions of new enlargements in the Council of Europe and a protocol of the ad hoc group processing the additional European Human Rights Accord Protocol, primarily concerning people belonging to ethnic minorities.
Talks will be attended by French European Affairs Minister Alain Lamassoure, Hungarian Foreign Minister and president of the OSCE Laszlo Kovacs, European Commissioner Hans van den Broek and OSCE Secretary-General Willhelm Hunk.
Increases in public utility rates will take effect in the second half of the year and will not exceed the expected inflation rate of 7 per cent, National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday. He also announced that the government intended to retain controlling interests and management in utilities and introduce a new institutional framework for them.
"We are not moving into an orbit of full privatisation, but we are retaining their public character," he said. He added that the findings of a working group on the new institutional framework had been sent to the Economic and Social Committee for comments, but they remained non-binding on the government, except five basic guidelines concerning the relations between it and the management, control of operational plans, and the appraisal of social costs.
On April 15, 'SuperFast I', the first of two ultra-modern passenger/car ferries, sailed from Patras to Ancona in less than 20 hours, reducing the time required for this route by 40 per cent. The ferry's twin, the 'SuperFast II', which will also service the Patras-Ancona/Ancona-Patras route, will be launched in mid-June.
The Athens Stock Exchange-listed Attica Enterprises S.A., a member of the British Hellenic Chamber of Commerce (BHCC), has secured financing from the German bank Kreditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau for this revolutionary service, which is managed by SuperFast Ferries S.A., an announcement said.
SuperFast ferries S.A. managing director Alexander Panagopoulos will be the guest speaker at the 190th BHCC luncheon on May 19 at the Athenaeum Intercontinental Hotel. Mr. Panagopoulos will address the gathering on "SuperFast ferries - A new era in sea transportation in the Adriatic".
The Greek company Phosphoric Fertilizers yesterday signed an $8 million contract with a Chinese state company providing for the export of fertiliser to China. The agreement, signed in the presence of National Economy Under-Secretary Ioannis Anthopoulos, follows talks here between an official Chinese delegation and representa-tives of the Greek government.
During the talks, Greece underlined the growing trade imbalance between the two countries in the last two years in China's favour (250 million deficit for Greece in 1994), particularly when compared with the corresponding situation vis-u-vis Greece's competitors in the Mediterranean.
The Chinese delegation was asked to facilitate the import of Greek tobacco to China, which has remained at 1993 levels. Mr. Anthopoulos also raised the issue of the signing of a bilateral shipping agreement and asked for procedures to be speeded up.
The Chinese delegation asked for Greece's support for China's accession to GATT and the lifting of restrictions on the volume of Chinese goods such as clothing, leather and fishing equipment imposed by the European Union.