|Saturday, 24 October 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-05-08
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>May 8, 2004
 Greek, Turkish PMs reaffirm will to further improve bilateral relations
Athens, 8/5/2004 (ANA)Greece and Turkey on Friday took yet another step forward in their burgeoning rapprochement, with the prime ministers of the two neighboring countries expressing their satisfaction -- during a joint press conference in Athens -- with the level of bilateral cooperation, agreements and overall contacts.
The paramount subject of Turkey's European Union prospects and its overall European orientation apparently dominated talks between Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his visiting Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Turkish leader arrived Thursday night for an official visit, the first by a Turkish premier since 1988, heading a large delegation of government officials, entrepreneurs and media.
''We ascertained, with satisfaction, the progress made in Greek-Turkish relations," Karamanlis told reporters after the meeting, adding that EU-Turkish relations and the various stages of Ankara's harmonization with the Union's acquis communautaire were discussed.
''We confirmed our coincidence of views with respect to the new 'orbit' into which Greek-Turkish relations have entered and ascertained with satisfaction the progress they are making. Both Mr. Erdogan and I reaffirmed our political volition to further strengthen the cooperation between the two countries in all sectors and to take the maximum possible advantage of the existing positive momentum,'' Karamanlis said.
He stressed that, from within that momentum, businessmen of the two countries would exchange, later in the day, useful views on further reinforcing their contacts, adding that ''there was convergence in the assessment that the process of rapprochement between the two countries is evolving positively, and we agreed to investigate the possibilities if deepening it''.
Karamanlis further reaffirmed his own and the Greek government's support for Turkey's EU prospects and the reform efforts being advanced by Erdogan in Turkey, noting that the talks focused mainly on Turkey's rapprochement with the EU and the stages of its adaptation to the acquis communautaire (the EU body of law).
As regarded the delimitation of the Aegean continental shelf, Karamanlis said that the exploratory talks on that issue would continue, assessing, however, that they would not be completed in the near future, but at the same time noting that the political volition existed to seek a solution.
Greece and Turkey in May 2002 commenced ''exploratory talks'' aimed at ascertaining "points of convergence" that will ostensibly lead to dialogue at a later stage for the drafting of an agreement referring the delimitation of the Aegean's continental shelf to the International Court at The Hague. The talks are held on a rotating basis in the two capitals, and the 24th round of the talks took place last month.
Questioned on the long-standing problem of Cyprus, which became a full EU member on May 1 despite the continuing division of the island republic, Karamanlis said that "beyond the (recent referendum) results, the goal remains for the reunification of the island, so that both Greek and Turkish Cypriots enjoy the benefits of (EU) membership''.
Asked about the issue of ''recognition'' of the Turkish Cypriot pseudo-state (unilaterally proclaimed and recognized only by Turkey) put forward by Ankara, Karamanlis said that the matter had been resolved by the European Union with the accession of the entire island into the EU and a special regime for the (Turkish-occupied) northern sector.
Karamanlis also expressed satisfaction with the decision of the (internationally-recognized) Republic of Cyprus to take steps to reinforce the Turkish Cypriots, mainly economically, reiterating that Athens' goal was the reunification of the island.
Erdogan, in turn, said that progress in bilateral relations continues unabated, pointing to 25 agreements signed over the past five years and to the volition of the political leadership in both countries - as well as by the Greek and Turkish peoples - for continuing improvement.
"Let the past remain in the past," Erdogan said in reply to a press question referring to the 1996 Imia incident, when the two countries and erstwhile rivals almost came to blows over a rocky outcrop in the eastern Aegean. He said that ''we do not want the next generations to live as we have lived'', adding that ''peace and love are deeply consolidated in the sentiments of the two peoples''.
As far as two other bilateral 'thorns', namely the issue of Turkish authorities allowing the reopening of the Halki Theological School on the eponymous isle in the Sea of Marmara and a past threat by Turkey's legislature to authorize military action in the event Athens proceeded with an extension of its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles from the present 6, a right consolidated under international treaties, Erdogan merely said discussions were taking place.
On the Halki seminary, Erdogan said that the issue was on the ''Agenda of discussions'', noting that the political volition existed on both sides to resolve the matter, and adding that ''it may be resolved speedily''.
Regarding the ''casus belli'' Ankara has cited in the event of extension of Greece's territorial waters, Erdogan said that technocrats of the two countries were looking to find an appropriate solution, noting that there were issues from the past which have been carried over into the present.
Erdogan spoke of his friendly relations with Karamanlis from before the two became prime ministers of their respective countries, adding that they desired to reinforce Greek-Turkish relations, and recalled that, as a youth in Istanbul, he worked for Greek businessmen, whom he remembers with gratitude.
The Turkish premier also expressed satisfaction with Karamanlis effort to support Turkey's European prospect, stressing that it was important that many matters concerning the two countries could not be discussed bilaterally, without interventions by third parties, and again underlined the political volition existing on both sides for solutions to be found.
Immediately afterwards, Erdogan was received by President of the Republic Costis Stephanopoulos.
Greeting Erdogan, the President said his visit here was "very important" and "provides an opportunity for further advancing our relations", adding that the Turkish premier's personal friendship with Karamanlis "facilitates the discussions".
Erdogan thanked Stephanopoulos for his reception and conveyed greetings from the Turkish President.
PM Karamanlis officially welcomes Turkish counterpart Erdogan: Prime minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday formally greeted his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Maximos Mansion (government headquarters).
Erdogan arrived in Athens Thursday night, on the first official visit to Greece by a Turkish prime minister in 16 years, and headed straight from the airport to Karamanlis' home in Rafina, where the Greek prime minister hosted an informal dinner for Erdogan and his wife.
Karamanlis welcomed Erdogan at 9:30 a.m. outside the Maximos Mansion, where the Turkish prime minister was met with military honors.
The two prime ministers and their wives spoke briefly and exchanged gifts, after which the two men commenced their official talks.
Karamanlis presented Erdogan with a silver commemorative plaque bearing the national emblem and his signature, while Natasha Karamanlis presented Emine Erdogan with a traditional Greek embroidery.
Erdogan gave Karamanlis a silk rug, while Mrs. Erdogan gave Mrs. Karamanlis a hand-crafted, engraved silver mirror.
The prime ministers' wives departed for a visit to the Acropolis, the Museum of Cycladic Art and then lunch on Lycabettus Hill.
PM hosts dinner in honor of Turkish counterpart: Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis hosted an official dinner in honor of visiting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday evening and said ''Greek-Turkish relations have entered a new orbit.''
Addressing the Turkish delegation, Karamanlis said Greece remains steadfastly adhered to the target of the reunification of Cyprus ''so that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots together can enjoy the benefits of participation in the European Union.''
He also stressed the need for ''the corridor to remain open to seek a concerted solution to the problem of Cyprus, based on the Annan plan, harmonized with the principles and the acquis communautaire of the European Union, just and viable, which will guarantee conditions of security for all.''
Referring to Ankara's efforts for reform, the prime minister hailed the ''decisive commitment by Mr. Erdogan to proceed along the path of reforms and moderation and along the path to Europe'' and reiterated Greece's steadfast support for Turkey's European prospect.
''Greece will support this process and Turkey will find us supporters of every effort of hers which signals her convergence with the constitutional, political and economic acquis communautaire of the EU,'' he said.
Karamanlis also spoke of ''conjunctures, mistakes and shortsighted options which harmed our peoples, which distanced them and poisoned them with suspicion'' and stressed that ''the time has come to turn a page.''
''We believe that respect for national sovereignty, the peaceful solution to whatever differences based on international law and international treaties and protection for human and minority rights are the principles on which we must lay the foundations for our common effort for harmonious coexistence under conditions of good neighborliness,'' the prime minister said and added that ''mutual suspicion lasting for decades belongs to the past.''
The prime minister further referred to economic cooperation between the two countries which ''shows the way for the widening and deepening of bilateral relations'', while focusing in particular on confidence-building measures adopted on a bilateral basis and reiterated Greece's adherence to supporting similar creative efforts.
On his part, Erdogan stressed that his visit to Greece is the first official visit by a Turkish prime minister in the past 16 years and referred to the ''common cultural framework'' and the ''values which were shared'' by Greeks and Turks with the agreement between Greek and Turkish statesmen Eleftherios Venizelos and Kemal Ataturk being a milestone.
''The two great national leaders, on the basis of common sense and wisdom, contributed to Greek-Turkish cooperation and friendship which continued and flourished for some years,'' he said.
Erdogan also expressed satisfaction over the replacement of the environment of conflict by cooperation and referred in this context to 25 agreements reached between the two countries so far, adding that work groups are continuing to prepare relevant texts.
''We have acquired a common realization of the role we can play in the wider region and we believe that we must strengthen the desire of the people and we shall make every possible effort in this direction,'' the Turkish prime minister concluded.
Meeting with parliament president: Visiting Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan later placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside parliament in central Athens, then met with parliament president Anna Psarouda-Benaki, with whom he discussed relations and cooperation between the two countries' parliaments.
After their 15-minute meeting, Erdogan said he had discussed with his Greek counterpart and his associates for the better course and development of Greek-Turkish relations, and "my visit to parliament and meeting with its president aims at further development of the relations between our two parliaments".
"On our side, we have set up a (Greek-Turkish) friendship committee in our parliament, and we expect something similar on the part of the Greek side as well. I believe that the representatives of our two parliaments can contribute more to the course for the advancement of Greek-Turkish relations," Erdogan said.
Erdogan also conveyed to Psarouda-Benaki an invitation from the president of the Turkish parliament.
Benaki, in turn, described her talks with Erdogan and "cordial", noting that they had exchanges "our good sentiments and desire for progress in our bilateral relations".
She said emphasis was placed on the need to strengthen the ties between the two parliaments and parliamentary assemblies, adding that she has accepted her Turkish counterpart's invitation. She said no date was set as yet, but added that they have already had contacts in international organizations and will examine the matter of closer cooperation between the two parliaments.
"There are issues of common interest, such as the environment, obstructing drug trafficking, tackling illegal immigration," she said, adding that "our bilateral relations are on a good road, and we agree to the development of the best possible relations also at parliamentary level".
Benaki presented the Turkish prime minister with the gold medal of the Hellenic Republic, which was coined to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Hellenic parliament.
Turkish PM holds talks with opposition party leaders: Visiting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan held talks with opposition party leaders on Friday, focusing primarily on bilateral relations between Greece and Turkey.
Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou raised Greek-Turkish issues, the question of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and that of the Halki School of Theology in his talks with Erdogan.
Papandreou pointed out that ''the governments of PASOK started the policy that placed relations with Turkey in the European framework'', adding that ''the decisions taken in Helsinki are those that shaped a new process, not only for Greece and Cyprus, but also for Europe's relations with Turkey. Turkey is showing that it is changing slowly but steadily and new conditions are being created for the Copenhagen criteria, human rights and religious freedoms.''
The PASOK party leader also expressed satisfaction over the fact that ''the initiatives and efforts of the previous governments have produced results so that the presence of a Turkish prime minister in Athens is welcome and natural today.''
On the question of Cyprus, Papandreou called on Erdogan to contribute to the continuation of dialogue, regardless of the outcome of the referenda, but the Turkish prime minister pointed out to him that his country believes that it no longer has responsibility.
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga pointed out on her part that the issue of delineating the continental shelf in the Aegean is the only pending Greek-Turkish issue.
''The Aegean is an international sea and the two countries can live in it peacefully,'' Papariga said and added that she expressed the hope to Erdogan that in the new Turkish constitution the lifting of the ban on the use of the term ''Communist'' for political parties will be anticipated.
Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party leader Nikos Constantopoulos expressed support in his talks with Erdogan for an open dialogue without arbitrators to solve bilateral differences.
''We were the first party to support, under difficult conditions, the need for dialogue and rapprochement with Turkey. May this policy become the path for shaping our common European future with peace, human rights and social progress,'' he said.
Constantopoulos also expressed support for a balanced decrease in the armaments of the two countries to enable funds invested in the defense industry to be provided for social prosperity.
 Athens mayor awards medal of Athens to visiting Turkish PM
Athens, 8/5/2004 (ANA)Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni on Friday awarded the gold medal of honor of the city of Athens to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who is currently on an official visit to Greece.
Addressing the Turkish prime minister, Bakoyianni spoke of a new era which Greek-Turkish relations are in need of. She added that the two peoples are demanding from their two leaders a policy in the depth of time and want the new millennium to be characterized as the millennium of peace just as the previous one had been termed the millennium of conflict.
The mayor further said peoples have realized today that what is good for one people is not necessarily bad for the other and noted the Greek government's decision to contribute to a solution to the issue of Cyprus and to Turkey's accession to the European Union.
Erdogan said it is necessary for a new world to be established which will be based on peace and for the Aegean to become a sea of peace.
The Turkish prime minister also said that God willing he will be attending the Athens Olympic Games.
 Athens mayor meets Albanian PM; city's Albanian community discussed
Athens, 8/5/2004 (ANA)Conditions for the large Albanian community in Athens were among the issues discussed during a meeting on Friday between Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni and Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano, who is currently in Greece on an official visit.
In statements afterwards, Bakoyianni said that a number of issues concerning Athens had been discussed, while noting that the Albanians in Athens had been successfully incorporated into the life of the city.
According to the mayor, the foundations for even better cooperation between Greece and Albania were now being laid and the two sides will continue to walk down the "road of friendship, good cooperation and mutual trust".
Nano thanked Bakoyianni for the City of Athens medal she had presented to him earlier and said that relations between Greece and Albania were entering a phase of qualitative development, in which Albanians also contributed to the development and improvement of bilateral relations and the Greek economy.
 State Department spokesman states confidence in security and success of Olympics
WASHINGTON 8/5/2004 (ANA)US state Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Friday ''the United States has confidence in the determination of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to host safe and successful Olympic Games'', adding that the US is convinced that Greece ''has the will and the means to do this.''
Boucher further said that the US, in cooperation with other countries, ''will continue to help the Greek security authorities'' in their effort to protect the Olympics ''from a host of threats.''
The spokesman added that in contacts he had over the past two days in Washington Greek Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis, the aspects of preparations for the Olympic Games concerning security were discussed, as well as the American contribution to the whole effort, but avoided going into details.
After completing his contacts in Washington, Voulgarakis left for New York where he will be speaking to Greek expatriates before returning to Athens.
 World religious leaders appeal for release of hostages in Iraq
Athens, 8/5/2004 (ANA)Religious leaders from all over the world, who are holding an international meeting in Athens, on Friday issued an appeal for the release of all US and other hostages being held in Iraq.
Leaders at the 3rd World Meeting of Religions and Cultures, in a joint appeal read out by the Reverend Jesse Jackson, founder of the Rainbow/PUSH organization, appealed for:
The religious leaders further called on the United Nations, and ''not just the United States and Britain'', to ''fully investigate the horrific treatment of Iraqi prisoners to determine the extent of the abuses'', as well as to ''determine what the (US-British-led) Coalition knew, when they knew, and why they did not know and act earlier'', and also ''who in the Coalition was responsible for withholding the information until the tapes aired on world television''.
Jackson said that this past month ''has opened the wounds of a tragedy and travesty in Iraq''.
''It is all too clear now that the Bush Administration used false pretext and lies to justify its invasion and occupation of Iraq,'' Jackson said, adding that ''Secretary Powell admitted that there was flawed intelligence information''.
''Flawed information revealed flawed motives and has led to flawed results,'' he said, adding:
''The Coalition policy has diverted the war against terrorism; it has cost billions of dollars and hundreds of American and thousands of Iraqi lives. US unilateral, pre-emptive military action in Iraq has left the world less secure. The US is a nation isolated from the world community and one whose moral authority is sinking deeper and deeper each day,'' Jackson continued.
''How widespread is the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, and were they directed by US or British military intelligence forces?,'' he questioned.
''Was it a widespread practice or exposed policy? It further underscores the necessity for the US and Coalition forces -- with the aid and involvement of its European and UN allies -- to withdraw from Iraq, end the occupation, and restore sovereignty to the Iraqi people,'' he said, concluding:
''We as a nation can do better than invading and occupying other countries. We can do better by focusing on the problem of poverty where hundreds of thousands of children die every single day from 'conditions of starvation'.''
Bishop Nikiforos: Greek Cypriot 'no' not aimed at Turkish Cypriots
At the start of the meeting, the gathered religious leaders were addressed by Bishop Nikiforos of the Kykkos Monastery on Cyprus, who set up the World Forum of Religions and Cultures and organized the meeting taking place at Panteion University in Athens.
In a message to Turkish Cypriot religious leaders at the Meeting, the abbot stressed that the Greek Cypriot 'no' to the Annan plan for Cyprus was not directed against Turkish Cypriots nor against the island's reunification.
According to Nikiforos, the Greek Cypriots had rejected the ''implacable foreign interests that have left their mark on the plan of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and left us no other choice''.
He said the Annan plan in its present form was asking Greek Cypriots to put their signature to a document that legalized and perpetuated the presence of a foreign military force on their soil.
The meeting was also addressed by Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos, who spoke about the need to accept and respect the diversity of cultures.
Other speakers included Cypriot Foreign Minister Christos Iakovou, ruling New Democracy secretary Vaggelis Meimarakis, and representatives from the Ecumenical and Alexandria Patriarchates.
 Transport and communications minister visiting Istanbul on Sunday
Athens, 8/5/2004 (ANA)Transport and Communications Minister Mihalis Liapis will visit Istanbul on Sunday to attend, at the invitation of his Turkish counterpart Bineli Yildirim, the laying of foundations for the undersea railway tunnel in the Bosporus which will join the railway networks of Europe and Asia.
During his stay in Istanbul, Liapis will be holding talks with the Turkish transport minister on issues concerning the two countries in both the transport and telecommunications sectors.
 Greek fiscal deficit reached 3.2 pct in 2003
Athens, 8/5/2004 (ANA)Greece's fiscal deficit reached 3.2 percent of GDP in 2003 while its public debt rose to 103 percent, Eurostat said on Friday.
The EU's statistics agency, in an announcement, said that the Greek government has submitted with the European Commission its reviewed figures for both the fiscal deficit and the public debt for 2003, figures that were verified by Eurostat.
The statistics agency said that the figures published on Friday were the result of a review of preliminary data by the Greek authorities and of discussions with Eurostat, recently in Athens. The review and discussions resulted to the conclusion that Greece's fiscal deficit jumped to 3.2 percent of GDP in 2003, from an 1.7 percent estimate made in March 16, while the country's public debt rose to 103 percent from 102.4 percent.
Eurostat, in its announcement, attributed the higher figure in the fiscal deficit for 2003 to: a downgrade of forecasts for tax revenues (mainly VAT), a downgrade of EU funds' inflows, and a reclassification of state revenues from the Savings Post Bank. The EU's statistics agency stressed that the review covered only the central government's deficit and noted that it was not in a position to fully confirm figures for both the fiscal deficit and the public debt in 2003, citing as reasons a lower estimate of public spending for military contracts and lack of reliable information over pension funds' surpluses in the last few years.
A spokesman for EU Monetary Commissioner Joachin Almunia, commenting on Eurostat's announcement, said that the EU Commission was expected to prepare its report on Greece's fiscal condition over the new few weeks, although he stressed that the report would not include any recommendations.
 Greek FinMin unveils govt's 10 economic goals
Athens, 8/5/2004 (ANA)Greece's biggest economic problem is its low international competitiveness, which resulted to high unemployment, high current accounts deficit and a big trade deficit, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Friday.
Addressing an Economist conference held in Athens, Mr Alogoskoufis noted that unless these problems were fixed, the Greek economy would not be able to achieve a fundamental economic restructuring.
''We have to deal with our deficits and improve competitiveness while also promoting social cohesion,'' the Greek minister stressed. ''There are several people who argue that social policy and economic growth do not go together. My conviction is that real growth cannot move without social cohesion,'' he added.
''Unemployment is an open wound that needed to be taken care of...But combatting unemployment goes through encouraging business activity and supporting the private sector,'' Alogoskoufis said.
The Greek minister said that the government has a clear plan for Growth, Employment and Social Cohesion. ''Our goals are clear,'' he said.
1) Encouraging private and business investments to boost growth, strengthen employment and create new jobs,
2) Attracting foreign investments,
3) Restraining public overspending to save money for more investments in infrastructures, limiting regional imbalances and supporting social cohesion,
4) Boosting consumers' confidence,
5) Recovering lost ground in absorbing EU funds,
6) Supporting Research and Development,
7) Improving economic competitiveness, boosting exports and limiting deficits in the country's external trade balance,
8) Offering fundamental support to lower incomes,
9) Drafting solid state budgets, and
10) Supporting competition to combat price increases in the domestic markets.
''The ways to achieve these goals are also clear,'' Alogoskoufis stressed.
1) We proceed with a tax reform, easing tax burdens to businesses,
2) Implementing a more progressive tax scale,
3) Reducing the non-tax cost of businesses, combatting corruption and bureaucracy,
4) Better management the state's idle assets, mainly real estate,
5) Offering equal opportunities to all citizens,
6) Reforming the public administration to seek greater efficiency,
7) Strengthening competition in the banking system, offering access to cheaper capital to businesses,
8) Supporting the Stock Market and the role of the Capital Markets' Commission and,
9) Preparing a ''Quality Revolution'' in sectors we have a comparative advantage, such as tourism and agricultural products.
''We are determined to succeed. And we will do it because this is the big bet of the new era that we have promised,'' Alogoskoufis said.
 Trade between Greece, Turkey up due to politics, PMs say
Athens, 8/5/2004 (ANA)Business between Greece and Turkey has gained impetus due to an improvement in political ties over the last five years, bringing a fivefold increase in the volume of two-way trade, the two countries' premiers said on Friday.
Bilateral trade totalled 1.3 billion US dollars in 2003, sharply up from 200 million dollars in 1999. ''We can soon raise this to five billion,'' visiting Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told a luncheon hosted by the Greek-Turkish Business Forum in Athens.
According to Greek premier Costas Karamanlis, seventy seven Greek companies are currently operating in Turkey with Greek investment in the neighboring country representing 3.2 per cent of total foreign investment there.
Karamanlis noted major progress in energy projects between the two countries following an agreement to link their natural gas and electricity networks, with cooperation in the oil sector also being discussed.
In addition, transportation had improved through road and rail links between Thessaloniki and Istanbul that could boost transit trade in conjunction with the east-west Egnatia road and European Union Interreg III program to facilitate cross-border cooperation.
Both premiers underlined the need for the promotion of tourism between the two countries.
''In recent years, there has been an increase in the flow of Greek visitors to Turkey. I believe that there is great leeway for an increase in visitors from Turkey to Greece,'' Karamanlis said.
Other sectors that showed room for growth in bilateral cooperation were construction, shipping and banking, which could also be expanded outside the two countries, perhaps also involving participation by other countries, Greece's premier said.
 Gov't plans to promote renewable energy resources, minister says
Athens, 8/5/2004 (ANA)The government is determined to adopt aggressive policies for the promotion of environmentally-friendly renewable energy sources, Deputy Development Minister George Salagoudis announced on Friday while opening the annual conference of the Brussels-based European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA), which is taking place in Athens.
He said the government planned to provide incentives for the wider distribution of new technological applications like solar-powered photovoltaic systems.
Speakers at the conference stressed the need to reduce Europe's dependency on polluting, imported fuels like oil and replace this with domestic and inexhaustible energy sources, like solar power.
For Greece in particular, they stressed the need for strong incentives for the production of electricity using photovoltaics, especially in private homes, through subsidies for installing photovoltaic systems and higher prices for photovoltaic electricity sold to the national grid.
Despite receiving the largest amount of sun in Europe, Greece is second-to-last among EU countries in the use of photovoltaics, with northern countries such as Holland and Germany topping the list.
 Tourism Minister meets Erdogan
Athens, 8/5/2004 (ANA)Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos had a brief and ''friendly'' meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Friday.
''It is fortunate that Mr. Karamanlis and Mr. Erdogan, two young people of the same generation, of similar opinions and ideas have become friends and are inaugurating a new era of greater peace and stability between the two countries,'' Avramopoulos said.
Avramopoulos and Erdogan have known each other since 1995 when they were mayors of Athens and Istanbul, respectively.
 Greek bond prices fell in April
Athens, 8/5/2004 (ANA)Turnover in the Greek state bonds' market, traded in the Electronic Secondary Securities Market, eased to 59.98 billion euros in April from 77.11 billion euros in March, up from 39 billion euros in April 2003.
Investors' interest, once again, focused on medium- and long-term duration state bonds (with a maturity ranging from seven to 15 years), which attracted 59 percent of total turnover. The 10-year bond recorded a turnover of 17.78 billion euros in April, followed by the old 10-year benchmark bond with a turnover of 4.69 billion euros.
Bond prices fell in April in the Greek market, following a trend in other European bond markets. Benchmark bonds' prices fell by 98 to 257 basis points in the month, with the 20-year state benchmark bond recording the biggest monthly fall by ending at 111.19 (with a yield of 4.96 percent) from 113.76 (4.76 percent) in March.
The 10-year benchmark bond price fell to 100.52 (with a yield of 4.43 percent) last month from 102.43 (4.19 percent) in March.
The average yield spread between the 10-year Greek and the German Bund rose slightly to 23 basis points in April from 22 bps in the previous two months.
 Greek construction sector's outlook cloudy, report
Athens, 8/5/2004 (ANA)The construction sector has played a crucial role in the recent economic expansion in Greece, contributing about one third of the 4.2 percent growth in 2003, compared with 0.2 percentage points during the period 1991-2002, the National Bank of Greece said in a report.
The bank said that non-residential construction, supported mainly by public works funded by the CSF-III and the preparations for the Olympic Games, increased its share of GDP from 7.0 percent in 1996 to 9.0 percent in 2003, compared with the commensurate share in the eurozone of 5.0 percent of GDP.
The leveling-off of house prices as well as the expected increase in interest rates, should dampen the demand for housing, leading to its decline as a percentage of GDP to 4.8 percent in 2006 from 5.2 percent in 2003 and 5.0 percent in 1996, the bank said in its monthly bulletin.
Public construction is expected to decline significantly in 2004, while private non-residential construction is also expected to decelerate, albeit more gradually, mainly due to increasing satiation in the market for office space and shopping centers.
Overall, construction activity is expected to record negative growth rates and be a drag on growth over the next few years.
The financial performance of the construction companies listed on the ASE is weakening, though it remains better than that of other non-financial listed firms. Specifically, after a significant M&A phase, the largest firms are in far better financial shape compared with the rest of the companies of the sector, with higher margins and lower debt burdens.
However, the high dependence of the sector on public work projects leaves them vulnerable in the medium term, unless they attract other large contracts, such as Build Operate Transfer (BOT) projects or public works in the neighboring countries, the report said.
 Employment minister has meeting with Albanian PM
Athens, 8/5/2004 (ANA)Employment and Social Protection Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos on Friday had a meeting with visiting Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano.
Panayiotopoulos said the meeting had been ''fruitful and constructive'' and stressed that all people working in Greece, regardless of their nationality, were under his care.
The minister conceded that there were a number of outstanding problems on many levels but stressed that both the Greek and the Albanian governments were interested in solving these.
He suggested that a basic outline of the procedures involved be drafted after the Olympic Games, which could then be worked on in mixed bilateral committees that would seek out common ground and press ahead with the necessary measures.
On his part, Fatos Nano underlined that the governments had to provide assistance to both Albanians living in Greece and Greeks living in Albania.
The meeting lasted 45 meetings and was conducted in a friendly climate.
There are substantial numbers of Albanians currently living and working in Greece, up to half a million according to some estimates. Since many of them crossed the border from neighboring Albania illegally, precise figures are hard to come by but they are believed to account for between 10-20 per cent of the Greek workforce, mainly in labor-intensive manual work like construction or farming.
 Gov't urges consumers to combat profiteering in fuel prices
Athens, 8/5/2004 (ANA)Greek Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas on Friday blamed rising international oil prices for problems facing world markets and economies and urged consumers and consumer groups to put a brake on limited phenomena of profiteering in the domestic fuel market.
Addressing an Economist conference held in Athens, the Greek minister said: "You all know the situation in international level. Rising trend in oil prices are negatively affecting markets and economies around the world. They also creating serious problems in our country."
 EU asks Greece to fix electricity costing practice
BRUSSELS 8/5/2004 (ANA/B.Demiris)The European Union's executive Commission on Friday asked Greece to change its costing practice of including lignite extraction costs in electricity generation costs, as the procedure may distort competition in the domestic market.
In a reasoned opinion, the Commission said that Greece should comply with European legislation on common rules for the internal electricity market by unbundling its accounts for electricity operations.
Marking the second step in the infringement procedure, the Commission stated that the country had failed to ensure that its electricity company, Athens-quoted and state-owned Public Power Corporation (PPC), published unbundled accounts for lignite mining the generation of electricity.
According to EU legislation, the unbundling of accounts of electricity operations is necessary to avoid discrimination, cross-subsidization and distortion of competition.
The Commission had sent Greece a formal notice on 17 October, 2003 specifying that it considered lignite mining as a non-electricity activity, and the PPC should publish separate accounts for the two branches of activity. The EU body rejected the reply it received on 21 January, 2004.
Before the start of the infringement procedure, the Greek Regulatory Authority for Energy had asked the PPC to stop releasing the bundled account. In May 2003, the state body decided to impose a fine on the PPC for failing to submit unbundled accounts in a proper way.
 Athens Bourse Close: Stocks drop for fourth straight session
Athens, 8/5/2004 (ANA)The Athens bourse finished lower for the fourth straight session, traders said.
The general share index shed 0.26 per cent to end at 2,486.43 points. Turnover was 127.9 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for blue chip and heavily traded stocks ended 0.24 per cent down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium capitalization paper 0.02 per cent down; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap equities gained 1.12 per cent.
Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 177 to 118 with 63 issues remaining unchanged.
On a weekly basis, the general share index lost 1.24 per cent.
Closing rates of May 7 2004
Parities in euro
For. Exchange Buying Selling
US Dollar 1,217 1,189
Canadian Dollar 1,674 1,636
Australian Dollar 1,691 1,653
Pound Sterling 0,677 0,661
Pound Cyprus 0,591 0,577
Swiss Franc 1,561 1,526
Danish Kr. 7,501 7,330
Norwegian Kr. 8,157 7,971
Swedish Kr. 9,175 8,966
Yen 134,6 131,5
 Calatrava roof to be slid into place in dress rehearsal Sunday
Athens, 8/5/2004 (ANA)The much anticipated completion of the roof over the Athens Olympic Sports Complex (OAKA) will begin to take place on Sunday, when the western part of the roof will be slid into place as part of a dress rehearsal.
This will be in time for IOC Coordinating Commission Chairman Denis Oswald to see it when he arrives in Athens on Monday with other IOC technical experts for a three-day visit.
Works at OAKA are the biggest concern right now for the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee, the Greek government, and the IOC - especially the roof.
The government hopes to please the IOC which has been pressuring for completion of works at OAKA.
 IOC Coordination Commission to visit Athens Monday
Athens, 8/5/2004 (ANA)''The IOC doesn't have any more worries than a month ago, when we were last in Athens. We want to verify that everything will be in place and that we can test everything before we go to Athens in August. We know that we still have a certain number of test events and we still have to do some testing with ATHOC [Athens 2004 Olympic Games Organizing Committee] on various operational levels,'' IOC Olympic Games Executive Director Gilbert Felli said on Friday, speaking of the Commission's visit to Athens scheduled for Monday.
Speaking about security issues, Felli noted that the incidents in Athens this week were apparently not related to the Olympic Games: ''After each incident, an assessment has to be made because these incidents happen in cities around the world on a regular basis. It was therefore very important to make sure that the issue was communicated correctly and efficiently, so that people could quickly understand the scope of the incident and not worry unnecessarily,'' he said.
The IOC Coordination Commission's three-day visit to Athens will be the last one before the Games. Its members will visit some of the Olympic venues, hold talks with the Greek government and ATHOC, and verify the service levels for the National Olympic Committees, international federations, broadcasters, the media, and spectators.
 Draft bill regulating police issues in view of Olympics to Parliament
Athens, 8/5/2004 (ANA)A draft bill regulating issues regarding the operation of the police force with a view to maximizing the security of the Athens Olympics in August was tabled in Parliament on Friday.
Among other measures, the bill will modify the constitution of the Crisis Management Council to include the executive director of the Athens 2004 Olympics Organizing Committee (ATHOC) or his representative.
It will also suspend all regular transfers and placements of police officers until October 5 and extend the time in which police personnel can take their leave for 2004 until May 31, 2005.
Finally, it allows the use of police academy cadets in security operations for the Olympics between July 2004 and October 5, 2004 and postpones the coming into force of a law making police responsible for the issue of passports until July 1, 2005.
 Australian PM: Greece assures best possible security for Olympics
MELBOURNE 8/5/2004 (ANA - S. Hatzimanolis)Australian Prime Minister John Howard on Friday said that the Greek government had assured him that it will provide the best possible security for the Olympic Games in Athens this summer.
Howard said he had not asked Greek authorities to allow the Australian mission to have its own armed security guards, saying he had not made a decision on this issue.
"We have to cooperate closely with Greece on security issues and we are cooperating. We must respect this country and its right to provide security for its guests on its own soil," he said.
Howard also stressed that Australia must definitely take part in the Games in August.
 Thessaloniki seminar focuses on the Olympics and the media
Athens, 8/5/2004 (ANA)Security, infrastructure and Olympic Games preparation in general are the main topics of interest for the international media ahead of the Athens Olympic Games.
However, there are also numerous articles that deal with the sports aspect of the Games, the political effects and the benefits for tourism.
According to data presented on Friday during a two-day seminar organized by the journalism and mass communications department of Thessaloniki's Aristotelio University in collaboration with the European Parliament and the Macedonian Press Agency, the international news media focus mostly on the problems and shortcomings of the preparations, thus portraying Greece in a negative light.
Minister of Macedonia-Thrace Nikos Tsiartsionis emphasized the mass media's contribution and the responsibility it has in informing citizens and shaping public opinion worldwide, during his address at Friday's event.
 PASOK creates committee to oversee Olympic preparations
Athens, 8/5/2004 (ANA)The Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) party announced on Friday the members comprising a new committee charged with overseeing Olympic Games preparations.
Committee members are: Nassos Alevras, Evangelos Venizelos, Maria Damanaki, Costas Kartalis, Stavros Lambrinidis, Yiorgos Lianis, Theodoros Pangalos, Vasso Papandreou, Alexis Rontos, Petros Synadinos, Panayiotis Fassoulas, Yiorgos Floridis, and Andreas Fouras.
 Civil protection agency to up measures against forest fires in view of Olympics
Athens, 8/5/2004 (ANA)In a meeting on Friday to discuss fire protection in the summer months, the General Secretariat for Civil Protection decided to increase measures and resources for agencies and bodies involved in fire-fighting and prevention in the coming summer on account of the Olympic Games, which will coincide with the forest fire season.
The meeting decided that the Interior, public administration and decentralization ministry will provide funds to local authorities to take necessary precautionary measures to protect the public and limit fire damage.
Local authorities will be required to enforce precautions at landfill sites, in particular, with the assistance of civil protection agency volunteer groups and other services.
Other measures and actions will be decided on a prefectural level while final responsibility for their implementation, and of measures outlined in a civil protection agency circular, will rest with regional general secretaries.
 Court rejects motion to disqualify judge in ELA trial
Athens, 8/5/2004 (ANA)The Three-Member Criminal Appeals Court on Friday rejected a motion to disqualify presiding judge Elisavet Brilli from conducting the ELA trial on the grounds of bias, finding that the facts did not support any doubts about her impartiality.
The motion was filed by the lawyers for Irene Athanassaki, who is one of five alleged terrorists on trial for their suspected involvement in the urban guerrilla group Revolutionary Popular Struggle (ELA). Athanassaki was also ordered to pay court costs amounting to 73 euros.
In the motion filed on Thursday, Athanassaki's lawyers said Brilli had shown signs of bias in the way she handled court proceedings and that the questions she put to witnesses seemed to indicate that she fully accepted the truth of the charges against their client.
They also argued that they had been subjected throughout the trial to Brilli's threats to refer them to the public prosecutor or the Athens Bar disciplinary council.
The motion was supported by all the lawyers representing other defendants in the case, while the public prosecutor on the bench called for dismissal, arguing that the way a presiding judge framed his or her questions could not on its own be considered grounds for bias without other supporting facts.
The trial had gone into recess and reconvened with appeals judge Grigoris Mamalis presiding during discussion of the motion.
The court will now resume hearing the testimony of witness Aglaia Doga, the manager of the building where ELA allegedly had an apartment.
 FYROM border police assume control of Doirani border checkpoint
Athens, 8/5/2004 (ANA)The first group of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) newly-established border police corps on Friday assumed control of the Doirani border checkpoint (on the side of FYROM), replacing the military force whose duty was to guard the borders with Greece in past years.
About 300 of FYROM's border guards will gradually assume control of the entire borderline with Greece.
FYROM's border police are expected to replace military forces on the country's borders with Bulgaria, Serbia-Montenegro and Albania by the end of 2005 as well.
The replacement of military forces by border police is taking place in the framework of the demilitarization of FYROM's borders with the aim of fulfilling one of the criteria in the course of the country's Euro-Atlantic integration.
Friday's ceremony at Doirani was also attended by Agricultural Development and Foodstuffs Minister Savvas Tsitouridis and public order ministry secretary general Leonidas Evangelidis.
 Cyprus FM given honorary doctorate at Panteios University
Athens, 8/5/2004 (ANA)Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iakovou was given an honorary doctorate of the Panteios University's Sociology Faculty during an official ceremony on Friday night.
Iakovou played a leading role in the process of Cyprus' accession to the European Union as of 1987 when he signed the protocol on customs union and until May 1, 2004, when Cyprus became an official member of the EU.
Panteios University dean Ioannis Vavouras referred in his address ''to Mr. Iakovou's very substantive contribution to the accession course of Cyprus, as well as to his efforts over many years for a viable solution to the issue of Cyprus.
Iakovou said in a brief speech that the accession of Cyprus to the family of Europe constitutes the ''vindication of the small motherland's struggles in difficult times''.
 Cyprus President Papadopoulos welcomes correction to US statements
NICOSIA 8/5/2004 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos said on Friday he welcomes the correction to statements made by US officials.
''The correction made to all unacceptable statements on behalf of the US is welcome'', President Papadopoulos said.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Thursday that his use of the term ''Greek Cypriot government'' and US Secretary of State Colin Powell's address to Turkish Cypriot politician Mehmet Ali Talat as ''prime minister'', did not mean that the US had changed its non-recognition policy.
Earlier Thursday, the Cypriot President described as ''very hostile'' remarks by Powell and Boucher ''if these were intentional mistakes''.