|Saturday, 5 December 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-05-10
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>May 10, 2004
 Turkey's Erdogan concludes visit to Greece; calls on Thrace's Muslims 'to work for a strong Greece'
Athens, 10/5/2004 (ANA)Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan concluded his historic visit to Greece late Saturday evening after a private tour of the northeast Thrace border region earlier in the day -- a region that hosts a Muslim minority and marks the only land borders between the two SE European neighbors.
Erdogan called on Thrace's Muslims "to work for a strong Greece", while he initially referred to my "brothers in western Thrace" before saying that a robust Greece means that their happiness and prosperity will grow as well.
He arrived in Greece at the head of a large Turkish delegation on Thursday for talks with Greek leadership, while he dined twice with his Greek counterpart Costas Karamanlis.
In other comments, the Turkish PM said no bilateral problem should be left unsolved for future generations.
On Saturday afternoon, Erdogan first headed Turkey's consulate in the town of Komotini, the capital of Rhodopi prefecture, after first arriving at Kavala's Alexander the Great international airport, where Macedonia-Thrace Minister Nikos Tsiartsionis and Deputy FM Evripidis Stylianidis greeted him on behalf of the government.
He then traveled overland by car to Komotini, where he met with members of the local Muslim minority. He also briefly toured the city's outdoor market.
"I want to speak to my brothers in western Thrace. You are all citizens of Greece. You are also at the same time citizens of the European Union. Do your utmost to make Greece a strong and dynamic country. I wholeheartedly believe that with a strong Greece you also will gain more benefits. You, of course, should retain your values. This, however, can in no way be an obstacle to your inclusion into society. It is for this reason that I call on you to help us create, jointly, a new world," he said in Komotini.
Erdogan also criticized those circles he termed as "fanatics", "those who continue to march to the beat of fanaticism", before noting that both Athens and Ankara are exhibiting necessary political volition to create the foundations for friendly bilateral relations.
Stylianidis, who hails from the area and is elected from Rhodopi prefecture, presented the Turkish PM with a photograph showing the town of Komotini in 1920, where both a Christian church and a Muslim mosque are shown in close proximity.
"This shows that in this city (Komotini) we learned to live and work together productively," Stylianidis said.
During statements in the remote township of Arriana, his last stop in Thrace, Erdogan told local government officials and townspeople that greeted him to "exercise your rights within the framework of Greek law … The flag of the European Union flies here. Turkey, though, has not yet joined the EU, but thanks to the efforts it is making and with the help of Greece it will succeed," he told a crowd in the community's town hall, outside of which both the Greek and European Union flags flutter.
Accompanying Erdogan was the Turkish ruling party's (AKP) secretary, Mehmet Moizinoglu, who was born in the area.
In other brief comments, the Turkish premier reiterated that members of the Muslim minority in Thrace should not disavow their identity, but to also remember that they are Greek citizens.
His visit is the first to the region by a Turkish premier over the last 52 years.
Meanwhile, from Istanbul, where he arrived for a ground-breaking ceremony for a new undersea tunnel under the Bosporus, Greek Transport Minister Mihalis Liapis called Erdogan a "realist politician with a vision".
Liapis briefly spoke with the Turkish PM during the ceremony, while the former was invited to Erdogan's home in Istanbul for further talks.
During statements following his return to Turkey, Erdogan noted that "my visit to Greece contributed to the development of friendship and peace between the two countries … During my visit I ascertained that both countries also have many things in common …" he was quoted as saying.
Deputy FM hails Erdogan visit as start of 'new era' in bilateral relations: Athens sees the visit, last week, to Greece by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the start of a new era in bilateral relations between Greece and Turkey and between Turkey and Europe, Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valynakis told the Turkish television channel N-TV on Saturday.
He said the visit highlighted the mutual trust and shared desire of the two governments to show all sides that they were looking forward and striving to solve the problems of the past.
Valynakis also reiterated Athens' support for Turkey's European prospects:
''Unless something bizarre or peculiar should happen before December, the Greek government will say 'yes' to Turkey because we believe that this will make our part of the world a European neighborhood, because it is good for the Turkish people and for Turkey's neighbors, who will feel that their problems can be solved more quickly, more easily, in a more European way,'' he stressed.
 Transport minister meets Turkish counterpart, announces new rail link
ISTANBUL 10/5/2004 (ANA/A. Kourkoulas)Transport Minister Mihalis Liapis on Sunday announced a new rail link between Thessaloniki and Istanbul from this coming September, after a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim.
He said the new rail line, which is considered particularly important for Greece's railway network, will have trains equipped with sleepers and carriages for transporting cars.
Liapis informed Yildirim of the new developments being prepared by the Greek side and also discussed other issues concerning cooperation in transport.
The Greek minister, who attended Sunday the foundation ceremony for a new undersea rail tunnel that will link Europe with Asia starting in Istanbul, noted that Greece and Turkey had common interests regarding the development of road and rail links that will connect Europe with Asia.
Meanwhile, Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni also attended the foundation ceremony for new undersea rail tunnel, as the guest of Istanbul metropolitan mayor Kadir Topbas.
Bakoyianni also had meetings with members of the Turkish government to discuss issues relating to preparations for the Olympics in Athens and cooperation between the City of Athens and the Istanbul metropolitan municipal authority.
Both Liapis and Bakoyianni held lengthy talks with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on regional and bilateral issues.
 Public order minister satisfied with results of his talks in Washington
NEW YORK 10/5/2004 (ANA/P. Panagiotou)Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis said he was absolutely satisfied with the results of his contacts in Washington, during a speech at a meeting of New York's Greek expatriate community on Friday evening.
''I found the cooperation to be sincere and Greek-American relations, especially on the issue of security, are on a good road,'' he said.
Voulgarakis said the US side showed confidence in Greece, as shown in the statements made on Friday by State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, who said that Greece had the will and the means to organize secure and successful Olympics.
Asked whether the U.S., British and Israeli teams will be protected by their own armed security, the minister stressed that Greece would be responsible and guarantee the safety of the Olympics, as was the case with every country that hosted the Games.
''If certain teams had their own armed guards and armies, then why would we spend over 1.2 billion for security,'' he said.
 PM briefed on minister's efforts to mediate Church dispute
Athens, 10/5/2004 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis received Education and Religious Affairs Minister Marietta Yiannakou at his office on Saturday morning, a meeting that followed the latter's contacts with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos in Istanbul this past week.
Yiannakou is scheduled meet with Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos on Monday at the Church of Greece's headquarters as part of the government's initiative to bridge recent differences, often bitter, between two of the affiliated Orthodox Churches on the question of how new Metropolitans are appointed in northern Greece bishoprics - the so-called "New Territories".
According to press reports, Yiannakou briefed Karamanlis on her latest contacts at mediating the brewing dispute.
Nevertheless, the government will issue three presidential decrees on Monday recognizing the election of three new Metropolitans in northern Greece (Thessaloniki, Kozani and the Kavala-area) by a majority of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece's Holy Synod - a development that brought about the Istanbul-based Patriarchate's most recent condemnation of the Greece Church's leadership.
 Georgia Patriarch's visit to go ahead as planned, Greek Church says
Athens, 10/5/2004 (ANA)The Archiepiscopate of Athens on Sunday announced that a scheduled visit to Athens by Archbishop of Mtskheta and Tbilisi and Catholicos Patriarch of all Georgia Ilya II will go ahead as planned this coming Thursday, May 13, after the de-escalation of a crisis in the Georgian province of Ajaria.
 Gov't announces new army chief
Athens, 10/5/2004 (ANA)The high-ranking Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA) on Saturday appointed Lt.-Gen. Nikolaos Douvas as the new chief of the Army's General Staff, following this week's resignation of Lt.-Gen. Panayiotis Harvalas.
Douvas was next in line for the promotion.
The KYSEA session was chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis at his Maximos Mansion office.
Lt.-Gen. Harvalas tendered his resignation to the defense minister on Thursday following a fatal accident at a NW Greece army camp the same week, which cost the life of two NCOs. A total of five servicemen have been killed in two accidents over the past month.
 Coalition leader hails formation of European Left party
ROME 10/5/2004 (ANA/L. Hatzikyriakos)Coalition of the Radical Left leader Nikos Constantopoulos on Sunday said that the newly formed European Left party was a ''new political event'' that ushered in new conditions for the Left, both within Europe and within each of its constituent countries.
He said the European Left was against neoliberalism of the market, the doctrine of pre-emptive wars, the looting of the environment and the restriction of rights.
''It strives for a different Europe with social, democratic and ecological priorities, a Europe that defends the precious and non-negotiable cultural, social and democratic model,'' he said.
Constantopoulos was in Rome to attend the founding conference of the European Left party, at the head of a delegation from his own Coalition party.
 Greek gov't condemns terrorist strike in Chechnya stadium
Athens, 10/5/2004 (ANA)Minister of State and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Sunday expressed the Greek government's categorical condemnation of the latest terrorist strike in Chechnya, which claimed the life of the region's pro-Moscow president Akhmad Kadyrov and five others.
Roussopoulos extended condolences on behalf of the Greek government to Kadyrov's family and the other innocent victims of the attack.
An announcement by the main opposition party PASOK also expressed the ''strongest condemnation of the murderous terrorist attack,'' which it said perpetuated the cycle of violence and destabilization in the region.
''The solution of problems in Chechnya is linked with the need for political dialogue, respect for human rights and the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation,'' the announcement said.
The blast tore through the VIP stand at a stadium in the regional capital Groznyy during Sunday's celebrations for the 59th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. Among those killed was an eight-year-old girl, while more than 50 people were wounded.
 DM points to 'political responsibilities' over massive defense contracts
Athens, 10/5/2004 (ANA)Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos charged over the weekend that the total cost of weapons contracts and procurements over the past eight years under the previous PASOK governments reaches totals 51 billion euros, while stressing that over the next two years more than seven billion euros will be dolled out in relevant payments each year.
"This sum of money would be enough to create an extremely modern military at all levels," he was quoted in an interview published in the Sunday edition of "Kathimerini".
The former air force fighter pilot also referred to "political responsibilities", while noting that criminal charges are the domain of the judiciary.
 Latest opinion poll shows widening lead for ruling ND
Athens, 10/5/2004 (ANA)A latest opinion poll published in the Sunday edition of a mass circulation Athens daily apparently shows ruling New Democracy (ND) retaining and even expanding its lead over main opposition PASOK, with European Parliament elections now less than five weeks away.
According to results of the opinion poll in the Sunday edition of "To Vima", 41.6 percent of respondents preferred ND, as opposed to 34.5 percent for PASOK. Additionally, the smaller parties appear strengthened in relation to the their showing during the recent March 7 general election, with the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) garnering 6.3 percent of respondents' preference; 3.4 percent for the Coalition of the Left and 2.3 percent for out-of-Parliament LA.OS.
Conversely, the almost defunct DIKKI party was picked by only 0.6 percent of respondents. The percentage of those declaring themselves "undecided" reached the 10-percent mark.
Moreover, 70.1 percent of respondents believe ND will win the upcoming Euro-Parliament elections on June 13; 60.7 percent said their vote will be unaffected by Greek political parties' stance on the Cyprus issue, while 53.7 percent said they were satisfied with the current government's performance up until now -- as opposed to 34 percent that recorded their dissatisfaction with the government's performance.
According to the same poll, Prime Minister and ND leader Costas Karamanlis leads his rival, PASOK President George Papandreou, in all categories except that of "international prestige", where the latter maintains a significant edge.
As far as the country's political and ecclesiastical leaders are concerned, President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos garners an almost absolute positive rating -- 92.5 percent of respondents listed him first - followed by Costas Karamanlis (63 percent), Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos (59.9), George Papandreou (59.2), Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos (53.6), ATHOC chief Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki (53.2), Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki (47.4), Synaspismos leader Nikos Constantopoulos (39.8) and KKE general secretary Aleka Papariga (32.5 percent), among others.
The opinion poll was conducted by the Kappa Research firm between April 29 to May 4, with a total sample of 1,622 households and using personal interviews based on a questionnaire.
VPRC poll shows voters expect ruling party victory in Euro-elections: The majority of the electorate, up to 71 per cent, appear to expect the ruling New Democracy party to win the upcoming European elections in June, according to an opinion poll conducted by VPRC and published by the ''Sunday Kathimerini'' and Skai radio station.
At the same time, up to 45 per cent of voters have not yet decided how they will vote, though one in two believe that ND's lead over PASOK will increase relative to the general elections in March.
Conversely, 42 per cent of those asked believe that PASOK's percentage will fall in the Euro-elections.
The opinion poll was conducted on May 4-5 with a sample of 1,200 people through interviews conducted over the phone.
 Greek Communist party opposed to European Constitution
Athens, 10/5/2004 (ANA)The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Sunday reiterated its opposition to a European Constitution, during a tour by KKE General Secretary Aleka Papariga in Thessaly over the weekend.
''That which is called a Constitution of Europe is nothing more but a new reactionary treaty that incorporates all the previous ones and introduces new measures, making things even worse for the workers of Europe, at a time when the new member-states entered the EU on much less favorable terms that the previous countries,'' she said.
''KKE believes that a position that says 'yes' to a European Constitution and 'no' to the specific one is misleading. There cannot be a progressive Euro-Constitution as there can be no progressive Maastricht,'' she added.
 Major effort to 'tidy up' public finances in 2005, Finmin says
Athens, 10/5/2004 (ANA)The main push to ''tidy up'' public finances will have to be made in the budget for 2005, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said during an interview published by the ''Sunday Vima''.
He also stressed that the government would fulfill all its pledges concerning the economy and was not prepared to negotiate on this point with the European Commission.
Prior to an off-the-agenda debate on the economy in Parliament, the minister revealed that the size of the central government deficit was nearly double original estimates for 2003 - 6.4 per cent of GDP instead of 3.5 per cent - as revealed by an annual accounts report.
He described the situation in public finances as ''difficult but reversible'' and said that an effort will be made to limit spending not linked to the Olympics. At the same time, he said that the major effort will have to be left for the budget for 2005.
Alogoskoufis expressed certainty that clamping down on tax evasion and waste would easily bring the figure below 3 per cent in 2005.
He said the rise in spending was due to a wasteful public-sector, overpricing of Olympic and public works by as much as 1000 percent and pay rises and benefits handed out before the elections.
He also noted that the more serious cases will be referred to the courts, while stressing that the government's goal was to establish policies for the future and fix the mistaken practices of the past.
''On no account do we want to become a 'public prosecutor's' government but some cases will go to Justice,'' he said.
 Stephanopoulos inaugurates annex; renovation funded by Onassis Foundation
Athens, 10/5/2004 (ANA)President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos on Sunday inaugurated a National Art Gallery annex in the medieval harbor-town of Nafplio, in the eastern Peloponnese, the third such venue that will be operated around the country by the Athens-based gallery.
The Greek president was accompanied by Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis, who also announced that an annex will open in Tripoli, the capital of Arcadia prefecture in the central Peloponnese. A third art gallery annex has opened in Sparta, further to the south.
The Nafplio gallery hosts works of art mostly focusing on the 1821-29 Greek War of Independence.
The Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation funded the annex's renovation, with the organization's president, Stelio Papadimitriou, on hand for the inauguration ceremony.
 Marathon peace march in Athens ends with concert at central Athens
Athens, 10/5/2004 (ANA)A Marathon peace march carried out by hundreds of Athenians on Sunday, who retraced the steps of activist and pacifist Grigoris Lambrakis 41 years after his death, ended with a ceremony and concert at central Athens at 20:00 on Sunday evening.
The 42-kilometre march was organized by the Hellenic Committee for International Detente and Peace (EEDYE).
The marchers made stops at the national defense ministry, the U.S. Embassy and Parliament and protested against the ''barbarities committed and being planned'' by the United States and NATO in countries such as Iraq, the Balkans, Cyprus, Venezuela, Cuba and Syria. They also protested against the Greek government's request for NATO assistance in dealing with potential terrorist threats during the Olympic Games.
The march was also held in honor of the 59th anniversary since the victory against Nazi Germany and Fascism and its tens of millions of victims, while calling on people to ''resist the new world order constructed by the imperialists''.
 Scores of illegal migrants spotted on remote SE Greece beach
Athens, 10/5/2004 (ANA)Coast guard authorities arrested 124 illegal immigrants on a remote beach in the southeastern corner of the Peloponnese (the Mani district of southern Greece) early Sunday morning.
According to the illegals, they were transported across the Aegean aboard a 20-meter wooden vessel that had disembarked from western Turkey. Efforts were underway to locate the migrant smuggler's vessel.
 Papadopoulos: No referendum without improvements to UN plan
LARNACA 10/5/2004 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos said here on Saturday that there can be no second referendum on a UN plan for a solution unless negotiations take place and improvements are introduced to the existing document.
He said that his government has drafted a strategy on how to handle the situation, following the rejection of the Annan plan by the overwhelming majority of the Greek Cypriots (76 per cent). Turkish Cypriots approved the plan by 65 per cent.
He also said that some circles, in particular from abroad, would not object to seeing him sidelined but noted that it would be wrong not to take into account the will of the people of Cyprus.
''A repeat of the referendum, without prior negotiations and improvements to the Annan plan, is not going to take place. This would be an affront to the will of the Cypriot people and the outcome would be the same as before,'' Papadopoulos said, replying to questions on his departure for London to attend celebrations marking the 70 years of the Greek Cypriot Brotherhood in Britain.
He said the government strategy had already been outlined and explained to parliamentary parties and added ''we shall continue our efforts to amend the UN plan, we have a series of contacts and moves planned'' to explain to others why the Greek Cypriots said no to the UN proposal.
''The rejection of the plan was not the outcome of a deception, nor was it unjustified, it was based on reasons we can explain,'' he added, noting that everybody else wanted to have a say in the future of Cyprus and say what was good for the country while some deny the right of the Greek Cypriots to decide for their future.
Responding to questions, he said ''many would wish to see me sidelined, many from abroad, but the post of the President of the Republic is decided by the Greek Cypriots.''
''If some believe that they can ignore the people of Cyprus, I think they are making a mistake and such moves are counter-productive,'' he said.
Papadopoulos returns on Monday.
 Acting President: EU accession does not replace goal for solution
NICOSIA 10/5/2004 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus House President and Acting President of the Republic Demetris Christofias has sent an optimistic message for the reunification of the island in a bizonal bicommunal federation, stressing that the accession of Cyprus to the European Union does not in any way replace the strategic goal for a political settlement.
In his address at a special ceremony to mark Europe Day on Sunday, Christofias also said that small EU member states such as Cyprus had no illusions as to their political clout in an enlarged Europe but did want to be treated on a equal par with larger and more powerful members.
The head of the European Commission Representation Ambassador Adriaan van der Meer said the EU would work very hard to take the Turkish Cypriot community out of its isolation, having in mind the basic principle that the two communities should work together and strengthen European values.
The ambassador said the EU had to move on for the sake of future generations and modernize itself as part of the Schuman spirit.
In his remarks, Christofias said Cyprus could act as a bridge between the EU and the Middle East in the peace effort in the Eastern Mediterranean.
''Cyprus within the EU will contribute towards a more democratic union of people, focusing on the individual. We shall back long standing principles and fight against inequality, poverty, injustice, hunger, social exclusion, destruction of the environment and everything that cause and maintain conflict,'' he said.
He said EU membership ''should be exploited as a catalyst for a solution.''
''Accession cannot lead us to complacency because this would be fatal for the political problem and those who suggest that we should abandon the bizonal bicommunal federal solution undermine and weaken the effort to maintain the momentum for a speedy settlement,'' he said.
He said the proposed constitution for the enlarged Europe must address issues such as the new challenges of enlargement, consolidation of democracy, unemployment, social welfare and foreign and security policy.
Van der Meer said the EU had enlarged and now it was time to move forward as other countries wanted to join.