|Sunday, 17 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-05-20
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>May 20, 2004
 PM Karamanlis pledges improvement in quality of business environment
NEW YORK 20/5/2004 (ANA/A.Panagopoulos)Greece's visiting prime minister, Costas Karamanlis, said on Wednesday that his new government planned to improve the quality of the economic and business environment, as part of a plan to tighten up the economy and attract investments.
"We are implementing economic, fiscal and tax policies that will help up to achieve our targets. We are introducing major tax breaks that will tone up private investments and spur private consumption," Karamanlis told the Hellenic-American business council in New York.
He repeated the government's pledge of working for long-term economic stability, part which would be achieved through a bill that includes ensuring transparency, a drastic decline in tax evasion, a lowering of corporate tax to 25 per cent of earnings, higher depreciation percentage for new investments, and a decline in personal income tax. In addition, no new taxes would be introduced.
"I will make sure that we effect a revolution in quality that is needed....Investments and trade in Greece or through Greece offer access to a dynamic network of hundreds of Greek firms that operate in the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean," the prime minister said.
"A new era is beginning for Greece," he added.
 PM Karamanlis to discuss bilateral relations, Olympics with US president Bush on ThursdayWASHINGTON D.C. 20/5/2004 (ANA/T. Ellis)
US president George Bush was looking forward to his meeting on Thursday with Greece's prime minister Costas Karamanlis, who is currently on an official visit to the US, and the talks will focus a range of topics, including the strengthening of bilateral relations and the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, White House spokesman Scott McClellan told a regular press briefing on Tuesday.
Bush "looks forward to meeting with Prime Minister Karamanlis and I'm sure they will discuss a range of issues and ... discuss ways to deepen our relations," McClellan said.
Asked what was expected from Karamanlis' visit, McClellan said: I expect they're going to discuss a range of issues, like I said. And also, I'm sure that they'll talk about the upcoming Olympic Games, as well. The President looks forward to the meeting."
Karamanlis on Tuesday called on Greek-Americans to visit Greece this summer, noting that it would be at the centre of the world due to the Olympic Games.
Addressing a banquet in his honor hosted by the National Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE), Karamanlis invited them to "share with us the momentous repatriation of the Olympic Games to the country that gave birth to them".
He reiterated that Greece will organize the best Olympics ever.
On his official US visit, he said that good alliance relations between the two countries should be further strengthened.
Karamanlis, who also met Tuesday with UN secretary general Kofi Annan, answered questions on the Games, particularly the security aspect, the Greek economy, the Cyprus issue and the Middle East crisis during a lunch in his honor hosted by the publisher of the New York Times that was attended by the newspaper's press staff. He was also interviewed on CNN.
 Premier visits exhibition on 'Byzantium: Faith and Power'
NEW YORK 20/5/2004 (ANA/P. Panagiotou)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his wife Natasha on Wednesday visited the Metropolitan Art Museum and toured the exhibition "Byzantium: Faith and Power - 1261-1557".
The prime minister expressed his admiration of the exhibits, underlining that "the exhibition is very important for world culture" and added that "it presents the importance of the Byzantium for the entire world."
The Karamanlis couple was received at the famous New York museum by its president Mr. Montebello and the supervisor of the exhibition Ms. Evans who gave them a tour of the Byzantine exhibits and offered their guests a publication with the contents of the exhibition.
The Greek prime minister and his wife were accompanied at their visit to the museum by Archbishop of America Demetrius and by two monks from Mount Athos.
Natasha Karamanlis visits Ronald McDonald House, meets Greek children being treated for cancer:
Natasha Karamanlis, who is accompanying her husband, prime minister Costas Karamanlis, on his official US visit, on Tuesday toured the Ronald McDonald House foundation in Manhattan that hosts children suffering from cancer, and their parents, for the duration of their treatment at NY hospitals.
A Greek section has been in operation at the House since 1993, and more than 8,500 children of Greek origin -- from Greece, Cyprus and overseas Greek families -- have stayed at the hospice.
Natasha Karamanlis had the opportunity to meet and talk with the 20 children currently staying at the Greek section, which was founded and is run by Greek-American Niki Sideris, and present them with gifts.
The Karamanlis couple was due later to visit New York's Metropolitan Museum for a tour of the exhibition "Byzantium, Faith and Strength", before departing in the afternoon for Washington D.C., where the premier is scheduled to meet with US president George Bush on Thursday.
 PASOK leader accuses gov't of "playing games" with issues concerning the economy
Athens, 20/5/2004 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK leader on Wednesday accused the government of "playing games" with the economic affairs of the country which the Greek people will eventually have to pay for out of feelings of spite toward the former PASOK government.
Speaking in the town of Kalamata in the Peloponnese during a pre-election tour of Messinia that starts his campaign leading up to the European elections in June, Papandreou also referred to a bleak European Union report on public finances in Greece.
"The EU report is a very unpleasant development because it does not allow margins of flexibility for the economy - something that will be necessary after the Olympic Games - and is also unpleasant because it was unnecessary," he said.
He claimed that the report was the result of a difference in book-keeping methods between one year and the next and one that the finance minister could have handled differently.
"He has not yet understood the kind of difficulties and problems he is putting the country through," Papandreou told a pre-election rally.
As an example, he cited current high prices for fuel that could have been counteracted by a reduction in taxes. In order to do this, the government will now have to go through the EU, which might well say that it cannot reduce taxes since it already has high public deficits, he pointed out.
"Essentially, this means that the government's hands are tied but this cannot be an excuse for a policy that strikes against workers, the poorer strata and shrinks our economy," PASOK's leader stressed.
He underlined that responsibility for the handling of this issue lay exclusively with the government.
Earlier, Papandreou had stopped at Pylos and had accused the New Democracy government that it was not governing the country but acting as the opposition to PASOK.
 SYN accuses Sharon gov't of arrogance and murder
Athens, 20/5/2004 (ANA)The Coalition of the Radical Left (SYN) on Wednesday accused the government of Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon in Israel of arrogantly escalating its deadly operations in Gaza and murdering dozens of unarmed civilians.
SYN said in an announcement that "fully arrogant due to the support of the (US president George) Bush government and the inactivity of the international community", the Sharon government was "escalating its deadly operations in the Gaza Strip, murdering tens of unarmed civilians and razing refugee settlements, particularly in Rafah, where thousands of people have been left homeless".
The announcement said that "international law is being disdained and brutally violated once again by the Israeli government, which persists in its destructive -- not only for the Palestinian people but also for Israel itself -- policy of violence", thus "burying every hope for a solution of the Palestinian problem through negotiations on the basis of the UN Resolutions".
SYN called on the Greek government and the EU to "actively react to the new cycle of violence and blood" in the Middle East and seek the dispatch of an international protection force for the Palestinian people, through the UN, as well as the immediate withdrawal of the Israeli troops from the occupied areas and the rejuvenation of the peace process "which must lead to the creation of an independent Palestinian state as soon as possible".
 'Slaughter of non-combatant Palestinians' by Israeli forces condemned
Athens, 20/5/2004 (ANA)In view of Wednesday's tragic developments in the Gaza Strip, Representative of the Palestinian Authority in Athens Marwan Abdelhamid said that "today's abhorrent slaughter of non-combatant Palestinians, in their majority small children, by the Israeli occupation forces in the Gaza Strip reveals the ruthless, monstrous criminality of the right-wing clique which governs Israel today."
Abdelhamid said that "without the slightest provocation or pretext, Israeli helicopters and armored vehicles launched rockets against a peaceful demonstration by thousands of unarmed Palestinians in the city of Rafah, who were protesting the demolition of tens of homes and the premeditated murder of their compatriots by the Israeli armed forces the previous twenty-four hours."
The Representative of the Palestinian Authority added: "The seriousness of this development confirms that the government of the butcher of Shampra and Shatila means not to behave as a responsible political leadership, but as a criminal gang which spurns every rule of international law and every humanitarian principle. It shows that behind the fireworks, such as the supposed withdrawal of Israel from Gaza, is hidden a conscious, premeditated campaign of ethnic cleansing by the most reactionary circles of Zionism against the Palestinians and the torpedoing of every hope for the rekindling of the peace process, on the basis of the Road Map."
 EU says Olympic costs partly to blame for Greek high fiscal deficit
Athens, 20/5/2004 (ANA)The European Commission criticized Greek public finances for its wide imbalances and noted that the country had broken the EU's fiscal deficit rules.
In its report on Greek fiscal condition, drafted on the initiative of EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joachin Almunia, the Commission noted that Greece exceeded the 3.0 percent limit on its fiscal deficit and stressed that this development was not the result of extraordinary circumstances outside the government's control, nor the result of an economic slowdown.
Instead, it noted that Greece recorded high growth rates in the period 2000-2003, exceeding 4.0 percent on average annually.
The report stressed that Greek economic growth average rates accelerated to
4.1 percent in the period 2000-2002 and to 4.2 percent in 2003 from 2.9 percent in the period 1995-1999. The Commission said that the breach of the three percent of GDP reference value appeared due to a revenue shortfall and to higher than planned primary spending, including extraordinary funding, in particular related to the preparation of the Olympic Games.
The report also noted that the country's public debt was expected to ease slightly in 2004 to 102.8 percent of GDP this year from 103 percent in 2003, exceeding sharply the 60 percent limit set by the Stability Pact.
The European Commission is expected to draw up its recommendations and to submit them for approval to an EU finance ministers' council on June 10-11.
The ministers are expected to take final decision on July 5.
In its report, the EU executive's commission said that Greece showed wide imbalances, inconsistent with a prudent fiscal policy. It underlined that deficit figures could raise significant in the Commission's report in September.
Greek fiscal deficit reached 3.2 percent of GDP in 2003, according to the government's revised figures, up from a 1.7 percent figure in its provisional estimate. Eurostat had not been able to verify the debt and deficit data for 2003 due to under-estimation of military spending and unreliable data on social spending.
EU report vindicates government's doubts about the economy, minister says : Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Wednesday that a European Union report on the Greek economy released earlier in the day represented a "slap in the face" for the previous government's economic policy.
"The report underlines that public finances were off track due to the previous government's irresponsible and unreliable policy," Alogoskoufis told reporters.
"The main opposition and its leader are players in the theatre of the absurd, offending the public's intelligence. They should remain silent or apologize to the Greek people for the problems they have created," he added.
The minister pledged that the government would do its best to tackle the problems it inherited after winning national elections on March 7.
In a separate statement, the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology also said the EU report confirmed its analysis of the poor state of public finances, and what the party termed "alchemy" and "double bookkeeping" of which the previous government was guilty.
The statement added that the report also offered the new government an alibi to adopt a strict economic austerity policy.
 New Olympic Properties board takes office
Athens, 20/5/2004 (ANA)The new Executive Board of Olympic Properties SA took office on Wednesday, after being appointed by the Ministries of Economy and Culture. The outgoing executive board presented the company's activities and strategy for exploiting the 14 Olympic venues after the Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as the company's financial data.
The company's net revenues amount to ¬ 2.2 million. Additionally, Olympic Properties has planned partnerships with mobile telephony companies which will install antennas on buildings belonging to the company. Annual revenues from these partnerships will be re-invested in order to operate and maintain the facilities.
 New Greek EU Commissioner Stavros Dimas says directive on national exceptions requires revision
BRUSSELS 20/5/2004 (ANA)Greece's European Union Commissioner Stavros Dimas, speaking to reporters in his first public appearance on Wednesday, said the existing directive on national exceptions regarding work exceeding 48 hours requires revision.
"The challenge is for us to consolidate the protection of workers' health and safety, in parallel to promoting competitiveness," he said.
"Social partners have an important role to play and I would encourage them to take advantage of this opportunity as best as they can," he added.
Dimas also said the European Commission examined experience obtained from the implementation of existing legislation, placing emphasis on the points which must be amended to enable the worker to combine his work with family life in a better way.
Replying to a question as to what degree the social partners' two sides are satisfied with the Commission's dialogue text, Dimas said relations between the partners are good and that he hopes he will be able to contribute to their further improvement for more constructive cooperation, which is a precondition for economic growth and social welfare.
 Retail fuel prices jump in Greece
Athens, 20/5/2004 (ANA)Retail fuel prices rose substantially in Greece following a surge in international oil prices above 41 dollars per barrel, with the average price of unleaded petrol rising to 0.841 euros per liter last week, a weekly report by the Development ministry said on Wednesday. The average price of unleaded petrol surpassed 0.80 euros throughout the country, with 24 prefectures reporting prices of more than 0.85 euros per liter while Kefallonia island recorded the highest price (0.905 euros per liter).
The average price of super gasoline was 0.89 euros per liter last week, exceeding 0.90 euros per liter in 22 prefectures, while diesel petrol recorded an average price of 0.732 euros per liter.
An ECOFIN council meeting on June 10-11 is expected to discuss a Greek demand to cut fuel tax rates in periods of international crises.
 Power workers to stage 24-hour strike on Thursday
Athens, 20/5/2004 (ANA)Workers at Athens-quoted Public Power Corporation (PPC) are to stage a 24-hour strike on Thursday to demand a collective labor agreement that would include a wage rise of at least 8.0 per cent for 2004.
The power workers' union, GENOP-PPC, said in a statement on Wednesday that it had rejected a proposal by management for an increase of 3.0 per cent from January 1, 2004 and 2.5 per cent from September 1, 2004.
 Greece votes against EU directive on recognition of work qualifications
BRUSSELS 20/5/2004 (ANA/M.Spinthourakis)European Union development ministers on Wednesday stated their support for introduction of a directive on the recognition of professional qualifications obtained in the bloc, with Greece voting against the measure.
Speaking after the meeting in the Belgian capital, Greek Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said that the country had submitted amendments to the proposal, which were rejected.
Greece's objection to the draft directive has lain in maintaining the quality of tertiary level education.
 Tourism minister asserts hotel rates will not increase
Athens, 20/5/2004 (ANA)Hotel rates this year will remain at 2003 levels with a downward trend of 10% in Athens as well as in other tourist areas, Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos asserted on Wednesday, while visiting the worksite of the Peace and Friendship Stadium's marina.
Avramopoulos reiterated that the problem of rate increases applies to only 10% of hotels in the country, which have subsequently been inspected by the Greek National Tourism Organization (EOT). The minister added that similar phenomena occurred in other cities and countries hosting the Olympic Games as well.
Speaking about the stadium's marina, Avramopoulos said that it will be completed in the next 25 days to serve the needs of the Olympic Games.
 Stocks drop in blue chip selling
Athens, 20/5/2004 (ANA)Stocks finished lower on the bourse after an early rise was reversed by intense selling in high capitalization stocks including Hellenic Telecommunications Organization, Alpha Bank, Intracom and Hellenic Petroleum, traders said.
The Athens general share index closed at 2,417.59 points, showing a 0.73 per cent decrease. Turnover was 168.2 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.96 per cent lower; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.17 per cent down; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.74 per cent higher.
Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 148 to 139 with 74 remaining unchanged.
 ATHOC, Transport Ministry to unveil 'Olympic Transports System' Thursday
Athens, 20/5/2004 (ANA)The Athens 2004 Olympics organizing committee (ATHOC) and the Transport and Communications ministry will present the "Olympic Transports System" at ATHOC's Nea Ionia headquarters on Thursday at 12:15, it was announced Wednesday.
ATHOC president Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki and transport minister Michalis Liapis will speak about the importance and targets of the System, which was designed by ATHOC in cooperation with the country's public transport organizations.
The presentation will be held at the conference centre in the ATHOC building on the corner of Iolkou and Filikis Etairias streets in the Nea Ionia suburb.
 UK's Lord Moynihan heaps praise on Athens Olympic preparations
LONDON 20/5/2004 (ANA - L. Tsirigotakis)Former Olympic medalist Lord Colin Moynihan, currently shadow minister for sport in Britain, on Wednesday heaped lavish praise on the Olympic facilities being prepared in Athens and said everything would be ready on time for the summer Olympics in August.
During an interview with BBC radio following his recent visit to Athens as a guest of the Olympics Organizing Committee ATHOC, Lord Moynihan described the facilities as "impressive, unbelievably wonderful" and said the present government was rapidly making up for lost time despite the negative reports on Olympic preparations in Athens.
"I was at the rowing centre in Marathonas and I was impressed. It is a fact that the previous government wasted two years of preparations but the government that emerged from the recent elections has covered the lost ground and been praised by the IOC, which is now certain that everything will be ready on time," he said.
He also praised Greece for seeking international cooperation and support in security, noting that Britain was at the heart of strategy for Olympics security in Athens, with the head of Scotland Yard special operations presiding over a seven-member advisory team and over 2,000 Greek officers trained in Britain over the past three years.
According to Lord Moynihan, assisting Greece with Olympic Games security through all means would be a plus point for London's bid to host the Games. Lord Moynihan will refer to Olympic preparations in Athens during a debate that will take place on Wednesday in the British Parliament.
 World IT conference opens in Athens, discusses rapid developments in new technologies
Athens, 20/5/2004 (ANA)The 14th World IT Conference opened Wednesday in Athens, where delegates will discuss the rapid developments in new technologies during three days of working sessions.
Greece's transport and communications minister Michalis Liapis, welcoming the delegates, spoke of a "real revolution" in the technologies sector, and noting that telecoms were shaping other forms of activities, such as health and education services, the information society, and even democracy.
He also spoke of the significant distinction that has developed between the "user" and "non-user" of new technologies, given that new technologies required some form of training, and stressed the need for the development of infrastructures, reiterating the New Democracy government's decision to take measures so as to render Greece a country of networking and communications.
Liapis unveiled the new regulatory framework for electronic communication the government planned to table in parliament, which he said would create a predictable, steady and secure environment for companies wishing to invest in that sector.
According to Liapis, the new regulatory framework aims at reducing the regulatory restrictions on companies providing such services, cementing a competitive environment in order to enable access to all consumers at affordable prices, and further strengthening competition, which would result in the disappearance of monopolies.
Another goal would be the development of telecommunications infrastructure, ensuring access to the citizens, modernization of the public sector, the competitiveness of businesses, active citizen participation in the new technologies, and regional growth, mainly of the isolated regions.
Turning to the recent meeting of EU transport and communications ministers, Liapis said a timetable was set out aiming at Europe evolving, by the year 2010, into the largest hub in the world with respect to the use and spread of new technologies, the target of which should be to avert a 'digital chasm'.
Prof. Nicholas Negreponte, founder and director of the MIT Media Lab, told delegates that the use of computers has become so complex, unreliable and expensive that it could not go on, since, having used technology in a wrong way, we have made are systems increasingly onerous to the point that "we don't have" systems.
He said this was not true only of computers, but also of mobile phones. "We make something that seems like a bomb, from a functional aspect, since the batteries are bigger than the devices, which we then use to listen to music, turn them into a telephone book or a small computer to send and receive mail, and suddenly the limitations are nothing more than the dimensions of the human hand and vision".
Negreponte disagreed with the view that the range of telecoms was not jammed or overused, noting that an international regulatory framework needed to be advanced on wireless telecommunications, since the existing one was outdated.
With respect to new technologies, Negreponte stressed the need for simplicity, from the design stage, noting that "we must make systems with common sense, which we have not yet managed to do". He predicted that in the next 10 years "we will see computers and communications systems with common sense" in the sense of understanding of the content.
OTENET president and managing director George Ioannidis said that "technology is here", but acceptance by the public was not yet at the desired level, adding that the consumers were not completely to blame but, rather, a large part of the fault rested with the companies themselves and, more specifically, the telecoms providers, which needed to change they way they promote their products.
"We must make leaps and keep abreast of the new technologies, but first we must learn how to crawl, then to walk, and then to run," Ioannidis said, adding that providers must have better organization, see to it that their products and services are understood by the customers, and promote solutions that are simple and understandable by the public.
Transport and communications deputy minister Tasos Nerantzis said that the lack of competition in the telecoms sector has hindered Greece from approaching the level of her EU partners, and consequently the country needed to create a "national Euro-zonal infrastructure" to boost competitiveness and reduce costs.
 Suspicious bag blown up by Athens bomb squad near Elliniko
Athens, 20/5/2004 (ANA)The Athens bomb squad were called in on Wednesday to carry out a controlled explosion on a suspicious bag left outside a Rover car dealership near Elliniko, the site of the old Athens airport.
The explosion took place at 3:10 at the corners of Vouliagmenis and Thrakis avenues. Forensics experts are now collecting the debris from the explosion in order to determine what the bag contained.
 Authorities begin destruction of GM-contaminated crops in Kavala
Athens, 20/5/2004 (ANA)Authorities in Kavala on Wednesday began the destruction of corn crops found to contain genetically-modified corn seed imported into Greece from America the previous March.
The head of the Centre for the Certification of Reproductive Material Aggeliki Psylidou said that the 16 farmers known to have purchased the forbidden seed had been located and that their crops would be destroyed and then re-sown.
The seed in question had been accompanied by certificates that it was free of GM materials but a sample of the consignment showed it to be contaminated by 0.2 per cent above the maximum level allowed by the EU.
The ministry of agriculture and foods carries out sample checks on about 10 per cent of the quantity imported into Greece.
Psylidou said the results of the test had come out positive after the product had been released on the market and the normal period of sowing the fields had begun.
The batch had tested positive for the first time in April. Importer Pioneer Hi-Bred Hellas had contested the result but a second test on the same batch had also come back positive.
Farmers in Drama supplied the contaminated corn seed are now applying for compensation, with applications submitted by about 70 per cent so far.
A representative of the company has agreed to pay compensation amounting to 127 euros for each tenth of a hectare and to supply free seed for their fields.