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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-05-27

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

May 27, 2004

CONTENTS

  • [01] OECD recommends strategic planning for Athens after Olympics
  • [02] PM to present ruling New Democracy's manifesto for the European elections on Thursday
  • [03] PASOK leader to take in Crete, Patras, Athens and Thessaloniki on pre-election tour
  • [04] PM Molyviatis, US ambassador Miller discuss Olympics preparations, Cyprus issue
  • [05] Minister in Sofia for talks on Greek-Bulgarian defense cooperation
  • [06] Serb PM says Greece can help in solution of Kosovo issue
  • [07] KKE leader urges voters to 'punish' forces defending EU at Euro-elections
  • [08] De Soto report on Cyprus issue completed, to be tabled at UN next week
  • [09] State Department spokesman says US considers Talat leader of Turkish Cypriot community
  • [10] Greek gov't seeks to strengthen economic competitiveness
  • [11] Greek trade deficit jumped 23.8 pct in Jan-Feb
  • [12] Main opposition slams 'bickering' gov't, says it has betrayed contract workers trust
  • [13] Main opposition calls for growth with human angle
  • [14] Head of main industry trade group re-elected to post
  • [15] Stocks rise, tracking European markets
  • [16] HATTA press conference: Hotel accommodation in Athens sufficient for Games
  • [17] Transport minister calls for stricter policing of taxis at intercity bus stations
  • [18] Olympics to be a celebration of peace and friendship, Dep. Defense minister says
  • [19] International Olympic Security Conference in Athens ends
  • [20] Athens mayor and GSEE trade union chief discuss Athens Olympics, city problems
  • [21] European Ombudsman says institution has helped Europeans enjoy their rights
  • [22] Health minister rejects reports over internal ministry struggle
  • [23] Lambrinidis speaks at 25th IFJ World Congress
  • [24] Amnesty International releases its 2004 report Wednesday

  • [01] OECD recommends strategic planning for Athens after Olympics

    Athens, 27/5/2004 (ANA)

    Athens is benefiting from investments for the 2004 Olympic Games but it needs clear strategic planning to take advantage of the opportunities that globalization and eastward expansion of the European Union will bring, according to an OECD report.

    Organizing the Olympic Games has proved to be a challenge not only for Greece's capital city but for the entire national administration. The result has been a more flexible approach, focusing on achieving results and deadlines, the OECD's Territorial Review of the Metropolitan Region of Athens said.

    Looking ahead, the report noted that Athens has strong potential for development in its role as international gateway to Greece, the eastern part of the enlarged European Union and the Middle East. But fulfilling this role will require strategic responses to specific challenges from the government and local authorities of Athens and Attica.

    In particular, the OECD urged the government to develop a strategic vision for the region, linking economic, social, environmental and planning objectives and policies.

    It recommends that the government monitor the impact of EU enlargement on the Greek and Attica economies and develop a clear analysis of the best roles for Athens to play within Europe. As part of this strategy, the OECD calls for the creation of a regional development organization similar to that of London, a regional observatory to monitor economic developments, and an economic development finance program.

    The competitive position of the Attica region has improved over the past few years, the OECD report notes, thanks to favorable economic developments.

    Annual growth rates in Greece of around 4% have been higher than in most other EU countries; there has been greater stability following entry into the eurozone; inflation is low; and a program of regulatory reforms has liberalized many state dominated sectors. Coupled with moves to simplify formalities for enterprise creation, the result is a more business-friendly atmosphere in Athens which could facilitate foreign direct investment, the report said.

    Preparations for the Olympic Games in August 2004 and financing from EU Community Support Funds have boosted investment in the hotel sector, year-round sports facilities and a modern region-wide transport network. This includes a new international airport, urban highways and ring roads to decrease congestion, upgraded rail links, a new metro, a non-polluting bus fleet, and tramway lines which connect the city centre and the suburbs.

    A program to enhance architectural heritage and environmental assets has transformed central Athens and the area around the Acropolis. Like Barcelona, Athens now boasts easy access to a landscaped coastal zone at Faliron which offers a wide range of leisure and sports activities.

    At the same time, however, Athens faces complex inter-related problems, the report said.

    Its population is ageing; immigration is increasing in a previously homogenous society; parts of the urban area suffer from poor housing, environmental degradation and lack of green space, and the impacts of climate change in a sensitive semi-arid area are cause for concern; unemployment in the capital is high; imbalances in employment opportunities may well arise between the east and west of the region as new developments locate around the international airport in the Messoghia Plain, while old industrial sites in the west require redevelopment; and investment finance may become scarce in the medium term as the EU Community Support Funds diminish and the investments connected with the Olympic Games are concluded.

    Against this background, the OECD notes that Athens has considerable potential for growth in a number of areas. It cites the health sector, including the fitness and health industry; the sports sector with hosting of major international events; education (public and private) as an economic sector attracting foreign students which stimulates the housing and construction sectors as well as consumer products; the legal sector; the year-round conference industry; and new forms of tourism such as archaeological parks, eco-tourism, and high-quality cultural tourism.

    All of these opportunities, however, require the Attica region to be well planned, accessible and socially and environmentally agreeable. Like many metropolitan areas, Athens requires new institutional arrangements or reinforced co-operative arrangements in order to improve integration across administrative areas between the policies and programs of infrastructure agencies and service delivery, and between levels of government, the OECD said.

    [02] PM to present ruling New Democracy's manifesto for the European elections on Thursday

    Athens, 27/5/2004 (ANA)

    Prime Minister and ruling New Democracy's president Costas Karamanlis is to present his party's manifesto for the European elections at a special event on Thursday at the Zappeion building in central Athens, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said.

    The spokesman said the manifesto will outline ND's positions and goals with respect to Europe's future and the position that Greece will strive to hold within it, presenting the party's vision for what the European Union should mean to each of its citizens and how to further the goal of making Greece strong, creative and able to participate.

    At 19:30 on Wednesday, meanwhile, the prime minister is due to speak at the Greek Union of Industry (SEB) annual general assembly taking place at the Athens Concert Hall.

    [03] PASOK leader to take in Crete, Patras, Athens and Thessaloniki on pre-election tour

    Athens, 27/5/2004 (ANA)

    Main opposition PASOK press spokesman Spyros Vougias on Wednesday announced that the party's leader George Papandreou will be visiting the four largest Greek cities during his nationwide tour before the European elections taking place on June 13.

    The PASOK leader's first stop will be the city of Iraklion in Crete on June 2, followed by the port city of Patras on June 4, the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki on June 7 and Athens on June 10. Vougias said the visits will be combined with tours of the surrounding regions and rallies.

    According to the spokesman, the first feedback showed that the list of candidates fielded by PASOK for the Euro-elections had been well received by the party's supporters.

    The main opposition's spokesman once again raised the issue of a televised debate between the main party leaders, expressing doubts about whether Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will finally accept Papandreou's proposal for a one-on-one televised dialogue between them in the run-up to the elections.

    Vougias reiterated Papandreou's proposal, stressing that PASOK was prepared to discuss all issues without terms or conditions, and expressed hope that Karamanlis will not back down.

    The spokesman said that he had put PASOK'S proposal to Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos on the phone on Tuesday, who had said he would confer with Karamanlis and then give a reply.

    [04] PM Molyviatis, US ambassador Miller discuss Olympics preparations, Cyprus issue

    Athens, 27/5/2004 (ANA)

    Issues regarding preparations for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games and developments in the Cyprus issue were discussed Wednesday at a meeting between foreign minister Petros Molyviatis and US ambassador in Athens Thomas Miller.

    After the one-hour meeting, and in reply to press questions on the measures in support of the Turkish Cypriots to be taken by the US government, Miller confirmed that discussions were in progress, but did not clarify precisely what those measures would be.

    Miller also said he and Molyviatis had good cooperation on all matters related to Greek-US relations.

    [05] Minister in Sofia for talks on Greek-Bulgarian defense cooperation

    SOFIA 27/5/2004 (ANA/B. Borisov)

    National Defense Deputy Minister Vassilis Mihaloliakos began a two-day two visit here on Wednesday for talks on Greek-Bulgarian defense cooperation.

    To a question by the ANA on the prospects being shaped for Greek-Bulgarian defense cooperation following talks he had with Defense Minister Nikolai Svinarov, Chief of Staff Nikola Kolev and other representatives of Bulgaria's military leadership, Mihaloliakos said:"We ascertained that the relations between Greece and Bulgaria on all levels are at the best point through the history of the two countries, but furthermore, that there are more margins for further development in the defense sector. And this will very soon have practical results, particularly now, when, beyond being a neighboring country with which we are linked with traditional friendship, Bulgaria is now also a member of NATO."

    The Greek minister also met with Greek and Bulgarian entrepreneurs who are presenting their specialized products at the "Aemos" exhibition of defense equipment and technologies.

    Taking part in the exhibition is the Hellenic Aerospace Industry and other Greek businesses along with 120 companies from 21 countries.

    "Under the leadership of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, the government is working hard to vindicate the expectations of the Greek people. With regard the priority of our policy in the Balkans it is simple: the Balkans, all of Southeastern Europe in general to be an oasis of peace, security and progress for all its peoples," Mihaloliakos told the ANA.

    Concluding, he expressed the conviction that the traditional bonds of Greek-Bulgarian friendship and cooperation will become even closer following the completion of Bulgaria's accession course to united Europe, which Greece will continue to support in every way.

    The visit to Bulgaria by the Greek national defense deputy minister will conclude on Thursday with the watching of a display by the air force and the participation at the International Scientific Conference for Peace and Advanced Technologies in the Defense Sector.

    [06] Serb PM says Greece can help in solution of Kosovo issue

    BELGRADE 27/5/2004 (ANA)

    Greece can help in the solution of the Kosovo issue, Prime Minister of Serbia and Montenegro Vojislav Kostunica told the Serb news agency Beta following the meeting he had with Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in Thessaloniki on Tuesday.

    Kostunica said that he raised the issue with Karamanlis and stated characteristically that "Greece has the experience and knows the dangers entailed by the fragmentation of the Balkans."

    Kostunica also stated that the Greek government supports the European prospects of Serbia and Montenegro, because, beyond the traditional friendship, Karamanlis also foresees "the central position which Serbia has in Southeastern Europe."

    [07] KKE leader urges voters to 'punish' forces defending EU at Euro-elections

    Athens, 27/5/2004 (ANA)

    The forces of compromise that defend the European Union, such as the Coalition of the Radical Left party, must be "punished" in the upcoming European elections, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga told a gathering of pensioners on Wednesday.

    Papariga said that support for KKE will help people struggling on a national and European level, noting that the party's position for release from the EU showed the way for weakening and overthrowing the Community to open the way toward a Europe where the people were in charge of their own road of social development.

    [08] De Soto report on Cyprus issue completed, to be tabled at UN next week

    NEW YORK 27/5/2004 (ANA/P. Panagiotou)

    UN secretary general Kofi Annan's special advisor on the Cyprus issue, Alvaro de Soto, has completed his report on the Cyprus issue and tabled it with the UN Secretariat General, diplomatic sources told the ANA on Wednesday.

    The sources said that the report was long, analytical, and descriptive of the positions presented by the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides as well as Greece and Turkey during the UN-mediated negotiations on the Annan Plan in New York, Nicosia and Lucerne, as well as the views of the political leaderships before and after the April 24 referenda in the two Cypriot communities on the Annan plan, which was overwhelmingly rejected by the Greek Cypriots.

    The de Soto report appears to contain some criticism of the Greek Cypriot side, particularly of Cyprus president Tassos Papadopoulos, and to a lesser degree of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, the sources said.

    However, it was not certain whether the UN officials, and chiefly Annan, whose signature will appear on the de Soto report, intend to fully adopt the references made by the Peruvian diplomat.

    In addition, several of the UN Security Council permanent members have made it clear that they expected the UN chief to submit an "objective" and "balanced" report, without the expression of any personal bitterness, so as to leave margins for the efforts to continue, in due course, aimed at reunification of the island.

    As yet, there was no clear picture of what Annan's "conclusion" and "proposal" that will be contained in the final text of the report will be, the sources said, noting that the report was due to be released to the Security Council members early next week, after Monday's Memorial Day holiday in the US.

    Papadopoulos is due to meet with Annan on the morning of June 3 (11:00 a.m. NY time), a meeting which diplomatic circles consider "important" since Annan is waiting to be briefed by the Cypriot president on what he proposes, in the event that he desires a reactivation of the UN aimed at finding a comprehensive solution for the Cyprus issue.

    [09] State Department spokesman says US considers Talat leader of Turkish Cypriot community

    WASHINGTON 27/5/2004 (ANA/T. Ellis)

    The United States considers Mehmet Ali Talat as being the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community and is holding consultations with him in this framework, according to a statement by State Department spokesman Richard Boucher on Wednesday.

    "The Turkish Cypriot community appointed Mr. Talat as leader of the Turkish Cypriot delegation in the talks held in Switzerland. He has been playing this role since then and until the referendum and after it. The secretary (of State Colin Powell) met him as the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community. Our ambassador in Cyprus met him as the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community. And we consider him the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community," Boucher said.

    The spokesman also insisted that Talat led the effort to have the referendum accepted, but added that the position of the US regarding the "prime minister" of the Turkish-occupied territory does not signal some change in the U.S. position on the recognition of the so-called "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" or of people who are possibly in the administration apparatus in the northern part of Cyprus.

    Boucher also noted that the efforts of the U.S. for a solution to the issue of Cyprus did not begin recently but date back to 1963.

    [10] Greek gov't seeks to strengthen economic competitiveness

    Athens, 27/5/2004 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said on Wednesday that the government had set a priority on boosting competitiveness.

    Surrounding a continuous decline in competitiveness were the country's other key economic problems, which Karamanlis identified as high inflation, an elevated jobless rate, a wide current account deficit, and major regional inequality.

    The government was proceeding with fiscal revitalization and creation of a new orientation towards growth, the prime minister said.

    He noted that a new development bill was in the pipeline to tone up business, accompanied by a complex of measures that would act as incentives to corporate growth.

    In addition, the state's involvement in the economy would be reduced and its ability to provide services to business and the public improved; and disincentives would be removed for exporters, including more rapid Value Added Tax rebates.

    Another facet of policy was to implement privatization that would not be restricted to the form of sale adopted by the previous government, consisting of simple part-flotations in order to fill state coffers in the short term, Karamanlis said.

    The privatization policy to be announced would lay emphasis on transparency and respect for the rights of employees, he added.

    Finmin pledges reliable but radical economic policy: The four-year period should be declared as the period of competitiveness, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Wednesday.

    Speaking to an Athens radio, Alogoskoufis stressed that the big problem facing the Greek economy was its competitiveness and noted that 2005 would mark the beginning of a process to strengthen the Greek economy's export orientation.

    The Greek minister said that the government not only planned to offer incentives but also to lift any counter-incentives, while he stressed that there were very favorable prospects of development in the construction sector, the services sector -and in particular financial services- and several manufacturing sectors.

    Alogoskoufis said that a new development law, currently drafted by the government, would offer incentives to attract foreign investments in the country.

    Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis also said on Wednesday that the government was committed to a radical but reliable economic policy to promote growth, unemployment and social cohesion.

    Among the government's goals were to streamline and lower tax brackets and shape a tax system characterized by stability, simplicity, transparency and credibility, Alogoskoufis told a general assembly of the Association of Greek Industry.

    "We are to lower tax on non-distributed earnings of SA companies and limited liability firms to 25 per cent, and on profits of personal companies to 20 per cent. At the same time, we will strengthen investment incentives and remove disincentives that hamper business initiatives," the minister said.

    He added that the government had urged the national exports council to action in order to boost the country's exports drive, as the contribution of exports to economic growth over the last eight years was minor.

    [11] Greek trade deficit jumped 23.8 pct in Jan-Feb

    Athens, 27/5/2004 (ANA)

    The Greek trade deficit jumped 23.8 percent in the January-February period this year, compared with the same period in 2003, to 4.266 billion euros from 3.447 billion euros last year, the National Statistics Service said on Wednesday.

    NSS, in its monthly report, attributed the widening trade deficit to a big gap between the total value of imports and exports in the first two months of the year.

    Imports totalled 5.966 billion euros in the January-February period, from 5.386 billion euros last year, for an increase of 10.8 percent, while exports dropped 12.4 percent to 1.699 billion euros from 1.94 billion euros over the same period, respectively.

    [12] Main opposition slams 'bickering' gov't, says it has betrayed contract workers trust

    Athens, 27/5/2004 (ANA)

    Main opposition PASOK on Wednesday criticized apparent bickering between government ministers, saying it was a poor omen for the future, and said that ruling New Democracy had politically deceived over 250,000 public-sector contract workers with pre-election promises for a final settlement of their work status, when in fact the measures now introduced by the government applied to no more than 10 per cent of those involved.

    PASOK press spokesman Spyros Vougias was particularly critical of a proposal by Deputy Health Minister Athanassios Yiannopoulos to legalize under-the-counter fees charged by doctors to patients in public hospitals to take them on.

    On the issue of public-sector contract workers, he said that the government was now referring a political issue to the Council of State as a legal question and he accused Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis of "toying with the dreams" of temporary public-sector employees when he promised to end their plight as "political hostages".

    "The hostages are now being freed by means of firing them," Vougias quipped.

    [13] Main opposition calls for growth with human angle

    Athens, 27/5/2004 (ANA)

    The leader of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement, George Papandreou, said on Wednesday that the country needed growth with a human angle.

    "There must be changes, investment in human resources and in education, full employment, competitiveness with social cohesion, and a reduction in bureaucracy. We will strive for growth with a social face," Papandreou told reporters after addressing a general assembly of the Association of Greek Industry.

    "PASOK handed over an economy with a sound base, which must be preserved, and experiments must not be made," he said.

    Asked to comment on reports of disagreements within the New Democracy government, Papandreou said: "The government must look forward and begin to govern, instead of acting as an opposition to the opposition."

    In a speech to the SEB assembly, Papandreou said that the economy had made progress in recent years.

    "If we fail to maintain growth rates and increase them, everything else is in the air...Without strong growth, there is no prospect of higher income, increased private consumption, investment, lower unemployment, or improvement in the country's fiscal situation," the PASOK leader said.

    "We have to make major structural changes without upsetting social cohesion," he added.

    [14] Head of main industry trade group re-elected to post

    Athens, 27/5/2004 (ANA)

    The president of the Association of Greek Industry (SEB), Odysseas Kyriakopoulos, was re-elected to the post on Wednesday for a fresh two-year term.

    Kyriakopoulos told SEB's new board that the group would work to promote Greece's business presence abroad, especially in the European Union's new members, through a new division, SEB International, coordinated by industrialist Thanasis Lavidas.

    SEB's leader told the trade group's general assembly that changes needed to make the country more business-friendly could not be delayed.

    Among moves the government should make quickly were to drastically reduce red tape and simplify legislation for the business sector, Kyriakopoulos said.

    [15] Stocks rise, tracking European markets

    Athens, 27/5/2004 (ANA)

    Stocks finished higher on the bourse, tracking a rise in European markets spurred by Wall Street a day earlier, traders said.

    The Athens general share index closed at 2,352.22 points, showing a 1.0 per cent increase. Turnover was 121.2 million euros.

    The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 1.51 per cent higher; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 1.25 per cent up; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.30 per cent higher.

    Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 196 to 102 with 66 remaining unchanged.

    [16] HATTA press conference: Hotel accommodation in Athens sufficient for Games

    Athens, 27/5/2004 (ANA)

    Athens 2004 General Manager for Games Support Vassilis Neiadas asserted that hotel accommodations in Athens will be sufficient for those coming to Greece for the Olympic Games, during a press conference organized by the Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourism Agents (HATTA) on Wednesday.

    Neiadas emphasized that the lack of sufficient accommodation is a "myth" and that there is a wide range of hotels and hotel rates available. As for prices, he said that the rumors about prohibitive rates and ridiculous increases are unfounded, both in Athens as well as in the rest of the country. He added that it is a common phenomenon in cities hosting the Olympic Games for the price of services to increase, but stressed that the increase should be within reasonable limits.

    Athens Hotel Association President Yiorgos Tsakiris said that room rate increases were around 12% compared with 2003.

    Neiadas said that hotel prices were not expensive and urged those wishing to make hotel reservations to contact the Athens Convention Bureau. The bureau lists the following daily room rates according to hotel category: Class C starts at 65/night, with 80- 90 being the average; Class B hotels range from 180- 350, while luxury hotel rates begin at 320 and go up to 650.

    [17] Transport minister calls for stricter policing of taxis at intercity bus stations

    Athens, 27/5/2004 (ANA)

    Transport Minister Mihalis Liapis on Wednesday sent a letter to the public order ministry asking for tougher policing of unscrupulous taxi drivers at KTEL intercity bus stations at Liosia and off Kifissos Avenue, who inconvenienced passengers through policies such as refusing passengers bound for 'inconvenient' destinations or picking up double or triple fares.

    Liapis said that inspections by the transport ministry showed that KTEL passengers were subjected to significant hardship through these practices, particularly vulnerable groups such as the disabled, elderly or mothers with small children.

    The minister notes that the presence of traffic police has been shown to discourage such practices, thus improving services and also the country's image to foreigners.

    [18] Olympics to be a celebration of peace and friendship, Dep. Defense minister says

    SOFIA 27/5/2004 (ANA - B. Borisov)

    Soon after his arrival in Bulgaria for a three-day visit, Greek Deputy Defense Minister Vassilis Mihaloliakos on Wednesday stressed that Greece was taking every possible measure to ensure that the Athens Olympics of 2004 would be a true celebration of peace and friendship of all peoples on the planet, as well as a top sporting event.

    Asked by the ANA correspondent to comment on the criticism leveled against Athens' over preparations for the Olympics, including those for security, by sections of the foreign media, the minister noted that Athens had been burdened with the honor but also the responsibility of hosting perhaps the most difficult Games in the history of the Olympic Movement.

    "Everyone understands that after 9/11 everything in the world has changed," he stressed. He said that the security operations would involve thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen from the Greek Armed Forces, in addition to the regular police force, while pointing out that Greece was spending more than three times the amount spent by Sydney on security and 30 times the amount spent at the Atlanta Games, as well as working with a number of friendly nations and NATO on security.

    "I am convinced that the upcoming Olympic Games will be the safest and most successful ever held," Mihaloliakos concluded, noting that this optimism appeared to be shared by the United States government, whose Olympic mission will be led by the senior president George Bush.

    During his stay in Bulgaria, Mihaloliakos is to meet government officials involved in defense and attend a defense equipment exhibition in Plovdiv.

    [19] International Olympic Security Conference in Athens ends

    Athens, 27/5/2004 (ANA)

    The three-day International Conference for Olympic Games Security ended on Wednesday with a guided tour of the competition venues. After the conference, the US, Australian, Spanish and New Zealand security chiefs issued statements.

    US Olympic Committee Chief Security Officer Larry M. Buendorf said, "here in Greece, the appropriate things are being done, everybody is working hard; they are going to make the safest Games that can possibly be done. There is obviously no way of knowing what the world holds tomorrow, but you do the very best you can - prepare - and that's all you can do." He said that the message he's been sending to athletes and staff is, "Let's get out, let's get the Games started, let's go in, let's have some fun and enjoy what Greece has to offer."

    Bob Myers, Director of Security for the Australian team said, "the meetings I've had with the security people here have given me the information I need to know. I've had meetings with them and briefings, apart from the security conference. They've been very helpful and I'm satisfied they are doing everything they can to make sure the Athens Games are secure."

    Secretary General of the Spanish National Olympic Committee (NOC) also gave Greece his vote of confidence saying: "For me everything is on the way to give the maximum protection to the participants and to the spectators. I personally think that Greece is doing everything and has the cooperation of the International Olympic Committee and all the nations involved in the preparations for the security of the Games. I think Greece is doing its best."

    Marty Grenfell, the New Zealand NOC Security Officer also praised Greece's efforts with the following statement: "The times I've been moving around the city of Athens I've felt very safe. Statistically, Greece, the city of Athens compares very favorably in terms of crime. It appears they have a very low crime rate. The investment of manpower and resources that has gone into making Athens a safe city during the period of the Games - the undertaking is immense and we should congratulate Greece for her cooperation with a multinational team to ensure the Games are safe for the Olympic Family and its citizens."

    [20] Athens mayor and GSEE trade union chief discuss Athens Olympics, city problems

    Athens, 27/5/2004 (ANA)

    Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni on Wednesday received the president of Greece's largest umbrella trade union organization, the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) for talks on the organization of the Athens Olympics in August and overall quality of life in the city.

    The mayor said her talks with GSEE chief Christos Polyzogopoulos had covered the prospects for cooperation on Olympics preparations and joint action on city issues.

    After the meeting, Polyzogopoulos said it had broadened the prospects of joint action in organizing the Games, which he said were a "great wager" for Greece, and he called for cooperation and mobilization on all levels for their success.

    He said the meeting had also discussed the prospects for more generalized cooperation with the Athens municipality on issues concerning the functioning of the city of Athens, so that it might become a centre for tourism.

    [21] European Ombudsman says institution has helped Europeans enjoy their rights

    VIENNA 27/5/2004 (ANA - D. Dimitrakoudis)

    European Ombudsman Nikiforos Diamantouros on Wednesday said that the degree to which Europeans were able to enjoy their rights had significantly increased since the institution of a European ombudsman was established, while expressing confidence that further improvements will follow in the future.

    In an interview with the ANA in Vienna, during his tour of the 25 capitals of the European Union, the Greek ombudsman said that the post he took over on April 1, 2003 gave him an opportunity to apply the things he had learned as Greek ombudsman on a European level.

    During his tour of EU member-states, the ombudsman will seek to cooperate with equivalent services in each country and to brief the government and state leadership on what the European ombudsman does and what it can offer.

    He will also have meetings with nongovernmental organizations, the media, universities and small businesses to brief them on how the European ombudsman can help them.

    [22] Health minister rejects reports over internal ministry struggle

    Athens, 27/5/2004 (ANA)

    Health and Social Solidarity Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis on Wednesday said he did not discuss the issue of his Deputy Minister Ath. Yiannopoulos during a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

    Speaking to reporters, Kaklamanis said that private views did not affect both the government or the ministry's operations and added that "everyone is judged by what he says or does". Responding to questions whether there will be an issue of resignation if Mr Yiannopoulos continues expressing private views, the Greek minister said: "Ask the person who appoints ministers and deputy ministers", meaning the prime minister. Press reports said that the government was considering sacking Health Deputy Minister because of differences in views with his minister.

    Kaklamanis expressed his satisfaction because the Prime Minister gave the "green light" for the ministry to table its first draft law.

    [23] Lambrinidis speaks at 25th IFJ World Congress

    Athens, 27/5/2004 (ANA)

    "The Olympic Truce movement is an attempt to revive the ancient Greek spirit with tangible and modern dimensions. The IOC and our country are leading this effort, which today constitutes the beginning of a long race so that the Olympic Truce can be the foundation of the next Olympic Games," Director of the International Olympic Truce Centre Stavros Lambrinidis said on Wednesday during the 25th International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) World Congress being held in Athens.

    Lambrinidis stressed that at a time characterized by globalization and diverse societies, people all over the world are looking for common principles and values that will unite humanity.

    He described the Olympic Games as being the most recognized symbol of unity in modern society and urged everyone to become ambassadors of the Olympic ideals and the Olympic Truce, combining realism with romanticism - not merely spectators of sports accomplishments during the 2004 Olympiad.

    "Sports cannot impose peace but they can inspire it. If we can manage to have peace for 16 days, then perhaps one day we will forever," he said. In closing, Lambrinidis referred to past examples when the truce was maintained (three times during the past decade), but also made reference to continued progress for its promotion and establishment on an international level.

    [24] Amnesty International releases its 2004 report Wednesday

    Athens, 27/5/2004 (ANA)

    Amnesty International paints a bleak picture concerning human rights in its 2004 report released on Wednesday, which was presented in cities around the world. In Athens, members of the organization's Greek chapter presented the report which finds that violence by armed forces and governments, an increase in human rights violations, torture and ill treatment, and violation of international law are elements found in many parts of the world.

    In more specific terms, in 2003 extrajudicial executions and murders occurred in 47 countries; governments were responsible for the "disappearance" of people in 28 countries; victims of torture and ill treatment were reported in 132 countries; prisoners of conscience were being held in 44 countries; people were arrested and jailed without charges in 58 countries, sentenced to death in 63 countries and executed in 28 countries. Additionally, armed forces were responsible for acts of violence and murder in 18 countries, and holding hostages and kidnapping in 16 countries.

    "Violence by armed forces and the increasing violations by governments during last year, constitute the most extended 'attack' against human rights and international human rights law in the past 50 years," Costas Papaioannou, President of Greece's Amnesty International said.

    On a more positive note, Amnesty International observed that there are clear indications that a movement for international justice is gaining momentum, and deems the creation and operation of the International Criminal Court as a positive and encouraging development.

    Greece was also mentioned in the report for ill treatment of demonstrators at the Thessaloniki Summit, the killing of an Albanian by policemen at the border, threatening a foreign human rights activist with deportation, as well as other such incidents.

    As of March 5, 2004, the Greek division of Amnesty International has launched an awareness campaign regarding violence against women. On Thursday, it will hold a radio marathon from 8 a.m. until midnight in light of this campaign.


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