|Monday, 18 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-05-29
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>May 29, 2004
 Deputy FM says considerable potential in relations between EU and Latin American countries
GUADALAJARA, Mexico 29/5/2004 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis said on Friday there is "considerable potential for utilization" in relations between the European Union and the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Valinakis is representing the Greek government at the EU's third summit with Latin American and Caribbean countries which opened here on Friday.
Focusing on the summit's agenda, Valinakis referred to the role the UN can play and stressed that all countries participating in the summit "expressed their horror over the ill-treatment of prisoners of war in Iraq."
According to a statement, Valinakis took advantage of the meeting to promote Greece's candidacy for the post of a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Earlier in the day, Valinakis met with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos with whom, according to reports, he discussed the Cypriot leader's impending visit to the UN's headquarters in New York where he will be meeting UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
The main topic of discussion between the leaders of the 58 countries participating in the summit was the role of the UN in handling the situation in Iraq.
"No country can undertake unilateral action," said Irish Prime Minister and European Council President Berty Ahern.
According to reports, the summit is expected to officially condemn the attitude of some American soldiers in Iraq.
"We strongly condemn every form of ill-treatment, torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment of every person, including prisoners of war, wherever they might take place. We express our horror and abhorrence over the recent cases of prisoners being tortured in prisons in Iraq," said the draft of the finalized declaration to be issued by the summit.
 Government on Souflias comments: 'We support the Olympics with all our might'
Athens, 29/5/2004 (ANA)Minister of State and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Friday underlined the government's whole-hearted commitment to hosting successful Olympics in August, responding to questions regarding statements by Environment Minister George Souflias in Parliament the previous day.
Roussopoulos said that Souflias had expressed specific concerns regarding the Olympic Games, both before a Parliamentary committee and in statements to the press, while noting that the government considers the matter closed.
"The government supports the Olympic Games with all our might, it has not regretted the decision to host the Games and considers this a very important affair for Greece," he stressed.
Speaking at Parliament's Educational Affairs Committee, during a debate in which Alternate Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia had presented figures showing that several Olympic projects were greatly over budget, Souflias said that he had entertained misgivings about the decision to host the Games from a fiscal point of view. At the same time, he underlined his conviction that the Games will be successful and stressed that he was among those working night and day for their success.
The statement caused uproar among the main opposition, also drawing criticism from main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou.
 SYN leader Constantopoulos blasts ND, PASOK on health sector problems
Athens, 29/5/2004 (ANA)Coalition of the Radical Left (SYN) leader Nikos Constantopoulos on Friday accused the ruling New Democracy party of "lack of government work", and main opposition PASOK party and its leader, George Papandreou, of "lack of opposition and a different policy", adding that this picture of a generalized crisis was apparent on a day-to-day basis.
Constantopoulos said that two months ago the people had given the two mainstream parties 85 percent of their preference (in March's general elections), but on a daily basis one sees phenomena that erode their omnipotence.
He said it was apparent that the identity of policies between ND and PASOK and the lack of different choices on tackling the people's and country's big problems was leading to those phenomena of erosion and crisis.
During a visit later to the KAT hospital in Kifissia, said that in the Greece of the year 2004, the health system was still plagued by cots in hospital corridors, 'gift envelopes' to doctors, hospitals' special accounts, and the downgrading of public health.
He said the preceding PASOK governments were obliged to shoulder their responsibilities and make their self-criticism, while the present ND government needed to realize that it could not toy with the people's problems and simply reiterate the oft-said, empty words.
Constantopoulos warned that if the policy on health did not change, the National Health System was not generously financed, and the health functionaries -- from the employees to the medical and nursing staff -- were not supported, the problems would continue.
 UN Cyprus special adviser hopes Greek Cypriot side will reconsider Annan plan
Athens, 29/5/2004 (ANA)The UN's special adviser for Cyprus Alvaro de Soto, speaking at a press conference in Thessaloniki on Friday, expressed the hope the Greek Cypriot side will reconsider the Annan plan and will ultimately change its mind, while not ruling out the possibility of a new plan being created.
De Soto did not conceal his surprise over the negative attitude shown to the plan by Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and announced that in a week or two UN Secretary General Kofi Annan will deliver a report to the Security Council containing his conclusions on the issue of Cyprus and on the referenda which took place on the two sides.
The special adviser, who is currently on an informal visit to the city, avoided giving any further details on the report, but noted "it will be fair, objective and very analytical."
He went on to say that an evaluation is currently taking place on what has happened in the Cyprus issue and stressed that it is extremely difficult for one to give a reply on this since it does not concern a person or a head of state but thousands of people who are behind this issue.
De Soto did not rule out the possibility of another effort to solve the issue of Cyprus since, as he said, the Turkish Cypriot side accepted the plan. What remains to be done is to have the results of the referendum evaluated and what the Greek Cypriot side really wants must be examined.
Referring to the position of President Papadopoulos, de Soto said he had not expected a negative response.
"Mr. Denktash had told us his opinion of the plan some time ago. We believed until April 7 that President Papadopoulos would agree," he said, adding that the UN does not agree with the analysis made by President Papadopoulos on the plan and does not support his positions.
De Soto praised the stance of Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and said "he is a very talented politician and he helped in the entire process and cooperated with all sides for a solution to be given to the problem."
He further said that although he was disappointed by the development of the issue he does not believe the entire procedure was a waste of time since the two sides worked together to prepare the laws of the new state and there was one step for the ice between them to thaw.
 Greek government slams Turkish general's comments on Aegean issues
Athens, 29/5/2004 (ANA)Greek government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Friday strongly criticized a statement on Aegean issues by the deputy chief of Turkey's Armed Forces General Staff, general Ilker Basbug, saying that these set back the talks that were underway and did not contribute to a solution of the problems.
Among others, Basbug had said that there was no question of Turkey backing down on its vital interests in the Aegean.
 Greek-Turkish dialogue on Aegean issues still underway, Turkish foreign minister says
ISTANBUL 29/5/2004 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul on Friday confirmed that informal dialogue between Greece and Turkey on Aegean issues was continuing.
"The talks are continuing, they have not been interrupted, and for them to continue means that the talks are progressing and that announcements will be made at the appropriate time," he added.
Turkish FM Gul: Halki Theological School will reopen soon: Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul said Friday that the Halki Theological School would be reopened soon.
Gul said in a television interview that contacts in that direction were continuing between the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Higher Education Council (YOK) and the education ministry.
 Coalition, KKE oppose televised debate confined to the two main parties
Athens, 29/5/2004 (ANA)The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Coalition of the Radical Left parties on Friday expressed their opposition to the prospect of a televised debate confined to the leaders of the two main parties, saying that any debate should include all the party leaders.
Minister of State and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said he was informed of the positions of the Coalition during a meeting with its representatives on Friday and that he will be meeting representatives of all the parties next Tuesday, while sources said that any debate organized will probably include the leaders of the four parties in Parliament.
In comments on the issue, KKE General Secretary Aleka Papariga called for equality between the parties during the pre-election race and said her party was in favor of free and open dialogue, without a list of journalists for the parties to choose from.
"We have no problem with even hostile questions, provided that we are able to answer for ourselves and the people can then decide whether they agree or disagree on the basis of what we have said, rather than what other people say for us...If a list is given we will do it, but we would prefer it was not done in this way," she said.
 Turkish war planes infringe Athens FIR, violate national airspace
Athens, 29/5/2004 (ANA)Nine formations of Turkish war planes on Friday infringed air traffic regulations of the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) and in one case there was a violation of national airspace in the region of Lesvos, according to press reports.
The 20 Turkish aircraft were recognized and intercepted by Greek fighter jets while in certain cases the procedure of interception developed into an engagement.
 Greek weekly economic review
Athens, 29/5/2004 (ANA)The country's fiscal deficit and public debt have exceeded budget targets because of excessive spending, non-transparent procedures and the state's inabilities, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis told an annual assembly of the Greek Industries' Union (SEB) this week. The prime minister noted that the biggest problems facing the economy was a high inflation rate, increased unemployment, a widening shortfall in the current account balance, large regional imbalances and a declining competitiveness. Mr Karamanlis said boosting economic competitiveness was the main goal of the government's economic policy and presented the seven axes of this policy, including a tax reform, a new development law, improving business climate, less state intervention, boosting exports, a round of privatizations and resolving the problems with penalty rates and returning VAT to exporters.
In other headline news this week:
Greece's economic climate index rose for the third month in a row in April to 99.7 points, remaining above the EU average (97.2), a monthly report by the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) showed. IOBE attributed the improvement to a rise in the domestic manufacturing index and a slight improvement in Greek consumers' confidence index.
Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said that a new development law, currently drafted by the ministry, would have to introduce radical changes in business activity.
Greek tourism's competitiveness problems are linked with the quality of Greek tourist product and the level of tourism education and training, a sector presenting great prospects of improvement, a report by the Institute of Tourism Research and Forecasts (ITEP) said this week.
A battle is raging in the domestic retail banking market, with banks offering interest-free loans to consumers in their efforts to gain market share. The Bank of Cyprus said it would start offering interest-free loans to a 10 percent of borrowers in the period from June 1 to July 30.
Odysseas Kyriakopoulos was re-elected chairman of the Greek Industries Union for the third time.
Bank of Greece governor Nikolaos Garganas said that a government-sponsored solution to the issue of penalty rates imposed by banks on unpaid debt would have only moderate impact on banks' financial situation.
Development Deputy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou said that market representatives pledged not to raise their prices on goods and services ahead of the Olympic Games.
 National Consumers' Council meeting on June 2
Athens, 29/5/2004 (ANA)A National Consumers' Council meeting, to be held at Zappeion Mansion, Wednesday 2 June, will discuss the contribution of consumer groups in organizing the Olympic Games, revising an existing regulatory framework to boost consumer groups' role and the role of local authorities in protecting consumers.
Greece's Development ministry seeks to strengthen the role of consumer groups and is currently drafting a new law.
The ministry's general secretary has already asked prefecture authorities to submit a list with the main problems related with the ministry and plans to launch an on line system linking Development ministry with prefectures to ensure closer cooperation. The project will be funded by the Third Community Support Framework program.
 Greece, Bulgaria announce closer tourism cooperation
Athens, 29/5/2004 (ANA)Greece and Bulgaria announced the creation of a Greek-Bulgarian Chamber of Tourism aimed to promote bilateral cooperation in the tourism sector.
The decision was taken during a meeting between Bulgarian Economy Deputy Minister Dimitar Hadginikolov and visiting Greek Tourism Deputy Minister Anastasios Liaskos.
The meeting was also attended by Yiannis Evangelou, chairman of HATTA (the Greek association of tourist enterprises) and chairman of the Balkan Federation of Tourist Agent Union and Bulgarian tourism representatives.
The meeting also agreed to hold a business forum in Thessaloniki, November 5-6, on the sidelines of "Philoxenia 2004" tourism fair.
Mr Liaskos met with Economy Minister Milen Veltchev and discussed bilateral tourism issues.
Consumer protection centre opens in Larissa: Charalambos Kouris, President of the consumer group INKA, announced on Friday the opening of a branch of the European Consumer Protection centre in Larissa.
The branch will begin operating immediately and is particularly important in light of the Olympic Games, since visitors will be able to get suggested price lists, submit complaints and seek legal assistance.
Additionally, Kouris referred to the creation of a consumer protection agency for Olympic Games visitors. "It is evident that efforts for 2004 must have beneficial results both before and after the Olympic Games in terms of businesses' daily practices, for the consumer, the market, the national economy and the image of Greek tourism," he emphasized.
Damages were estimated at 45,000 euro.
Greek consumer group launches campaign against rising fuel prices: The Consumer Union of Greece on Friday unveiled an ongoing campaign to retaliate against soaring fuel prices, saying it has distributed more than 12,500 leaflets to drivers in Attica recommending that they limit their use to a minimum, use public transport where possible and pick petrol stations with the best prices.
More leaflets are to be distributed in major Greek towns and cities over the next week, in a bid to "correct" irregularities in the fuel market through consumer pressure.
 Stocks rise, again spurred by corporate earnings
Athens, 29/5/2004 (ANA)Stocks finished higher on the bourse, spurred by healthy first-quarter earnings announced in recent days by high capitalization companies, traders said.
The Athens general share index closed at 2,423.72 points, showing a 1.71 per cent increase. Turnover was 273.2 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 2.11 per cent higher; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.34 per cent up; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 1.71 per cent higher.
Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 210 to 89 with 63 remaining unchanged.
 Main opposition PASOK leader visits Olympic Village, praises facilities
Athens, 29/5/2004 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Friday said he had been impressed during his visit to the Olympic Village, both in terms of the size of the project and in terms of the speed with which it was carried out, its elegance and its post-Olympic usefulness.
"We are proud as Greeks of this work that makes a substantial contribution to Greek society and to working people, based on social criteria," he stressed.
Papandreou also underlined the need to rise above petty party-political spats surrounding the Olympic Games, which he stressed should be the "Olympics of Hellenism".
"These are the work of the Greek people, though we are proud that as a government we were able to make them come about and deliver them all on time," he said.
Papandreou was accompanied by former culture minister Evangelos Venizelos, who stressed that Greeks had to be fully informed on Olympics projects and support and defend their country abroad against unfair attack.
The facilities at the Olympic Village form a self-contained community, complete with homes, three schools, sports facilities, a fire station, an ultra-modern medical unit, underground electricity grid, natural gas, telecoms and extremely rigorous safety standards. Papandreou was shown around by the board president of Olympic Village Athanassios Asimakopoulos.
After the Games, the entire facilities will be turned over to families qualifying for homes from the Worker Housing Organization, at which time the day-care centers and nurseries provided for under the original plans will be completed, while the Labor Ministry is also to be transferred to the site.
During his tour, Papandreou visited one of the 2,292 apartments in the Olympic Village and met with the representative of the site workforce.
In addition to Venizelos, Papandreou's party included former Olympic Games general secretary Costas Kartalis, PASOK Social Affairs coordinator Thanassis Tsouras and Educational Issues Coordinator Maria Damanaki.
 Polls show Greek interest in the Olympic Games rising
Athens, 29/5/2004 (ANA)Two surveys carried out by MRB and Metron Analysis found that Greek citizens are showing greater interest in the Olympic Games, the majority of those surveyed believe that Athens will stage successful and safe Games, and trust that Athens 2004 and its President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki are capable of achieving this.
More specifically MRB, which surveyed 1,612 people throughout the country from March 14-21, found that 66.2% of those surveyed are interested in the Athens Games, reaching a similar level of interest to that shown in December 2000 when Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki was put in charge of organizing the Games.
The Greek public's trust in the government's organizational abilities regarding the Games also showed an increase, with 74.5% giving the government its vote of confidence. Last February, only 58.9% of the public trusted the government in this matter - the highest percentage the previous government had achieved.
Additionally, the great majority of those surveyed - 86.3% - believe that the Olympic Games will be safe; 82.4% trust that whatever problems arise will be handled appropriately and 83.5% believe that the Olympic Games are a unique opportunity for Greece's promotion abroad.
Athens 2004 President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki also got a strong vote of confidence with 70% of those surveyed believing she is doing a good job. This is the greatest support Angelopoulos-Daskalaki has earned.
The majority of those surveyed - 74.6% - were also satisfied with the Organizing Committee's handling of the Games.
Metron Analysis' survey of 2,204 people nationwide, conducted May 15-24, arrived at similar results. The Metron Analysis survey found a similar increase in the Greek public's interest in the Games as the MRB survey. The Athens 2004 president had also gained 5 percentage points in popularity, climbing to 58.7%. An overwhelming 83.2% of those surveyed believe the Olympic Games will be a success.
In terms of how significant the Olympic Games are for the country, 85.6% of those surveyed by Metron Analysis consider the Games very important, while only 6.7% consider them indifferent.
Finally, 69.6% of the Greek public does not believe that press reports doubting Greece's ability to stage a successful Games are accurate.
 Paralympic Torch Relay program presented in Athens
Athens, 29/5/2004 (ANA)"The Athens 2004 Paralympic Torch Relay aims first and foremost at maintaining the celebratory spirit between the Olympic and Paralympic Games, lighting up both the city's historical areas and monuments as well as modern Greek sites and promoting areas of unique natural beauty, while conveying the message of equality, freedom, friendship and participation," Athens 2004 Organizing Committee President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said during a special event held at the Organizing Committee's conference centre on Friday. The Athens 2004 President also referred to the Greek Paralympic athletes' determination which, as she said, they made evident, "four years ago in Sydney, where they won 11 medals for Greece."
The Paralympic Torch Relay will begin on September 9 in Thisseion, beneath the Acropolis. On the first night, the Paralympic Torch Relay will stop at the Odeon of Herod Atticus. It will also pass by the temples of Poseidon in Sounio and Artemis in Vravrona, Megara and Elefsina. On the evening of September 17, the Paralympic flame will reach the Olympic Stadium of Athens. A total of 680 torchbearers will carry the torch across 41 km through 54 municipalities in Attica.
Also present at today's event was Alternate Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia who characterized the Paralympics as "Games that highlight the passion and struggle of athletes and people." Additionally, "the Athens Paralympic Games will provide spectators with the opportunity to witness athletes' pursuit of accomplishment, distinction, reward; to admire the strength and capabilities of Paralympic athletes, their conviction, their will, their competitiveness, their determination," she added.
Phil Craven, President of the International Paralympic Committee said that Thisseion was an impressive area and underlined that the course of the Paralympic flame will shine its light on very important historical monuments in Attica and areas of great beauty.
Paralympic Games General Manager Ioanna Karyofylli also spoke about the advantages of Attica, saying that "Attica, which will host the Olympic and Paralympic Games, combines Greece's long historical tradition with the country's modern image. It is one of the most representative regions of the country with a large population, a beautiful natural environment and modern infrastructure."
Andreas Varotsos designed the Paralympic torch.
 Suburban railway carries out maiden run from Larissis Station to Athens airport
Athens, 29/5/2004 (ANA)The first train to travel along Athens' new suburban railway on Friday carried out the maiden run from Larissis Station to the airport in Spata, carrying Transport and Communications Minister Mihalis Liapis, Deputy Transport Minister Tassos Merantzis and reporters covering the event.
According to Liapis, Friday's trip was a test run and regular services on the line using new and modern trains will commence in mid-July. He said the new trains will be diesel-powered Railbus and Desiro models, complete with mod cons such as air conditioning, visual and audio information channels and others.
The journey from Larissis Station to the airport will take 30 minutes, and each train will carry about 600 passengers, with trains running every half hour along the entire route and every quarter of an hour in each direction between Neratziotissa and Doukissis Plakentias stations. In addition to these, there will be the metro trains that will join the suburban railway route between Doukissis Plakentias and the airport, which will be able to transport up to 1,000 passengers each.
The suburban railway is comprised of 32 kilometers of double rail-line between the east- and west-bound directions of the Attica Highway from the airport up until the Acharnon Railway Centre, with trains able to reach a top speed of up to 160 kilometers an hour. There are nine stations along the route at Iraklio, Neratziotissa, Kifissias Ave, Pendeli Ave, Doukissis Plakentias (with connections to the metro), Pallini, Kantza, Koropi and the airport. Another station is scheduled to be built at Metamorphosi later on.
 PM Karamanlis announces upgrade for PIKPA facility into Physical Rehabilitation Centre
Athens, 29/5/2004 (ANA)Prime minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday announced that the PIKPA home for children with special needs in the coastal suburb of Voula would be revamped into a Physical Rehabilitation Centre.
Karamanlis, who visited the facility accompanied by health minister Nikitas Kaklamanis and tourism minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, said that the government would support and aid the upgrading of the Voula PIKPA with a bill that would be tabled in parliament next June, aimed at the immediate upgrade of the institution so that persons with disabilities would acquire "a recreation space of their own" within the summer.
The premier said that the human being was at the crux of his government's policy, adding that policy proved itself worthy when it improved people's lives, especially those of people in need.
The premier was briefed on the problems faced by the facility, which currently hosts 133 children with disabilities.
 UN Deputy SG Frechette to attend congress of European Foundation Centre
BRUSSELS 29/5/2004 (ANA)UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette begins a two-day visit to Athens on Saturday to attend the 15th Congress of the European Foundation Centre on the theme:"Foundations for Europe:The Athenian Market - Building Bridges between Civilizations and Cultures".
The European Foundation Centre is an independent European organization which promotes, supports and coordinates the work of 200 foundations and businesses with philanthropic work.
In her speech, Frechette is expected to refer to the cooperation of the United Nations with the European foundations for the achievement of the Aims of the Millennium for development which was agreed by the 189 states at the Millennium Conference of the United Nations in 2000.
Frechette will be accompanied by UN members.
 Greek Church ratifies agreement on 'New Lands' in overture of peace toward Phanar
Athens, 29/5/2004 (ANA)The Hierarchy of the Orthodox Church of Greece on Friday ratified a verbal agreement with the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Phanar, Istanbul on the ecclesiastical administration of the so-called 'New Lands' sees in northern Greece.
All present voted in favor of a proposal by Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece except Kalavryta Metropolitan Ambrosius, who said Friday's agreement demoted to the level of a provincial synod.
In an open vote, the gathered prelates decided that the Church of Greece will respect and abide by the law of 1850 and the Act of 1928, though during the session there was mild criticism of the Archbishop's handling of the issue over the past 10 months.
Emerging from the meeting, Christodoulos himself described Friday's decision as "an act of sacrifice in order to preserve peace in the Church" and a gesture of unity and peace.
Commenting on the decision from Brussels, where she is attending the EU education ministers' council, Education and Religious Affairs Minister Marietta Yiannakou said she welcomed this positive development in relations between the Church of Greece and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
The government is interested in supporting the ecumenical role and international prestige of the Patriarchate, and in supporting the role of the Church of Greece, she told the ANA correspondent in the city.
"In the framework of the system of relations between the Church and the State, the government will ensure legality," she added, noting that the top priority was the unity of the Orthodox faith and harmonious cooperation between the two Churches for the good of Hellenism.
 March road accident statistics
Athens, 29/5/2004 (ANA)A total of 117 people lost their lives in 1,154 road accidents throughout Greece in the month of March, according to figures released Friday by the national statistics service ESYE.
According to ESYE, 145 people were seriously injured and another 1,365 were lightly injured in those same road accidents.
Year-on-year, the death toll from road accidents in March 2004 rose by 5.4 percent against March 2003, while the number of heavy injuries declined by 9.9 percent (from 161 in March 2003), and the number of light injuries rose by 12.8 percent (from 1,202 in March last year).
ESYE said that the death toll in road accidents for the three-month period January-March 2004 dropped to 331 from 344 in the same period in 2003.