|Tuesday, 12 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-10-04
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>October 4, 2004
 Greek proposal for creation of European Coast Guard put to EU interior and justice ministers at informal Hague meeting
Athens 4/10/2004 (ANA)Greece's minister of the interior Procopis Pavlopoulos put forward Greece's proposal for the creation of a European Coast Guard, and briefed his EU counterparts on the Athens government's positions vis-a-vis cooperation with non-EU countries in the management of migration, at an informal meeting of the EU Interior and Justice Ministers at The Hague, a ministry announcement said on Saturday.
Pavlopoulos stressed the need for intensifying exchanges of information and setting up a joint Coast Guard which would carry out continuous patrols in the Mediterranean region, in cooperation with the European Sea Border Centers that have already been set up and were operating in the Greek port city of Piraeus and the Spanish city of Madrid, and, in the future, with the European Service for the Management of External Borders.
The Greek minister underlined the problem of illegal immigration to Europe via the sea, which was mainly centered in the Mediterranean region, and noted that cooperation could efficiently serve as a preventive means in combatting illegal immigration in general, and sea-borne organized crime more specifically.
"We must not forget that the alertness of all of us inside the European Union requires the effective safeguarding of our external sea and land borders, particularly in the sensitive region of the Mediterranean, which is the weakest link in the chain of joint actions on combatting terrorism and organized crime in all its forms," Pavlopoulos told the EU Council of Interior and Justice ministers.
Pavlopoulos strongly objected to a proposal on the prospect of establishing "reception centers" for illegal immigrants outside of Europe, particularly in countries of northern Africa, adding that "the issue, for the very security of Europe, is the reinforcement and efficient guarding of the European borders in order to avert illegal immigration by sea.
However, he added, "from that moment that, in whatever way and precisely due to the lack of preventive measures, the illegal immigrants reach the EU member states, the must have the treatment -- particularly with respect to human value and human rights -- mandated by the Community lawful order itself, and particularly by the Constitutional Treaty, regardless of the fact that it has yet to be enacted...and these parameters do not allow the establishment of such 'reception centers' for illegal immigrants".
Pavlopoulos further said that Greece supported, in general lines, the Dutch EU presidency's proposal regarding cooperation with non-EU countries in the management of migration, with respect to the entry and repatriation of immigrants, but stressed that the authority belonged to the EU member states, and was exercised chiefly on the basis of the criteria of national security, social cohesion and viable development.
 Karamanlis, ruling ND comfortably lead Papandreou, PASOK in latest opinion poll results
Athens 4/10/2004 (ANA)The first major opinion poll of the fall political season published by an Athens daily gives ruling New Democracy (ND) party a 7.5-percent lead over rival main opposition PASOK -- 40.5 to 33 percent -- on the question of party preference "if elections were held tomorrow".
Moreover, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis holds a comfortable lead (54.4 percent to 31.1 percent) over his main rival, main opposition leader and former foreign minister George Papandreou, on the question of "most capable" for the premier's post. Some 11.7 percent of respondents picked neither.
The opinion poll, conducted by the GPO firm, was published in the Sunday edition of the "Eleftheros Typos" daily. Results were accumulated between Sept. 27 and Sept. 30 during a nationwide poll using telephone interviews based on a written questionnaire. Two thousand voters over the age of 18 were queried.
In terms of the all-important question of "who would win an upcoming election", 84.8 percent picked ND, with 9.9 favoring PASOK.
As far as other parties' strength is concerned, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) was preferred by 5.9 percent of respondents; the Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) garnered 3 percent and the out-of-Parliament LA.OS party was preferred by 2.8 percent of respondents. The "undecided" tally was 9.7 percent. A 3-percent minimum of the general vote is required by the Greek constitution for representation in Parliament.
On the question of "who best can manage" issues dealing with citizens' day-to-day problems and concerns, 54.4 percent of respondents picked PM Karamanlis to Papandreou's 28.5; 13.1 percent answered "neither".
Furthermore, 37.5 percent of respondents judged the government's economy policy to date as positive or probably positive; 32.2 percent judged it as neither positive nor negative, and 26.5 percent viewed the government's economic policy in a negative or probably negative light.
Asked about crises management -- a question related to the recent crash of a military helicopter that claimed the lives of 17 people, including Patriarch of Alexandria and Africa Petros VII -- 44.8 percent of respondents said Karamanlis could best handle such crises; Papandreou garnered 28.1 percent of respondents' preference; 20.3 picked neither of the two.
On the question of Karamanlis' job performance and image in the six months he has led the country, 59.9 percent said it was positive or probably positive; 22.8 percent said it was neither positive nor negative, while 16.7 percent said Karamanlis' performance was negative or probably negative.
Finally, in answer to the same question for George Papandreou as the leader of the main opposition, 34 percent offered a positive or probably positive answer; 35.7 percent had a neutral opinion and 29.6 had a negative or probably negative opinion.
ND party sec't against early elections, gov't reshuffle: Ruling New Democracy (ND) party secretary Vangelis Meimarakis expressed his opposition to early elections and the possibility of a government reshuffle, in press statements over the weekend.
"I believe that reshuffles are of no benefit in short time periods," Meimarakis was quoted as saying in an interview published on Sunday by the "Vima" newspaper.
As far as the prospect of early elections due to an impasse vis-a-vis the spring selection of a new president, a scenario that has generated extensive press speculation over the past month, Meimarakis said the ruling party does not want to link the election of new president by Parliament with a national poll.
"The only possibility of elections would be if PASOK wanted this," he said.
Conversely, the influential ND secretary - a veteran deputy from Athens' second election district - stressed that a bipartisan candidate for president isn't only an individual that hails from any political area except New Democracy.
One-hundred and eighty Parliament deputies are needed to elect a new president of the republic, a largely figure-head position. Failure to election a president, however, results in Parliament's dissolution and general elections. ND retains 165 MPs in the current Parliament.
Finally, Meimarakis said the establishment of high-profile Parliamentary committees of inquiries to investigate a spate of controversial weapons procurement deals by the previous PASOK governments, among others, should not dampen efforts to find a compromise choice for the president's post.
 Main opposition leader sets up PASOK 'task force' to 'restore Greece's image in Europe'
Athens 4/10/2004 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou had a three-hour meeting with a group of eight PASOK MEPs on Sunday, calling on them to undertake action in Europe to "put a stop to the country being dragged through the mud" as a result of the general government audit and "destructive accounting" initiated by the government.
In statements after the meeting, Papandreou accused the government of creating a tense political climate due to its inability to make use of post-Olympic opportunities and said it was watching the development of EU-Turkish relations from the sidelines.
He also stressed that through the government's general audit, PASOK had found itself in the unorthodox position of trying to defend the country's good image abroad while it was in the opposition, ''at the same time that the government was in the process of discrediting it''.
Responding to Papandreou's statements, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said the main opposition leader had "opted for the way of acrimony in order to get out of his impasses" and stressed that the government did not intend to follow him down that route.
"The government will continue its work, based on the program-me approved by the citizens with their vote," Roussopoulos said.
 PASOK prepared for consensus on Presidential election, but also for early elections if necessary, party leader Papandreou says in newspaper interview
Athens 4/10/2004 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, in a news-paper interview appearing Saturday, said his party was prepared for a consensus on a candidate for President of the Republic, in the Presidential election in parliament in March, but also for the eventuality of early general elections if the 300-member House is unable to elect a new president.
"It is the government's responsibility to assume its responsibilities and the relevant initiatives in good time," Papandreou said in an interview with TA NEA daily newspaper, with respect to the Presidential election.
"Consensus is desired, and is what the Greek people demand. However, that cannot but be the result of the procedures that will be followed, and not a given fact in advance," he said.
PASOK, he added, was facing the issue with a high sense of responsibility. He said this consensus should be built around an individual that expresses modern-day Greece, the country's progress, and its deep dedication to the democratic institutions.
"We are prepared for the necessary and desired consensus," Papandreou said, adding, however, that his party was "also prepared for an electoral showdown, if necessary".
 Synaspismos leader notes 'disappointment' with current political affairs, says main parties are the main problem
Athens 4/10/2004 (ANA)The leader of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party, Nikos Constantopoulos, on Sunday delivered what he said would be his final speech to the Synaspismos youth festival, since he will not be standing for re-election as party leader.
In an emotionally charged address, Constantopoulos said he was 'disappointed' with the political scene and that the country's main problems were the almost identical policies followed by its two main parties, ruling New Democracy and main opposition PASOK.
The Coalition leader was pessimistic about the results of the general audit carried out by ND, which he said was seeking a "gentle adjustment" to PASOK policies which, according to Constantopoulos, would bring it into conflict with the electorate that had voted ND into power.
He appealed for unity at the upcoming 4th Synaspismos conference, saying that the party's achievements should not be "sliced up due to internal competition and power struggles".
"We need Synaspismos, not for personal confirmation but in order to highlight the need for a radical and democratic Left," he said.
Coalition's Papayiannakis announces candidacy for party's president: Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party member Michalis Papayiannakis on Sunday announced his candidacy for the post of party president.
The former eurodeputy and current member of the party's political secretariat made the announcement in an interview with the 'Sunday Eleftherotypia' newspaper, adding that he was in favor of a "synthesis of opinions within the party" in light of Synaspismos' 4th congress due in December 9-12.
The party's congress, among other things, will also elect a new president after its current leader Nikos Constantopoulos ex-pressed his wish to step down from the Synaspismos leadership.
 Speedier justice system and transparency the key priorities, justice minister says
Athens 4/10/2004 (ANA)The justice ministry's priorities were to reform and modernize the justice system and make it both speedier and more transparent, Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras said on Sunday at an event marking the holiday of St. Dionysius, patron saint of the judicial body.
The primary goals were to ensure speed and quality in the administration of justice and upgrade the correctional system, for which the ministry required the support of judges and all the other staff involved, he said.
Another fundamental drive to which independent justice could be a key contributor was a series of bills of law, soon to be completed, that will seek to combat corruption and restore transparency in the state sector, he said.
Papaligouras stressed that the last was one of the basic election pledges made by the government that responded to a "deep social need". He said that a start had already been made with the abolition of the mathematical formula for awarding public works and by making breach of faith a criminal offence instead of a misdemeanor.
The head of the Union of Judges and Public Prosecutors and vice-president of the Supreme Court Achilleas Zissis next addressed the event, noting that the justice system was critically understaffed and that there were too few judges to tackle the huge volume of cases, so that justice was unable to carry out its role.
He said that a thorough reform would require a 25 per cent increase in the number of judges over the next two years and that some 120 judges suffering from health problems should be given incentives for voluntary early retirement.
 President Stephanopoulos says 'optimistic' on country's course, during private visit to Hania
Athens 4/10/2004 (ANA)President of the Republic Costis Stephanopoulos said on Saturday that he was optimistic on the country's course, during a two-day private visit to the Hania prefecture in Crete, where he visited the towns of Sfakia, Askyfou, Imbros and Vrysses.
Stephanopoulos was welcomed by local authorities upon his arrival Saturday morning at Hania airport, where he praised the Cretans' patriotism and contributions to the nation's struggles.
The President said that his visit had come just before the expiry (in March) of his term in office, noting that what would remain most would be his memories from all over Greece, and adding that he hoped to visit Hania in the future as a retired President.
He expressed optimism over the country's course, and opined that "only good periods will follow".
The President further thanked the local people and MPs for their hospitality. Regarding the MPs, Stephanopoulos said he held particular respect and appreciation "for the representatives of the Greek people who are fighting for the Greek people, the democratic ideals, and the prosperity of the land".
The President is accompanied by public order deputy minister Christos Markoyiannakis, Regional Secretary General for Crete Serafeim Tsokas, local MPs, Hania Prefect George Katsanevakis, and local authorities.
Visit to Sfakia: President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos visited the Sfakia municipality in Hania, Crete Saturday evening, during which he visited local sites and attractions, such as the Samaria Gorge.
Stephanopoulos was also guest of honor at an official dinner held at the Sfakia municipal authority on Saturday night, where he was made an honorary citizen of Sfakia and given the golden key to the city by Mayor Iosif Lykos.
During his speech at the dinner, the president referred at length to the tragic accident at the Maliakos Bay 'horseshoe' where seven high school students were killed, as well as similar such fatal road accidents in the past, and stressed that the onus was on drivers to behave responsibly behind the wheel and not take unnecessary risks.
"We nearly all drive cars and we drive them in a way that in irresponsible and frivolous. We kill ourselves and we kill others. It is up to us to fix these things." he stressed.
 Turkey accepts customs union with Cyprus Republic, 'Hurriyet' reports
ANKARA 4/10/2004 (ANA/A. Abatzis)The Turkish government has approved a decree by which Turkey accepts customs union with the Cyprus Republic, according to a report in the Turkish daily "Hurriyet".
The Turkish newspaper, in an article on Saturday, describes the decision as "historic" since it wraps up a long-standing loose end for Turkey, which had accepted customs union with only nine of the new EU member-states but not with Cyprus.
The paper said that the Turkish cabinet had approved a decree accepting customs union with Cyprus drafted by the Turkish foreign ministry and that this has now been referred to Turkish President Ahmed Necdet Sezer for his signature, after which it will be published in the Turkish government gazette.
"Hurriyet" also notes that in the past, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul had claimed that accepting customs union with Cyprus ''is not tantamount to recognition of the 'Greek-Cypriot administration'''.
 Budget targets for deficit, growth eminently realistic, Finmin tells CNN
WASHINGTON 4/10/2004 (ANA/A. Ellis)Targets in the draft 2005 budget for reducing the public deficit to 2.8 per cent and predictions for continued high growth rates were eminently achievable and realistic, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said in an interview with the television CNN International over the weekend.
Speaking to the presenter of the finance program "World Business Today", Alogoskoufis said a reduction of the public deficit from 5.3 percent of GDP in 2004 to 2.8 per cent of GDP in 2005, below the 3 per cent ceiling imposed by the EU on eurozone members, could be achieved because there would be no Olympics-related spending, which had made up a sizeable chunk of the 2003 and 2004 budgets.
Asked about the odds of a post-Olympic slow-down of the Greek economy, which would make it harder to achieve budget targets, Alogoskoufis predicted an increase in tourism to Greece as a result of the Olympic Games, given their great success and the very good positive publicity they had given Greece abroad.
He also pointed to an anticipated increase in the growth rates of European economies, which he said would boost Greek exports for 2005 and concluded that the predictions for Greece's economic prospects were very realistic.
Alogoskoufis was also questioned on whether the revision of financial statistics, especially the underestimated budget deficit, was a blow to Greece's credibility. The minister replied that there were problems with certain figures concerning defense spending and state bodies in the past but stressed that Greece had itself supplied the revised data to the EU.
According to Alogoskoufis, the revision was the result of a weakness in the Greek statistical system that had now been corrected and would not be repeated.
Responding to the interview, main opposition PASOK spokesman Nikos Athanassakis said that Alogoskoufis was vainly trying to ''reduce the damage that the ruling New Democracy government had itself inflicted on the country with the notorious supposed audit". In a counter-reaction, the economy and finance ministry said that PASOK was now ''seeking to come out on top, after having damaged the economy and the credibility of the country''.
"But the Greek people, who had seen the numbers prosper while their own family budget was suffering in the past years, now know the truth," an announcement said, while stressing that the government was "determined to guide the economy out of the impasse and restore Greece's credibility and prestige."
 FYROM gov't minister cites compromise with EL.PE over pipeline company
SKOPJE 4/10/2004 (ANA)State-run Hellenic Petroleum (EL.PE) and the government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) have reportedly reached an agreement over a new management scheme for a crude oil pipeline connecting the northern Greece port city of Thessaloniki with the land-locked country's capital, Skopje.
FYROM Economy Minister Stevco Jakimovski told local reporters over the weekend that he reached an agreement with EL.PE officials in Thessaloniki on Friday to begin operation by Nov. 1 of a joint company managing the pipeline. EL.PE will retain an 80-percent share of the company, with the state of FYROM controlling the other 20 percent.
The pipeline was exclusively managed and exploited by EL.PE over the past two years via a company set up by the Greece-based refinery and retail outlet group.
Another pending issue between EL.PE and the Skopje government involves a 1999 deal by the former to purchase the state-owned OKTA refinery in the FYROM capital, as certain provisions in the purchase contract were heatedly criticized by the government that assumed power in that country in 2002.
EL.PE has requested international arbitration to resolve the issue. However, a suspension of legal action could allow both sides' experts to workout a compromise deal, press reports here estimated.
 SYN leader Constantopoulos calls on government to support bio-farming
Athens 4/10/2004 (ANA)Coalition of the Left (SYN) leader Nikos Constantopoulos on Saturday called on the government to decisively support biological and ecological farming.
Speaking after a visit to the Eco-Farming Exhibition organized at the Zappeion Press Centre, held annually in the framework of Ecological Farming Week, Constantopoulos said that today it was more necessary than ever to support bio-farming and eco-farming, both for the protection of the public health as well as the reinforcement of alternative means of production, which he said had great potential in Greece and incomparable advantages.
He warned that "the spread of genetically modified (GM) produce and the submissiveness of the EU, which accepts mixtures of up to 0.3 percent (GM seed) creates severe problems of contamination in our country, with its small farms and large structural problems in the agricultural sector".
Constantopoulos said it was the government's duty to decisively support bio-farming and eco-farming, adding that the new farmers who were decisively turning to alternative, qualitative cultivation, should have the support of both government and citizens.
 Five people killed in murder-suicide spree on Zakynthos
Athens 4/10/2004 (ANA)Five people were killed on the Ionian island of Zakynthos over the weekend in an unprecedented murder-suicide spree by a 34-year-old local man.
The victims, besides the suspect, include the man's nine-year-old son, his wife and his two in-laws. All of the victims were shot at close range with a shotgun.
The suspect and last victim was identified as Georgios Vardousis, whom authorities said had a record of past drug abuse.
 Driver of truck that rammed into bus, killing 7 pupils, remanded in custody pending trial
Athens 4/10/2004 (ANA)The driver of a container truck that rammed into a bus carrying high school pupils from Trikala to the Paralympic Games in Athens was early Saturday remanded in custody pending trial, while the co-owner of the truck's company and the bus's driver were released on bail and probation.
Truck driver Antonis Pardalakis was remanded in custody, while the truck's owning company co-owner Maria Sartzetaki and bus driver Dimitris Peslis were released on 15,000 euro and 5,000 euro bail, respectively, and ordered to appear at a local police station at the beginning of each month, after a marathon 12-hour preliminary hearing in Lamia court that lasted past midnight Friday.
During their testimonies at the preliminary hearing before the Lamia examining magistrate, the three detainees reiterated their earlier statements to police. The bus driver again said he had seen the truck only seconds before the crash and had been unable to avoid it, and also described in detail his efforts to remove the injured pupils from the wreckage. Sartzetaki, in turn, said that all safety precautions had been taken with the truck, that the condition of the truck and its cargo of sheet glass were excellent, and noted that she was being held accountable only due to the fact that she was the co-owner of the company. The truck driver also reiterated his claims that he did not understand how the accident occurred, and expressed his grief.
Meanwhile, sources said that the prospect remained open for an arrest warrant to be issued within the next few days for the other owner of the company, Maria Sartzetakis' husband Eftychios, whom police had been unable to track down after the accident.
 Military court files charges 'against all responsible' in electric-shock death of five conscripts at military outpost last April
Athens 4/10/2004 (ANA)A Xanthi Military Court prosecutor on Saturday filed charges of several counts of manslaughter and physical harm, due to negligence, against all responsible, over the death of five conscripts at an Evros military outpost last April, who were electrocuted while trying to repair a flag pole that had tilted during a storm.
The five conscripts died of electrical shock on April 8 at the Manitsa military outpost at Kornofilia, near Soufli, in the Evros border region, after coming into contact with a live wire while putting up a flag post that had been partially uprooted by strong winds during the night.
It is believed that the five conscripts miscalculated the distance from, or failed to see, the Public Power Corporation's electricity cables, and were electrocuted when the flag post slipped and came into contact with the live wires. Two other conscripts who were assisting the five managed to distance themselves and were not hurt.
The martial court prosecutor filed the charges on Saturday, despite the fact that the conclusions of a Sworn Administrative Inquiry (EDE) found no accountability on the part of others, attributing the accident to the five conscripts.
The parents of the five conscripts blame the military camp's commander and senior officers, as well as to inspectors who had inspected the outpost a year earlier and had concluded in their report that everything was running correctly.
Also, two inspectors --electrical engineers -- authorized by the military court to investigate the circumstances of the incident had noted in their report that the live wires should have been removed from the outpost and that trees located near the electricity network should have been trimmed, in accordance with relevant ministerial decisions. The inspectors also concluded that the safety and protection measures required for such a network had not been taken, and that the network in question was not sufficiently grounded.
 One of two Chinook helicopter's engines retrieved
Athens 4/10/2004 (ANA)One of two engines belonging to a military helicopter that crashed into the sea off a northern Greece promontory last month with 17 people aboard was salvaged over the weekend.
A total of four vessels are participating in the operation to salvage the wreckage of the "Chinook" two-rotor helicopter that went down minutes before it would have reached a heli-pad on the semi-autonomous Mount Athos monastic community.
Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa Petros VII was one of the victims of the crash.
The wreckage is located at a depth of 866 meters.
 National Theatre presents Aristophanes' "Lysistrata" in San Francisco
NEW YORK 4/10/2004 (ANA - P. Panagiotou)The timeless anti-war messages of the classical ancient playwright Aristophanes, contained in the comedy "Lysistrata", were relayed to U.S. audiences by the Greek National Theatre's international company in a premiere in San Francisco.
After California, the play will be performed in New York on October 6-10, where it is eagerly anticipated.
The play has attracted a lot of attention, with lead actress Lydia Koniordou interviewed in the U.S. daily "Newsday" on Sunday.
In statements to the ANA, Koniordou said that the audience's response had been touching and much more enthusiastic than they had expected.
"The audience truly astounded us. It was a beautiful night for all of us," she said.
 Supreme Court downgrades charges against 5 defendants in Samina case
Athens 4/10/2004 (ANA)A Supreme Court criminal section ruling has reduced charges against five individuals charged in connection with the September 2000 sinking of a ferryboat in the central Aegean -- an accident that claimed the life of 82 passengers and crew -- from felonies to misdemeanors counts.
The high court struck down an earlier motion by an appeals court against three high-ranking crewmembers (the first engineer, an officer and the radio operator) of the ferryboat "Samina", as well as two representatives of the ship's owners, Piraeus-based Minoan Flying Dolphins.
Felony counts against the Samina's captain and first mate, Vassilis Yiannakis and Anastasios Psyhogios, remain to be adjudicated, as the two men had not filed an appeal to downgrade the charges against them
 Arrests for forged travel documents reported at port of Patra
Athens 4/10/2004 (ANA)Two illegal migrants were intercepted by the coastguard on the eastern Aegean island of Samos over the weekend, while another four foreign nationals were arrested at the western port of Patra after attempting to board Italy-bound ferryboats using forged travel documents.
According to reports, the two illegals on Samos used an inflatable dinghy to cross over from the nearby Turkish coast.