|Friday, 22 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-10-07
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>October 7, 2004
 Gov't says EU Commission decision on Turkey confirms Greece's correct stance on issue
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)The Greek government on Wednesday reiterated its standing support for Turkey's European course in the wake of a same-day European Commission recommendation that EU membership talks with the neighboring country begin in earnest, albeit under strict conditions and without a commencement date mentioned.
Nevertheless, Minister of State and government spokesman Thodoris Roussopoulos reminded that among the issues "where faster and more substantial progress must be made" are matters of particularly Greek interest, a more-or-less direct reference to efforts at solving the long-standing Cyprus problem as well as Ankara's disputes in the Aegean.
"The Greek government's standing position, namely, that our country supports Turkey's European prospects, is well known. At the same time, it's a fact that the pace of its (Turkey) European course depends, first and foremost, on Turkey itself," he added.
According to wire service reports out of Brussels in the afternoon, the decision was reached by a "large consensus" among EU commissioners, although no actual vote was taken.
"The European Commission's report confirms the correctness of our policy choice. The Commission acknowledges the significant progress that has been made by our neighboring country in a series of issues, and recommends that accession talks with the European Union begin. At the same time, however, it underlines that Turkey's efforts must continue and intensify," Roussopoulos added.
"There is clearly the possibility that Turkey can become a member, but negotiations, and this is very important, are open-ended," the Associated Press quoted Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler as saying after the eagerly awaited Commission meeting in Brussels.
Back in Athens, the government spokesman said the Commission's report will be evaluated by Greece and the other 24 EU member-states ahead of an EU Summit meeting in December where a final decision will be made by the bloc's leaders.
"We believe that a European Turkey will not only be in the best interests of the Turkish people, but will also benefit stability, security and prosperity in our region, as well as the course of Greek-Turkish relations and efforts at finding a just, viable and functional solution to the Cyprus issue," Roussopoulos concluded.
 Gov't again reiterates support for Turkey's EU prospects
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)Deputy government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Wednesday reiterated Greece's support for Turkey's European prospects, in response to question's on Athens' stance in view of the presentation of the European Commission's report on Turkey's candidacy.
In response to other questions, the spokesman said that no objections had been raised over the Greek government's stance by other centre-right parties.
Asked to comment on Greece's unqualified 'yes' given Turkey's declaration that an extension of Greek territorial waters to the standard 12 nautical miles would be considered a "casus belli" (or cause of war), Antonaros simply noted that retraction of the 'casus belli' was "not among the conditions that Turkey had to fulfill to begin accession negotiations."
 PASOK party's defense and foreign affairs coordinator says European Commission's report opens door for Turkey's EU accession negotiations
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)The main opposition PASOK party's Defense and Foreign Affairs Coordinator Anna Diamantopoulou said on Wednesday the European Commission's report opens the door, and this is a positive step, for Turkey's negotiations for its accession to the EU.
"Europe is opening this door with many preconditions and many terms which Turkey must observe in the years to come," she said.
"We must say that, unfortunately, in this new European prospect of Turkey, in this most important cooperation between Europe and Turkey until today, there is a disengagement of issues such as a solution to the issue of Cyprus and of Greek-Turkish differences. These issues are left outside relations between Europe and Turkey," she added.
Diamantopoulou also pointed out that "we expect of the government at the European Council in December to at least repeat a 'Helsinki II', meaning raising preconditions in the agreement to take place with Turkey which enable a solution to Greek-Turkish differences and of the issue of Cyprus remaining issues which are linked to the European course of Turkey."
Referring to the same issue, PASOK Eurodeputy Panayiotis Beglitis said "with the positive recommendation by the European Commission on the commencement of accession negotiations with Turkey, a new important chapter is opening in relations between Europe and Turkey."
Beglitis further said "all who supported the substantive candidacy of Turkey in Helsinki in December 1999 and the framework of terms and preconditions on backing its European course, and the government of PASOK found itself in the front line of this strategy, hail the announcement by the European Commission today and support its recommendation to the European Council on the commencement of accession negotiations with Turkey."
Lastly, Beglitis stressed that "at the European Council in December, Greece must reconfirm its steadfast support for Turkey's European prospect and the New Democracy government must utilize the framework of procedures and preconditions accompanying Turkey's negotiating course for a solution to bilateral problems and to the issue of Cyprus, just as our government had done with success and with specific results in Helsinki in 1999."
European Commission releases progress report on Turkey
Brussels 7/10/2004 (ANA/V.Demiris, G. Zitouniati)The European Commission's report on Turkey, made public on Wednesday, refers to the positive course of Greek-Turkish relations and recommends the beginning of EU accession talks for Turkey. As for the Cyprus issue, the Commission highlights the Turkish government's ''constructive stance'' towards the Annan Plan and the referendums held in Cyprus earlier this year in an effort to resolve the long-standing political problem.
As for Greek-Turkish relations, the Commission stated: "As regards the enhanced political dialogue, relations with Greece developed positively. A series of bilateral agreements were signed and several confidence building measures adopted." The report also refers to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's visit to Thrace in May 2004, ''during which he called on the Turkish-speaking Muslim minority to contribute to Greece's prosperity''. Additionally, the report emphasizes that due to the above-mentioned confidence-building measures, both countries hope to gradually and evenly cut down on military expenditures. The Commission dates the improvement in Greek-Turkish relations back to 1999 when each country helped the other on ac-count of the earthquakes that struck both countries in August and September of that year.
The report also indicates the areas where Turkey needs to do more. In relation to Greece and Cyprus, these include the Loizidou case on which the European Council decided in 2003 but Turkey has yet to act according to the decision, as well as the problems highlighted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate which concern real estate property, legal entities, the Theological School of Halki and other issues.
As for non-Greek related issues, the European Commission places special emphasis on Turkey's reform in fundamental areas such as torture, abuse, the promotion of freedom of religion, freedom of expression, rights for women, minorities and workers' unions. According to the report, Turkey fulfills the Copenhagen political criteria and recommends that accession talks begin, suggesting that the European Council set a date in December. However, the Commission points out that despite progress achieved, implementation of political reform must be reinforced and broadened. Progress in this domain will be presented by the Commission to the European Council in December, 2005.
As for the accession talks, the Commission reserves the right to suspend them should Turkey fall back on its promises.
 EU Parliament majority accepts Commission proposal on Turkey's accession negotiations
Brussels 7/10/2004 (ANA-A.Simatos)The majority of the political parties participating in the EU Parliament responded positively to the European Commission's proposal regarding the beginning of EU accession negotiations for Turkey during a parliamentary session held here on Wednesday.
Head of the European People's Party (EPP) Hans-Gert Petering said that the EPP - although there are divergent opinions within the party - agrees that if Turkey becomes an EU member then it will be different in terms of geography and living standards than what it is today. The EPP recognizes the efforts Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has made to date, but emphasized that much still needs to be done. He also criticized the EU's Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen for recently saying that torture is not carried out in Turkey on a regular basis.
Petering said that members of the EPP insist that if negotiations begin the result must be open-ended: either full accession or no accession, adding that it would be good to include the possibility of establishing a privileged alliance with Turkey. Additionally, even if Turkey does not become an EU member, this would be no excuse for the halting of democratic reforms, he said.
Martin Schultz, head of the Socialist Group is also in favor of negotiations for Turkey's EU membership to begin, pointing out that this does not necessarily guarantee accession. He said that if a Muslim community could consider the European Union their union, then the foundations for peace in the 21st century will be set.
Schultz also emphasized that progress checks surrounding the criteria Turkey must meet should be conducted frequently, and said that if reforms were not proceeding smoothly then negotiations should be suspended.
Head of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats Graham Watson said that the majority of his party approved of the European Commission's proposal for negotiations to begin, but there are many who doubt Turkey. He added that a conflict of culture must be avoided but also noted that Turkey must make some dramatic changes (ie. human rights, respect for the rule of law, opening up of the economy). He stressed that the beginning of negotiations does not necessarily mean a happy ending. Watson also emphasized that the EU must treat Turkey in the same way as any other country-candidate, but that protection of human rights in the country must be closely monitored.
Daniel-Kohn Bendit, head of the Group of the Greens, was more positive, supporting the beginning of negotiations, without placing emphasis on the possibility of a failed accession attempt.
Francis Wurtz of the European United Left was also supportive of Turkey's European potential, saying that Turkey's EU accession could serve as a bridge between the West and the Middle East, contributing to establishing peace in a region plagued by "war and chaos". He also said that using Turkey as a scapegoat would be a mistake, but acknowledged that there are a series of issues Turkey must resolve. These include certain clauses of the new penal code, which according to Wurtz, pose a threat to freedom of expression; the Turkish occupation forces in Cyprus and the Turkish authorities' refusal to recognize the Armenian genocide.
Jens Peter Bonde of the Independence/Democracy Group opposed Turkey's EU prospects, stressing that Turkey's values are not in line with those of the EU. Instead, he suggested that in 2009 - and once the EU constitution is in place - the EU can establish an open and flexible cooperation with Turkey.
 Turkish warplanes violate Greek national air space
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)Six formations of Turkish warplanes made an equal number of infringements of air traffic regulations in the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) on Wednesday, which developed into five violations of national air space in the regions between the eastern Aegean islands of Chios and Lesvos and Psara and Antipsara, press reports said.
The 12 Turkish aircraft were recognized and intercepted by Greek air force jets, while in four cases the interception process turned into a mock dogfight. The reports said three of the Turkish warplanes were armed.
 Turkish parliamentarians visit Greek Parliament
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)Three Turkish parliamentarians, members of the Mixed EU-Turkey Parliamentary Committee on Wednesday visited the Greek Parliament, in order to, amongst other things, exchange views on Turkey's prospects for EU membership as well as Greek-Turkish relations.
The vice president of the Greek Parliament, Sotiris Chatzigakis welcomed the three Turkish parliamentarians and remarked that Greece supports Turkey's EU candidacy adding that if successful, this would "result in the improvement of a number of issues which are of current concern to both nations, resulting in the consolidation of peace, balance and security in the region".
 Karamanlis briefed by Alogoskoufis on state of the economy
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday met with Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, who brie-fed the former on the state of the economy and his recent participation at the sessions of a joint International Monetary Fund/World Bank summit in Washington D.C.
Karamanlis later met separately with Alternate Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia, who briefed him on issues involving the ministry.
The premier also holds the culture ministry portfolio.
 Eurostat fully confirms Greek fiscal audit data, fining says
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)Eurostat, the European Union's statistics agency, has fully confirmed data from an informal fiscal audit conducted by the government, Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, Alogoskoufis underlined that the previous government had not given the real figures for the economy.
"The problem lies not in the method of recording data but in the fact that spending was concealed," the minister said.
"A chunk of defense spending was not recorded, using any method at all - neither the delivery method nor the payments method. The payments method was selected as being more accurate and reliable," he added.
The finance ministry said in a statement that concealed within the former PASOK government's data was arms spending of more than 1.7 billion euros, representing 1.1% of gross domestic product (GDP).
In addition, the former government had not fully recorded the public debt, hiding a "colossal" increase, in certain years representing 8.0% of GDP.
Finally, the fiscal deficit had been revised upwards in the wake of a revision of surpluses because the previous government had employed scant data on social insurance, local government and legal entities in the public sector, due to an inadequate sample; and on the concealed armaments spending, the statement said.
Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos earlier told reporters that Eurostat had questioned the credibility of Greek data over the last two years, when the PASOK government was in power.
Disagreements between the Greek National Statistics Service (GNSS) and Eurostat began in 2002 over the methodology of recording economic data. Eurostat had urged the government at the time to employ EU standards in the procedure.
Senior GNSS officials who took office after the current New Democracy government won national elections on March 7 said that no letter had been found from former PASOK finance minister Nikos Christodoulakis to the service, ordering a change in accounting methods.
 PASOK quotes Eurostat head as saying method correct
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)In Brussels, a eurodeputy of the ruling PASOK party, Katerina Batzeli, quoted the head of Eurostat as saying that monitoring defense spending had posed problems in all EU countries due to idiosyncrasies in the sector. Members had therefore been offered a choice between two accounting methods - one based on delivery and the other on payment.
"The previous government, working with Eurostat, had opted for the first method, which Eurostat's head had said was the most appropriate. The current government, due to its inability to provide additional data, chose to enter defense spending under annual payments that is under the deficit" Batzeli said in a statement.
Experts from Eurostat would be sent to Greece to check current data and see if the methodology now being employed met EU criteria, she added.
 PASOK censures ministers of national economy and national defense
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)According to statements Wednesday by main opposition PASOK party press spokesman Nikos Athanassakis, the General Secretary of Eurostat, Michel Van Den Abeele, has said that the methods used by the Simitis government to record the budget deficit were acceptable to the EU and were agreed upon with Eurostat itself.
Van Den Abeele was reported to have made these remarks before the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee of the EU Parliament. Athanassakis went on to say that Van Den Abeele characterized these methods as the "most advisable".
PASOK considers that this issue has compromised both the government and the prime minister; it has, however, not demanded the resignation of the Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis just as it has not demanded the resignation of Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos over the 'Chinook' affair, preferring to lay the blame with the prime minister.
Athanassakis further added that Van Den Abeele's remarks confirm everything that PASOK "said from the beginning" and that the methods the PASOK governments had introduced had been agreed upon with Eurostat and were in accordance with SEC 95 procedures. Athanassakis accused the government of compromising the international reputation of the country as well as of undermining its credit worthiness.
In a further development, the PASOK press spokesman criticized Spiliotopoulos for his handling of the 'Embraer' prime-ministerial aircraft matter. The aircraft was grounded by Spiliotopoulos, a move which became public after the 'Chinook' crash in Halkidiki.
According to the vice-president of Embraer, Romualdo Monteiro de Barros, the company was not informed by the ministry of defense of any problem with the prime-minister's aircraft but rather by the media. Although 'Embraer' subsequently detached technical staff to Athens to look at the problem, no-one from the ministry of defense asked them to confirm or fix the problem, de Barros added.
Athanassakis stated that serious questions have been raised concerning the credibility of the Minister of Defense whom it accused of using the matter as a diversionary tactic.
 Greek Defense minister says EU needs common prevention system to ensure transparency
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)Greek Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos on Wednesday noted that the European Union had to find a "common prevention system to ensure transparency" given the huge volume-me of defense procurements in European countries.
Spiliotopoulos was addressing UK undersecretary and minister for defense procurements Lord Willy Bach of Lutterworth, German State Secretary for Defense Dr. Peter Eickenboom, Italian Undersecretary for Defense Filippo Berselli and Spanish Undersecretary for Defense Francisco Pardo Piqueras, during a meeting held on Wednesday.
Spiliotopoulos' position met with general agreement during the meeting, which also focused on cooperation in the defense industry and other aspects of transparency in European defense procurements.
 PM, merchant marine minister discuss seamen's problems
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)Seamen's unionists briefed Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis on Wednesday on problems facing the sector.
Speaking after the meeting, Panhellenic Maritime Federation Secretary General Ioannis Halas said the discussion focused on issues requiring a speedy solution which met with "understanding by the prime minister."
He specified urgent issues as being the lump sum pension payment, the tax issue and unemployment benefits which, as he said, "will be handled as soon as possible and there will probably be a solution."
Halas also said the issue of safeguarding jobs remains open and noted that the Federation has proposals and expects "greater understanding" from the minister.
Kefaloyiannis said the solving of dockers' problems is on a "good path" and underlined the government's interest in Greek seamen who are closely linked to Greek shipping's progress.
 PM briefed on Olympic venues
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)Alternate Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia and President of Olympic Properties C. Hadjiemmanouil, briefed Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on the state of the Olympic facilities on Wednesday, following the latter's request.
According to sources, Karamanlis reiterated that efforts for the venues' utilization must be accelerated - always in line with public interests. Palli-Petralia reassured him that there wasn't the slightest problem in the hand-over of the facilities to the Culture Ministry, which will now be responsible for the venues.
However, according to sources, the guarding of the venues is an issue that concerns the prime minister, who has requested that measures be adopted immediately. The Athens 2004 Organizing Committee has also addressed this issue following negative news reports with a statement saying that it has been turning over the venues to the state according to the agreed-upon timetable and has already delivered 12 venues to the Culture Ministry. The remaining 23 venues will be turned over between October 10 and 30.
Additionally, Athens 2004 stresses that it has made a detailed inventory of all equipment in all venues and that only an exceptionally small number of items have been lost. Finally, the Organizing Committee also points out that once the Olympic and Paralympic Games finished and until a security company is awarded the protection of venues, the Greek Police is responsible for their surveillance.
 Karamanlis meets with New Democracy MPs
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis told New Democracy (ND) MPs during lunch on Wednesday that he will fight corruption and vested interests, sources said.
The prime minister also referred to the issue of investigative committees, emphasizing that he does not intend to penalize political life and that only cases with specific evidence will be referred to investigative committees. According to the same sources, Karamanlis does not believe that the former PASOK minister George Anomeritis case needs to be investigated.
Karamanlis also said that he does not intend to dig up the social security issue.
From their part, MPs said ministers did not listen enough to their issues, which have to do with their constituency, not personal favors.
Finally, Karamanlis said that a team spirit is necessary and suggested to MPs that they stay in touch with their constituents and listen to their problems and requests.
 Chinook helicopter crash report says delay in authorities' notification due to carelessness and bad coordination
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)The report on the crash of a Chinook helicopter on September 11, in which 17 people were killed, was delivered to Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos on Tuesday, according to an announcement by the National Defense General Staff and after enquiries were held on the delay with which authorities were notified of the accident.
According to the report, the reasons for the delay in the authorities' notification were due to "the carelessness and bad coordination displayed by staff and agencies which, according to existing mandates and procedures, were responsible for monitoring military flights and the specific flight of special interest in particular."
The announcement by the National Defense General Staff further said that relevant staffs will, according to evidence contained in the file of proceedings, attribute responsibilities to staff of theirs involved in the issue and will carry out disciplinary control in accordance with existing laws, military regulations and orders.
 Visit by PM to Moscow in December announced
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)Deputy government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Wednesday announced that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will be carrying out a visit to Moscow some time in December, at a date to be determined through diplomatic channels.
He said the visit sought to upgrade the already excellent level of bilateral ties.
 Communist party leader says election of president will change nothing for working people
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga, speaking to employees of the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) in Piraeus on Wednesday, referred to the issue of the election of a new President of the Republic in spring and said nothing will change for working people with the election of the president.
Papariga said the labor movement, people belonging to low and medium income brackets and farmers must distance themselves from the two major parties (PASOK and New Democracy) and a united, systematic and multiform struggle must be carried out to change the correlation of power at the expense of the two mainstream parties.
Referring to the two major parties, Papariga said when ND was in the opposition it used to say "I will manage things better." Now that it is in power it is applying the same management as PASOK did. When PASOK was in power it used to say "I do things well." Now it discovers that what it used to do is being done by ND but it does not like it.
Papariga also called on working people to participate in the rally scheduled to take place on October 9.
 Communist party says quarrel between PASOK and ND on fiscal inventory disorientating
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said in an announcement on Wednesday the quarrel between the PASOK and New Democracy parties on the economy's inventory, following the assessment by Eurostat, is disorientating and does not concern the people.
"The people are making their own inventory and they are seeing that unemployment is increasing, real salaries remain pinned down at the levels of 1980 and unemployment is widening. On the other hand, the profits of capital are doing well," the announcement said.
KKE further said "the working class and the popular classes must turn their backs on the quarrels of ND and PASOK."
 International meeting of Communist and Labor parties to be held in Athens
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)An international meeting of Communist and Labor parties on "Resistance to imperialist aggressiveness. Struggle fronts and alternative solutions" will take place in Athens, October 8-10 at the initiative of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE).
The meeting will be inaugurated by KKE Secretary General Aleka Papariga.
"The meeting will handle issues which are in the front line of struggles and mobilizations against the new upsurge in imperialist aggressiveness," an announcement by KKE said.
Sixty-six parties from all over the world have declared their participation until now. They include the New British Communist Party, the German Communist Party, the Italian Communists Party, the Australian Communist Party and the AKEL party of Cyprus.
 Conference of European Churches condemns violence against Orthodox community in Albania
Prague 7/10/2004 (ANA)The Central Committee of the Conferences of European Churches (CEC) has expressed its concern over the recent "acts of aggression", as it stated, in Albania against the Orthodox Church there.
According to press release issued by the CEC following its meetings in Prague between Sept. 27 and Oct. 3, "it is with great anxiety that we have heard about the series of aggressive acts that have happened against the Orthodox Church in Albania. Some of these acts included: the blowing up of a cross-bell tower in Tzara; the looting of an Orthodox youth camp and student facilities around the Monastery of St. George (Aghios Georgios) in Saranda; and the eviction of the Orthodox community from an old church building in Permet."
The CEC added that its committee members shared their concerns and protests for such violent acts with Archbishop of Tirana and All Albania Anastasios, himself a CEC vice-president.
"We appeal to the Albanian authorities to continue to respect religious freedom in the country and to protect all religious communities," the press release concluded.
 Patriarchate meetings with Church of Cyprus representatives
Istanbul 7/10/2004 (ANA)The Ecumenical Patriarchate is expected to hold talks here this month with ecclesiastical representatives from the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Cyprus over the election of a new Archbishop for the latter.
Moreover, the Metropolitan of Morphou will arrive here later this week, while an official Church of Cyprus delegation will follow.
Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos, on his part, met recently with a group of Cypriot laymen that visited him at the Patriarchate's Fanar district headquarters here.
 GSEE trade union organization slams planned reality TV show for jobless
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)An announcement by the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE), Greece's largest umbrella trade union organization, on Wednesday strongly attacked a planned reality TV game apparently being prepared by a private TV channel, in which contestants will be vying for jobs instead of the usual cash prizes.
According to GSEE, the planned program "Congratulations, you're hired!" was an unacceptable form of televised exploitation of the acute social problem of unemployment in order to harvest viewer ratings. The trade union slammed the concept of the show as commercialization of human dignity and need by the mass media, where unemployed contestants who persuaded audiences to vote for them would be hired for the jobs on offer.
The announcement stressed that unemployment was not a game and that work was a right and not a prize, while noting that a show with a similar concept in Germany had been stopped after the first episode due to the angry reactions of political parties and unions.
Society cannot accept such levels of cynicism on the issue of mass unemployment, the announcement added, and said that GSEE's leadership had sent letters to the National Radio and Television Council (ESR), the Personal Data Protection Authority, the Supreme Court public prosecutor, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and the leaders of the political parties, asking them to intervene to "defend the right to work and the dignity of citizens in the process of looking for work".
 No new changes in pension system, minister says
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)Social Insurance Deputy Minister Nikos Aggelopoulos on Wednesday reiterated that the government did not plan to begin a new round of negotiations over changes in the country's pension system, covering a raise in pension age, higher contributions or lower pensions.
Addressing a conference by the Federation of Workers in IKA (the country's Social Insurance Fund), Aggelopoulos left the door open to a dialogue over unifying so-called noble pension funds with IKA and funding of the pension system. The Greek minister stressed that a process of unifying pension funds idled in the last two years, while he said that an expected cost over the next 30 years for IKA exceeded 22.6 billion euros. "The Greek budget is not an inexhaustible source of funding," Aggelopoulos said and added that the government was seeking a new rescheduling of that state's debt to IKA, currently at 3.9 billion euros.
Vassilis Kokkalis, president of IKA workers' union, underlined a gradual decline in IKA's revenues and said that contribution-evasion totalled 1.5 billion euros annually. Kokkalis stressed that one in six workers was uninsured, while one in 10 enterprises was not recorded with IKA files.
 Economy minister tells 'Washington Post' Olympic Games infrastructures will help country improve tourism sector
Washington 7/10/2004 (ANA/T. Ellis)Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, speaking in an interview with the "Washington Post", said Olympic Games infrastructures will help the country to improve the tourism sector.
"The timely delivery of the Olympic Games installations, the successful and the safe holding of the Games have strengthened the national pride of the Greeks," the minister said, adding that "these infrastructures, however, will help the country to improve the tourism sector and its services, attracting more conferences and sports meetings to Athens."
Alogoskoufis, who had visited Washington last week to attend the annual conference of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, also noted that "we now have to face the economic repercussions of the Olympic Games. Both the favorable and the unfavorable ones."
The minister spoke of a cost amounting to seven billion euros, since security infrastructures had absorbed great expenditures.
 Greece negotiating with Germany to buy large number of used armaments
Berlin 7/10/2004 (ANA/P.Stangos)According to confirmed sources, the Greek and German governments are currently in negotiations regarding the procurement of a large number of used Leopard-1 and Leopard-2 battle tanks. These will cover the transitional needs of the Greek Armed Forces until production of 170 new Leopard-2-GR tanks, produced by Karawuss-Maffei-Wegmann is completed, estimated to take place 2009. A large proportion of the 170 tanks, ordered in March 2003, is being built in cooperation with the Hellenic Vehicle Industry and will be be assembled in Greece.
 Greek Development Minister meets head of Energy Charter
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)Greek Development Deputy Minister George Salagoudis on Wednesday met with Dr Ria Kemper, representative of the World Bank and president of the Energy Charter's secretariat, and discussed the policy priorities of the Energy Charter.
Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, the Greek minister announced that Mrs Kemper supported two Greek proposals: first, the participation of Hellenic Petroleum as member of an Industrial Advisory Panel, and second, the participation of a Greek representative to one of the Charter's four directorates after December 2004.
The meeting also confirmed the two sides common views on outstanding issues expected to be discussed during an Energy Charter Council in December.
Mrs Kemper also briefed Salagoudis over significant energy issues, currently under discussion in the wider Black Sea region, from which Greece was expected to have strategical benefits.
 Agricultural minister says "very close to an agreement on rice"
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)Agricultural Development and Foods Deputy Minister Alexandros Kontos on Wednesday chaired a meeting to discuss developments in the rice sector amid continuing mobilizations by rice growers in Northern Greece.
Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, Kontos said "We had the fifth meeting on the issue. We analyzed conditions currently prevailing in the Greek and European rice markets. Prices are currently low but no deals are made in other European states. We decided to monitor developments in the European market and to follow any price changes. We also reassured rice growers that we will continue pressuring all sides to agree on satisfactory price levels and we pledged to pay 50 percent of a subsidy payment in advance in early November.
The Greek minister stressed that industrialists proposed an arrangement of settling deals at 60-65 drachmas on the precondition that growers' unions did not agree to lower prices with third parties from abroad. "I believe that we are very close to an agreement," Kontos said.
 Minister inaugurates 3rd Professional Motor Vehicle Exhibition
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)Transport Minister Michalis Liapis announced that the Ministry of Transport would be holding meetings soon with professional vehicle organizations in order to find solutions to their problems. The Minister made the statements at the inauguration of the 3rd Professional Motor Vehicle Exhibition adding that all efforts were being made to promote Greece as a leader in the field of transport in the Balkan region.
The President of the Association of Motor-Vehicle Importer-Representatives, Andreas Andrikopoulos, stated that the problems facing professional vehicle organizations included the modernization of bus and truck fleets, the operation of the Technical Inspection Card (KTEO) and taxation issues.
 Greece awards best inventions
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)The Organization of Industrial Ownership (OBI) with the Development ministry and the general secretariat for Research and Technology on Tuesday presented the awards to the winners of the best inventions in Greece for their contribution in the country's technological progress.
The awards were first presented in 2002. This year OBI awarded eight inventions.
The first prize was awarded to A. Papadopoulos for his invention of a triple hybrid solar system that simultaneously produces electricity, thermal and cooling energy, and the second prize to three Greek scientists (I.Vrettaros, I.Bakopoulos and A.Drigas) for their invention of an automatic process for a credible and safe creation and distribution of quantum keys.
The first five awards were accompanied by a financial bonus (10,000 euros for the first prize, 6,000 euros for the second and 3,000 euros for the third prize) offered by the Organization of Industrial Ownership.
The first prize was presented by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas.
 Verdicts announced on ELA urban guerrilla group defendants
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)The Criminal Appeals Tribunal on Wednesday acquitted one of the five persons on trial as members of the urban guerrilla group Revolutionary Popular Struggle (ELA), and also ruled by majority that prosecution be permanently discontinued for the remaining four defendants with respect to the charge of setting-up and joining a criminal organization, given that the activities of ELA and the 'May 1' group had been suspended as of 1995 -- when the charge was still a misdemeanor -- as the statute of limitations on the charge has expired. The court found the four guilty, however, on charges of procurement and possession of explosive materials, and as accessories in 41 cases of explosions and attempted explosions, and on one count of attempted homicide.
The ELA trial adjourned on August 3, and a few days earlier the public prosecutor representing the State, Eleftherios Patsis, proposed that four of the defendants -- Christos Tsigaridas, Costas Agapiou, Ireme Athanassaki and Aggeletos Kanas -- should be find guilty of setting up and participating in a terrorist organization and possession of explosives. He singled out the fifth defendant, Michalis Kassimis, saying that he seemed to have been only fleetingly involved with the group. Patsis pointed out that none of the evidence linked Kassimis to any of ELA's actions before or after the group's attempt on the life of trade unionist George Raftopoulos, then head of the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE), and therefore recommended that Kassimis be found guilty only as a direct accomplice in the attempted murder of Raftopoulos, a charge that carries a life sentence.
The three-member Criminal Appeals Court ruled on Wednesday that Kassimis be acquitted of all charges. Court president Elisavet Brilli, reading out the grounds of the verdict, said that form a conviction, given that the evidence presented during the trial was not fully convincing of Kassimis' participation in ELA, and more specifically of his participation in the murder attempt against Raftopoulos.
Immediately after reading out the specific part of the verdict and its grounds, Brilli called on Kassimis to leave the defendants' section and take a seat in the audience section.
The court also ruled, by majority, that prosecution against Tsigaridas, Agapiou, Kanas and Athanassaki must be perma-nently halted on the charges of setting-up and joining a criminal organization given that -- according to the grounds of the verdict -- ELA and May 1 had suspended their activities in 1995, when the specific charge was still a misdemeanor (the specific charge was rendered a criminal activity under a terrorism bill passed later), and the statute of limitations on the charge has expired.
The court further ruled that the four defendants were guilty on charges of procurement and posession of explosive materials, and on charges of simple complicity in 41 cases of explosions and attempted explosions. The four were also found guilty on the charge of simple complicity in the homicide of police officer Apostolos Velios, but acquitted on charges in the attempted homicide of Raftopoulos and the murder of judge Anastasios Venardos.
The four were further acquitted on aggravated possession of firearms.
According to the grounds of the verdict read out by Brilli, one member of the court believed that Athanassaki should be acquitted of all charges, opining that the evidence presented was not fully convincing of her guilt.
The court procedure continued with the placements of the defense attorneys regarding mitigating circumstances for the accused.
Agapiou and Athanassaki did not seek mitigating circumstances, with Agapiou's lawyer saying that his client considered the verdict against him wrong and unfair and therefore refused to legitimize the process, while Athanassaki's attorney said his client, also, did not seek mitigating circumstances since she considered herself innocent and would seek an overturn on the ruling in a higher court.
Kanas' attorney petitioned the judges to recognize the mitigating circumstance of his prior clean record, and his good conduct after his arrest, and the 'selfless causes' of his actions.
Tsigaridas' lawyer also sought mitigating circumstances on the 'selfless causes' of his client's actions while Tsigaridas himself, he spoke after his defense attorney, explained to the judges that he sought that specific mitigating circumstance not in a bid to have his sentence reduced, but because his struggle was not instigated by self-serving interests.
State prosecutors Eleftherios Patsis and Constantine Vombiris called on the court to reject the mitigating circumstances sought by the defendants.
All five of the accused had been released from custody about two months ago after the 18-month limit for detention on remand expired.
 Bomb scare on Thessaloniki-Athens train
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)A train traveling from Thessaloniki, in northern Greece, to Athens was halted outside the railway station of Lianokladi on Wednesday evening and was immediately evacuated of its 340 passengers after an unidentified caller warned of a bomb on board.
It was shortly before 7.30 p.m., and while train 503 was traveling from Paleofarsala to Lianokladi, when a man telephoned to the Paleofarsala railway station and warned that "a bomb has been planted on the train going to Athens and it will explode soon."
Hellenic Railway Organization (OSE) officials halted the train outside Lianokladi station and evacuated its passengers, while police ringed the area and began searching.
OSE will send another train to the city of Lamia to pick up the passengers and bring them to Athens.
 False bomb scare on train
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)A new false bomb scare was reported Wednesday afternoon, this time on a train traveling from Athens to Evros. Unknown callers notified the Greek Railways Organization that a bomb had been placed on a train that had just left the town of Larissa. The train was forced to return to Larissa and was immediately emptied of passengers. Police and a special rescue party soon arrived at the station and made a thorough inspection of the train.
When no bomb was found, the train continued its journey towards Evros.
 Craftsmen of Acropolis restoration works hold sit-down protest
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)A group of contract technicians and artisans involved in the restoration of monuments atop the Acropolis held a sit-down protest on Wednesday outside Greece's best-known archaeological site.
Workers' contracts reportedly expire in the coming period, whereas restoration works atop the Acropolis, which hosts the Parthenon, among other Classical-era structures, are due to conclude in 2007.
The restoration works are partially funded by UNESCO.
 Dep. culture minister praises work of foreign archaeological schools; displays of recently discovered artifacts planned
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis met on Tuesday with the heads of the influential foreign archaeological schools of Greece, where, among others, he termed many of the recent finds uncovered during their excavations as spectacular.
Tatoulis also promised that one-seminars will take place, beginning in March 2005, to display the newly uncovered artifacts.
One of the meeting's highlights was a presentation by an archaeologist, Guy Sanders, with the respected American School of Classical Studies at Athens, who briefed his colleagues and the ministry's leadership on the discovery of an ancient sarcophagus during a dig at the ancient Corinth archaeological site.
Sanders said the artifact weighs 2.3 tons and demonstrates that Corinthian craftsmen were able to transport boulders of up to three tons, something that points to the use of cranes and pulleys roughly 200 years earlier than previously thought.
 National survey takes stock of public sentiment for Olympics
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)A national survey conducted on behalf of the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, MRB-VPRC-Research International, during the final week of the Athens Olympics, captured the enthusiastic mood that prevailed through-out the country in August.
Specifically, of the 2,000 people surveyed, 58% said that Greece's image abroad has been reinforced thanks to the Games, 30.5% believes it stayed the same, while 7.6% believes it is worse than before. Additionally, 72.3% of those surveyed support that the Games benefited the country overall.
The majority, 79.2%, has no regrets saying that Greece did the right thing by accepting to stage the Games, while 11% supported the opposite. As for the work accomplished leading up to the Games, 55.3% said it was excellent, 36.7% said it was good, 5.5% said it was average, while 1.3% said it was poor.
The most memorable event of the Athens Olympics was the opening ceremony for 43% of those surveyed, followed by the closing ceremony for 22%, Greek athletes' performance for 16.6%, the venues for 8.4%, the Kenteris-Thanou-Tzekou case for 6.2%, the celebratory mood for 6.1%, etc.
Furthermore, 81.6% of those surveyed say that the Organizing Committee did an excellent/good job in staging the Games.
The survey also showed that people were satisfied with the public transport system, since 87% of those surveyed said they were satisfied with transportation during the Games, while 4 out of 10 people said they would use the public transport system in the future as well.
The Athens 2004 Volunteer Program also seemed to have a positive impact, since 39% of those participating in the survey said they would be interested in volunteering at the next event (not necessarily sports event) that Greece would host.
Finally, state television also scored high marks, with 90% saying that ERT's coverage of the Games ranged from quite good to very good.
 Council of State rules against deportation of Turkish illegal immigrant
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)The Council of State on Wednesday upheld an application by a Turkish illegal immigrant, who was a member of the Revolutionary Popular Liberation Front (DHKP-C), who requested the suspension of a relevant decision taken by the public order minister by which his appeal to be recognized as a refugee, in accordance with the Geneva International Convention, had been rejected.
The Turk had reached the island of Samos illegally in 1998 and had requested refugee status, in accordance with the Geneva International Convention, since he had been the victim of torture but his request was turned down on grounds that there was no evidence that he had been subjected to persecution by his country's authorities.
Consequently, the refugee resorted to the Council of State which accepted his suspension appeal and ordered the public order ministry to abstain from any action until a final decision is taken on the Turkish refugee's appeal.
 Former premier Mitsotakis in hospital for minor glaucoma operation
Athens 7/10/2004 (ANA)Veteran politician Constantine Mitsotakis, a former premier and the honorary president of the ruling New Democracy party, was admitted into a private hospital on Wednesday for a minor operation to correct a glaucoma condition in his left eye.
Mitsotakis left the hospital just two hours later, saying that the operation had gone very well and joked with reporters, saying that he would not now view politics in a different light.
 Cyprus Foreign Ministry seeks explanations from Israel
Nicosia 7/10/2004 (CNA/ANA)The Cyprus Foreign Ministry has sought clarifications from Israel with regard to its refusal to allow a Tel Aviv bound Lufthansa aircraft to land at Ben Guiron airport and to the violation of FIR (Flight Information Region) Nicosia.
A ministry statement said that ''today (Wednesday) Ambassador Erato Kozakou Marcouli, Director of the Cyprus Problem Division at the Foreign
Ministry, made representations to Israel's Ambassador to Cyprus Ivi Cohen-Litant relating to Tuesday's incident when the Israeli authorities refused permission to Lufthansa flight LH 686 to land at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, which was its final destination.''
The representations also concerned ''the forced landing of the aircraft at Larnaca airport, after two Israeli fighters intercepted the aircraft, something that violated the regulations of air transport within FIR Nicosia.''
''Explanations were sought from the Israeli Ambassador and the need to comply with and observe the regulations of international air transport was pointed out in order to avoid such incidents in the future,'' the statement added.
On Tuesday, a Lufthansa flight bound for Tel Aviv was forced to land in Larnaca, on the southern coast, after a telephone call to the airline warning of a bomb on board the aircraft, a threat which proved to be a hoax.
The Lufthansa flight eventually took off from Larnaca late Tuesday night, after a thorough check.