|Monday, 18 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-10-08
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>October 8, 2004
 ECB: Eurostat check to shed light on Greek fiscal data
BRUSSELS 8/10/2004 (ANA/V.Demiris)An upcoming visit to Greece by officials of Eurostat, the European Union's statistics agency, will help to shed light on the country's fiscal data following charges by the government that its predecessor had misrepresented key figures, the head of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, told a news conference on Thursday.
At the same time, Greece's membership of the euro zone could not be placed in doubt, on the basis of statements by the current finance minister, George Alogoskoufis.
"When the decision was taken for entry into the euro zone, based on the last data given by the Greek government, that decision was correct and legitimate," said Trichet, accompanied by ECB deputy president, Lucas Papademos, after a meeting of the bank's board in the Belgian capital.
He called for a single system of reckoning revenue and expenditure for all countries, underlining that procedures for releasing fiscal data should not be linked to election cycles, a question that had been raised at an informal meeting of EU finance ministers at the Hague.
ECB: Eurostat check to shed light on Greek fiscal data.
Papademos said that under a new system, armaments were entered at the time of payment, not of delivery, as in the past.
In addition, the Bank of Greece, or central bank, which he headed at the time, had assessed the public deficit differently from the country's data submitted to EU services.
The former central bank chief said that the data had been for comparison, but that authorities were not obliged to follow the central bank's procedure. Instead they were obliged to follow procedure for national accounts ordained by the EU.
Finally, the new method of entering defense spending did not affect the figure for the public debt, as the expenditure was already entered as pre-payments or payments.
Higher deficits not a result of a change in methodology, Greek FinMin says: The Greek government and the main opposition party PASOK crossed swords once again in parliament over the results of a fiscal audit that led to a significant upward revision of the country's fiscal deficits and public debts over the last four years.
Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, speaking in parliament, stressed that the higher fiscal deficit was not the result of a change in methodology used in the fiscal audit, but to the hidden spending by the previous government, such as defense spending for 2003. The Greek minister noted that the recorded defense spending in the previous year's budget was 774 million euros, sharply down from a real figure of 2.5 billion euros, with the difference representing a 1.1 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product.
Alogoskoufis used comments made by the general director of Eurostat, the EU executive's statistics agency, Michel Van den Abele on Wednesday who said that "in contrast to what it is been said, this revision is not a result of a change in methodology (calculation on delivery dates, or payment dates) but from the recording of total spending".
Eurostat's head, in a speech in Euro parliament a few days ago, said that Eurostat has been questioning the credibility of Greek budget figures since 2002 and stressed that Greek authorities had chosen to present budget figures using a methodology known as accounting system SEC 95 envisaging that defense spending figures would be presented to a later date. "The Greek authorities informed Eurostat in April 2004 that because of lack of information on delivery dates, figures related with the purchase of heavy arms were not available," he added.
Van den Abele stressed that the addition of defense spending to previous years' budgets was the reason behind the sharp upward revision of fiscal deficits.
Nikos Christodoulakis, a PASOK deputy and former Economy and Finance Minister, accused Mr. Alogoskoufis that "a fiscal audit was questioning the credibility of the Greek economy," adding that the "audit did not include all pension organizations in the country".
 EU economic affairs commissioner says latest Greek fiscal figures reflect more the real state of the Greek economy
BRUSSELS 8/10/2004 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)European Union Economic Affairs Commissioner Joakim Almunia appeared before the European Parliament's Economic Affairs Committee on Thursday and referred to Greece's latest fiscal figures.
"The latest fiscal figures we have received from the Greek authorities appear to reflect, more so than the previous ones, the real state of the Greek economy," he said.
His appearance took place in light of his participation in the next European Commission as well, where he will be having the monetary and economic affairs portfolio once again.
Questioned on Greece's fiscal problem, the Spanish commissioner reiterated that a delegation of the European Statistical Service (Eurostat) will be traveling to Greece in the near future to examine the fiscal figures of past years.
 Gov't dismisses press reports attributing slang reference to PM; efforts to curb vested interests remain
Athens 8/10/2004 (ANA)The government on Thursday flatly dismissed certain same-day front-page articles in the Athens press claiming that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis referred to "five pimps" and "five guilds" a day earlier, while dining with a group of ruling New Democracy deputies.
However, a government spokesman did stress that the substance of the alleged statements, namely, to combat the influence of entrenched vested interests in the country's political life "do not erroneously convey the government's intentions".
Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros tersely replied to a barrage of press questions during a regular briefing by emphasizing the premier "does not use such language".
"The government is not willing to tolerate symptoms of collusion (of vested interests) ... this is not a matter of individuals, but an issue of adhering to institutions. The government will do all it can for transparency and to combat this collusion," he said.
Antonaros referred to the abolition of the so-called "mathematical formula" for allocating large public works projects to contractors and its ongoing preparation of a draft bill on broad-cast media ownership transparency.
Regarding the latter, Antonaros said the government will table the bill at the end of the year.
Finally, the government spokesman declined to comment on the prime minister's conversations at the luncheon, reminding that the event was neither public nor official in nature.
 PASOK ready to make positive contribution to government's transparency efforts, gov't
Athens 8/10/2004 (ANA)The main opposition PASOK party's press spokesman Nikos Athanasakis stated Thursday that PASOK "is ready to make a positive contribution to the government's efforts to increase transparency in public life, by making a number of proposals itself". Athanasakis made the statement in connection to remarks made by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis Wednesday on ''pressure put on the government by vested interests".
Athanasakis stressed that "if the prime minister feels that he is being pressured by vested interests, then he needs to be more specific and act concretely with well-thought out institutional intervention, which would create a wider framework of consent." He further criticized the government, which he said was "solely responsible for any operational problems it was experiencing" as well as for all the "the major deadlocks with its policies".
Athanasakis further added that since the government was promoting transparency, PASOK was ready to "contribute with its own proposals on the matter", since, "transparency and political autonomy are matters of principle for PASOK, as well as being a matter of democracy and respect for the citizen".
Replying to Athanasakis' comments, Minister of State and Government Spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos stated that PASOK has not yet realized the government has already created a new institutional framework which would guarantee transparency and equality before the law.
Roussopoulos went on to remark about PASOK's "selective memory", saying that the government has abolished the 'mathematical formula' for allocating large public works projects to contractors and the lowest tender system is already law.
 PM receives former ND leader Evert; latter harshly criticizes 'vested interests'
Athens 8/10/2004 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday received former New Democracy leader Miltiades Evert, with talks focusing on the economy and foreign policy.
Afterwards, the veteran ND deputy whom Karamanlis succeeded at the party's helm again aired his harshest criticism for what he has termed as vested interests' negative influence on the country's political life.
Evert said the prime minister does not need to list names, "he (Karamanlis) must table an institutional framework for two or three sectors, so that these 'pimps' won't have the ability to exploit the Greek people's toil."
The unprecedented reference to 'pimps' emanates from certain front-page articles in the Athens press on Thursday, which claimed that the premier used the same word to describe vested interests during off-the-record comments to a group of ND deputies on Wednesday.
However, the government flatly dismissed such claims, underlining that the prime minister does not use such language, although the substance of the remarks - i.e. fighting vested interests' collusion at the expense of public life -- holds true.
On his part, Evert reiterated that a Parliament committee of inquiry should be established to investigate the Athens Stock Exchange's "burst bubble" of a few years ago. Nevertheless, he said a judicial probe must first be concluded before the matter can reach Parliament.
 FM Molyviatis attends EU-ASEM summit in Hanoi
HANOI 8/10/2004 (ANA/E. Boukaouri)The fifth European Union-Asia (ASEM) summit began in Hanoi (Vietnam) under strict security measures and with the ceremony welcoming 13 new members.
Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis is expected to make two addresses on Friday and Saturday, in the political and cultural sectors, concerning international development and new world challenges on the one hand and on the other safeguarding national cultures in the era of informatics, technology and globalization.
"It is an important meeting of the EU's 25 member-states and 12 Asian countries, including China and Japan, which all together comprise about half the population of the earth," the minister said.
ASEM, a political dialogue and economic cooperation forum, was founded in Bangkok in 1996. The total population of member-states reaches 2.3 billion people, while in 2002 GDP corresponded to 46 percent of the world's GDP.
This year ASEM welcomed the EU's 10 new member-states, as well as the three Asian countries of Cambodia, Laos and Mianmar.
Dialogue is expected to focus on the issue of the substantive upgrading of relations of partnership between Europe and Asia, while bilateral contacts on the sidelines of the summit are expected to be of great interest.
"There is a wide range of issues for discussion, primarily on economic and trade cooperation. There are also issues of political cooperation, the environment and the handling of terrorism. Greece is present and it will contribute as much as possible to the shaping of developments, while we should not forget that we also welcomed Cyprus as a new member tonight, as a result of its accession to the EU," Molyviatis said.
Commenting on the publication of the European Commission's report on Turkey's accession course to the EU, the foreign minister said that Greece's position is steadfast. It supports the European prospect of Turkey. Provided that Turkey fulfills criteria it must become a full EU member, which does not only entail rights but commitments as well.
Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis departs on Friday for Beijing for talks on bilateral issues.
 Greek, Russian parliamentary defense committees' senior officials confer on bilateral relations, cooperation
Athens 8/10/2004 (ANA)Chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on foreign affairs and defense Vassilis Maginas, who also heads the Greek parliamentary delegation at NATO, met Thursday with the deputy chairman of the Federation Council's (Russian parliament's upper house) defense and security committee, Vyacheslav Popov, for talks on issues of mutual interest.
The two men discussed further strengthening of relations between-en the two countries and better inter-parliamentary cooperation of their parliamentary committees.
They further exchanges views on progress in Russia-NATO relations, and on combating terrorism.
 Turkish warplanes violate Greek national air space
Athens 8/10/2004 (ANA)Six formations of Turkish warplanes entered the Aegean area on Thursday without submitting flight plans, which constitutes an infringement of air traffic regulations, and in nine cases they violated national air space in the region of the islands of Chios, Lesvos and Antipsara, press reports said.
The 12 Turkish aircraft, including two photograph-taking Phantom jets, were recognized and intercepted by Greek air force jets, while in four cases the interception process developed into an engagement.
Four of the Turkish warplanes were armed.
 Preliminary judicial probe to focus on firm linked to ATHOC sponsorship deals
Athens 8/10/2004 (ANA)The head of the Athens first instance courts on Thursday ordered a preliminary investigation into press reports citing dubious links between a company identified as Octagon Worldwide Holdings BV and sponsorship deals for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
According to allegations contained in a series of articles published by the Athens dailies "Eleftherotypia" and "Avriani", Octagon acted as an intermediary in sponsorship deals involving the Athens 2004 Olympics Games Organizing Committee (ATHOC).
Press reports also claimed that no firm without Octagon representation succeeded in landing a deal with ATHOC.
The case was assigned to a first instance court prosecutor.
 Ecumenical Patriarch comments on explosions in Phanar)
ISTANBUL 8/10/2004 (ANA/A.Kourkoulas)"I believe that they [the attacks] are an act of individuals and groups who do not want Turkey to join the European Union and want to create confusion, to provoke, to create problems for Turkey's government, so that the accession talks will be postponed or derailed. It seems that that is what they're after," Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos said on Thursday, speaking of the explosions that had occurred at the Patriarchate a few hours earlier.
Vartholomeos said that patience and prayer are needed in this situation and emphasized that, "We, no matter what happens around us, do not despair. We trust God, who having protected the Patriarchate all these centuries so that it still stands today, will continue to do so in the future."
The explosion occurred at the Patriarchate shortly before midnight on Wednesday and was of medium force, causing damage on the upper floor of the Patriarchate. The police have been investigating the explosion since early Thursday morning and found traces of an explosive device, which is being examined. Turkey's anti-terrorism unit is also investigating the case.
Possibly, the device was thrown on the roof of the Patriarchate, very close to were a much more powerful device was thrown in December 1997. No group or individual has claimed responsibility, but political figures believe it to be an expression of anger by those who oppose Phanar, anger that was perhaps provoked by the European Commission's references to the Patriarchate's position in its progress report on Turkey, which was made public on Wednesday.
 Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister meets with Armenian ambassador
Athens 8/10/2004 (ANA)According to a press release issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Euripides Stalinizes met with the Armenian Ambassador Vahran Kazhoyan on Thursday. Issues of bilateral interest were discussed.
 Coalition Party in favor of Turkey's EU candidacy
Athens 8/10/2004 (ANA)The Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology Party (SYN) on Thursday issued a statement which called upon the government to "utilize the predictions and controls foreseen by the European Commission's recommendation for accession talks with Turkey, in order to clarify those parts of the recommendation which concern Greek-Turkish relations".
Furthermore, SYN stated that the recommendation, which was released Wednesday, opened the door to Turkey for European accession and noted that "the conditions laid out in the recommendation can act for the democratization of Turkey as well as to improve Greek-Turkish relations". The statement went on to say that SYN supports Turkey's EU candidacy and believes that criteria such as human rights, minority rights and the democratization of Turkey in general should apply as part of Turkey's candidacy. SYN also called on Turkey to respect international law in Cyprus and the wider region.
 AHEPA encourages US citizens to register to vote, sends questionnaire to presidential candidates
Athens 8/10/2004 (ANA)Are you registered to vote? This is the question the President of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), the largest and oldest American-based, Greek heritage grassroots membership organization, is asking members of the Greek-American community on visitations to AHEPA chapters throughout the United States.
Supreme President Franklin Manios is encouraging chapters to organize voter registration drives as a community service. In addition, Manios understands that just because one registers to vote that it does not ensure he or she will vote.
"It is our civic duty to vote, it is a privilege to vote, and voting is a fundamental tenet of Hellenism," said Manios. "Voting is the language through which the ideology of democracy is communicated."
Manios added that although some voter registration deadlines have passed, there are at least 24 states where people can still register to vote.
<1006_state_voter_registration_deadline_list.doc> To register to vote, visit HYPERLINK "http://www.fec.gov/votregis/vr.shtml" http://www.fec.gov/votregis/vr.shtml to download a National Mail Voter Registration Form which allows individuals to register from anywhere in the United States. The form can also be used to conduct voter registration drives.
Every Vote Counts: "The 2000 Presidential Election proved to us that every vote counts," said Manios. "Some citizens do not vote because they feel uninformed. Therefore, it is essential for us, as responsible citizens, to educate ourselves on the issues."
That is why AHEPA has taken the initiative to submit a questionnaire about Greek-American issues to the presidential campaigns of the two major candidates.
"We presented six questions to each candidate on domestic and foreign policy issues that have a bearing on us and our programs," said Public Affairs Director Andrew Kaffes. "We made it clear to each campaign that we would advise the Greek-American community about the submission of the questionnaire and that we would publish their responses, or non-responses, for our community to review."
He added, "We understand that this is crunch time for the campaigns, however, we expect a reply. And make no mistake about it, we will publicize whether or not we hear from the candidates in time for voters to know where the candidates stand."
AHEPA was founded in 1922 in response to the evils of bigotry and racism of early 20th century American society that targeted immigrants of many ethnicities, especially in the South. It also helped Greek immigrants assimilate into American society.
Today, the mission of the AHEPA family is to promote the ideals of Hellenism, education, philanthropy, civic responsibility, and family and individual excellence.
 Meeting on anti-flooding measures in greater Athens area
Athens 8/10/2004 (ANA)The first cold front of the season in Athens on Thursday served as a perfect backdrop for a meeting by public works ministry and local government officials regarding anti-flooding measures for the upcoming period.
Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias chaired the meeting, whereas Attica prefecture's four prefects along with the head of the bourse-listed sewer and water utility for greater Athens (EYDAP), also participated.
High-risk areas, according to Souflias, are a section of the Athens-Corinth highway adjacent to the Halyvourgiki steel mill, roadways through which the new tram network passes the seaside district of Glyfada as well as the working-class municipalities of Moschato and Rendi, both southwest of Athens' downtown.
However, he said no problems in terms of anti-flooding protection are foreseen for the Attica toll way or the Kifissos River, a concrete floodway that overflowed in past years during heavy rains.
 Public Order Minister announces measures for the guarding of Olympic venues
Athens 8/10/2004 (ANA)Public Order Minister Yiorgos Voulgarakis announced measures to be implemented for the guarding of Olympic venues after a meeting with Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos, Government Spokesman Theodore Roussopoulos, Alternate Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia, Deputy Public Order Minister Christos Markogiannakis, President of Olympic Properties Christos Hadjiemmanouil, Police Chief Yiorgos Angelakis and others on Thursday.
The group of measures, according to Voulgarakis, include: "First reinforcing the guarding of the venues with the help of the Army and Police for as long as is necessary; second is to speed up the transferring process of the venues to the authorities who will finally be responsible for them; third is cleaning the buildings so that they can be locked up and more easily guarded; fourth, moving ahead with necessary procedures for the hiring of security guards so that the Army and Police can return to their other duties."
Additionally, the public order minister said that he has already asked the Hellenic Data Protection Authority to reactivate the cameras surrounding the Olympic facilities for more effective guarding.
 Solidarity march for Palestinians
Athens 8/10/2004 (ANA)A march of solidarity with Palestinians was held on Thursday evening. The march started outside the locals of the Diplomatic Representation of Palestine in Athens with marchers proceeding to the Israeli Embassy in order to protest Israel's recent operations in the Gaza Strip. Present at the march were unionists, peace associations and other organizations who declared their opposition to the ''US and Israeli governments for the bloody episodes of the last few days'' resulting in over 80 dead, including unarmed citizens, refugees and children.
Palestinian Ambassador to Greece, Maroon Adelaide, present at the march, thanked the Greek people for their solidarity and support.
 Greek producer price index up 4.1 pct in August, yr/yr
Athens 8/10/2004 (ANA)Greece's producer price composite index (covering both the domestic and external markets) increased by 4.1 percent in August compared with the same month last year, the National Statistics Service said on Thursday.
The producer price index rose 4.2 percent in the domestic market and by 3.6 percent in the external market in August.
NESS, in its monthly report, said that the producer price index rose 0.4 percent in August from July, reflecting a 0.4 percent increase in the domestic market and a 0.3 percent in the external market over the same period.
 Greek fuel market's growth slowed in Jan-May
Athens 8/10/2004 (ANA)Retail prices of various oil products are up between 14.7 and 19.0 percent so far this year in Greece, a survey by Stat Bank said on Thursday, with the average retail price of super petrol rising by 14.7 percent in the January-September period, and the average price sold by refineries rising by 19 percent.
The survey by Stat Bank also said that average price rises for unleaded petrol was 16.4 percent and 20 percent, respectively, over the same period.
Average retail price for diesel and heating oil was 19 percent and 27 percent, respectively, while diesel for domestic use was up 16 percent in the January-April period and is projected to rise more than 30 percent for the year so far. The survey noted that higher retail fuel prices were already affecting demand in the domestic market.
The oil product market totaled 4.9 metric tons in the January-May period, unchanged from the corresponding period in 2003. The domestic petrol market grew by 5.9 percent in the first five months of 2004, a rate sharply slower compared with the growth rate of new car sales in the country (18 percent), while the heating oil market shrank by 4.7 percent in the first five months of the year and the motor diesel market grew 3.8 percent over the same period.
From a total of 20 oil product companies operating in the country, 12 recorded a decline in sales with the other six recording increases (Aegean Oil, Elin, ETEKA, El Petrol, Cyclon and Argo) since they managed to cut their profit margins offering more attractive prices. Accumulated net profits of the 41 biggest oil product companies were up 37.8 percent in 2003 from the previous year to 175.1 million euros from 127.1 million euros, over the same period, respectively.
Profit growth was seven times higher compared with sales growth rates in 2003. Sales rose 5.8 percent in 2003 to 7.3 billion euros from 6.9 billion euros in 2002, mainly reflecting revenues from a special tax on fuel.
 Gov't seeks new method of privatizing Olympic Airlines
Athens 8/10/2004 (ANA)The government said on Thursday that it would seek a new method of privatizing Olympic Airlines, the national carrier, following the failure of tenders to sell a stake in the firm, and its management.
The government's privatization committee, comprising the ministers of finance, development, employment and transport, agreed to drop the former tender method dating back to April 2002.
Financial consultants would be asked to help forge a new approach to selling the airline, while options would be studied to make use of the entire Olympic group incorporating private sector capital, a statement from the finance and transport ministries said.
 Draw for Olympic Village housing began Thursday
Athens 8/10/2004 (ANA)The process for awarding Olympic Village housing at a low cost to beneficiaries began on Thursday. At the end of the draw, which concludes Sunday, 2,292 houses will have been awarded.
"This is an important day which marks the beginning of an ambitious and innovative plan for social policy," Labor Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos said at Thursday's event.
"It would be unfair and petty of me to not acknowledge the valuable contribution of ministers and deputy ministers who passed through this ministry in recent years. I don't care which party they belong to. Regardless of the ideological and political starting point we all gave it our all: them and us today," he added.
Deputy Labor Minister Gerasimos Giakoumatos thanked all Greeks, saying that the country has entered a new era - an era in which citizens demand a better standard of living. "It is our obligation to respect and support their request," he said. Giakoumatos also explained that the minister's goal and his own is to turn the ¬ 425 million currently in the coffers of the Workers' Housing Organization (OEK) into homes for the homeless. Additionally, he said that by the end of October a national workers' housing project will be agreed upon in agreement with workers' organizations.
 No plans to begin dialogue on pension system, gov't says
Athens 8/10/2004 (ANA)Government spokesman Evaggellos Antonaros on Thursday said that the government did not plan to open a dialogue on the country's pension system by the end of its four-year term and stressed that the government would find the necessary funds to pay pensions and benefits to Greek citizens.
Antonaros rejected reports that the Social Insurance Fund (IKA) would face difficulties in paying this year's Christmas bonus pay to pensioners.
"The government is seeking a restructuring in both Olympic Airlines and Hellenic Telecommunications Organization, but there is no specific timetable for a privatization," Antonaros told reporters during its regular briefing.
 Olympic Games increased hotels' occupancy rate in Athens
Athens 8/10/2004 (ANA)Athens hotels experienced an increase in occupancy rates in August 2004 compared with the same period last year.
According to data from the Attica Hoteliers' Association (EXA), occupancy rates were as follows:
Category Occupancy 2003 Occupancy 2004
5* 38.01% 80.49%
4* 63.85% 79.60%
3* 64.50% 77.40%
2* 39.97% 71.75%
The increased occupancy rates were still below Attica hoteliers' expectations.
 Development minister inaugurates 18th Infosystem exhibition in Thessaloniki
Athens 8/10/2004 (ANA)Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas inaugurated the 18th Infosystem exhibition, organized by Helexpo in Thessaloniki, on Thursday night and at the same time he declared the opening of the 10th Informatics Applications Conference.
"The significance of Infosystem must exceed the borders of Greece and constitute a wider Forum for the entire region of southeastern Europe, as well as of the neighboring countries of the Middle and wider East," the minister said.
Sioufas referred to the priority given by the government to the issues of development and informatics and of new technologies in general and underlined the contribution of the city of Thessaloniki, and of central Macedonia in general, to the country's development, through exploratory activities and initiatives of an innovative type which are developing in the area.
The minister also expressed his confidence in the value of the country's human potential and referred to the example of Ireland which, as he said, invested in human potential, particularly in the 20-30 age brackets.
 CSFB lauds performance of Greek bank stocks
Athens 8/10/2004 (ANA)Greek banking stocks have been some of the best performing of the European banks over the last 12 months, Credit Suisse First Boston's equity research division said in a market report on Thursday.
"We believe this is owing to strong revenue generation on the back of increased loan demand, high interest rate margins and strong fee income, as well as cost control, which has boosted the banks' average ROE to 14.8% in 2003 from 10% in 2002," the report said.
During the first half of 2004, the combined earnings growth for the country's three major banks was 45%, with a further ROE expansion to 18.5% from 14.8% at the end of 2003.
"Despite the post-Olympic gloom, we believe the outlook for the next three years remains positive. First, in our view, the above-average GDP growth expected for Greece for this year and next and the modest loan penetration in the country should lead to double-digit loan growth," CSFB said.
Although in the medium term there should be some form of margin correction, the high sector concentration and lack of not-for-profit banks should allow margins to remain well above those in other countries. And the sector's strong liquidity and solvency levels should allow the banks to keep expanding into the Balkans, which over the medium terms should offer good growth opportunities, according to the report.
CSFB said it had initiated coverage on National Bank of Greece with an outperform rating and a 12-month target price of 23.7 euros.
The bank has been undertaking an operating restructuring, which has led to an improvement in profitability ratios; but the real progress will be made during the next three years, when the group's ROE is expected to increase to 23.2% in 2006 from 13.9% in 2003, the report said.
In addition, coverage had been initiated on Alpha Bank, so far the most cost aware of the banks, with a neutral rating and target price of 23.4 euros.
Finally, coverage had been initiated of EFG Eurobank Ergasias with a neutral rating and a target price of 20.8 euros, CSFB added.
 EU support for Greek wine-producers
BRUSSELS 8/10/2004 (ANA/A.Simatos)Greece will receive EU assistance of 7,176,037 euros for the period 2003/2004, for the cultivation of 1519 hectares of vine-yards. For the period 2004/2005, the Commission has proposed that Greece be given assistance worth 9,704,037 euros for the cultivation of 1360 hectares of vineyards.
The EU Commission adopted two new measures Thursday concerning the restructuring of grape cultivation. The first mea-sure will determine the level of assistance to be given to EU member-states for 2003/2004, while the second measure concerns a suggested distribution of the 450 million euros worth of assistance earmarked for 2004/2005.
According to EU data, the countries which will receive the highest levels of assistance are Spain, Italy, France and Portugal.
 Court prosecutor proposes sentences for ELA urban guerrilla group members
Athens 8/10/2004 (ANA)The prosecutor representing the State at the trial of five people accused of being members of the Revolutionary Popular Struggle (ELA) urban guerrilla group on Thursday proposed long prison terms for the four defendants found guilty by the Criminal Appeals Tribunal the previous day. The fifth defendant was acquitted on all charges due to lack of sufficiently incriminating evidence.
The three-member Criminal Appeals Court ruled on Wednesday that Christos Tsigaridas, Costas Agapiou, Irene Athanassaki and Aggeletos Kanas were guilty on charges of procurement and possession 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 General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) then president George Raftopoulos and the murder of judge Anastasios Venardos. The court also ruled that the fifth defendant, Michalis Kassimis, be acquitted of all charges as 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.
The prosecutor representing the State, Eleftherios Patsis, on Thursday proposed that each of the four defendants found guilty by the court be served with 17 years of imprisonment for simple complicity in the homicide of Velios, and 10 years imprisonment for each of 48 counts of attempted homicide (48 x 10 years), again for all four of the defendants found guilty.
In addition, he proposed additional sentences of 12 years for every count of procurement and possession of explosive materials; 10 years imprisonment and fines of 300 euro for each of 21 counts of explosions and 1 count of attempted explosion; and 11 years imprisonment and fines of 1,000 euro for each of 20 counts of simple complicity in 20 other explosions and 1 attempted explosion.
It is noted that with the merger of the sentences, the accused are not expected to be sentenced to more than 25 years imprisonment each.
Some tension in the court after the presentation of the prosecutor's proposed sentences led to a short break in the proceedings.
Kana's defense attorney, Alexis Kouyias objected that he found Patsis' proposal for 17 years imprisonment for simple accessory to homicide (for the killing of police officer Velios) and 12 years imprisonment for "a firecracker" (referring to the procurement and possession of explosive materials) to be "inhuman", causing the reaction of the prosecutor, who called for Kouyias' phraseology to be written in the minutes of the court and then angrily left the court-room.
The court recessed for a few minutes, and resumed with the placements of the defense lawyers on the sentences proposed by Patsis.
 Convicted terrorist hospitalized on 19th day of hunger strike
8/10/2004 (ANA)Convicted "November 17" terrorist Dimitris Koufodinas was transported to an Athens-area hospital on Thursday during the 19th day of a hunger strike he began at a maximum security penitentiary in the greater Athens area.
According to reports, the 45-year-old Koufodinas, a self-styled beekeeper and math tutor living under an assumed identity before his apprehension, requested hospitalization after first being taken to the Korydallos prison's infirmary.
He and a group of other convicted N17 terrorists, most serving life sentences, are demanding better jail conditions.
Koufodinas, identified in court indictments as the N17 terror band member with the alias "Loukas", was convicted of multiple homicides, bombings and armed robberies, among others.
 Supreme Court partially revokes Appeals Court ruling on Samina shipwreck disaster
Athens 8/10/2004 (ANA)The Supreme Court's Penal Department has partially revoked an Appeals Court ruling concerning five defendants involved in the tragic shipwreck of the ferry boat Samina off the island of Paros, on September 26, 2000, in which 80 people lost their lives.
The Appeals Court ruling was revoked in the cases of first mechanic G. Skiadaresis, first mate G. Triantafyllos and wireless operator D. Tsoumas, as well as for N. Vikatos and K. Klironomos.
The ruling which was revoked had filed criminal charges against them, but now they will only be charged with misdemeanors.
 National Theatre performs Lysistrata in New York
NEW YORK 8/10/2004 (ANA/P.Panayiotou)The National Theatre of Greece began its performance of Aristophanes' Lysistrata on Wednesday at New York's City Center. Hundreds of spectators, among them Greek and Cypriot General Consuls A. Bouras and M. Mavrommatis, were present at the play's opening night.
Lydia Koniordou is in the lead role. Kostas Tsianos is the director, Christos Leontis is the composer, Rena Georgiadou is responsible for set design and costumes, Fokas Evaggelinos is the choreographer, Olympia Kyriakaki is responsible for musical instruction, and Spyros Kardaris is in charge of lighting.
The performances will run through Sunday.
Strong earthquake rocks Astypalaia,
 no damage reported
Athens 8/10/2004 (ANA)A strong earthquake measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale rocked Astypalaia at dawn Thursday, but no damage was immediately reported.
The earthquake was recorded at 4:02 a.m. at a distance of 300 kilometers east-southeast of Athens, with its epicenter in the sea region 30 kilometers south of Astypalaia.
Athens Observatory Geodynamic Institute seismologist Georgia Panopoulou told ANA that the earthquake was felt as far as Crete, and was considered an isolated event given that no aftershocks were produced from the same epicenter.
 Fulbright graduates to hold international conference in
Athens 8/10/2004 (ANA)Graduates of the Fulbright program from all over the world will hold a conference in Athens between October 7-10 to discuss urgent world problems and to create contacts between graduate organizations worldwide.
Over 30 issues will be examined during the conference such as "Europe and Atlantic Relations", "Strengthening Mutual Understanding on World Scientific and Environmental Issues" and "Policies of the West and the East."
The Fulbright program was established in 1946 by a law proposed by Senator William Fulbright and constitutes the most important of the U.S. government's cultural exchanges program-me.
 Cyprus: Commission recommendation on Turkey ''good basis'' to work
NICOSIA 8/10/2004 (CNA/ANA)The Cyprus government has described as ''a good basis to build on'' a recommendation by the European Commission to begin accession negotiations with Turkey, pointing out that Nicosia does not wish to raise obstacles to Turkey's membership talks.
Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said on Thursday that there is time between now and the EU December summit, which will decide on whether membership talks would start or not, to see to it that certain basic issues that concern Cyprus are taken into consideration.
''There is now a framework and a process within which our side can move in order to make the most of existing possibilities and those that may arise towards achieving our objectives,'' the spokesman said, commenting on the recommendation.
He said the government has not decided yet about the stance it will take at the December summit but stressed that there is a specific line of thought aimed at safeguarding the fundamental issues within the EU.
''We do not wish to exercise the right to veto, we do not wish to hamper the start of accession talks with Turkey but basic concerns should be taken into consideration,'' he said, adding that the government wishes to see those changes in Turkey that would bring about an attitude compatible with European norms and regulations.
Replying to questions, he said that the question of Cyprus and its various aspects ''are everywhere in the recommendation'' even though there is only one direct reference to Cyprus in the document.
He said that the question of Cyprus remains ''an important issue which will concern the EU in the future.''
''I do not think this is the last ditch effort by the EU towards Turkey in relation to a political settlement in Cyprus,'' he added.
Chrysostomides noted the strict mechanisms the Commission is proposing with regard to the start of accession negotiations with Turkey, the emphasis laid on implementation rather than adoption of political and harmonization legislation and the recommendation that talks and political dialogue are conducted on an intergovernmental level among all member states.
''In this framework and to the extent that the European Council will adopt the Commission recommendations, irrespective of the fact that the Cyprus problem has never been linked to the Copenhagen criteria, we shall have the possibility, through alliances, to lay now right from the start goals and priorities,'' he said.
The spokesman said the recommendation refers to improved bilateral ties between Turkey and its neighbors, and that includes Cyprus too, it talks about respect for human rights, notes that the property issue has not been settled yet.
Moreover, the recommendation puts restrictions with a view to protect European labor markets and there is the possibility to suspend membership talks should Turkey repeatedly violates the terms set out in the report, especially with regard to human rights, the Cypriot official added.
 EU Commission President designate to visit Cyprus
NICOSIA 8/10/2004 (CNA/ANA)President designate of the European Commission Jose Manuel Durao Barroso will visit Cyprus on 14 October and hold a meeting with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos.
Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides also announced that President Papadopoulos will visit Finland and Estonia. He will depart for Finland on Sunday.
 US House Subcommittee rejects resolution on Cyprus
NEW YORK 8/10/2004 (CNA/ANA)US Congressman Mike Bilirakis, Co-Chairman of the Hellenic Caucus, has welcomed the rejection of a House resolution, encouraging the international legitimization of the
Turkish Cypriot puppet regime in the Turkish-occupied northern part of Cyprus.
The resolution lauded the Turkish-Cypriot community for voting to support the Annan Plan for re-unification, and by implication, disparaged the Greek-Cypriot community for voting against the plan.
The resolution also encouraged the international legitimization of the Turkish-Cypriot political entity in northern Cyprus, and held out hope for the Turkish-Cypriot community's eventual member-ship within the European Union.
Bilirakis praised Members of the House International Relations Subcommittee on Europe who voted against the resolution.
''This was a poorly-written, outdated and biased resolution which would have gone against the United States' long-standing policy of non-recognition'' of the pseudo state, he said.
''The bill was defeated due to the rapid response and determination of Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Congressman Thaddeus McCotter and Congressman Eliot Engel, members of the Sub-committee, who voted in opposition to the measure,'' Bilirakis said.
''I have always maintained that in order for a settlement to be reached there needs to be a balanced and fair approach. Unfortunately, the Annan plan did not provide that option for Greek-Cypriots. Had H. Con. Res. 412 been approved, it would have had a negative effect on efforts to rekindle settlement talks,'' he concluded.
Congresswoman Lee said ''although the Greek Cypriot community rejected the Annan Plan because they legitimately believed that it was flawed, they never relinquished the hope of reunification.''
''This resolution would hinder ongoing efforts to unify the two communities by encouraging the recognition of a separate political entity in northern Cyprus, and that is not consistent with our long standing policy of support for the reunification of Cyprus based on a mutual agreement by the two communities,'' Lee said.
''We need a balanced approach in our efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem. Unfortunately this resolution is tilted in favor of the Turkish Cypriot community, at the expense of the Greek Cypriots,'' she concluded.
 Foreign Ministry deplores spiral of violence in Israel
NICOSIA 8/10/2004 (CNA/ANA)The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses deep concern regarding the latest spiral of violence in Israel and the Occupied Territories, which has in the past days claimed the lives of many innocent victims.
According to an official press release, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ''strongly deplores the disproportionate and excessive military response of Israel, which is causing many civilian deaths and much needless suffering, in the aftermath of last week's reprehensible terrorist attack on Sderot, which led to the tragic death of two Israeli children''.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs underlines once more that violence and terror must not be allowed to prevail and calls upon both sides to fulfill their Road Map obligations, as this course of action
represents the only way to accomplish the common objective of peace, security and welfare, for both Israelis and Palestinians.
It also reiterates its position in calling upon Israel to fully respect the Fourth Geneva Convention.