|Tuesday, 12 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-10-20
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>October 20, 2004
 Bank of Greece concerned over fiscal problem, reforms
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)Bank of Greece Governor Nikos Garganas on Tuesday expressed his concern not only for the country's acute fiscal problem, as he said, but also on the climate of complacency prevailing in the country towards major future challenges.
Presenting the central bank's interim report on monetary policy, Garganas told reporters that "the Greek society lacked the understanding of the urgency of reforms needed to be made in the country".
He noted that political parties, trade unions and the media have fully understood the extent and the urgency of reforms needed to deal with existing macro-economic imbalances and to ensure a long-term fiscal balance in the country.
Referring to challenges, Garganas focused on structural reforms and a solution to the pension system. He underlined that Greek society should not be afraid of structural reforms, and he reminded of a radical reform of the financial sector that led to a 25-percent increase in employment in the sector between 1986-2003.
Commenting on rising oil prices, Garganas said long-term high oil prices could rekindle inflation and affect economic growth rates worldwide. He noted that Greece was one of the most oil-dependent economies in the world, reflecting lack of measures in the past to promote alternative energy forms in the country.
The central banker said he urged domestic financial institutions to raise their capital to meet increased pension system demands due to the adopting of international accounting standards in the country.
He also recommended stricter rules in offering consumer loans, adding that the percentage of non-performing loans has risen recently.
Commenting on real estate prices in Greece, Garganas said that fears of a "bubble" in real estate have been overcome and stressed that prices were currently in a soft landing phase.
Real estate prices rose 17 percent in 2000-2002, 4.0 percent in 2003 and are stable so far this year. The central banker urged social partners to show self-restraint in wage demands, with the aim to cut growth rates in labor cost per product unit. The bank expects that average gross wages would rise by 8.4 percent in the public sector, from 6.0 percent in 2003, by 7.8 percent in state enterprises and 5.8 percent in the private sector.
 PM chairs high-ranking meeting to consider immigration issues
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday chaired a meeting at the Parliament office focusing on the legal framework for immigration, with participants including several high-ranking ministers.
According to reports, a new legal framework will be sought in order to replace the current set of laws, which the government considers ineffective in several cases.
Towards that end, the establishment of inter-ministerial work groups will precede the drafting of relevant legislation.
Other reports stated that issues dealing with asylum, the status of tens of thousands of legal foreign workers in the country as well as the troubling matter of continued illegal immigration were discussed.
A continuing goal is to harmonize Greek law with the European Union standards.
No comments were made afterwards by participating ministers (public order, interior, foreign affairs, economy and labor).
 U.S. congratulates Greece on its election as non-permanent member of the UN Security Council
WASHINGTON 20/10/2004 (ANA/T.Ellis)The United States has hailed the election of Greece as non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Asked by a Greek reporter on Monday to comment on the fact, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said: » Of course we congratulate Greece and the other candidate countries for their election. We look forward to our cooperation with all these countries and the Security Council when they assume their positions."
Asked on the exact date of the departure of current U.S. Ambassador to Athens Thomas Miller, Boucher said he was not aware, restricting himself in noting that it would be within the coming months.
 MRB opinion poll: Large majority doesn't want early general elections forced by Presidential election
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)Seven out of 10 voters do not want early general elections to be forced by March's election of a new President of the Republic by parliament, according to a nationwide opinion poll carried out by telephone by MRB on behalf of private Alpha television station.
According to the results of the poll, 69.9 percent of the respondents do not want early general elections to be prompted by the Presidential election.
Under Article 32 Paragraph 3 of the Greek constitution, the candidate receiving two-thirds of the vote from the 300-member House (200 votes) in a roll-call vote is elected President of the Republic for the new four-year term. In the event a two-thirds majority is not achieved in the first round, the vote is repeated five days later. If a two-thirds majority is not achieved in the second round, the vote is repeated five days later, and the candidate amassing three-fifths of the vote (180 votes from the 300 MPs). If parliament fails to elect a new President in the third round, then the House is dissolved within 10 days of the third round of voting, and early general elections are called.
Under Paragraph 4 of the same Article, the new parliament arising from the early general elections is mandated to elect the new President of the Republic immediately after it is formed. The Paragraph 4 also provides for three rounds of voting. A majority of three-fifths (180 votes) is required in the first round, but in the event of failure, the vote is repeated five days later and the candidate who receives the absolute majority (150+1 votes) is declared President of the Republic. In the event of failure to elect a President in the second round, a third round, or run-off, is held five days later between the two candidates who amassed the most votes in the second round, and the candidate amassing the relative majority (largest number of votes) is declared President of the Republic.
Also according to the poll, ruling New Democracy was leading over main opposition and preceding ruling party PASOK with 7.9 percentage points with respect to voter intent, meaning that if elections were held tomorrow, 39.2 percent of respondents said they would vote for ND, 31.3 percent for PASOK, 6.1 percent for the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), 3.7 percent for the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN), and 2.0 percent for LAOS. Regarding which party the respondents believed would win the general elections if they were held now, 66.5 percent said ND, against 11.1 percent who said PASOK.
Regarding the popularity of the political party leaders, ND leader and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis was leading with 0.8 percent, followed by PASOK leader George Papandreou with 57.6 percent, KKE leader Alike Paprika with 31.5 percent, SYN leader Nikes Constantopoulos with 43.7 percent, and LAOS leader George Karatzaferis with 19.0 percent.
On the most preferred candidate for President -- the respondents did not choose from a specified list of names but gave spontaneous replies -- former prime minister and PASOK leader Costas Simitis was the choice of 20.6 percent of the respondents, followed by Constantopoulos with 5.3 percent, former parliament president (PASOK) Apostolos Kaklamanis with 3.5 percent, former premier and honorary ND president Constantine Mitsotakis with 3.3 percent, current foreign minister Petros Molyviaties with 2.3 percent, world-renowned composer Mikis Theodorakis with 1.7 percent, and Environment, Town Planning & Public Works minister George Souflias with 1.0 percent.
To a question of which of the following was the best suited for President of the Republic (choice from a specific list of names), the respondents preferred Kaklamanis with 50.6 percent, followed by Thedorakis with 41.9 percent, Constantopoulos with 29.2 percent, Molyviaties with 24.3 percent, Souflias with 23.8 percent, president of the European University at Sorbonne Eleni Glykatzi Arweiler with 16.5 percent, Mitsotakis with 16.2 percent, former foreign minister Karolos Papoulias (early PASOK governments under founder Andreas Papandreou) with 15.4 percent, former Eurodeputy Dimitris Tsatsos (PASOK) with 14.2 percent, and education minister Marietta Yannakou with 10.5 percent.
Gov't on latest poll: The government on Tuesday declined to comment on the latest opinion polls, ones that continue to show a hefty lead for the ruling New Democracy party over main opposition PASOK.
Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros merely stated, however, that "it is pleasant for the government to ascertain that its popularity remains at a high level."
He nevertheless also declined to comment on the portion of the opinion poll (conducted by the MRB firm and commissioned by the "Alpha" television station) regarding possible presidential candidates.
Former premier Costas Simitis topped a list of would-be candidates by gaining 20 percent of respondents' preference for the post.
 President Stephanopoulos holds talks with Albanian PM, opposition leader
TIRANA 20/10/2004 (ANA)President Kostis Stephanopoulos on Tuesday discussed Greek-Albanian relations in meetings with Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano and opposition leader Sali Berisha.
President Stephanopoulos had the opportunity of direct talks with the two leaders and it was mutually ascertained that Greece and Albania should look at the future and leave behind issues of the past.
The Greek President raised the issue of Greek minority rights in the south of the country, with both Nano and Berisha, stressing that European norms must be applied.
The Albanian prime minister offered assurances that he and his government have the will to help in resolving whatever pending issues exist on the question of the Greek minority.
Nano said in a statement after his meeting with President Stephanopoulos that the visit by the Greek President and the delegation accompanying him is an important move in bilateral relations.
"I believe that the visit by the Greek President will provide a considerable impetus for all the relations of priority we are developing and particularly for bilateral relations in the region and the process of the Balkans' Europeanization," Nano said.
Berisha said on his part that "the Albanians in Albania and the hundreds of thousands living in Greece have a good friend in the person of Mr. Stephanopoulos."
President Stephanopoulos also met with Parliament President Servet Pelubi and he will be continuing his visit on Wednesday with a tour of Greek minority villages.
 Spokesman sharply criticizes Papandreou over past PASOK gov't farm policies
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)The government on Tuesday echoed sharp criticism a day earlier by the agriculture minister against main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, with a spokesman saying that the latter merely "condemned himself" for the current state of the country's farm sector.
Both Agriculture Minister Evangelos Basiakos and government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros took umbrage with Papandreou's statement that the farm sector was an "unattended vineyard", a metaphor in Greek denoting a state of lawlessness or complete disrepair.
Papandreou made the statement to reporters during a tour of the Nemea grape- and wine-producing region of the northeast Peloponnese.
"The PASOK governments turned Greece's agricultural sector into an unattended vineyard," Antonaros said, adding that then Foreign Minister Papandreou signed off on an EU decision in September 2000 allowing the wholesale and unchecked import of certain products from third countries.
 PM meets with Defense Minister
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met with Minister of Defense Spilios Spiliotopoulos on Tuesday afternoon. According to news sources, Karamanlis and Spiliotopoulos went over the defense ministry's organizational issues before a relevant bill is submitted in Parliament.
Spiliotopoulos did not make any comments after the 40-minute meeting.
 Parliamentary Fact finding Committee probing armed forces procurements decides to publicize records
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)The Parliamentary Fact finding Committee probing issues concerning armed forces procurements decided unanimously on Tuesday to publicize the records of its sessions immediately after they are completed.
It is the first time that a Parliamentary Fact finding Committee accepts in principle publicity for its sessions, provided that some testimonies or documents do not touch national security issues which require absolute secrecy.
The decision was the result of the consensual climate prevailing during the Committee's first meeting during the day.
 FM Molyviatis tells African ambassadors Greece will boost policy of friendship and cooperation
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)Greece will continue and boost its traditional policy of friendship and cooperation with the African countries, foreign minister Petros Molyviaties reaffirmed on Tuesday, during a meeting with the ambassadors of nine African countries accredited in Greece.
This policy, he added, was in accordance with the firm principles of Greek foreign policy in favor of peaceful coexistence and cooperation among the peoples, with respect for international law and international legality.
Molyviatis received the ambassadors to Greece of Angola, Egypt, Algeria, the Congo, Libya, Morocco, S. Africa, Nigeria and Tunisia, and thanked them for their countries' support of Greece's candidacy for the UN Security Council, of which it was elected on Monday as a non permanent member for the next two years.
The ambassadors congratulated Molyviatis for Greece's election, and outlined the main issues of concern to their countries and the African continent in general.
The also stressed the great importance they placed on further strengthening their countries' cooperation with Greece at both bilateral and multilateral level, and particularly in the framework of the Security Council.
 Skopje papers refer to FM's visit; Greek membership on UN Security Council
SKOPJE 20/10/2004 (ANA)Two of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) largest dailies this week referred to the upcoming visit of Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis here at the end of the month.
Molyviatis is expected to again meet with his FYROM counterpart, Ilenka Mitreva. The last time the two FMs met, Molyviatis reiterated Athens' intent for a more substantive approach at solving the more than decade-old "name issue" between the two Balkan neighbors.
Meanwhile, both "Utrinski Vesnik" and "Vetser" also referred to Greece's election last week to the United Nations Security Council for a two-year term, beginning on Jan. 1, 2005. The papers cited possible repercussions from Greece's membership on the "name issue" talks.
Relations between Greece and the former Yugoslav state to its north have dramatically improved since the two countries signed an interim agreement in New York nine years ago under the UN's auspices. Currently, only the "name issue" ranks as a difference, albeit a thorny one, between Athens and Skopje.
Under the terms of the agreement, Greece and FYROM are responsible for commencing and continuing negotiations to find a mutually acceptable solution.
According to recent figures, Greece ranks first in terms of foreign investment in FYROM, at roughly 300 million euros.
 Turkish warplanes infringe Athens FIR, violate national airspace
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)Six formations of Turkish warplanes on Tuesday made an equal number of infringements of the air traffic regulations of the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) which developed in 37 violations of national airspace in the region of the central Aegean and west of Rhodes-northwest of Karpathos, according to press reports.
In all cases the 13 Turkish warplanes were recognized and intercepted by Greek air force jets. It was reported that four of the Turkish planes were armed.
 Homicide the target of the attack on journalist Syrigos, doctors say
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)The government on Tuesday reiterated its harsh and decisive condemnation of the attack against journalist Filippos Syrigos the previous day, the intent of which was homicide, according to doctors at the Central Clinic of Athens, who said the injuries were directed at the journalist's vital organs.
The government's condemnation was reiterated by deputy government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros in reply to questions during a regular press briefing.
Antonaros said that the investigation into the incident was underway.
Syrigos, editor-in-chief of the sports desk at Eleftherotypia daily, was attacked by two hooded persons riding a motorcycle and wielding knives and crowbars in the Kallithea district on Monday afternoon as he was leaving the Super Sport FM radio station after completing his radio program. Syrigos managed to contact his colleagues by cell phone, who rushed him to the General Clinic, where he was rushed into surgery for treatment of the serious wounds head, torso and extremities. According to the attending physicians, Syrigos' health was not in a life-threatening condition.
The incident was universally condemned by the government, political parties, athletic federations and organizations, and the Athens union of journalists.
Director of the Athens First Instance Prosecutor's Office Dimitris Papaggelopoulos on Tuesday instructed prosecutor Panayotis Athanasiou to go to the hospital to speak with the doctors and head the investigation into locating the perpetrators.
The attending physicians told Athanasiou that the intention of the attack was homicide, given the type of injuries suffered by Syrigos.
According to sources, the doctors told the prosecutor that the perpetrators had attempted to damage the journalist's vital organs
Investigation continues into attack against noted sportswriter Syrigos: Two suspects that attacked and seriously injured noted sportswriter and commentator Filippos Syrigos early Monday evening remained at large on Tuesday, hours after a blanket condemnation by the country's political and media leadership.
Police detectives met on Tuesday afternoon with Syrigos at a local hospital, as he was recovering from emergency surgery overnight.
According to initial reports, Syrigos -- best known for his long-time opposition to Athens' assumption of the 2004 Olympics, in investigations into doping and contracts awarded vis-à-vis Olympic sponsorships as well as professional football and horse track related scandals could not identify his assailants.
The attack occurred outside a radio station in the Kallithea district of southern Athens.
In a related development, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros -- himself the former president of the foreign correspondents' association -- expressed the government's harshest condemnation for the attack.
On their part, practically all news media in the country referred to an attack against freedom of the press.
 Prospect of supplementary measures to contain heating oil prices not ruled out
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)National economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis on Tuesday did not rule out the prospect of the government taking supplementary steps to contain heating oil prices, but added that the needs of the 2005 budget should also be taken into consideration.
Alogoskoufis was responding to press questions after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and development minister Dimitris Sioufas.
Alogoskoufis said he briefed the premier on the topics to be discussed in the Euro Group and EC Council of economy and finance ministers (ECOFIN) at their upcoming meetings, and also on matters concerning the 2005 state budget.
Replying to questions, Alogoskoufis said that supplementary steps to contain heating oil prices might be taken, but pointed out that the budgetary requirements would also be taken into consideration.
He said the 2005 budget was ambitious, but also had difficulties, just as any other budget, adding that it provided increased social spending, increased revenues, and containment of the flexible expenditures in relation to the 2004 budget.
On the oil prices, which were spiraling internationally, Alogoskoufis noted that the government has already taken two initiatives.
First of all, it had come to an understanding with all the agencies involved to limit the profit margins, while the second initiative was to reduce the tax on heating oil, noting that it was at the minimum level allowed by the European Commission.
Gov't comments on possible heating oil subsidy: In response to a press question regarding the possibility of state-allocated heating oil subsidies, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said that "the government was following developments and that it would take supplementary measures if needed."
Antonaros added that "there were only limited measures that could be taken within the fiscal and legal framework", that the increase in the price of oil was a global problem. He also said that the government was considering specific measures, such as reducing taxes and duties on fuel oils.
 EU acts against Greece for non-adaptation of money laundering, insurance laws
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)The European Union's executive Commission is to start infringement proceedings against Greece at the European Court of Justice for a failure to adapt national legislation to the bloc's second directive on money laundering, and to two directives on solvency margins for life assurance and non-life insurance businesses.
The Commission said in a statement on Monday that it had also asked the government to lift a requirement that Greek law imposes on insurance companies wishing to offer motor insurance cover to belong to the domestic association of insurance companies.
The requests are in the form of reasoned opinions, which are the second stage of a standard infringement procedure. If there is no acceptable reply from national authorities within two months, the Commission may take Greece to court.
The second directive on money laundering was adopted on December 4, 2001 and should have been incorporated into national law by June 15, 2003. Greece has still not notified the Commission of any measures to adopt the directive, even though it was sent a reasoned opinion in February 2004, the statement said.
Greece has neither given the Commission any progress report on adoption nor submitted a timetable for the adoption of the necessary measures, it added.
The EU's second directive on money laundering requires member states to combat a wide range of serious offences and extends coverage of the first directive, which was limited to the financial sector, to non-financial operations and professions exposed to the risk of money laundering.
In practice, this means that requirements on identifying clients, preserving documents and reporting suspicious transactions now also apply to independent accountants and auditors, real estate agents, notaries and lawyers. Some dealers in high-value goods, such as precious stones or metals and works of art, and auctioneers are also subject to the requirement whenever payment is made in cash and involves an amount of at least 15,000 euros.
"As long as there is even only one member state which has not transposed the directive, there will be a chink in the European Union's defense against the use of the financial system for money laundering, especially by those involved in terrorism and organized crime," the Commission said.
The Commission is also to take Greece to court for failing to incorporate an EU directive on solvency margins for life assurance and non-life insurance undertakings.
The Commission sent Greece a reasoned opinion as it has imposed on companies providing third-party motor insurance the requirement of belonging to the Greek association of insurance companies, which does not appear in non-life insurance directives.
"As a result of this requirement there may be a risk of preventing or discouraging insurance companies from other member states from entering the Greek market, and thus a risk of restricting competition on prices and on the access of policyholders to a wider selection of companies. Policyholders in Greece thus run the risk of having to pay more for their motor insurance policies," the statement said.
"Also, for foreign companies these measures would have the effect of preventing the freedom to market insurance products: an insurer from another member state wishing to be established or to provide services in Greece has no freedom of choice on whether or not to become a member of the Greek association of insurers. Consequently, this rule encroaches on the sole powers of the member state of origin," it noted.
In addition, concerning insurance businesses whose registered office is located in Greece and who are therefore subject to monitoring by Greek authorities, this requirement is also a hindrance to the proper operation of the internal market in insurance and incompatible with the Community directives. There is nothing in Community directives to indicate that such a requirement is necessary in order to obtain the single authorization which is essential to exercise the activity of motor insurance in the EU, the statement added..
 European Commission decides to refer Greece to European Court for failing to comply with EU directives
BRUSSELS 20/10/2004 (ANA)The European Commission decided here on Tuesday to refer Greece to the European Court for failing to include in its national law the European Union's second directive on combating the legalization of illegal money, as well as two directives concerning the solvency of life and damage insurance companies.
The Commission also called on Greece to lift the obligation, imposed by Greek legislation on insurance companies desiring to exercise automobile insurance activities, for joining the "Union of Insurance Companies of Greece."
 Gov't, main opposition exchange charges over past debt
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK party deputies strongly criticized the government of deliberately trying to create the impression that previous governments were following a policy of hidden debts and deficits.
"The management of public debt in the previous decade was made with absolute transparency, information and participation of markets and according to market rules," a statement signed by PASOK former economy ministers Yiannos Papantoniou and Nikos Christodoulakis said. They were commenting on a press report referring to a Greek bond loan found with a Dutch bank without being registered with the European Central Bank. The two former ministers also presented a table by Bloomberg referring to the bond issue and noted that the PASOK governments had begun issuing new series of securities since 1995 to service the state's interest obligations resulting from older debt. These securities were not negotiable with the electronic bond market system, therefore the government did not need to inform the European Central Bank on the issue, PASOK deputies said.
Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, commenting on the report, said that a recent fiscal report on the Greek economy, conducted by domestic authorities in cooperation with Eurostat, had founded a series of bond loans worth 268 billion drachmas dated December 31, 1998. One of them was founded in a Dutch bank which deposited the loan with the European Central Bank. ECB later asked Greece for explanations over the security issue and the Greek central bank replied that Greek authorities did not follow the standard procedure since the issue was of a new type. Roussopoulos stressed that the PASOK government's handling of the case harmed the country's image abroad since it adopted "a method of misinforming both community and Greek citizens," although he stressed that the finding did not affect Greece's fiscal data for the period 1997-99.
 Eurogroup, ECOFIN meetings to discuss EU states' fiscal situation
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)A Eurogroup and an ECOFIN meeting to be held in Luxembourg on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, will discuss the fiscal situation in Greece, Germany, France and Italy, the Eurozone member-states currently reporting a fiscal deficit above the 3.0 percent limit envisaged by the EU Stability and Growth Pact.
EU economy and finance ministers will also discuss the quality of EU member-states' economic statistics and a program submitted by the Dutch government aimed to reduce the country's fiscal deficit.
 National Bank of Greece issues hybrid capital, the first in Greece
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)National Bank of Greece, a heavily traded stock on the Athens bourse, said on Tuesday it had issued hybrid capital for release in capital markets of Europe and Asia.
It is the first time a Greek bank has issued hybrid capital, which draws investor interest from private banks, National said in a statement.
National's issue includes perpetual paper in euros and US dollars totaling 350 million and 150 million respectively. The bank may pay off the issue after a decade, with yield calculated on the 10-year swap rate (CMS), not Euribor, the statement said.
Yield in the first year is 6.25% for euro paper and 6.75% for US-dollar paper. After the first year, yield will be based on the 10-year swap rate plus 0.125% with a ceiling of 8.0%, it added.
 PM discusses shipping issues with merchant marine minister
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis discussed shipping issues with Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis at the Maximos Mansion on Tuesday.
According to reports, Kefaloyiannis will be attending a European Union ministerial council in the next few days and he is expected to express disagreement with the position being promoted that the crews of ships polluting the seas will also have penal responsibilities.
The merchant marine minister believes, according to the reports, that it is an arrangement that does not favor Greek interests and Greek crews.
 Finmin wants to see more new technology in use
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Tuesday that the government wanted to see a faster rate of introduction of new technology in order to boost the country's capabilities.
The government is preparing a major in the state's relation to technology; Alogoskoufis told a conference on e-government held in Athens by the Economist magazine.
"This is a top priority of the government's economic policy," the minister added. "The new technology also facilitates public participation in decision-making, which improves the workings of democracy," he added.
 P. Pavlopoulos says e-government a priority for Greece
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)Minister of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Prokopis Pavlopoulos said that re-establishing the state through e-government is a goal the Greek government is pursuing, albeit a complex and difficult one.
Speaking at the Economist's Second E-Government Forum, held in Athens on Tuesday, Pavlopoulos said: "The Ministry of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization has activated all its internal structures in order to realize the high goals it has set as best as possible. I am referring to the creation of a cohesive network - data and voice - of approximately 2,000 public administration organizations (municipalities, medical centers, hospitals, etc.) via the National Public Administration Network. Additionally, we are promoting the further development of the Citizen Service Centers (KEP), developing information technology infrastructure and introducing contemporary tools in various government organizations.
Pavlopoulos explained that by restructuring the way the state works and by adopting the use of new technologies, the government aims to achieve the following in public administration: -Transparency in the way it functions; -Equal treatment of citizens; -Rationalisation of procedures; -Professionalism and strict adherence to the legislative framework.
"Additionally, with the passing of law 3242/2004 and the adoption of a series of anti-bureaucratic measures, administrative procedures will be simplified and redesigned in order to meet the needs of citizens qualitatively and effectively," Pavlopoulos said.
 Aegean islands' citizens to protest against sea transport conditions
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)The citizens of Samos, an island in east Aegean, will stage a series of mobilizations in the week October 25-31, protesting against worsening conditions in sea line services with Piraeus.
The decision was taken after a meeting by the 19 unions and organizations of the Aegean islands. The meeting discussed the impact on the island of Samos from a deregulation of sea transport, a current status of shipping services and a rapid increase in sea fares (up 60 percent over the last two years).
The meeting also agreed to stage a pan-Aegean protest mobilization in November.
 Household, business debt rises
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)Household and business debt to banks is 7.83 billion euros, representing about 5.0% of gross domestic product, with purely household debt at 2.5 billion euros, the central bank said on Tuesday.
Delayed payment of consumer debt rose by 8.3% of total balances in the first half of 2004 from 8.0% in the same period a year earlier, the bank said in a statement.
About 1.26 billion euros of 15.3 billion euros in consumer balances have not been paid on time, the statement added.
 Global personnel certification agency shifts HQ to Athens
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)The International Personnel Certification Association (ÉAÔCA) is to move its headquarters to Athens from Australia, the government said on Tuesday.
The decision followed moves by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas to win the change in location for the international body, competing against the US and the United Kingdom..
Taken at a ÉAÔCA meeting in Singapore, the decision was based on Greece's infrastructure, the capital's strategic position, and national prestige that accrued from hosting the 2004 Olympics, the ministry said in a statement.
In addition, Greece will hold the association's presidency, with the managing director of PrCert Hellas, George Anastasopoulos, elected to take the post, the ministry added.
 Government to help prevent work-related accidents
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)Deputy Employment and Social Protection Minister Gerasimos Yiacoumatos stated on Tuesday that the government would try and contribute to the prevention of work-related accidents through the National Institute of Security and Health at Work. The deputy minister made these comments during a one day meeting held on the topic of work safety in the construction industry.
Data released during the meeting revealed that from the beginning of 2004 until today, 114 people have been killed in work-related accidents compared to 145 killed in 2003 and 153 killed in 2002. Furthermore, the fatal accidents which occur in the construction industry are usually double the amount of those in other industries - 13 fatal accidents occur for every 100,000 construction workers compared to 5 fatal accidents for every 100,000 workers in other industries.
Other data referred to at the meeting revealed that 1.1 million workers lose their lives every year in work-related accidents.
 Stocks rise, tracking world markets on oil hopes
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)Stocks finished higher with players tracking robust sentiment in markets abroad spurred by a downward correction in oil prices, traders said.
The Athens general share index closed at 2,419.32 points, showing a rise of 0.41 percent. Turnover was 107.4 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.27 percent up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.25 percent higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.84 percent up.
Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 134 to 128 with 96 remaining unchanged.
 Palli-Petralia comments on guarding of Olympic facilities during parliamentary session
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)Olympic facilities are guarded on a 24-hour basis by private companies as well as by 1,472 police officers and soldiers, Alternate Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia said on Tuesday in response to a question posed in Parliament.
The "images of abandonment" which were shown by certain TV channels is due to the disorder caused by the removal of Olympic overlays, repairs, and the general cleaning out of the facilities which Athens 2004 is carrying out in order to turn over the facilities clean and in tact, she said.
Palli-Petralia also emphasized that the government is in the process of drawing up a business plan whereby the management and use of the venues will be determined through international tenders so that the Greek public is not burdened with the considerable costs associated with the venues' maintenance as well as to satisfy the requests of sports federations and regional communities for economic development in areas where the facilities are located.
 Olympic weightlifter Sabanis testifies in ongoing doping probe
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)Two-time Olympic bronze medal winner Leonidas Sabanis met with an Athens prosecutor on Tuesday as part of an investigation by judicial authorities into the issue of sports doping.
The champion weightlifter, whose deposition lasted for two hours, tested positive for an excessive amount of testosterone at the Athens Olympic Games and as a result, lost the bronze medal - which would have been his third in a same number of Games.
In a written statement, Sabanis said that "an athlete with my experience knows that hormones are the most-easily traceable substance during anti-doping testing. I am aware that during all international athletic meets, the winner and a sample of two or three other athletes are subject to anti-doping tests. I would be insane or suicidal to knowingly take such a substance at the same time as I was competing fiercely for a medal."
When asked about the excessive level of testosterone in his blood, Sabanis replied that "testosterone has nothing to do with improving the athletic performance of weightlifters."
 Ministry to honor 177-year anniversary Navarino sea battle
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)A press release issued by the Ministry of Merchant Marine announced that the 177th anniversary of the sea battle of Navarino, the most decisive battle of the Greek War of Independence, will be celebrated on Tuesday in Pylos, SW Peloponnese.
 Home-made bomb explodes at Postal Fund branch in Vyronas
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)A home-made incendiary device exploded early Tuesday outside a Postal Fund Bank branch in the Vyronas residential district of Athens, causing damage but no injuries.
Police said the makeshift bomb, comprising four small propane canisters, exploded at 3:30 a.m., causing damage to the bank's entrance.
An investigation was underway to locate the perpetrators.
 Four arrested in Thessaloniki for drug trafficking
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)Four people were arrested, including two foreign nationals, late Monday in northern Greece after more than 50 kilos of hashish, 2 kilos of heroin, 750 grams of cocaine and two vials of hash oil (liquid THC) were found in their possession, Thessaloniki police narcotics squad officials told ANA.
A 38-year-old man was arrested in Kalamaria, after a search of his apartment turned up two packets of cocaine weighing a total 750.2 grams, to plastic vials containing 537 grams of hashish oil, two precisions scales, and 4,400 euros in cash coming from drug sales, which were confiscated. A second Greek man, 42, was also arrested for purchasing small quantities of cocaine and hash oil from the 38-year-old.
Later, police arrested two foreign nationals, aged 22 and 23, who were suspected of smuggling and trafficking large quantities of drugs into Greece. They were arrested in their luxury car in Kalamaria after two packets of heroin weighing a total of 1.064 kilos were found in their possession. A search of their apartments turned up a further 1.032 kilos of heroin, and 106 packets of cannabis weighing a total 52.982 kilos.
The four detainees, whose names were not released, were due to be taken before a public prosecutor on Tuesday.
 Greek Red Cross to again host children from former Yugoslavia for holidays
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)The Greek Red Cross is organizing its 11th consecutive program for children from the former Yugoslavia.
Organized in conjunction with the Serbian Red Cross, children from war torn areas between the ages of 8 and 15 are able to spend a few days with a Greek foster family.
More than 14,000 Greek families are participating in the program throughout the country, which will take place from Dec. 20 to Jan. 4, 2005.
 Local man beaten to death in central Athens
Athens 20/10/2004 (ANA)Three suspects, all reportedly foreign nationals, assaulted and fatally injured a 47-year-old local man near Vathis Square early Tuesday morning. The victim was transferred by ambulance to an Athens area hospital, where doctors merely confirmed his death.
According to police, the incident took place at around 1 a.m., when an argument broke out amongst the four men. The three suspects began to beat the man. The victim was identified as Anastasios Bekris.
 Cypriot House Speaker calls on Turkey to fulfill criteria for EU talks
YEREVAN 20/10/2004 (CNA/ANA)Turkey should fulfill specific criteria which the European Union puts forward in order to begin accession negotiations, said here Tuesday House President Demetris Christofias, during a press conference with his Armenian counterpart Arthur Baghdasaryan.
One of the criteria, he added, is the recognition by Turkey of all EU member states, including Cyprus, and the extension of its EU customs union to Cyprus as well. The House Speaker expressed the view that one of the "conditions should also be the recognition by Turkey of the Armenian genocide."
Christofias is on a three-day official visit to Armenia, heading a parliamentary delegation, at the invitation of Armenia's National Assembly Baghdasaryan.
Before the press conference, Christofias and Baghdasaryan signed a cooperation protocol.
Christofias said relations between Cyprus and Armenia have entered a new stage and expressed hope that Cyprus will help promote Armenia's European aspirations.
Baghdasaryan wondered how Turkey can maintain its borders with Armenia closed and hope to become a member of the EU, prohibiting commerce between the two countries as well as maintaining the Cyprus problem.
He said Cyprus and Armenia have common goals in international organizations. Baghdasaryan also said that great progress has been achieved in the two countries' parliamentary relations.
Referring to his meeting with Armenian President Robert Kocharyan, the Cypriot House Speaker said the Armenian President expressed good will and political determination for strategic cooperation, adding that Kocharyan is aware of Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos' positive views on the issue.
"Cyprus will try to become a bridge to promote relations between friendly states which border the EU," Christofias added.
He said relations between Cyprus and Armenia have great potential to develop economic and cultural ties further and thanked the Armenian National Assembly for the very good cooperation, especially at the Council of Europe.
Referring to Cyprus's policy towards Turkey after the April referendum when Greek Cypriots rejected a UN solution plan for a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem, Christofias said it was not a rejection of a Cyprus solution but that of the specific plan.
He said the objective is to end the Turkish occupation and secure the country's reunification, as well as to create a functional state.
"Between now and December, when the EU will decide whether or not to begin accession talks with Turkey, we will work to ensure that these criteria become criteria for the start of accession negotiations with the EU," Christofias added.
Responding to questions, Christofias said that the Nagorno Karabach dispute should be resolved peacefully, stressing that his impression is that Armenia shares this view. "The solution should respect the human rights of the people of Karabach and the Armenian people and the rights of peoples' in the region."
Christofias, who was due to wrap up his visit to Armenia later on Tuesday evening, visited earlier in the day the Museum of the Catholic sate and met with Catholics of all Armenians Geregin II.
Signing the visitors' book at the monument for the victims of the Armenian genocide, he said ''we were shocked at the exhibits which depict the genocide."