|Monday, 11 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-10-27
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>October 27, 2004
 EU: Greece laboring under fiscal deficit, despite strong growth
BRUSSELS 27/10/2004 (ANA/V.Demiris)Despite robust growth, Greece has been saddled with a heavy fiscal deficit since 2000, fuelled in part by 2004 expenditure including the Athens Olympics and national elections; but also by ineffective controls on primary spending in past years, the European Union's Commission said in its autumn forecast.
According to the 2004-2006 forecast released on Tuesday, the general government deficit is projected to fall by 1.9 percentage points to total 3.6% of GDP in 2005, resulting from a 1.6 point increase in the primary surplus and a 0.3 point decline in interest payments.
The budgetary plans of the government appear insufficient to bring the nominal deficit below the 3% threshold, the report said.
Under the assumption of unchanged policies a deficit of 3.0% of GDP is projected for 2006. The primary balance is set to improve by 0.5 point in that year. The general government debt ratio is expected to still decline at a very slow pace during the forecasting period. In 2005, the debt ratio is projected to reach 111,9% of GDP and 110.2% in 2006, the Commission noted.
Although decelerating in terms of previous years, economic activity remained buoyant in 2004, with real GDP growth estimated at 3.8%, well above the euro area average. Growth was driven by domestic demand, in particular government consumption, linked to the Olympic Games.
However, investment growth slowed significantly compared with 2003, since the bulk of construction investment related to the Olympic Games was fully realized by June 2004. Yet, for the year as a whole, gross fixed capital formation was a significant contributor to GDP growth.
Despite supportive monetary conditions, private consumption is expected to decelerate to some extent in relation to the previous year, as real disposable income growth in 2004 seems to be slowing, the report said.
Owing to the sharp acceleration of exports of services and to an increase in the net current transfers from the rest of the world, the current account deficit appears to have narrowed in 2004. Exports of goods deteriorated due to substantial competitiveness losses. In parallel, imports of goods, in particular equipment, increased, pushed up by dynamic investment.
Employment growth was strong, following booming economic activity, and helped reducing the unemployment rate. Yet, joblessness in Greece remained among the highest in the EU. Compensation per head increased due to the implementation of the 2004 wage agreement in the private sector, while consumer prices are expected to decline to 2.9% in 2004 from 3.5% in 2003, the Commission noted
Public finances: In spite of strong growth, Greece has been in excessive deficit since 2000. After reaching 4.6% of GDP in 2003, the deficit is expected to further increase in 2004 to 5.5% of GDP, according to the report.
Although partly attributable to non-recurrent factors such as hosting the Olympics and the electoral cycle, rising deficits clearly point to a lack of control over primary spending in the form of wages, pensions and social transfers, and operational spending, while budget revenues, including revenues from EU grants, seem to fall short of projections, the Commission underlined.
The debt ratio is expected to significantly increase in 2004 to 112.1% of GDP, up from 109.9% in 2003. Based on a rather optimistic macroeconomic scenario, the 2005 draft Greek budget targets a significant reduction in the general government deficit, from 5.3% of GDP in 2004 to 2.8%, thus falling just below the 3% threshold as required, it said.
The improvement in the general government deficit by 2.5 points (a 2.2 point increase in primary surplus and 0.3 point decline in interest payments) does not imply a tightening in fiscal policy stance as it stems mostly from one-off expenditure related to the 2004 Olympics and from expected buoyant revenues, in particular from social contributions, the Commission noted.
Outlook for 2005, 2006: As investments linked to the Olympic Games cease and the government implements significant, but likely insufficient budgetary adjustments, domestic demand is expected to decelerate. Nevertheless the domestic sector will continue being the main driving force of GDP growth. Real GDP growth should resume to slightly above potential rate, reaching 3.3% in both 2005 and 2006, according to the forecast.
On the back of rising indebtedness and expectations for a deceleration of real disposable income, private consumption is expected to slow. Public consumption should sharply decelerate as the government undertakes measures to reduce the excessive deficit. Since Olympic-linked investments will not be recurring in 2005, growth of fixed capital formation is expected to slow, albeit still outpacing the euro area average.
The current account deficit is projected to decline in 2005 and in 2006, since exports of goods and services are expected to increase within a global economic recovery. On the other hand, the growth rate of imports of goods should slow due to the projected deceleration of investment. As a result, the negative contribution of the external sector should narrow in 2005 and be positive in 2006, the report noted.
Costs and prices: The consumer price index (national definition) is expected to increase by 2.8% in 2005 and by 2.6% in 2006. According to a new two-year wage agreement concluded on 13 May 2004, employees will receive a nominal pay rise of 6.0% in 2004 and 5.5% in 2005. This is well above average inflation.
Unit labor costs for the whole economy are expected to decelerate during the forecast period. Still, the growth of unit labor costs in Greece will remain well above the euro area average. This may adversely affect competitiveness, since real wage growth will outpace productivity growth, which is projected at 2.3% and 2.2% in 2005 and 2006 respectively, the Commission said.
Gov't to keep fiscal goal intact: Responding to the EU report, the finance ministry said that it would maintain its target for the fiscal deficit contained in the draft budget for 2005.
"The Commission's forecast that Greece's fiscal deficit - as that of other euro zone countries - is to exceed the 3.0% limit of GDP in 2005, will not led to a revision of the government's target in the draft budget, or a policy revision," the ministry said in a statement.
"The EU report acknowledges that the government's policy, as expressed in the draft budget, will lead to a major decline in the deficit in 2005," the statement added.
Main opposition says draft budget unrealistic: The main opposition Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) said that the Commission's report showed that the government's draft budget was unrealistic in terms of the rate of growth and reducing the deficit.
PASOK spokesman Nikos Athanasakis claimed that the government would be obliged to adopt policies even more restrictive than at present.
 Celebrations leading up to 'Ochi' Day commemoration begin in Thessaloniki
Athens 27/10/2004 (ANA)Three days of celebrations leading up to the October 28 anniversary of OCHI day -- commemorating the country's resounding 'no' (ochi, in Greek) to Mussolini's demand for free passage to invade Greece during World War I, which brought Greece into the war on the Allied side -- commenced on Tuesday in Thessaloniki, with church services celebrating the feast day of Aghios (Saint) Demetrius (October 26), patron saint of the northern Greek capital, at the central Aghios Demetrius cathedral. Thessaloniki also celebrated on Tuesday the city's liberation from Ottoman rule (1912).
On Oct. 28, 1940, fascist Italy presented Greece with an ultimatum, but Greek leader Ioannis Metaxas tersely responded in the negative, and the country not only denied Mussolini's forces free passage, it went on the offensive in mid-November and drove the opposing forces back through part of southern Albania.
Ochi Day will be celebrated throughout the country with church services and parades.
President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou attended the official doxology at Aghios Demetrius cathedral in Thessaloniki, which was officiated by Thessaloniki Metropolitan Anthimos, accompanied by 22 Hierarchs from the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Church of Greece.
On her part, Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki stressed that that Greece's stance during the period leading up to its entry into World War II and its subsequent struggle "offer a history lesson to every potential oppressor of peoples"
The service was also attended by former President of the Republic Christos Sartzetakis, national defense minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos, Macedonia-Thrace minister Nikos Tsiartsionis, economy deputy minister Adam Regouzas, development deputy minister George Salagoudis, sports deputy minister George Orfanos, culture deputy minister Petros Tatoulis, representatives of the political parties, MPs from Thessaloniki, prefect Panayiotis Psomiadis and mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos, the city's municipal council, and representatives of the military and police authorities.
Metropolitan Anthimos said in his sermon that Greece must aid its neighboring countries so that stability, peace and prosperity may prevail in the region, and awarded President Stephanopoulos with the Gold Cross of St. Demetrius.
In a message on Ochi Day, World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) president Andrew Athens said that October 28 is a "day of remembrance and an opportunity to attribute honor to our heroes that sacrificed their lives for the freedom of our homeland".
"All Hellenes around the world cannot forget that Hellenism struggled four our faith, values and ideals of freedom, democracy, national independence and integrity," the message said, adding: "Our homeland's recent achievements justify its high-ranking position among the countries that have the will and the power to contribute to the promotion of world peace and prosperity, a fact proven by the unanimous election of Greece as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2005-2006".
"With these thoughts, we declare that we will continue to pursue our efforts for the promotion of the values and ideals of worldwide Hellenism," Athens said.
PM, main opposition leader cite Thessaloniki's potential: Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday emphasized that the northern port city of Thessaloniki is once again a top priority for the central government, in statements from the municipality on the same day as the feast day of its patron saint, Aghios (St.) Demetrius.
"Today, Thessaloniki celebrates its patron saint and the anniversary of its liberation ... after many years of backtracking and promises without substance, Thessaloniki and northern Greece are now at the centre of the state's interest."
He premier also said that Thessaloniki, the largest city in Greece's biggest province of Macedonia, is confidently turning to a future as a major metropolis in southeast Europe.
On his part, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou -- who is also on hand in the city for a weeklong series of events -- cited the need for Thessaloniki to acquire its own "developmental identity", whereas he referred to the bid for Expo 2008 as a "major challenge".
"For God's sake, there should be no effort to emulate Athens, it (Thessaloniki) should have its own developmental identity," Papandreou said.
 Stephanopoulos' last visit to Thessaloniki as President
Athens 27/10/2004 (ANA)For the past 10 years, President of the Hellenic Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos would visit Thessaloniki in late October in order to attend celebrations held in honor of the national holiday October 28. The City of Thessaloniki was honored to have him and for him it was an opportunity to come into contact with the people of Thessaloniki and to witness the progress made on all levels, Stephanopoulos said on Monday upon his arrival at Macedonia Airport.
This time, Stephanopoulos is visiting Thessaloniki for the last time as president, a fact that emotionally charged the atmosphere of the event that Macedonian-Thrace Minister Nikos Tsiartsionis hosted in Stephanopoulos' honor on Tuesday.
Speaking about his future plans after leaving the presidency, Stephanopoulos said that he would go into private practice and has already set up an office. After 10 years as president, Stephanopoulos said he had mixed feelings. He regretted the fact that he would no longer have the pleasure of meeting with lots of people, but was happy that he would no longer have to deal with the formalities dictated by protocol.
"I will walk more, which is something I enjoy and I will have more time for leisure activities," he said.
Stephanopoulos defended politicians, saying that people sometimes criticize them unfairly, but that there is a sense of respect and appreciation among them.
As for political parties, he said that, "There are no parties that are not patriotic. They all have a common goal," which according to Stephanopoulos is national interests.
Finally, he also expressed his opposition to putting an end to military parades, as has been rumored, and was happy to have the reassurance of Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos that this would not happen.
 Justice Minister Papaligouras at EU ministerial meeting Luxembourg
27/10/2004 (ANA - Y. Zitouniati)Greece's justice minister Anastasis Papaligouras on Tuesday endorsed the proposals for reinforced majority and for co-decision of the Council and the European Parliament on issues of immigration, asylum and the EU's external borders, which are areas that are "particularly sensitive for national security", speaking at a meeting of the EU's 25 justice ministers in Luxembourg on coordination of EU policy and cooperation.
The Council of Justice Ministers agreed on a five-year cooperation framework for coordination of EU policy on asylum and immigration, abandoning the veto and accepting instead a reinforced majority in the decision-taking process. Reservations and disagreements remained, however, on a number of fundamental parameters of the program.
On the asylum issue, Britain, Germany and Portugal expressed serious reservations regarding the implementation of a common policy in the EU by 2010, and counter-proposed a platform of minimum criteria for the acceptance of migrants and examination of the requests on the basis of legislation adopted in recent years.
Conversely, France insisted that harmonization of asylum policy should be achieved by 2010, and backed the champions of a "European border police".
Special reference was made to intensifying the judicial cooperation among the member-states and instituting a position of European prosecutors, as provided in the European constitution.
Speaking on behalf of Greece, Papaligouras said the country was interested in boosting inter-state cooperation on the one hand, and respect of human rights on the other, as well as the insurance and protection of the personal data of the European citizens.
In bilateral meetings with his EU counterparts, Papaligoras took the opportunity to outline the Greek government's firm position that "terrorism, the scourge of the times, constitutes a threat that knows no borders and consequently cannot be effectively combated at national level". He told his counterparts that "wiping out international terrorism, which casts a heavy shadow over the entire European economic and social life, presupposes a common effort of and mutual contribution by the members of the international community".
Papaligouras further stressed that "a condition for one to be a free citizen is for one to feel safe, since freedom and security constitute two interconnected democratic acquisitions".
End of sessions: Sessions of an EU council of justice and home affairs ministers wound up here on Tuesday, with Greek Justice Minister Anastasis Papaligouras representing Athens.
In various bilateral contacts with his EU counterparts, Papaligouras reiterated Athens' standing position that terrorism ranks as a major cross-border problem, one that necessitates a common regional and international effort.
 FM spokesman says demarches made to Ankara and protests to NATO, EU presidency, regarding the upsurge in Greek air space violations by Turkey
Athens 27/10/2004 (ANA)Foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, referring on Tuesday to the upsurge in Greek air space violations by Turkey, reiterated that the ministry has taken specific action with demarches to Ankara and protests to NATO and the European Union's presidency.
The spokesman said such attitudes are not new since they also existed in past years, "but this does not mean that they do not create skepticism."
Koumoutsakos once again said that Greece desires a European Turkey and this is its strategic option, which has supra-party support.
He went on to say that Greece desires a European neighboring country which will be aligned with European rules, both in its internal functioning and its foreign policy.
"For this reason, we support the European prospect of Turkey. Our policy, however, does not close eyes to anything. All necessary action is being taken in the direction considered expedient, at the necessary time and in accordance with factors prevailing at the moment," he said.
Replying to questions by the press on the stance the government will be observing at the EU's December summit, Koumoutsakos reiterated that when the European Commission's report on Turkey was publicized, comments and observations were made on the part of the government and the foreign ministry on the criteria and preconditions which Turkey must fulfill.
Koumoutsakos further said that the Commision's report constitutes a clear basis which has to be taken into consideration by member-states, adding that the government is at the stage of examining the positions which it will present to the Council.
SYN calls for urgent meeting of National Council on Foreign Policy on issue of Turkey: The Coalition of the Left (SYN) on Tuesday called for an urgent convening of the National Council on Foreign Policy (ESEP), in a letter to foreign minister Petros Molyviatis, to discuss the recent European Commission report on the commencement of EU accession negotiations with Turkey and the recent activities of the Turkish armed forces in the Aegean.
The letter, signed by SYN's representative to the Council, MP Alekos Alavanos, and party political secretariat responsible for foreign and European policy, Nikos Hountis, said that the Commission report to the European Council on Turkey's accession negotiations, as well as the recent activities (violations of Greek national airspace and territorial waters) of Turkish armed forces in the Aegean and the course of ongoing Greek-Turkish talks needed to be reviewed by the ESEP.
Greece has lodged 'notes verbal' (verbal protests) in Athens and Ankara with the Turkish government over recent violations of its national airspace and territorial waters by Turkish military aircraft and vessels in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, former PASOK minister and current MP for Thessaloniki Akis Tsohatzopoulos on Tuesday endorsed Turkey's accession to the European security umbrella.
"We seek the entry of Greece, Turkey and the Republic of Cyprus -- inter-dependent countries in their course and fate -- into the European security, so that we may live peacefully, with a common effort for growth, and to formulate the future desired by the peoples of these three countries," Tsohatzopoulos said.
Asked whether the Greek government should exercise its right of veto in the EU on the commencement of accession talks with Turkey if Ankara continued and intensified its provocations, Tsohatzopoulos said that the entry of the three countries in the European security umbrella was the only direction that could lead to overcoming the tensions created "by some forces in Turkey".
Foreign ministry spokesman Koumoutsakos on national issues: In reply to a question by reporters on Tuesday whether there will be a briefing of Parliament's Permanent Foreign and Defense Affairs Committee and convening of the National Foreign Policy Council (ESEP), Foreign Ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos stated that "it is apparent that this briefing will be made by Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis in the near future."
Koumoutsakos added that the exact dates will be determined in the coming days.
 Turkish warplanes violate Greek national air space
Athens 27/10/2004 (ANA)Four formations of Turkish warplanes made an equal number of infringements of air traffic regulations in the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) on Tuesday, which developed into seven violations of national air space in the regions between the islands of Limnos and Lesvos and southeast of the island of Kastelorizo, press reports said.
In all cases, the 10 Turkish warplanes were recognized and intercepted by Greek air force jets, while in two cases the interception process developed into mock dogfights.
Two of the Turkish formations were armed.
 PASOK spokesman criticizes gov't on foreign policy
Athens 27/10/2004 (ANA)Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) Spokesman Nikos Athanassakis criticized the government on Tuesday on its stance towards Turkish provocations in the Aegean as well as for separating the issue of Turkey's EU accession from Turkey's compliance with the conditions of the Helsinki Treaty.
Athanassakis said that Turkey has been increasingly provocative on various levels and accused the government of lacking strategy and vision - a dangerous shortcoming when exercising foreign policy, according to the PASOK spokesman. He added that a connection must be re-established between the smoothing out of Greek-Turkish relations and Turkey's course towards EU accession.
Athanassakis also said that there were contradictory remarks surrounding the agreement between both countries to cut down on armaments. The PASOK spokesman pointed out that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had initially said there had been an "agreement," while Government Spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos spoke of a "verbal agreement," followed by the statement of Alternate Government Spokesman Evangelos Antonaros who on Monday said that, "We spoke of a discussion; we did not use the term 'agreement.'"
 Cyprus defense minister says no carte blanche can be provided for Turkey's EU accession course
Athens 27/10/2004 (ANA)Cyprus' Defense Minister Kyriakos Mavronikolas, addressing the official celebration held in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, on Tuesday for the city's Patron Saint Dimitrios and the anniversary of its liberation from Ottoman rule, said it is not conceivable for the Republic of Cyprus to provide a carte blanche for Turkey's accession course towards the European Union.
The event was held in the Aristotelion University's hall of ceremonies in the presence of President Kostis Stephanopoulos.
Mavronikolas said that the European Commission's report on Turkey, while appearing positive initially, poses a big number of obstacles which Turkey must overcome.
He added that the report's references to Turkey's obligations towards Cyprus are not those to be desired. They must be strengthened and be clear and categorical so that the Republic of Cyprus will have equal coverage with the other nine countries which became EU members as of May 1.
Mavronikolas noted that the rejection of the Annan plan in the referendum held on April 24 does not mean and must in no way be interpreted as a denial and rejection of a just solution to the problem of Cyprus.
President Stephanopoulos attended a reception given in his honor by Thessaloniki Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos in the evening.
 PASOK charges delays in submitted files related to probe of weapons deals
Athens 27/10/2004 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK's coordinator on a Parliamentary committee set-up to examine two major weapons deals signed by the previous governments on Tuesday charged that the national defense ministry's leadership was providing deficient and only selected portions of documents related to the high-profile case.
MP Andreas Loverdos said the PASOK members on the committee requested all related files on the matter ahead of a weeklong break in Parliament's sessions in order to study them, something that was not accomplished.
 PM to chair ND meeting, receive Mitsotakis on Wednesday
Athens 27/10/2004 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will preside over a political council meeting of ruling New Democracy party on Wednesday, a government spokesman said on Tuesday.
The meeting will take place at ND's downtown Athens headquarters.
The premier will later receive former premier and honorary ND president Constantine Mitsotakis at his Maximos Mansion office.
 US envoy calls presidential election a 'dead heat'
Athens 27/10/2004 (ANA)US ambassador to Athens Thomas Miller on Tuesday offered his insight into the upcoming US presidential race, telling a hall packed with mostly local college students that the election is "too close to call".
"Every (presidential) election in the US that I can remember has been about the economy. This one, though, could be different. It's still unclear," said Miller, who witnessed the last US national election four years ago as Washington's envoy to Bosnia.
While citing Iraq and "social issues" - i.e. abortion and stem cell research -- as increasingly important to large segments of American voters, Miller nevertheless emphasized that "jobs, jobs and jobs" still utterly dominate the campaign.
Moreover, he said that while the "Nader effect" -- a reference to the third party candidacy of pre-eminent consumer rights advocate Ralph Nader -- now translates into roughly 1 percent of voters' preferences, as based on recent opinion polls, Nader garnered 80,000 votes during the last presidential election in pivotal Florida.
Miller added that although many of the Nader supporters wouldn't vote at all if their candidate wasn't running, a much larger percentage of those that would vote would choose John Kerry over George W. Bush.
Finally, the outgoing US ambassador to Greece cited what he called an unprecedented effort to "get out the vote" in the United States, as well as the boost given to the Kerry campaign by the recent debates between the two main contenders.
Miller spoke at the Panteios University-affiliated Institute for International Relations in Athens' Plaka district.
 Israeli diplomats say Gaza disengagement a 'unilateral move in the right direction'
Athens 27/10/2004 (ANA)Israeli diplomatic officials on Tuesday defended the Sharon government's unprecedented attempt to "disengage" from the Gaza Strip as a "unilateral move in the right direction", stressing that any future move will depend on whether a trustworthy leadership emerges on the Palestinian side.
"The next step will depend on a change in Palestinian leadership," a top Israeli diplomat said.
The briefing by Israeli diplomats came only hours before the 120-seat Knesset was due to vote on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's controversial "disengagement plan", a vote expected to seal the latter's political fate. Last-minute estimates showed that the plan will be approved by a majority of Israeli lawmakers, whereas opinion polls apparently show solid support for the dismantling of Jewish settlements from the densely populated strip of land sandwiched between the Mediterranean, the Egyptian border and the Israeli desert -- as well as from a few settlements in the northern portion of the West Bank.
"He (Sharon) has invested everything in it. He' s 100 percent behind it. (Knesset) rejection would be a huge blow to Sharon," the same source said.
In terms of a "day after" for Gaza -- assuming the Knesset grants its approval and that the Sharon government survives what will be a firestorm of protest by the Israeli settlers' lobby and opposition from within his own ruling Likud party - Israeli diplomatic sources said the Palestinians will be called on to ensure security and economic matters in the region.
Asked about Israel's potential response to missile and mortar attacks from within Gaza following a final Israeli pull-out - set for September 2005 under a Sharon timetable -- a top Israeli diplomat emphasized that "we will keep the right to re-enter (Gaza)."
He added that Israel will still retain security over Gaza's external borders, citing provisions in the Oslo agreement.
Finally, Israeli officials said the approximately 8,800 Jewish settlers will be compensated and given hefty incentives to move to either the Galilee region of northern Israel or to the northern half of the Negev (southeastern Israel), "but not to the West Bank".
 Greece, Cyprus and Malta vote against reinforcing maritime penal framework
LUXEMBOURG 27/10/2004 (ANA/G.Zitouniati)Greece, Cyprus and Malta voted against reinforcing the penal framework regarding pollution caused by ocean-going vessels and tankers during an EU Ministers' Council meeting here on Tuesday, thus indefinitely postponing approval of the relevant directive which needed unanimous support in order to pass.
According to Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyannis who, escorted by Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras, represented Greece at the two-day meeting on Justice and Internal Affairs, the Directive goes against merchant sailors who would be penalized in case of sea pollution, while ship-owners could easily avoid repercussions by changing flags.
Speaking during the meeting, Kefaloyannis said that "the proposed changes would be disastrous for the European shipping sector since they will cause a decline in the sector, a sector of vital importance for the EU, by removing EU flags from our ships and preventing us from finding European sailors to keep Europe's shipping know-how alive."
He said that excessive penalization of the merchant shipping profession would discourage more ships from joining EU shipping registers, and would serve as a disincentive for businessmen to engage in shipping activity and for young professionals to join the shipping sector, thus jeopardizing established EU policies.
"Therefore, it is imperative that the EU support shipping actively and effectively and that it contributes towards reinforcing the sector's competitiveness as well as protecting the environment," Kefaloyannis said. He emphasized that he is not convinced that penalizing shipping accidents due to negligence will result in better protection of Europe's seas and shores. "And this because we believe that penalizing accidents will reduce the sense of responsibility of both ship-owners and sailors, who will no longer have an incentive to contain the damage of an accident since they will be punished nonetheless," he explained.
After the meeting, Kefaloyannis told reporters that a battle had been fought in Luxembourg to protect the interests of Greek shipping. "We refused the unequal treatment of Greek sailors and the penalizing of the shipping profession. Greece, which is based on two pillars - shipping and tourism - is certainly sensitive to environmental issues. This is also why our country has one of the strictest legal frameworks regarding ocean pollution in place. However, this does not justify the attitude of certain member-states that merchant shipping should commit 'financial suicide'."
According to Kefaloyannis, this is European 'masochism' since any ship owner can abandon the European flag at any time while merchant sailors will be subject to criminal charges.
 Gov't on Greek stance vis-à-vis stricter maritime environmental rules
Athens 27/10/2004 (ANA)The government on Tuesday clarified that it will "resist the criminalization of the maritime shipping sector", in answer to press questions over Greece's stance at a relevant and ongoing EU council of ministers.
The EU ministers' council is considering a series of stricter anti-pollution measures for ocean-going vessels and tankers.
Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros declined to answer if Athens will exercise a veto of proposed legislation, saying the council meeting was still underway.
He did, however, note that Greece was weary of attempts to "criminalize" the sector by countries lacking a maritime tradition.
"Merchant shipping is a national asset for our country ... it is others who are responsible for environmental disasters, just as others are responsible for the lengthy jailing of Greek merchant seamen," he said, adding that Greece will not take lessons in environmental sensitivity from others.
 Govt rejects "fabricated" report on economic policy
Athens 27/10/2004 (ANA)Greece's Economy and Finance ministry on Tuesday rejected as "fabricated" a report published in a daily newspaper alleging that a fiscal audit would have a significant negative impact on the country's economy.
A ministry announcement said that a Council of Economic Experts have not submitted any such "memorandum" and stressed that the report presented in the newspaper was not signed by anyone.
The ministry announcement was signed by all members of the Council of Economic Experts.
A fiscal audit on the economy carried out by the government has sparked friction between the government and the main opposition party Pasok as it revealed hidden debts and led to a substantial upward revision of fiscal deficits and public debts in the last four years.
Meanwhile, in an unrelated matter, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said a front-page, same-day article citing a purported difference of opinion by members of the Council of Economic Experts regarding the government's high-profile fiscal audit is based on a "fabricated report".
"There is no such document," Antonaros stressed. The front-page article was published by the "Nea" daily on Tuesday.
 Greek application of labor reform steps lacking, EU says
BRUSSELS 27/10/2004 (ANA/A.Simatos)Greece carried out inadequate implementation of a 1998 package of reforms for the labor market in 2000-2003, the European Union's Commission said in a report on the EU economy released on Tuesday.
Priorities for the Greek labor market in 2000-2003 were the development of incentives in the tax and pension systems in order to keep staff in employment, and a reduction of labor costs in spending not linked to wages, the report said.
Implementation of the package was partial on the labor market, while steps were taken for reform of the pension system, it added.
 Greek SMEs warn over impact of high oil prices in domestic market
Athens 27/10/2004 (ANA)A continuing rise in international oil prices is worrying Greek small- and medium-sized enterprises which fear that this trend would affect prices of produced goods.
An announcement issued by GSEBEE, the confederation of small- and medium-sized enterprises of Greece, proposed nine interventions to help cushion the economy from any negative consequences coming from record-high energy prices.
GSEBEE recommends reducing diesel prices for the manufacturing and farm sectors, actions to combat fuel smuggling, strict adherence to opening and closing hours of petrol stations, 24-hour inspections to ensure fuel quality, closer inspection and more transparency in setting fuel prices by refineries and downstream companies, free access of petrol stations to refineries, heating oil subsidy to low income families, supporting investments in alternative energy sources and below-inflation increases to electricity prices.
The announcement stressed that higher oil prices in international market could have a bigger effect on domestic prices because competition was not working freely in certain sectors of the domestic oil product market.
 European Goldfields gains control of Hellas Gold
Athens 27/10/2004 (ANA)European Goldfields Limited, a resource company involved in the acquisition, exploration and development of mineral properties in Romania, Greece and the Balkans, said on Tuesday that it had conditionally agreed to acquire an additional 35% stake in Hellas Gold S.A., increasing its total interest in the Greek firm to 65% from 30%.
The cost of the acquisition is 166.25 million US dollars, with the acquisition to be funded by raising 40 million pounds sterling in cash in an issue of 29,629,630 million shares at 1.35 pounds sterling per new share; and another issue of 30,423,280 new common shares to the vendors at a deemed issue price of 1.75 pounds sterling per share, European Gold said in a statement.
Athens-quoted Aktor S.A. will retain the remaining 35% stake in Hellas Gold through a wholly-owned subsidiary. The vendors are Dimitrios Koutras (14%) and companies controlled by Frank Timis (21%), the statement said.
 Southeastern Europe's 4th Energy Week begins in Athens
Athens 27/10/2004 (ANA)Southeastern Europe's 4th Energy Week began in Athens on Tuesday and will come to an end on October 27. The 4th Energy Week is the second to take place in 2004, while the previous one had been held in Athens on June 1-2 this year.
These meetings are taking place at the initiative of the European Commission and under the auspices of the development ministry with the purpose of promoting a single energy market in southeastern Europe and its linking to the European Union's energy market.
The ultimate aim is to link western Europe with its southern and eastern flanks and secure the supply of energy to Europe.
The 4th Energy Week is being held at a very important time for the energy community of southeastern Europe as negotiations are already underway for the creation of a single energy market for southeastern Europe, based on a legally binding text which will facilitate the promotion of investment plans in the wider region.
Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, inaugurating the meeting, said the Greek government and the development ministry are aspiring to contribute substantively to cooperation between all countries involved and the European Commission to enable, as soon as possible, the shaping, signing and implementation of the treaty on the energy community in the region.
 National Radio and TV Council rejects appeal by Aktor company for transparency certificate
Athens 27/10/2004 (ANA)The National Radio and Television Council decided on Tuesday to reject an appeal by the Aktor company, calling for the revocation of the Council's refusal to grant a transparency certificate for a project with the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee.
It also rejected, with a majority vote, Aktor's request for another three certificates requested by the company which concerned the building of a municipal mansion in Thessaloniki and an underground parking lot, a project of the Public Power Corporation to asphalt roads in the municipality of Argyroupoli and a project for providing services from Athens 2004.
In another development, the Elliniki Technodomiki TEB SA and AKTOR ATE construction group announced that it will resort to Greek and European Union justice, exercising all legal means anticipated by law and believing that it will be fully vindicated following the new decision taken by the National Radio and Television Council not to grant Aktor transparency certificates.
 Stocks up in high-cap buying spree
Athens 27/10/2004 (ANA)Stocks finished higher, with players buying into high capitalization paper, including OTE telecom, which outstripped the general index to gain 4.99% on an upgrade from an investment house abroad, traders said.
The Athens general share index closed at 2,463.08 points, showing a rise of 1.16 percent. Turnover was 135.8 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 1.51 percent up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.38 percent higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.28 percent up.
Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 149 to 113 with 89 remaining unchanged.
 President Stephanopoulos inaugurates 'Hellenism of Australia' exhibition at Thessaloniki port
Athens 27/10/2004 (ANA)President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos inaugurated the exhibition "Hellenism of Australia" at Warehouse D, at the port of Thessaloniki, northern Greece, early Tuesday afternoon.
Having toured the premises of the exhibition, he described it as "epopee" and recommended to all the citizens of Thessaloniki to visit it so as to see "how Hellenism first survived and then developed in Australia."
The exhibition is comprised of printed and photographic material of the National Centre of Greek Studies and Research (EKEME) of Melbourne's Trobe University and is being held within the framework of the scientific agreement which the Aristotelion University of Thessaloniki signed with the Australian university.
EKEME of Le Trobe University was founded in 1997 and its aim is to gather and study every kind of material concerning the Greek Diaspora and includes departments of Cypriot, Macedonian, Pontian and Asia Minor studies. There are more than 40,000 photographs in EKEME's archive and covers the period from 1880 to 2003. The exhibition will last until November 7.
 Event held under the auspices of Parliament marking the 40th anniversary of the operation of Deutsche Welle's Greek program
Athens 27/10/2004 (ANA)Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki on Tuesday termed as a milestone for the world of journalism as well as for the Greek people, the 40th anniversary of the operation of Deutsche Welle radio station's Greek program, during a special event, under the auspices of Parliament, which was held on the occasion of this anniversary, at the Old Parliament building on Tuesday.
Psarouda-Benaki stressed that she does not forget "the catalytic role of Deutsche Welle's Greek program in the years of the dictatorship, the comfort and relief which it gave us, the feeling of support and the hope it offered us for the much desired return to democracy."
On his part, Deutsche Welle's General Manager Erik Bettermann referred to the historic past of the program "which became synonymous to free and objective information," and to "its brilliant present and future" with the broadcast of the Greek program to Greece, Cyprus and Australia.
Present at the event were former prime ministers and ministers and German Ambassador to Athens Albert Siegel. The former director of the Greek department, Costas Nikolaou, addressed the assembled while recorded documents of the 1967-1974 era were heard.
 Biopolitics International Organization President to receive 2004 Bio-policy Award
Athens 27/10/2004 (ANA)Dr. Agni Vlavianos-Arvanitis, Founder and President of the Biopolitics International Organization (BIO) will receive the 2004 Biopolicy Award on Wednesday in Stockholm from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences and the BioFocus Foundation.
Vlavianos-Arvanitis is being honored with this award because of her major contributions to international environmental policy, her efforts to forge new directions in ethics and education, and her work promoting peace and environmental appreciation in every human endeavor. She has been nominated six times for the Nobel Peace Prize.
BIO was founded in 1985 in order to enhance international cooperation and education in environmental protection and to promote the environment as a vehicle for peace. BIO is currently active in 124 countries worldwide.
 Supreme Court's Penal Department supports extradition of Milenkovic to Serbia
Athens 27/10/2004 (ANA)The Penal Department of the Supreme Court in a ruling on Tuesday rejected as unacceptable the appeal of Serb Dejan Milenkovic against the ruling of the Appeals Council of Thessaloniki, thus accepting the request of the Serb authorities for his extradition.
Milenkovic is one of the main suspects of the attempted murder of Serb Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic in February 2003.
Driving a truck on the national highway of New Belgrade, Milenkovic crashed with a car of Prime Minister Djindjic's escort with the aim of blocking traffic in order for the Serb prime minister to be murdered by sharp-shooter members of the Zemun group. The operation failed, Milenkovic was arrested but was set free to be tried later. In continuation (March 2003), Milenkovic is said to have given information to three persons to murder Djindjic. Milenkovic was arrested following an urgent message by Interpol, after an organized operation of the Greek Police outside the Consulate of Serbia-Montenegro in Thessaloniki.
The Supreme Court rejected the appeal of the Serb as unacceptable as it was submitted to the director of the prison and not to the secretariat of the Appeals Court, as foreseen by legislation. Following this, Milenkovic can be extradited.
However, Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras has the capacity to ratify the Supreme Court's ruling and for the Serb to be extradited, as well as the capacity not to ratify it and for Milenkovic not to be extradited.
 Cypriot President reiterates commitment to a Cyprus settlement
NICOSIA 27/10/2004 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos reiterated here on Monday his commitment to a bi-zonal bi-communal federation on the basis of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's plan for a Cyprus settlement that would address the legitimate concerns of the Greek Cypriots without necessarily depriving the Turkish Cypriots benefits provided to them by the plan.
Papadopoulos received Monday the credentials of the new Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Cyprus, stationed in Athens Hae-Moon Chung, who said he wishes to see the accession of Cyprus to the European Union ''helping pave the way for the eventual unification'' of the island.
In his remarks, Papadopoulos referred to the last April's referenda in Cyprus, during which the Greek Cypriots rejected Annan plan V, noting the plan ''did not address their legitimate concerns and which fell short of providing functional and viable state structures that would lead to the genuine reunification of the state and its economy.''
''By rejecting that particular plan on offer the Greek Cypriots did not reject the solution of the Cyprus problem,'' the president added, noting that ''they merely rejected a plan that was not the product of real negotiations nor did it constitute an agreed solution between the parties.''
''On this occasion'', the president noted, ''I formally reiterate my commitment to a solution of a bi-zonal bi-communal federation based on a version of Annan V that will have undergone such amendments as to address the legitimate concerns of the Greek Cypriots without necessarily depriving the Turkish Cypriots of the benefits that the plan provides to them.''
He added that his government is focusing on the economic development of the Turkish Cypriots and the deepening of economic interaction between the two communities.
On the relations between Cyprus and Korea, Papadopoulos said that ''despite the geographical distance between our two countries, have a history of friendly bilateral relations based on common values and ideals.''
Cyprus, he added, ''looks forward to deepening and expanding our relations with your country in all fields''. Presenting his credentials, Chung congratulated Cyprus for its accession to the European Union.