|Sunday, 17 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-10-30
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>October 30, 2004
 "Historic day for Europe," Greek PM Karamanlis says of signing of European Constitution
Athens, 30/10/2004 (ANA)"The road of Europe is not and has never been easy. Problems must be dealt with through a strong institutional framework in a spirit of cooperation and understanding, which is the main ingredient of the European structure. It is important that a constitutional pact maintains the principle of one commissioner per member-state at least by 2014," Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said on Friday.
Speaking to reporters on his arrival in Rome to sign the European Constitution along with other 24 EU heads of state and government, with the addition of Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, the Greek Prime Minister stressed that "it is an historic step for the EU", adding that "Europe acquires its first constitutional pact. A constitution with many positive elements to help Europe become more creative and more effective".
Karamanlis noted that it was important that European states agreed to strengthen their cooperation in defense and security through a fraternity clause and underlined the constitution's provisions to support tourism and regional development
New EU constitutional treaty signed in Rome: Leaders of the 25 EU member-states, along with leaders of four candidate countries - Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and Croatia - signed the EU constitutional treaty in Rome on Friday.
Under tight security - 7,000 policemen had closed off Rome's historic centre - the 25 EU leaders signed the first EU constitution in alphabetical order, with Belgium's Guy Verhofstadt being the first to sign and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair being the last of the 25 member states, followed by the four candidate members.
"Yesterday's vision of those who founded a united Europe, has finally been realized," Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said in his opening speech. He also mentioned the various milestones in Europe's history before arriving at this historical moment and emphasized that no policy and no constitution can stand without the support of citizens and governments. Berlusconi promised that Italy will look to ratify the EU constitution as quickly as possible and called for a ministerial council meeting to be held Friday evening, saying that, "Italy will be the first to ratify the Constitution."
"The signing of the Constitution is the realization of a dream, in which I never stopped believing even when it ran some serious risks. There are no alternatives; without the Union and without a Constitution there is no future for Europe," Italy's President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi said.
Turkish Premier Tayyip Erdogan, present at the signing, called on European leaders to keep their promises. "Europe and its leaders must act courageously for a great plan to become realized," he said, adding that Turkey will continue with its reforms. He also referred to the possibility of referendums being held in various countries regarding Turkey's EU accession, saying that no referendum has ever taken place in Europe before for such an issue and that he's been promised that his country will not become a victim of discrimination.
Government spokesman says public dialogue on European constitution to begin immediately: Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos announced on Friday that a public dialogue on the European constitution will begin immediately at the government's initiative, adding that with the signing of the constitution by its 25 member-states, in Rome on Friday, the European Union is opening a new step to its future.
Roussopoulos further said that at the end of this procedure the Greek Parliament "just as in every corresponding moment until now, will ratify, and indeed in a brief period of time, the European constitution" and noted that in this way Greece will be in the forefront of Europe.
The government spokesman also said that Europe "at a historic moment of responsibility, is going ahead with its institutional shielding, it is strengthening its democratic function and its effectiveness and it is bolstering its position in the world."
He said that the overwhelming majority of Greeks ''were and are in favor of progress and the strengthening of Europe and the European Union and this is so because a strong present and a better future of stability, peace and prosperity for the country is safeguarded in this way''.
"When Europe forges ahead, Greece also forges ahead. This position will also be confirmed in the public dialogue which will begin immediately on this issue at the government's initiative. At the end of this procedure, the highest institution of democracy, the Parliament of the Greeks, just as in every corresponding moment until now, will ratify, and indeed in a brief period of time, the European constitution. In this way our country will be in the forefront of Europe," Roussopoulos concluded.
 Main opposition PASOK leader Papandreou calls for referendum on European constitution
Athens, 30/10/2004 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK party leader on Friday called for a referendum on the European constitution, and called on the Greek government to not suffice with the formality of a ratification procedure but instead to put the new constitution to the judgment of the Greek people.
Papandreou accused prime minister Costas Karamanlis of having failed to date to brief parliament on the issue, adding that, whereas a dialogue has commenced throughout Europe ahead of the constitution's ratification either by the national parliaments or through referenda, no discussion was being conducted in Greece.
He called on the premier not to treat the European Constitution as the work of (the preceding government of) PASOK so as to criticize it and ultimately negate it. It was the work of Greece and all of Europe, Papandreou said, adding that Greece could not today be absent from the dialogue taking place and be a part of the Euro-skepticism, but instead the country should reacquire the active role it had in the European Union.
Papandreou said the European constitution was a great conquest of the European citizens, and the fruit of an unprecedented process in which Greece had a substantial participation. He also reminded that the constitution was finalized during the Greek EU presidency, while the finalized draft was adopted at the EU summit in Thessaloniki, adding that he, himself, as foreign minister at the time, had been a member of the European...... that drew up the new constitution.
Papandreou also said that the new constitution brings the European citizen closer to the decision-taking centers, consolidates the individual rights, participation and control, and creates a Europe of the citizens and not only a Europe of the states.
Further, he said, it reinforced the European Parliament, as it became apparent in the Barroso issue, on which PASOK had a clear-cut position and was proud of that position.
Also, the EU acquired a strong voice in the world on matters of defense, security and foreign policy, Papandreou said, adding that in that sector Greece passed the message of the EU's obligation to manifest solidarity with a member-state that faces attack from the outside.
He further spoke of the social dimension of the constitution, stressing that it reinforced social solidarity and cemented the social clause, which were conquests of the progressive European forces.
Communist and Coalition parties criticize European constitution: The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology on Friday criticized the new European constitution in announcements made in the wake of its signing.
KKE said the celebrations of the "25" heads of state of the European Union over the signing of the "'European constitution' express the celebrations of the European plutocracy which shields its position even more with the 'European constitution' and strengthens its aggression against the peoples of Europe.''
The Coalition of the Left said the treaty on enacting a constitution signed in Rome on Friday by the leaders of the EU is in essence a creation "from above" which ''constitutionalises neo-liberalism, undermines social rights and strengthens Euroatlantism,'' while stressing its position on the holding of a referendum.
 Karamanlis meets briefly with Turkey's PM in Rome
ROME 30/10/2004 (ANA/A.Panagopoulos)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met briefly with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of a formal luncheon Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi hosted on occasion of the official signing of the EU constitution, which took place in the Italian capital on Friday.
The topic of discussion during the two prime ministers' brief meeting was not made public.
 Defense Minister visits with German counterpart in Berlin
BERLIN 30/10/2004 (ANA/P.Stagos)Strengthening cooperation between Greece and Germany - in armaments procurement, as well as on peace-keeping missions in Afghanistan and the Balkans - was the main issue Greek Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos and his German counterpart Peter Struck covered in a joint press conference held here on Friday.
Speaking on the armaments issue, Struck said that the German government hopes that the Greek government will consider purchasing Eurofighter jets when the time comes for the modernization of the Hellenic Air Force. He added that the issue will be examined in the upcoming weeks and months. On his part, Spiliotopoulos said that Greek-German cooperation in terms of armaments procurement is at a very high level and emphasized that "we will exhaust all possibilities for further cooperation."
Asked about the Greek armed forces buying used armored vehicles from Germany's Bundeswehr, Spiliotopoulos said, "this is a discussion that has been going on for the past two years and is the so-called 'middle solution' in combination with the new armored vehicles the Greek government bought from Germany."
As for the peacekeeping missions in which both Greece and Germany participate, Struck said that both countries agree that once NATO hands over the management of peacekeeping forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina to the EU, the number of troops should not be reduced. As for Afghanistan, the German defense minister said that both sides agree that their presence is still necessary since Afghanistan is still not sufficiently stable. Spiliotopoulos agreed, stressing that Greece and Germany cooperate and contribute towards "all policies whose objective is to promote world peace, stability and security."
After his meeting with Struck, the Greek defense minister left for Laage airfield near Rostock for a Eurofighter demonstration and will later return to Berlin to attend the dinner hosted by Greek ambassador Dimitris Kypraios.
 Foreign ministry spokesman says necessary diplomatic action taken on German Parliament's FYROM vote
Athens, 30/10/2004 (ANA)Foreign Ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said on Friday necessary diplomatic action has been taken on the issue of a resolution ratified by the government majority in Germany's Parliament on the issue of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), according to an announcement by the foreign ministry.
"The Greek foreign ministry, as soon as the ratification of this resolution became known, proceeded with the necessary diplomatic action to probe the issue.
"It was made clear on the part of the German foreign ministry that the position of the German government until know is not changing. It remains in favor of a dialogue for a mutually acceptable solution to be found to the issue of the name.
"A spokesman of the German foreign ministry has already confirmed this in relevant statements," Koumoutsakos said.
According to an ANA dispatch from Berlin, Germany's Parliament ratified a resolution on Thursday night, expressing support for the use of the constitutional name of "Republic of 'Macedonia'" for FYROM and called on the German government to promote the adoption of this name in the ranks of the European Union.
The draft resolution had been submitted by the Parliamentary Groups of the two ruling parties, the Social Democrat Party (SPD) and the Green Party.
 Greece officially takes over presidency of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization
Athens, 30/10/2004 (ANA)Greece officially took over the presidency from Georgia on Friday of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization (BSEC) at the close of the Foreign Ministers Council meeting which was held in Tbilisi, capital of Georgia, a Greek foreign ministry announcement said.
The Greek government was represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis, who, in presenting the Greek side's program positions, noted that the main aim on all levels is to strengthen relations between the European Union and the 12 country-members of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization.
The Greek deputy minister announced that Greece will organize interministerial working group meetings in the sectors of energy, public order, institutional renewal and good governance, trade and economic growth, tourism, transport, protection of the environment, training and science-technology. Furthermore, the Greek presidency will organize in Greece an inter-parliamentary meeting of member-countries, a business council and corresponding contacts with institutional representatives of the European Union.
Foreign Minister of Georgia Salome Zourabichvili wished the Greek presidency the very best success and expressing the total of the present ministers of the 12 country-members, stressed the importance which the regional organization attributes to Greece for the role which it can play as the only country-member of the EU in BSEC in the direction of rapprochement with Europe.
 Joint Greece-Georgia Interministerial Committee meeting convenes
Athens, 30/10/2004 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis, heading a delegation, represented the Greek government in the second Joint Greece-Georgia Interministerial Committee meeting, the first after the change of government in Georgia.
A Greek foreign ministry announcement in Athens on Friday said that the Georgian government was represented by Minister of State responsible for European Cooperation Tamar Beruchasvili, Deputy Foreign Minister Micheil Ukleba, Deputy National Economy Minister Tamar Kovziridge and a team of Georgian officials.
Discussed during the bilateral talks were political issues, bilateral economic matters, Greece's policy of developing cooperation with Georgia as well as matters regarding the transfer of technical know-how in many sectors.
The two sides agreed for Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili to visit Greece. They discussed issues related to the operation of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, the presidency of which Greece will take over from Georgia on November 1, as well as the prospects of the policy of New Neighborliness which the European Union adopted following a proposal by Greece for the countries of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Regarding bilateral economic matters, the two delegations discussed pending differences which concern Greek businesses which are active in the region. Following the intervention of the Greek deputy foreign minister, positive developments on these issues were marked. Furthermore, the holding of a business economic forum between the two countries was decided, the first to be held in Athens in 2005 by the Commercial and Industrial Chamber of Athens (EBEA) and the corresponding Georgian chamber of Tbilisi.
"The trade transactions of the two countries at present amount to 23.6 million dollars, while Greek investments in Georgia at present amount to 45 million dollars, amounts extremely low for the potential and strategic importance of the region. For this reason, new aggressive economic initiatives are deemed necessary and useful," Deputy Foreign Minister Stylianidis underlined.
 Home-made bomb explodes beneath overpass as MAT buses were passing, no injuries or damage reported
Athens, 30/10/2004 (ANA)A home-made bomb exploded early Friday beneath an overpass on Petrou Ralli street in the Athens district of Tavros, apparently targeting two MAT riot police buses passing under the overpass at the time, at the juncture with Constantinoupoleos street, without causing any injuries and only minor damage. No group has claimed the explosion.
The explosive device exploded at 7:05 a.m. as the two MAT buses were passing beneath the overpass, en route to Korydallos prison. Police immediately cordoned off the area.
Attica police chief Vassilis Tsiatouras, who is heading the investigation, said later that the explosive device was not a time-bomb but detonated by cable. He said the explosion was relatively small, and occurred as the two buses carrying MAT police to the Korydallos jail to take-up duty were passing. The explosion caused some damage only to the bridge's railing.
Police and anti-terrorism squad members combing the area found a 30-metre-long cable attached to the bomb and extending to a small park located on the bridge's exit to Kifissos Avenue.
According to indications so far, investigators believe the MAT police were the target of the attack. They also said the incident is reminiscent of older terrorist attacks on a bus carrying US servicemen in the Renti area, and another bus with police officers outside the Caravel hotel, as cable-activated bombs were used in both those attacks as well.
No warning call was made before the explosion, nor has any group or individual claimed responsibility for the attack as at 10:30 a.m.
Government, PASOK condemn bomb attempt against MAT riot police buses: The government and main opposition party on Friday condemned a bomb attack aimed against two buses carrying MAT riot police in an Athens district earlier in the day.
Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, in a statement, expressed the government's abhorrence over the incident, adding that fortunately there were no victims.
Roussopoulos stressed that the government would not allow anyone to harm the sense of security enjoyed by the citizens, nor would it tolerate provocations against Democracy.
He said that the authorities were investigating the incident in order to locate and arrest the perpetrators and lead them to Justice.
Main opposition PASOK spokesman Nikos Athanassakis also expressed his party's "self-evident condemnation" of the attack, which he said could have resulted in human victims.
He said the authorities' investigation should lead to full clarification of the incident and avert similar actions. It is a matter of the safety of the citizens, it is a matter of democracy, Athanassakis said.
The Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology also unequivocally condemned the bomb attack against buses carrying riot police, which occurred in Athens earlier in the day, and stressed that "what is foremost is for political forces and society to morally and politically isolate such acts."
Meanwhile, the bomb attack against the police buses at the Petrou Ralli bridge has greatly troubled the leaderships of the police and the anti-terrorist service.
Officers handling the case believe it possible that new individuals are behind the attack, who appeared in the post-November 17 era, but who are imitating methods of the past.
However, they do not rule out the possibility that the strike is linked to the three bombs planted last summer at the Kallithea police station by the "Revolutionary Struggle" group, as well as to other bomb attacks taking place after the summer of 2003.
Police believe that the lack of victims is due to the perpetrators' inexperience because the bomb, detonated from a distance, exploded when one of the buses was passing, but in the left lane, while the force of the explosion had not been directed properly and for this reason the explosion did not harm the vehicles.
The explosion is reminiscent of some of the attacks carried out by the November 17 terrorist group. It occurred at 07.04 at a time when two buses carrying riot police were crossing the bridge, as well as a police van and two police motorcyclists, a man and a woman (36 people in all).
Police bomb disposal experts who collected fragments of the makeshift explosive device found no resemblance with the composition applied by the November 17 group, but the method used is the same as the method applied in two of the group's attacks.
The first such attack had been against a police bus near the Caravel hotel in Athens in 1985, in which one policeman died and many others were injured, and the second had been in the area of Renti in 1987 against a bus carrying American soldiers, which also resulted in many injuries.
 Government and PASOK spokesmen argue over vested interests
Athens, 30/10/2004 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK party spokesman Nikos Athanassakis, commenting on Friday on the government's legislative initiatives to combat vested interests, said "it would be good if the government was to pass from words to action."
"We are hearing a great deal, but we are not seeing any bills on the issue that was supposed to be the government's top priority and was supposed to have submitted a relevant draft law as of 2003 when it was in the opposition," Athanassakis said.
Government Spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said in response that "it escaped the attention of PASOK's spokesman, maybe because he assumed his duties recently, that the abolition of the sinful mathematical formula and its replacement by the objective and transparent tendering system has already become a law of the state."
Roussopoulos also reminded of "the clear government commitment that, by the end of the year, the new law on the 'principal shareholder' will be submitted in Parliament", adding that "the commitment on strengthening independent authorities is already proceeding."
 FM Molyviatis to meet Communist leader Papariga on Monday
Athens, 30/10/2004 (ANA)Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis will meet on Monday with Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga, a KKE announcement said on Friday.
Papariga, who will be accompanied by Orestis Kolozov, member of the party's political bureau, will be briefed by the foreign minister on latest developments in Greek-Turkish relations and the situation prevailing in the region. The meeting will be taking place at KKE's request, the announcement concluded.
 Greek political party leaders send messages to Arafat wishing him speedy recovery
Athens, 30/10/2004 (ANA)Greek political party leaders on Friday wished Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat a speedy recovery following his admission to a Paris hospital for treatment earlier in the day.
Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou in a statement wished Arafat a speedy recovery, saying: "We wish him to overcome any health problems he has and to soon find himself close to his duties, to the benefit of the Palestinian people."
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga in a message to Arafat said:" We are observing with great emotion and concern the news on the progress of your health, which, as the entire Palestinian people, has suffered so harshly by occupation, raids, bombardments, by the wall of the Israeli army and by the unacceptable long-term confinement." The KKE leader added that "we wish you a speedy recovery and a quick return with renewed strength in the struggle of the Palestinian people."
Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology's (Synaspismos) Panos Trigazis, responsible for international ,elations, in a communication he had with Representative of the Palestinian Authority in Athens Marwan Abdelhamid expressed the party's interest in Arafat's health and its solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Trigazis conveyed the wholehearted wishes of Synaspismos leader Nikos Constantopoulos "for a positive outcome of the new difficult battle which Yasser Arafat is giving, whose presence in the leadership of the Palestinian struggle is necessary today more than at any other time."
 No change in budget, finmin says
Athens, 30/10/2004 (ANA)Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Friday that no change would be made to the draft budget for 2005, despite qualms in the European Union that targets may be over-optimistic.
"No-one sent back the budget...We will go ahead with this draft budget. The budget's goal is ambitious because the reduction in the deficit is great that will be accomplished," Alogoskoufis told the Alpha 98.9 radio station in an interview.
"This will occur through mild adaptation, but we will go ahead with this draft. We have studied everything and we will continue to implement our program under this rationale," the minister said.
 Greek gov't seeks to support regional development
Athens, 30/10/2004 (ANA)The Greek government is seeking to strengthen the institutional framework of a National Council of Competitiveness, to establish a new bureaucratic-free system of licensing manufacturing businesses, to offer financial support to small- and medium-sized enterprises, to adopt new policies on industrial areas and to restructure government agencies to better help investments and research, Spyros Papadopoulos, secretary-general at the Development ministry said on Friday.
Addressing a meeting with the Union of Thessaly Industries, Papadopoulos stressed that the government was determined to support regional economy by completing a new development and tax legislation, draft a national strategy on regional development and restructuring an administrative system of supporting investments and businesses in the country.
Referring to policy measures aimed to support business activity in Thessaly, Papadopoulos said that a total of 236 businesses already have been included in a government-sponsored program, called Competitiveness, with a project budget of 43 million euros and that the government has planning to set up a new agency to subsidise an industrial area in the city of Larissa.
Papadopoulos urged for the cooperation and active support of all agencies and unions in Thessaly.
 Greek economy: weekly review
Athens, 30/10/2004 (ANA)Greek economic growth is projected to slow to 3.3 percent in 2005, from 3.8 percent this year, while the country's fiscal deficit will fall to 3.6 percent of GDP from 5.5 percent over the same period, respectively, the European Commission said this week. In its autumn forecasts for the EU member-states' economies, the EU's executive said that Greek public debt will total 112.2 percent this year, 111.9 percent in 2005 and 110.2 percent in 2006. Inflation is projected to end at 3.0 percent in 2004 and to ease to 2.9 percent in 2005 and 2006, while unemployment is projected to reach 8.5 percent this year and to rise in the next two years.
In other headline news this week: Greek unemployment jumped to 11.2 percent in the first quarter of 2004, from 10.0 percent in the same period last year, the National Statistics Service said. NSS said it expected the unemployment rate to rise in the third and fourth quarter of 2004 due to the completion of Olympic Games' projects. The statistics agency adopted a new, more reliable, method in calculating unemployment in the country.
Heating oil prices are up 39.27 percent higher this year compared with the same month in 2003, while the price of Brent crude oil is up 77.82 percent over the same period, the government said in a report.
Economy and Finance ministry said that a report published with a daily Athens newspaper alleging that a fiscal audit will have a negative impact on the economy was "fabricated".
Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis is expected to unveil the ministry's tax and development draft bill in the next few days. The Greek FinMin, speaking to reporters after presenting the bills to Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, said that the new legislation would envisage a gradual reduction in taxes, raising a tax-exempt income to 11,000 euros for workers and pensioners and a gradual reduction of tax factors for both households and corporations. "This strategy will begin in 2005 to offer new impetus to the economy through more private investments and private entrepreneurship," Alogoskoufis said.
Public Power Corporation this week announced its was raising electricity prices by 2.74 percent from November 1st. PPC also announced it was raising the amount of electricity offered to families with more than two children at reduced rates and the start of procedures to hire 1,250 workers. Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said price rises were below the annual inflation rate in the country.
Greece, Cyprus and Malta voted against a community directive aimed to strengthen a legal framework for sea pollution. Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis said that the directive was aimed mainly against seamen, while ship owners could easily escape by changing flags. He noted that a stricter legal framework would work as counter-incentive to attracting more vessels to community registers and new businessmen in the shipping sector.
A National Radio/Television Council this week rejected an appeal by Aktor ATE, a Greek listed construction company, seeking the issue of a transparency certificate to become eligible for participation in public works' tenders. Hellenic Technodomiki, TEB SA and Aktor, the listed construction group, said it would appeal to Greece's highest court and the European Justice against this decision.
 Stocks up in high-cap buying spree
Athens, 30/10/2004 (ANA)Stocks finished higher, with players buying into high capitalization paper, including OTE telecom, which outstripped the general index to gain 3.76%, traders said.
The Athens general share index closed at 2,489.19 points, showing a rise of 1.05 percent. Turnover was 188.0 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 1.27 percent up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.90 percent higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.72 percent up.
Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 190 to 90 with 78 remaining unchanged.
On a weekly basis, the general share index gained 0.90%.
 Palli-Petralia named Vice President of International Olympic Truce Foundation
Athens, 30/10/2004 (ANA)Alternate Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia was named Vice President of the International Olympic Truce Foundation, following a decision made by the Foundation's Executive Board which met on October 8. President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Foundation Jacques Rogge informed Palli-Petralia of her appointment in a letter he sent to her on Friday.
In his letter, Rogge expressed his appreciation for the contribution Palli-Petralia has made to the Olympic Truce and congratulated her on her appointment. Additionally, he said that he would soon inform her of upcoming events, which will include a seminar focusing on countries which are at war or which are going through a post-war period.
The other members of the Foundation's Executive Board are: George Papandreou, Joao Havelange, Guy Drut, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, Valentino Castellani, Qi Liu, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Yasushi Akashi, Javier Prez de Cuellar, Ingvar Carlsson, Jean-Claude Killy, Mario Vazquez Raa, Hein Verbruggen, Carolos Papoulias, Erica Terpstra, Han Seung-Soo, Thorvald Stoltenberg, Patrick Baudry, Philip Craven and Gianni Gola.
 Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos visits Sofia, celebrates Bulgarian Patriarch's 90th birthday
SOFIA 30/10/2004 (ANA/B.Borisov)Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos said Thursday night that the participation of Eastern Europe's Orthodox population in shaping Europe's new social and spiritual reality was "a historical challenge and invitation" during his visit here during which he also attended celebrations in honor of Bulgarian Patriarch Maximos' 90th birthday.
"Without the participation and contribution of Eastern European peoples, the majority of whom are Orthodox, Europe could not be complete," Vartholomeos said during a dinner on Thursday evening, hosted in his honor by the head of the EU permanent representation in Sofia Dimitris Kourkoulas.
Speaking of Bulgaria's upcoming EU accession, Vartholomeos said that, "the hard-working Bulgarian people, under the wise political and state leadership, is close to fulfilling all the prerequisites in order to become a fully integrated member within the new European community.(...)"
"Turkey can and should, under the predefined conditions, become an EU member, in order for understanding, peaceful cooperation and a calming of nationalist tensions to prevail among peoples who have been in strong conflict in the past," Vartholomeos added.
He also met with Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg before Thursday's dinner.
Vartholomeos meets with Bulgarian president Parvanov: Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos on Friday met with Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov in Sofia.
The meeting took place just before Vartholomeos' departure for Istanbul after having attended celebrations in honor of Bulgarian Patriarch Maximos' 90th birthday, earlier in the day.
 Leak of undetermined chemical substance on sidewalk in Votanikos
Athens, 30/10/2004 (ANA)The leak of an undetermined chemical substance caused an alert in the Fire Department on Friday morning in the Votanikos district of Athens.
The Fire Department was called in on Friday morning by the directors of a transport company in Votanikos to clean up a spill on the sidewalk. Upon arrival, the firemen saw that the spill they had been called to clean up was an undetermined chemical substance that had leaked from an unmarked barrel inside the yard of the transport company.
Two specialized vehicles with seven firefighters were then dispatched to the site, together with two Fire Department chemicals experts who were trying to identify the substance and whether it was hazardous.
The area around the transport company was cordoned off until completion of the investigation.
 Eight illegal immigrant smugglers get 10-year jail sentence each
Athens, 30/10/2004 (ANA)A court in Iraklio, Crete, on Friday handed down a 10-year jail sentence for each of eight illegal immigrant smugglers who had brought 75 illegal immigrants to the sea region of Tertsa in the Vianno area at noon on Sunday and had then tried to flee the area. The defendants were also fined 52,300 euros.
The ninth defendant, who was among the illegal immigrants, was acquitted of the charge of using forced documents but was convicted for illegal entry into the country and given a suspended 20-day jail sentence.
 Cyprus President: EU Constitution offers stronger basis to solve Cyprus problem
ROME 30/10/2004 (CNA/ANA)The new European Constitution offers yet a stronger basis for the Greek Cypriot side's negotiating position in efforts to reach a political settlement of the island's longstanding problem, Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos stated here Friday.
Responding to questions after the signing ceremony of the Treaty establishing the European Constitution, the president said it is a historic day, noting that the new Constitution includes stronger provisions in the field of human rights.
"The Constitution includes many views, it is a compromise between different opinions", said President Papadopoulos adding that "in Europe you do not count how much you have achieved but whether the consensus achieved is one you can live with".
He agreed that a lot remains to be done until the ratification of the Treaty noting that his intention is to send the relevant decision by the Council of Ministers to the House of Representatives the soonest.
Asked if the new Constitution has something to offer in efforts to solve the Cyprus problem, President Papadopoulos pointed out that the approval of the Constitution does not mean that it will provide a European solution.
He said the Constitution does not deal with the internal affairs of national governments, as long as solutions or arrangements decided by the national governments are not contrary to the Constitution.
However, "it provides a stronger basis for our negotiating position", President Papadopoulos said, adding that Cyprus can cite the provisions of the Constitution in any solution.
The president said that he had a number of unofficial discussions on the sidelines of today's signing ceremony, noting that he mentioned in brief "the current developments, the deadlock on the Cyprus problem and its association with Turkey's application to secure a date to start accession negotiations".
Asked if he talked with Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President Papadopoulos said that these meetings are not official, noting that the substance of the Cyprus problem was not examined but some useful remarks were made.
"Sooner or later, Turkey will have to talk with us", he added.
The president further added that Cyprus will reveal its decision on Turkey's accession course "at the right time".
President Papadopoulos earlier signed, on behalf of the Republic of Cyprus, the Treaty for the new constitution of Europe.
The signing ceremony took place at a special ceremony in the Palazzo dei Conservatori in the Italian capital. Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou also signed the Treaty.
On Saturday, the president will visit the Vatican where he will be received by Pope John Paul II and the Vatican's Secretary of State
Cardinal Angelo Sodano. He departs from Rome on Sunday.
 Cyprus FM sees difficulties in direct flights to occupied Cyprus
NICOSIA 30/10/2004 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou believes that it is highly unlikely to establish direct flights between the island's northern Turkish occupied areas and overseas destinations.
''Washington interprets a call for the lifting of the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots to include direct flights as well. The US is well aware of the serious problems involved in such a venture, namely international law and conventions,'' the minister said.
His comments follow increased moves, such as dispatch of experts to inspect security and safety procedures, by the US authorities to establish direct flights with the occupied areas.
The European Union decided in April this year, after the Turkish Cypriots approved a UN-backed solution plan, to try and end what they called ''the isolation of Turkish Cypriots''. The same call came from the UN as well.
The Cypriot minister also said that direct trade between the occupied areas and the EU depends on the EU Council of Ministers and not the Commission.
''The Commission has done its job, it has put forward two proposals - on direct trade and on funding for the Turkish Cypriots. The Council of Ministers has said the proposals needed to be discussed in detail,'' Iavovou said.
He explained that the proposal on funding the Turkish Cypriots to help improve further their economic development was all but agreed on whereas the proposal on direct trade seems to be referred to a later date, since many member states see problematic areas in what is suggested.
The minister's comments were echoed by Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides who pointed out that ICAO (International Civil
Aviation Organization) does not allow the use of non recognized ports and airports.
He said the government of the Republic of Cyprus, in exercising its rights, had declared ''illegal port of entries'' all ports and airports in Turkish occupied Cyprus, following the 1974 invasion of the island.
''International organizations and others who are trying to contravene these principles by any means should take heed and respect them,''the spokesman added.