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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-03-02

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

March 2, 2005


  • [01] Bank of Greece sees GDP slowing in 2005
  • [02] PM Karamanlis to embark on lightning tour of western Balkans on Wednesday
  • [03] Greece denies giving 'green light' to FYROM's EU prospects without name issue solution
  • [04] Deputy FM on development cooperation, economic diplomacy
  • [05] Government Foreign Affairs and Defense Council unanimously ratifies national defense policy
  • [06] Government on updated list of public-sector journalists given to ESHEA
  • [07] Turkey must accept Cyprus as an EU member, EU representative in Ankara tells CNN Turk
  • [08] Foreign ministry spokesman comments on customs union protocol
  • [09] U.S. State Department report says Turkish government has not recognized Patriarch's universality
  • [10] Metropolitan Theoklitos resigns over alleged links with Yiossakis but insists he is innocent
  • [11] Bill on transparency in justice ratified in principle
  • [12] PM Karamanlis continues meetings with his party's MPs
  • [13] ND secretary sends outline of proposed changes to party to Central Committee
  • [14] PM to meet Chinese and Turkish envoys on Wednesday
  • [15] EU Constitution parliamentary committee created
  • [16] Glezakos named new chief of Hellenic Coast Guard
  • [17] Hochtief sells a third of its stake in Athens airport
  • [18] National Bank of Greece targets 75% earnings rise
  • [19] Greek inner cabinet discusses shipping sector policy
  • [20] Main opposition seeks action from gov't on fish farming
  • [21] Stocks drop in across-the-board profit taking
  • [22] Authorities on alert once more over rising water-levels along Evros River
  • [23] Greek surgeon to be given Mutua Madrilena award
  • [24] Italian journalist to hold press conference regarding the release of two journalists kidnapped in Iraq
  • [25] IOC decides to award Alternate Culture Minister highest honor
  • [26] Marton Simitsek appointed member of Beijing Coordinating Committee until 2008 Olympic Games
  • [27] M. Kyriakou elected president of the Olympic Torch Relay committee
  • [28] Cyprus wants to disassociate trade and funding regulations

  • [01] Bank of Greece sees GDP slowing in 2005

    Athens, 2/3/2005 (ANA)

    The Bank of Greece urged for vigilance and social cohesion to deal with challenges facing the Greek economy. Presenting the central bank's annual monetary report, its governor Nikos Garganas sounded pessimistic over this year's growth prospects and predicted that GDP growth would slow to around 3.3 percent in 2005, although he did not exclude a greater slowdown.

    The central bank, in its reports, said that growth rate would remain higher compared with EU average growth rates, pushing the country closer to real convergence, while inflation was expected to rise to 3.3 percent this year from 3.0 percent in 2004.

    The Greek economy is facing serious challenges, the report said. Reducing public debt and deficits was the most significant challenge of all. Garganas said that the country needed to rapidly correct fiscal imbalances for national reasons, although he stressed that fiscal adjustment should be maintained for a many years.

    The central bank noted the need for measures, not only of macro-economic but structural policy nature, that would contribute in promoting investments and economic growth. To achieve this goal, the Bank of Greece said it needed the help of social partners, both in pay rises and reforming a pension system and the labor market.

    Fiscal restructuring was crucial to maintain high growth rates in the future, while the country could face increased public spending in the future due to demographic changes and an ageing population. The central bank said that 25 percent of the country's GDP in 2050 would be used to fund the country's pension system.

    The Bank of Greece urged for the compliance of the country with EU Stability and Growth Pact rules to safeguard the country's credibility. Garganas attributed a jump in the country's fiscal deficit to more than 5.3 percent of GDP mainly to excessive budget spending and lower revenues and to a lesser degree to a fiscal audit made by the government.

    The central bank recommended the implementation of a well-planned program to promote structural reforms in the country, including a review of the social insurance system, establishing a business-friendly environment, simplifying the tax system, creating a stable tax framework and combatting bureaucracy. The central bank said it was necessary to remove all counter-incentives from the domestic labor market with hurting workers' main rights.

    Garganas said the country's credit system was credible and stable, while he noted that adopting International Accounting Standards would not affect Greek banks' capital adequacy rates, with only minimum exceptions. He urged Greek households to be careful in their borrowing.

    Bank of Greece presents monetary report to Parliament: Bank of Greece's governor Nikos Garganas on Tuesday presented the bank's report on monetary policy for the period 2004-2005 to Parliament President Mrs Anna Psarouda-Benaki.

    Presenting the report, the Greek central banker said that the Greek economy was moving satisfactorily. The report will be distributed to political parties and will be debated in Parliament and in the Economic Affairs Commission.

    The report examines thoroughly changes in an international economic environment, inflation and economic activity in the Eurozone and Greece during 2004 and economic prospects for the current year. It also analyses developments in money, credit and capital markets in Greece and evaluates stability in the domestic financial system.

    The central bank, in its report, said that Greek Gross Domestic Product (GDP) slowed to 3.8 percent in 2004 from 4.5 percent in 2003 and predicted a further slowing down this year, although it stressed that Greek GDP growth rate "will still be significantly higher compared with Eurozone growth rates". The report said that Greece would make further progress towards real economic convergence in 2005.

    Greek inflation eased in 2004 "due to a sharp fall in fresh fruit and vegetable prices, but core inflation rose further," the central bank said. The Bank of Greece said it expected the inflation rate to be slightly higher this year compared with 2004 "above Eurozone average rate", a development likely to hurt the country's international economic competitiveness.

    Largest trade union group says central bank urging austerity: The General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE), the country's largest trade union umbrella group, said on Tuesday that the central bank's annual monetary report released earlier in the day signaled impending austerity.

    "Once again, the annual report proposes tough austerity measures and containment of employees' incomes, along with drastic curbs on their social rights and social insurance," the GSEE said in a statement.

    Central bank plans small-scale restructuring: The Bank of Greece intends to begin talks with employees on a limited restructuring, its governor, Nikos Garganas, said on Monday.

    The central bank currently runs 27 branches and 62 smaller outlets nationwide, some of which are under-employed, with the same applying to certain central divisions that have been superceded by events in the market, Garganas told a news conference.

    Some of the bank's 2,980 staff would be transferred and others offered early retirement, he added.

    Civil servants rap central bank chief: The ADEDY civil servants union on Tuesday sharply criticized the governor of the Bank of Greece, Nikos Garganas, for following an IMF and World Bank line.

    Following release earlier in the day of the central bank's annual monetary report, the union said in a statement that the governor's viewpoints signaled fresh burdens for working people.

    "(The governor) is a herald of decisions and measures that stem from his role as the guardian of banking interests," the statement said.

    [02] PM Karamanlis to embark on lightning tour of western Balkans on Wednesday

    Athens, 2/3/2005 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will be departing for a lightning tour of the western Balkans on Wednesday afternoon. Between Wednesday and 18:30 on Thursday, Karamanlis will visit Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro and the province of Kosovo for a rapid succession of meetings with local officials, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros announced on Tuesday.

    The Greek premier is due to arrive in the Croatian capital Zagreb at 15:00 on Wednesday, where he will have talks with Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader and will then immediately leave for Belgrade, where he is to have successive meetings with Serb President Boris Tadic at 18:30 and Montenegro Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic at 19:30.

    He will stay in Belgrade overnight and meet with Serb Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica at 9:00 on Thursday morning, to be followed by a courtesy call on Serbia and Montenegro President Svetozar Marovic shortly after.

    Karamanlis will then depart for Kosovo, arriving in Pristina around noon. His first port of call will be the base of the Greek Force in Kosovo 'Rigas Ferraios', where he will meet with Greek troops stationed in the region.

    The Greek premier is then due to meet the head of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) Soeren Jessen Petersen and the President of Kosovo Ibrahim Rugova, in the presence of Kosovo premier Ramush Haradinaj and the rest of Kosovo's political leadership.

    Karamanlis is expected to depart from Pristina at 18:30 to return to Athens.

    Foreign ministry spokesman on PM Karamanlis' upcoming Balkan visits: Prime minister Costas Karamanlis' upcoming visits to Serbia-Montenegro, Kosovo and Croatia was the continuation of a comprehensive and active Greek diplomatic activity in the Balkan region, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said Tuesday during a regular press briefing.

    Greece, he said, had a specific and clear-cut target in its Balkan policy, which was to have "a positive and constructive contribution to consolidating stability". In that context was Greece's firm support of the western Balkan countries' European prospect and course, "and that is the prevalent message of the prime minister's visit," Koumoutsakos added.

    Koumoutsakos also referred to Greece's international recognition as an important factor for Balkan developments, and its upgraded role due to its non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2005-2006 period, as well as its upcoming assumption of the Balkan Cooperation grouping in April.

    Questioned on Greece's position regarding the future status of Kosovo, Koumoutsakos said that Greece believed that discussion on that matter at this time was untimely, given that the criteria had not yet been fully assessed.

    He said it was obvious that some steps had been made, but there very many that still needed to be taken, primarily with respect to the physical security of all the residents, the operation of a decentralized administrative system, respect of religious monuments, and other areas.

    The goal, he explained, was to achieve a smooth and peaceful coexistence of the two communities.

    Koumoutsakos further reiterated the EU position that a return to the pre-1999 status quo was not considered realistic at this time, and added that Greece stood against the partition or break-up of Kosovo, and against its unification or annexation to any neighboring country.

    [03] Greece denies giving 'green light' to FYROM's EU prospects without name issue solution

    Athens, 2/3/2005 (ANA)

    Greek foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos on Tuesday denied a reference in a report by the International Crisis Group (ICG), which claimed that Greece did not intend to block the European course of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) over the dispute concerning the republic's adopted name of 'Macedonia'.

    According to a footnote in the ICG report, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had assured the European Union that the name issue would not be raised as an obstacle to FYROM's entry.

    Koumoutsakos said this claim was "did not reflect reality", noting that Karamanlis' position had been stated in public at the European Council in December and pointing to intense efforts over the past months by Greek diplomacy to kick start talks on finding a mutually acceptable solution to the outstanding dispute.

    Greece objects to the use of the name 'Macedonia' by the neighboring republic on the grounds that it could become a pretext for expansionist designs on the Greek province of Macedonia that shares a border with FYROM. The two countries also have rival claims to Alexander the Great, the historic general of antiquity who was born in Macedonia, that FYROM's Slav population claim descent from.

    Koumoutsakos said that Greece supported FYROM's course toward the EU and NATO in principle, in the context of its general policy for the Balkans, but stressed that FYROM could not proceed without first settling the outstanding problem.

    "This policy must not under any circumstances be seen as a 'punishment' for the neighboring republic but a political reality".

    [04] Deputy FM on development cooperation, economic diplomacy

    Athens, 2/3/2005 (ANA)

    Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis talked about his ministry's goals in upgrading and making development cooperation and economic diplomacy more effective, in an interview to the Athens News Agency on Tuesday.

    "We must move aggressively in economic diplomacy in order to reverse the negative situation which exists in exports and foreign investment," he said.

    In terms of development policy and economic diplomacy in the Balkans, the Black Sea region and the Mediterranean, the government is looking to upgrade Thessaloniki's role as a metropolitan centre, he said, adding that Thrace will also have a new role to play as an energy, transport and commercial hub.

    Stylianidis also cited Greece's role in the relief effort for the victims of the tsunami, which hit Southeast Asia on December 26, 2004 as one of four instances of development cooperation in the past year.

    As for the National Plan for the Economic Reconstruction of the Balkans, Stylianidis said that "our hands and feet are tied" due to bilateral agreements that were signed by the previous PASOK government, which do not serve Greek national interests. "However, we will implement these agreements because as Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has said several times 'continuation of foreign policy' is paramount," Stylianidis said.

    [05] Government Foreign Affairs and Defense Council unanimously ratifies national defense policy

    Athens, 2/3/2005 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis chaired a meeting of the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA) on Tuesday which unanimously ratified national defense policy and national strategy on national interests and national objectives as set by the government.

    Existing threats and looming risks for the country's security were determined and guidelines were provided to achieve national objectives.

    National defense policy focuses on maintaining an adequate deterrent and reliable force which will be capable of protecting the country's territorial integrity from whatever threat or attack from abroad and handling asymmetrical threats.

    According to an announcement by the defense ministry, national defense policy regarding the country's northern borders anticipates the taking and implementation of all necessary preventive measures for the effective handling of asymmetrical threats such as terrorism, gunrunning, international crime and instability.

    As regards Turkey, it is noted in the announcement that "an improvement is ascertained in the country's relations with the neighboring country", while Greece's support for its European prospects is reiterated.

    However, it is ascertained that "the neighboring country has not changed the policy of disputing sovereign rights of our country. Consequently, Greece is obliged to maintain an adequate, deterrent and reliable force."

    On the question of Cyprus, emphasis was placed on the "undivided and multileveled support by Greece until the situation is normalized."

    Government spokesman: Tuesday's meeting of the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA) chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis focused on long-term national defense policy, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said after the meeting.

    He said Greece's national defense policy was based on three main axes: measures to deal with asymmetric threats from the north, deterrent capacity against Turkey and support for Cyprus.

    Antonaros said the measures in the north aimed at effective handling of threats such as terrorism, the arms trade, international crime and instability.

    With respect to Turkey, the spokesman noted an improvement in bilateral relations and Greece's support for Turkey's European prospects but also the fact that Turkey had not changed its policy of disputing Greek sovereign territorial rights.

    "For this reason, we are obliged to maintain an adequate, reliable deterrent force," he said.

    Finally, he noted that Cyprus' accession to the European Union created new conditions for the Cyprus problem and the efforts for a solution.

    "Until the situation normalizes, the Cyprus Republic will have unreserved support on multiple levels from Greece, which will also actively participate in Cyprus security matters," he said.

    [06] Government on updated list of public-sector journalists given to ESHEA

    Athens, 2/3/2005 (ANA)

    Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Tuesday told reporters that certain public-sector organizations had refused to supply lists of journalists in their employ on legal grounds.

    The spokesman was responded to questions on why a list given to the Athens Journalists Union ESHEA on Monday was again incomplete. According to ESHEA president Manolis Mathioudakis, the list did not include ministers' advisors, several public utility services and banks.

    According to Antonaros, the list given to ESHEA represented the update promised by Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos for 2003, after the government had circulated requests to all public-sector services to supply the names of all journalists working for them.

    While the majority had responded, some had refused and cited articles of law that they considered made them exempt from the blanket requirement, he added.

    Pointing out that this was not an obstacle that the government could simply wave aside overnight, Antonaros reiterated the government's desire to have all the names of journalists working in the public sector.

    He also reiterated that the government was opposed to the publication of the list of names.

    [07] Turkey must accept Cyprus as an EU member, EU representative in Ankara tells CNN Turk

    ANKARA 2/3/2005 (ANA/A.Abatzis)

    European Commission Representative in Ankara Hans Joerg Kretschmer said that Turkey needs to deal with EU-NATO relations on a multilateral level, not in the narrow perspective of Turkish-Cypriot relations, in comments he made during an interview on CNN Turk.

    He also said that Turkish officials did not seem as enthusiastic about implementing political reforms as they had initially.

    Asked about reform progress, Kretschmer noted that there are many delays regarding minority institutions and women's rights.

    Asked to comment on the protocol Turkey must sign before its EU accession talks begin on October 3, which will extend its customs union agreement in order to include the 10 new, EU member states, Kretschmer said that Turkey wants certain amendments made to the protocol. However, he said that as far as the EU is concerned, the agreement is not negotiable. He also added that the protocol will need to be approved by the 10, new EU member states, which includes Cyprus.

    Finally, in reference to the veto which Turkey is threatening to exercise because of Cyprus regarding EU-NATO relations, Kretschmer said that Turkey will have to accept that Cyprus is a member of the EU.

    [08] Foreign ministry spokesman comments on customs union protocol

    Athens, 2/3/2005 (ANA)

    Foreign ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos, commenting on Tuesday on Turkey's delay in signing the protocol on the expansion of the customs union with new member-states, said "a mission of Turkish diplomats will be going to Brussels tomorrow to discuss the protocol issue", adding that "the position of the European Commission that there must be speedy progress on this issue is known and clear."

    Koumoutsakos also referred to statements by Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council president, made after his meeting with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos on Monday, in which "it was stated emphatically that without the signing of the protocol the beginning of Turkey's accession negotiations cannot go ahead."

    "The negotiating procedure between Turkey and the European Commission is continuing, as is anticipated by the relevant process. I can say as a general position that negotiating between a candidate state with the fundamental European organs, such as the Commission, cannot be a negotiation in which the EU's expression is considered a rival, because the one side wants the accession application to go ahead and this process to proceed constructively," the spokesman said.

    [09] U.S. State Department report says Turkish government has not recognized Patriarch's universality

    WASHINGTON 2/3/2005 (ANA/T. Ellis)

    This year's U.S. State Department report on human rights stressed that the Turkish government has not recognized the universality of the Patriarch, whom it merely considers as being the head of the diminishing Greek Orthodox community and claims that only Turkish citizens have the right to participate in the Holy Synod which elects him.

    However, for the members of the Greek Orthodox community these restrictions threaten the existence of the Istanbul Patriarchate since the remaining 2,500 Greek Orthodox people living in the country are unable to preserve the institution.

    The report further stresses that about a thousand demonstrators gathered outside the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul last September and burnt Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos in effigy.

    Moreover, the perpetration of honor crimes continued, while on the question of freedom of the press and of speech, it was noted that restrictions continue to exist although the government has slackened certain restrictions on the use of the Kurdish and other languages.

    [10] Metropolitan Theoklitos resigns over alleged links with Yiossakis but insists he is innocent

    Athens, 2/3/2005 (ANA)

    Thessaliotidos Metropolitan Theoklitos offered his resignation to the Holy Synod in writing on Tuesday, stressing that he was resigning from the Thessaliotidos diocese but not from the prelacy.

    The metropolitan's decision, known several days beforehand, was made after his name was embarrassingly linked with that of jailed former archimandrite Iakovos Yiossakis, currently in Korydallos Prison facing charges of antiquities smuggling, and an emerging scandal involving both courts and clergy, in which judges were apparently bribed in order to hand out lighter sentences to known drug dealers.

    Theoklitos, a former spokesman for the Permanent Holy Synod and a close associate of Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos, insists that his intentions in recommending that Yiossakis be promoted were innocent and that he is resigning to avoid all hint that the archbishop was in any way linked with "covert" centers.

    He also calls for a full investigation into those aspects of the case that involve him so that the truth should be known.

    Theoklitos ended the letter by expressing his gratitude to Archbishop Christodoulos, who he said had acted as his spiritual father and guide over the past 27 years. "All that I am I owe to him," he said.

    As his letter of resignation arrived at the Holy Synod, meanwhile, the resigned metropolitan was appearing before a Supreme Court justice to assist in the Supreme Court's disciplinary inquiry concerning corruption in the judicial system.

    Emerging from a three-hour session, Theoklitos told reporters that he had "told the truth. Nothing more, nothing less."

    He is implicated in the suspected rigging of trial at a Piraeus court, along with remand prisoner Yiossakis.

    In a related case, meanwhile, Greek prosecuting authorities have applied to Swiss courts for permission to open the accounts for former first-instance judge Constantina Bourboulia, while three judicial officials will face prosecution for failing to submit 'means and assets' statements.

    Former Coalition party leader expresses concern over state-Church relations: Former Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party leader Nikos Constantopoulos, speaking on Tuesday at a party conference held at the Zappeion Mansion on "Relations between the state and the Church", said the position of representatives of the government and the main opposition party ''is extremely disheartening and alarming''.

    Constantopoulos said the government and the main opposition party are characterized by "the lack of institutional boldness, they place everything on an academic dialogue and the absence of policy", adding that "today, we are paying for the political and institutional compromises of the '80s" and predicted that nothing will be done even by 2010.

    Meanwhile, Yiannis Dragasakis tabled an amendment in Parliament on behalf of the Coalition party on Tuesday, calling for an immediate check of the finances of the Church and the codification of its tax privileges and a public debate on it.

    [11] Bill on transparency in justice ratified in principle

    Athens, 2/3/2005 (ANA)

    A bill on securing transparency and internal control in justice was ratified in principle by a Parliamentary plenum on Tuesday night, since both the ruling New Democracy party and the main opposition PASOK party supported the bill.

    During the discussion held on the bill by Parliament's relevant Committee, ND, PASOK and the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party had stated that they would vote in favor of it.

    However, during the debate at the Parliamentary plenum the Coalition party stated no position while the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) expressed its opposition.

    [12] PM Karamanlis continues meetings with his party's MPs

    Athens, 2/3/2005 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis continued another round of meetings with New Democracy's MPs on Tuesday.

    Specifically, he met individually with Athanassios Bouras, Sofia Voultepsi, Dimitris Sabatziotis, Nikos Stavrogiannis, Krinio Kanellopoulou, Michalis Papadopoulos and Evgenios Haitidis at Maximos Mansion.

    As in previous meetings, the main topic of discussion focused on the problems of the MPs' constituencies.

    "The prime minister gave me the honor of meeting with him today," Haitidis said after the meeting. "The issues we discussed concerned the problems of Serres prefecture and the problems of the region in general in which he is particularly interested. We also spoke about issues concerning Greeks living abroad, since as president of that parliamentary commission, I deal with those issues," he added.

    Voultepsi said that she conveyed the people's views to Karamanlis.

    The other MPs did not make any statements.

    [13] ND secretary sends outline of proposed changes to party to Central Committee

    Athens, 2/3/2005 (ANA)

    Ruling New Democracy Secretary Vangelis Meimarakis on Tuesday sent an outline of proposed changes to the party's regional organization to ND's Central Committee.

    The committee members will comment on the proposals and a final draft incorporating their ideas will be drawn up by the party leadership and put to the vote on March 18-19.

    [14] PM to meet Chinese and Turkish envoys on Wednesday

    Athens, 2/3/2005 (ANA)

    Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Tuesday announced that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will receive the Chinese Ambassador to Athens Tian Xuejun and the Turkish Ambassador to Athens Tahsin Burcuoglu for successive meetings at 9:00 and 9:30 on Wednesday, respectively.

    The premier will then meet six ruling New Democracy MPs, in a series of scheduled meetings with ND's entire Parliamentary group, before departing for a rapid two-day tour of Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro and the province of Kosovo.

    [15] EU Constitution parliamentary committee created

    Athens, 2/3/2005 (ANA)

    The special parliamentary committee charged with reviewing the European Treaty was created on Tuesday.

    The following MPs were elected leaders of the committee: New Democracy MP from Aetoloakarnania Vassilis Magginas as President; PASOK State Deputy Anna Diamantopoulou as Vice President; and Aggelos Tzekis, Thessaloniki MP of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) as Secretary.

    The committee, comprising 70 MPs, will convene for the first time next week.

    [16] Glezakos named new chief of Hellenic Coast Guard

    Athens, 2/3/2005 (ANA)

    The Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA) on Tuesday named Panayiotis Glezakos, the most senior commander in the Hellenic Coast Guard, as the Chief of the Coast Guard.

    [17] Hochtief sells a third of its stake in Athens airport

    Athens, 2/3/2005 (ANA)

    Hochtief AirPort GmbH (HTA) said on Tuesday that it had signed agreements with two funds managed by Hastings Funds Management Ltd. (Australia) - Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (Canada) and KfW IPEX-Bank (Germany) - to establish an investment partnership for about a third of its holdings in Athens, Dusseldorf and Hamburg Airports, along with 49% of its stake in Sydney airport.

    For transfer is a 13.3% stake in Athens Airport out of HTA's 40% holding, along with stakes in the other facilities. Hochtief AirPort Capital KGaA (HTAC) has been founded for transfer of the interests, which is due within weeks after German regulatory approval, HTA said in a statement.

    [18] National Bank of Greece targets 75% earnings rise

    LONDON 2/3/2005 (ANA/A Lidorikis)

    National Bank of Greece, a heavily traded stock on the Athens bourse, has targeted earnings after tax of 800 million euros, up 75% on 2004, in a three-year business plan released on Monday.

    The forecasts are based on organic earnings and results, and do not take into account revenue from acquisitions, sale of holdings and real estate, stock trades, or interest rate rises, National's chairman and managing director, Takis Arapoglou, told institutional investors.

    The bank intends to become the top bank in southeastern Europe, increasing its presence in Romania and expanding to Turkey with a view to acquisitions.

    "We are targeting the acquisition of banks with a strong presence in local markets, a wide customer base and deposits," Arapoglou told the presentation in the UK capital.

    "(Internationally) we are not closing units because we want a balanced portfolio of operations," he added.

    The text of the three-year plan contained the following forecasts for the country's largest banking group:

  • With targeted loan growth of 15% CAGR, the Bank's loan-to-deposits ratio will rise from 67% to above 80%. As a result, revenues are expected to increase by 35% from ¬ 2.0 bn to ¬ 2.7 bn (11% CAGR)

  • Operating cost growth will be limited, at a CAGR of 4%, driven by rigorous cost management and headcount control

  • As a result, the cost/income ratio will drop by 10 percentage points and reach 50% in 2007, while earnings before tax and minorities are expected to grow by 70% from ¬ 660 mn in 2004 to ¬ 1100 mn in 2007 (19% CAGR).

  • The group's targeted ROE will increase by 5 percentage points to 24% from 19%

     Our aim for the next three years is to further strengthen our domestic leadership in all segments and become the leading international Group in the region by offering customer-driven solutions, fully exploiting synergies and cross-selling, boosting accountability and efficiency and gearing our portfolio towards higher value businesses. We aim to consistently achieve ROE levels of above 20% per annum, growing our revenues by 35% and our profitability by more than 70% over the next three years," management said in the business plan.

    [19] Greek inner cabinet discusses shipping sector policy

    Athens, 2/3/2005 (ANA)

    A Greek inner cabinet meeting on Tuesday, chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, discussed developments in the domestic shipping sector and plans of large infrastructure projects in the sector.

    Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis stressed that shipping was the most dynamic sector of the Greek economy and noted that measures would be taken to promote investments in Greek ports. Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis stressed that the private sector could also participate in projects to upgrade the country's port infrastructure.

    Merchant Marine Minister said that there were bad workmanship in several ports around the country and reiterated the government's determination to approve the necessary funds to overcome such problems, although he underlined that time was needed.

    [20] Main opposition seeks action from gov't on fish farming

    Athens, 2/3/2005 (ANA)

    Forty one deputies of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement on Tuesday submitted a parliamentary question asking the farm minister to state how the government intends to spur fish farming.

    The parliamentarians claimed that the rapidly growing sector may eventually find itself in trouble if no action is taken.

    [21] Stocks drop in across-the-board profit taking

    Athens, 2/3/2005 (ANA)

    Stocks finished lower in short-term profit taking across the board, traders said.

    The Athens general share index closed at 3,118.68 points, marking a decline of 0.84%. Turnover was 257.1 million euros.

    The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.67% down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.93% lower; and the 04TSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 1.52% down.

    Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 243 to 61 with 43 remaining unchanged.

    [22] Authorities on alert once more over rising water-levels along Evros River

    Athens, 2/3/2005 (ANA)

    Authorities in the Evros region have once again been placed on alert as water-levels along the Evros River began to rise alarmingly on Tuesday, again exceeding danger levels.

    Local residents have been warned to avoid approaching the river banks and to remove any animals of farm machinery adjacent to the river in case of flooding.

    The rise in water-levels coincides with a spell of bad weather that has once again swept across the north of the country, such as in the prefecture of Thessaloniki, and in neighboring countries with tributaries that feed the Evros River.

    Similar problems occurred in February when a sudden thaw caused water levels along the Ardas and Evros rivers to rise to unprecedented levels, putting excessive pressure on embankments and threatening to flood towns and villages.

    Authorities at that time opted to artificially breach embankments at selected points and induce controlled flooding in order to siphon off excess water and reduce pressure on the banks, avoiding floods in inhabited areas.

    [23] Greek surgeon to be given Mutua Madrilena award

    Athens, 2/3/2005 (ANA)

    Surgery professor Nikos Lygidakis will be honored with the gold medal of the Mutua Madrilena foundation for his great contribution to the development of pancreas surgery.

    Lygidakis will be honored during a special event in the framework of celebrations marking the 75th anniversary of Mutua Madrilena, due to take place in Madrid on March 3.

    The medal will be awarded to professor Lygidakis by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain.

    [24] Italian journalist to hold press conference regarding the release of two journalists kidnapped in Iraq

    Athens, 2/3/2005 (ANA)

    Luciana Castellina, journalist and co-founder of the Italian daily "Il Manifesto", will be holding a press conference at the offices of the Foreign Press Association in Athens on Wednesday. The press conference will deal with the release of Giuliana Sgrena, a journalist of "Il Manifesto", and Florence Aubenas, journalist for the French newspaper "Liberation", and her interpreter Hussein Hanoun al-Saadi in Iraq.

    Sgrena and Aubenas have defended the rights of the Iraqi people against all forms of tyranny and have repeatedly called for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq, according to a statement issued by the Committee for the release of Giuliana Sgrena, Florence Aubenas and Hussein Hanoun Al-Saadi. The committee is also organizing a protest outside the Italian Embassy in Athens on Thursday evening.

    [25] IOC decides to award Alternate Culture Minister highest honor

    Athens, 2/3/2005 (ANA)

    International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge informed Alternate Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia on Tuesday that the IOC has decided to award her the highest honor for her valuable contribution to the Olympic Movement.

    Specifically, the relevant Council, which convened on the sidelines of the IOC Executive Board's meeting in Torino in February, made that decision. Rogge congratulated Palli-Petralia for winning this distinction in a letter he sent her.

    [26] Marton Simitsek appointed member of Beijing Coordinating Committee until 2008 Olympic Games

    Athens, 2/3/2005 (ANA)

    International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge on Tuesday appointed Marton Simitsek, managing director of the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee and the second most important person in it after Gianna Angelopoulos Daskalaki, a member of the Coordinating Committee for Beijing until the 2008 Olympic Games are held in this city.

    Heinz Verbrugen from the Netherlands was appointed President of the Committee and Kevin Gosper from Australia Vice President.

    The Coordinating Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games will visit Beijing in March for its first inspection.

    [27] M. Kyriakou elected president of the Olympic Torch Relay committee

    Athens, 2/3/2005 (ANA)

    Minos Kyriakou, President of the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC), was elected President of the Olympic Torch Relay committee, following the HOC's plenary session on Tuesday.

    Additionally, Antonis Nikolopoulos was elected HOC Deputy Secretary General; Yiannis Karras was elected Deputy Treasurer; and Evangelos Soufleris was elected President of the National Olympic Academy.

    [28] Cyprus wants to disassociate trade and funding regulations

    NICOSIA 2/3/2005 (CNA/ANA)

    Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides has said the government continues to believe that two European Union regulations (on direct trade with the Turkish occupied north and on allocation of funds to the Turkish Cypriots) must not be linked.

    He also said that remarks by Commission President Jose Barroso and Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos prove that Brussels wish to help efforts towards a political settlement and that Nicosia wants to see that happen as soon as possible.

    ''Our position is clear. We seek to disassociate the two regulations so that the Turkish Cypriot community can get the EU funds amounting to 259 million euro,'' Chrysostomides said.

    EU member states have approved the funds to help the economic development of the Turkish Cypriots, whose leadership has linked the allocation of the funds with the approval by the EU of the regulation on direct trade between the Union and the occupied part of the island.

    Responding to questions, the spokesman said that if there was an attempt by the Commission President to change the legal basis of the trade regulation, this would confirm that ''our position, which is shared by the Council Legal Committee, is correct and that without our consent the provisions of this regulation cannot be implemented.''

    On remarks by Barroso, after meeting Papadopoulos on Monday, that the EU would like to have a more active involvement in Cyprus, the spokesman said ''this proves that the EU wishes to help towards finding a solution.''

    Responding to other questions, Chrysostomides said the occupied port of Famagusta could start operating under a joint Greek and Turkish Cypriot venture, under the EU, provided the fenced off area of Famagusta is returned to its legal inhabitants for resettlement.

    Materials to rebuild the town of Famagusta, abandoned when its residents fled the advancing Turkish troops as they invaded in 1974, could be imported via the port, he said.

    He added that matters relating to the two regulations were on the agenda of the Papadopoulos-Barroso meeting in Brussels on Monday.

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