|Thursday, 21 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-03-04
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 4, 2005
 PASOK leader inaugurates party congress, says party's vision a 'new social pact' with Greek citizens
Athens, 4/3/2005 (ANA)Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) party leader George Papandreou inaugurated the party's four-day congress on Thursday evening, saying the party's vision is a new social pact with Greek citizens, stressing that the ruling New Democracy party received a first class country from PASOK and predicting that the way it is going ND will soon lose power and for this reason PASOK must prepare the country for tomorrow. The congress will come to a close with the election of the National Council members.
Papandreou announced the return to active party life of former PASOK minister Costas Laliotis, who will have the capacity of congress president, flanked by other known party members.
The PASOK party leader set five priorities for the conclusion of the new social pact, the first being the "great democratic reversal" and the regaining of the self-confidence and reliability of the country and of its institutions. It also includes the change in relations between the state and the citizen on the logic of "let us do without the clientele relation and particular statism at last."
The second precondition is the economy, with the denial of the state of favors and the creation of market state relations which will function in the citizen's favor without dogmatisms.
The third precondition is education, research. Technology and life-long training with the return of the system of real free education.
The fourth one is social policy. He said whatever changes in the economy must take place with a feeling of security for the citizen and, referring to the social security issue, said PASOK does not fear discussion because it desires the safeguarding of working people and of pensioners, as well as the system's viability.
The fifth precondition is the environment and viable growth.
Papandreou accused ND of unreliability, of deceiving citizens and of backing major interests and termed the pensioners' retroactive rebates issue great collusion.
Also present on the first day of the congress was former Turkish foreign minister Ismael Cem with whom, as Papandreou said, they will be cooperating closely in the framework of their two parties' cooperation.
PASOK leader rejects conflict between civilizations: George Papandreou, rejected the conflict between civilizations among the Moslem and Christian world and distanced himself from policy being applied, primarily by the United States, in the Middle East.
Papandreou also rejected xenophobia, racism, fear towards immigrants, poverty in developing countries, impoverishment in global economic competition, violence and terrorism and the downgrading of the environment.
Referring to globalization, the PASOK leader said it requires a world governance system which can only be a democratic governance. He added that the new world order will either be progressive or it will be dangerous for the world. Criticizing the United States, Papandreou said the superpower is very often incapable of handling its power.
Papandreou also commented on the European constitution, saying that PASOK will rally Greek society on this issue and will develop new alliances at European and international level.
He placed particular emphasis on cooperation with the prime ministers of Spain and Portugal Zapaterro and Socrates and with the socialist parties of France, Italy and the Balkans.
Messages were also addressed to the congress by European Parliament President Josep Borrell, former French prime minister Michel Rocard, former Italian prime minister Massimo D'Alema, Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson and former Danish prime minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen.
Addresses by foreign dignitaries: Socialist International President and former Portuguese prime minister Antonio Gutieres, addressing the congress, conveyed his solidarity to PASOK on behalf of the socialists all over the world.
"Greece and Portugal had socialist governments which gave an impetus to growth, justice and the possibility of finding work. However, as is the case in democracies, right-wing parties came to power but the common point in both countries is that instead of the right-wing governments ruling, they are behaving as if they were in the opposition again," he said, comparing the political situation prevailing in the two countries.
Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano said "let us consolidate the political Schengen because we are progressives and we anticipate oncoming developments" and referred to efforts he had made with PASOK founder Andreas Papandreou to build relations between the two countries.
Nano thanked Greek society on behalf of the Albanians ''who live in Greece" and stressed that the Albanians' effort is to become the community with the highest parameters of accession to Greek society.
Chrysohoidis addresses 7th PASOK Congress: Outgoing main opposition PASOK party secretary and former public order minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis, addressing the party's congress on Thursday night, said "self-criticism must at some moment give its place to energy, to vision. We are here to restart, to build PASOK of tomorrow."
He said the political message sent by the congress is "reawakening now for the great reversal", adding that this reawakening is already being confirmed by the mass turnout of PASOK's cadres and friends at pre-congress procedures.
Chrysohoidis also criticized the ruling New Democracy party of adopting the "scenario of passive adjustment to developments" which leads to a loss of prestige in the international environment with dramatic consequences for unemployment and the dignity of citizens.
Laliotis comments on 7th PASOK Congress: "In order for this Congress to be a milestone of hope, victory and prospects, for it to be a Congress of rebirth, it has to be equivalent to a Congress of the re-foundation of PASOK and of the victorious prospects of the democratic movement," Kostas Laliotis, former PASOK public works minister, who was named Congress President, said in statements on the sidelines of the 7th PASOK Congress which opened on Thursday night.
"Today, all of us who were with Andreas Papandreou on September 3, 1974, feel the same excitement as we did then. (...) Now we have the duty of inspiring and rallying the majority of the Greek people, once again," he said.
"We know the challenges that the new era presents, let's give our best answers. For this reason, it is worth giving the best we have," Laliotis said. "We only have one choice: to succeed for Greece, for Europe, for PASOK," he concluded.
 PM says Greece ready to contribute to Kosovo settlement, concludes Balkan tour
PRISTINA 4/3/2005 (ANA/A. Panagopoulos)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis held talks with the UN's civil commander H. Petersen here on Thursday, concluding his brief tour of the Balkans, and saying in a statement Greece was ready to contribute constructively and creatively to a settlement to the issue of Kosovo.
Petersen thanked the prime minister for Greece's support in all sectors in Kosovo and briefed him on the current situation and on the course of dialogue, stressing that progress has been achieved towards the fulfillment of criteria set by the international community, but there is still a great deal of ground to cover.
However, President Ibrahim Rugova, with whom Karamanlis had met earlier on, reiterated his position for an independent Kosovo, pointing out that he will contribute to the region's stability and underlining that its citizens will enjoy equal rights.
Karamanlis, who was accompanied on his tour by Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos and Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis, will return to Athens on Thursday evening, while on Friday morning he will be receiving Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano at the Maximos Mansion.
Karamanlis visits Greek peacekeeping contingent in Kosovo: Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis continued his ongoing tour of the western Balkans on Thursday with a visit to the headquarters of a Greek military contingent in Kosovo, a unit that is participating in the KFOR mission in the strife-plagued region.
"It is with great joy and proud that I am here among you today at the headquarters of the Greek contingent in Kosovo," Karamanlis said during a brief address to the men and officers of the Greek army contingent.
"We know very well that your mission, beyond being very difficult, is also very difficult. We also know that despite whatever difficulties you have successfully fulfilled your duty, something recognized by all, especially, and I want to emphasize this, by the residents of Kosovo," Karamanlis said.
Hours after his meetings in Belgrade with the Serbia-Montenegro leadership, the Greek premier stressed that Kosovo is a "crucial catalyst" for Balkan peoples' common vision, namely, the achievement of peaceful co-existence, understanding, cooperation and prosperity.
"Our country, as I had the chance to stress yesterday (Wednesday) and today to the leaders of the peoples of this region, is working intensely and systematically so that the road of European potential is open to all the countries of the western Balkans. We are doing this because we believe that the accession of these countries in European institutions will turn a new page for our region," Karamanlis added.
 PM Karamanlis calls for decision on Kosovo's future within UN framework, after talks in Belgrade
BELGRADE 4/3/2005 (ANA - A. Panagopoulos)A decision for the future of Kosovo must be made in the framework of the United Nations, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said on Thursday after talks here with Belgrade officials.
He also stressed the need for close cooperation with the European Union, the United States and Russia in the process and said that Belgrade should be fully involved in the talks to determine Kosovo's future status.
On Thursday morning, Karamanlis met with Serbia and Montenegro President Svetozar Marovic and Serb Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica. On his arrival in Belgrade on Wednesday evening, the Greek premier had met Serb President Boris Tadic and Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic.
According to Karamanlis, the effort made in Kosovo to fulfill the international community's criteria was not satisfactory.
Noting that the events in Kosovo during March last year were a "black spot", he called for immediate efforts to ensure the safety of non-Albanian communities in Kosovo, particularly the Serbs, and for immediate measures to create conditions of safety for the return of thousands of Serb refugees and displaced persons and the restoration of churches and monuments.
"Kosovo will only be safe when all Kosovars, regardless of ethnic origin or religion, can live freely, peacefully and without fear. A society built on fear is a source of potential concern and insecurity," he stressed.
The Greek premier reiterated that the future status of Kosovo should be the result of dialogue, arising through peaceful processes, and be compatible with the UN Charter, as well as the Helsinki Final Act and the Paris Charter of 1990 signed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Regarding Serbia and Montenegro, Karamanlis said that this should rightfully find a place in the EU and that the process of European integration would remain incomplete if Serbia and Montenegro were not included.
He also stressed Greece's support for the peoples of Serbia and Montenegro, saying that their future lay within united Europe.
Marovic underlined the good relations between the two countries, noting that Serbia and Montenegro did not have a better friend in the region than Greece. With regard to Kosovo, he said that its future status could not be discussed without Belgrade or without the presence of both Serbs and Albanians.
During an earlier meeting with Kostunica, Karamanlis had stressed the need for cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal trying war crimes by former Yugoslavia, as well as expressing support for Serbia's European orientation.
He also assured Kostunica that Greece was working systematically to ensure full respect of the criteria outlined by the international community for Kosovo. He said that Athens did not consider that Kosovo could return to its pre-1999 status.
Kostunica stressed that a solution in Kosovo should not create "victors and defeated" and supported a status of heightened autonomy but not independence.
Karamanlis will depart from Belgrade this afternoon for Pristina, where he will first visit the base of the Greek peacekeeping force stationed in the area. In the afternoon, the Greek premier is 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.
 Gov't reiterates volition over LAFKA rebate; says it fulfilled pre-election promise to abolish the contribution
Athens, 4/3/2005 (ANA)The government on Thursday reiterated that it will retroactively pay back the much-vilified LAFKA contributions -- first deducted from wages in 1998 -- when the issue is conclusively adjudicated by the Court of Auditors, a specialized appellate-level administrative tribunal.
The statement by alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros follows similar comments he made a day earlier on the heels of a decision by a political aide to Deputy Economy Minister Petros Doukas to abruptly withdraw a lawsuit demanding the retroactive rebate of contributions by pensioners to the Solidarity Account for Social Insurance Bodies (LAFKA). The defendant in that case, pensioner Vassilis Goulas, resigned from his post as Doukas' aide on Wednesday amid a firestorm of opposition and media criticism.
"(Ruling) New Democracy had promised before the (2004) election that it would immediately abolish the LAFKA contributions and followed through. The issue of the retroactive rebate appeared along the way, and the government assumed its specific commitment (to compensate pensioners following a court ruling)," he said, stressing that an analogous lawsuit -- one of 39 cases before the Court of Auditors -- will be heard in 18 days.
"There's no need for crocodile tears to be shed by those that had condemned pensioners to paying (the LAFKA contributions) from 1998 to 2007. Our government stopped this procedure," Antonaros said in an indirect criticism of the previous PASOK government.
Paying back the LAFKA contributions to eligible pensioners is expected to relieve state coffers of between 900 to 950 million euros.
'Fiscal audit' query: Concerning an unrelated question on whether the government is calculating defense procurements in the same manner as the previous PASOK government -- a contentious issue linked with a high-profile 'fiscal audit' championed by the government as putting the state's finances in order but ridiculed by PASOK as damaging Athens' international reputation -- Antonaros said the query takes "an oversimplified approach".
"The audit serves the real, not the bookkeeping image of the Greek economy's fiscal condition ... It (fiscal audit) doesn't only deal with the listing of defense expenditures. We have repeatedly documented that, and of course, this has been accepted by our European partners," he said.
Ruling party trade unionists rap opposition over pension levy: Ruling party trade unionists on Thursday blasted the main opposition PASOK party for its criticism of the government in an uproar over a pensions levy.
"Today's most talkative PASOK representatives have no right to speak of the LAFKA pension levy, as they were the ones to institute and maintain it," the DAKE tendency of New Democracy party trade unionists said in a statement.
At the same time, DAKE indirectly criticized government officials for mishandling the issue and undermining the premier's policy.
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis scrapped the levy in July 2004 and pledged that pensioners would receive retroactive rebates.
The opposition says that the rebates have not been paid, breaking an ND election pledge. The government has stated that payment will be made after a court rules on the levy.
 PM to meet with Nano, Angelopoulos-Daskalaki on Friday
Athens, 4/3/2005 (ANA)Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will receive his Albanian counterpart, Fatos Nano, at his Maximos Mansion office in the morning.
A meeting with Athens 2004 Olympic Games Organizing Committee (ATHOC) president Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki is scheduled afterwards.
In response to an Olympics-related question, Antonaros clarified that an extraordinary 430,000-euro grant by the government to ATHOC for the 2003-2004 period will be on the latter's upcoming balance sheet.
 President Stephanopoulos receives visiting Albanian PM
Athens, 4/3/2005 (ANA)President Kostis Stephanopoulos received visiting Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano on Thursday. Nano will also be meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday.
 EU Commissioner on 'primary shareholder' laws in Greece
BRUSSELS 4/3/2005 (ANA - V. Demiris)Responding to questions on "how things stand" with the 'primary media shareholder' laws passed by Greece, European Commissioner for internal markets Charlie McCreevy on Thursday stressed that the Community was obliged to look into complaints when these were made.
A representative for the Commissioner noted that Greek authorities had promised to supply additional information regarding the new laws within the next fortnight.
 Gov't says financial audit of every single bishopric unfeasible
Athens, 4/3/2005 (ANA)Deputy Economy Minister Adam Regouzas on Thursday stressed that a "pre-emptive" audit of the finances of every single bishopric -- known as a "Metropoli" in the Greek Orthodox Church's ecclesiastical structure -- is unfeasible, whereas an audit of specific Churches must follow an administrative or court order.
Regouzas, who was replying to a Parliament question tabled by Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) deputy Yiannis Dragasakis, based his answer on a circular issued by a former education ministry general director in May 2001.
"Where there are instances of mismanagement we are obliged to react. Give us specific charges so we can ensure that a prosecutor's order for an audit is attained," Regouzas said, adding however:
"Whatever mood is (now) being cultivated against the Church will not find us in agreement. Whatever procedures for tidying up its own house belong to the Church".
 FinMin meets visiting Czech Development, EU Affairs ministers
Athens, 4/3/2005 (ANA)Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Thursday met with visiting Czech Republic's Development Minister Giri Paroybek and European Union Affairs Minister Vera Jourova.
Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, Alogoskoufis said they discussed a full range of cooperation between the two countries. The Greek minister stressed that the Czech Republic was recording impressive growth rates and noted that the country's entry in the EU created even more cooperating prospects. Alogoskoufis said that the Czech Republic was a very interesting country and expressed Greece's interest in attracting more Czech tourists in the country.
Czech Development Minister Giri Paroubek said that his country looked forward to forging closer cooperation with Greece.
 End in sight of EU-ordained deficit reduction, finmin tells ANA
Athens, 4/3/2005 (ANA)Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Thursday that the European Union was likely to suspend in several months its excessive deficit process for Greece due to an improvement in performance and the government's adherence to EU recommendations.
The 2005 budget would be strictly adhered to, which meant keeping to targets for revenue and expenditure, Alogoskoufis told the Athens News Agency.
When the 2006 budget was ready in October this year and it emerged that the fiscal shortfall would fall below the EU ceiling of 3.0% of gross domestic product, the end of the excessive deficit process would be in sight, the minister said.
He also noted that Greece's updated stability and growth program would be given to EU authorities on March 15. The plan contains three scenarios: the first envisages alignment with budgetary targets; the second lies closer to the EU Commission's forecasts; and the third would be more pessimistic.
Growth in 2004 would top 4.0%, possibly rising to 4.2%, versus an original forecast of 3.7%, the minister added.
 Greek trade deficit up 15.5 percent in 2004
Athens, 4/3/2005 (ANA)Greece's trade deficit totalled 28.206 billion euros last year from 24.427 billion euros in 2003, an increase of 15.5 percent, the National Statistics Service said on Thursday.
NSS, in its provisional report on the country's trade balance, said that excluding oil products, Greece's trade deficit rose 19.9 percent in 2004.
The total value of import-arrivals was 40.435 billion euros last year, from 36.344 billion in 2003, an increase of 11.3 percent, while imports excluding oils rose 13.4 percent over the same period.
The total value of export-deliveries was 12.228 billion euros in 2004, from 11.917 billion in 2003, an increase of 2.6 percent, while exports excluding oils rose 1.9 percent over the same period.
 Average income tax up 25.8 pct in 2001-04
Athens, 4/3/2005 (ANA)The average income tax in Greece rose by 25.8 percent in the period 2001-2004, while the average taxable income increased 22.7 percent and the average stated income rose 26.2 percent over the same period, the finance ministry said on Thursday.
The ministry said the average annual consumer price index rose 14.1 percent in the 2001-2004 period.
Average tax rose by 8.9 percent in 2001, by 6.1 pct in 2002, by 8.7 percent in 2003 and by 0.2 pct in 2004, while the average taxed income rose by 6.5 pct, 6.5 pct, 5.7 pct and 2.3 pct, over the same period, respectively.
Average stated income rose by 6.5 pct in 2001, 6.5 pct in 2002, 5.8 pct in 2003 and 5.1 pct in 2004.
Attica prefecture (the greater Athens area) was the richest region of the country, with an average stated income of 15,694 euros in 2004, followed by Crete with 11,977 and central Greece with 11,897 euros in 2004.
The Ionian islands (10,600 euros), the Peloponnese (10,794 euros) and eastern Macedonia-Thrace (10,924 euros) were the regions with the lowest average stated income in 2004.
 33 PASOK deputies table question on tourism prospects
Athens, 4/3/2005 (ANA)Thirty-three main opposition PASOK deputies tabled a Parliament question towards the tourism, education and economy ministers this week regarding the country's "post-Olympics" tourism prospects.
In their question, the PASOK MPs referred to a 'squandering' of the publicity and momentum from the 2004 Games, while also focusing on a state-run real estate holdings company, which they claimed is managed in loss-making fashion.
 Gov't, EU agency discuss food safety
Athens, 4/3/2005 (ANA)Greek Development Deputy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou on Thursday met with visiting director-general of the European Food Safety Authority, G. Podger, currently in Athens on an invitation by Greece's Food Safety Agency EFET.
The meeting discussed new EU regulations on food safety, to be put into effect from January 1, 2006, covering food hygiene and safety throughout the food production chain.
Mr Podget praised the Greek Food Safety Agency's effective operation, and in particular the systematic, responsible and timely information of the public and its successful participation during the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. Podget later participated in a meeting with EFET's scientific council where he presented the European Food Safety Authority's structure and operation.
 Minister urges public to prefer Citizens' Service Centers for transactions with public sector
Athens, 4/3/2005 (ANA)Deputy Interior Minister Apostolos Andreoulakos has appealed to the public and small businesses to prefer their neighborhood Citizens Service Centre (KEP) instead of the traditional state services for their transactions with a circular issued to state agencies on Thursday.
He has also asked for the support of other ministries in this effort and has notified the employment and social protection ministry of the full range of administrative processes that can be handled at KEP centers, asking its leadership to promote KEP services.
The minister asks that staff in social insurance funds, trade union groups and other organizations attached to the employment ministry be briefed in turn, so that they can encourage the public to use KEP centers as 'one-stop shops' for their transactions and avoid red tape.
 BSEC interministerial meeting on energy to be held in Alexandroupolis on Friday
Athens, 4/3/2005 (ANA)The energy ministers of the countries belonging to the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organization, will be meeting on Friday to discuss the linking of electricity networks in the regions of southeast Europe and the Black Sea.
A joint declaration is expected to be signed at the end of the meeting promoting multilateral cooperation in the energy sector.
Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis will be opening the session, which is being organized by the Development and Foreign ministries.
A work group session was held on March 2 and 3 in preparation for Friday's meeting.
 DETROP 2005 exhibit opens in Thessaloniki on Friday
Athens, 4/3/2005 (ANA)DETROP 2005, an international food and beverages exhibit, opens in Thessaloniki on Friday. Nikos Tsiartsionis, Macedonia-Thrace Minister, will be inaugurating the exhibit.
Selected buyers from Greece and abroad have been invited to attend. The exhibit will run until Monday.
Other events, such as the 5th International Wine Contest, the Greek National Cooking and Pastry contest, an olive tasting event and others will be held on the sidelines of DETROP 2005.
 International food & drinks trade fair begins Friday
Athens, 4/3/2005 (ANA)Detrop, an international food and beverages trade fair, opens in the northern port city of Thessaloniki on Friday, organizers said in a statement.
Arranged by Helexpo, the trade fair also includes machinery and equipment associated with the sector. Entry is open to the public from Friday-Sunday and for trade visitors only on Monday.
An associated event is the Thessaloniki International Wine Contest, which began on Wednesday and ends on Friday
The only event of its kind in Greece, the contest is arranged by Union of Northern Greek Vintners with Helexpo as part of the trade fair.
 Gov't to begin consultations on store opening hours
Athens, 4/3/2005 (ANA)Deputy Development Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou said on Thursday that the government was ready to begin consultations with the market on store opening hours.
The talks based on a government blueprint will begin immediately and end in about three weeks, the minister said.
The government is proposing that stores should remain open until 2100 throughout the year on weekdays, closing at 2000 on Saturday. Local authorities of tourist resorts would have the right to allow stores to open on Sunday, he added.
 Stocks nose up in bid to consolidate
Athens, 4/3/2005 (ANA)Stocks finished higher in volatile trade with the market trying to consolidate, traders said.
The Athens general share index closed at 3,074.71 points, marking a rise of 0.10%. Turnover was 166.4 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.02% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.34% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 1.50% up.
 Situation in Lavara described as critical, state of emergency continues in Evros
Athens, 4/3/2005 (ANA)Authorities in the northeastern prefecture of Evros on Thursday said the situation around Lavara remained critical and that a state of emergency declared in the prefecture would continue into its third week.
Several homes and acres of agricultural land were inundated by water on Wednesday when the Evros River flooded its banks.
On Thursday morning the area was visited by the defense minister, accompanied by the head of the Armed Forces General Staff Admiral Panagiotis Xinofotis, to oversee the army troops that are assisting state efforts to deal with the crisis.
The level of the water at various points along the river remains high, exceeding alert levels, while trains to Pythio, Lavara and Mandra are not running after the tracks were flooded on Wednesday, leaving behind quantities of debris and water.
Local authorities services are currently in the area seeking ways to keep the water level under control and protect the local residents.
Though the weather in northern Greece remains poor, it has not significantly disrupted road and rail links, while the airports and ports and operating normally.
Development minister says government stands by flood victims in Evros prefecture: Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, on arrival in Alexandroupoli on Thursday afternoon, said the government will stand by flood victims in the northern Evros prefecture, as was proved by the visit recently made to the region by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
"Im am aware that Evros is experiencing difficult moments. I am also aware that both the Evros regional secretary general, the Evros prefect, the armed forces here and all the inhabitants are facing this natural disaster, the second in a short period of time, with calmness and in every way so as to minimize damage caused. The government is standing by the prefecture, it is standing by the inhabitants affected and, in any case, this was also proved by the visit made here recently by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Interior and Public Administration Minister Mr. (Prokopis) Pavlopoulos. I know that the national defense minister was also here today. We are all with you and the government has committed itself to support the inhabitants of the Evros prefecture who have been affected by this natural disaster," Sioufas said.
The minister arrived in Alexandroupoli to attend Friday's meeting of energy ministers from member-states of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, to be held at the initiative of the development ministry in the framework of the Organization's Greek presidency (November 2004-April 2005).
 Gen. Sec. for Equality Tsoumani addresses UN Commission on Status of Women
New York 4/3/2005 (ANA/P. Panagiotou)Greece's secretary general for equality, Evgenia Tsoumani, outlined the institutional mechanisms for equality between men and women that have been established in recent years in Greece, and those institutionalized in the framework of the new Equality Action Plan 2004-2008, while addressing the 49th conference of the UN Commission on the Status of Women on Wednesday, as well as in several contacts with foreign delegations on the sidelines of the conference and during a press conference for the Greek-American media.
Examples in that direction cited by Tsoumani included the National Committee for Dialogue on Equality, the political committee on the trafficking of women, which operates under the jurisdiction of the justice ministry, and the strengthening of the role of the periphery on equality issues.
"It is not sufficient to simply create mechanisms, we need to also ensure their efficient operation and cooperation, and their financial backing," she said, and pointed out that the obstacles still faced by women can be confronted through the active participation of the citizens, the exchange of experiences between countries, and further utilization of their know-how.
The government, she said, has developed a comprehensive strategy for the current four-year term, in which equality issues are linked with the country's national priorities, such as growth, employment and social cohesion.
 Immigration Policy Institute president holds talks with Dutch and Bulgarian embassy representatives
Athens, 4/3/2005 (ANA)Immigration Policy Institute President Alexandros Zavos held talks recently with representatives of the Dutch and Bulgarian embassies in Athens who visited him at their request for talks on the issue of immigration in Greece, the Netherlands and Bulgaria. Also discussed were prospects of developing bilateral cooperation to achieve a better handling of the issue.
Talks with the Dutch representatives also focused on the possibility of the Institute's joint participation with the corresponding Dutch one in the European "Enias" program, aimed at handling immigration issues at European level.
The discussion with the Bulgarian side concerned problems faced by Bulgarian immigrants and the future establishment of measures to remedy them.
 Transport minister visits ISAP museum in Pireaus
Athens, 4/3/2005 (ANA)Transport and Communications Minister Michalis Liapis referred to the history of the Athens-Piraeus Electric Railways (ISAP), which has been in existence 136 years, but also referred to related future projects, during his visit to the ISAP museum on Thursday in Piraeus.
Liapis - accompanied by Deputy Minister Anastasios Nerantzis, OASA (Athens Urbran Transportation Organization) President and CEO Simos Simopoulos and other ISAP officials - was given a tour of the museum where various items are on display, such as a train wagon dating back to the previous century.
Liapis referred to various projects carried out on the network, such as the reconstruction of 23 stations, the addition of Neratziotissa station which facilitates connections with Athens' suburban rail, and the purchase of 120 new trains.
He said that the development program is still under way, with plans to reconstruct the rails in order to ensure greater travel speeds, upgrading of the factory at the Piraeus terminal and installation of air conditioning and heating in every train.
Finally, the minister also said that plans are already under way to capitalize on ISAP's property holdings, particularly in Piraeus and Faliro, and emphasized that a feasibility study has already been started for extending transportation networks in the greater Piraeus area.
 Protesters outside Italian embassy in Athens call for release of three hostages in Iraq
Athens, 4/3/2005 (ANA)Greek journalists and members of political and social organizations gathered outside the Italian Embassy in Athens on Thursday, calling for the release of Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena (Il Manifesto), French journalist Florence Aubenas (Liberation) and her interpreter Hassan Hanoun El-Saadi, who were kidnapped in Iraq.
Aside from demanding the release of the three hostages, the approximately 150 protesters who gathered outside the embassy also demanded that the US stop bombing Ramadi, which according to them, fuels hatred among Iraqis against foreigners and endangers the hostages' lives. They also demanded that foreign military forces withdraw from Iraq.
 Deputy sports minister visits Japanese Sports Sciences Institute
Athens, 4/3/2005 (ANA)Deputy Sports Minister Giorgos Orfanos visited Japan's Sports Sciences Institute on Thursday and expressed admiration for the way with which the country's athletes are trained. At the same time, he expressed his desire for the creation of a similar institute in Greece.
"We saw the sports miracle of Japan and we realized why this country succeeded in the Athens Olympic Games to double the medals won by its athletes (37) compared to those they had won in Sydney," Orfanos said at the end of his visit.
Orfanos pointed out that the Greek government's tangible interest in the athletes of the Special Olympics was the main reason for his presence in Japan.
 Cyprus President: Turkey must sign protocol for accession talks to begin
BRUSSELS 4/3/2005 (CNA/ANA)The Cyprus issue and the two regulations for Turkish Cypriots which are pending before the EU Council of Ministers were the main issues examined during Thursday's working breakfast between Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and the Prime Minister of Belgium Guy Verhofstadt.
In statements after the meeting, President Papadopoulos stressed that if Turkey does not sign the protocol extending its customs union with the ten new member states, then Turkey's accession negotiations with the EU will not start.
He also said they examined the Cyprus problem and prospects for a more active EU involvement in a new round of negotiations for Cyprus, as well as the two regulations for Turkish Cypriots, (259 million Euro assistance and direct trade with the occupied north of Cyprus).
Asked what was Verhofstadt response, President Papadopoulos said Belgium's prime minister and generally Belgium ''always supported our positions and I think they will continue the same stance in the future, this is the picture I have.''
Regarding Turkey signing the protocol expanding its customs union with the new EU member states, President Papadopoulos said that all those who met with him in the last days both in Luxembourg and Belgium as well as Commissioners consider resolute the European Council decision that Ankara should sign the protocol.
The faster they sign it, the less problems they will face in the future, said President Papadopoulos, adding he does not have any indication as to what Turkey intends to do but read that Ankara is raising legal issues as far as the protocol is concerned.
Asked about Wednesday's meeting in Brussels of a Turkish delegation with members of the legal service of the European Commission, the Cypriot president said that ''the issue is clear: If Turkey does not sign the protocol for its customs union, accession negotiations will not begin''.
 Cyprus considers US position on weapons in occupied areas 'unfair'
NICOSIA 4/3/2005 (CNA/ANA)Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides described as ''unfair'' the US insistence to abide by a legislation which considered a large number of American armaments in Cyprus in the hands of the Turkish occupation forces as legal and the presence of some American armaments in the Greek armed forces as illegal.
He was commenting on statements made Wednesday by US State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli that there has been no transfer of weapons in the Turkish occupied north of Cyprus.
''This 'love of the law' causes deep regret because while the whole Turkish operation since 1974 has been illegal from the international law's point of view, the presence of this armament is considered legal'', said Chrysostomides.
Invited to comment on Ereli's statement that for a Cyprus settlement there is the Annan Plan, Chrysostomides said it was bizarre that ''a democratic country (the US) is ignoring the fact that the Annan Plan was not accepted at the time by the majority of the Greek Cypriot community following a democratic procedure''.
He also wondered whether ''the US people at large who are imbued with democratic ideals, agree with their officials''.
Ereli repeated on Wednesday that ''there has been no transfer of weapons'', when he was invited to comment on Democratic Rally party leader Nicos Anastassiades' remarks who described Ereli's statements about Turkish transfer of US weapons in Cyprus as ''unacceptable''.
The US deputy spokesman also said he did not accept the parallel when questioned why the US asks Syria to leave from Lebanon and not Turkey from Cyprus.
The reporter, quoting Anastassiades asked Ereli if Cuba occupied Miami, would the Americans allow the use of the illegal airports and seaports, as in the case of Turkish occupying forces in Cyprus and he replied ''we're dealing with one set of realities and you're talking about a completely different set of unrealities''.
Ereli said that for a settlement to the Cyprus problem, ''there is a plan'', the Annan plan. ''That is a plan that we feel addresses the problem of the long division of that island and it is a plan to which we have given our support and which we have called on all parties that want to see a resolution of the Cyprus problem endorse and support. So, you know, that's the solution for Cyprus and that's what we want to see applied,'' he said.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the island's northern third.
The Greek Cypriots rejected the Annan Plan in a referendum in April 2004, saying it would not reunite the country and satisfied Turkey's demands instead of meeting the needs of the Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
Cyprus makes strong representation over US human rights report: Cyprus Foreign Ministry Permanent Secretary Sotos Zakhaios has made strong representations to the US embassy Attache in Cyprus, Edwin Nolan, with regard to the 2004 US State Department report on human rights in Cyprus.
An official press release said Zakhaios described the report unacceptable and not objective both in relation to its content and to the way it presents the Republic of Cyprus in two parts, with the second entitled ''Northern Cyprus'', that deals with the Turkish occupied northern part of the country.
He also said the report was full of inaccuracies and omissions, on purpose, and underlined that it explicitly serves political expediencies, something that affects its impartiality, as he noted.
The report undermines the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus, upgrades the secessionist entity and ignores on purpose the military occupation of one third of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus by Turkey as well as the massive violations of the human rights of the people of Cyprus.
Zakhaios referred to the rejection of the report by all political parties in Cyprus, pointing out that it has deepened the feelings of bitterness and disappointment of the Greek Cypriots for the US.
Nolan said he will convey the views of the Cyprus Government to the State Department.
 Cyprus government welcomes T/C decision for G/C goods
NICOSIA 4/3/2005 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides on Thursday said that a decision by the so called council of ministers in the Turkish occupied areas to allow the import of products from the government controlled areas to the Turkish occupied areas will promote cooperation, understanding and trade exchanges between the two communities.
He also expressed hope that there will be more measures that will prove that there is a real intention for trade and economic exchanges in the framework of the Green Line Regulation.
He further underlined that the Greek Cypriot community is the one that has financially assisted the Turkish Cypriot side more than any other state.
He said the Turkish Cypriot Commerce Chamber said in one of its reports that the flow of capital from the Greek Cypriot community to the Turkish Cypriot community from April 2003 until the end of 2004 amounted to 180 million dollars.