|Wednesday, 13 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-03-05
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 5, 2005
 BSEC members sign "Alexandroupolis Declaration" on energy
Athens, 5/3/2005 (ANA)Energy ministers of the countries belonging to the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organization adopted the "Alexandroupolis Declaration," after their meeting held in Northern Greece on Friday.
The primary conclusion the BSEC ministers reached was that liberalization of electricity and natural gas markets in full accordance with EU directives is a must, with the aim of creating a regional energy market, thus achieving economies of scale that will in turn lead to greater growth.
A meeting of the working groups on electricity networks and energy earlier in the week preceded Friday's meeting.
By adopting the Alexandroupolis Declaration, BSEC members have agreed on a common framework for collaboration in the future.
According to the declaration, some of the points BSEC members have agreed on include: strengthening cooperation in order to improve energy efficiency and promote renewable sources of energy, instituting a common legislative framework with common rules that will apply to all BSEC member countries, create a common market of electricity networks and natural gas within the context of the EU market, etc.
All of the BSEC members - Albania, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldavia, Romania, Russia, Serbia and Montenegro, Turkey and Ukraine - were represented at the meeting, while committees of energy experts also participated.
Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas represented Greece. Macedonia-Thrace Minister Nikos Tsiartsionis, Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis, Deputy Development Minister George Salagoudis and Secretary General for Development N. Stefanou were also in attendance.
Sioufas emphasized that Greece, which has assumed the BSEC presidency through April, aims at promoting multilateral cooperation among the organization's members, but also expanding BSEC cooperation with the EU on a governmental and parliamentary level in all sectors. He also emphasized that "strengthening the safety of energy provision and promoting active and substantial actions in the area of energy interconnectivity is our primary goal."
 PM Karamanlis confers with visiting Albanian counterpart Nano
Athens, 5/3/2005 (ANA)Prime minister Costas Karamanlis met Friday with his visiting Albanian counterpart Fatos Nano.
The two men discussed bilateral relations and the situation in the region.
No statements were made after the talks. Nano also met Thursday with President of the Republic Costis Stephanopoulos.
Karamanlis meeting with Nano concluded the Greek premier's series of contacts with leaders of the western Balkan countries, which opened Wednesday with visits to Zagreb and Belgrade, followed by Pristina on Thursday.
 Deputy FM on FYROM and Kosovo
Athens, 5/3/2005 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis said that Skopje's consent on finding a solution that is acceptable to both Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) regarding the latter's name, is a prerequisite, as far as Greece is concerned, for FYROM to proceed with the EU accession process.
Valinakis' comments were made on Friday at an international meeting on Kosovo and developments in the West Balkans, held in Thessaloniki under the auspices of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP).
"As the European Commission evaluates FYROM's accession request, Skopje must realize that dialogue and a spirit of consensus are absolute prerequisites in order to achieve a mutually-acceptable solution," Valinakis said in reference to the controversy surrounding FYROM's wish to use its constitutional name "Republic of Macedonia." "FYROM must understand that the EU cannot accept countries that do not act within a spirit of consensus," he added.
In reference to Kosovo and its final status, Valinakis said: "It must be made clear that none of the interested parties nor any of the neighboring countries should adopt a selfish approach. The message must be clear: a zero sum policy in the Balkans will not be acceptable to the EU, a union which countries in the region look to join."
US Ambassador to Greece Charles Ries, political officials and experts from southeast and west Europe are participating in the meeting, which will conclude Sunday.
 Simitis kicks-off second day of PASOK's 7th congress
Athens, 5/3/2005 (ANA)Former prime minister Costas Simitis was the high-profile speaker at the second day of main opposition PASOK's 7th congress on Friday, where he mainly attacked ruling New Democracy and the government's policies since it assumed power roughly one year ago.
Among others, Simitis charged that the government is habitually bucking all responsibilities to the central state and warned that it has chosen and implements a "dangerous dogma of inactivity", as he said, pointing to Athens' stance vis-à-vis the Annan peace plan for Cyprus and acquiescence for the beginning of Turkey's accession negotiations in October "without exploiting Helsinki (summit) agreements".
In referring to PASOK, the two-time prime minister (1996-2004) reiterated his call for "modernization" -- a motto liberally employed during his tenure as premier -- and criticized what he referred to as "small and large organized interests".
In expanding his critique of society and local politics in general, Simitis cited a "flexibility" in social behaviors, one that translates into acceptance of a legality that is implemented only selectively and is often identified with lawlessness.
In pointing to the reasons behind Greece's underdevelopment, Simitis reeled off a list of attitudes that included collusion by special interest groups, ethnocentrism, populism, promotion of so-called neutrality that he said defends certain interests as well as a "conservative belief in hierarchies, lists, seniority and conspiracy theories in our international relations."
He said these attitudes coupled with a lack of development and unresolved national issues are primarily responsible for the country's condition.
Other speakers on Friday included the president of Cyprus' EDEK party, Yiannakis Omirou, as well as the party's honorary president, Vassos Lyssarides; the president of the DISY party Nicos Anastassiades; AKEL party member Andros Kyprianou.
Venizelos, Skandalidis address PASOK congress: Two of main opposition PASOK's top ministers in the previous Simitis governments, Evangelos Venizelos and Costas Skandalidis, took to the podium on Friday during the second day of the party's 7th congress, which is being held in an Athens seaside sports centre.
"PASOK is not called upon to prove that it can return to power, but that it wants to, quickly and immediately, in fact," Venizelos told delegates and foreign dignitaries.
Moreover, he said one thing in favor of the main opposition party is the fact that it is relieved of past conflicts for control of the party's organs, adding that PASOK leader George Papandreou has "absolute freedom in maneuvering".
On his part, Skandalidis said the congress should clearly answer the question of "what should change in PASOK".
He also referred to PASOK's long hold on government (1981-1989 and 1993-2004), saying we "were found a country on the margins, poor and dependent ... we handed over to the conservative government a strong country that belongs to Greeks; a European country at the centre of developments in the European Union."
ND secretary addresses PASOK party's congress, says impetus must be given to development effort
Ruling New Democracy party secretary Vangelis Meimarakis addressed the main opposition PASOK party's congress on Friday, saying "on major national targets we can and must converse, discuss and disagree but in the end we must give an impetus to our country's development effort and so it is necessary for us to join forces on such issues and to add up our efforts."
Meimarakis further said that from the very first moment that it assumed its duties the ND government continued the beneficial work of previous governments and proved this with the national issue of the Olympic Games.
"There is no doubt that we have differences in political views, in philosophy and in the implementation of policy with PASOK, as well as with the other parties. However, apart from what differentiates us, I will not say separates us, we are united by a common element: our obligation to respect and support the citizen and to defend democracy and public interest," he added.
Communist Party Politburo member tells PASOK party's congress polarization widening between wealth and poverty: Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Politburo member Theodoros Tziantzis, addressing the main opposition PASOK party's congress on Friday, said polarization between wealth and poverty is widening steadily and the various recipes for handling popular problems are proving to be ineffective.
"We believe that at least throughout the entire post-dictatorship period (beginning in 1974) the two paths for the development of Greek society have become visible. The one is the path serving the interests of the multinationals and of the capitalists against the people, the path of adjustment and submission to the anti-popular options of the European Union and of NATO," he said.
"The other is the path of creating the anti-imperialist and anti-monopoly front," he added and pointed out that "it will either serve the monopolies, imperialism and the capitalist system or it will serve the people and will have socialism as its prospect.''
Tziantzis expressed KKE's radical opposition to the transformation of the armed forces into a professional army and, referring to the European constitution, noted that "it incorporates all the reactionary settlements made so far, further widening state suppression and militarization."
Coalition (Synaspismos) not 'complementary' to any force, party leader tells PASOK congress: The leader of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) Alekos Alavanos on Friday stressed that his party "was not define through others as anyone's complementary force," during his address to the main opposition PASOK party's congress.
"If such an impressions has been created from time to time, we do consider anyone responsible but ourselves. But it is time for this impression to be dispelled in order for them to be a healthier framework in relations between us," he told congress delegates.
Alavanos was responded to earlier proposals by PASOK leader George Papandreou for a "forum for discussion and dialogue on a permanent basis on all issues between PASOK, the Coalition and other interested forces".
According to Synaspismos' leader, a prerequisite for such a move would be to have made steps toward an overall political convergence and these had not been made.
At the same time, he said that parties should not "surround themselves by high walls and each shut itself inside its own castle".
European Socialist Party president tells PASOK party's congress conservatives 'don't even know what modernization means': European Socialist Party President Paul Rasmussen, addressing the main opposition PASOK party's congress on Friday, said the conservatives ''don't even know what modernization means, they speak of old-fashioned stories and when they talk of changes they mean an increase in working hours and a decrease in salaries.''
"We shall politicalize Europe now with a majority of socialists in it, while we are waiting impatiently for the new Greek government under George Papandreou," Rasmussen added but warned that "it will not come automatically, but only if you modernize yourselves."
Independent MP Manos tells PASOK congress that party should continue 'political enlargement': Independent MP Stephanos Manos, a former minister that left ruling New Democracy to found his own party and was elected into Parliament on PASOK's ticket during the last elections, on Friday told PASOK's 7th congress that the party should continue its "political enlargement" into the neoliberal area, since this would make it "extremely politically dynamic".
Describing himself as a "political immigrant" into PASOK, he called for an enlargement of the party's National Council so that several "political immigrants" like himself could participate and ensure the "expansion of alliances necessary to restore the party to power".
Main opposition leader tours PASOK congress venue: Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou on Friday morning toured the venue where the 7th PASOK congress is taking place, visiting the pavilions of guest organizations on the site.
Papandreou began his tour at the "PASOK Volunteers for IT and the Internet", who set up an Internet cafe on the site - though minus the customary coffee and cigarettes - to introduce beginners to the cyber world.
PASOK's leader then visited a photography exhibition on the first floor of the conference venue and an exhibition of models submitted by young architects for a 'concepts' competition.
Next in line were the pavilions of Action Aid, the Hellenic Homosexual Community, Unicef, the Hellenic Society for the Protection of the Environment and Cultural Heritage, the Organic Farming Society, the World Campaign against AIDS and the Youth Club of Greece and Europe.
During his tour of the site, Papandreou was greeted by several delegates who wished him good luck and expressed their support for his efforts.
 EU Enlargement Commissioner Rehn to visit Turkey next week
BRUSSELS 5/3/2005 (ANA)The relevant EU Commissioner for enlargement, Olli Rehn, is slated to pay his first official visit to Turkey early next week ahead of the crucial date -- Oct. 3 -- for commencing open accession negotiations between the 25-nation bloc and Turkey.
During his visit Rehn is expected to have talks with Turkish leadership and representatives of the civil society regarding bilateral relations and issues related to the beginning of accession negotiations. He will also participate at an EU-Turkey troika ministerial meeting on March 7.
"The decision by the European Council to start accession negotiations with Turkey opens a new chapter in the historic process of peacefully unifying the European continent. Turkey has done bold and significant reforms over the last years and this process needs to continue. Between now and the 3rd of October the Commission will technically prepare the start of the negotiations. I also expect Turkey to fulfill its commitment to sign the adaptation Protocol of the Ankara Agreement," a press release quoted Rehn as saying.
The Commissioner will meet with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül on March 6, followed the next morning with his attendance at the EU-Turkey ministerial troika meeting.
Discussions are expected to focus on EU-Turkey relations, especially implementation of political criteria, political dialogue and international issues.
Moreover, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will also receive Rehn. Other meetings are scheduled with Deniz Baykal, the chairman of the Republican People's Party as well as Mehmet Dülger, the chairman of the foreign relations committee of Turkey's parliament.
Finally, he will have meetings with NGOs, business leaders and visit a treatment and rehabilitation centre for torture survivors in Istanbul.
 Papariga meets with Lebanese communist leader
Athens, 5/3/2005 (ANA)Aleka Papariga, Secretary General of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), Dimitris Koutsoumpas, member of KKE's Political Bureau and Elias Leggeris, member of KKE's Central Committee met with Khaled Hdadeh, General Secretary of Lebanon's Communist Party on Friday to discuss developments in Lebanon and the broader region.
Papariga expressed KKE's concern regarding developments in Lebanon, particularly after the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri and the subsequent resignation of Lebanon's government. She termed 'dangerous' the pressure the US and French governments are applying for the implementation of UN Security Council directive 1559/04 for the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon and the disarmament of all resistance organizations in the country. Papariga said that this was a ploy for foreign governments to become involved in Lebanon's domestic affairs which could even lead to the "imperialists military intervention".
On his part, Hdadeh thanked KKE for its support to the Lebanese people and explained the complex situation that has resulted after recent developments and the interventions foreign governments are trying to make in Lebanon's domestic affairs with the excuse of the UN directive. He emphasized that the pressure for its implementation may result in a new civil war.
 New metropolitan of Patras appears before President, culture minister and archbishop
Athens, 5/3/2005 (ANA)The new metropolitan of Patras Chrysostomos appeared before President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos, Education and Religious Affairs Minister Marietta Yiannakou and Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos on Friday and assured them that he will uphold the laws of the Church and State.
President Stephanopoulos wished the new metropolitan all the best in his new duties and expressed hope that the present crisis in the Church will not cast any shadows on his prelacy.
 PM says gov't to pay LAFKA rebate to pensioners from June 2006
Athens, 5/3/2005 (ANA)The government will pay all retroactive rebates of the controversial LAFKA pension supplementary contributions to pensioners regardless of court litigation, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis himself emphasized on Friday.
Speaking to reporters, the Greek PM announced that retroactive rebates would be paid in five six-month tranches beginning in June 2006, and stressed that this decision was the best the government could do without undermining the economy. "That is what the economy can afford," he stressed.
Karamanlis said the country's economy was in a crisis and accused the previous PASOK governments under Costas Simitis of presenting false data on the economy. "This government is telling you the truth, and will always do so," Karamanlis said.
He added that his ND government was battling to restore transparency and said his initiative was directly linked with transparency in the government's intentions.
Karamanlis, moreover, said the government's economic policy was dictated by the current economic situation and underlined that "we will do everything possible to support pensioners within the limits of the economy".
He also noted that efforts were made to cut public sector spending and that he has asked each minister to cut expenses and boost productivity.
"Transparency was a priority for the government ... each Greek citizen should know how the government thinks and acts without distorting lenses," he said.
Returning to the controversial LAFKA contributions, the Greek PM said the deduction should have ended in December 1997 but that a previous PASOK government extended the measure until 2008. Karamanlis said ND made a pre-election pledge to abolish supplementary pension contributions and added, "we turn our pledges into action".
LAFKA contributions were abolished on July 1, 2004, resulting to an 1.0 to 5.0-percent increase in pensions, Karamanlis said.
Conversely, he said the government has inherited a series of problems and unfair measures, such as contract employees, standing problems he said were resolved with consistency, stability and effectively.
Finally, Karamanlis said the government was dealing with everyday problems and stressed that it was telling the truth and taking decisions based on the best interests of the economy and Greek citizens.
On his part, Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis echoed the prime minister's statement, stressing that it was the ND government that abolished the LAFKA contributions.
"The issue with the rebate subsequently arose, and as you can see today, with the premier's initiative, it was decided that it should be solved without us waiting for a final court ruling. We are demonstrating, therefore, that we are taking initiatives to deal with social problems," he said.
Main opposition: Panic spurred gov't to move on pension levy: The main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) said on Friday that the government was spurred into announcing the return of a levy to pensioners by panic and adverse publicity.
"This initiative of the prime minister was a panic-move. He was obliged to do this to lessen the political cost from the government's handling of the issue up to now," PASOK spokesman Nikos Athanassakis said.
He claimed the premier was trying to save his image, backtracking on his own statements and those of ministers due to pressure from the opposition.
Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos responded laconically in a separate statement: "Greece changes. PASOK remains the same."
Outcry forced government to double back on LAFKA pension levy, left-wing parties say: The general outcry forced the government to take evasive action and double back on paying rebates of the LAFKA levy to pensioners, the left-wing Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology said in separate announcements on Friday.
KKE referred to the sums paid by pensioners toward the LAFKA account (which stands for Solidarity Account for Social Insurance Bodies) as 'stolen' and rejected arguments that the economy could not withstand immediate repayment, saying it could be taken from the "hyper-profits of plutocracy".
According to the Coalition, meanwhile, the government had been forced to agree to repayments but the measures it was instituting were just another way of paying out as little as possible to as few pensioners as possible.
The LAFKA levy was originally established by law in 1992 as a way of financing the transition to a new, unified welfare system but was not in fact implemented until 1998. In January last year, the State Audit Council found that imposing the levy on pensions, in particular, was unconstitutional.
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis scrapped the levy in July 2004 and pledged that pensioners would receive retroactive rebates. The government now says that the rebates will be paid as soon as a final court ruling emerges in one of several civil suits filed against the government over LAFKA by pensioners.
 Gov't cites massive fine due to past mismanagement of EU funds for land registry
Athens, 5/3/2005 (ANA)The government on Friday underlined that Community funds worth an eyebrow-raising 100 million euros have been returned to Brussels due to a fine leveled by the European Union for mismanagement of funding aimed at establishing a national land registry in Greece during the previous PASOK governments.
According to a press release issued by the public works, town planning and environment ministry, the land registry fine was leveled by the European Commission due to a "failure of adhering to conditions of an agreement for funding the National Land Registry project by the previous government within the framework of the 2nd Community Support Framework (CSF)".
The ministry made with the statement following a tabled question by Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) Euro-deputy Dimitris Papadimoulis towards European Commissioner for regional policy Danuta Hübner.
The ministry stressed that a further payment of 17 million euros demanded by the EU for interest was avoided with the filing of a relevant program within the framework of the 3rd CSF.
In December 2001, the European Commission decided that Greece should return more than half of the funds paid by the Union to the country for drafting its national land registry, citing "dysfunctions".
The Commission at that time decided that 57.9 million euros of a total of 100 million paid by the Union to the land registry project should be returned, as only 30 per cent of the targets of the first phase of the project could have been completed by 2003, as Greek official data showed.
The entire issue of Greece's land registry project again erupted onto the limelight in October 2001, when then EU Com-missioner Michel Barnier warned the Simitis government and then town planning minister Costas Laliotis that only one-fourth of the initial estimate to register land in the east Mediterranean country had been met, namely, 8,440 sq. kilometers instead of 35,000 sq. kilometers -- the target cited in the 1994-99 environment program.
Laliotis, who held down the ministry's portfolio between since 1994, subsequently left the post to assume the position of ruling PASOK party's secretary.
Barnier had also squarely pointed to the costs for registering those 8,440 square kilometers, saying expenditures reached the 276-million-euro mark -- up from an initial estimate of 130 million euros.
Greece is one of the very few countries in Europe without a functional and unified land registry.
 FinMin gives priority to Ionian Road project
Athens, 5/3/2005 (ANA)Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Friday agreed with local authorities in Epirus to promote the Ionian road project, a network linking western Greece.
Alogoskoufis said the government was actively promoting the Third Community Support Framework and a new development law, which envisages additional financial support of 15 percent to regions with low growth rates.
The Greek minister said the Epirus region was recording a 19.5-percent absorption rate of EU funds this year, up from 8.2 percent in March 2004.
Regional programs in Epirus were progressing slowly, finance ministry data showed, with state-owned enterprises and public sector companies recording the highest rates
 Tourism ministry targets US tourist market
NEW YORK 5/3/2005 (ANA/P.Panayiotou)According to Tourism Development Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, Greece is promoting its modern image after many years and through a comprehensive program is trying to significantly increase tourist arrivals to Greece from the US.
Avramopoulos, who is currently in New York, met with various members of the tourism industry here on Thursday and Friday. At 1:30 p.m. local time, he would be inaugurating the New York Times' Travel Show.
In comments he made to the Athens News Agency, Avramopoulos said that in approximately 1-2 months, a major conference will be held, in which members of the US tourism industry and of all other sectors involved in promoting tourism will be participating. The conference's focus will be on issues and factors that affect efforts to promote Greece as a tourist destination in the US market.
The minister also said that the Greek-American presence will be capitalized upon for this purpose and announced that branches of the Greek National Tourism Organization (EOT) will open in Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago, while the existing New York branch will be further reinforced.
Additionally, Avramopoulos presented the Greek government's tourism policy in detail at a seminar organized by the Greek-American Commercial Chamber. Among other things, he underscored the good relations existing between Greece and the US, and the willingness of both sides to further strengthen those ties.
Finally, the minister also met with Archbishop of America Dimitrios and members of the Archdiocese Council. After the meeting, Avramopoulos made reference to the historic role the Greek Orthodox Church has played and continues to play in the US and spoke about the new prospects of Greek tourism and the US market.
The State Ministry's Secretary General for Information Panos Livadas, who is accompanying Avramopoulos in New York, told members of the Greek-American press that "Our country has sent and continues to send the message - and we spell this out loud and clear - that we can make it, we can rise to great challenges."
Livadas presented an analytical study on Greece's communication policy post-Olympics and the country's "upgraded role."
He also mentioned some of Greece's major accomplishments in the past year saying: "In 2004, Greece proved to the world that it can rise to major challenges: sports, such as our victory in the Euro 2004 championship; politics, such as our election - after a half century - to the UN Security Council; significant geopolitical developments, such as assuming the presidency of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organization; our participation in all the humanitarian efforts of the UN, the tsunami, (...), hurricane Ivan, (...) and many others. And of course, our crowning success, the successful staging on many levels - according to everyone - of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Successes such as these have put us back on the world map."
Livadas presented the results of the study, carried out by the general secretariat under the direction of State Minister Theodoros Roussopoulos, according to which the perception of Greece has changed worldwide. While people still associate hospitality, fun, sun and sea with Greece, new characteristics, such as creativity, discipline, security, teamwork, progress and high-quality services have also become associated with the country. As a result, the secretary general said that Greece is called upon to capitalize on this repositioning and to communicate its unique identity and image to the world.
 Deputy tourism minister Liaskos meets with Czech regional development minister Paroubek
Athens, 5/3/2005 (ANA)Deputy tourism development minister Anastasios Liaskos met Friday with the Czech Republic's visiting Regional Development minister Jiri Paroubek and discussed the promotion of tourism cooperation between the two countries.
Liaskos outlined the new tourism product being formulated in Greece and the prospects for the dynamic development of Greek tourism in the post-Olympics period.
"Greece is a traditional destination for Czech tourists, and that is why EOT (the National Tourism Organization of Greece-NTOG) maintains an information bureau in Prague," Liaskos said. He announced that the Prague bureau, on the basis of a Tourism Development ministry regulation currently being drafted, would be moved to the jurisdiction of the ministry -- as would all the EOT bureaus abroad -- and would be reorganized on a new base.
Consequently, the bureau would, in addition to tourism information the projection of Greece, also be able to contribute to and monitor, on a daily basis, the strengthening of relations between the two countries in the tourism sector, Liaskos explained.
The ministry has drafted a Greece-Czech Republic Tourism Accord, which would be conveyed to the foreign ministry for forwarding to the Czech side. The accord will establish the legal framework for the necessary mechanisms to enable regular contacts and deliberations on a permanent basis, aimed at the development of the tourism cooperation between the two countries.
 Merchant Marine minister welcomes Commission's initiative
Athens, 5/3/2005 (ANA)Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis on Friday expressed his satisfaction over an European Commission initiative to promote a round of consultations aimed to draft a new shipping policy in the European Union.
A ministry announcement said that the Greece, along with other EU member-states, have begun taking initiatives aimed to promote the shipping business in Europe and to protecting the seamen profession.
Greece, Cyprus and Malta have strong resisted plans to criminalize seamen work and to promote shipping activity.
The European Commission plans to set up a special working group to draft a consultation text on the EU's future shipping policy.
 Greece, Cyprus welcome EU maritime policy proposal
NICOSIA 5/3/2005 (ANA/G Leonidas)Greece and Cyprus welcome a European Union proposal for creation of a maritime policy in the 25-member bloc, officials of the two countries told a news conference on Friday.
Speaking after a meeting in the island republic were Cypriot Communications and Works Minister Haris Thrasou and the secretary general of Greece's merchant marine ministry, Ioannis Tzoannou.
 Greek, Italian ports forge EU alliance
Athens, 5/3/2005 (ANA)Port authorities in Kavala, Igoumenitsa and Taranta, Italy have forged a cooperation alliance on loading arrangements for ro-ro-pax ferries.
The plan falls under a European Union program that will help turn the Greek ports into cargo transit centers with Kavala handling goods from Bulgaria and Turkey and Igoumenitsa from countries in the former Yugoslav federation along with domestic products.
In a separate agreement, Italy's Gioia Tauro harbor and Greece's Navipe-Astakos facility have signed a cooperation agreement including development of a free zone and creation of a combined transport corridor linking north Mediterranean and Far Eastern ports via the Black Sea.
 PM briefed on finances of 'ATHENS 2004' Olympics Organizing Committee
Athens, 5/3/2005 (ANA)The head of the 'ATHENS 2004' Olympics Organizing Committee Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki on Friday briefed Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on the organizing committee's financial performance during the 2004 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in Athens, based on the financial report she is due to make public at the end of the month. She was accompanied by ATHENS 2004 executive director for finances Theodore Papapetropoulos.
In brief statements as she emerged from her meeting with the premier, Angelopoulos-Daskalaki stressed that the company's financial report will soon be ready and that this will be accomplished much more quickly than for previous Olympiads.
Fielding questions on a rumored 500 million euros to be given to the committee by the government to cover Olympic project overlays, the ATHENS 2004 chief urged reporters not to give credence to every rumor doing the rounds:
"There is no deficit. Be patient a little longer. We will let you know all the details about the finances to the last penny," she told reporters.
 Greek weekly economic review
Athens, 5/3/2005 (ANA)The government will pay all retroactive rebates of LAFKA pension supplementary contributions to pensioners from June 2006 regardless of court litigation currently underway, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said on Friday.
The Greek PM said the decision was the best the government could do without undermining the economy.
In other headline news this week:
The state's contribution to the economy would be reduced by 1.0 percent annually over the next five years, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said in a news conference.
Alogoskoufis stressed the government was determined to strictly adhere to this year's budget and reiterated that a mild adjustment policy would be continued with cuts in public spending.
The Greek minister said that the government inherited huge fiscal problems and stressed that policies were aiming to lead the economy out of the crisis.
ATHOC 2004 president Gianna Angelopoulos on Friday briefed Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis over the organization's financial report ahead of its official publication by the end of the month.
Speaking to reporters, Angelopoulos said "we will soon be in a position to publish the company's financial report with all details".
A new round of talks between bank employers and workers was expected to begin soon to discuss ways of solving the sector's pension problem.
The state's equity stake in Agricultural Bank's capital will not change after the completion of a share capital increase plan by the bank, ATE said this week.
The new capital will be used to improve the bank's capital provision on debt, to finance the workers' pension fund and cover huge write-offs of unpaid debt.
The Post Savings Bank will float 20-30 percent of its equity capital in the Athens Stock Exchange by March 2006, its president Panos Tsoupidis said. The state-owned savings bank reported profits of 150 million euros in 2004.
Greece's trade deficit rose 15.5 percent last year to 28.206 billion euros from 24.423 billion euros in 2003, the National Statistics Service said in its report. Excluding oils, the trade deficit rose by 19.9 percent last year.
Greece's 19 listed closed-end investment funds' assets totalled 1.415 billion euros at the end of February, up 4.35 percent from the previous month.
Car registrations rose 0.4 percent in the first two months of the year, to 68,334 vehicles, while registrations of motorcycles rose 23.5 percent over the same period to 8,264 units.
 Greek retail sales index up 3.7 pct in December 2004, yr/yr
Athens, 5/3/2005 (ANA)Greek retail sales value index rose 3.7 percent in December 2004 compared with the same month in 2003, the National Statistics Service said on Friday.
NSS, in its monthly report, said that the average retail sales index rose 6.2 percent in the 12-month period January-December 2004 compared with the corresponding period in the previous year.
The statistics service attributed the 3.7 pct increase in December to a 5.4 percent rise in super market sales, a 5.2 percent increase in department store sales, a 4.9 percent rise in clothing-footwear, a 4.7 pct increase in pharmaceuticals-cosmetics and a 4.3 percent rise in food-drinks-tobacco sales.
NSS said the 6.2 pct increase in the average retail sales index in the January-December 2004 period, reflected an 8.4 pct increase in super markets, a 7.5 pct rise in bookstore, a 7.0 pct increase in department stores, a 6.3 pct rise in pharmaceuticals-cosmetics and a 5.4 pct increase in food-drinks-tobacco sales.
 Journalists' unions urge state TV to hire contract journalists
Athens, 5/3/2005 (ANA)Members of journalists' unions met with State Minister Theodoros Roussopoulos and President of Hellenic Broadcasting (ERT) Christos Panagopoulos on Friday morning regarding contract journalists in state broadcasting. The five unions unanimously called for the journalists' hiring.
According to a statement issued by the unions, Roussopoulos has asked that he be given a week to study the problem and the proposals made. He promised that a better arrangement would be made for the contract employees. The unions agreed to wait one week for the minister's decision.
 Greek commerce against extended shopping hours plan
Athens, 5/3/2005 (ANA)Super market and retail shop owners on Friday expressed their satisfaction over current shopping hours in the country and stressed that they did not wish a further expansion of shopping hours nor shops opening on Sundays.
The Association of Super Market Enterprises of Greece (SESME), in an announcement to the press commenting on the presentation of a draft legislation by Development Deputy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou on Thursday, said that "existing shopping hours is satisfactory to all sides and especially to consumers and there is no need to further expand shopping hours on Saturdays or any other week days. We ask for the current shopping hours measure to be implemented around the country and to take back increased powers to prefect authorities on shopping hours policy. We are categorically against opening shops on Sundays with the exception of tourist product shops".
Dimitris Armenakis, president of the National Confederation of Greece Commerce (ESEE) said the new draft legislation was moving on the right direction, with the exception of the shopping hours proposal. "ESEE will not accept any proposal to open shops on Sunday," Armenakis said.
 Stocks rise in blue-chip buying
Athens, 5/3/2005 (ANA)Stocks finished higher with players buying into high capitalization stocks, especially banks, traders said.
The Athens general share index closed at 3,105.77 points, marking a rise of 1.01%. Turnover was 185.2 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 1.38% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.59% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.11% up.
Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 153 to 139 with 52 remaining unchanged.
 Ecumenical Patriarch appeals to all religions to support existing status quo in Holy Lands
ISTANBUL 5/3/2005 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos on Friday made a "friendly and deep-felt" appeal to all religions and creeds to avoid requests for changes to the existing status quo in the Holy Lands.
He asked that all religions and Christian denominations active in the Holy Lands, especially, respect the centuries-old and satisfactory regime in the area, especially the internationally recognized duties and responsibilities of the Greek Orthodox Jerusalem Patriarchate.
An announcement issued by the Chief Secretariat of the Patriarchate's Holy Synod noted that any attempt to change the established regime in the Holy Lands will undermine efforts for peace in the region.
 Rea Galanaki novel released in Arabic by Cairo publishers Al Ahram
Athens, 5/3/2005 (ANA)A novel by Greek writer Rea Galanaki, "The life of Ismail Ferik Pasha - Spina nel Cuore" has been released in Arabic by the Cairo-based publisher Al Ahram Foundation, in an initiative funded by the Alexandria branch of the Hellenic Foundation for Culture (HFC).
The novel has been translated into Arabic by Prof. Mohamed Hamdi Ibrahim of the Cairo School of Philosophy, a winner of the Egypt's National Prize and the of Cavafy award.
Since it first came out in 1989, "The Life of Ismail Ferik Pasha" has been reprinted several times in Greek, French, English, Turkish, Bulgarian, Dutch and German. There are also plans for a new edition in Hebrew that is due out soon.
In 1994, it became the first Greek novel to be included in UNESCO's "Collection of Representative Works" that lists books that reflect the organization's ideals.
The novel relates the true story of a Greek boy who was captured in his village on Crete and taken to Egypt, where he grew up to become a Moslem official that was later sent back to Crete to quell the 1866-1868 rebellion on the island.
 Spokesman says everyone accepts result of referendum
NICOSIA 5/3/2005 (CNA/ANA)Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides stated on Friday that everyone nowadays accepts the result of the democratic referendum in Cyprus adding that the Annan Plan as it is cannot be placed again before the people of Cyprus.
Replying to questions, Chrysostomides said that statements made by Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn for a resumption of the talks on Cyprus during spring or summer were possibly made on the basis of an evaluation of the situation and the prevailing atmosphere.
He also reminded that two days ago Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos had a long discussion with Rehn in Brussels.
Asked if the government believes that it would be possible to resume talks in the spring, Chrysostomides said the government has repeatedly expressed its readiness to resume deliberations the soonest possible ''and what we are trying to do is to set the framework to look forward to a hopeful procedure for a solution to the Cyprus problem.''
Referring to the visit of a four-member US delegation chaired by Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Laura Kennedy to the UN headquarters, Chrysostomides said the government is expecting an exchange of views concerning the current position on the Cyprus problem and the likely developments.
''Surely Cyprus' Permanent Representative to the UN will repeat our positions concerning our willingness and desire to proceed to a solution and reunification of our country,'' the spokesman said.
To a remark that there is a contradiction in statements made by the UN Secretary- General, asking for the tabling of the changes the Greek Cypriot side wants to the Annan Plan, and the State Department, which says the Annan Plan should be implemented by the parties, Chrysostomides replied, ''I believe that everyone now accepts the result of the democratic referendum.''
He further explained that as it is, the Annan Plan cannot be brought forward again to the people of Cyprus in a referendum.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. A solution plan proposed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was put to separate simultaneous referenda in April 2004, during which the Greek Cypriot community rejected it, while the Turkish Cypriot community accepted it.
 Government Spokesman dismisses Talat's criticism
NICOSIA5/3/2005 (CNA/ANA)Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides dismissed here on Friday remarks by self-styled premier in Turkish occupied Cyprus Mehmet Ali Talat as contrary to any notion of reason and political approach of grave matters.
The spokesman recalled that the Turkish Cypriot regime is nothing more than a local administration subordinate to Turkey, recognized only by Ankara.
''It seems that Talat has not understood the importance of the government proposal with regard to Famagusta and is seeking, on purpose, to create impressions which are contrary to every notion of logic and political approach of serious issues,'' Chrysostomides said.
Talat has described as ''ridiculous'' a government proposal to have Greek and Turkish Cypriots operate the port of Famagusta (on the east and now under Turkish occupation) jointly with EU supervision and at the same time allow the city's legal inhabitants to return for resettlement.
He also said he would be ready to accept the joint operation of all ports in occupied Cyprus by Greek and Turkish Cypriots and rejected the return of the fenced area of Famagusta to its legitimate inhabitants.
''The regime Talat administers is nothing more than a subordinate to Turkey local administration and as such there can be no more talk about cooperation and reopening of ports and airports until the question of Cyprus is settled,'' the spokesman added.
Responding to questions, he said the government proposal continues to be on the table for discussion.
''Holding Famagusta hostage is totally absurd and our proposal to reopen the city is reasonable and serious,'' the spokesman pointed out, noting that the port can be of benefit if the town of Famagusta is reconstructed as well.
The town, fenced off since the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, has remained uninhabited, left to the elements. The UN considers Turkey responsible for the fenced area.
 Cyprus to use all means to handle US State Department report
NICOSIA 5/3/2005 (CNA/ANA)Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said Cyprus would use all means available to handle the situation following the publication of the US State Department report on the human rights situation in Cyprus.
The spokesman told reporters Friday that at the moment there are no other means apart from the ''public expression of our disappointment on the report's contents.''
Pointing out the representations that have been made, Chrysostomides said these were available through the diplomatic channels.
Asked if the government is considering other measures on a diplomatic level, such as the cancellation of bilateral agreements, he replied that such an issue was not raised.
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sotos Zakhaios made strong representations on Wednesday to the US Embassy Attache in
Cyprus, Edwin Nolan, with regard to the 2004 US State Department report on human rights in Cyprus.
Zakhaios described the report as 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 titled ''Northern Cyprus'', that deals with the Turkish occupied northern part of the country.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third.