|Friday, 15 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-03-16
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 16, 2005
 Multinational sells Aluminium de Grece to Athens-quoted Mytilineos,
Athens, 16/3/2005 (ANA)Multinational Alcan Inc. said on Tuesday that it had completed the sale of its controlling stake in Aluminium de Grece (AdG) to Athens-quoted Mytilineos Holdings S.A. and affiliates.
"The pioneering move of acquiring a multinational's Greek subsidiary, an industry symbolizing the country's more recent economic history that has contributed to growth of Greek industry's most dynamic sectors, has made our entire (Mytilineos) Group proud and full of confidence for the future," the buyer's chairman and CEO, Evangelos Mytilineos, noted to mark the occasion.
"This also represents a vote of confidence in the Greek economy itself, its capacity, and a resounding reply to all who have sped in recent years to denigrate Greece's industry and workers," Mytilineos added.
An agreement on the sale was announced in December 2004, and its completion follows approval from Greek regulatory authorities - the competition commission and the development ministry.
"We are pleased to have completed this transaction and welcome the commitment demonstrated by Mytilineos toward AdG's long term success," Cynthia Carroll, president and CEO of the Alcan Primary Metal Group, said in a statement.
Alcan owned approximately 13 million shares in AdG, representing a 60.2 percent equity interest. Under the terms of the agreement, Athens-quoted Mytilineos has acquired a 53 percent equity position in AdG from Alcan.
The parties have also entered into agreements for continuation of supplies in selected products and services, including bauxite and a range of technical and industrial services, as well as the transfer of alumina supply contracts to Mytilineos, and for the supply of alumina to Alcan. The total transaction value is ¬ 79.5 million, Alcan said in a statement.
The balance of Alcan's interest in AdG, some 7.2 percent, may be sold by Alcan to Mytilineos one year after closing, pursuant to a three-month put option. After that, Mytilineos will have a conditional call option for six months to purchase the remaining interest. If the option is exercised, additional proceeds would total ¬ 10.8 million, the statement said.
Aluminium de Grèce employs 1,288 people, of whom 138 work for Delphes-Distomon, a wholly owned mining subsidiary, which recorded net sales of ¬ 357.3 million in 2004.
Analysts said that AdG is likely to reap key benefits from synergies with the Mytilineos mining group, which also operates in the energy and defense sectors.
Including AdG, Mytilineos now employs 4,500 people in Greece and abroad.
Alcan is a global leader in aluminum and packaging, and aluminum recycling with world-class operations in primary aluminum, fabricated aluminum and flexible and specialty packaging, aerospace applications, bauxite mining and alumina processing. Alcan employs 73,000 people and has operating facilities in 55 countries and regions.
 Gov't announces PM's schedule in Brussels, Luxembourg over next two days
Athens, 16/3/2005 (ANA)The government on Tuesday announced that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will depart for Brussels early Wednesday afternoon ahead of his scheduled meeting with European Commission President José Manuel Barroso.
Afterwards, the Greek premier will depart for Luxembourg for a meeting on Thursday and subsequent working dinner with his Luxembourg counterpart Jean-Claude Juncker, the presiding executive of the European Union, the government spokesman announced.
Meanwhile, during his regular press briefing on Tuesday, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros reiterated that there is no issue of a government reshuffle at hand.
Finally, Antonaros told reporters that the government will table draft legislation aimed at preventing the concentration of mass media by the summer.
 Greek and Turkish PMs to have dinner in Brussels on Monday
Athens, 16/3/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan will have dinner in Brussels on Monday night, according to government sources in Athens.
Karamanlis and Erdogan had agreed on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels to meet in the Belgian capital, after the meeting of the European People's Party, since the Turkish prime minister's party now has observer status.
 Deputy FM Valinakis press conference after Washington talks
WASHINGTON 16/3/2005 (ANA/T. Ellis)Greece's deputy foreign minister Yannis Valinakis discussed the FYROM name issue and the general situation in the Balkans, as well as the Cyprus issue and Greek-US bilateral relations on Sunday at the White House with US National Security Council director for European Affairs, Daniel Fried, and at the State Department with assistant secretary for political affairs William Burns.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Valinakis said that the Greek delegation presented Greece's constructive positions regarding the FYROM name issue.
He said he explained that the Greek positions were constructive not only for its bilateral relations with FYROM, but also for the entire region, adding that, if a solution was achieved, Greece would facilitate FYROM's course to the EU and other international organizations.
Valinakis, who met Saturday in New York with UN special mediator in the UN-brokered Greece-FYROM talks on the name issue, Matthew Nimetz, added that, in order for that to occur, FYROM, too, needed to display the same constructive stance as the Greek government. He also said that it was necessary that other countries also assisted in the direction of achieving an agreement on the name issue.
On Greek-US relations, Valinakis said that there was a series of contacts between the two countries, while foreign minister Petros Molyviatis was also scheduled to visit Washington next week.
Consequently, he said, beyond the FYROM name issue, his own talks in Washington encompassed the wider agenda of Greek-US relations, from bilateral matters to matters concerning Greece's wider European, Mediterranean and Balkan neighborhood.
Asked whether Greek-Turkish relations and the Cyprus issue had been discussed, Valinakis said that both issues were naturally a component of the di8aluge, which he said operated constructively between Greece and the US on all issues.
"We want to be constructive, we want solutions to be found to all the open issues in a way that is mutually acceptable," he said.
Diplomatic sources noted the desire for reactivation of a substantive dialogue on the FYROM name issue, that would contain specific proposals on the negotiations table, and expressed hope that Nimetz would submit a proposal for a commonly acceptable solution, while adding that the US could play a role in that direction.
The same sources also noted the importance of Greece's stabilizing role in the Balkans, the Greek government's activation on the Kosovo problem, and the assistance it provides to the SE Europe countries for their incorporation into the European institutions.
 PASOK leader Papandreou holds phone talks with Solana, Rice
Athens, 16/3/2005 (ANA)Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou had telephone conversations on Tuesday with High Representative of the EU for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Papandreou briefed his interlocutors on the discussions he had in Lebanon (along with the socialist leaders) and Syria regarding the situation in the region and expounded his views on the crisis.
 Gov't on EU stance vis-à-vis 'primary shareholder' law
Athens, 16/3/2005 (ANA)The government on Tuesday declined to comment when asked if it has requested a postponement of any discussion by the European Union vis-à-vis the recently passed "primary shareholder" law, a high-profile piece of legislation aimed at curbing the influence of major state contractors in the broadcast media sector.
Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros reiterated, nevertheless, that Athens is taking all the necessary steps so that the matter is resolved in favor of Greek interests.
Moreover, he noted that practically all of the Union's reservations so date have centered on Article 14, paragraph 9 of the Greek Constitution.
"Every Greek government has an obligation to defend the Constitution. That is what this government is doing with great determination and devotion, just as the previous government failed to do - and despite the fact it had received letters by the Commission censuring the previous law and Constitution," Antonaros said.
Furthermore, the spokesman dismissed any notion of the specific issue being brought up during this week's scheduled meeting between Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, noting that the premier has no involvement in the matter.
Gov't asks EU Commissioner to postpone Wednesday's discussion at College of Commissioners: The government, according to government sources on Tuesday, through a letter by Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos, has asked EU Internal Market and Services Commissioner Charlie McCreevy for a postponement of Wednesday's discussion at the College of Commissioners.
The reason cited for the postponement is for there to be time for further discussion on the issue regarding Article 14 Paragraph 9 of the Constitution and its executive laws (3021/02 - 3110/05) and the compatibility of these with the European Law.
 Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly held in Cairo, comments from Benaki
CAIRO 16/3/2005 (ANA/P.Dimitropoulos)Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki, speaking to Greek journalists on the sidelines of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly held in Cairo on Tuesday, noted that with the help of the EU and the European Parliament, countries of the northern and southern Mediterranean are engaging in dialogue. As a result, countries which are currently in confrontation (ie, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine) are talking and have agreed on certain points "of the final declaration, which reveals that they are headed towards negotiations," she said.
Benaki, who is also Vice President of the assembly, praised the contribution of Greek MPs serving on the political, economic and cultural affairs committees and the plenary session. She praised K. Tassoula (ND, Ioannina), P. Mantouvalos (ND, Piraeus), and R. Zisis (ND, Magnessia) for helping in the productive conclusion of talks on Tuesday.
Specifically, Greece succeeded in adding a clause to the final declaration regarding Turkey's EU accession talks, which are scheduled to begin late 2005, that talks will begin in accordance with the conditions adopted by the European Council in December 2004.
Furthermore, the plenary session rejected the Turkish delegation's proposed amendment whereby no mention would be made to the monitoring of human rights progress in Cyprus.
The Political Affairs Committee, presided over by French Eurodeputy Tokia Saifi, proposed that the committee be charged with following developments between Israel, Palestine and other neighboring countries in the Middle East, as well as political problems that concern the security and neighboring of other collaborating countries and particularly the issue regarding Cyprus. Turkish MPs reacted to the committee's proposal, but the Turkish amendment was rejected by 27 countries.
After the assembly sojourned, the Greek delegation visited Al-Azhar University, the Cairo Museum and the Church of St. Nicholas, whose renovation is being funded by Greek Parliament.
 Gov't on latest Christodoulos comments
Athens, 16/3/2005 (ANA)The government on Tuesday declined to comment on the latest statements by influential Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos, who launched into a stinging attack over the weekend against a segment of the local mass media he charged were maliciously continuing to attack the Church on almost a daily basis.
Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said -- in response to a comment by Christodoulos regarding outstanding national issues -- that the government is managing such matters with complete responsibility, transparency and by constantly briefing Greek citizens.
Antonaros also added that ruling New Democracy party displayed the standing and appropriate behavior in Parliament during the swearing-in ceremony for the new president of the republic on Saturday.
 Athens condemns attempt on Rugova's life
Athens, 16/3/2005 (ANA)The Greek government on Tuesday strenuously condemned an apparent assassination attempt against Kosovo province president Ibrahim Rugova earlier in the morning.
"The Greek government condemns every act of violence, particularly in such a sensitive region as Kosovo ... Greece is monitoring developments closely and with concern," alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said, in response to a press question.
Rugova was reportedly on his way to meet with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana at the strife-plagued province's parliament when the blast occurred off a street where the former's motorcade was passing.
 Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos congratulates President Papoulias
ISTANBUL 16/3/2005 (ANA/A. Kourkoulas)Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos addressed a letter of congratulations to new President Karolos Papoulias on the assumption of his duties.
The Patriarch notes in his letter that President Papoulias has had a great and splendid political career.
He also assured the new president that during the exercising of his lofty duties he will be accompanied by "our paternal wishes and Patriarchal blessings, as well as by the prayers of all Greek Christians throughout the world, the pious clergy and the revered Hierarchy of our martyred Ecumenical Throne."
 Former President Stephanopoulos 'moved' by Patriarch Vartholomeos' farewell letter
ISTANBUL 16/3/2005 (ANA/A.Kourkoulas)"Your letter moved me deeply," outgoing President of the Hellenic Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos wrote Patriarch Vartholomeos on Tuesday in response to the latter's farewell letter. Stephanopoulos said that aside from his love and respect towards Vartholomeos, he also appreciates all that the Patriarch is doing for the Christian Orthodox faith and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
"I am sorry that due to circumstances I was unable to visit you in Istanbul and am more sorry that I was unable to do anything for the Ecumenical Patriarchate," Stephanopoulos concludes.
 Ukrainian FM and Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos discuss Ukrainian ecclesiastical problem
ISTANBUL 16/3/2005 (ANA/A. Kourkoulas)Ukrainian State Minister Aleksander Zintsenko discussed the Ukrainian ecclesiastical problem with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos at the Fanar on Tuesday.
"The Ecumenical Patriarchate, in cooperation with the Patriarchate of Moscow, is trying to find a solution to the problem but, unfortunately, there is no result for the time being," Vartholomeos said.
Zintsenko, who is on an official visit to Turkey, visited the Ecumenical Patriarchate and discussed the pending ecclesiastical problems of Ukraine with the Ecumenical Patriarch.
"Numbers play no role in a solution to the problem but only canonical law. We shall try to find various ways of solving the problem. In principle, we are thinking of sending a small delegation which is aware of the problem. We shall search for a peaceful solution to the problem but when we shall do this we do not want other problems to be created with the other Orthodox Churches," the Patriarch added.
The Ukrainian minister conveyed an invitation to the Patriarch from the Ukrainian president to make an official visit to Ukraine.
 Interior minister and Athens mayor discuss institutional and economic issues
Athens, 16/3/2005 (ANA)Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis discussed the Athens municipality's institutional and economic issues on Tuesday.
The course of development programs through the 4th Community Support Framework was probed, as well as the immigrants issue and that of the municipal police, while it was agreed that part of the cost of maintaining this force will be shouldered by the interior ministry.
Pavlopoulos said later that there are many issues pending from the past, not concerning specific debts alone but also institutional issues in general which must be resolved soon.
 Turkish warplanes violate Greece's national air space in the Aegean
Athens, 16/3/2005 (ANA)A massive entry of Turkish warplanes was recorded on Tuesday in the Aegean. Armed Forces General Staff sources observed that Tuesday's illegal activity by the Turkish Air Force is registered as the most intense in the past 10-11 months.
According to press reports on 37 Turkish warplanes on Tuesday entered the Aegean and in 18 cases violated the national air space in the region of the northern, central and southern Aegean.
In all cases, the Turkish aircraft were recognized and intercepted by corresponding Greek fighter jets, while in three cases the process of interception developed into a mock dog fight.
It was reported that six of the Turkish aircraft were armed. Two were photographic Phantoms and one of naval cooperation.
 Gov't discusses tourism policy
Athens, 16/3/2005 (ANA)Tourism policy was the topic of an inner cabinet meeting on Tuesday, chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, speaking to reporters, after the meeting, said that the government was taking initiatives aimed to upgrade the quality of the country's tourist product and added that cabinet ministers agreed on the need to support tourist development.
Avramopoulos said his ministry was promoting a series of measures aimed to create an ambitious investment environment and to combat bureaucracy. He noted it was necessary to achieve a closer cooperation between the public and private sectors to meet a new era and development prospects ahead after a decline in the sector in the last few years.
The Greek minister said that his ministry, in cooperation with Environment, Town Planning and Public Works ministry, would soon table new regulations over the use of land for tourism projects that would create new job positions around the country.
Avramopoulos said the government supported theme tourism and added that the company which built the Formula One race track in Bahrein would soon visit Patras on an invitation by the Greek Tourism Organization to inspect the region.
The Tourism ministry also plans to promote agro-tourism and to create an agro-tourism development company in cooperation with the country's Farm ministry.
Avramopoulos also said the ministry would focus on improving training of tourist enterprises' staff.
Tourism promotion of the Dodecanese islands in The Netherlands: In a unique way, on board the river boat "Rex Rheni", the tourism promotion of the Dodecanese islands came to a close in Amsterdam on Tuesday.
For two days, more than 400 travel agents, representatives of the tourism market and journalists had the opportunity to get acquainted with the beauty of the Dodecanese islands, at an event prepared by the office in the Netherlands of the Greek National Tourism Organization (EOT) and the Dodecanese Prefecture, with the support of the Hoteliers Union of Rhodes as well as other tourism agencies, mainly from Rhodes and Kos.
Taking part in the presentation were well known tour operators (such as FTI Heliades, TUI, Neckermann, Alltours, Arke, Holland International and Attica Reisen) who enjoyed the Dodecanese cuisine, were entertained by dance performances and observed a projection of films on the region.
Already, bookings by Dutch tourists for Greece is up 14 per cent compared to last year.
 Gov't, parties urge vigilance on occasion of World Consumers' Day
Athens, 16/3/2005 (ANA)Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas on Tuesday urged entrepreneurs in the retail sector to lower prices as a goodwill gesture in support of consumers and the manufacturing sector.
Addressing a special event organized on the occasion of the World Consumers' Day, Sioufas also urged manufacturers to adopt a similar move, and stressed that companies in both sectors could work with a smaller profit margin.
"The government's goal is to promote the image of a country with low prices, quality and safe products," he noted.
Commenting on the price front, the Greek minister acknowledged that prices were high but underlined the government's policy to contain price increases around the inflation level despite strong pressures from rising fuel prices.
Sioufas said ministry agencies were systematically monitoring developments in the domestic market and stressed that a Food Inspection Agency was performing impeccable work. He underlined the government's effort to protect consumers through the operations of a Consumer General Secretariat and upgrading the role of a Competition Commission.
Addressing the event, Development Deputy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou said plans for extended shopping hours in the country offered the chance to all interested parties to express their opinions on the matter and reiterated his belief that a national shopping hours plan would lead to higher job positions and investments. Papathanasiou also presented a survey on the profile of Greek consumer showing that younger people supported extended shopping hours.
The Greek minister stressed that the survey showed that Greek consumers were not adequately informed over their rights and obligations as consumers.
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, in a message on the occasion of the World Consumer's Day, said a decision to celebrate this day "highlights one of the biggest daily problems facing citizens around the world".
The Greek PM reassured consumers that the government was working systematically, with responsibility and a sense of social responsibility to put a brake on price increase and to combat profiteering in the market.
Opposition comments: On his part, main opposition PASOK president George Papandreou said the safeguarding of consumers' rights and the strengthening of consumers' conscience are primary parameters of a modern society and the smooth-functioning operation of the market.
He also underlined that information, transparency, healthy competition and regulation of the market are the state's obligations.
The Coalition of the Left, in a press release, noted that the international commemoration is not a celebration but a day of vigilance. The party also stressed that Greece is behind many other European countries in terms of consumer protection.
 EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection to visit Athens on Thursday
BRUSSELS 16/3/2005 (ANA/M.Spinthourakis)EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection Markos Kyprianou announced a two-day visit to Athens, beginning on Thursday, during a press conference held here on Tuesday.
During his two-day visit, Kyprianou will be meeting with Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Evangelos Basiakos and Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis.
According to Kyprianou, food-safety related issues that are priorities for Greece are veterinary inspections, better staffing of abattoirs and their upgrading in accordance with EU health regulations. He also said that an equally important issue is for Greece to comply with EU regulations regarding management of animal waste.
The EU Commissioner also emphasized that health regulations must be strictly adhered to even in small communities, such as the islands, stressing that significant investments are necessary to ensure the viability of abattoirs on the Greek islands. Finally, he also referred to the need for intensifying inspections of food imported from the Balkans.
 Trade unions reject extended shopping hours plan
Athens, 16/3/2005 (ANA)Extended shopping hours in the country will worsen business conditions for small- and medium-sized enterprises and workers, the country's largest trade union umbrellas said in a joint news conference on Tuesday.
GSEE, Greece's largest trade union umbrella, GSEBEE, the union of small- and medium-sized enterprises, SESME, the union of super markets, and representatives of workers in the retail sector, warned that an extended shopping hours policy would lead several SMEs to bankruptcy and would result to job losses in the country.
GSEE's president Christos Polyzogopoulos said that a plan by Development ministry to extend shopping hours around the country was not supported by any trade union except from multinational companies and urged for the creation of a strong reaction force.
GSEBEE's president Dimitris Asimakopoulos said that the ministry's plans would cut market shares and profitability of small- and medium-sized enterprises and noted that similar policies in other European countries led to massive job losses. In Spain, an extended shopping hours measure led to the loss of 34-65,000 jobs, in France shop owners saw their costs rising by 15 percent and sales by 0.5 percent.
SESME's vice-president Manolis Apostolou stressed that Greek super markets have long supported a plan to introduce an existing shopping hours measure around the country and stressed that union members rejected the idea of local prefecture authorities having the right to change shopping hours. Apostolou reiterated that supermarkets were against plans to leave shops open on Sundays.
Representatives from workers in the retail sector said that the commerce sector was showing signs of fatigue in the last three years and noted that extending shopping hours would lead to more flexible labor relations in the sector.
 GSEE, ADEDY in four-hour work stoppage on March 17
Athens, 16/3/2005 (ANA)Greece is expected to paralyze on Thursday, March 17, due to a 24-hour panhellenic strike announced by the country's largest trade unions.
GSEE, the country's largest trade union umbrella, and ADEDY, civil servants' union, on Tuesday said they would participate with a four-hour work stoppage, from 12.00 to 16.00 pm, in a panhellenic strike scheduled for Thursday, along with workers from Hellenic Telecommunications Organization, Hellenic Railways, Public Power Corporation, Olympic Airlines, domestic banks, Hellenic Post and workers in the retail sector.
GSEE president Christos Polyzogopoulos said that workers' mobilizations would peak with a 24-hour panhellenic strike scheduled for May 11.
 Public Works ministry refutes press reports that its leadership is responsible for works delays
Athens, 16/3/2005 (ANA)The Press Office of the Ministry of the Environment, Town Planning and Public Works refuted press reports which allege that the ministry's political leadership is responsible for delays in the execution of works, in a statement it issued on Tuesday.
"The Ministry's political leadership proves daily, and has for the past year, that it is working continuously and brings to pass matters that full under its jurisdiction quickly, responsibly and in accordance with public interest," the ministry stated.
Additionally, the ministry clarified certain pending issues which do not fall under its jurisdiction. These include the legislative framework for the awarding of small- and medium-scale projects, for which the Finance Ministry is responsible; and legislation concerning utilization of Olympic venues, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Culture ministry.
Two new laws regarding the awarding of public works, which provide clear-cut regulations and reinforce transparency, have already been passed, the ministry said.
 Greek industrialist withdraws from race to head UNICE
Athens, 16/3/2005 (ANA)Greek industrialist Odysseas Kyriakopoulos, president of the Greek Industries Union (SEB), will not run as candidate in a vote over a new president at UNICE, Europe's Industrial and Employers' Association, SEB said on Tuesday.
The decision by the Greek industrialist leaves the door open to French Ernest-Antoinne Seilliere to become UNICE's next president during the March 21st vote.
UNICE's vice-presidents' council had recommended Mr Kyriakopoulos to succeed current UNICE president Dr Jurgen Strube, whose term ends in June 30, to the post during a meeting in Hague in November 26, 2004.
Kyriakopoulos said it would accept the proposal if he had the support of his colleagues. In early February, however, Italy's employers' union Confidustria presented a new candidate for the post, leading to a new round of consultations between UNICE's members, with Mr Ernest-Antoine Seilliere emerging as the likely winner.
The Greek industrialist, a member of UNICE's vice-presidents council, agreed with the new recommendation and reassured that SEB and personally himself would continue to support UNICE's work and its new president.
 Conference on electronic crime opens in Thessaloniki
Athens, 16/3/2005 (ANA)A two-day conference on electronic crime and security for information technology and telecommunications systems opened in the northern port city of Thessaloniki on Tuesday.
A survey conducted abroad showed that 80% of companies had their systems attacked at least once by hackers in 2004, said George Romanos, president of MD5 SA, which arranged Security Forum Northern Greece under the auspices of the Macedonia-Thrace ministry.
 Stocks drop in across-the-board selling
Athens, 16/3/2005 (ANA)Stocks finished lower with players selling across the board, reversing the trend in the previous session, traders said.
The Athens general share index closed at 3,102.67 points, marking a decline of 0.52%. Turnover was 209.3 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.85% down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.49% lower; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.52% down.
Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 200 to 94 with 49 remaining unchanged.
 Fewer fatal traffic accidents during three-day holiday compared to last year
Athens, 16/3/2005 (ANA)Fewer fatal traffic accidents were recorded during the three-day holiday ending on Monday, compared to the same period last year, while no fatal traffic accident occurred along the Patra-Athens-Thessaloniki-Evzonoi motorway.
Over the period between March 11 and March 14 this year six fatal traffic accidents fewer were recorded compared to the corresponding period last year (13 as against 19), while the number of fatalities was eight less (18 as against 26).
Six of the fatal traffic accidents took place on other national motorways, six on the remaining road network and one in a residential area.
Moreover, a greater exodus of vehicles was recorded this year compared to the corresponding period last year. Cars leaving the areas of Athens and Thessaloniki were 78,500 more than last year (533,300 in 2005 compared to 454,800 in 2004).
 Transport minister provides 'mini' overview of his one year on the job
Athens, 16/3/2005 (ANA)Transport and Communications Minister Michalis Liapis on Tuesday provided a 'mini' overview of the measures his ministry adopted and their corresponding results in the 12 months he's held the ministerial post.
"We did well and we will do even better in the future," Liapis said. He emphasized that as far as mass transport in Athens is concerned, the basic rationale behind the measures implemented is to incorporate all means of mass transport in one cohesive urban transport network.
According to Liapis, the measures implemented have had positive effects since passenger traffic has increased. As a result, 41% of citizens use the public transport system on a daily basis. The goal is for one out of two Attica residents to use the public transport system by 2008.
The minister explained that the basic philosophy behind the urban transport system's upgrading is that the Athens-Piraeus Electric Railway, the Metro, the suburban rail and the tram, which cover a total of 117 kilometers and account for 40% of daily travel within the mass transport system, constitute the system's 'core', while bus routes play a complementary role.
Liapis said that the number of passengers using buses has also increased thanks to the creation of seven new routes and stricter monitoring of bus lanes enabling buses to travel at faster speeds.
Regarding the ministry's future plans, Liapis said that a top priority was extending bus lanes by 13 km initially, adding an additional 500 new buses to the existing fleet by early 2006, and establishing time limits for loading and unloading of goods.
 Japanese music concert to kick-off '2005 EU-Japan Year of People-to-People Exchanges' in Greece
Athens, 16/3/2005 (ANA)The opening event in Greece of the heralded "2005 EU-Japan Year of People-to-People Exchanges", namely, a musical performance of Japanese music entitled "Voyage", is scheduled for Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the Athens Conservatory.
The duo concert featuring Junko Ueda, on traditional Japanese lute, and Wil Offermans on flute, is the evening's highlight, along with a presentation of "shômyô", or Buddhist chanting, by students of the conservatory.
The entire event, held under the auspices of the Ambassador of Japan in Athens, Toshio Mochizuki, is part of an ambitious Europe-wide series of events aiming to "further contacts between people by promoting mutual interest in Japan and the European Union as partners".
According to a press release circulated by the Japanese embassy, 242 sister-city partnerships between Japan and the 25 EU member-states have been implemented over the past two decades, whereas 9,300 young adults from the EU 25 have traveled to most advanced country in the Far East through the JET program.
Other scheduled events in Greece will be a Wadaiko performance (the art of Japanese drumming) and a Japanese film festival.
The Athens conservatory is located at 17-19, Vas. Georgiou II St. in the Greek capital's centre.
 Latest speculation has Vavylis fleeing Greece
Athens, 16/3/2005 (ANA)Judicial sources on Tuesday were reportedly quoted as saying that mysterious fugitive Apostolos Vavylis -- the reputed "linchpin" protagonist in an ongoing Church corruption furor also related to charges of judicial sleaze and even press allegations of connections to security and intelligence services -- has fled Greece and is believed to be in a "neighboring European country".
No information was provided to backup the report, although the same sources said, interestingly, that if Vavylis "surrenders the foreseen procedure will be followed by the prosecutor's office", a more-or-less indirect reference to deportation procedures.
 SYN President visits areas affected by floods in northern Greece
Athens, 16/3/2005 (ANA)"We, as SYN (Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology), want to take on a major initiative, both on a national and an EU level, in order to develop a trilateral cooperation between Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria based on EU legislation regarding EU member-countries' joint efforts to address problems related to rivers," SYN President Alekos Alavanos said on Tuesday during a visit to areas affected by floods in Evros prefecture, northern Greece.
Alavanos said that special emphasis must be placed both on infrastructure necessary to prevent similar problems from arising in the future, but also on supporting and compensating those affected by the floods.
 Kyriakou to meet with IOC President on Friday
Athens, 16/3/2005 (ANA)President of the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) Minos Kyriakou will be meeting with International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge on Friday, following the latter's invitation to IOC headquarters in Lausanne. IOC Executive Board Member Lambis Nikolaou will be accompanying Kyriakou on Friday.
Kyriakou will have the opportunity to brief Rogge on the HOC's goals for the next four years.
 Cyprus Government: Britain's position on Cyprus' recognition is inconceivable
NICOSIA 16/3/2005 (CNA/ANA)The non-recognition of an EU member-state by Turkey is inconceivable, Cyprus Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said on Tuesday, commenting on a statement by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw that the issue of Cyprus' recognition by Turkey would be resolved in the context of Turkey's full membership of the European Union.
Chrysostomides also said that Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul's statement that Turkey's customs union with the 10 new EU member- states already functions does not respond to reality.
He reiterated that the Greek Cypriot side pursues the normalization of relations with all states that wish to join the EU, including Turkey.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory. Turkey is the only country in the world which does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus although a guarantor power of Cyprus' independence in 1960, together with Greece and Britain.
''I think it is inconceivable for Turkey not to recognize a state full member of the EU. I am sure that everyone realize that Turkey's negotiations with the EU will be carried out at an intergovernmental level, and Cyprus as a full, independent and sovereign member-state will participate in the negotiations with Turkey,'' Chrysostomides added.
As regards Gul's statement that the customs union with the 10 new member-states already functions, Chrysostomides not that this does not respond to reality ''because ships under the Cyprus flag are not allowed yet to dock into Turkish ports and airplanes registered in
Cyprus or belonging to Cyprus companies are not allowed to use the Turkish airspace.''
Asked if the Cyprus government will raise the issue of the non-recognition at an intergovernmental level, the spokesman noted that ''it will be raised automatically'' since one state cannot participate in an intergovernmental conference ''at which the member- states recognize each other and there is the suspicion or the statement of non-recognition on behalf of another state that participates in the intergovernmental conference.''
Asked if the government is concerned by the fact that Britain will take over the EU presidency during that the second half of 2005, when Turkey's accession negotiations are set to start, the Cypriot official said that this issue will be discussed in the framework of the EU Council.
''I don't think that we should see the issue of recognition on the basis of some statements,'' he added, reiterating that Cyprus' participation in the Intergovernmental Conference and in the EU is on the basis of a full, sovereign and independent EU state.
Answering another question, Chrysostomides said that it is expected that Britain's Presidency will be balanced, just as previous EU presidencies.
Invited to comment on a statement by Jack Straw that all those who are planning to buy properties in the island's occupied areas must seek an independent legal advice, the spokesman expressed the hope that the British Foreign Secretary ''implies that the purchase of properties belonging to Greek Cypriot refugees is illegal. And the advice that the potential purchasers will seek or are recommended to seek is whether these properties belong to Turkish Cypriots and can be sold legally.''
 Gul says Turkey's EU protocol not recognition of Cyprus
LONDON 16/3/2005 (CNA/ANA)Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said after a meeting in London on Monday with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw that Turkey will sign the protocol extending its customs union to the new EU member-states but noted that in the case of Cyprus this would not mean the recognition of the Republic of Cyprus.
Straw said Britain recognizes the ''good faith'' of Turkey on this issue and pointed out that it was not the responsibility of the Turkish government that the protocol has not yet been signed.
Én his opening remarks at a press conference after his meeting with Gul, Straw said they had a wide range of discussion on the EU, bilateral and international issues, Turkey's prospects for Europe, Iraq, the Middle East and the Cyprus question, and agreed on the importance of all sides to focus all efforts on a full and comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.
Asked whether the issue of recognition would come up before October 3, when Turkey is set to commence accession negotiations with the EU, Straw said that a lot of practical work would have to be done on that issue, which would be resolved in time but in the context of Turkey's full membership of the EU.
Gul, when asked how Turkey planned to sign the protocol extending the customs union to the ten new members, including Cyprus, said that it is already functioning since May 1, 2004.
''The protocol will be signed. We declared it, we negotiated it, we do not see any problem there,'' he added.
Replying to other questions, Gull said that according to the constitution, the protocol will be signed not initialed and added that ''in any case it is not going to be recognition, we declared it.''
Commenting on the same issue, Straw said ''we recognize the good faith of Turkey on this issue'' and noted that ''the fact that it has not been signed is not the responsibility of the Turkish government.''
''There are certain issues which have arisen inside the European Commission and are the cause of the current delay. The foreign ministers have given cast iron guarantees that the minute the document is ready for signing it will be signed,'' he added.
 Juncker hopes climate will be created to solve Cyprus issue
NICOSIA 16/3/2005 (CNA/ANA)Luxembourg's Prime Minister and current President of the European Council Jean-Claude Juncker has said he had not given up hope that the climate to resolve the Cyprus problem could be created.
Speaking on Monday in Luxembourg at a meeting of chairpersons of the Foreign Affairs Committees of national parliaments of EU member states and candidate countries, Juncker said a UN initiative would be desirable once the Cypriots and Turks have agreed to speak directly to each other.
On Cyprus and Turkey, the prime minister acknowledged that it was ''difficult to get those who have problems, not with the European Union but between the two of them, to meet in the same room.''
"A UN initiative would be desirable once the Cypriots and Turks have agreed to speak directly to each other," he added.
"I have not given up hope that we can create the climate to resolve this issue," the EU Council President concluded.