|Wednesday, 13 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-03-22
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 22, 2005
 Karamanlis, Schroeder discuss EU funding, Stability Pact, Turkey's EU prospects
BERLIN 22/3/2005 (ANA - A. Panagopoulos)The EU's fiscal prospects in the 2007-2013 period, the Union's Stability Pact, the Lisbon Strategy and Turkey's European prospects dominated talks here on Monday between visiting Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
As far as Turkey is concerned -- and ahead of Karamanlis' dinner with his Turkish counterpart on Tuesday in Brussels -- both leaders agreed that Ankara must meet its commitments vis-a-vis the European Union.
"The Greek government supports Turkey's European course. I want to underline, though, that it is important that the Turkish government implement the conditions and prerequisites that are placed in every step of the procedure. Within this framework I am obliged to stress, once again, that the Turkish government must sign the Protocol of Ankara in a timely manner," Karamanlis said.
On his part, Schroeder said specific commitments have been agreed to for beginning of EU-Turkey accession negotiations on Oct. 3, and that those commitments must not materialize "only on paper, but also be implemented".
He also concurred with Karamanlis over the need for Ankara to meet its obligations, adding: "There are yearly progress reports, as you know, and we can also incorporate the issue of implementation," the German chancellor said in reply to a press question over calls from within his own party favoring a change in the date for commencing EU-Turkey negotiations.
In citing differences between Athens and Berlin over the 4th Community Support Framework (CSF), Schroeder said the two countries have completely different views, as Germany is the Union's largest contributor, whereas Greece is a country that receives EU funding. While noting that an "identity of views" is not possible, he aid there will be contacts between experts to discuss the matter more thoroughly as part of efforts to converge those views.
Both men, conversely, agreed with an ECOFIN meeting decision revising the Stability and Development Pact, with Karamanlis stressing that the decision is very positive for the Union because it restores the Pact's credibility and also facilitates development in Europe.
"What is important for Greece is to reduce the large deficits and debts we inherited from our predecessors. The revised Pact will assist in this effort, but of course, we must intensify our efforts because the distance we have to cover is great," the Greek premier underlined.
FYROM issue: Asked about the "name issue" still plaguing Greece's relations with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Schroeder said that if there is a procedure for "Macedonia's" European prospect, "then it (FYROM) needs Greece" - a statement Schroeder said he personally conveyed to that country's prime minister recently.
"I consider the Greek prime minister's stance as wise in wanting a quick political decision supporting 'Macedonia's' sovereignty and also providing Greece with the opportunity to back its (FYROM) European orientation," Schroeder said.
Karamanlis echoed the statement, "we believe and are promoting a policy that will lead to a mutual solution. However, we need a response from the other side."
Regarding another Balkan issue that has returned to the international spotlight of late, namely, Kosovo, Karamanlis briefed the German chancellor on his recent trip to the UN-administered province and related visits to Serbia-Montenegro and Croatia.
In other items, the Greek prime minister said EU-wide efforts must be intensified in order to meet Lisbon Strategy goals, noting that the Greek government has assumed specific initiatives recently on fiscal stability, economic development and improving education, among others.
According to government sources, the issue of weapons procurements was not discussed.
 Greek premier says Turkey's European road 'long and difficult' after talks with Turkish counterpart
BRUSSELS 22/3/2005 (ANA/A.Panagopoulos)Turkey's European road is long and difficult and the European Union attributes particular importance to the respect of principles and values, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said after a dinner he hosted for his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Villa Lorraine restaurant here on Monday evening.
Karamanlis also noted that the EU shows that it has no intention of being flexible, hinting in effect at the Union's recent decision to postpone accession talks with Croatia. He also underlined that Greece supported the Turkish government's efforts towards Europe, but stressed that many things need to be done in quite a few sectors.
The two prime ministers' talks focused on Turkey's European course, bilateral relations, the Cyprus issue and also issues regarding the participation of Erdogan's party, as an observer, for the first time, in a European People's Party (EPP) summit here on Tuesday.
Karamanlis, referring to the signing of the Ankara Protocol, which extends Turkey's customs union agreement with the 10, new EU member states - Cyprus among them -, said that it must be signed before October 3, as decided at the European Council on December 17. He underlined that with regard to bilateral relations the will of the two sides to continue efforts for cooperation in all sectors, particularly in trade, tourism and energy was confirmed.
The Greek premier said that he raised to his Turkish counterpart the issue of Turkish violations over the Aegean, underlining that ''certain activities by Turkey in the Aegean are not compatible with relations of good neighborliness foreseen by the European decisions''.
On the Cyprus issue, Karamanlis reiterated his position that the aim remained the reunification of the island through negotiations on the basis of the Annan plan and in the framework of the European acquis communautaire and the European principles and values. ''Only in this way, all the inhabitants of the island, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, could enjoy all the benefits of European cooperation and prosperity'', he added.
On his part, Erdogan said, regarding Turkey's obligation to sign the Ankara Protocol ''I will not answer you on the exact time. Our experts are working on this matter and when they conclude their work we will proceed and sign it''. On Cyprus he said that the two sides are showing a political will for a solution to the issue and there is willingness by both to solve all the difficulties and proceed into talks.
 Interior minister says Greek government determined to defend constitutional legality
BRUSSELS 22/3/2005 (ANA/M. Spinthourakis)Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, speaking to reporters after meeting European Union Commissioner in charge of the Internal Market and Services Charlie McCreevy here on Monday, said the Greek government is determined to defend constitutional legality and to prove the compatibility of both the Greek constitution and executive legislation with EU law.
The minister did not conceal the differences in views prevailing during the meeting, telling newsmen that the EU Commissioner insisted on the positions already set out by the European Commission in 2003 and which lead to the conclusion that both article 14, paragraph 9, of the Greek constitution and its executive laws are contrary to EU law.
Pavlopoulos did not rule out the possibility of the European Commission to decide on Tuesday to set out these views in writing as well, sending Athens a relevant letter of warning.
"We on our part explained analytically to Commissioner McCreevy our positions and we stressed that in the event a letter of warning is sent we shall give a substantiated reply and we shall prove that Greek legislation is not contrary to EU law," the minister said, stressing at the same time that the Greek constitution supports the principle of transparency which the government considers non-negotiable.
"Greece knows how to defend its constitutional legality and the government will do exactly this," he added and blamed the previous Simitis government for its inertia on the issue of defending Greek constitutional legality.
Pavlopoulos asked whether the possibility exists of the European Commission deciding to freeze EU funding for projects to be awarded on the basis of the law on the main shareholder, said he does not believe such a thing will happen and advised all who are hasty to wait for the presentation of Greek argumentation.
In parallel, the minister said that the law will go into effect as of June, 2005.
"The government is not possessed by defeatism and will defend constitutional legality," Pavlopoulos said, pointing out that "the Cassandras who spread rumors lately that we are negotiating the articles of the executive laws with the European Com-mission and that we were prepared to give way have been proved wrong. The government knows how to negotiate and defend just national causes."
 Gov't calls on PASOK to state its position vis-a-vis Article 14
Athens, 22/3/2005 (ANA)The government on Monday again called on main opposition PASOK to clearly state whether it backs the now under-scrutiny Article 14, Paragraph 9 of the Greek constitution, which both major political parties -- ruling New Democracy (ND) and PASOK -- ratified when the latter was still in power.
The response, given by alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, came in answer to a press question referring to a proposal by high-ranking PASOK deputy and former minister Evangelos Venizelos, namely, that the government abandon the controversial "primary shareholder" law passed earlier in the year in a bid to curb the influence of major state procurers and contractors in the local broadcast media sector.
Venizelos also said that once the law was repealed, both parties -- ruling ND and main opposition PASOK -- could jointly write and table a new draft law.
The specific constitutional article, and on second glance, the executive law comprising the so-called "primary shareholder" legislation, has come under the scrutiny of the European Commission for its compatibility with Community law.
Conversely, the government has repeatedly defended the particular law, in particular, and the constitutional article as bulwarks against corruption and vested interests.
Moreover, Antonaros dismissed any notion that a referendum could be held for a specific executive law -- such as the so-called "primary shareholder" bill -- submitted by the government and already ratified by a majority of Parliament.
"Laws are passed by Parliament and are implemented ... there is no need for a referendum to take place for every law," he said during his regular press briefing.
 Gov't comments on Jerusalem Patriarchate issue
Athens, 22/3/2005 (ANA)The Greek government on Monday stressed that it considers the immediate examination of recent allegations leveled at the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and its ecclesiastical leader, Patriarch Irineos, as important.
Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros made the statement during his regular press briefing and after fielding a question on Athens' reaction to recent reports that the Patriarchate illegally sold-off real estate in east Jerusalem.
Antonaros merely noted that Athens condemns such practices if they do, indeed, prove true.
"Greece's interest is immediate and energetic; the Greek government respects the Patriarchate's autonomy and does not interfere in administrative issues, however, it (government) does not eschew its moral obligations and is ready to contribute with the dispatch of a team of experts to assist in investigating the matter," he said.
Foreign ministry sends group of experts to investigate reported sale of real estate: The foreign ministry sent its group of experts to Jerusalem on Monday, who are charged with investigating the reported sale of real estate of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Two financial experts, two legal experts and the ministry's head of religious affairs comprise the team.
"Greece wants a speedy investigation of the case," Foreign Ministry Spokesman George Koumoutsakos said on Sunday.
"However, Greece which never denied its moral responsibilities towards the Patriarchate and its faithful, is ready to contribute with all the interested parties in the speedy investigation of the issue with the sending of a group of experts to Jerusalem," Koumoutsakos said.
On Monday, Alekos Alavanos, President of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party, harshly criticized the events going on at the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. He said that the case was an international one, demanding that ''the property which was transferred to Israel's possession, must be immediately returned to its previous owners. It upsets the balance between Israelis and Palestinians and complicates the Palestinian problem which primarily concerns Jerusalem," he said.
 Turkish warplanes violate Greek national air space
Athens, 22/3/2005 (ANA)The Turkish air force, which is continuing to infringe air traffic regulations in the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) on a daily basis with large numbers of warplanes, increased its number of Greek national air space violations on Monday in the framework of its illegal activities in the Aegean.
National Defense General Staff sources said that Monday's violations of national air space by Turkish aircraft were the most ever to be recorded over the past eight months.
According to the sources, 37 Turkish aircraft (13 formations) entered the Aegean without submitting flight plans and on 36 occasions they violated national air space in the north, central and southern Aegean.
In all cases the Turkish aircraft were recognized and intercepted by Greek air force jets, while on one occasion the interception process developed into a mock dogfight.
Five Turkish warplanes were armed, while four were photo-graph-taking Phantom jets.
 Greece satisfied with deal to reform EU Stability Pact, FinMin says
Athens, 22/3/2005 (ANA)Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Monday expressed his satisfaction over an agreement reached to reform a Stability Pact in Eurozone.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Alogoskoufis said the agreement ensured that the Pact was more flexible and easier to be implemented.
"With the reform we have a Stability Pact better both for Europe and Greece," the Greek minister said. He underlined the Greek government's particular satisfaction over the acceptance of some of its recommendations, such as a longer time period for Eurozone member-states -with excessive fiscal deficits- to achieve fiscal stability, and taking in mind of investments in infrastructure projects in evaluating a country's fiscal deficit.
Commenting on the Greek economy, Alogoskoufis said that a reformed Stability Pact was not creating new facts, since the government was trying to address past budget burdens.
The relative flexibility of the Pact covered only Eurozone member-states with fiscal deficits of around 3.0 percent of their Gross Domestic Product and not those with very high fiscal deficits, the Greek minister said. He added that Greece must reduce its public debt since over-indebted countries were more vulnerable to international interest rate fluctuations.
Alogoskoufis also expressed his satisfaction over the confirmation by an ECOFIN council meeting on Sunday of the role of the Council of ministers in generating procedures over excessive deficits.
The Greek minister stressed the significantly constructive role played by the European Council president Jean-Claude Juncker and EU Monetary Commissioner Joaquin Almunia in reaching an agreement on the issue. Alogoskoufis said that Greece on Monday officially submitted its updated stability program to the EU.
 Industrialists back sustainable growth through robust economy, not loans
Athens, 22/3/2005 (ANA)Sustainable development should be attained by means of a strong economy rather than borrowing, the head of the Association of Greek Industry, Odysseas Kyriakopoulos, said in Brussels on Monday.
Kyriakopoulos was commenting to reporters on a decision by European Union finance ministers for greater flexibility in the 25-country bloc's stability and growth plan.
In addition, the EU could retain its social model and environmental protection if it concentrated on the Lisbon Strategy's goals of growth, competitiveness and employment; and on acceleration of structural reform on both a national and European level.
Kyriakopoulos was also speaking as deputy president of UNICE, an umbrella group for national employers and industrialists' federations in Europe.
Earlier, UNICE elected a new president, Ernest-Antoine Seilliere, the head of France's employers' association.
 Greek average inflation lowest in four years in February
Athens, 22/3/2005 (ANA)Greece's average inflation rate in the period March 2004-February 2005 was the lowest in four years, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said on Monday.
Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister said average inflation was 3.0 percent in February 2005, down from 3.4 pct, 3.6 pct and 3.2 pct in the same months of 2004, 2003 and 2002, respectively, and stressed that this development was a success considering a record-rally in international oil prices.
Sioufas said that the spread of average inflation rates between Greece and Eurozone was also at the lowest level in four years, at 0.9 percentage points in 2004, down from 1.4 points in 2001, 1.6 points in 2002 and 1.3 points in 2003, respectively.
The Greek minister said that this favorable development was a result of a cooperation between Development ministry and all market agencies and intensive market inspection by a Competition Commission.
 Greece expects increase in tourist arrivals this year
Athens, 22/3/2005 (ANA)Tourist arrivals to Greece are expected to rise this year, Tourism Development Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said on Monday.
Addressing the first meeting of a National Tourism Council, Avramopoulos stressed that tourist arrivals were expected to rise despite an expected decline in other South European major tourist destinations (Spain, Portugal, Italy) this year. The Greek minister added that incoming tourism would also include higher quality standards, higher foreign exchange inflows and higher budget revenues.
"Tourism is a national issue," Avramopoulos said while he urged members of the Council to contribute with their recommendations. He said that the National Tourism Council will meet twice a year.
"We are sending a message to the world community that Greece is gradually changing, overcoming hurdles that blocked its development," the Greek minister said.
Avramopoulos reiterated the government's commitment to support the tourism industry in the country and announced a series of initiatives, to be taken in 2006, aimed to upgrade and expand the country's tourist product. These measures will include amending a law on hotel licensing and location, withdrawal of old hotels, a new more flexible regulatory framework to support large-scale tourism investments, new laws on ship marinas, upgrading the country's airport and ports, use of military airports for commercial air flights during the tourist season, upgrading facilities and extending opening hours of museums and archeological sites.
The Greek minister said a tourism ad campaign, currently underway globally, was successful and harmonized with global tourism market trends.
 European Commission announces that Greek tax legislation on capital accumulation incompatible with
EU BRUSSELS 22/3/2005 (ANA)The European Commission announced here on Monday that Greek tax legislation applied for the accumulation of capital is incompatible with that of the European Union. It also revealed its intention to send a letter of warning to Greece on its being referred to the European Court.
The announcement says that Greece did not make the necessary changes in its legislation, despite the fact that the Commission requested this in December 2004.
It also called on member-states not to enact clauses which are incompatible with EU law, particularly in cases where guide-lines exist on state subsidies in the shipping sector, considering extensive competition prevailing in this sector.
 Greece seeks closer business ties with Egypt in wake of PM's visit
CAIRO 22/3/2005 (ANA/N Katsikas)Greece is seeking closer business ties with Egypt, following a visit to the Arab country late last year by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
Signaling the impetus for a new chapter in economic links between the two countries is a visit to the Egyptian capital for talks by a 40-member delegation, officials said on Monday.
"This business delegation is taking place as a tangible and major outcome of talks in the sector between Mr Karamanlis and his Egyptian counterpart in November," the secretary general of trade, Dimitris Vrettakos, told a news conference.
"Greek business groups have shown intense interest in taking part in Egypt's privatization program," said Vrettakos, who also heads the delegation.
Corporate investments in Egypt by Greek firms top 500 million US dollars, led by Titan Cement Co., Zeritis, the Vardinoyiannis group and Chipita snacks.
The delegation from the Arab-Hellenic Chamber on Sunday met Egypt's assistant minister of international economic affairs, Daoulat Hassan, who said she backed further strengthening economic cooperation between the two countries.
"There is also a need for cooperation between young entrepreneurs from the two states, a point supported by the Greek side in its encouragement for Egyptian students to study at Greek universities, among other moves," Hassan said at the meeting held at the Greek ambassador's residence in Cairo.
According to the Greek embassy's counselor for trade and economic affairs, Dimitris Nikas, business ties between the two countries have been further reinforced by an agreement allowing mutual protection of investments; and a pact on avoidance of double taxation that is in the final stage of formulation.
Twinning arrangements are in place between corresponding Greek and Egyptian trade groups, including stock market authorities and national tourism organizations, Nikas added.
The Greek delegation was due to end its visit to Egypt on Monday with talks in the port city of Alexandria.
 Greek budget deficit up 28.7 pct in 2004
Athens, 22/3/2005 (ANA)Greece's state budget deficit totalled 12.668 billion euros last year, up 28.7 percent from 2003 while it exceeded budget provisions of a shortfall of 11.267 billion euros during the same period, official figures showed on Monday.
Data released by the State General Accounting Office attributed the higher deficit to lower budget revenues, up 4.6 percent in 2004 compared with an 8.5 percent growth rate projected in last year's budget.
Budget spending rose 11.6 percent, slightly exceeding an 11.5 percent budget target, with primary spending up 15 percent in 2004 (from a 14.6 percent forecast) and interest payment rising 0.5 percent from a budget target of 1.1 percent.
Public Investments Programme's revenue rose by 69 percent last year, exceeding a budget target of a 67.1 percent increase, while the program's spending fell short of budget targets (12.8 pct and 13.8 pct, respectively).
 Greek current account deficit up 24 pct in January, yr/yr
Athens, 22/3/2005 (ANA)Greece's current accounts deficit rose by 24 percent in January, compared with the same month in 2004, reflecting the country's worsening trade deficit due to higher oil prices, the Bank of Greece said on Monday.
The central bank, in its monthly report, said the fuel balance's deficit widened by 56.6 percent over the same period.
The Bank of Greece said the country's trade deficit rose by 15.3 percent in January, with exports rising 3.0 percent and imports rising 3.9 percent over the month, while the services' surplus rose by 133 million euros reflecting a 20.5 percent rise in shipping foreign exchange to more than 1.1 billion euros, exceeding the country's total export figure (919 million euros) in January.
Greece's transfer surplus eased by 246 million euros in January reflecting a 36 mln euro increase in the general government's revenues (EU fund inflows) and a 189 million euros rise in the general government's payments (Greek contribution to EU budget).
 Greek supermarkets oppose extended shopping hours
Athens, 22/3/2005 (ANA)Government plans to extend shopping hours around the country will not lead to higher turnover or employment but only to redistribution of both job positions and turnover, the Association of Greek Super Market Enterprises (SESME) said on Monday.
Speaking to reporters during a news conference, SESME president Pantelis Panteliadis stressed that Greek supermarkets were "the last wheel in the wagon of price increases" and noted that the sector's low profitability was the result of intense competition in the sector, while the manufacturing sector in the country was showing a high level of consolidation.
Panteliadis said that the top 10 Greek supermarkets' net profit margin was 1.84 percent, compared with 11.8 percent of the top 10 consumer product industries and 4.7 percent of the top 10 biggest importing firms.
He also said that a number of consumer goods saw their prices rise by 6.5 pct to 16.67 pct in the last 18 months.
"We continue our battle to absorb or delay any price increases although this goal is not always easy and consumers often see higher prices. This is not a responsibility of the retail sector but of producers," Panteliadis said.
He added that implementing shopping hours, currently in the Attica prefect, around the country was fully satisfy the sector.
Panteliadis said that an existing regulatory framework over pricing control in the country was working smoothly but noted that plans to amend an existing legislation would not lead to permanent or steady decline in prices.
SESME vice-president G. Apostolou said the association was opposed to plans to leave shops open on Sundays and to extend shopping hours by two hours on Saturdays.
 Stocks slump in across-the-board selling
Athens, 22/3/2005 (ANA)Stocks finished lower with players dumping shares across the board, traders said.
The Athens general share index closed at 2,896.59 points, marking a decline of 2.77%. Turnover was 230.2 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 2.88% down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 2.79% lower; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 3.24% down.
Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 294 to 23 with 27 remaining unchanged.
 12 new police traffic stations envisioned for major highways
Athens, 22/3/2005 (ANA)The government on Monday announced the establishment of 12 new traffic police stations along the east Mediterranean country's main road axes: the Athens-Thessaloniki, Athens-Patra and Corinth-Tripoli national highways.
Four will open immediately, with the remainder operating by the end of 2007, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros told reporters during his regular press briefing.
The announcement comes on the heels of a same-day inauguration of a new traffic police station at the Tempi Valley site in north-central Greece -- a natural "bottleneck" on Greece's busiest highway -- as well as a station at Thermopylae, only a few kilometers from a stretch of highway (near the Malliakos Gulf) that has witnessed numerous traffic accidents over the years.
Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis inaugurated the station at Tempi on Monday.
Reducing the appalling number of road accidents and fatalities recorded in Greece every year has been a top priority for the Karamanlis government since it assumed office a year ago.
 President Papoulias present at awards ceremony of State Prizes of Children's Books
Athens, 22/3/2005 (ANA)President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Monday night attended the awards ceremony of the State Prizes of Children's Books at the Concert Hall and awarded the 1st prize of children's literature books which was shared by Sophia Fildisi with her poetic collection for children and Petros Hatzopoulos with his novel "The Disappearance of Dorothy Snot".
Also present at the ceremony was the wife of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, Natasha.
The other three prizes were awarded by Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis to Vassilis Papatsarouhas for "Little Red Riding Hood", by Education and Religious Affairs Minister Marietta Yiannakou to Eleni Dikeou for "The Great Voyage of Odysseas" and by Lola Daifa to Bulgarian-origin Vasilev Svetlin for his illustrations in "Don Quixote".
 Embattled judge slapped with felony, misdemeanor charges
Athens, 22/3/2005 (ANA)An embattled first instance court judge -- among a bevy of jurists facing scrutiny in an ongoing judicial corruption investigation -- was officially indicted on Monday on a handful of felony and misdemeanor charges by a high-ranking appellate-level prosecutor.
Evangelos Kaloussis, who served on the bench in Hania and Athens, among others, was charged with money laundering, dereliction of duty, bribery, attempted blackmail, facilitating the procurement (of foreign women illegally in the country) and attempting to cover-up the latter offence.
He was also charged with a felony count of complicity to bribe.
Two other individuals, a night-club owner in Hania, Crete, and a Thessaloniki attorney, were also implicated after their names were discovered by authorities investigating the justice's Greek bank accounts.
The indictment will be conveyed to an appellate-level judicial magistrate, who in turn is expected to summon the trio for statements in the coming days.
The other two individuals were identified as Efstratios Valyrakis and Georgios Nikolakopoulos.
Finally, Greek judicial officials will reportedly convey a request to Swiss authorities for the opening of specific bank accounts allegedly linked to Kaloussis.
 Athens publisher's blackmailing trial begins
Athens, 22/3/2005 (ANA)The blackmailing trial of a controversial long-time Athens newspaperman, "Eleftheri Ora" publisher Grigoris Mihalopoulos, began on Monday in Athens before a three-judge appellate-level court.
Mihalopoulos has been charged -- and was initially jailed pending trial -- with separately blackmailing a handful of Greece's wealthiest and most influential people, including members of the Angelopoulos family (industry, investments and shipping) and members of the Latsis family (petro-chemicals, shipping and banking).
He is also accused of blackmailing a precious stone importer later convicted himself on fraud charges, Argyris Saliarellis, Orthodox Metropolitan of Zakynthos (island) Chryssostomos and former Vouliagmeni mayor (an upscale seaside resort southeast of Athens) Grigoris Kassidokostas.
According to court documents based on statements by some of the accusers, Mihalopoulos allegedly demanded money in return for striking names off a "hit-list" ostensibly kept by the once-elusive "November 17" urban terrorist group, and by threatening to write sensationalist biographies tarnishing some of the targeted individuals. No actual links with the notorious terror group were ever discovered following the arrests and convictions of nearly two dozen "N17" suspects.
One of the reputed "targets" of the blackmailing scheme was identified as Athens 2004 Olympic Games Organizing Committee (ATHOC) President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, who has already provided statements to the authorities in connection with the case.
 Greece becomes full member of European Space Agency
Athens, 22/3/2005 (ANA)Greece has officially become a full member of the European Space Agency (ESA) after submitting the necessary documentation to the French Foreign Ministry and ESA, Secretary General for Research and Development Ioannis Tsoukalas said on Monday.
"The Greek flag is already waving outside the Agency's building and as a result, our country's 'voice' and vote has become equally significant as those of the other country-members of the European Space Agency," Tsoukalas stressed.
 President Papadopoulos wants new UN initiative for Cyprus settlement
NICOSIA 22/3/2005 (CNA/ANA)The Greek Cypriot side wants UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to take a new initiative to solve the Cyprus problem but no through mediation, timeframes and the preconditions of the past, Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos said on Monday.
Speaking to a delegation of students and professors from the Athens University School of Philosophy that visited him on Monday at the Presidential Palace, in the context of the annual educational visit to Cyprus, President Papadopoulos said ''the aim of many deliberations and contacts we have will all those who have a say in the matter and with the UN Secretariat, is to determine whether once again the UN Secretary-General will use preventative mediation or not,'' noting that this was ''a very critical point and we want to clarify it.''
President Papadopoulos said the new development was that, when the Greek Cypriot side gives in writing and in detail the changes it wants to a UN settlement plan, then the UN Secretary-General will decide if in this manner ''we are proving our political will for a settlement.''
This means that he will have the right alone, as a mediator, to judge and decide if what we are asking for is reasonable, if it provides the basis for the resumption of his initiative and if there can be common ground between the two sides,'' the president added.
''We will not accept another mediating role of the UN Secretary-General,'' he said, adding that ''the national issues, the matters of a people can be neither solved through the mediation of a foreigner nor even with preventative mediation.''
The president said ''we cannot accept pressing timeframes for a Cyprus settlement,'' such as October 3rd, when Turkey is set to start accession negotiations with the EU.
He added that the Greek Cypriot side wants a new UN initiative, which would ''satisfy some preconditions that from past experience are unproductive and not the best procedure.''
The president pointed that the Greek Cypriot community, in rejecting the Annan plan at a referendum last year, did not reject a settlement but the specific plan, which did not address Greek Cypriot concerns.
''We remain faithful to a bizonal, bicommunal federation solution.
This is the solution we are seeking with all the diplomatic means we have at our disposal,'' he said.
President Papadopoulos said he could not predict the developments but noted that it did not take much to understand that time would make finding a settlement even more difficult.
He expressed certainty that the dangers of not accepting the Annan plan were not as great as those of signing the plan, which would mean ''the automatic abolishment of the Republic of Cyprus.''
''The fact remains that the Republic of Cyprus and the decision-making procedures would not exist 24 hours after the referendum,'' he pointed out, adding that in the case of a violation of what had been agreed, the Republic of Cyprus would not be able to turn to any institution for assistance.
President Papadopoulos dismissed allegations that the Greek Cypriot community rejected the plan because it had been misled or did not know what it was called on to vote for, noting that Cypriot Hellenism has an excellent level of education, is very politicized and can judge whether a settlement plan was viable or not, held dangers or not.
The president said it was not difficult for the Turkish Cypriot community to accept the Annan plan, because Turkey got everything it asked for, including the right to intervene and maintain its army on the island.
''We will continue to struggle for the reunification of our homeland,'' President Papadopoulos said, adding that the Annan plan ''perpetuated the divisionary tendencies in the society, the economy, the geographical area and the institutions of Cyprus.''
He pointed out that ''we have no other course but to seek a peaceful settlement through negotiations,'' aiming at ''a true bizonal, bicommunal federation.''
Referring to relations between Greece and Cyprus, President Papadopoulos said the Cypriot government maintains ''excellent relations with every Greek government,'' noting that ''all actions and practices are in full harmony and agreement.''
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. In April 2004, separate simultaneous referenda were held on the Annan plan, which the overwhelming majority of the Greek Cypriot community rejected, and the Turkish Cypriot community accepted.
 Russian envoy says no substantial change in stance on Cyprus
NICOSIA 22/3/2005 (CNA/ANA)Russian Foreign Ministry's Special Representative on Cyprus Leonid Abramov said here on Monday that there is no substantial change in Russia's position on Cyprus.
Abramov met Cypriot Foreign Minister George Iacovou who said that Russia would support Cyprus at the United Nations Security Council and the UN in general.
Iacovou also noted that the Greek Cypriot side is examining the possible resumption of the UN-led negotiations on Cyprus with the UN Secretariat, adding that ''these contacts will intensify in the future.''
''Once again it was confirmed that we have very close relations based on traditional friendship between our two countries'', Abramov said in statements after the meeting, adding that ''Russia traditionally pays great attention to the Cyprus problem and this will continue."
Asked about the next steps to be taken on the Cyprus problem, Abramov said that ''both communities should understand each other and should speak about possible favorable conditions for the resumption of international efforts.''
To a question whether the Russian stance on the Cyprus problem has changed, Abramov said that '' in general, Russia's line towards the Cyprus problem has remained the same," adding there is ''no substantial change.''
Invited to say how he views the role of the UN Secretary-General, Abramov said Kofi Annan's role and his mission of good offices lead the way.
Replying to a question regarding Russia's position on the Cyprus problem, Iacovou referred to Abramov's statements adding that what is very interesting is Abramov's statement on the UN Secretary-General's good offices mission ''which underscores that there is no arbitration role for the UN Secretary-General.''
''The Cypriot government's position is known, we do not accept arbitration,'' Iacovou said, adding that this role had expired on April 24, 2004, when Annan's plan was put before the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities in simultaneous referenda. The Greek Cypriot side rejected the Annan Plan while the Turkish Cypriot community approved it.
Regarding a possible resumption of the UN-led talks, Iacovou said that the Greek Cypriot side is in contact not only with UN high-ranking officials but also with the Secretariat.
''It is well known that these contacts have never stopped and have intensified recently and my view is that they will intensify even more in the future,'' Iacovou added.
Earlier, Abramov was received by Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos. No statements were made after the hour-long meeting.