|Sunday, 23 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-03-23
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 23, 2005
 PM Karamanlis accepts invitation to visit Ankara
BRUSSELS 23/3/2005 (ANA/C.Poulidou)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis accepted Turkish Premier Tayyip Erdogan's invitation to visit Ankara during their meeting on Monday evening, according to Greek government sources. During the meeting, the two leaders confirmed their willingness to promote bilateral cooperation in the commercial, tourism and energy sectors.
Karamanlis' visit will be arranged through diplomatic channels, the sources added.
According to the same sources, Karamanlis discussed the violations of Greek national air space by the Turkish air force during his meeting with Erdogan. Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul's comment that there was "a mutual understanding" between the two parties on the issues was denied. "When the Greek side addresses these actions with interceptions and protests, it is obvious that there is no mutual understanding on the matter," sources said.
On Tuesday Karamanlis met with President of the Republic of Cyprus here on Tuesday within the context of the regular cooperation and negotiations that is ongoing between the two governments and on the sidelines of the European Union's Spring Summit. The two leaders discussed topical issues, Turkey's EU prospects and the Cyprus issue.
As for Turkey extending its customs union agreement with the 10, new EU member states - including Cyprus - government sources said that the decision of December's EU Summit was clear: Turkey must sign the Ankara Protocol by October 3, but the Summit's decision did not set ratification of the protocol as a prerequisite for Turkey's EU accession talks to begin.
The sources reiterated indications by the EU presidency that it may not be necessary for the protocol to be ratified by the Turkish Grand National Assembly as the protocol could be regarded as a commercial deal. This, however, does not mean that ratification can be postponed indefinitely.
According to a government official, the ratification of the protocol which might result in recognition of the Republic of Cyprus, presents particular difficulty for Turkey.
Gov't again comments on Greek-Turkish relations in the wake of Karamanlis-Erdogan meeting: Athens on Monday reiterated that its policy remains unchanged on Greek-Turkish relations, with a government spokesman pointing out that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis again underlined this policy on Monday evening following his dinner in Brussels with Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros also repeated the Greek government's leitmotif of Turkey being obliged to sign the Ankara protocol extending a customs union with all of the European Union's members -- including Cyprus -- by October.
He added that the issue does not only involve Greece and Cyprus, but affects all of the Union's members.
Asked about reports of violations of Greek airspace by Turkish warplanes on Monday, Antonaros said the government is taking all necessary measures to prevent any challenge of the country's sovereign rights.
On Monday, PM Karamanlis said such action do not befit good-neighborly relations between the two countries.
 Commission wants Athens' 'observations' on compatibility of media-related constitutional article
BRUSSELS 23/3/2005 (ANA)The European Commission on Tuesday announced that it has decided to request input from Greece on the compatibility with EU law of Greek national law "preventing companies 'interconnected' with Greek mass media businesses from obtaining public contracts," a relevant press release stated here.
As expected, the Commission's request translates into a letter of formal notice, something the press release noted is "the first stage of the infringement procedure under Article 226 of the EC Treaty."
The Commission added:
"EU public procurement law aims to ensure that all European companies have a fair chance to bid for public contracts. Open and transparent tendering procedures mean more competition, stronger safeguards against corruption, better service and value for money for taxpayers and, ultimately, a more competitive Europe…"
"Article 14(9) of the Greek Constitution and the implementing law (3310/2005) declare a virtually total and absolute incompatibility between any activity or shareholding above a certain level in mass-media companies and the performance of public contracts. The Commission considers that this is contrary to both secondary Community law (the Directives on public procurement), in that it lays down exclusion criteria that are not provided for in the Directives, and primary Community law (the EC Treaty), in that it lays down measures that impede, or render less attractive, the exercise of almost all the fundamental freedoms acknowledged by the EC Treaty.
"Given that the law in question is already producing its effects, the Commission has given the Greek Government two weeks to reply and reserves the right to ask the Court, if it brings the matter before it, to suspend the measure in question - particularly the application of law 3310/2005 - and to lay down the requisite interim measures.
"The Commission is prepared to work together with the Greek authorities to render the legislation compatible with European law," the press release concluded.
Gov't reaction: Meanwhile, in Athens, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros noted that the development was not the first time a government has had an opposing view with the European Union.
He also pointed to a decision by the College of Commissioners, which convened on the same day.
Moreover, Antonaros reiterated that the Greek government's position is well known, namely, that it will defend the Greek constitution to the very last.
Finally, he reminded that Tuesday's Commission notice precedes the passing of the "primary shareholder" law and centers on concerns -- as expressed by the Director-General for the Internal Market Alexander Schaub in a letter dated Dec. 17, 2004 -- over Article 14, paragraph 9 of the Greek constitution and a related executive law passed by the previous PASOK government.
 Government source comments on statement by Commissioner's associate on main shareholder issue
BRUSSELS 23/3/2005 (ANA/A. Panagopoulos)A government source, commenting on reports that a senior official close to the regional policy Commissioner made personal barbs against the Greek prime minister and his associates on the main shareholder issue, said on Tuesday "I cannot believe that a Commissioner's associate has made such a blunder."
The European Union's official had spoken of "bad advisers" of the Greek prime minister and of mistaken information for Greek dignitaries sometimes. He had also noted that if the law on awarding public projects recently ratified at the initiative of the Environment, Town Planning and Public Works ministry is fully implemented, there will be no need for another law relevant to the issue, such as that of the main shareholder.
However, government sources replied that "vested interests are not limited to the construction of public works, they concern public contracts in general."
The government sources also stressed that the spirit and letter of the constitution refer to public contracts.
KKE protests against EU stance on 'primary shareholder' law: "KKE [Communist Party of Greece] unequivocally rejects the EU's decision to send a letter to the Greek government asking for additional explanations regarding the primary shareholder [law]," the KKE press office said in a statement on Tuesday. According to KKE, the EU's decision is tantamount to interference in the country's domestic affairs.
Additionally, KKE reiterated its opposition to the law itself, stating that "with this law [the government] is trying to redistribute the wealth among other sectors of major capital, while no solution is provided in terms of the information the public receives from the mass media." However, "KKE does not allow the EU to push aside the country's Constitution," the statement read.
Finally, KKE also criticized the main opposition PASOK party for trying to bring national law in line with EU law.
SYN leader expresses opposition to EU stance on 'primary shareholder' law: Alekos Alavanos, President of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party expressed his opposition to the EU's stance regarding the 'primary shareholder' law, recently passed by Greek parliament, which aims at preventing conflict of interest in conglomerates owning mass media companies and bidding for public works contracts. The European Commission has questioned the compatibility of the new law with EU law.
Alavanos said that the European Commission is not targeting the actual law but the Greek Constitution.
"We believe, and the Left in the European Union believes that issues related to culture and information concern national constitutional law, not EU law," Alavanos said.
On the issue of contract workers employed in the public sector, Alavanos called on the Commission to pressure the Greek government, saying that the EU directive concerning the hiring of contract employees is not implemented in the majority of cases.
 PASOK party spokesman calls on government to withdraw main shareholder law as first step
Athens, 23/3/2005 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK party spokesman Nikos Athanassakis on Tuesday called on the government to withdraw the law on the main shareholder, as a first step, and then to proceed with an understanding with the other parties which can contribute to the handling of the problem and promised that his party is ready to do this.
Referring to an account of last year's finances, Athanassakis said there has been a swelling of expenditures and a collapse of revenues not only in 2004 but during the first months of 2005 as well.
Commenting on Monday's meeting between Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Athanassakis said "the main characteristic was that at the same time as the meeting was taking place the most massive infringements and violations of recent times took place in national air space and in the Athens Flight Information Region."
Roussopoulos dismisses Papandreou criticism over 'primary shareholder' law: Minister of State Thodoris Roussopoulos countered recent criticism by main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou over the "primary shareholder" law, asking why the latter is "rushing to speak out against the country's interests and against a constitution tabled by PASOK in Parliament for ratification."
"Discussions with the Commission are continuing and no final decision has been taken," Roussopoulos told reporters in Brussels.
 Palestinian Legislative Council convenes to focus on Jerusalem Patriarchate land sales; Greek delegation meets with Patriarch
JERUSALEM 23/3/2005 (ANA - P. Haritos)The Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) convened in Ramallah on Tuesday to focus exclusively on high-profile charges that the Orthodox Jerusalem Patriarchate illegally sold real estate to Israeli interests.
Among others, the council decided to request the assistance of member-states currently participating at an Arab League summit in Algiers for resolution of the issue at the international level.
The council's members also decided to request detailed documents of all the alleged sales and expert legal opinions on whether any contracts can be disputed.
Another proposal called for a referendum within the Palestinian authority on whether Greek flags should remain flying over Patriarchate buildings and monasteries, an idea that appears to lack support of Palestinian government officials.
Meanwhile, a six-person group of experts dispatched to Jerusalem by the Greek foreign ministry held their first meeting on Tuesday with embattled Patriarch Eirinaios.
Discussions reportedly focused on the delegation's mission, the documentation that it wants access to and the individuals that the experts will work with in order to prepare their reports.
PASOK spokesman attributes responsibilities to Patriarch Irineos on the situation at the Patriarchate of Jerusalem: Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) spokesman Nikos Athanassakis on Tuesday attributed responsibilities on Patriarch Irineos on the situation at the Patriarchate of Jerusalem in light of the latest developments regarding the reported sale of property belong to the Patriarchate to Jewish investors.
In a statement, the PASOK spokesman stressed that in a period where "the hope of peace starts again to strengthen, the Patriarchate is obliged to be a factor of stability and peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians and not a source of tension and problems, which have no relation to its spiritual and social work."
The Patriarchate, Athanassakis added, is obliged to be particularly careful and to "distance itself from any action which could fuel tensions." He further noted that "on this issue the responsibility of Patriarch Irineos himself is a given fact."
Athanassakis called on the government to make every effort in the direction of supporting the Greek Orthodox character of the Patriarchate and underlined that this does not mean that conducts and policies which are outside the framework of the mission of the Patriarchate are to be supported.
 Deputy DM discusses military cooperation program with Polish counterpart
Athens, 23/3/2005 (ANA)The continuous improvement of Greek-Polish relations in the defense and military sector was ascertained on Tuesday during talks between the relevant deputy defense minister and his Polish counterpart Maciej Gorski. The two officials examined the course and prospects of the two countries' military cooperation program, as well as international developments.
The two deputy ministers discussed the possibility of cooperation in the defense industry sector, through a possible joint production of weaponry systems, while the Greek side presented its experience on the issue of Olympic and Paralympic Games security and praised Poland's contribution to their safe hosting.
Poland is interested in the training of Polish pilots with C-130 and F-16 aircraft and in the know-how possessed by the Hellenic Aerospace Industry in maintaining these aircraft.
Greece is interested in obtaining specialized Polish armored vehicles, such as armored personnel carriers and mine-detecting vehicles. Bilateral cooperation also concerns an exchange of visits by officers and their families to armed forces resorts.
 Justice minister briefed on judicial corruption probe by high court prosecutors
Athens, 23/3/2005 (ANA)Justice Minister Anastasis Papaligouras on Tuesday visited the Supreme Court, where he was briefed by the plenum of prosecutors as well as by high court chief prosecutor Dimitris Linos over recent high-profile instances of corruption that have plagued the independent judiciary.
"I am convinced that the stricter legislative initiatives we implemented, and with justice's own actions, the current crisis can become a turning point for a true revival of the Greek justice system," Papaligouras told reporters after his meetings.
He also announced that several probes involving past corruption charges against certain judges will be reopened.
Parliamentary committee focuses on 'cleaning up' judiciary: Corruption in the judiciary headed the agenda of the Parliamentary Committee of Institutions and Transparency on Monday, when representatives from throughout the judiciary system were called upon to testify before it.
Sotiris Bagias, President of the Union of the Prosecutors of Greece, reiterated the need for corruption within the judiciary system to be fully and quickly eliminated, but also called for the exemplary punishment of those who are found guilty.
However, Bagias pointed the finger at all parties involved as being responsible for the current crisis in the judiciary: "judges and prosecutors for not being sufficiently strict all these years, but also the State which dealt with the judiciary as though it were a second-class institution," he said. "Thus, gaps were created in terms of operations and in terms of monitoring. The operational gaps were filled by groups involved in illegal activity, while the gaps in monitoring were filled by the mass media, which control the monitoring process to an extent," he added. Furthermore, he suggested that means declarations of judges be imposed by law.
On his part, Mr. Poulis, spokesman for the Auditing Council's Judges' Union, expressed his belief that more than just a handful of judges were involved in the corruption scandal surrounding the judiciary. He stressed that the means declaration process is not implemented properly, not just when it comes to judges, but generally in helping to monitor public finances.
Constantinos Koussoulis, President of the Council of State Union noted that the public's trust in the judicial system had been shaken, although the corruption scandal is limited to a small number of judges.
Finally, New Democracy parliamentary representative Vyron Polydoras was particularly critical of the media's role in the judicial system.
"Televised trials should concern us. We cannot remain passive to this televised lynching that goes on," Polydoras said.
 Papandreou meets with members of new party new coordinating bureau
Athens, 23/3/2005 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou presided over the first session of his party's new coordinating bureau on Tuesday, asking the body's members to exercise a robust but responsible opposition.
In turning to the government, Papandreou accused it of ridiculing the country overseas and diminishing its prestige. He also said the government's policies were leading to economic collapse.
Among others, Papandreou cited what he called the "stampede of the partisan state" on all levels, while adding that this was "reminiscent of other times".
 President Papoulias receives AHEPA delegation
Athens, 23/3/2005 (ANA)President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday received a delegation of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), headed by its President Franklin R. Manios.
Parliament president meets with AHEPA delegation: Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki met with a 10-member delegation of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) on Tuesday, headed by its President Franklin Manios.
Psarouda-Benaki expressed her appreciation for the work conducted by AHEPA, which includes promoting Greek national issues in the US, stressing the fact that Greece is currently cooperating on a parliamentary level with the US.
On his part, Manios emphasized that AHEPA's contribution in this area will be significant, especially after the creation of a committee charged with assessing the stance of US Representatives and Senators on issues related to Greek interests. Finally, Manios stressed that AHEPA would continue to provide its services in every way possible.
Deputy FM Skandalakis meets AHEPA presidium: Deputy Foreign Minister Panagiotis Skandalakis, in charge of issues on overseas Hellenism, briefed the presidium of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) at the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday on plans for the restructuring of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) and on Greece's national issues and particular on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) name issue.
Skandalakis noted the need for the unity of overseas Greeks and of the Ecumenical Hellenism and committed himself on the support of the Greek government, stating that overseas Hellenism constitutes a top priority of the government.
Referring to the planned restructuring of SAE, he said that it will include all the Greek community organizations in order for it to represent Ecumenical Hellenism.
On the FYROM name issue, he stressed that the government is advancing a solution mutually accepted, with respect to the history of Greece, so that the difference with FYROM to be led to a solution.
On their part, the AHEPA presidium expressed to the deputy foreign minister their intention to support the Greek government's efforts for the reaching of a mutually accepted solution on the name issue.
 Voulgarakis meets Albanian Ambassador on measures for Greece-Albania soccer match
Athens, 23/3/2005 (ANA)Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis held a meeting on Tuesday with Albanian Ambassador Bashkim Zeneli on the measures which must be taken in light of the World Cup qualifier match between Greece and Albania in Athens on March 30.
Regarding the meeting, which was held at the Public Order Ministry, Voulgarakis declared: "Wishing to safeguard the very good framework of cooperation which exists between the two countries, we intend to exhaust every effort in this direction. We are particularly optimistic and believe that the match will be held in an excellent climate."
 Athens Court announces suspended sentences in market manipulation case
Athens, 23/3/2005 (ANA)Suspended sentences ranging from three to five years and heavy fines were imposed by an Athens Court on Tuesday on 13 people accused of stock share manipulation acts in 1999.
The court found guilty Panagiotis Kontalexis, a Greek stock broker, Constantinos Arnakouros, Athanasios Liagos and businessmen George Batatoudis, Spyros Tasoglou, Elias Tsotakos, Dimitris Ranios, Ioannis Moustos, Elias Bogdanos, Panagiotis Panousis, Constantinos Stegos, Chryssi Stegos and Styliani Stegos of deliberately misleading investors by issuing false announcements creating false expectations over share price movements.
Four other accused people, George Stathopoulos, Vlasios Konstakaki, Stergios Stamoulas and George Charitos were cleared of all charges.
 Greece's EU funding not at risk up to end of 2005
BRUSSELS 23/3/2005 (ANA/M.Spinthourakis)The European Commission's decision on Tuesday regarding the compatibility of Article 14, Paragraph 9 of the Greek Constitution and law 3310/2005 with EU legislation does not place Greece's EU funding at risk - at least through the end of 2005 - sources close to Danuta Hubner, EU Commissioner responsible for regional policy, clarified on Tuesday.
Regarding projects which were co-financed by the EU until 2002, the same sources said that the Commission's relevant authorities were in the middle of negotiations with Greek authorities. According to EU legislation, if a project delays more than two years before it is completed, then it is not financed by the EU.
As for projects begun after 2003, the same sources noted that whatever problems have arisen can be solved with the new Greek law, also known as the Souflias law, named after George Souflias, Minister of the Environment, Town Planning and Public Works.
 Greece won't lose EU funds in 2005 over media ownership law
BRUSSELS 23/3/2005 (ANA/M Spinthourakis)Greece will not lose European Union funding in 2005 in the wake of a query by the bloc on a new national law that curbs ownership of media and construction firms due to conflict of interest in bidding for public works, sources close to the EU's regional policy commissioner said on Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, the EU Commission said that it would seek input from Greece on the law's compatibility with Community legislation, the first stage of an infringement procedure. The government has two weeks to reply.
In addition, EU and Greek authorities are currently in talks on outstanding issues concerning co-financed projects up to 2002. Under the bloc's rules, if completion of a project is delayed by more than two years, funding is withdrawn, the same sources said.
 FinMin meets EU Commissioners
Athens, 23/3/2005 (ANA)Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Tuesday met with Commission vice-president and Industry Commissioner Gunther Verheugen and Tax Commissioner Lazlo Kovac in Brussels.
The Greek Minister discussed the issue of the Lisbon strategy, ahead of a Spring European Council, as well as tax harmonization issues in the EU, with the two EU officials, respectively.
Alogoskoufis will participate in a Spring European Council on Tuesday and Wednesday.
 Twinning ceremony for Thessaloniki, Alexandria trade chambers
CAIRO 23/3/2005 (ANA/N Katsikas)The Thessaloniki and Alexandria chambers of trade and industry were formally twinned in a ceremony on Tuesday in the Egyptian port city.
Welcoming the cooperation protocol was the secretary general of trade, Dimitris Vrettakos, who repeated that Greece was seeking closer business ties with Egypt following a visit to the Arab country late last year by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
"I would underline the strong ties of friendship between the two states, as well as the new climate of business cooperation created since Mr Karamanlis' visit to Cairo," Vrettakos told reporters.
Signaling the impetus for a new chapter in economic links between the two countries has been the trip to Egypt this week by a 40-member delegation headed by Vrettakos and arranged by the Arab-Hellenic Chamber.
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 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.
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.
 Greek exports marked record year in 2004
Athens, 23/3/2005 (ANA)Revenues from the export of goods rose to record levels last year, but higher payments for imports led to a widening trade deficit in the country, a report by the Centre of Export Research and Studies, an arm of the Panhellenic Exporters' Association said on Tuesday.
The report, based on figures released by the National Statistics Service, said that the value of exports totalled 12.228 billion euros in 2004, up 3.3 percent from the previous year, or 15.190 billion US dollars (up 13.9 percent over the same period).
The value of imports totalled 42.399 billion euros, or 3.5 times more the value of exports. The value of exported goods fell below 30 percent of the value of imports for the first time in 2003 and 2004, after balancing around 45 percent a decade ago, the report said.
Export growth to the EU slowed down in 2004, while it rose towards other OECD countries, Balkan and Central and East European states, and it was stronger towards the Middle East and North Africa. Greek exports fell towards former Soviet republics.
Farm product exports fell by 8.3 percent last year, accounting for 20 percent of total Greek exports, while manufacturing product exports grew 5.8 percent, fuels were up 12 percent and raw materials up 2.3 percent over the same period.
 German Tourism Organization organizes event to attract Greek tourists to Germany
Athens, 23/3/2005 (ANA)The German Tourism Organization organized a special event in Athens on Tuesday to present Germany as an attractive destination for a trip, using the title "Welcome to Germany, welcome to Berlin."
Speaking during the event, the German ambassador to Athens Dr Albert Spiegel stressed that it is taking place shortly after the end of Berlin's international tourist exhibition, but before the holding of the 2006 world soccer championship scheduled to take place in Germany.
The German ambassador added that Greeks and Germans have developed stable ties of friendship over the past decades and noted that overnight stays by Greeks in Germany increased by 17.2 percent in 2004 compared to 2003. He further said that this means that the number of overnight stays by Greeks has exceeded 350,000 for the first time.
Greek Tourist Organization (EOT) Secretary General Haris Kokkosis praised the quality of German tourists visiting Greece, adding that Greeks are showing an increased interest in becoming acquainted with Germany.
 Cargo shipowners welcome government backing for the sector
Athens, 23/3/2005 (ANA)The Union of Greek Shipowners (UGS) on Tuesday welcomed support for the sector that has been shown by the government.
"After many years, we have seen the Greek state grant shipping, the country's primary industry, the weight it deserves," UGS president Nikos Efthymiou told a news conference.
"Shipowners are especially satisfied with the country's presence abroad, both at a government and sector level," Efthymiou said.
Asked to comment on investment, the UGS chief stated that the largest investment was the roughly 17.5 billion US dollars in the form of foreign exchange from shipping in 2004, up 40% from a year earlier.
At the same time, further corporate investment required elimination of red tape.
"If this problem is not solved, investments won't be made," Efthymiou added.
 Greek renewable energy market attracted 85 mln euros in investments last year
Athens, 23/3/2005 (ANA)Three foreign energy companies, Iberdrola (Spain), EdF New Energies (France) and CESA Eolica Corporation (Spain) announced their entry into the Greek Renewable Energy Sources' market over the last 12 months, committing 85 million euros in foreign direct investments in the country, Development Deputy Minister George Salagoudis said on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters, to present a review of the ministry's actions during his first year in office, Salagoudis said that in December 2004 Greece ranked sixth in a world list of countries attractive for investments on wind power parks, and eighth on the world composite index for Renewable Energy Sources, according to a list by Ernst & Young.
The Greek minister said that the ministry significantly accelerated licensing procedures for building Renewable Energy stations in the country, with issued licenses totalling 24.71 percent of total licenses issued since 1994 in the country.
"These facts show that something is changing. The international investment community is looking at Greece with confidence once again. It is our responsibility to continue this trend," Salagoudis said.
 Minister says fuel market bill will tighten controls on profiteering
Athens, 23/3/2005 (ANA)Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said on Tuesday that a government bill aimed at regulating the fuel market would restructure and modernize the operation of inspection teams for fuel distribution and storage in order to crack down on adulteration of the product and profiteering.
In addition, the bill sought overall rationalization of fuel market operations, the minister told parliament.
 Stocks drop in mixed trade
Athens, 23/3/2005 (ANA)Stocks finished lower in mixed trade, traders said.
The Athens general share index closed at 2,877.08 points, marking a decline of 0.67%. Turnover was 241.1 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.63% down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.06% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.03% up.
Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 134 to 130 with 77 remaining unchanged.
 Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy and Organization of the Islamic Conference sign cooperation agreement
Athens, 23/3/2005 (ANA)Secretary General of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (DSO) Stelios Papathemelis announced on Tuesday that DSO and the parliamentary assembly of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) initialed a cooperation agreement, following a two-day meeting between the two bodies in Athens.
During the two-day meeting, the two parties agreed to begin cooperation in trying to promote dialogue between parliaments representing peoples of diverse cultures and religions. The cooperation agreement lays the foundation for joint activities in preserving peace and legal order, protecting human rights, and respecting cultures. Additionally, the two bodies agreed to create a 14-member "Coordination Committee of the Interparliamentary Muslim-Orthodox Dialogue," which will approach European Parliament later in the year, in order to establish cooperation with relevant EU authorities.
Patriarchate of Jerusalem: Asked to comment on press reports which allege that the Patriarchate of Jerusalem sold real estate to Israeli business interests and the possible consequences this may have in terms of the trust Jordanians and Palestinians have in Patriarch of Jerusalem Irineos, Papathemelis said that if allegations are proven accurate "then the development will probably be unfavorable for him [Irineos]."
 NSW Premier Carr refers to Cyprus, Parthenon Marbles
MELBOURNE 23/3/2005 (ANA)New South Wales Premier Bob Carr this week referred to an upcoming exhibition by the Benaki Museum of Athens in both Sydney and Melbourne, while also reiterating that the Parthenon Marbles should returned from London to Athens.
Carr spoke during the inauguration of the "Greek Festival" of Sydney.
Finally, the NSW premier also referred to Cyprus and the uprooting brought about by force in 1974, while expressing a hope that a solution be found to re-unite the entire island.
 ONNED to host public discussion on new immigration policy
Athens, 23/3/2005 (ANA)Ruling New Democracy party's affiliated youth group, ONNED, is hosting a public discussion on Wednesday on the issue of defining a new immigration policy for the country.
Speakers at the event, to take place at the National Research Foundation in downtown Athens, will include Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis, former minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis, the president of the Athens Bar Association, Dimitris Paxinos, as well as the president of the Hellenic Migration Policy Institute, Alexandros Zavos, among others.
ONNED's aim is to promote the need for ensuring the rights of migrants in the workplace, education, health, social life and with public services, among others.
 Exhibition held at the Alexander Onassis Foundation in New York
NEW YORK 23/3/2005 (ANA/P. Papanagiotou)Artist Artemis, from Lichtenstein, presented 12 works designed with fabrics in the form of tapestry with the colors of the landscape of the Aegean at an exhibition which was held at the Alexander Onassis Foundation in Manhattan on Monday.
The inauguration of the exhibition, entitled "Odyssey", was held in the presence of the director of the foundation in New York, Loukas Tsilas and the Ambassador to the U.S. of Lichtenstein and attended by hundreds of people.
 Cyprus President Papadopoulos says Turkey must sign protocol before October 3
LARNACA 23/3/2005 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos has described as the first important step in normalizing relations between the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey the signing of a customs union protocol by Turkey to include all EU member-states.
He reiterated Cyprus' position that Turkey must sign the protocol extending its customs union to all new EU member-states, including Cyprus, before October 3, 2005 when it is set to commence accession negotiations.|
Speaking at Larnaca Airport on Tuesday before departing for Brussels for the spring European Council, President Papadopoulos described the signing of the protocol by Turkey as ''the first important step in normalizing relations between the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey.''
Replying to questions, President Papadopoulos said Cyprus' position on the protocol issue was that ''Turkey must sign the agreement by October 3. Ratification by the Turkish National Assembly is an issue that mainly concerns the EU, which is currently discussing whether ratification should take place before or after October 3.''
He added that the European Parliament must first ratify the Ankara Agreement.
Papadopoulos said that initialing the protocol meant that it was just an agreement, which says that ''if and when an agreement is ratified, the text is initialed.''
''It is common practice for the initialing to be done on the text or with the exchange of correspondence. It is nothing unusual in the diplomatic context. We will follow the decision the Commission will take,'' he noted.
 Britain sees Cyprus settlement in EU framework
NICOSIA 23/3/2005 (CNA/ANA)Deputy High Commissioner of Britain in Nicosia Rob Fenn expressed the view on Tuesday that there would be a solution of the Cyprus problem through negotiations, within the European Union framework.
Opening a bicommunal seminar at the Ledra Palace hotel, situated in the UN-controlled buffer zone in Nicosia, for Greek and Turkish Cypriot journalists, organized by the British High Commission, Fenn said there were solutions that would lead to win-win situations, and it was this kind of settlement that the EU and UN were pursuing.
He added that Britain wanted Cyprus to join the EU for various reasons, because the EU is a great power, capable of healing wounds and helping to move forward.
Fenn said an important opportunity was lost to solve the Cyprus problem, at a time when everyone believed that a settlement would be achieved along with Cyprus' accession to the EU.
The British diplomat noted that although the aim of bringing Cyprus into the EU had been achieved, the benefits of accession would be most felt by the Cypriots when the island was reunited.
Speaking at the same seminar, head of the European Commission delegation in Budapest Michael Lake said there would be a delay in the commencement of Turkey's EU accession negotiations if Ankara did not sign the protocol extending its customs union to the new EU member-states, including Cyprus.
Lake said that if the protocol were not signed, then the October 3, 2005 date for commencing negotiations would not be valid.
He said, however, that he believed Ankara would in the end extend its customs union.
Lake noted that those who believed the signing of the protocol did not mean the official recognition of the Republic of Cyprus were playing with fire and would be in for a surprise.
He added that the protocol must be signed and negotiations must begin, noting that the acquis communautaire should be implemented in Turkey, as there could be no distinction among candidates.