|Friday, 24 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-03-24
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 24, 2005
 Karamanlis appears adamant over Athens' defense of constitution article on media ownership, nat'l interests at EU level
BRUSSELS 24/3/2005 (ANA - A. Panagopoulos / Ch. Poulidou)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis emphasized here on Wednesday that his government will defend the Greek constitution and national interests, in reply to a barrage of press questions concerning the EU Commission's reservations vis-a-vis a constitutional article referring to media ownership.
Karamanlis spoke to reporters on the second day of European leaders' spring economic summit in the Belgian capital, where talks focused on upholding the ground-breaking Lisbon Agenda aimed at dramatically boosting the 25-member bloc's competitiveness by 2010.
The Greek prime minister reminded that repeated and lengthy discussions between Athens and the Commission have been going on for the past two years -- by the current and previous governments -- and have graduated to various phases, while noting that the issue of compatibility deals primarily with Article 14, Paragraph 9 of the Greek constitution.
Moreover, Karamanlis underlined the government's interest over the issue's "political dimension", instead of only the "legal dimension", saying his government is serious about boosting transparency and combating vested or inter-twined interests in the country, a pre-election promise by New Democracy. In fact, he called the high-profile efforts towards this end a "main priority" for his government, in reply to a press question on whether Cabinet members erred in pursuing the media ownership cause.
The government passed the so-called "primary shareholder" law earlier in the year in a bid to prevent entrepreneurs with controlling interests in the broadcast media sector from bidding on public contracts, projects and procurements.
Furthermore, Karamanlis referred to what he called an "over-dramatization" of the entire matter -- a reference to high-pitched criticism by a portion of the local media -- in reminding that dialogue with the Commission is continuing towards finding an agreement, without going into further details.
Asked if he could personally guarantee that not one euro of Community Support Framework funds will be lost over the ongoing "compatibility issue", Karamanlis was adamant: "we know how to defend national interests very well".
Along those lines, he noted that the real danger to Greece's funding from the Community's coffers lies in the Commission's reports of wasted funding and problems with tendering projects during the 2001-2004 period, a direct criticism of the previous Simitis government.
Greek economy: Turning to another high-profile point of contention -- a fiscal audit that uncovered a higher budget deficit and public debt -- between the Karamanlis government and main opposition PASOK, the prime minister reiterated that the issue isn't whether "a certain reality is revealed, but how and why we reached this situation ..."
"... we are called on to deal with a problem that arose from mismanagement over several years," Karamanlis said, in pointing to the PASOK governments that preceded his.
"The situation was such that it couldn't be hidden. Greece's public finances are in poor shape," the Greek leader said, calling his government's efforts on the crucial economic front satisfactory at both the EU and domestic level. Karamanlis cited the period given by the Union for meeting the Stability Pact deficit ceiling and a waste-slashing campaign unleashed on the massive Greek public sector as positive points.
"What's certain is that in two years the Greek economy and our fiscal condition will have overcome these problems," he said.
As far as EU-wide issues are concerned, he said Greece welcomes the recent agreement to make the Stability Pact more elastic and credible, especially since Athens' positions were included in the revised pact.
"What's important for us, however, is to reduce deficits and the debts we inherited," he said, while terming results of the Lisbon Agenda so far as "mediocre", although some progress has been recorded midway through the initiative.
Relations with Turkey: In terms of the all-important issue of Greek-Turkish relations, he reiterated that their course remains "difficult", two days after his meeting with Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan here in Brussels.
Asked about "benefits" for the Greek side from the latest high-profile meeting between the Greek and Turkish leaders, Karamanlis reminded that the two neighbors have opened a "channel of continuous communication".
While acknowledging the difficulty in improving relations further, the Greek premier nevertheless stressed that ties had begun to improve during the previous government, whereas Athens' effort now aims at expanding areas of cooperation, such as in the tourism and energy sectors.
In repeating Athens' policy, he said Greece continues to support Turkey's European prospects, although this position is based on the condition that the Turkish government signs the Ankara protocol expanding a customs union with all of the European Union's members, including Cyprus, before Oct. 3.
FYROM issue: In reply to a press question referring to the "name issue" with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) -- a 'thorn' that still prevents the full normalization of relations between Athens and Skopje -- Karamanlis repeated that Greek policy remains firm, namely, in continuing efforts to find a mutually acceptable solution.
"Due to mistakes, omissions and slip-ups, especially on the Greek side over the past several years, a majority of our international interlocutors use this name," Karamanlis clarified, when asked about German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's use of the name "Macedonia" a few days ago during a joint press conference with the Greek prime minister in Berlin.
Meeting with Zapatero: Finally, the prime minister said his same-day meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero revolved around issues of common interest, such as fiscal prospects and promotion of the Euro-Mediterranean cooperation.
The Spanish premier invited Karamanlis to Madrid and accepted an invitation to visit Athens, according to reports.
 Alternate government spokesman comments on main shareholder issue
Athens, 24/3/2005 (ANA)Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, speaking during a regular press briefing on Wednesday, said the Greek government will defend the constitution and national interests. He added that safeguarding European Union funds is included in the protection of national interests.
Replying to questions on the letter by EU Commissioner Charles McCreevy to the Greek government and published in the Greek press Antonaros said "you are referring to a letter which has not arrived officially at Greece's permanent national delegation in Brussels. It must come first and then the Greek government will state its position."
Responding to other questions, he said there has been no letter to EU bodies by Greek ministers in which it is mentioned that foreign interests benefit from the law on the "main share-holder."
Antonaros also said the Greek government's position on the issue is clear and that the constitution and the law on the "main shareholder" are compatible with EU law.
He further said speculation linking the government's insistence on the "main shareholder" with possible elections are groundless rumors.
"Every government is elected for four years," he stressed.
Greek delegation in Brussels receives European Commission's letter of warning: The European Commission's letter of warning to Greece on the issue of the main shareholder was received by the permanent Greek delegation in Brussels on Wednesday afternoon, according to government sources.
The letter is being sent to the foreign ministry for delivery to Athens.
 Main opposition leader slams gov't on 'primary shareholder' law, supports referendum for EU Constitution ratification
Athens, 24/3/2005 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK President George Papandreou harshly criticized the New Democracy government for the national law it recently passed which aims to curb conflict of interest between conglomerates owning mass media and bidding for public works contracts, also known as the 'primary shareholder' law. Papandreou's comments were made during a seminar on Defense and Foreign Affairs held by PASOK's Parliamentary Group and the party's Europarliament parliamentary group on Wednesday.
"We recommend the withdrawal of this [primary shareholder] law and we are prepared to hold a serious, intra-party debate in Parliament and to finally move forward so that this country is no longer maligned," Papandreou said.
PASOK's leader also expressed concern over the possibility of Greece losing EU funds as a result of the controversy surrounding the primary shareholder law, since the EU has questioned its compatibility with EU law. Papandreou called for negotiations to immediately begin with local authorities and all organizations associated with the Third and Fourth Community Support Frameworks, "so that we might be able to salvage some of the funds that we seem to be losing as a result of the government's incompetence, centralization and short-sighted party rationale," he said.
As for ratification of the European Constitution, Papandreou explained that the main reason PASOK was in favor of a referendum was so that the Greek people can become familiar with what the EU stands for. Another reason, according to Papandreou, is to facilitate consensus among Greek citizens, since the changes that the European Constitution will bring about concern everyone and may very well serve as the catalyst to necessary domestic reforms.
Papandreou also criticized the government during the first session of the party's Political Council, saying that "the government is faltering and the consequences of New Democracy's governance are painful."
Papandreou accused the government that after 12 months of being in office, ''brought Greek citizens face to face with unemployment, increasing prices, lack of growth and a lack of equality between major urban centers and the regions.''
'Primary shareholder' controversy may result in early elections PASOK officials claim: "In order to avoid being humiliated, it humiliated Greece," main opposition PASOK Coordinator for Educational Affairs and MP Andreas Loverdos said on the sidelines of a seminar on Defense and Foreign Affairs held by PASOK's Parliamentary Group and the party's Europarliament parliamentary group on Wednesday, in reference to the 'primary shareholder' law, recently passed by the New Democracy government. Furthermore, Loverdos estimated that if the government does not do anything about the primary shareholder law it might find itself in a tighter corner and might have to resort to early elections.
The 'primary shareholder' law is a new national law that curbs ownership of media and construction firms due to conflict of interest in bidding for public works. The EU, however, has expressed concern whether the law is compatible with EU law.
PASOK MP Petros Efthymiou said that the government has found itself at a dead end as a result of the choices it has made and has taken Greece backwards. As for early elections, Efthymiou said that that would not correct mistakes.
PASOK MP Nikos Christodoulakis expressed concern over the possibility of Greece having EU funds withdrawn as a result of the new law and added that the government must do the obvious, which is to revise the 'primary shareholder' law.
"All European countries are proud of their Constitutions, the Greek people do not need New Democracy's populism in their Constitution," PASOK State Deputy and member of the party's Political Council Anna Diamantopoulou said in a brief statement. She added that if the government feels weak and incapable of addressing domestic issues and handling itself in the international arena then it should call for early elections.
Finally, asked to comment on the allegations that the Patriarchate of Jerusalem sold real estate property to Israeli business interests, Diamantopoulou replied: "Things at the Patriarchate of Jerusalem are extremely difficult. The fewer public comments that are made the better. The issue concerns many countries and many religions."
Papandreou continues criticism of gov't during PASOK's political council meeting: Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou continued his criticism of the New Democracy government, during the first meeting of the party's Political Council on Wednesday.
"The main objective of the meeting was to discuss the developments that we've been watching in recent days and which sadden us, as they do every Greek citizen," he said.
Asked whether he expects early elections, he replied that he himself did not raise the issue of early elections, but of "unreliability, contradiction and major mistakes" the government has made.
According to Papandreou, the Council also discussed the initiatives PASOK must take, but did not provide details.
 Communist Party strongly criticizes EU summit decisions
Athens, 24/3/2005 (ANA)The Communist party of Greece (KKE) on Wednesday strongly criticized decisions taken at the European Union's summit this week.
"The new storm against popular income and social and political rights, decided by the '25' leaders of EU member-states, confirms that there is no other response than the immediate mobilization of the working class and of popular classes against the anti-popular policy of ND-EU-PASOK."
KKE believes that "the Stability Pact and the Lisbon agenda are the two whips which the Greek government will use more intensively against the people and youth in particular. The ND government is expressing its satisfaction over labor of the middle ages and over tougher austerity."
In another development, KKE Secretary General Aleka Papariga called on the government "to leave aside half-words and to state clearly that it will not comply with the EU" in connection with the law on the "main shareholder."
Replying to a relevant question on the issue, Papariga said "despite the fact that we have disagreements with the law on the 'main shareholder', because in essence it redistributes the pie and does not resolve the issue of objective information, we do not tolerate at all any EU and any EU directive overriding decisions taken in Greece."
 Government spokesman denies reports of government members' dismissals or resignations
Athens, 24/3/2005 (ANA)Minister of State and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Wednesday categorically denied television reports on the dismissal or resignation of government members.
"So-called information about the dismissal or resignation of government members, as well as so-called confiding by the prime minister in associates of his, reported by two television channels tonight, is absolutely inaccurate," Roussopoulos said.
 Gov't promotes Thessaloniki as alternate HQT for SE Europe Stability Pact
Athens, 24/3/2005 (ANA)SE Europe Stability Pact Special Coordinator Erhard Busek on Wednesday continued his visit official visit here, where talks with Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis focused on upgrading the northern port city of Thessaloniki into an alternative headquarters for the initiative.
"We discussed the manner in which the Greek side can support and funding (via the OSCE) this alternative office in Thessaloniki," Stylianidis said.
On his part, the former Austrian vice-chancellor underlined the need for funding specific programs, instead of wasting money due to a lack of planning.
 Skandalakis meets with Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian Authority envoys over Jerusalem Patriarchate issue
Athens, 24/3/2005 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Panayiotis Skandalakis held successive meetings on Wednesday with Israeli ambassador to Athens Ram Aviram, the head of the Palestinian Authority's diplomatic mission in Greece, Marwan Abdelhamid, as well as with Jordanian ambassador Mohammed Dawodieh to discuss the latest developments revolving around the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, following charges that its embattled leadership illegally sold real estate to Israeli interests.
The Greek deputy minister emphasized that Athens' priority is the preservation of the venerable institution of the Patriarchate and the respect it deserves, something reportedly backed by the three ambassadors.
Additionally, the Greek nature and heritage of the Jerusalem Patriarchate was not challenged, Skandalakis said following the meetings.
According to a foreign ministry press release, all three envoys praised this week's dispatch of a team of ministry experts to Jerusalem to quickly evaluate and collect information about the case.
 FM Molyviatis to meet with Bush administration officials during US visit
WASHINGTON 24/3/2005 (ANA/A.Ellis)Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis was due to arrive in the US capital on Wednesday for a six-day long visit.
Bilateral cooperation, the situation in the Balkans, the Cyprus issue, Greek-Turkish relations, Turkey's European course, trans-Atlantic relations and peace and democratization in the Middle East will be the focus of discussion when Molyviatis meets with Bush administration officials.
On Thursday, he will be meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and with Stephen Hadley, National Security Advisor to US President George W. Bush. On Thursday evening, Molyviatis will be interviewed by CNN International at 11:10 pm, Greek time.
On Friday, Molyviatis will be arriving in New York where he will attend the official ceremony and a reception on occasion of Greek Independence Day.
The Greek foreign minister will also be meeting with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Monday, with whom he will discuss issues concerning the UN, since Greece is a non-permanent member on the UN Security Council for the period 2005-2006.
Following his meeting with Annan, Molyviatis will return to Washington where he will attend a special ceremony at the White House in honor of Greek Independence Day as Bush's guest.
U.S. State Department says Greece-U.S. relations are 'excellent' WASHINGTON 24/3/2005 (T.Ellis)
Relations between Greece and the United States are "excellent," U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said on Wednesday, speaking about Thursday's meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis.
"Of course we look forward to the visit by Greek Foreign Minister Mr. Molyviatis. The Secretary of State will meet him tomorrow," he said.
Ereli added that "it will be an opportunity for us to speak on bilateral relations, as well as on regional and international matters, with our long-term ally in NATO, an EU member, and this period a (non-permanent) member of the UN Security Council."
He termed the level of bilateral relations as "excellent," adding that "the two countries are linked by a series of common bonds such as the participation in NATO and the close cooperation on transatlantic issues."
Ereli left it to be understood that they will discuss the Cyprus issue on which he reiterated the support of the U.S. for a solution which will lead to the reunification of the island, while on the issue of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), he said that the U.S. was interested in a solution on the name issue through the procedure being followed at the United Nations.
 Deputy FM Stylianidis meets Bosnia-Herzegovina Deputy Political Affairs Minister Tesanovic
Athens, 24/3/2005 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis met in Athens on Wednesday with Bosnia-Herzegovina's Deputy Political Affairs Minister Z. Tesanovic and discussed with him issues concerning the Greek Plan for the Economic Reconstruction of the Balkans (ESOAB) and matters particularly related with Bosnia-Herzegovina.
ESOAB is also incorporated into the under construction building of the Common Institutions in Serajevo which is soon expected to be completed with the participation of Greek companies.
 Voulgarakis meeting with US ambassador
Athens, 24/3/2005 (ANA)Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis met with US ambassador in Athens Charles Ries on Wednesday for talks on issues of bilateral interest and on details of the minister's upcoming visit to the United States, scheduled for mid April.
 Turkish claims denied; Turkish warplanes violate national air space, infringe Athens FIR
Athens, 24/3/2005 (ANA)The press spokesman of the Greek Armed Forces General Staff, in reply to a question, termed as untrue and groundless claims by the Turkish Armed Forces General Staff of alleged harassment of two Turkish photographic Phantom aircraft by an equal number of Greek F-16, southwest of Rhodes, on March 21 at 11:50 a.m.
The spokesman said on Wednesday that the Greek fighter jets proceeded in recognition of the Turkish aircraft which entered the Athens Flight Information (FIR) without submitting a flight plan, in violation of air traffic rules.
"The Greek aircraft were armed because they were alert aircraft. The non-adherence with the rules of air traffic creates problems in the security of flights," the spokesman said,
Regarding the Turkish claim that "all the state aircraft, including the military ones, are free to make flights in the international air space, without asking for a relevant permission," the spokesman observed that this is not valid because the Turkish side "isolated Article 3 of the Chicago Treaty and attempts to present it without taking into consideration the overall interpretation and intention of ICAO."
The spokesman added that "the reality is that the Turkish illegal activity in the Aegean is continuing."
Meanwhile, 32 Turkish warplanes on Wednesday entered the Aegean without submitting flight information plans (15 infringements of the Athens FIR by 11 Turkish formations were recorded) and in five cases violated the national air space in the region of the northern and central Aegean.
In all cases, the Turkish warplanes were recognized and intercepted by corresponding Greek fighter jets, while in one case the procedure of interception developed into a mock dog fight.
It was reported that four Turkish aircraft were armed.
Hellenic Air Force chief samples new C-27 aircraft: Hellenic Air Force chief Lieutenant General George Avlonitis had a chance to witness first-hand the capabilities of the new C-27 aircraft which will soon be added to the Hellenic Air Force fleet, during his visit to Italy's Aeronautica on Wednesday.
The aircraft goes by the name "Spartan."
 Archbishop Christodoulos says 'we shall not kneel before difficulties'
Athens, 24/3/2005 (ANA)Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos on Wednesday visited the northern region of Lavara that was recently struck by floods, and told local inhabitants "we shall not kneel before difficulties. We shall remain upright."
Referring to the crisis in the Church, Archbishop Christodoulos said "we believe that we shall emerge strengthened and renewed from this ordeal and have greater humility than what we had."
He further said "our life must be a model for you and, as I have said before, all of us who comprise the leadership of the Church must live in a 'glass' house so that bad thoughts do not pass through your minds and for your confidence in your spiritual fathers to be strengthened."
Archbishop Christodoulos gave financial aid amounting to 21,000 euros to 20 families who have suffered as a result of the floods. He also announced that, through an initiative by the Church of Greece, an ecological conference on the Evros River will be held in the northern city of Alexandroupolis, with the participation of scientists from Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey.
 Govt's strategic goal is to support SMEs, minister says
Athens, 24/3/2005 (ANA)One of the government's strategic goal is to win lost time and to offer new prospects for small- and medium-sized enterprises, the backbone of Greek economy, Economy and Finance Deputy Minister Christos Folias said on Wednesday.
Addressing a seminar, organized by the Athens Chamber of Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises, Folias expressed his belief that Greek SMEs could win the bet of competition and stressed that "even miracles need their time. The important thing is that reforms are in progress to make our country friendlier to business activity".
The Greek minister stressed that every effort was made to make a more efficient use of Third Community Support Framework funds for the benefit of medium, small and very small enterprises, while he noted that a "Competitiveness" Business Program also supported the technological and organizing modernization of Greek SMEs with the aim to support innovation and quality.
Folias said a clustering program was also promoted and added: "It is probably the first time that so many regulatory initiatives have been promoted in such a little time," and underlined the contribution of a new development law in supporting small- and medium-sized enterprises.
Gov't: Trade groups, chambers could offer funding consultancy service: Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said on Wednesday that trade associations for small- and medium-sized enterprises and commerce chambers should offer funding consultancy services to companies.
"The associations and chambers should join together, creating consultancy services, in order to systematically inform their members of state and bank funding programs, Sioufas told a seminar arranged by the Professional Chamber of Athens.
The chamber's president, Sofia Ikonomakou, said that under the terms of the Basel II agreement, banks should change their behavior towards small- and medium-sized enterprises, supporting their growth.
Thessaloniki SMEs reject extended shopping hours plan: A full liberalization of shopping hours in the country will not favor small enterprises, instead it will lead to their extinction, the union of small and medium-sized manufacturing enterprises of Thessaloniki said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, during a news conference, the heads of Thessaloniki Commerce and Manufacturing Unions said they agreed in many points with a new draft legislation promoted by Development ministry, as it set terms and preconditions for the set up and operation of department stores around the country. They disagreed, however, on introducing a national shopping hours policy saying it would lead to higher operating costs and to labor unrest.
The two unions proposed the introduction of a 50-52 hour shopping week, to remove powers over shopping hours from prefect authorities and to finally agree on tourist regions in the country.
 Govt tables draft law on customs code, energy taxation, to parliament
Athens, 24/3/2005 (ANA)The Greek government on Wednesday submitted to parliament a draft law envisaging the integration of a National Customs Code with national legislation and a restructuring of tax framework on energy products and electricity.
The new bill, drafted by Finance ministry, also implements the government's incomes policy for 2005 for all civil workers, envisaging a 3.6 percent pay increase, and abolishes all "special accounts" operating outside the state budget. The latter move aims to ensure a more efficient use of idle funds, to cut excessive spending and to promote transparency in the country's fiscal condition.
The draft legislation also offers a six-month extension to a capital repatriation program and envisages changes in the "Athens 2004" balance sheet by recording a 206-mln-euro share capital increase plan as company revenue in its balance sheet to be published over the next few weeks.
 Greek exports to the US jump 63 pct in Jan-Feb
Athens, 24/3/2005 (ANA)Greek exports to the United States rose 63 percent in the first two months of 2005, to 132 million US dollars from 83 million dollars in the same period last year, according to figures by the American Importers Association.
The figures, presented during a seminar organized by the Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry, also showed that Greek exports to the US totalled 723 million US dollars in 2004, up from 614 million dollars in the previous year, ranking Greece as America's 73rd largest trade partner.
The Association expects all export sectors to increase further this year, with Greek entrepreneurs in the food/beverages, construction, building materials and metal products looking at positive prospects.
 Survey: Smaller firms badly lagging in competitiveness
Athens, 24/3/2005 (ANA)Domestic small- and medium-sized enterprises were badly lagging in competitiveness between 1996 and 2003, according to a survey by the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) released on Wednesday.
One in two of the firms adopted a defensive strategy in dealing with a decline in sales, IOBE said.
The overwhelming majority of companies polled (70.6%) mainly tap shareholders' equity, rather than bank loans or other forms of financing.
In addition, the degree of use of European Union or national programs for investment in technology and training is low, while funding for technological investment that the firms obtain is mainly destined for the market and renewal of machinery, and not for investments that entail risk, the survey said.
The president of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Drakoulis Fountoukakos, said the findings of the report were crucial to policy formation by the government - and to any strategy for adoption by the companies themselves - in order to meet increasing competition.
Also addressing a presentation for the survey was Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, who said that domestic firms needed to be more outgoing, adopting a more aggressive approach to openings in markets abroad.
"This would be an offensive in order to make up lost ground," Sioufas said.
 Survey: Greece to attract up to 1.0 mln Chinese tourists by 2024
Athens, 24/3/2005 (ANA)Greece is expected to attract up to one million Chinese tourists over the next 20 years, a survey by the Institute of Tourist Research and Forecasts (ITEP) said on Wednesday.
The survey, citing a conservative estimate, said tourist arrivals to southern Europe from China would total six million in 2024, of which around 800,000 to one million could come to Greece.
ITEP said the number of Chinese tourists arriving to Greece could reach two million by 2034, up from 10-15,000 in 2004.
The survey forecasts arrivals of 400,000 in the year 2014.
ITEP said its forecasts were up 20 percent compared with other forecasts by the World Tourism Organization and China's Tourism Institute, although it noted that policies to attract Chinese tourists would not be an easy and ordinary task since Greece was not attractive as a destination of a multi-country journey.
The Greek institute said a high priority is to set up national tourism offices in China's biggest regions and cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai, and to establish scheduled and charter flights between the two countries.
 Stocks surge in late buying
Athens, 24/3/2005 (ANA)Stocks finished higher in a rising market, further spurred by a round of late buying, traders said.
The Athens general share index closed at 2,909.33 points, marking a rise of 1.12%. Turnover was 183.6 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.89% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 1.29% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.49% up.
Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 181 to 88 with 73 remaining unchanged.
 Meeting held on immigrants in Greece
Athens, 24/3/2005 (ANA)The need for shaping a common European policy for immigrants was raised during a public debate in Athens on Wednesday evening which was held at the initiative of the ruling New Democracy (ND) party's youth organization ONNED.
Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis and his predecessor Michael Chrysohoidis joined voices in seeking "a realistic solution without myths and taboos" for the confrontation of the problem which is particularly acute in Greece.
"As a country we are far from a clear immigration policy," Voulgarakis ascertained and congratulated ONNED for the initiative.
The public order minister noted the lack of data both on the legal and the illegal immigration to Greece. He also dismissed the "myth" that immigrants were responsible for unemployment and crime in Greece.
He further underlined that "it is not true and it is not proven that the immigrants disturb the country's social cohesion."
Chrysohoidis agreed with Voulgarakis, noting that what is needed is "a common European policy" because the problem is European without however phobic syndromes.
 Daylight saving time begins on Sunday
Athens, 24/3/2005 (ANA)Daylight saving time begins in Greece at 3 a.m. Sunday, March 27, when clocks and timepieces should be set to 4 a.m.
The measure, implemented by every EU member-state, will continue until the last Sunday of October, Oct. 30, 2005.
 Turkey must sign customs union protocol, says Cyprus president
BRUSSELS 24/3/2005 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos stressed here on Wednesday that Cyprus demands that Turkey signs and implements a protocol to its customs union agreement with the European Union, extending it to all ten new members including Cyprus, before October 3, 2005, when accession negotiations between the Union and Turkey are set to begin.
"I believe that Turkey will finally sign the protocol because this is what the EU demands. I cannot predict when it will sign it and what its future moves will be,'' he told a press conference after the conclusion of the European Council.
Responding to questions, he said "Cyprus demands that Turkey signs into force the protocol before October 3", adding that the extent to which this position will be backed by the EU remains to be seen.
President Papadopoulos reiterated that Turkey has an obligation towards the EU to sing the protocol which emanates from the December Council conclusions.
He also said that Cyprus gave its consent to the start of accession negotiations with Turkey "in the belief that the signing of the protocol will be an important step towards normalizing relations between Cyprus and Turkey," which at present does not recognize the government of the Republic of Cyprus.
Papadopoulos explained that Ankara's obligation to sign some of the aspects of the protocol do not emanate from the December summit only but also from international conventions regulating international trade, such as the docking of Cyprus-flagged ships in Turkish ports and the use of Turkish air space by Cyprus.
Asked to identify a first proof of the start of signing the protocol into force, Papadopoulos said that this is not the time to bring up such an issue, indicating at the same time that Turkey's sensitivities must be taken into consideration.
"We believe the signing will be an important step which should lead to normalization of relations between the two countries (Cyprus and Turkey)," he added.
Replying to questions, he said Cyprus maintains the right to veto but pointed out that exercising this right depends on very many factors.
Papadopoulos said he had the chance to converse with various heads of state or government on Cyprus.
 Britain supports approval of EU regulations for Turkish Cypriots
LONDON 24/3/2005 (CNA/ANA)British Minister for Europe Denis MacShane has said the passing of the EU direct trade regulation together with the EU financial aid regulation for Turkish Cypriots would constitute an investment in the future of the whole island and not just the occupied areas.
In a reply to a letter by British MP Rudi Vis, enclosing a letter from the Cypriot High Commission in London Petros Efthymiou, concerning the two regulations, MacShane said ''we too wish to see the Aid regulation passed as soon as possible,'' noting however that ''our view is that in order to make an effective contribution to the economic integration of the island and to bringing the Turkish Cypriots closer to the EU - as agreed by EU Foreign Ministers last April - more than just the Aid regulation is required. This is why the Commission drafted two complementary regulations.''
The British minister noted that ''we understand the concerns of the High Commission (of Cyprus) on this issue and we have discussed these draft regulations many times with the Government of Cyprus at senior official level. I have also personally discussed this issue with the Republic of Cyprus political leadership.''
He said ''as a number of observers have noted, on (of several) reasons why Greek Cypriots voted against the Annan plan was through fear of economic consequences of reunification.''
''If Turkish Cypriots were allowed to narrow the prosperity gap with the south of the island, any future settlement would be more likely to be approved by the people of Cyprus since it would be easier and less costly to consolidate. We believe that an aid allocation alone, as a limited one-off payment, would have a welcome but insufficient effect. Recent economic studies have shown that progress towards convergence of the economies on the island, which the draft Direct Trade regulation would assist, could help the island's economy as a whole,'' MacShane noted.