|Saturday, 6 March 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-03-28
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 28, 2005
 PM Karamanlis presses on with 'transparency everywhere' campaign
Athens, 28/3/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Sunday appeared unwavering in his determination to combat so-called "vested interests" as well as corruption in the country, a pre-election "banner" he again unfurled during a high-profile event on Crete in honor of the large island's best-known 'native son', 20th century Greek statesman Eleftherios Venizelos.
Karamanlis was the keynote speaker at Sunday's annual memorial ceremony at the tombs of Eleftherios and Sophocles Venizelos.
"We have an obligation, and that's what we are doing, to clash with the vested interests and corruption that swelled to dangerous levels in recent years. In modern Greece the rules must be the same for all; to ensure transparency everywhere; to render the citizen dominant and to serve the common good," Karamanlis told an audience of Cabinet members, local officials and hundreds of Cretans gathered at the Akrotiri site, near the ancestral home of the Venizelos family outside of Hania.
Moreover, Karamanlis reiterated that he stands by his promise of "re-establishing the state", referring to an obligation to make the east Mediterranean nation of roughly 11 million competitive in both Europe and the world.
"Our country faces many and serious problems due to conservatism, inertia and a lack of daring in the past. It faces difficulties because of an increase in the public debt and deficits in the wider public sector," Karamanlis stressed.
Amid a looming political skirmish with Brussels over a constitutional article and executive legislation regarding media ownership in the country as well as vociferous criticism by the main opposition on the subject, particularly on the so-called 'primary shareholder' law, Karamanlis ticked off a list of factors he said nurtured the country's problems.
"...an absence of absolutely necessary structural changes, but also, (due to) the formation of an 'establishment of (vested) interests', which is a system of corruption and collusion, a regime of opacity and lawlessness. We have an obligation ... to proceed towards rationalizing public finances and establishing a new development process," Karamanlis added.
"(Eleftherios) Venizelos was always ready to clash with whatever adversities came before him, as long as he believed it was what the homeland desired and that it would serve the common good," the prime minister said in extolling the life and work of the elder Venizelos, who died in 1936.
PASOK reaction: In later response, PASOK spokesman Nikos Athanassakis charged that Karamanlis attempted to 'pigeon-hole' Eleftherios Venizelos within his own political dimensions, in order to justify his policies.
 FM Molyviatis reiterates Athens' volition for mutually acceptable solution on FYROM 'name issue'
NEW YORK 28/3/2005 (ANA)Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis on Friday continued his official visit to the United States by meeting here with the UN chief's special representative for the FYROM issue, Matthew Nimetz, as the former reiterated Athens' volition to accelerate procedures towards finding a mutually acceptable solution to the "name issue" still separating Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
According to diplomatic sources, Molyviatis stressed to the UN official that the Greek government is "looking to the future" and that a mutually acceptable solution will significantly improve bilateral relations as well as strengthen regional stability. Furthermore, the Greek foreign minister also reiterated that resolution of the issue would facilitate Skopje's Euro-Atlantic prospects.
Finally, he expressed a hope that the FYROM government will emulate Athens and display a "productive and European stance", instead of remaining entangled in a "besieged intransigence".
Although Athens and Skopje have achieved remarkable progress in bilateral relations, especially in trade and investments, since signing an UN-mediated "interim agreement" nearly 10 years ago, the "name issue" continues to block the full normalization of ties.
Athens strenuously opposes FYROM's use of the name "Macedonia", citing historical and political reasons. Moreover, Greece's largest province, which shares borders with FYROM, is called Macedonia, the same geographical region that more-or-less corresponds with the ancient kingdom of Macedonia.
 Molyviatis article in 'Wash. Times' regarding Kosovo
WASHINGTON 28/3/2005 (ANA)Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis was a featured guest writer in the weekend edition of the "Washington Times" Op-ed pages, where he outlined Athens' policy and initiatives vis-a-vis the thorny Kosovo problem still plaguing the south Balkan region.
"The year 2005 will see the Balkans return as one of the top issues on the international agenda by reason, once again, of the uncertain situation in Kosovo.
"Six years after the dramatic events of 1999, the real power in Kosovo -- officially part of Serbian and Montenegrin territory -- is wielded by the international community via the UN presence (UNMIK) and the provisional institutions for self-government run by the Kosovar Albanians, who comprise the majority of the province's population. The Serb minority continues to feel insecure and remains suspicious, withdrawn and, unfortunately, uninvolved.
"Fostering democracy, respect for human rights and -- especially -- minority rights, as well as good governance, have been the great challenge from the outset. Progress in these areas will decide if Kosovo develops security, or remains fragile and problematic (as indicated by the March 2004 incidents and the recent bombing attempt on President Ibrahim Rugova).
"These will be the concerns of the Security Council during its discussions this summer of the progress report it will receive from a special representative appointed by the U.N. secretary-general. The international community's initial goal of a stable, democratic and multiethnic Kosovo has not yet been achieved.
"The economy, despite some improvement, remains exceedingly frail. Kosovo's 600,000 unemployed outnumber the inhabitants of the country's capital, Pristina. A thriving black market, illegal trafficking in persons and goods, and extensive corruption continue plaguing the region. Moreover, security for the return of Serb refugees and the internally displaced, as well as adequate protection of religious sites, remain major concerns.
It is in everyone's interest to continue pushing for extensive and essential implementation of the "standards."
"Our message must be clear: To the Kosovar Albanians and Pristina, we must stress the vital importance of strengthening democratization and good governance; to the Kosovar Serbs and Belgrade, we must bring home how counterproductive their noninvolvement might be to their own interests. After all, "the absent are always in the wrong."
"Beyond our insistence on the need for substantial progress on the "standards," it is reasonable to be concerned about the future of Kosovo and its final "status." We should not prematurely promote specific solutions before this summer's evaluation. But we should seek a positive convergence of views based on certain fundamental principles and guidelines. I believe the following elements can provide a common basis.
"The final status plan must be viable and realistic, to encourage the region's stabilization and discourage destabilization.
"Any solution must result from dialogue, in accordance with the U.N. Charter and resolutions, the Helsinki Final Act and the 1990 Paris Charter for a New Europe. The active participation of Belgrade is in everyone's interest.
"A return to the pre-1999 status quo is no longer a realistic option. Kosovo must remain multiethnic. Partitioning Kosovo, annexing or unifying it with any country in the region will be a source of dangerous instability. There must be a clear European perspective, providing a powerful incentive for carrying out Western and European principles and values.
"A viable and stable solution to the Kosovo problem will be difficult without the coincident strengthening of what is so far the almost nonexistent European perspective of Serbia and Montenegro, which cannot remain the "black hole" of Europe.
"Finally, it is necessary we proceed to a strictly monitored process for collecting small arms and ammunition in the region.
"With these parameters in mind, Greece has the potential to promote and make a constructive contribution to regional stability, peace and prosperity.
"We will do this as a member of the EU and NATO, as a member of the U.N. Security Council for 2005-2006, as a friend and ally of the United States, and as the chairman in office of the South East European Cooperation Process. And, of course, as a country with strong bonds of friendship and cooperation with all Contact Group members (i.e., the European Union, the United States, Russia, Great Britain, France, Italy and Germany).
"Finally, and most importantly, Greece can play a constructive role because it is viewed by all of the immediately interested parties as a reliable, consistent and effective interlocutor, as was confirmed during Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' recent visits to Belgrade and Pristina," Molyviatis concluded.
One-time FM Samaras: Primary concern now FYROM's viability, not 'name issue': The one-time former minister and protagonist in Athens' initial and sharp reaction to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) use of simply "Macedonia" after its independence from Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, on Sunday was quoted as saying that "Skopje's irredentism has been defeated."
Moreover, Ex-foreign minister Antonis Samaras, a New Democracy (ND) Euro-deputy today, warned that the land-locked neighboring state's unified national standing has collapsed.
"...essentially, it (FYROM) has been divided between (ethnic) Albanians and Slavic speakers," Samaras was quoted in an inter-view carried by the Athens daily "Eleftherotypia" on Sunday.
He added that the primary worry, as far as Greece is concerned, isn't the "name issue", but rather, FYROM's viability as a state -- along with the situation created in strife-plagued Kosovo, which borders FYROM to the northwest.
"(The name issue) will be an annoyance for us until the next Balkan crisis ... we don't know exactly what will be left of FYROM and how it will want to be called," he forecast.
Conversely, Samaras said that despite the tenuous situation in the neighboring country, FYROM's leadership "is more intransigent today than during 1992-1993."
Samaras left a Mitsotakis government in 1993 because of a dispute over Athens' FYROM policy, only to subsequently quit ND and found his own political party, Political Spring. That party entered Parliament once (1993) and failed in the next election (1996), before Samaras disbanded it a few years later before rejoining ND prior to last June's Euro-elections.
 Reactions against Jerusalem Patriarch continue
JERUSALEM 28/3/2005 (ANA)Vociferous demonstrations by scores of Orthodox Christian Palestinians against embattled Jerusalem Patriarch Eirinaios (Irineos) continued across much of the West Bank on Friday, as anger over the reported illegal sell-off of Patriarchate properties in east Jerusalem to Israeli-controlled companies has bubbled over into the streets.
Eirinaios drew the ire of a gathered group of faithful during a church service at the venerable Church of the Resurrection on Friday -- the Eastern Orthodox religious calendar celebrates Easter on May 1 this year -- while the latest reports point to two letters being drawn up by archimandrites and high-ranking priests of the Patriarchate, respectively, assigning blame on Eirinaios for properties' sale.
Allegations of "dirty tricks" against certain rivals in the period prior to his election as the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem in September 2001 and embezzlement charges against his handpicked former treasurer dogged Eirinaios before this latest furor erupted.
The Jerusalem Patriarchate is considered as the "jewel in the crown" of Orthodox Hellenism's centuries-old presence in the Middle East, and especially in the Holy Land, one reason why the situation is being closely monitored by Greek government officials, other Orthodox Churches and expatriate communities around the world.
 PM briefed by public order minister on a series of matters
Athens, 28/3/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis received Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis at his office on Saturday for a two-hour meeting that, among others, focused on the establishment of a new environmental law enforcement authority and a police force specifically assigned to patrol the rural agricultural sector.
Afterwards, Voulgarakis said he also briefed the premier on the activation of a computerized traffic control centre for the oft-congested greater Athens area, a system that debuted during the 2004 Summer Olympic Games.
Other topics discussed were the promotion of a civil protection studies centre as well as urgent road safety measures implemented over the recent period on specific portions of the national highway system -- part of a government initiative to try and curb the appalling number of traffic fatalities recorded every year on Greek roadways.
 Theodorakis points to 'vested interests', 'corruption' in letter to Jack Lang
Athens, 28/3/2005 (ANA)Noted Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis on Sunday released a letter he sent former French culture minister Jack Lang, where he stresses, among others, that "my country is experiencing an unprecedented attack at this moment by the Commission".
Theodorakis, 80, cited the aforementioned reason as leading to his decision not to sign a common appeal -- along with other European artists and scholars -- for the ratification of the draft European Constitution.
In his letter, Theodorakis stressed that an ongoing clash has taken on a "national proportion", while adding that "vested interests and corruption are real scourges of today's public life, and I would go as far as saying that they are adulterating the essence of democracy."
"Article 14 of the Greek constitution aims at the protection from the forces of vested interests, with the complete separation of media ownership and those companies that assume public works," the letter read.
 Alogoskoufis: State will retain minority stake in OTE, 'strategic alliances' possible
Athens, 28/3/2005 (ANA)Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis referred to changes in the contract regime for all new employees hired by bourse-listed but still state-controlled enterprises and utilities, in an interview published on Sunday by an Athens daily.
In outlining one of the government's priorities, Alogoskoufis said the labor regime applied for the private sector and inclusion in the primary Social Security Foundation (IKA) is envisioned for new employees in such entities.
Moreover, he said a new law clearly delineating the boundaries between the public and private sectors will be implemented by the autumn. In specifically referring to the bourse-listed telephony utility, the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE), Alogoskoufis said the state will retain a 34-percent minority stake, although the prospect of a "strategic alliance" cannot be ruled out.
The minister's interview was published in the Sunday edition of "Apogevmatini".
 Gov't promises to simplify tourist visa procedures for Russian nationals
Athens, 28/3/2005 (ANA)The relevant deputy minister on Sunday announced that the government is simplifying tourist visa procedures for Russian nationals, a long-time demand by travel and tourism sector professionals.
Deputy Tourism Minister Anastasios Liaskos made the statement in an address to members of the Federation of Thrace Hotels, who gathered in Alexandroupoli, the biggest city of the region in extreme northeast mainland Greece.
Local officials and holiday sector professionals estimate that up to 11,000 Russian tourists will visit Evros Prefecture this season, following the debut of a direct Moscow-Alexandroupoli air link.
 Athens paper runs interview of fugitive Vavylis, videotaped Q&A expected Sunday night
Athens, 28/3/2005 (ANA)The man at the centre of an ongoing tempest of allegations over corruption and influence-peddling in the Greek Church returned to the forefront on Sunday as a recently debuted Athens newspaper led-off its weekend edition with a front-page banner interview, confirming numerous press leaks and speculation of the previous week.
Fugitive Apostolos Vavylis, among others, claims that Arch-bishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos sent him on a mission of "national importance" in 2001 to help then Bishop Eirinaios (Irineos) get elected as Orthodox Jerusalem Patriarch.
The mercurial Vavylis -- a convicted heroin smuggler with apparent one-time commercial ties to Greek police and even an Israeli security firm as well as with videotaped appearances in a monk's robes -- was interviewed by noted TV investigative re-porter Makis Triantafyllopoulos, one of the publishers of the new weekly "Proto Thema".
Additionally, the fugitive was quoted as saying he is ready to surrender to authorities, whereas he also implicates current Greek Police (EL.AS) Chief George Aggelakos, claiming that the latter "tipped" him off in 1998 that he was wanted on an Interpol warrant.
The fugitive's taped interview - conducted in a hide-out believed to be in Italy -- was scheduled to air Sunday evening on a private Athens television station
In response, Aggelakos categorically denied the man's claims, saying he will "add to Vavylis' legal troubles" by filing a libel suit this week.
"I had no cooperation whatsoever or any other relationship with this specific 'gentleman', neither when I served in the narcotics squad nor afterwards," a written statement by Aggelakos read.
 Coast guard intercept vessel loaded with migrants, 2 smugglers arrested
Athens, 28/3/2005 (ANA)Coast guard officers patrolling from Hios on Sunday morning intercepted a small boat southeast of the central Aegean island of Skyros loaded with 35 illegal immigrants, all men.
Another two foreign nationals, believed to be migrant smugglers, were arrested aboard the vessel.
According to reports, the illegals had boarded the vessel in an undisclosed Turkish port before attempting to cross onto Greek territory.
An investigation is continuing.
In an unrelated incident, two foreign nationals were arrested at the western port of Patra after attempting to board an Italy-bound ferry boat with fake travel documents, the coast guard announced.
 Twin disturbances by self-styled anarchists reported overnight
Athens, 28/3/2005 (ANA)Almost simultaneous disturbances, both caused by masked youths and young adults believed to be self-styled anarchists, were reported overnight in Athens and Thessaloniki, with parked cars, trash bins and ATMs mostly bearing the brunt of vandals' attacks.
In Athens, the fracas was centered around the central Athens square of Exarchia, while in Thessaloniki dozens of youths emerged from an after-midnight concert held in the city's university campus throwing firebombs and rocks at passing vehicles.
Riot police were called in to quell both disturbances, whereas one arrest was reported in Thessaloniki -- a 22-year-old technical institute student studying in central Larissa.