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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-03-31

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

March 31, 2005

CONTENTS

  • [01] Gov't defends new tax package, points directly to 'inherited deficit' of 6.1%
  • [02] Premier briefed by FM on outcome of US visit
  • [03] Karamanlis meeting with US Deputy Sec't of State Zoellick on Thursday
  • [04] Athens calls on Jerusalem Patriarch to 'assume his historical responsibilities'
  • [05] Gov't condemns incident at under-21 football qualifier
  • [06] US Congresswomen confer with Greek officials, NGOs on trafficking of persons
  • [07] Turkish patrol boat enters Greek waters near Imia islets
  • [08] Olympic venues bill to boost economic growth, transparency Alternate Culture Minister says
  • [09] Employment minister leaves for France to attend OECD ministerial meeting
  • [10] Interior Minister Pavlopoulos addresses KEDKE conference on 'Employment and Entrepreneurship'
  • [11] Greek corporate credit ratings down in 2003
  • [12] Chinese telecom plans to expand in Greece, Balkans
  • [13] Government plans to lift banking secrecy for bourse crimes
  • [14] Greece backs Black Sea, Mediterranean cooperation
  • [15] Tourism nets 7.4 bln euros in 2003
  • [16] Attica has lion's share of GDP
  • [17] Alpha Bank sees tax rise fuelling inflation
  • [18] Mobil returns to Greek lubricants market
  • [19] Music composer G. Sicilianos dies at the age of 85
  • [20] Political leaders express condolences over the death of Greek poet M. Sahtouris
  • [21] PM to attend 'Open Stadiums' event at Athens Olympic Stadium installations
  • [22] 'Euro-bus' campaign launched in Greece
  • [23] Discussion on European constitution referendum held at Athens Bar Association
  • [24] Berlin Festival to be held in Athens for the first time
  • [25] Alexandros S. Onassis foundation honored by Columbia university
  • [26] Greece beats Albania 2-0 in World Cup qualifier
  • [27] EU can force Turkey to meet obligations, Cyprus Spokesman says
  • [28] EU Commission to work for protocol implementation

  • [01] Gov't defends new tax package, points directly to 'inherited deficit' of 6.1%

    Athens, 31/3/2005 (ANA)

    The government on Wednesday stoutly defended its decision -- announced a day earlier -- to raise VAT rates (by 1 percent) and taxes on cigarettes and alcohol, pointing directly to a massive deficit officials say was inherited by the previous PASOK government.

    "The government was called on to face problems that had been accumulated by its predecessors, and it chose the policy of a mild adaptation, something it announced from the very first," government spokesman Thodoris Roussopoulos told reporters, while again referring to the "non-shock" economic policies the Karamanlis government has repeated cited since assuming power a year ago.

    "The fiscal audit recorded dramatically negative results, and this government was obliged to deal with a deficit of 6.1 percent ... this difference, roughly eight billion euros, which was either due to under-estimation or hidden deficits, must be covered," Roussopoulos, who is also the Minister of State, said.

    Moreover, the spokesman downplayed the prospect of increased tax evasion, saying the government is "conveying" a message of strict fines and increased market checks.

    "It is not pleasant to take measures that burden the Greek citizen -- thankfully in the least possible degree -- however, this is the truth (regarding the deficit), one known to our European partners," Roussopoulos added.

    PASOK party leader says government 'deceived everyone and everything': Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou, referring to economic measures announced by the government on Tuesday, said on Wednesday the government ''deceived everyone and everything and showed its anti-popular character''.

    The PASOK leader further said the measures were measures of social cruelty which constitute a raid on popular classes.

    Papandreou accused the government of ''deceiving Parliament by ratifying a budget in December which does not stand, of deceiving everyone with promises of mild adjustment without new taxes, of deceiving the Greek people when it promised everything to popular classes before the elections and of taking measures now which will intensify poverty, unemployment and indigence.''

    The opposition leader said all this is accompanied by the excuse that PASOK is to blame for everything, adding that they are convincing no one since they have already been in power for a year and it is their budget that is not being carried out.

    Papandreou wondered who benefits from this policy of the government and said those who do not benefit are the pensioner, housewife, farmer, young man, working woman, professional, the citizen belonging to low and medium income brackets and Greece.

    Roussopoulos replies to PASOK leader Papandreou's statements: In reply to criticism launched against the government by main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou, Minister of State and Government Spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said on Wednesday evening:

    "PASOK, in the 10 years of governance, imposed more than 80 taxation burdens on the Greek citizens. Mr. Papandreou, who had a prominent position in the PASOK government all these years, as Minister, neither saw nor heard anything. How he also did not see or hear about the deficits of 8 billion euros which was revealed by the European Commission and which today the government is trying to cover."

    PASOK reaction: In reaction to Tuesday's announcement, 34 main opposition PASOK deputies on Wednesday tabled a Parliament question towards the development minister charging increased inflation, reduction in consumers' buying power, and what they termed the retail market's "asphyxiation".

    Among others, the PASOK MPs called for measures to stem the tide of price hikes, to strengthen fair competition and for the government to rethink its decision expanding store hours.

    Amendment hiking VAT rates tabled: The economy ministry on Wednesday tabled in Parliament an amendment, announced by the government a day earlier along with an updated Stability and Growth Program for 2004-2007, raising the VAT rate and taxes on cigarettes and liquor.

    Specifically, VAT will be raised one percentage point, 19 percent from 18 percent - 9 percent for special categories, up from 8 percent.

    The higher tax rates will come into force as of April 1, 2005, with the government forecasting extra annual revenues of just more than one billion euros.

    Industrialists say high deficit warrants new tax measures: The Association of Greek Industry (SEB) said on Wednesday that the government's new tax measures, which aim at rapid financial returns, were warranted due to a high deficit in 2004, expected to top 6.0% of gross domestic product, coupled with an inability to effect major cuts in spending below the anticipated inflation rate.

    "In order to lower the high public debt and allow the new tax measures to be temporary, government policy from now on must focus on a drastic cut in primary state spending, implementation of a wide-ranging privatization program, the sale of state property that fails to bring major revenue to the budget, and needed structural intervention to make operation of the state more effective," SEB said in a statement.

    In a separate news release, the INKA consumer watchdog criticized the measures, saying that consumers yet again were being called on to foot the bill.

    [02] Premier briefed by FM on outcome of US visit

    Athens, 31/3/2005 (ANA)

    Prime minister Costas Karamanlis conferred Wednesday with foreign minister Petros Molyviatis, who briefed the premier in detail on the outcome of his recent visit to the US and talks with US government officials in Washington and UN secretary general Kofi Annan in New York.

    Molyviatis told reporters after the meeting that the results of his US visit were very positive, adding that he had been in constant contact with Karamanlis.

    Earlier, Karamanlis met with merchant marine minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis to discuss matters falling under the latter's competency, as well as the ministry's plans for upgrading and developing the country's ports.

    Kefaloyiannis also briefed the premier on the development of the cruise sector, given that seven cruise ships have joined the Greek Registry of Shipping ahead of the summer season, while the approval of relevant applications for three more cruise ships were pending. Kefaloyiannis said that this development would contribute to reducing unemployment among seamen, as well as the country's tourism development.

    Karamanlis further met with justice minister Anastasios Papaligouras, with whom he discussed relevant issues.

    [03] Karamanlis meeting with US Deputy Sec't of State Zoellick on Thursday

    Athens, 31/3/2005 (ANA)

    The government on Wednesday announced that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will receive visiting US Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick at his office on Thursday morning.

    [04] Athens calls on Jerusalem Patriarch to 'assume his historical responsibilities'

    Athens, 31/3/2005 (ANA)

    Greece on Wednesday called on embattled Jerusalem Patriarch Erinaios (Irineos) to "consider the gravity of the situation; rise to the occasion and assume his historical responsibilities," although the government clarified that it would not intervene in the furor encompassing the venerable Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

    A foreign ministry spokesman told reporters that a ministry team sent to the Holy Land last week to investigate charges that the Patriarchate illegally sold-off -- or signed a long-term lease, by some accounts -- several properties in east Jerusalem to Israeli interests "could not put together a clear and precise picture (of the situation) ... because specific information was not provided ? as such information does not show up in the Patriarchate's records."

    Asked if the Greek government was calling on Erinaios to resign, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos reiterated that Athens stands by its position of not interfering in the Patriarchate's internal issues. He added, however, "...but this should not be misinterpreted as support towards either individuals or behaviors that do not support the Patriarchate's prestige."

    Moreover, he said the government will not counsel Erinaios on the manner in which he will "meet his obligation to the institution of the Patriarchate, his congregation and to the nation."

    "The only concern of the Greek government is the strengthening of the Patriarchate as an institution, according to the standing status quo..." Koumoutsakos said.

    In a report composed by the team of experts, which was released on Wednesday, it is noted that the two crucial documents giving power of attorney to the Patriarchate's former treasurer were missing for managing the properties were missing.

    Auditors said Erinaios told them he signed one document -- giving Nikos Papademas, who is wanted in connection with the case -- power of attorney to lease one store in east Jerusalem, accusing the latter of subsequently forging the contents of the notarized document to allow a long-term lease option.

    The Jerusalem Patriarchate is considered as the "jewel in the crown" of Orthodox Christian 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 the Greek government, other Orthodox Churches and expatriate communities around the world.

    [05] Gov't condemns incident at under-21 football qualifier

    Athens, 31/3/2005 (ANA)

    The government on Wednesday sternly condemned an incident a day earlier during a football match in Athens between the Greek and Albanian under-21 national teams, when a group of mostly teenage spectators removed an Albanian flag from the stands in the first half of the game.

    "Acts of bigotry amid fanaticism are totally foreign towards the spirit of sports. Yesterday's ugliness by a small group of so-called 'fans' is roundly condemned by the vast majority of Greeks," government spokesman Thodoris Roussopoulos told reporters during his regular press briefing on Wednesday.

    One 18-year-old youth was arrested in the incident.

    [06] US Congresswomen confer with Greek officials, NGOs on trafficking of persons

    Athens, 31/3/2005 (ANA)

    U.S. Congresswomen Deborah Pryce of Ohio, Kay Granger of Texas, and Thelma ake of Virginia visited Athens on March 29, to learn about the situation of trafficked people in Greece.

    The delegation met with general secretary George Gennimatas of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, secretary general Panos Panouris of the Ministry of Justice, Secretary General Leonidas Evangelides of the Ministry of Public Order, Secretary General Joanna Despotopoulou of the Ministry of Health, representatives of the police, the Ombudsman and a number of non-governmental organizations including ARSIS, Stop Now!, Klimaka, Greek Helsinki Monitor, Act Up, and Doctors of the World. They also visited a shelter for victims of trafficking.

    At the conclusion of their trip, Chairwoman Pryce remarked that "The United States and Greece unfortunately aren't the only countries that face this modern day form of slavery. The trafficking of women and kids for sexual exploit is a transnational issue. It affects every nation in this world. It is a global crisis. It is a global health crisis. We desire to work together with Greece to curtail trafficking and strongly encourage all facets of Greece from the government to NGOs to the community to communicate, collaborate, and make an effort to stop this crisis."

    Athens was the first stop of a trip that also includes Moldova, Italy, and Albania.

    [07] Turkish patrol boat enters Greek waters near Imia islets

    Athens, 31/3/2005 (ANA)

    Defense sources on Wednesday said a Turkish coast guard patrol boat violated Greek territorial waters in the vicinity of the Imia islets, in the eastern Aegean.

    According to reports, the patrol boat remained in the sea region for roughly two hours, shadowed by a Greek coast guard vessel and a navy warship. The patrol boat reportedly exited territorial waters at around 1:30 p.m.

    [08] Olympic venues bill to boost economic growth, transparency Alternate Culture Minister says

    Athens, 31/3/2005 (ANA)

    The bill regarding post-Games use of Olympic venues aims at upgrading Greek citizens' quality of life, boosting economic growth and transparency, and creating new jobs, Alternate Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia told reporters on Wednesday.

    Palli-Petralia said that the bill clearly defines the role of the state, individuals and regional authorities, emphasizing that the bill does not have any grey areas that are open to interpretation. She also reiterated the government's position that "nothing [of the Olympic venues] will be sold."

    The alternate minister also explained that the bill calls for the creation of green zones and the development of theme parks, while there will be no further construction on Olympic sites.

    She said that interest from private investors has been great, as witnessed by her and by her colleagues. Additionally, she clarified that there have not been any specific proposals regarding long-term leasing of the sites, but said that such a possibility will be considered.

    The bill will soon go to Parliament, but Palli-Petralia did not specify a date.

    [09] Employment minister leaves for France to attend OECD ministerial meeting

    Athens, 31/3/2005 (ANA)

    Employment and Social Protection Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos left for France on Wednesday to attend the OECD's two-day conference of social protection ministers, beginning in the French capital on Thursday.

    Issues to be examined during the conference include policies on promoting employment and the combatting of unemployment and their funding, the operation of social security systems in OECD countries and their method of financing and ways of cooperation between the public and private sectors in the social protection sector.

    [10] Interior Minister Pavlopoulos addresses KEDKE conference on 'Employment and Entrepreneurship'

    Athens, 31/3/2005 (ANA)

    Internal Affairs, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Wednesday addressed a conference held by the Central Union of Greek Municipalities and Communities (KEDKE) on the theme "Employment and Entrepreneurship", within the framework of the European Union initiative "Equal".

    Speaking on the second day of the conference, Pavlopoulos said that the two major problems which the country faces are the marginalization of the regions and unemployment and consequently, the inequalities which are created on a regional level, but also regarding individuals among themselves, especially the "sensitive groups which need more protection, within the framework of the social state of law."

    The objective of the government and that of the ministry is the utilization of the EU initiative "Equal" and on the other hand, the accession of local government organizations (OTA) in this effort, he said.

    The local government organizations are obliged to participate in this program for social and institutional reasons, as well as for reasons which concern the policy on a European Union level, he added. However, as the minister said, the state is obliged to give the local government organizations the possibilities they need, apart from the responsibilities with which they have already been burdened with.

    The 4th Community Support Framework (CSF) will move in the direction of the Regions and Local Government, while the role of the state will be small. "Therefore, policies such as these which concern the initiative 'Equal', will emerge through organizations such as the OTA," the minister noted.

    On what the local governments must do, Pavlopoulos said that the first is their participation regarding regional development and the creation of new jobs through the strengthening of entrepreneurship. The second is training and professional orientation.

    The local government organizations, within the EU initiatives "Equal", are possible to help sensitive social groups, so as to lift as much as possible social inequalities, he concluded.

    On his part, KEDKE President Paris Koukoulopoulos said:" At present, we are moving in the dark, there is an enormous institutional deficit in matters of entrepreneurship and employment. We must find ways and open institutional roads so as for us to be able to have effective preoccupations with these matters."

    [11] Greek corporate credit ratings down in 2003

    Athens, 31/3/2005 (ANA)

    Credit ratings of Greek companies fell in 2003 against the previous year, the ICAP market research organization said on Wednesday.

    Surveyed were limited liability and SA firms in industry, commerce and services that published balance sheets in 2003 and 2002, ICAP said in a report.

    Of the total, 13% more companies had their ratings lowered than raised.

    Services fared worse (17%), followed by commerce (14%), and industry (8%), ICAP said.

    [12] Chinese telecom plans to expand in Greece, Balkans

    Athens, 31/3/2005 (ANA)

    ZTE Corporation, China's largest telecoms equipment manufacturer, plans to expand in Greece and the Balkans, deputy chairman Zhou Fuqiu said on Wednesday.

    The corporation's domestic subsidiary, ZTE Corporation Greece, has doubled staff at its Athens office to 30 employees over the last two months, and a technical support centre will open this year, Fuqiu told a news conference as part of a European roadshow to publicize the corporation's services and wireless technology.

    The Greek operation was launched in July 2004 when ZTE was chosen by Hellenic Telecommunications Organization SA to be its ADSL supplier for internet access during the Athens Olympics last summer.

    The company forecasts sales of 30 million US dollars in Greece this year, rising to 50 million dollars in 2006.

    [13] Government plans to lift banking secrecy for bourse crimes

    Athens, 31/3/2005 (ANA)

    The government will introduce a bill which will lift banking secrecy in order to facilitate the Capital Market Commission in its investigations of share manipulation cases on the bourse.

    Under the terms of the bill, which was discussed by the parliamentary Finance Committee on Wednesday, the commission can request information from the central bank on customer deposits as the market's regulatory authority.

    [14] Greece backs Black Sea, Mediterranean cooperation

    Athens, 31/3/2005 (ANA)

    Tourism Development Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said on Wednesday that Greece was an active proponent of cooperation in a region spanning the Black Sea and Mediterranean.

    "Greece is a prime mover in these initiatives, and the goal is to further strengthen our stabilizing role," Avramopoulos told a meeting of tourism ministers of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization held on the island of Rhodes.

    [15] Tourism nets 7.4 bln euros in 2003

    Brussels, 31/3/2005 (ANA)

    Greek tourism showed net revenue of 7.4 billion euros in 2003 from a gross total of 9.6 billion euros, Eurostat said in data released on Wednesday.

    Greeks traveling abroad spent 2.2 billion euros, Eurostat said.

    The net income figure was the fourth largest in the European Union's 25 members, in a ranking led by Spain at 29.5 billion euros, France (11.6 billion euros), and Italy (9.4 billion euros), according to the data.

    Total revenue from tourism in the EU-25 in 2003 was 213.4 billion euros, Eurostat said.

    [16] Attica has lion's share of GDP

    Athens, 31/3/2005

    The prefecture of Attica accounted for the lion's share of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2001-2003, the Greek National Statistics Service (GNSS) said on Wednesday.

    In regional accounts for the period, 37.9% of GDP was concentrated in Attica and 17.6% in Central Macedonia, the GNSS said in a statement.

    [17] Alpha Bank sees tax rise fuelling inflation

    Athens, 31/3/2005 (ANA)

    A hike in indirect taxation rates will act to fuel inflation and reduce growth rates, Athens-quoted Alpha Bank said in a weekly market report released on Wednesday.

    Likely is a 0.7 percentage point increase in average inflation for 2005, which would be further boosted by high fuel prices, the report said.

    [18] Mobil returns to Greek lubricants market

    Athens, 31/3/2005 (ANA)

    Multinational Mobil said on Wednesday that it was returning to the domestic lubricants market through ExxonMobil Lubricants & Specialties Europe, a division of ExxonMobil Petroleum & Chemical.

    Lubricants will be sold for automobiles, commercial vehicles and industrial applications.

    In addition, ExxonMobil is to supply 1,350 EKO ELDA gasoline stations with lubricants.

    Most indices drop in 'bearish' bourse trading

    Investors were in a selling mood on Wednesday at the Athens Stock Exchange, as stocks recorded a 2.10-percent drop, with the general price index closing at 2,869.23. Turnover stood at 181.1 million euros.

    Most sector indices ended lower, with the Insurances (4.21 pct), Banking (2.94 pct), Metals (2.90 pct) and IT Solution (2.80 pct) recording the biggest percentage losses of the day, while Construction (0.03 pct) Telecoms (0.01 pct) managed to avoid losses. The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks declined by 2.22 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index ended 2.37 percent lower and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index fell 1.58 percent.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 257 to 41 with another 43 issues unchanged.

    Equity Index Futures:

  • FTSE/ASE-20 (high cap): At discount

  • Underlying Index: -2.22%

  • FTSE/ASE-40 (medium cap): At discount

  • Underlying Index: -2.37%

  • Greek benchmark 10-year bond: 3.91% yield

  • German benchmark 10-year bund: 3.71% yield

  • Most heavily traded paper: 10-yr, expiring July 2015 (370 mln euros)

  • Day's Total Market Turnover: 2.0 bln euros

    Foreign Exchange Rates: Thursday

    Reference buying rates per euro released

    by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.304

    [19] Music composer G. Sicilianos dies at the age of 85

    Athens, 31/3/2005 (ANA)

    Greek music composer George Sicilianos died at the age of 85 on Wednesday.

    One of the leading Greek composers of the 1950s, Sicilianos composed more than 60 works throughout his career - operas, chamber music, musical scores for ancient Greek tragedies, etc.

    Sicilianos was born in Athens in 1920 and studied music at the Athens Conservatory and at Rome's Santa Cecilia Music Academy.

    Active in both Greece and abroad, Sicilianos was awarded various distinctions, including the Gottfried von Herder award in 1991 and the Athens Academy award in 1994. In 1999, he was named honorary professor of the Athens University's Music Faculty.

    Additionally, his work was selected twice in order to represent Greece at the annual festival of the Societe Internationale de Musique Contemporaine (SIMC): at the 39th SIMC festival in Madrid (1965) and at the 41st SIMC festival in Prague (1967).

    Since 1962, many of his works have regularly been preformed by Greek and foreign orchestras within the context of the Athens Festival.

    [20] Political leaders express condolences over the death of Greek poet M. Sahtouris

    Athens, 31/3/2005 (ANA)

    "I express my sincere condolences over the death of Miltos Sahtouris, the poet whose own bright horizons shone onto Greek poetry through his international acclaim," President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias wrote in a telegram on Wednesday, expressing his condolences to the family of Greek poet Miltos Sahtouris, who died at the age of 86 on Tuesday.

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis also expressed his sympathy to Sahtouris' family for their loss, saying: "His bold and non-conventional writing, his continuous pursuit of freedom in art and in life, accompanied an entire era of adventure and struggle. They raised his work above and beyond any time limits."

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou described Sahtouris as one of the greatest figures in modern Greek poetry. "The universality of his messages - always alive and intense - represents for us a timeless legacy," Papandreou stated.

    Born in Athens in 1919, Sahtouris studied law, but abandoned legal practice early in order to devote himself to poetry. His work was first published in the periodical "Nea Grammata" in 1944.

    In 1962, he won the second National Poetry Award, in 1987 he won the first National Poetry Award and in 1995 he was awarded the Order of the Phoenix.

    Sahtouris' poems - such as "Face to the Wall," "Forgotten Woman," "The Stigmata," and others - have been translated into several languages.

    [21] PM to attend 'Open Stadiums' event at Athens Olympic Stadium installations

    Athens, 31/3/2005 (ANA)

    Prime Minister and Culture Minister Costas Karamanlis will attend the first event of the "Open Stadiums-The Celebration of Olympism is continuing" program at the Athens Olympic Stadium's athletics installations on Thursday.

    The event will be attended by 2,559 junior high school first grade pupils from 29 schools in the Attica prefecture, while addresses will be made by the prime minister, Alternate Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia and Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou. Deputy Sports Minister Giorgos Orfanos will also be present.

    Olympic Games medalists who will be speaking to the pupils about the Olympic Games include Fani Halkia, Athanassia Tsoumeleka, Anastasia Kelesidou, Chrysopigi Devetzi, Mirela Maniani and Christos Meletoglou.

    [22] 'Euro-bus' campaign launched in Greece

    Athens, 31/3/2005 (ANA)

    A campaign to promote awareness for the draft European Constitution commenced on Wednesday with the debut of a "Euro-Bus" at central Athens' Zappeion grounds.

    The vehicle will distribute informational materials around the country.

    During a brief ceremony, Transport Minister Mihalis Liapis emphasized that "Greece gains by being in the European Union, and also better serves its national interests."

    Deputy FM Yiannis Valinakis was also on hand for the "Euro-Bus" debut.

    Conversely, Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) leader Alekos Alavanos, in a later statement, called for a "brake" to be put on the vehicle, underlining his party's campaign for a nationwide referendum to ratify the draft Euro-Constitution.

    [23] Discussion on European constitution referendum held at Athens Bar Association

    Athens, 31/3/2005 (ANA)

    The advantages and disadvantages of holding a referendum on the European constitution were discussed at the Athens Bar Association on Wednesday at the initiative of the European Constitutional Law Centre.

    Ruling New Democracy party Deputy and the president of Parliament's Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee Vassilis Maginas said the issue of a referendum could only be raised if the European constitutional treaty contained arrangements which were ambiguous or harmful for national interests.

    Main opposition PASOK party Deputy Evangelos Venizelos said the holding of a referendum was necessary, adding that the Parliamentary process of ratifying the treaty must have an increased majority and then the referendum procedure must follow following a proposal made by 120 deputies.

    [24] Berlin Festival to be held in Athens for the first time

    Athens, 31/3/2005 (ANA)

    The Berlin Festival which will be held in Athens beginning April 1, will help strengthen relations between Greece and Germany, German Ambassador to Greece Albert Spiegel said during a press conference on Wednesday.

    It is the first time that the Berlin Festival travels abroad, the result of an innovative effort by the Cultural Action company and the Municipality of Athens.

    "Athens becomes culturally united with Berlin. The Municipality of Athens respects other countries' cultural legacies, supporting the staging of the festival outside its city," Dimitris Katsoudas, Vice President of the Cultural Organization of the Municipality of Athens said. He also emphasized Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis' support of the idea.

    The festival will open on April 1 with the showing of select films that were featured as part of the "Panorama" of previous festivals as well as some films that were featured this year.

    An art exhibit, featuring images of the Berlin Wall will also be on display within the context of the festival, at the Athens Goethe Institute.

    The festival and art exhibit will run through April 23.

    [25] Alexandros S. Onassis foundation honored by Columbia university

    New York, 31/3/2005 (ANA)

    The Alexandros S. Onassis foundation was honored by Columbia University on Tuesday for its "worldwide leading role."

    According to a relevant press release, the honor was made in recognition of "the foundation's excellent and continuous cultural and educational activities worldwide."

    The award was given by the rector of the university's International and Public Affairs faculty Dr. Liza Anderson.

    [26] Greece beats Albania 2-0 in World Cup qualifier

    Athens, 31/3/2005 (ANA)

    Greece beat Albania 2-0 (halftime 1-0) in a World Cup European zone, Group Two qualifier played at the Karaiskaki stadium in Piraeus on Wednesday night.

    Greece's goals were scored by Angelos Haristeas in the 34th minute and Giorgos Karagounis in the 85th.

    [27] EU can force Turkey to meet obligations, Cyprus Spokesman says

    Nicosia, 31/3/2005 (CNA/ANA)

    Cyprus Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said here on Wednesday that the European Union has ways to force Turkey to meet its obligations.

    ''There are means which the EU can apply, through its own procedures, to force Ankara to respect its obligations, in particular through decisions of the Turkey-EU Association Council and the European Council as well as through means which the Commission can adopt,'' he said.

    His comments come in the wake of statements by the Turkish government that it will not allow vessels to dock at Turkish ports nor will it permit aircraft to use its airspace, if any of them are Cypriot-owned or flying the Cyprus flag.

    Responding to questions, the Spokesman said that it has been made clear that Turkey has an obligation to abolish such restrictions since the EU decided in 1995 to extend Turkey's customs union agreement.

    ''Any violation of this provision is considered a violation of Turkey's international obligations or a violation of Ankara's obligations towards the EU,'' he stressed.

    Turkey, whose troops occupy Cyprus' northern areas since they invaded in 1974, does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus and has said that its announcement that it will sign the protocol extending its customs union agreement to all ten new members, including Cyprus, does not signify recognition of the Republic.

    [28] EU Commission to work for protocol implementation

    Nicosia, 31/3/2005 (CNA/ANA)

    A protocol to Turkey's customs union agreement will be implemented once all the necessary procedures on the part of the European Union have been finalized, head of the EU Commission Representation office here Adriaan van der Meer has indicated, adding that the Commission wants this to proceed as fast as possible.

    In statements to the press on Wednesday, he also said that the Commission's proposed text on the protocol could be amended by EU foreign ministers when they discuss the document and, if this were to happen, any new text will have to go back to Ankara for consideration.

    Van der Meer described ''a violation of Turkey's 1995 customs union agreement'' Ankara's ban on vessels and aircraft, flagged or owned by Cyprus, to its territory.

    ''Implementation of the protocol depends on the timing, we would like the procedure to proceed as fast as possible,'' he said, adding that the Commission will do its best to get the document outside the Commission, which, as he noted, needs to be translated into 20 languages.

    This, he stressed, is ''a very important exercise for us, there is a lot at stake and we will do everything to be as fast as possible.''

    He explained that now the Commission services can proceed with the preparation of a formal proposal to the Council of Ministers in view of the signature of this protocol.

    Van der Meer said that Turkey marked by a letter its agreement on the draft text of the protocol, prepared by the Commission services, a move he said means that ''the protocol has been initialed by Turkey''.

    ''The first step of this procedure has been achieved - the initialing. Now the Commission has to prepare the legal texts to allow the signature, and then the matter has to be further discussed with the Council of Ministers of the 25 member states and the European Parliament for an opinion,'' he noted.

    When this procedure is finalized, then we can move ahead with the signature, he added.

    The Commission, he said, believes that ''this is a good sign as regards the opening of accession negotiations with Turkey before October 3 and it shows that Turkey sticks to its commitment taken in December.''

    He pointed out that the signature of the protocol would constitute ''a confidence building measure towards the normalization of relations between Cyprus and Turkey.''

    The protocol would extend the customs union agreement between Turkey and the EU to all ten new members, including the Republic of Cyprus, which Ankara does not recognize.

    On a possible timetable for the work that the Commission has to complete, he said this is an internal timetable, which is not in the public domain, pointing out that ''we have to be prudent because then you raise expectations.''

    He explained that the Commission has in the past worked on similar adaptations of agreements with third parties.

    Responding to questions, he said if the proposed agreed text of the protocol is amended by the Council of Ministers, the new version of the document will have to be sent to Ankara for consultation.

    ''The Commission would like the current proposal to be adopted unchanged,'' he said.

    Responding to questions about Turkey's ban of Cyprus-flagged ships and Cypriot aircraft, he said the initialing of the protocol by Ankara and the ban should be ''dissociated.''

    He said that the Commission had often pointed out to Turkey the need to lift this ban, an issue he described ''long-pending.''

    ''Turkey's stance is a violation of the customs union decision of 1995,'' he added.


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