|Monday, 18 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-06-29
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>June 29, 2006
 Changes and reforms in education continuing, PM tells Economist conference
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, addressing the tripartite business and investments summit between Greece, Bulgaria and Romania on Wednesday, organized by the Economist magazine, said that changes and reforms in education are continuing with the target of achieving the qualitative upgrading of public higher education.
"We are planning reforms that pave the way for a continuous improvement of the level of studies in all the public higher educational establishments," he said, adding that they are reforms that secure degrees for work, which equip the youth of our country with more possibilities for success and progress in the new competitive environment.
Karamanlis said that the target is to strengthen education as a lever for viable development, fairer distribution of income, social cohesion and justice, individual prosperity and collective progress.
The prime minister referred to his government's policy and noted that it has already achieved, in a mild manner, a considerable decrease in the fiscal deficit and has secured its dropping below 3 percent of GDP in 2006.
"It has also achieved growth rates that are more than double the average of Euro zone countries, while it has succeeded in reversing downward trends in the economy's competitiveness," Karamanlis noted.
The prime minister stressed that inflation has been restrained at 3.5 percent, investments increased by about 7 percent during the first quarter of the year, exports are showing a continuous upward trend approaching 23 percent in the first quarter of the year, tourism is following an upward course and last year it produced revenues that increased by 7 percent, unemployment has begun to decrease gradually and the available income of households increased over the past two years with an annual rate of 4.3 percent.
Referring to cooperation with Bulgaria and Romania, the prime minister stressed that Greece has actively supported and is supporting the accession of the two Balkan countries to the big European family, adding that it was encouraging the European prospects of all neighboring countries. He added that Greece was looking forward to closer and more productive cooperation with all its neighbors.
Lastly, Karamanlis mentioned that the European Union is the base on which the common future of the countries and peoples of Europe is being built, while the accession course of Balkan countries "proved to be a lever for reforms and structural changes, a lever for strengthening democracy and stability."
 Papandreou: Turkey deserves sincere EU candidacy prospect
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Wednesday referred to European Union expansion in the Balkans as a "lever" of peace and stability in the region, while emphasizing that he's against a "special relationship" regime for Turkey as the latter country's candidacy must be wholly legitimate.
Papandreou spoke at the opening day of a two-day Economist Group conference in the Greek capital, entitled "Greece, Bulgaria and Romania: Business and Investment Summit: Strengthening Relations at the Threshold of EU accession."
"... a message with two meanings should not be conveyed to Turkey; the standing message is that Turkey has the right to become a full member of the EU as long, of course, as it fulfills the commitments it has undertaken," Papandreou, the former foreign minister, said.
Speaking to an audience of mostly foreign dignitaries, business executives and diplomats, Papandreou also repeated his latest proposal -- aimed at Greece's political establishment -- for a "new strategy" governing Greek-Turkish relations, one that more effectively safeguards sovereign rights, strengthens regional peace and stability and eventually leads to a reduction in defence spending, he said.
Turning to the domestic front, he echoed the current government's and previous administrations' focus on attempting to exploit the country's comparative advantages in the tourism sector, alternative forms of energy, brand-name farm products, services, merchant shipping and culture, among others.
 Southeastern Europe could become the economic miracle of the next decade, FinMin says
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)Greek investments in Bulgaria and Romania totaled around 5.0 billion euros and were contributing actively in the economic growth of the two Balkan countries, Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Wednesday.
Addressing an Economist conference in Athens, the Greek minister praised the two countries for their achievements as they prepared for accession in the European Union.
"Southeastern Europe has the preconditions to become the economic miracle of the next decade, as Ireland did in the '90s," Alogoskoufis said adding that "many reforms are directly, jointly and undividedly link all three countries and significantly affect their production web, as all three economies have come closer and will continue doing so in the future".
The Greek minister said the main challenges of economic policies for the next five years in Greece and neighboring countries were: -improving investment climate and strengthening the private sector, -an integrated policy to boost exports, -promoting infrastructure projects in transports, telecoms and energy, -supporting local enterprises' efforts to access international capital markets and to adopt strategic partnerships for a more effective transfer of know-how in the banking sector. "It is of great importance to promote partnerships with our financial institutions. Creating healthy and competitive banking organizations could effectively help in supporting entrepreneurship and achieving scale economics," he said. He praised partnership deals in the country and the entry of Greek banks in the Turkish market. -combating tax-evasion and informal economy and gradually reducing taxes on corporations, -promoting adequate and timely inter-border information for large scale investments, -promoting a transparent system for public procurement, and -seeking cooperation to reduce inter-border bureaucratic procedures.
Commenting on a reform policy in Greece, Alogoskoufis said "its results made citizens more confident and optimistic".
The Greek minister said GDP grew 3.7 pct in 2005, one of the highest rates in the Euro zone, while GDP grew 4.1 pct in the first quarter of 2006. Per capita GDP jumped to 77.1 pct of the EU-15 average last year, from 75.4 pct in 2004, and it projected to total 80 percent of the EU-25 average by the end of 2007.
Greece's fiscal deficit fell from 6.9 pct of GDP in 2004 to 4.5 pct in 2005 and its is projected to fall below 3.0 pct of GDP this year, to 2.6 pct. Unemployment fell to 9.7 pct in the fourth quarter of 2005, from 11.3 pct in March 2004, exports jumped 13.1 pct in 2005 and were up 17.4 pct in the first four months of 2006. Investments rose by 6.9 pct in the first quarter of 2006, while the real available income of Greek households grew an annual average 6.9 pct in the last two years.
Real wages rose 2.8 pct in 2004 and 2.9 pct in 2005, while wages as a percentage of GDP rose to 34.1 pct in 2005, from 32.8 pct in 2004.
Alogoskoufis said the inflation rate was stable at 3.5 pct last year, while the core inflation eased to 2.6 pct in the first four months of 2006 despite a strong increase in international oil and raw material prices.
 Romanian minister briefs economy minister on his country's EU accession preparations
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)Romanian European Affairs Minister Anca Boagiu met Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis at his office on Wednesday and briefed him on Romania's preparations in light of the country's upcoming European Union accession, as well as on her country's program for the speedy and effective adoption and implementation of the acquis communautaire.
In turn, she asked for a briefing on Greece's preparation regarding the National Strategic Reference Framework for the 2007-2013 period and for the possibility of the two countries promoting joint action in the framework of programs jointly financed by the EU.
The minister congratulated Boagiu on considerable progress achieved by Romania on the issue of fulfilling preconditions for accession to the EU and underlined the excellent growth possibilities presented by the region of southeastern Europe.
He expressed the assessment that with the impending participation of Romania and Bulgaria in the EU, as well as of the other countries in the region in the future, this prospect will be strengthened even further.
 Greece a leading investor in the Balkans, Garganas says
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)Greece is emerging as a leading player in investments in the Balkans, ranking second in Bulgaria and third in Romania, according to figures presented during an Economist Group conference in Athens on Wednesday.
Greek banks were also leading players in the region, contributing significantly in the transformation of southeast European economies.
Bank of Greece Governor Nikolaos Garganas said Greek banks operated 18 subsidiaries, six branches and around 1,000 units in the Balkans, while they employed around 15,000 workers. The Greek central banker noted that Balkan operations accounted for more than 6.0 pct of the five largest Greek banks' profits, and predicted that this rate would grow further in the future.
Garganas said Greek banks' activities in the Balkans have greatly contributed to improve competition in domestic markets. The central banker said Greek banks' future expansion in the Balkans would be based on their networks' autonomous organic growth and said that Greek financial institutions were seeking to expand to new regions.
EFG Eurobank's chief executive, Nikolaos Nanopoulos, said the banking sector was leading the region to Europe and stressed that a gradual privatization of Balkan banks has already offered results. Nanopoulos said the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU would further boost relations with Greece.
Plamen Oreshaki, Bulgaria's Finance Minister, addressing the conference underlined the achievement of economic goals in Bulgaria and stressed that growth rate exceeded 5.0 percent, while unemployment was at 9.6 pct of the workforce from 18 percent in 2001-2002.
Darius Mesca, Romania's Economy and Trade Minister said economic reforms were progressing smoothly and emphasized that foreign direct investments to Romania exceeded 15 billion euros in the period 1995-2003.
The Bulgarian and Romanian markets were key for Greek investments abroad, Dimitris Daskalopoulos, the president of the Federation of Greek Industries told the conference, but stressed that corruption, bureaucracy and inadequate justice and legal system were the main obstacles for foreign investments in the region.
 Bulgaria's Stanisev addresses Economist conference
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)Bulgarian Prime Minister Serghei Stanisev said on Wednesday his country appreciated Greece's support in its European accession course. He was addressing an Economist Group conference in the Greek capital, entitled "Greece, Bulgaria and Romania: Business and Investment Summit: Strengthening Relations at the Threshold of EU accession."
Stanisev said the time of the conference was important, as Bulgaria and Romania are expected to become full EU members by January 1. He added that reforms are being implemented in all sectors of public life within the framework of the country's efforts to adjust itself to the acquis communautaire.
"The perspective of accession is necessary for reforms to continue," Stanisev noted.
Referring to Kosovo, the Bulgarian prime minister underlined that a solution, which would respect human rights and democracy and take into account Serbia as being an important factor in the region, should be found.
 Deputy FM reiterates Athens' solid backing for Bulgarian, Romanian EU entry
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis on Wednesday reiterated Athens' standing position of vigorously backing neighboring Bulgaria's and Romania's European Union accession course, speaking during an Economist Group conference taking place in the Greek capital.
The conference, focusing on boosting trilateral trade and investment cooperation between the three southeast European countries in the wake of pending membership for Sofia and Bucharest, will also feature addresses by the prime ministers of the three nations.
On his part, Valinakis said the prospect of EU entry for its two neighbors translates into substantive steps towards what Athens views as increased regional peace, democracy and prosperity. He also said both countries will greatly benefit from fulfilling membership criteria, before noting that Greece ranks amongst the top investors and trade partners in both Romania and Bulgaria.
In two specific instances, he reminded that the Union is still keenly interested in closing down Bulgaria's Soviet-era Kozloduy nuclear plant, whereas the EU's role in the Kosovo issue revolves around making the province a symbol of peaceful co-existence instead of a symbol of hatred.
 Economist Intelligence Unit report predicts early elections in 2007 and possible ND victory
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)A report on Greece by the "Economist Intelligence Unit" predicts the possibility of early elections in October 2007 and a possible victory for the government of the New Democracy party.
According to the report, publicized on the sidelines of the conference being carried out by the Economist magazine in Athens, there is a great possibility that the next national elections will take place six months earlier than March 2008, given that the Greek economy will continue to show strong growth and there will be sufficient progress regarding the creation of new jobs that will offset repercussions from reforms in the labor market.
However, in any case, and basing itself on current data, the report predicts that a victory for the ND party is possible in the next national elections, whether they are held in 2007 or in 2008, although its majority in Parliament is expected to decrease. Referring to foreign policy issues, the report mentions that the government is expected to work with the aim of strengthening Greece's ties with the neighboring countries, including Turkey, and promoting stability in the Balkans.
According to the report, despite recent tensions, the beginning of accession negotiations between the European Union and Turkey is creating a favorable climate for a further improvement in Greek-Turkish relations but, in parallel, it is noted that failure to solve the issue of Cyprus entails risks for tense relations between the two countries.
As regards the economy and referring to 2006, the report predicts that the fiscal deficit will remain above 3 percent of GDP, the increase in GDP will reach 3.5 percent and inflation will be 3.3 percent.
 Education minister addresses press conference at end of OECD summit
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou, speaking during a press conference at the end of the two-day summit of education ministers from Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries held at Lagonissi, south of Athens, stressed the importance for Greece of good public education and public third stage education.
"The only scenario applying to Greece is good public education and public third stage education. Let us clarify something, because I think that we have exceeded limits a little in our country with scenarios, leaks and the rest," she said.
"Let me repeat that we are not deciding here what every country will do. You will find in the texts of all the international organizations scenarios and questions not for every country to inform on its positions so the summit can take decision but for a discussion to take place on what international reality is. All the texts of international organizations raise questions and contain reflexions. From then on, every country has a given system. Some countries want to make reforms, others do not," the education minister added.
Yiannakou further said that "no discussion took place for us to decide together on some issue. The Greek side has a view. It has stated it everywhere, either through its representatives, or through reference to what is valid in Greece. And there is a summarized text which says what applies in every country and what every country does."
The minister also pointed out that issues related to the internationalization of universities, common doctorates, common master's degrees were discussed during the summit.
"Generally speaking, we all agreed on one thing, regardless of the way with which one handles problems. That higher education needs very many changes," she concluded.
OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria said on his part that "the question is 'Are we only speaking about universities?'. No, we are speaking about professional training and, of course, we are speaking of lifelong learning and, mainly, we are speaking of people, people who are employed. However, they must continue to upgrade their knowledge to enable them to have better performances in their work, to prepare themselves in a better way for the future and to prepare themselves for a more competitive environment."
 Demonstration against Education reforms bill staged near OECD education ministers' venue
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)Demonstrations continued Wednesday in the coastal resort of Lagonissi, east of Athens, as Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) education ministers were holding the second and final session of a two-day meeting, the first to be held by OECD education ministers away from the organization's Paris headquarters.
Demonstrators from the PAME trade union organization and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) youth organization KNE were protesting against a preliminary draft law on reforms in the education sector recently unveiled by Greece's ministry of education.
A strong police contingent was guarding the hotel in Lagonissi where the OECD ministers were holding their second day of meetings, chaired by Greece's education minister Marietta Yannakou. Draconian security measures also include a prohibition of circulation on both lanes of the Athens-Sounion national highway at a range of one kilometer from the hotel, which will be in force until Wednesday afternoon.
Approximately 10 busloads of protestors stopped Wednesday morning at the first roadblock set up by traffic police on Sounion Boulevard, where they unfurled banners containing such slogans as "The anti-popular policy will be overturned by struggles and fonts", and anti-Europe slogans. The demonstrators progressed some 150 meters in the direction of the hotel, but were stopped by police, and therefore congregated on the spot chanting slogans, while they also lit a fire with wood and rubber tires, and burned flags.
The leaders of the demonstration, among them KKE deputy Takis Tsiogas and KNE secretary Themis Gionis, said they would be on the streets daily until the policy being advanced at the expense of Education and the popular social strata was halted.
They said they would be demonstrating again on Thursday outside the Greek parliament in central Syntagma Square.
 Sworn Administrative Inquiry ordered into injury of journalists during students' demonstration
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)A Sworn Administrative Inquiry (EDE) and a police internal affairs investigation was ordered Wednesday, following charges made by a representative of the Eleftherotypia daily newspaper, into the alleged participation of police officers in the injury of journalists during clashes that broke out on Tuesday after a student demonstration and march in central Athens.
According to the charges made, a female journalist and a newspaper photographer were injured by MAT (riot police) officers on the corner of Solonos and Massalias streets in downtown Athens.
The prosecutor was also briefed on the case.
Police announced that a total of 5 citizens and 6 policemen were injured during the violent clashes, while one person was arrested.
Damages were caused to a bank branch, two stores and five cars. Among the injured is a Greek Radio (ERA) journalist, who was taken to hospital for first aid treatment.
According to a police statement, the student demonstration was peaceful but an estimated 500 anti-establishment extremists were scattered along the march in small groups. After the demonstration ended and demonstrators began dispersing, the extremists gathered at the Athens University's Law School where a total of 1,500 students were already there. They engaged in violent acts inside and outside the Law School building, hurling firebombs and stones at the police, while they also fired incendiary flares using flare guns.
Police used teargas and chased the extremists, who took refuse inside the university.
 Young woman charged over incidents after student protest
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)A 20-year-old woman, a student at a Technological Educational Institute, was charged by a public prosecutor on Wednesday as one of the culprits responsible for rioting that took place after a student protest in the centre of Athens on Tuesday.
She was charged with criminal and misdemeanor-level offences, including possession of explosive devices and causing explosions, repeated counts of causing bodily harm and destruction of property.
The same charges were also brought against "unidentified persons".
Dozens of students gathered outside the entrance to the courts while the woman appeared before the public prosecutor but were prevented from entering by a strong police force.
 PM Karamanlis meets with OECD chief Gurria
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)Prime minister Costas Karamanlis met Wednesday morning with visiting Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) secretary general Angel Gurria, who is in Athens for talks with the Greek government and to attend a two-day meeting of the organizations education ministers that opened Tuesday at the coastal resort of Lagonissi, south of the capital.
No statements were made to the press after the meeting, which was also attended by national economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis and education minister Marietta Yannakou.
The OECD meeting at Lagonissi, chaired by Yannakou, is being attended by the education ministers of some 35 OECD member countries and the organization's new secretary general Angel Gurria, as well as 200 observers from around the world.
The meeting, entitled "Higher Education: Quality-Equality-Effectiveness", is the first t be held away from the OECD's Paris headquarters by the organization's education ministers.
 FM attends ministerial conference on drugs in Moscow
MOSCOW, 29/6/2006(ANA-MPA)Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis participated in the ministerial conference on "Routes of drug transportation from Afghanistan", held here on Wednesday by the Russian foreign ministry in cooperation with the United Nations.
Addressing the conference, Bakoyannis stressed the need for an effective response to the big threat posed by drugs for societies at global, regional and national level, noting that according to UN assessments almost 200 million people, meaning 5 percent of the world's population, aged between 15 and 64 have consumed illegal drugs at least once during the past 12 months.
The Greek foreign minister underlined that Afghanistan is part of the global problem of drugs as well as a part of the response to it.
The Afghani government is making efforts to control and reduce the cultivation of opium in the country and it is showing interest in addressing the problem and finding solutions, Bakoyannis said, but conceded that these initiatives are inadequate.
Bakoyannis also referred at length to Greek efforts being made in Afghanistan, as well as to the support it is providing in the handling of corresponding problems in countries neighboring Greece.
The foreign minister, who arrived in the Russian capital on Tuesday, will be having a series of contacts with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, the secretary of Russia's National Security Council Igor Ivanov, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzkov and the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexiy.
Bakoyannis had earlier in day a brief discussion on the sidelines of the conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.
 UN deputy chief Gambari to visit Ankara, Athens, Nicosia next week
NEW YORK, 29/6/2006 (ANA-MPA/P. Panayotou)United Nations Under-Secretary General Ibrahim Gambari, who holds the Political Affairs dossier, will be visiting Ankara, Athens and Nicosia from July 3 to 9.
Gambari briefed the members of the UN Security Council on his upcoming visit to the region, during the Council's meeting on Tuesday, but did not provide details on the discussions he would be having with the Greek, Cypriot and Turkish governments.
While in Cyprus, Gambari will hold separate talks with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.
Upon his return to New York, Gambari will brief UN secretary general Kofi Annan and the members of the Security Council on the outcome of his talks in the region.
 Presentation of European Socialist Party's initiative on New Social Europe
BRUSSELS, 29/6/2006 (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)The European Socialist Party's initiative to start consultations with social partners for a "New Social Europe" was presented here on Wednesday by former European Commission President Jacques Delors, European Socialist Party President Paul Nirup Rasmussen and former Employment Commissioner and main opposition PASOK party deputy Anna Diamantopoulou.
Commenting on the European Socialist Party's initiative, Diamantopoulou said that in essence the main points proposed to social partners and European citizens by the Socialist Party are two: solidarity as a factor of social cohesion and competition as a factor of growth.
The European Socialist Party's initiative for a "New Social Europe" will be presented in detail at the party's conference to be held in Portugal on December 7-8.
 Greek leaders pay homage to fallen airmen; Ankara's EU obligations underlined
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)Political party leaders, including Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, on Wednesday reiterated from Parliament's podium that EU hopeful Turkey must absolutely meet all of the Union's criteria for future membership, during a special plenum session convened to honor Greek air force pilots killed in the line of duty.
The session followed last month's unprecedented mid-air collision in the southeastern Aegean between Greek and Turkish fighter planes (both US-made F-16s), an incident that resulted in the death of the Greek pilot, Costas Iliakis.
Karamanlis stressed that conclusions from a recent European Council clearly refer to a binding framework governing Ankara's behavior, calling on Turkish leadership to forever abandon "any action that does not contribute to peace".
He also reminded that Greek governments over the past few years have solidly supported the predominately Muslim country's European orientation, "but this course, however, is wholly dependent on it (Turkey). For this course to proceed it (Turkey) must fulfill its obligations. Let there be no misunderstanding on this point by anyone."
On his part, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou referred to Athens' responsibility to "exploit diplomacy in order to avoid solutions through war and solutions that do not consolidate regional peace and protect sovereign rights." He also called on Turkey to respect all its commitments towards the international community and the EU.
Communist Party (KKE) general secretary Aleka Papariga repeated her party's standing policy in decrying what she referred to as the situation in the Aegean "due to the demands and threats by Turkey and the substantive support towards the latter by the United States, NATO and the EU, as well as capitulations of PASOK and ND governments".
Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) leader Alekos Alavanos referred to Iliakis as the 115th airman killed in the line of duty since 1974, noting that the state should take all "necessary and radical initiatives" so that he is the last to sacrifice his life, including a forceful emphasis on the Union's acquis communautaire and the international Law of Sea vis-à-vis EU hopeful Turkey.
Finally, Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki referred to the symbolic adoption of Iliakis' two underage children by Parliament until they reach adulthood.
 President Karolos Papoulias inspects ships in framework of Navy Week
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)President Karolos Papoulias inspected ships of the fleet at sea on Wednesday in the framework of Navy Week celebrations.
President Papoulias arrived on the frigate "Limnos" by helicopter at 11.20 a.m. where he was welcomed by Deputy Defense Minister Ioannis Lambropoulos and the Navy's leadership, headed by Navy General Staff chief vice admiral Dimitrios Gousis.
A total of 41 vessels were inspected, including six frigates, six submarines, nine missile boats, seven gunboats, three troop carriers, two mine detectors, five minesweepers and three support ships.
The warships were lined up in two rows off the coast of Faliron and paid respects to President Papoulias as the fleet's flagship sailed by.
At the same time, five Shikorski helicopters flew over the frigate, as well as a P-3 Orion naval cooperation aircraft.
At the end of the inspection, the Navy General Staff chief gave President Papoulias a commemorative plaque bearing the emblems of the Navy General Staff, the Fleet Headquarters and of Navy Administrations.
The warships are due to sail for the islands of the Aegean and the Ionian on Wednesday night, where the public will be able to visit them as of Thursday and until July 1 in the framework of Navy Week.
 Antonaros on Cyprus President's working visit
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)Cyprus Republic President Tassos Papadopoulos is due to visit Athens on a working visit on July 10, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros announced on Wednesday.
President Papadopoulos will meet with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to discuss the Cyprus issue and other issues of mutual interest within the framework of the regular bilateral contacts, he said.
 PASOK party spokesman criticises government for extending Parliament plenum work
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK party spokesman Nikos Athanassakis on Wednesday criticized the government over its decision to extend over the summer period the work of the Parliamentary plenum, accusing it of an "institutionally unacceptable function".
He added that it was a decision taken by the government and not a unanimous decision by the conference of Presidents which decided unanimously, as he said, only on organizing the plenum's work in the near future.
Athanassakis further said that it was a "display of political irresponsibility and panic" on behalf of the government which "wanted to keep, for petty partisan reasons, the scandal talk pit open in which it will ultimately fall itself."
 Gov't spokesman responds to PASOK
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)Government Spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said on Wednesday that the government's position was "responsible and clear" and that it was doing "what is necessary to prevent the writing off of possible offences."
Roussopoulos was responding to statements earlier by main opposition PASOK spokesman Nikos Athanassakis criticizing the government on its decision to extend over the summer period the work of the Parliamentary plenum, accusing it of an "institutionally unacceptable function".
"PASOK should clarify its own stance," over the issue, Roussopoulos added.
 MPs sign memorandum to UN on Afghanistan narcotics problem
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)A memorandum referring to the cultivation of coca plants and opium in Afghanistan was submitted to the United Nations on Wednesday, signed by 216 Greek parliament deputies headed by parliament vice-president Giorgos Sourlas and cross-party committee against drugs president Costas Kiltidis.
The memorandum, signed by MPs from ruling New Democracy, ,main opposition PASOK and the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN), points out that the international community's credibility and the true intentions concerning the narcotics problem are being tested in Afghanistan given that the cultivation of opium was not eradicated but on the contrary, was increased.
The true intentions are being tested, mentions the memorandum, because heroin production is rising while an estimated 20,000 army officers from NATO, the United States and the EU are watching in spite of the assurances that one of the main reasons for the military presence in Afghanistan was the narcotics problem and given the fact that the Taliban have been overthrown and the country has entered a democratization process.
All necessary preconditions for the uprooting of the opium poppies are present, continues the memorandum, and farmers can turn to alternative cultivations.
 OECD sees jobs, social insurance as key challenges
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)The visiting secretary general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said on Wednesday that employment and social insurance were two major challenges affecting the future of Greece and its economy, along with other members of the OECD.
Speaking after a meeting with Employment and Social Protection Minister Savvas Tsitouridis, Angel Gurria stated that the OECD and its services would support the government in its drive to modernize the country's social insurance system, which should not pressure fiscal finances or burden public spending.
In a speech to finance ministry and central bank officials on Tuesday, the OECD chief had noted that a key priority was a pensions overhaul, due to forecasts of high costs as a proportion of gross domestic product - especially in Greece - linked to an ageing population.
In addition, Greek law on protection for workers was one of the most stringent among OECD members and may have contributed to a low rate of "recycling" of workers in jobs, and to persistent unemployment among young people and women. Discrimination against part-time work should halt.
Formulation of wages also needed to be more flexible, easing deviation from collective labor pacts, especially in high unemployment areas. Non-payroll labor costs should be lowered through containment of social insurance contributions for people on low wages, Gurria noted.
During his visit to attend an OECD conference on education, Gurria met other senior officials including the governor of the central bank, Nicholas Garganas, and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis.
 Cenbank: Competition, credit risk to challenge banks
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)Tough competition and an anticipated rise in credit risk are the main challenges for Greek banks in the medium term, the governor of the Bank of Greece said on Wednesday.
"In the current favorable phase of Greece's economic cycle, the proportion of total loans in arrears is already relatively high at 6.3%, but in the medium term, as sizeable loans mature that were issued recently, it is likely that servicing problems will emerge that banks did not adequately provide for when the loans were granted," central bank chief Nicholas Garganas warned.
"This is especially if there is a slowdown in the economy's rate of growth coupled with an anticipated further rise in interest rates, as in Greece and the other Euro zone countries.....floating rates are implemented on the bulk of loans," Garganas told a business conference in Athens arranged by the Economist magazine.
The Greek banking sector showed high profitability, a strong capital base and adequate liquidity. But earnings rested mainly on a continuing rapid rise in credit expansion mostly to households, the maintenance of a relatively high interest margin, and high commissions from retail business, aided by containment of operating expenses.
 EU raps Greece over energy performance of buildings
BRUSSELS, 29/6/2006 (ANA-MPA/B Demiris)The European Union's executive Commission on Wednesday sent a reasoned opinion to Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Malta and Sweden for a failure to notify national implementing measures requested in a 2002 directive on energy performance of buildings.
The directive, which should have implemented energy performance in buildings by 4 January 2006, aims at reducing energy consumption in buildings by obliging member states to lay down minimum performance standards and apply them to new and larger existing buildings, the Commission said in a statement.
The action was prompted by insufficient information provided by the five states in the wake of initial notification of a failure to outline measures taken, which the Commission sent in February, the statement noted.
The Commission's reasoned opinion is the second step in an infringement procedure laid down by the bloc.
Energy performance is to be reflected in an energy certificate, which is also accompanied by advice on how to improve the energy performance of an existing building, the investment cost and likely payback time. In addition, member states need to ensure that heating and air conditioning installations are regularly inspected to enable performance improvement.
 Gov't has right to keep Emporiki Bank stock
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Wednesday that the government held the right to retain its 11% stake in Athens-quoted Emporiki Bank if no offer is deemed acceptable.
Addressing parliament's economics committee, the minister was replying to a question by a deputy of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement on privatization of the state-run bank.
 Sioufas inaugurates 'Science and Technology Week'
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas inaugurated on Wednesday the "Science and Technology Week" at the Zappeion Mansion in central Athens.
The event, which is being staged for the second consecutive year and will last until July 5, presents the results of research activities by 35 agencies including research and technology centers supervised by the development ministry, universities and private businesses.
Ecological car consuming hydrogen which has been fabricated in Greece will be presented during the event.
 Airline fee reduction at Athens airport
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)Athens International Airport S.A. (AIA) and Olympic Fuel Company S.A. (OFC) on Wednesday announced an additional 4% reduction in the airline fee charged by OFC, effective July 1.
The throughput fee will be reduced from 12.80 to 12.30 euros per thousand liters. The drop, which is the second in 12 months, is expected to save airlines refueling at AIA 300,000 euros on an annual basis, management said in a statement.
"This is part of a continuing joint effort to support airlines and enhance competitiveness of aviation fuel price at the airport," the statement noted.
Further to OFC's reduction in service fees by 30% within the last two years, savings for airlines at Athens International Airport will exceed 3.2 million euros, it added.
 Greek households consumed more meat, cheese and fish in 1974-2004
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)Greek households consumed more meat, cheese and fish in the 30-year period from 1974 to 2004, but lowered their consumption of bread, eggs and beans, the National Statistics Service said on Wednesday.
The report by NSS said Greeks consumed more meat (37 pct), cheese (30.6 pct), fresh milk (28.6 pct), fish (21 pct), pasta (20.7 pct) and olive oil (17.3 pct). Consumption of yoghurt jumped 48 pct in the period 1974 to 2004.
Bread consumption fell 59.3 pct, sugar was down 56.1 pct, beans were down 20 pct, fruit consumption fell 13.6 pct and rice consumption fell 12.9 pct.
The report was based on a sample of around 1,000 private households in the country.
 Sitronics to buy Intracom Telecom
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)Concern Sitronics, the Moscow-based technology arm of Sistema, and Intracom Holdings on Wednesday announced a final agreement for the acquisition by Sitronics of a 51% stake in Intracom Telecom for 120 million euros with the stock transfer expected to take place by June 30.
"This deal is about international empowerment. Both Groups will become a new dynamic leader in the region of Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa. We have created economies of scale and achieved a strong position to face international competition. We reach new emerging markets of more than 200 million people, where telecommunication infrastructure is most needed and large investments are foreseen for the next years," Socrates P. Kokkalis, Chairman and CEO of Athens-quoted Intracom Holdings, told a news conference.
"The Groups expect Intracom Telecom sales én Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (C.I.S.) to achieve the amount of business of at least 300 million within three years and the company will become one of the market leaders in telecommunications equipment and related services," Kokkalis said.
Sistema's chairman, Vladimir Evtushenkov noted: "Sitronics and Intracom Holdings have manifest their will to strongly support Intracom Telecom business development in their respective markets of presence. Therefore, the parties intend to render all necessary support to Intracom Telecom in order to promote the company's products in the territory of Russia and the C.I.S. The cooperation of both Groups creates important competitive advantages towards international competition."
Intracom Telecom is a fully owned subsidiary of Intracom Holdings, providing integrated telecommunications solutions and services in Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Through its R&D activity, the company has developed and manufactured advanced technological products in the areas of broadband fixed and wireless access and transmission systems, as well as content delivery systems - IPTV and triple-play.
Sitronics will integrate the company into its Telecom solutions division, whose primary focus is currently on switching equipment, billing systems and NGN, aiming to achieve full scale synergies from the acquired company's complementary product lines, system integration capabilities and customer base.
 Greek ferryboat tops ranking for safety standards
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)The ANEK Lines ferryboat "Olympic Champion", linking Patras, Greece with Ancona, Italy, ranked first among a total of 30 vessels in terms of safety standards in the annual report issued by the German auto club ADAC on the overall improvement recorded in the ferryboats sailing the European seas. The comparative study was presented in Hamburg the Deutche Welle website reported on Wednesday.
The vessel was built in 2000 and received the highest marks for its high-tech equipment and its well-trained crew. A total of 11 Greek ferryboats were included in the study, while another Greek vessel the "Dionisios Solomos" of the Zante Ferries Anmez Lines, linking Kyllini with Zakynthos, was also rated "very good".
Five vessels were rated "good": "Kriti I" of ANEK Lines, "Eptanisos" of Strintzis Ferries (Poros-Kefalonia destination), "Ionian King" of Agoudimos Lines (Patras-Bari, Italy destination), "Mytilene" of Nel Lines (Piraeus-Chios destination) and "Lissos" of ANEK Lines (Chania-Piraeus destination).
Four ferryboats were rated as "satisfactory": "Kefalonia" of Strintzis Ferries, "Penelope" of Agoudimos Lines, "Express Santorini" of Hellenic Seaways and "Zakynthos I" of Anez Lines.
 Measures to aid employment of seamen
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)The government is to introduce training programs for unemployed seamen of all specializations to help them be more competitive in the new labor environment.
In addition, a naval training institute will be created to widen education as part of the government's policy of combating joblessness.
The two moves were agreed on Wednesday by Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis and Employment and Social Protection Minister Savvas Tsitouridis.
 Hellenic Sugar Industry to stay afloat
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)Shareholders of Athens-quoted Hellenic Sugar Industry on Wednesday voted in favor of a government-sponsored plan to keep the company afloat.
Under the plan, Hellenic's five plants will maintain operations this year, despite anticipated losses of 45-48 million euros, management said in a statement.
The firm's main shareholder is ATEbank, also quoted on the bourse.
 Athens Bourse Close: Stocks drop
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)The Athens share index closed at 3,517.38 points, showing a decline of 1.01%. Turnover was 274.5 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalisation shares ended 1.15% down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.54% lower; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.22% up.
Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 154 to 106 with 55 remaining unchanged.
 Month-long series of geo-political lectures, cultural events begins in Delphi this weekend
DELPHI, 29/6/2006 (ANA)A nearly month-long series of cultural events and world affairs fora, the "Cultural Amphictyonia 2006", officially get under way Friday at the European Cultural Centre of Delphi (ECCD), near the actual site of the eponymous ancient oracle, with the primary and week-long international conference, entitled "The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century: Reforms in Goals, Structure and Functions", beginning on Saturday.
ECCD board chairman Prof. Helen Ahrweiler-Glykatzi and ECCD director Prof. Christodoulos Yiallouridis will declare the sessions open on Friday, with the Greek culture and transport ministers, George Voulgarakis and Mihalis Liapis, respectively, expected to address delegates. Other dignitaries expected to attend are Cyprus' new Foreign Minister George Lilikas, Egyptian Deputy FM Naela Gabr, UN Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Africa Prof. Ibrahim Agboola Gambari as well as Greek Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis. Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos is also expected to attend the opening of the "Cultural Amphictyonia".
Lecture themes include titles such as former IAEA legal adviser Odette Jankowitsch-Prevor's "The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Today: Cracks in the Edifice or Obsolescence?" to noted Washington-based terrorism analyst Anthony Cordesman's "US Strategy for Counter-terrorism and the Evolving Threats" to Geneva University Prof. Andreas Auer's "Peace and Security: The Case of Cyprus".
Beyond the geo-political portions of the international meetings, other thematic presentations range from "Peace and War in Homer" to "Approaches to the Trojan War in Western European Painting" to "From Goya to Jake and Dinos Chapman: Artists Against War", as well as the staging of ancient and contemporary plays at the archaeological site's outdoor theatre.
The international conference takes its name from the Great Amphictyonic League of antiquity, which was founded around 1100 BC for the protection and administration of the temple of Apollo in Delphi, in south-central Greece, and the temple of Demeter near Thermopylae, further to the east. According to ancient legends the league was founded by Amphictyon, the brother of Hellen, the common ancestor of all Hellenes (Greeks).
 Fulbright Foundation honors Greek, US scholars and donors
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)An annual reception for Greek and US Fulbright donors as well as 50 Greek and American students, professors and artists who received awards this year was held Tuesday evening at the US ambassador's residence.
The reception was hosted by US ambassador to Greece Charles Ries and Fulbright Executive Director Artemis Zenetou.
This year's donors included the Onassis Foundation, J.F. Costopoulos Foundation, L. Voudouris Foundation, Stravros Niarchos Foundation, the Thessaloniki International Fair, Ceres Hellenic Shippping, S&B Industrial Minerals, Proctor & Gamble Hellas, Intralot S.A.,Coca Cola Hellas, and Elias Paraskevas Attorneys at Law, among others.
 Culture Minister George Voulgarakis visits Acropolis
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)Culture Minister George Voulgarakis visited the Acropolis on Wednesday morning and, speaking at a press conference afterwards, said that he was pleased with work and with the difficult scientific task being accomplished at the monument.
He added that the greatest restoration project taking place in the world, that is the work at the Acropolis, was developing at a speedy rate and constituted a scientific example for restoration at other monuments on the planet, such as the stone Pagodas in South Korea, and would be completed within timetables that have been set.
According to data publicized, the funding of work is as follows:1999 EU funds 2.5 million euros, national funds 0, 2000-2004 EU funds 16.8 million euros, national funds 3 million euros and 2005-2006 EU funds 10.5 million euros, national funds 2 million euros.
A virtual theatre will be created in the New Acropolis Museum where three dimensional films will be screened, among other things, on the history of Restorations, the Erechthion and the Parthenon. The digitalization of the archives of the Acropolis Monuments Maintenance Service will also be included in the "communication" sector.
 Web chat to focus on energy issues
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)US deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Bryza will discuss energy policies and security during a web chat on Thursday, June 29 at 18:00, an announcement from the US embassy in Athens' public affairs section said on Wednesday.
The web chat is organized specifically for Greek, Turkish, Albanian and Georgian participants, and will focus on energy markets and energy security in the region, the importance of strengthening trans-atlantic cooperation in the energy field, and the implications of the opening of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, among other issues.
Those wishing to participate in this web chat may sign up at http://usinfo.state.gov./utils/chatemailreg.php
Participants will not be asked to provide any personal information, other than e-mail address and a username. Detailed information on how to access the web chat and submit questions will be forthcoming following registration.
Questions may be submitted in advance or during the web chat.
Answers to questions submitted will be found in the transcript of the web chat.
 Kastoria police confiscate 106 kilos cannabis
KASTORIA, 29/6/2006 (ANA)Police in Kastoria on Wednesday reported confiscating 106 kilos of cannabis that a drug-trafficking gang had attempted to smuggle into Greece.
According to a report, police officers' suspicions were aroused by three men in a private vehicle, which was placed under surveillance and then ordered to stop when it turned into a forest road. The three men were taken to the Nestorio border guard station for identification and police began to suspect a drug drop.
Further investigation in collaboration with a cross-border crime squad using a police dog led to the discovery of another private car parked at Profitis Ilias, in which police found 105 kilos and 930 grammars of cannabis. The driver was also located a short distance from the car and placed under arrest.
 Explosion at PPC power plant in Ptolemaida
PTOLEMAIDA, 29/6/2006 (ANA)An explosion occurred at 13:00 on Wednesday at a Public Power Corporation (PPC) 300 MW power plant in Ptolemaida, which is now offline as a result. No injuries were reported.
According to the PPC, estimates regarding the cause of the explosion and the time needed to restore the damage will be made once technicians are able to approach, while they said that the damage should not cause any problems in covering electricity demand.
PPC chairman Costas Kyriakopoulos and production general managers Avraam Mizan and Costas Melas are now at the scene.
 Justice Minister inaugurates '2nd-chance' schools in Larissa prison
LARISSA, 29/6/2006 (ANA)Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras on Wednesday officially inaugurated the "Second-chance" school that has operated in Larissa court prison as a pilot project since last February, saying it was "the foundation stone of an integrated policy for a correctional system with a humane aspect".
The minister said the government's goal was to establish a school in every prison that would help inmates become useful and productive citizens, while thanking Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou for her aid in getting the project off the ground.
Seventeen of the inmates that attended the school on Wednesday received primary and secondary school leaving certificates, while a representative of the prisoners asked that there might also be a lyceum, particularly a technical lyceum that prepares students for tertiary education.
 Tribute to Jorge Luis Borges in Athens
ATHENS, 29/6/2006 (ANA)An event held in tribute to Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of his death was held in Athens by the cultural and social Association of Argentines in Greece and the publishing house Ellinika Grammata. The event was held at the French Institute's Auditorium on Tuesday to promote the publication of a complete three-volume collection of Borges' 140 short stories and essays by Ellinika Grammata.
Borges was born in Argentina in 1899 and was blind for most of his life. He wrote poems, short stories and screenplays. He taught in the biggest universities in the United States and was declared honorary professor in major universities around the world. He died in Geneva in 1986.
 Austrian's murder on Rhodes committed by German, police says
RHODES, 29/6/2006 (ANA)The murder of a 54-year-old Austrian man on the Aegean island of Rhodes was committed by a German pensioner that he shared a house with, police reported on Wednesday.
They said the 60-year-old German, a permanent resident of the island, stabbed his house-mate in the belly on Tuesday night after an argument over personal and financial differences. The Austrian died as a result of his injuries shortly afterward.
The German gave himself up of his own accord and told arresting officers that he was drunk at the time of the attack, which was confirmed by an alcohol blood level test. He was charged by a Rhodes public prosecutor on Wednesday for murder, as well criminal charges of illegal weapons possession and weapons and will now appear before an examining magistrate.
The victim, his assailant and the latter's wife had lived on Rhodes for the past three years but in recent months the two men had frequent and violent arguments over personal differences.
 Government: Gambari aims to sound out prospect of resumption of dialogue
NICOSIA, 29/6/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)UN Undersecretary General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari will visit Athens, Ankara and Nicosia, beginning of July, in order to sound out the situation on a possible resumption of the dialogue on Cyprus, Acting Government Spokesman Vassilis Palmas said on Wednesday.
"During his trip to Athens, Ankara and Nicosia, Gambari aims to sound out and listen carefully to all political approaches in the triangle", Palmas told reporters.
Invited to elaborate on the issue, he said that Gambari "will sound out intentions, whether there is a will for the resumption of a dialogue so that there is progress on Cyprus".
Asked about a possible joint meeting between President Papadopoulos, the UN official and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, Palmas notedthat Gambari's program has not been finalized yet.
Palmas was also asked about the technical committees that aim to prepare the ground for talks on the Cyprus issue.
"If and when the Turkish Cypriot side gives its consent, we are ready to start with the technical committees as well as for everyday issues", he said.
Palmas added ''our views are clear. They are the same views as the ones agreed upon between President Papadopoulos and UN Secretary General in Paris".
 Greek and Turkish Cypriot parties agree on joint action
NICOSIA, 29/6/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)Greek Cypriot Ecologists and Environmentalists Movement and Turkish Cypriot New Cyprus party have agreed on joint action and common interventions in international fora to press on with a Cyprus settlement on the basis of a single country, one people, free off foreign bases, troops and guarantees.
Ecologists and New Cyprus' General Secretaries Giorgos Perdikis and Alpay Durduran, heading their respective delegations, met on Wednesday in the offices of the Ecologists Movement in the government-controlled areas and called for a solution on Cyprus by the Cypriots.
In statements after the meeting, Durduran said that Cypriots ''must cooperate and find ways to get rid of all anomalies in Cyprus, such as foreign bases and foreign armies.''
''Now it is our turn as Cypriots, and we don't understand why Cypriots do not come together and find as Cypriots a solution to the problem,'' he added.
On the result of the so-called municipal elections in the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus last Sunday, Durduran said this showed very clearly that Cypriots in the occupied areas lost all hope that they can change things, given that Turkey is in Cyprus and controls social and political affairs even cultural affairs of the Turkish Cypriots.
''One mayor went, the other came, nothing will change,'' Durduran said, adding that if they (Turkish Cypriot leadership) do not have guts and the courage to confront Turkey's policy in Cyprus, they cannot change anything.
Perdikis said that the latest developments in the Turkish Cypriot community and recent reports about intervention from Athens in Cyprus ''brings to the surface a problem which many Cypriots forget, that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots are victimized by intervention by the so-called motherlands.''
''We wand progressive Greek and Turkish Cypriots to find a solution to Cyprus' problem, a solution for Cypriots,'' Perdikis said.
 Nicosia Omeriye Ottoman Baths receive Europa Nostra award
NICOSIA, 29/6/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)The 16th century Omeriye Ottoman Baths in Nicosia have been awarded the prize for the Conservation of Architectural Heritage, within the framework of the annual 'European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Awards'.
The prize was presented Tuesday in Madrid to 34 laureates from 22 countries. Nicosia Mayor Michalakis Zambelas received the award from Queen Sofia of Spain, during the European Heritage Awards Ceremony at the Palacio Real del El Pardo.
Zambelas told CNA that on November 20, 2006 the plaque of the award will be placed at the entrance of the Baths by Europa Nostra officials, who will then tour the site.
Zambelas also said that he had a brief private conversation with Queen Sofia, who expressed a wish to visit Cyprus and satisfaction that a Nicosia monument has been awarded a Europa Nostra prize.
Nicosia Mayor said "it is a great honor for Cyprus to take the first golden Europa Nostra prize and that is why we all feel very proud."
Announcing the awards the European Commission and Europa Nostra said that the 16th century Omeriye Ottoman Baths are located in one of the most neglected areas of the walled city of Nicosia and their restoration and modernization enabled to retain the traditional use, and has greatly contributed to upgrading the building environment and to preserving and promoting the multicultural character of the city.
The five top prizes were presented with a monetary award of 10,000 euros each.
A total of 214 applications and nominations received in various categories were assessed by independent experts and evaluated by the Heritage Awards Juries in recent months. The aims of the awards presented are three-fold: to promote high standards in conservation practice, to stimulate trans-boundary exchanges of knowledge and skills, and to encourage further exemplary initiatives in the field of cultural heritage.