|Thursday, 21 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-06-30
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>June 30, 2006
 PM outlines proposals for constitutional revision; firmly supports lifting of ban on private, non-profit colleges
ATHENS, 30/6/2006 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday reiterated, this time from Parliament's podium, his government's proposals for Constitutional revision, as he again appeared unwavering in his support for lifting a constitutional ban allowing the establishment of private, non-profit universities in the country -- a banner issue for proponents of education reforms in the east Mediterranean nation.
Thursday's debate came in the wake of setting a deadline for the submission of a report by a Parliament committee assigned the task of listing proposals for constitutional revisions, which would have to be ratified by the next legislature elected through general elections.
"It's time we prove, in practice, that we can discuss, work out, and find common ground. This is an obligation by all of us for a Greece that is changing; a Greece marching towards the future, with security and poise, with optimism and self-confidence," he noted.
Besides the private universities issue, which bolted onto the national limelight over the past month with the tabling of a draft bill envisioning several reforms for universities and colleges and amid vociferous opposition by groups of students and the professors' union, Karamanlis again cited the need for a constitutional court assigned the task of ruling on the constitutionality of legislation and a stricter regulation of political parties' finances.
Additionally, he again backed a partial lifting of a law prohibiting Parliament deputies from exercising their profession or working while in office, instead saying he favors a "conditional" prohibition. As per the issue of MPs' Parliamentary immunity from prosecution, the prime minister said Parliament should refuse to lift immunity only in cases where an alleged offense is linked with the exercise of a deputy's parliamentary duties or for political expediency.
Furthermore, he said his ruling New Democracy party and main opposition PASOK could find "common ground" over a proposal to increase the number of MPs elected from a state deputies list, thereby foregoing the rigorous campaign process in individual election districts.
In terms of the often contentious proposal to finally allow the operation of private, non-profit universities, Karamanlis reminded that PASOK's leadership has also publicly supported the idea of lifting the constitutional ban.
"Our proposal is to delineate the concept of higher education; to clarify the margins for establishing and operating non-state, and of course, non-profit universities, within a framework that makes it absolutely clear that the provision of higher education by non-state entities can be performed only under specific conditions, with strict supervision by the state and with the stated stipulation that the qualifications of educators at private institutions will be correspondent to those of educators at state schools," the prime minister emphasized.
Concerning campaign and parties' finances, Karamanlis proposed funding from the state's coffers as the "primary" mode of support towards parties as well as stricter restrictions on funding from private sources and review of politicians' income and property statements.
He also said a specific mention of the state's obligation to guarantee social cohesion and the consolidation of social justice would essentially cover the social inclusion of different population groups in the country, "namely, it would thereby more than include the proposal for a specific mention of immigrants," Karamanlis said in reference to a demand by leftist parties that immigrants - legalized migrants, guest workers, refugees and non-EU foreign nationals -- be cited in the new constitution.
Finally, he said the government would not propose a change in the way the president of the republic is elected.
 Papandreou on proposed revision of Constitution
ATHENS, 30/6/2006 (ANA)The government is trying to use the Constitution as an alibi for its failure, main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou asserted during Thursday's debate in Parliament on a proposed revision of the Greek Constitution.
At the same time, Papandreou indicated his party's support for revising article 16 of the Constitution, which only allows state universities to be established in Greece, on the grounds that "failure to regulate private units leads to private-sector lawlessness".
Meanwhile, even as Papandreou dedicated PASOK's proposals for revising the Constitution to the younger generation, a student rally was underway outside Parliament to protest against government plans for education reform - including the lifting of Constitutional obstacles to private universities.
In his speech, PASOK's leader reiterated positions supporting the assessment of universities and other higher education institutes on the basis of four-year agreements that they contract with the state and local communities.
He stressed, however, that PASOK was only prepared to enter into dialogue with the government if ruling New Democracy fulfilled a pre-election pledge to devote 5 percent of GDP to education, as well as implementing PASOK's proposal to earmark 40 percent of 4th Community Support Framework funds for education and vocational training.
The government has repeatedly stated after the elections that its pledge to increase funding for education will be fulfilled "within a four-year horizon" possibly right before the end of its four-year term.
The main opposition leader also leveled criticism against a government proposal to revise article 24 of the Constitution on land use, saying that it made forests easy prey to illegal development, and proposed increases in the number of state deputies, who are not directly elected but chosen by party leaders.
Papandreou reiterated his party's proposals concerning the right to be elected to parliament at 21, a constitutional guarantee for a dignified standard of living, strengthening democracy through referendums, allowing legislative initiative by the people, a constitutionally guaranteed society of citizens and enhancing Parliament's role as an "organ for debate and accountability".
PASOK's leader closed with the observation that his party "can share the concerns of parties of the Left".
 Opposition parties comment on constitutional revision
ATHENS, 30/6/2006 (ANA)Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga criticized the revision of the constitutional that the government is promoting during a debate in Parliament on Thursday.
"It is obvious that the revision of the constitution is moving in a more conservative and authoritarian direction," she said.
"In essence, the New Democracy government is opening the half-open doors left behind by PASOK. There are no substantive differences between the proposals of PASOK and ND. I am searching to find where the differences are, particularly in education," she added.
Papariga concluded that "the changes being promoted in education are not personal choices of the government or of Mrs. Yiannakou or of ministers, but they are choices of globalization."
Commenting on the same issue, Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party leader Alekos Alavanos said during his address, that "it is the best revision in the sense that there is a society today, particularly youth that has reflexes, that reacts and intervenes."
Alavanos added that the New Democracy party cannot defend the constitution from mandates coming from the centers of globalization, while attributing election expediencies to it.
 FM Bakoyannis says EU expects Turkey to honor its signature
MOSCOW, 30/6/2006 (ANA-MPA/D. Konstantakopoulos)Visiting Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis referred on Thursday to Turkey's relations with the European Union, as well as to the issue of Cyprus in statements to reporters in the Russian capital.
"The European Union expects Turkey to honor its signature in 2006 and to have implemented the Ankara protocol. A position from which the European Union has no intention of escaping," she said and underlined relevant decisions taken by the recent summit in Brussels and almost daily statements by EU and presidency officials.
The protocol concerns the extension of customs union to the EU's 10 new members, including the Republic of Cyprus, and entails the opening of Turkish ports and airports to Cypriot vessels and planes, a fact that has drawn reaction from Ankara.
Commenting on the issue of Cyprus, Bakoyannis said that it was difficult for her to speak of any prospects yet because Athens "has not yet seen the proposals being brought by the United Nations Undersecretary General for political affairs Ibrahim Gambari." Gambari is expected in Athens early July.
She added that the Security Council supports the Gambari mission and the decisions taken during the Paris meeting between Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, meaning that "technical" talks must begin that will also have a political aspect.
Speaking to Greek reporters, Bakoyannis underlined the crucial nature of developments in Iran as Tehran's reply to the package of proposals presented to it on its nuclear program is expected, terming the package "very attractive."
The minister discussed the issue with Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, whom she met on Wednesday, and the Russian Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov, during their meeting in the Kremlin on Thursday.
Bakoyannis also referred to her meeting with Moscow Patriarch Alexiy, discussing with him the unity of Orthodoxy and the problems of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
 EU-Turkey rapprochement 'a path to peace and stability', Bakoyannis says
MOSCOW, 30/6/2006 (ANA-MPA - D. Konstantakopoulos)Turkey must be allowed to become a full member of the European Union if it carries out the necessary reforms and fulfils all the accession criteria because EU-Turkey rapprochement is one of the paths achieving peace and stability in the region, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said in an interview published by the Russian newspaper "Isvestia" on Thursday.
Asked to outline her proposals for a solution to the Cyprus problem, Bakoyannis said that efforts "should take into account the work done at the United Nations and the positions of the Cyprus Republic itself, in its capacity as an EU member-state," noting that both the inhabitants of the island republic and the region as a whole should benefit as a result.
"With regard to this, we greatly appreciate Russia's position on the Cyprus issue," she added.
Referring to relations between Greece and Russia, meanwhile, the Greek foreign minister said that the two countries were "strategic partners" with similar views on the majority of world problems, had achieved significant progress in cementing economic ties and were capable of even greater improvements in this direction. She expressed a desire to see more Russian tourists coming to Greece and stressed that Athens was doing everything possible to show the high value it placed on Greek-Russian relations.
During her visit to Moscow on Thursday, Bakoyannis met Russia's National Security Council secretary Igor Ivanov and the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexiy II. Later on Thursday, she is due to meet her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.
After her meeting with the Patriarch, Bakoyannis underlined the strong bonds of the Orthodox faith, its unity and its very important and increasing presence worldwide.
Alexiy emphasized the close ties between Greece and Russia and also expressed support for the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Fanar, Istanbul and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in response to questions about the attacks on the Patriarchate, noting his opposition to "such extreme actions".
Bakoyannis arrived in the Russian capital on Tuesday and 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. The foreign minister's agenda of meetings include contacts with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Nicholas Burns and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzkov, as well as a brief discussion on the sidelines of the conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.
 Lavrov-Bakoyannis talks focus on Iran, Cyprus and Middle EastMOSCOW, (ANA-MPA/D.Konstantakopoulos)
Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis met here on Thursday with her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.
The two ministers' talks focused on Iran and the Cyprus issue, on which Lavrov reiterated Moscow's steadfast position and Russia's support to UN Undersecretary-General for political affairs Ibrahim Gambari's mission.
Gambari will visit Ankara, Athens and Nicosia early July in order to sound out the situation on a possible resumption of the dialogue on Cyprus.
Lavrov and Bakoyannis also discussed the latest developments in the Middle East.
 Finnish FM says EU-Turkey talks could be halted
BRUSSELS, 30/6/2006 (ANA-MPA/V.Demiris)Finland's Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, whose country assumes from July 1 the EU's rotating presidency, warned here on Thursday that Turkey's EU talks could be halted if Ankara refuses to ratify within 2006 the Ankara Protocol expanding its Customs Union to cover the Republic of Cyprus.
Replying to questions during a press conference in Brussels to present the Finnish presidency's priorities, Tuomioja said that the deadline given to Turkey to fulfill its obligations will come to an end by the end of the year, adding that the EU expects Ankara to ratify the additional protocol, otherwise a serious problem in the accession negotiations will be created.
''This is not a threat, but it would endanger the continuation of the negotiations,'' Tuomioja said, adding that the Turkish government knows very well what is expected to do.
Tuomioja said that a possible suspension of Turkey's EU talks would be a failure not only for the Finnish presidency but for the EU as whole and for Turkey as well. "For this reason we are working and we will continue our efforts for resolving the problem," he concluded.
According to a Reuters dispatch meanwhile, Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said on Thursday the EU may suspend membership negotiations with Turkey completely over its refusal to move on Cyprus.
"There is that possibility. I hope that we don't have to resort to that, but we have no reason not to use it if there are grounds for that," Rehn told the Finnish news agency STT, when asked if the EU might stop talks.
He gave the interview on Wednesday when EU ambassadors decided for the first time to move forward faster in accession talks with Croatia than with Turkey because of Ankara's refusal to open its ports and airports to traffic from Cyprus.
 COREPER rejects opening of 'Customs Union chapter' negotiations with candidate Turkey
BRUSSELS, 30/6/2006 (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)The European Union's Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) pm Wednesday decided to open negotiations with candidate member Croatia on the "Customs Union chapter", but not with candidate Turkey, due to the Balkan country's failure to extend its Customs Union to Cyprus, in other words opening up the Turkish ports and airports to Cypriot ships and airplanes.
More specifically, COREPER deemed that although in the case of Croatia the formal prerequisites had been fulfilled for "opening" this chapter (for negotiation), such was not the case for Turkey. In refusing to extend its customs union with the EU to Cyprus, Turkey has not fulfilled the necessary conditions that would have enabled the EU to move on from the stage of simple review of the situation in Turkish legislation regarding this item and proceed to the next step, which is the opening of official negotiations on the Customs Union chapter.
Thus, for the first time since the simultaneous commencement of membership talks with Croatia and Turkey last October, Turkey has "lost ground" vis-a-vis Croatia.
Conversely, the outgoing Austrian EU presidency announced, COREPER deemed that both candidate countries have fulfilled the prerequisites for commencement of negotiations on the free business competition chapter. To date, only one chapter has been opened and successfully closed with Turkey, that of "Research and Technology", which is considered the most 'painless' with respect to the EU acquis.
In early October, the EU Council of Foreign Ministers adopted the negotiating framework for Turkey's accession negotiations with the European Union. The negotiating framework is divided into 35 sections or policy areas, known as chapters -- effective for all candidate countries -- which Turkey must implement into national law before it is considered ready for membership. Each of the chapters require unanimity from all 25 member states to be declared 'closed' (fulfilled), before a final vote on allowing Turkey membership in the Union, which must also be unanimous. The content (requirements) of the chapters is non-negotiable, and the negotiations are based on Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union.
According to Article 6 of the EU-Turkey negotiations framework, "the advancement of the negotiations will be guided by Turkey's progress in preparing for accession, within a framework of economic and social convergence...". Under Article 6, this progress will be measured in particular against a series of requirements that are listed in the text of the negotiations framework, including: "The fulfillment of Turkey's obligations under the Association Agreement and its Additional Protocol extending the Association Agreement to all new EU Member States", including Cyprus, "in particular those pertaining to the EU-Turkey customs union, as well as the implementation of the Accession Partnership, as regularly revised."
On July 29, 2005 Ankara had signed the Association Agreement Protocol, by virtue of which Turkey extended its Customs Union agreement with the EU to the 10 new member states, including Cyprus, but in tandem, Ankara also submitted a separate, unilateral declaration stating that it refused to recognize the Cyprus Republic and that the Turkish ports and airports would remain closed to Cypriot ships and planes. The COREPER later adopted a counter-declaration rejecting Turkey's unilateral declaration that it does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus. Also according to the counter-declaration, Turkey is clearly required to fully implement the extended Customs Union agreement with all 10 new EU member states, including Cyprus, warning that Turkey's failure to fulfill its obligations vis-a-vis the Customs Union agreement will negatively impact its accession talks with the European Union.
 Bakoyannis-Scheffer meeting in Athens Friday week
ATHENS, 30/6/2006 (ANA)Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will meet with NATO General Secretary Jaap de Hoop Scheffer Friday week, as the latter will be on an official visit to Athens as part of his regular briefing of member-states ahead of a summit meeting in Riga.
 Athens expresses concern over latest situation in Mideast
ATHENS, 30/6/2006 (ANA)Greece on Thursday expressed concern over the ongoing violence in the Middle East, and specifically in the Gaza Strip, with a foreign ministry spokesman noting that peace and a resolution of the Mideast problem cannot be solved with "military operations or abductions".
"Greece believes that calm-headedness and self-control by all is necessary in this period. We continue to back efforts by the international community for peace and a solution, and of course, for a continuation and implementation of the 'road map'," spokesman George Koumoutsakos said.
 Papadopoulos-Talat meeting with Gambari not finalised, gov't says
ATHENS, 30/6/2006 (ANA)There was no finalized arrangement for a joint meeting with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat when United Nations Undersecretary General for political affairs Ibrahim Gambari visited Nicosia in early July, Greek foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said during the foreign ministry press briefing on Thursday.
"In any case, should [such a meeting] take place, it is important that is should lead to some specific result, because in this way the role of the UN is enhanced and this may create further prospects that move in the direction of re-launching a new effort [to solve the Cyprus issue]," he said.
He said Gambari was due in Athens on July 5 for talks with Greek officials and would also visit Cyprus and Turkey in an effort to explore the situation regarding the Cyprus issue and whether it would be possible to make use of talks on a technical level.
Koumoutsakos also stressed that the option of starting technical-level talks was still on the table and should be used, in response to questions on whether substantive talks might start within 2006.
Asked to clarify a statement by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis that the Cyprus issue was not linked to the European Union, the spokesman reiterated that the solution of the Cyprus issue was a process that was underway at the U.N.
"The EU, of which the Cyprus Republic is a member, has set certain conditions and criteria for Turkey, as it has done for all candidate-countries, among which is the issue of fully implementing Customs Union that includes opening Turkish ports and airports to Cypriot ships and airplanes," Koumoutsakos said.
This was the issue that concerned the EU and there was not direct link between the two processes, he added.
He also dismissed further questions on press reports claiming that Athens had "undermined" Papadopoulos, saying these had been amply refuted by both Athens and Nicosia, while a recent meeting between the Cyprus and Greek foreign ministers had "easily shown the fact that the two governments are in constant communication and cooperation and are moving in the direction of achieving the same goal."
Meanwhile, according to reports from Nicosia, U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus Ronald Schlicher stressed the importance of Gambari's visit to the region and expressed hope that the UN official would be able to report to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that the two sides were prepared to make progress for a solution.
 DM, development minister address Economist conference
ATHENS, 30/6/2006 (ANA)Defense Minister Vangelis Meimarakis, addressing the Economist Intelligence Unit's conference in Athens on Thursday, referred to Greece's continuous efforts to have the crossroads of southeastern Europe constitute a source of creativity, friendship and mutual understanding and not of conflicts.
"We are playing a leading role in a really difficult but necessary undertaking, to turn the region of southeastern Europe into a neighborhood of peace, stability and development. We are supporting with all our strength the European vision of all our neighboring countries," he said.
"We are continuing, therefore, to work systematically to consolidate an environment of confidence, mutual under-standing and cooperation with the purpose of achieving the progress and prosperity of our countries and our peoples. We do not desire, and neither can we, permit retrogression nor tolerate situations which can, again, constitute a stumbling block in the course towards a better future," he added.
Meimarakis also stressed that "we are also continuing to work in this direction for an improvement in Greek-Turkish relations as well and for the eradication of tension in the region. We are placing strong foundations for the creation of corridors of communication with absolute sincerity, through a substantiated approach which aims at a better tomorrow. We hope that Turkey will do the same."
Addressing the Economist conference earlier, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said that Greek investments in Greece's wider geographical region are nearing 12 billion euros, adding that over 3,500 Greek businesses and 1,000 Greek bank branches are active in the wider region. Invested Greek capital holds second place in Bulgaria and third place in Romania. It totals 5 billion euros in both countries.
 Interior minister refers to measures to crack down on corruption and mismanagement
ATHENS, 30/6/2006 (ANA)Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Thursday presented the measures, interventions and legislative bills on cracking down on corruption and vested interests taken by the government during two years of governance by the New Democracy party.
He was speaking during the inauguration of an event organized by the General Public Administration Inspector and the Technical Chamber of Greece on the issue of "Electronic governance against corruption and mismanagement."
Pavlopoulos referred analytically to 19 measures taken by the interior ministry, since 2004, to shield transparency and to crack down on corruption through the General Public Administration Inspector and the Public Administration Inspectors-Auditors Corps.
The minister further said that steps taken in this direction have already become visible since the latest report by "International Transparency" shows that Greece is on a good path, while the report by the General Public Administration Inspector for 2005 reveals those phenomena of transparency principle violation decreased from 4.85 percent to 2.5 percent.
 Greece's alternate permanent representative addresses UN
NEW YORK, 30/6/2006 (ANA-MPA/P. Panayiotou)Greece's alternate permanent representative at the UN, Maria Telalian, on Thursday addressed an open Security Council session on "The protection of non-combatants in armed conflicts."
"In the event that the protection of non-combatants is not secured by states, the Security Council must authorize the sending of strong peacekeeping missions for the protection of non-combatants, including refugees and displaced people, from attacks," she said.
Telalian said at the beginning of her address that "Greece co-signs the intervention to be made by the Austrian Permanent Representative, representing the European Union", adding that "we also co-sign the intervention to be made by Slovenia on behalf of the Human Security Network."
 ADAE delivers findings on phone-tapping plot to Parliament
ATHENS, 30/6/2006 (ANA)The findings of the Authority of Assurance of Information and Communication Privacy and Security (ADAE) on the mobile phone-tapping scandal through the Vodafone Greece network were distributed to members of Parliament's Institutions and Transparency Committee on Thursday and will be examined this coming Wednesday.
ADAE president Andreas Lambrinopoulos delivered the authority's report to the committee's president Anastasios Karamarios on Wednesday.
Lambrinopoulos mentions in a letter addressed to Karamarios that the ADAE findings include evidence that - if used by parliament, the responsible government ministries and Greek justice - can contribute to unveiling both those who eavesdropped on phone conversations and those who allowed the whole phone-tapping plot to take place. He also added that the results of the ADAE investigation are enough to lead to solving the phone-tapping case and ADAE should not wait for the completion of internal investigations by the companies Ericsson and Vodafone.
The phone-tapping plot involving Greece's top mobile phone provider Vodafone was revealed by the government in February, after a nearly year-long covert investigation by the authorities had failed to find those responsible. The roughly 100 phones that were tapped included those of the prime minister, members of the government, high-ranking police and armed forces personnel, activists, journalists, business people and even one U.S. Embassy employee.
It was first brought to the government's attention in March 2005 by Vodafone Greece chief executive George Koronias, who said it operated through a piece of sophisticated intruder software that had activated a legal "low-phone interception" system developed by Ericsson to allow legal phone surveillance but was able to mask its presence when inactive.
 Poll shows citizens want university sit-ins to stop
ATHENS, 30/6/2006 (ANA)An opinion poll conducted by research firm VPRC for Athens daily Kathimerini and Skai private radio and television station on June 15-19 on a sample of 1,200 people showed that the majority of the respondents want the university sit-ins to end, according to the results appearing on Thursday.
Specifically, 55 percent of the respondents said that the university sit-ins should stop while 39 percent believe that they should continue. However, 73 percent of the respondents aged 18-24 are in favor of sit-ins.
At the same time, 53 percent of those polled said that they are uninformed on the proposed reforms in higher education and only 25 percent said that they are satisfied with the way universities operate. Regarding the way the government is handling the situation, 84 percent want the dialogue to continue and call on the education ministry not to table the draft reform bill.
Also, 67 percent believe that the number of university students in Greece is excessive, while 70 percent support the imposition of time limits on the number of university attendance years, and call for an end to be put to the phenomenon of the so-called "eternal students".
 PASOK party leader chairs Election Campaign Committee
ATHENS, 30/6/2006 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou chaired the first meeting of the party's Election Campaign Committee on Thursday that focused on the allocation of responsibilities and issues of a procedural nature.
Replying to questions by the press on the expulsion from the party of "rebel" candidates who will run in October's local elections without party consent, Election Campaign Committee member and former General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) president Christos Polyzogopoulos said that "I think that they must respect procedures and the those who observed them" and pointed out that "it is self-evident that they themselves must take their decisions in relation to PASOK's unified course."
On her part, PASOK Deputy Anna Diamantopoulou, told reporters that "opinion polls ring little bells or bells for the government as well, and for PASOK of course. However, they are no prognosis, nor do they determine the result as was proved in Germany and in Italy" and indicated that "sufficient time is necessary to reverse the climate."
Asked to comment on whether PASOK has the "luxury" of making expulsions now in relation to "rebel" tickets, Diamantopoulou said that "PASOK is an open and democratic party, but it is not a free-for-all. Rules and terms exist and when they are infringed crudely the party must react."
 Athens mayoral candidate Spyros Halvatzis presents ticket
ATHENS, 30/6/2006 (ANA)Athens mayoral candidate Spyros Halvatzis presented his ticket for October's municipal elections on Thursday evening, stressing that "we shall continue our struggling and contesting course steadfastly and unwaveringly."
Halvatzis said that "our ticket is the result of the agreement on overall cooperation in the municipal and prefectural elections in October, which took place between the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI), the Communist Renewal and the Intervention of Leftist Citizens. An agreement that is proceeding creatively and has already produced the first fruit."
He criticized the other mayoral candidates, Nikitas Kaklamanis and Costas Skandalidis, of "promoting, from whatever position they found themselves in, the policy serving full compliance with the mandates of the European Union, the EMU and the new world order."
Halvatzis also pointed out that "Athens is not only the capital of the country. It is a pilot for every anti-popular measure, for every anti-labor option and direction. They start from here. The signal, conception and policy are given from here."
 Holy Synod gives official luncheon for autocephalous church representatives
ATHENS, 30/6/2006 (ANA)Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos on Thursday addressed the official luncheon hosted by the Holy Synod, in the presence of Deputy Education Minister George Kalos, in honor of the representatives of the autocephalous churches that attended celebrations in memory of the Apostle Paul.
The Archbishop pointed out that "Christianity is being fought", adding that "our era is going along its path and ignoring, unfortunately, the message and the presence of the Christian Church."
He further said that "we must be vigilant because we are losing youth today and this is taking place because we are speaking on a different frequency. Most of us preoccupy ourselves with void work, with the 'serving' of formalities, with how we will belittle and harm each other."
Earlier, a letter by Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos was read.
Kalos wished, on his part, "in a world suffering from many insuperable problems, may the preachings of the Apostles Peter and Paul constitute the base of the overall set of life values for all of us and, mainly, young people who are seeking an exit from modern-day deadlocks."
A church service was held on Thursday afternoon on the Arios Pagos hill, under the Acropolis, officiated over by the Archbishop in the presence of Holy Synod members, representatives of the Orthodox autocephalous churches, authorities and many Athenians.
 Book of condolences at Russian embassy for slain employees
ATHENS, 30/6/2006 (ANA)The Russian embassy in Athens will open a book of condolences at its premises -- 28, Nik. Lytra St. in the Paleo Psychiko district -- on Friday in the wake of the killing of four employees of the Russian embassy in Baghdad earlier in the week.
"Whatever slogans and references to religious motives the terrorists hide behind, they are not human beings, having neither honor, nor conscience nor faith," a Russian ministry statement released by the embassy noted on Thursday.
"We strongly demand from the Iraqi government and the command of the multinational forces to undertake all possible efforts so that nobody of those involved in the crime against our citizens escapes the deserved punishment. It is the coalition forces who bear the responsibility for providing security for Iraq, including the protection of foreign diplomatic missions and their members. We had applied repeatedly to the command of the foreign military forces and insisted that appropriate measures had to be taken," the statement reads, while adding that "at this grave moment we must recognise that Iraq has become an arena for terrorist actions ..."
 USS Cole docks in Piraeus on way to Mideast
PIREUS, 30/6/2006 (ANA)The US naval vessel often associated with a milestone al-Qaida attack less than a year before the dastardly Sept. 11 strikes, the USS Cole (DDG 67), arrived at the port of Piraeus this week for a regularly scheduled call, blemish-less and battle ready.
In brief comments aboard the Aegis-class destroyer on Thursday, Cmdr. Bradley Roberson dismissed any notion of the Cole being a "permanent target", saying that the vessel faces the same risks as other warships from terrorists. He stressed, however, that the seaborne suicide attack against the ship as it refueled off Aden, Yemen in October 2000 served as a "wake-up call" to navies around the world and utterly transformed the way the US Navy protects its vessels from "unorthodox threats".
"I feel very honored to take this ship back to the Persian Gulf," Roberson said of his Norfolk, Va.-based warship, while adding that the Cole's presence on the world's seas and shipping lanes demonstrates the US Navy's fortitude and determination.
The USS Cole left Virginia earlier this month for its first Middle East deployment since the 2000 terrorist attack blew a hole in its port side, killing 17 sailors and injuring 35 others.
 EU welcomes Greek drive to absorb funds
BRUSSELS, 30/6/2006 (ANA-MPA/V Demiris)The European Union's executive Commission on Thursday welcomed Greece's drive to accelerate the absorption of funds from the bloc.
A spokeswoman for EU regional policy commissioner Danuta Hubner said it was hoped that the country would absorb its entire allocation by the appointed time.
Hubner had conveyed the message to senior visiting Greek officials, Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis and Deputy Finance Minister Christos Folias, the spokeswoman said. Earlier in the day, Hubner had stated her satisfaction in a written statement saying Greece had made progress in harmonizing management and control procedures to EU law for public works contracts under the European Regional Development Fund and within the Third Community Support Framework of funds.
The Commission's favorable evaluation meant that a long-standing problem had been resolved, the statement said.
It also signals the end of monitoring by Brussels of management of public works contracts in Greece.
 Capital Markets Commission approves Credit Agricole's plan to buy Emporiki Bank
ATHENS, 30/6/2006 (ANA)Greece's Capital Markets Commission on Thursday approved Credit Agricole's information bulletin on a public offer to buy 100 percent in Emporiki Bank.
The French bank unveiled a public offer, on June 13, to acquire Emporiki Bank at 23.5 euros per share in cash, valuing the Greek bank at 3.1 billion euros.
The offer is 0.3 pct higher compared with Emporiki Bank's share price of June 9th and up 0.6 pct from its average share price in the week ending June 9.
 National Bank union sues chairman over Turkish buyout
ATHENS, 30/6/2006 (ANA)The staff union at Athens-quoted National Bank of Greece on Thursday sued leaders of the country's largest bank for alleged fraud and breach of faith in its planned acquisition of Turkey's Finansbank.
In its capacity as shareholder, the union launched proceedings against Chairman Takis Arapoglou, who is also managing director and his deputy at the state-run bank in its capacity as shareholder. Staff own 436,214 stocks.
The union said in a statement that it had brought charges against the two executives for knowingly withholding and distorting information between March and June 2006 in order to convince management and shareholders that the acquisition was a safe, advantageous business move.
The suit includes financial data demonstrating that that the price of the acquisition was much higher than the Turkish bank's real value, constituting a high-risk and wrong investment that directly hurt National's interest. It also charges that due diligence has not been carried out, and no checks made on Finansbank's loans and bad debts, the statement said.
Another major concern of the union was National's future dependence on the Turkish economy and the neighboring country's unstable political situation, it added.
 Combating tax evasion top policy priority, Deputy FinMin says
ATHENS, 30/6/2006 (ANA)Finance Deputy Minister Antonis Bezas on Thursday urged for a more coordinated inspection of enterprises with the aim to effectively combat extensive tax-evasion in the country.
Speaking to reporters, Bezas said combating tax evasion was the top
priority of the government and noted that inspections by a Special Inspections Agency began last weekend.
Commenting on budget revenues for the month of June, the Greek minister said figures would be released next week but stressed that budget revenues were moving within targets set in this year's budget.
 European Commission threatens EU countries for failing to implement railway services directive
BRUSSELS, 30/6/2006 (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni/M. Spinthourakis/V. Demiris)The European Commission is threatening to refer Greece, Italy, Portugal and Slovenia to the European Court for failing to implement the European Union directive on national and international goods transportation services in their national law. The Commission is accusing the four countries of not having created an independent security authority for railways yet.
The European Commission also decided on Thursday to refer Greece to the European Court for failing to secure suitable processing for sewage in 24 cities and towns. The time limit for this infrastructure to be activated expired on December 31, 2000.
The Commission announced on the same day that it decided to resort to the European Court against Greece, France, Italy, Finland and Portugal because "they did not observe EU legislation on the improvement of the extent of providing and using port facilities for receiving ships' refuse and cargo leftovers."
The Commission mentioned that the above countries should have prepared and implemented plans for receiving and handling refuse for all their ports by December 27, 2002.
Lastly, the Commission announced its decision to escalate the process of resorting to the European Court against Greece for a series of violations of EU legislation concerning public contracts in EU member-states.
The Commission decided to refer Greece with regard to tendering procedures for supplying various hospitals in Greece with medical products and also due to national rules which, in certain cases, anticipate the procurement of medical supplies by direct awarding.
 Greece seeks air flight link with China
ATHENS, 30/6/2006 (ANA)Greece was at the final stages of talks with Air China to reach agreement on beginning scheduled flights between Beijing and Athens, Greek Tourism Minister Fani Palli-Petralia said on Thursday.
Addressing an Economist conference in Athens, the Greek minister said that Air China's executives were expected to visit Athens by the end of August to discuss details of the agreement, while she stressed that talks were also underway with low fare airlines.
Mrs Palli-Petralia said the accession of Romania and Bulgaria in the EU was an historic development changing the map in the Balkans and established stability, peace, progress and growth. She noted that Greece, Bulgaria and Romania could jointly develop a series of actions aimed to boost tourism in the region.
 Greek, Romanian aerospace firms in cooperation
ATHENS, 30/6/2006 (ANA)Hellenic Aerospace Industry and Romaero, its Romanian counterpart, on Thursday signed a memorandum of cooperation in Athens. The 15-year pact was welcomed by Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis and the Romanian ambassador in Athens.
In the first phase, the cooperation arrangement will involve construction work on civil aircraft for Romaero totaling 20 million US dollars.
 Conference on maritime development to take place in France on Friday
ANTIBES, 30/6/2006 (ANA-MPA/N. Melisova)French European Affairs Minister Catrine Colona welcomed a Greek delegation, headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valynakis, at the Eleneroc municipal mansion here on Thursday evening, among other European Union Mediterranean delegations that will convene on Friday to discuss a common European policy on the sea.
The conference, taking place at the initiative of France, will be held a few days after the publication of the Green Paper by the European Commission on the adoption of a unified European policy based on reconciliation between maritime development and environmental protection.
Valynakis will be making an address during the first session on Friday morning, during which the Green Paper will be presented.
 No power shortage expected after explosion at PPC plant
ATHENS, 30/6/2006 (ANA)The Public Power Corporation (PPC) electricity plant in Ptolemaida, northwest Greece, where a powerful explosion occurred on Wednesday afternoon at a high-pressure steam pipeline, will be out of service for about a month, PPC said on Thursday.
According to the Western Macedonia PPC electricity production plants' workers union, there will be no electricity supply problem in the country, however, because consumer needs are being met by other electricity plants and through the importation of electric energy.
The PPC electricity production plant in Ptolemaida produces 300 MW of the 4,000 MW produced by the PPC plants in the prefectures of Kozani and Florina, northwestern Greece. It was built in 1974 and employs 700 people.
 EU raps Greece over corporate law
BRUSSELS, 30/6/2006 (ANA-MPA/M Spinthourakis)The European Union's executive Commission said on Thursday that it would send Greece a reasoned opinion on infringement of a directive on corporate law.
The 1999 Greek law renders valid certain capital increases in Greek public limited liability companies that were affected in the past by decision of the Greek government, and not by decision of the general meeting as provided for in the EU directive, the Commission said in a statement.
The decisions had previously been declared invalid by Greek national courts, the statement said.
 President Papoulias meets with the UGS presidium
ATHENS, 30/6/2006 (ANA)Hellenic Republic President Karolos Papoulias on Thursday received the Union of Greek Ship-owners (UGS) presidium at the Presidential Building on Thursday.
President Papoulias told the ship-owners that Greece is a major maritime force and this is a fact recognized by everybody.
The visiting delegation was made up of UGS president Nikos Efthymiou, Hellenic Chamber of Shipping president George Gratsos and Antony Chandris, John Lyras, and Anastasios Papagiannopoulos.
 Trade groups welcome trip to Japan
ATHENS, 30/6/2006 (ANA)Greek trade groups welcomed the outcome of contacts made in Tokyo by a business delegation representing 13 companies whose week-long visit ended on Thursday.
The trip focusing on foodstuffs, industrial equipment, tourism and building materials was arranged by the HEPO exports board, the Association of Northern Greek Exporters, and the Greek-Japanese Chamber of Commerce.
It was backed by JETRO, Japan's exports board, and the Greek embassy's economic and trade affairs bureau in Tokyo.
 OTE telecom workers to stage strikes
ATHENS, 30/6/2006 (ANA)Workers at Athens-quoted Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) and its subsidiaries are to stage a 24-hour nationwide strike on July 7, claiming that management is trying to abolish collective labor pacts and damage industrial relations.
On July 6, staff will stage a work stoppage from 1200-1600, timed to coincide with a shareholders' meeting of the state-run company, the firm's OME-OTE union said in a statement on Thursday.
 Selonda announces 0.020 euro dividend to shareholders
ATHENS, 30/6/2006 (ANA)A Selonda Group annual general shareholders' meeting on Thursday approved a board plan to pay a 0.020 euros per share dividend to shareholders, after skipping payment in 2004.
The meeting also elected Mr Alsarraf Suleiman SS, chief executive of Jazan Development Company, as a new member of the board. The Saudi Arabian company holds a 10 percent stake in Selonda.
The group's board said it expected this year's turnover to reach 70 million euros and after tax and minorities profits of 6.3 million euros.
The shareholders' meeting approved a board plan to buy back up to 10 percent of the group's shares in the next 12 months at a minimum price of one euro and maximum price three euros.
 Greece wins two distinctions in Europa Nostra Awards
MADRID, 30/6/2006 (ANA)Greece has won two diplomas in the annual "European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Awards", which were presented Wednesday to 34 Laureates from 22 countries at the prestigious European Heritage Awards 2005 Ceremony, held at the Palacia Real de El Pardo in Madrid.
The ceremony was presided over by Queen Sophía of Spain, Patron of Hispania Nostra, Europa Nostra's country representation in Spain and attended by laureates, dignitaries, representatives from the public sector and civil society involved in heritage conservation and enhancement at all levels - local, regional, national and European, and Jan Figel, European Commission member responsible for Education, Training, Culture and Multilingualism.
Greece was awarded two diplomas, in the categories of "Cultural Landscapes" for its Unification of the Archeological Sites Around the Athens Acropolis project, and in the "Archaeological Sites" category for its Arcadian Gate and City Wall in Ancient Messene project for accurate anastylosis and functional restoration of the site.
Greece's Ministry of Culture shared the diplomas with the 1st Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities in the Acropolis project, and with the Archaeological Society of Athens in the Arcadian Gate project.
Dr. Alkisti Choremi, professional advisor in the Acropolis project, and architect Eleni-Anna Chlepa in the Arcadian Gate project, received the awards at the ceremony.
According to Europa Nostra, the diploma for the Unification of the Archaeological Sites Around the Acropolis project was awarded in recognition "for the creation of a vast archaeological park in the historic centre of Athens which has clarified the ancient topography of the area and greatly enriched the experience of visitors.
It said that this "ambitious seven-year program to unify four archaeological sites around the Acropolis - the Slopes of the Acropolis, the Ancient Agora and Areopagus Hill, the Roman Agora and Library of Hadrian, and the Western Hills was completed in 2004. This resulted in the creation of an extensive archaeological park covering an area of some 1,500,000 m² in the heart of the densely populated city.
"Under discussion for decades, the issue had been continuously postponed due to the numerous obstacles to be overcome. Finally, major road axes bisecting the sites were paved over for pedestrian use to form the underlying unifying factor of the concept. The sites were cleared of waste material and vegetation, important monuments restored and rendered more legible, new finds revealed, fencing erected, sheds constructed for the display of moveable finds and in situ protection of fragile remains. Functional infrastructure, such as ticket houses, was also built. The ancient street network was revived through the creation of an organized route for visitors, complete with signposting and information panels, greatly facilitating access and circulation.
"Exemplary cooperation between all public authorities was required to bring the project to completion. As a result of these interventions, the continuity between all sites has become clearly intelligible and the number of visitors has markedly increased. Above all, the cradle of democracy and civilization - a symbol of European values and identity - has been significantly enhanced," Europa Nostra said.
The diploma for the Arcadian Gate and City Wall, Ancient Messene project was awarded in recognition for the "accurate anastylosis and functional restoration of a rare and representative example of Hellenistic defensive architecture situated in the southern Peloponnesus".
According to Europea Nostra, "Ancient Messene is a well-preserved example of an ordinary ancient Greek city unaffected by successive layers of occupation since its abandonment in 360/70 A.C.E. One of Greece's vastest and most significant archaeological sites, it is especially renowned for the impressive ruins of its monumental fortification - the 9.5 km long curtain wall flanked by towers at regular intervals with two main entrances, the Laconian Gate and the Arcadian Gate. The monumental size, circular courtyard and construction quality of the Arcadian Gate have made it the city's emblem repeatedly documented by early travelers. Dismantling of the masonry, particularly the cross walls binding the inner and outer walls, for re-use in other constructions, had provoked the collapse of some wall segments.
"The Arcadian Gate and adjacent section of the curtain wall up to 'tower 17' were restored from 2003 to 2005. Work involved careful archaeological and archival research and documentation, as well as consolidation and conservation treatment, identification and preservation of numerous scattered limestone ashlars, identification of the original position of the wall, and finally the anastylosis of the blocks to their original position. The rebuilding of six cross-walls with both ancient material and new concrete blocks was particularly important for restoring the wall's original structural function. A number of new blocks extracted from a nearby quarry were used in the anastylosis, and are subtly differentiated from ancient material by their finish and the engraving of the construction date on their faces," it said.
 Reading of works by Cavafy in Berlin
BERLIN, 30/6/2006 (ANA)A reading of works by renowned Alexandrine poet Cavafy will take place at Berlin's Martin Gropius-Bau next Thursday during a literary evening organized by the Hellenic Cultural Foundation and the Hilti Foundation in cooperation with the Berlin festival.
The event is related to the archaeological exhibition "Sunken Treasures of Egypt", which is being hosted at the Martin Gropius-Bau.
German poet Durs Grünbein will read out the works.
 Festival of ancient Greek drama in Austria
VIENNA, 30/6/2006 (ANA-MPA/D.Dimitrakoudis)This year's program at the Carnuntum festival of ancient Greek drama is dedicated to Euripides.
The festival kicks off Saturday at the ancient Roman theatre of Carnuntum, near Vienna, with Euripides' "Electra". The "Trojan Women" will follow in mid-July.
The Carnuntum festival of ancient Greek drama was introduced seventeen years ago by famous Greek-Italian director Piero Bordin.
 Prosecutor wants 14 charged for new trial-rigging case
ATHENS, 30/6/2006 (ANA)Supreme Court public prosecutor George Sanidas on Thursday instructed special examining magistrate Ioannis Sideris to press charges against 14 people, including nine members of the judiciary, that are suspected of involvement in a new trial-rigging case.
The charges involve five appeals court judges, one appeals court public prosecutor, a first-instance court president, two first-instance court judges, three Athens lawyers, a former Athens Appeals Court secretary and one private individual. Two of the judicial officials facing charges were former heads of the Athens First-Instance Court and four of the nine judicial officials are women.
The charges against them include repeated counts of criminal fraud, money-laundering, breach of duty, concealing reasons for their recusal from cases, and moral instigation to perjury. They are linked to major financial cases and decisions involving injunctions.
 US embassy to be closed on 4th of July
ATHENS, 30/6/2006 (ANA)The US embassy in Athens, including the Consular Section, the US Consulate General in Thessaloniki, and all US government offices in Greece will be closed on Tuesday, July 4, in observance of Independence Day, a US national holiday, an embassy announcement said on Thursday.
 US Ambassador describes Gambari's visit important
NICOSIA, 30/6/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)US Ambassador to Cyprus Ronald Schlicher described here Thursday UN Undersecretary-General for political affairs Ibrahim Gambari's forthcoming visit to Cyprus as important, expressing the hope that after his visit, the UN senior official will recommend that the Cyprus problem remains a high priority for the UN.
''The visit of Undersecretary-General Gambari is important event, given the role of the UN as the political interlocutor between the two communities on the island,'' Schlicher said replying to questions after meeting Cypriot Commerce, Industry and Tourism Minister Antonis Michaelides, adding that the UN's ''role as the political interlocutor is vital and has to continue.''
Schlicher also expressed hope that ''Gambari, after meeting and talking with people on the island will be able to go back and report to his boss that there is an urgency between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots in moving ahead on the process and we hope that Mr Gambari goes back to the SG with a recommendation that Cyprus remains a very high priority for the UN political engagement.''
He explained that it is "essential to find a way to move towards negotiations for a comprehensive settlement that would reunify this island".