|Tuesday, 19 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-12-01
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>December 1, 2006
 Development minister briefs PM on IEA report commending Greek energy policy
ATHENS, 1/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas on Thursday briefed Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on matters falling under the competency of his ministry, during a meeting at the government headquarters at Maximos Mansion.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Sioufas said he briefed the premier on Tuesday's release by the International Energy Agency (IAE) of it's "Energy Policies of IEA Countries - Greece 2006 Review" covering the period 2002-2006. The report contains a reference by its authors that the Greek government has done much over the past two years and the energy situation in Greece is changing for the better, Sioufas said.
According to an IEA press release issued on Wednesday, the Agency com-mended Greek energy policy for supporting regional energy links, and also outlined domestic challenges on market reform.
IEA press release: "Greece is actively contributing to the creation of new and important energy links in south-east Europe and across the Mediterranean, and this is a commendable development," said Claude Mandil, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency in Athens on Wednesday at the launch of Energy Policies of IEA Countries - Greece 2006 Review. "At the same time, the Greek government should take care to continue with the introduction of real competition in its domestic gas and electricity markets, to ensure that Greek consumers benefit from increased market liberalization", Mr. Mandil stressed and added: "Creating fully independent system operators and strong measures to reduce the market power of the incumbents will be required to lead to a successful opening of Greek gas and electricity markets."
Energy infrastructure improvements such as new transmission lines are required in Greece, and these present a major challenge for the Greek government because of the need to overcome the strong local resistance to them. "Without this new infrastructure, important projects such as the introduction of renewables, and the reinforcement of the connection between northern and central Greece are threatened, with possible consequences for Greek security of supply", Mr. Mandil said. Increasing renewable energy production would help diversify the national energy system and reduce import dependence, while increased transmission capacity between northern and southern Greece would strengthen the reliability of the electricity system.
 Greece to reposition itself as a major energy hub between East and West
ATHENS, 1/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)The government is pursuing an active policy of increasing energy transfer through Greece and the international interconnections of the country. Projects such as the Burgas-Alexandropoulis oil pipeline and the proposed Turkey-Greece-Italy gas interconnector will increase security of supply in the region and beyond. The IEA welcomes the effort of the Greek government to support these projects and the regional integration through the South-East European Energy Community, of which it is a key founding member.
 Declaration by Ecumenical Patriarch, Pope furthers historic rapprochement between churches of east, west
ISTANBUL, 1/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)An embrace by Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos and Pope Benedict XVI sealed a historic meeting here on Thursday between two of Christendom's most venerable spiritual leaders, a symbolism-laden gesture amid ongoing and inquisitive deliberations around the world on how to dampen so-called "clashes of civilizations" and during a period when EU hopeful and predominately Muslim Turkey is coming under heightened European scrutiny.
Benedict and his entourage of cardinals attended a grandiose church service at the Patriarchate's Aghios Georgios (St. George) Cathedral in the morning, officiated by the Patriarch himself, the "primus inter pares" amongst the world's Orthodox patriarchs and the spiritual leader of the Orthodox Christian congregations.
The Pope began the third of his four-day official visit to Turkey by attending the mass celebrating the Orthodox Church's patron saint and founder, the Apostle Andrew, a service replete with the ecclesiastical splendor reminiscent of Byzantium -- nearly a millennium after the "Great Schism" that separated the churches of east and west.
The two church leaders embraced at the gate before entering the cathedral. Afterwards, the Pope presented the Patriarch with a golden chalice, while Vartholomeos gifted the Pontiff with a gold-covered 200-year-old Bible from the NW Greek city of Ioannina.
Earlier, Benedict and Vartholomeos jointly blessed a crowd of worshippers gathered in the Patriarchate's courtyard amid utterly draconian security measures in the old quarter district of Istanbul.
Among the worshippers at the Cathedral were Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic and numerous foreign diplomats, including the entire Greek diplomatic mission in Turkey. The Greek government was represented by Macedonia-Thrace Minister George Kalantzis.
In statements broadcast live by Greece's state television network, which carried the entire service as well, both church leaders emphasized the need to restore the "community of the two Churches" -- a canonical phrase for healing centuries-old rifts and misunderstandings -- while adding their satisfaction over progress in inter-Church and inter-faith dialogue so far.
Vartholomeos and Benedict later retired to the Patriarchical throne's main chamber for discussions, along with their respective delegations.
The Pope also referred to the "Ecumenical Patriarchate" in a brief rejoinder to Vartholomeos' address.
In the afternoon, the leader of the world's Roman Catholics toured the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, Istanbul's supreme religious and historical landmarks.
Following the Divine Liturgy service, both men later signed a common declaration in the Patriarchate's throne room recalling their predecessors the meetings amongst them, namely, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II, as well as Ecumenical Patriarchs Athenagoras and Dimitrios.
Moreover, they called on the faithful of both denominations to strengthen their prayers and endeavors towards the unity of the Churches.
According to the Patriarchate, the mutual statement continues a tradition that began in 1964 when Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras met in Jerusalem and later in Istanbul as well as Rome for the "purpose of deepening the renewed relationship between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches."
The declaration notes that "as far as relations between the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople (the official name of the Istanbul-based Patriarchate) are concerned, we cannot fail to recall the solemn ecclesial act effacing the memory of the ancient anathemas which for centuries had a negative effect on our Churches. We have not yet drawn from this act all the positive consequences which can flow from it in our progress towards full unity, to which the mixed Com-mission is called to make an important contribution. We exhort our faithful to take an active part in this process, through prayer and through significant gestures."
Moreover, the two church leaders added that "...at the time of the plenary session of the mixed Commission for theological dialogue, which was recently held in Belgrade through the generous hospitality of the Serbian Orthodox Church, we expressed our profound joy at the resumption of the theological dialogue. This had been interrupted for several years because of various difficulties, but now the Commission was able to work afresh in a spirit of friendship and cooperation. In treating the topic 'Conciliarity and Authority in the Church' at local, regional and universal levels, the Commission undertook."
 Athens again tables proposal for Gul visit on December 7-8
ATHENS, 1/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)The foreign ministry on Thursday expressed Greece' keen interest in rescheduling a planned visit to Athens next week by Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, a visit that was initially postponed due to an urgently called UN Security Council session focusing on the Middle East, a session that was ultimately pushed back to Dec. 12.
Gul was previously set to visit Athens on Dec. 7 and Dec. 8, with Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis herself briefing her Turkish counterpart on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Riga earlier in the week over the possibility for a postponement due to the UN session. The latter was called by the Qatari UNSC presidency.
According to a foreign ministry announcement on Thursday, Greece, a non-permanent member of the Security Council, was informed by the Qatari presidency that the urgent council session, at the ministers' level, was moved from Dec. 7 to Dec. 12 following a request by the UN Secretary General.
"Following this development, the foreign ministry communicated with the Turkish foreign ministry to reiterate its proposal for a visit by Turkish Foreign Minister Mr. Gul on the dates originally scheduled, Dec. 7 and Dec. 8," the ministry stressed.
Greek FM Bakoyannis is expected to attend the UNSC session on Dec. 12.
 Papandreou lashes out at gov't over foreign policy, social security reform
ATHENS, 1/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Thurs-day again sharply criticized the government from Parliament's podium, this time during debate over a draft bill tabled by his party regarding restructuring programs in deindustrialised regions.
Besides the specific provisions of the draft bill and related issues, Papandreou aired criticism against the government on issues ranging from foreign policy, social security reform to fees for preventative check-ups at public clinics and even to instances of police brutality against youthful demonstrators in Thessaloniki recently.
Among others, Papandreou, the former foreign minister, referred to an "autocratic rightist government", while in turning to foreign policy, he charged that there was a "communications gap" between the Greek and Cypriot governments regarding recent EU-Turkey developments.
On his part, Deputy Finance Minister Petros Doukas rejected the PASOK draft bill, saying it offers neither new ideas nor any effective proposal for the development of the provincesâ€¦"
Finally, Papandreou charged that the government has burdened the social security system with massive deficits.
Earlier in the day, Papandreou attended a luncheon in his honor hosted by the Entrepreneurs' Club, while he later met with journalists of Greek descent from Europe and the Americas.
 PASOK party's National Council convening on Friday
ATHENS, 1/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou has decided to make considerable changes in the party's organizational structure, changes that are expected to be ratified during a meeting of the party's National Council on Friday.
Changes will include the replacement of party secretary Moralize Xenoyiannakopoulou, who will be assuming the responsibility of organizing the Programming Conference.
Papandreou will be proposing party spokesman Nikos Athanasakis to be elected in the place of Xenoyiannakopoulou. It is not yet known who will be replacing Athanasakis.
The party's new Political Council will be elected during the National Council's meeting since Papandreou, in essence, requested the resignations of the body's members on Thursday to facilitate the election of its new members.
Papandreou termed the National Council's meeting a crucial milestone, that will be the first in a new course for PASOK with the Programming Conference being the second and the general elections, whenever they are held, being the third.
 Institutions and Transparency Committee ratifies phonetapping report
ATHENS, 1/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)The report by the Parliamentary Institutions and Transparency Committee on the phonetapping issue was ratified by the deputies of the ruling party on Thursday and will be forwarded to Parliament President Anna Benaki-Psarouda.
The report will contain an explicit reference to the harming of individual rights and of national security, following a proposal made by the ruling New Democracy party's Honorary President Miltiades Evert.
Opposition deputies walked out of the Committee's session after insisting that the investigation on the issue must be continued, while ND's Parliamentary representative Vassilis Manginas accused those who walked out of "petty partisan trade" in wanting the phonetapping issue to be in the public eye continuously so that they can capitalize on it and harm the government.
 Gov't, opposition clash over port services privatization
ATHENS, 1/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)The government on Thursday sternly defended its decision to privatize services at the port of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, the country's largest, with the relevant merchant marine minister stressing in Parliament that the port authorities will remain in the state's hands.
Minister Manolis Kefaloyannis added that there the government has no intention of changing the labor regime governing dock workers and stevedores at the ports, whereas shares will be offered to the employees' union.
"Our goal for the ports to turn Greece into the transit hub of the Mediterranean, tripling the volume of traffic with investments in Athens and Thessaloniki," Kefaloyannis said from Parliament's podium.
Conversely, rapporteurs for the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) sharply criticised the government and the ministry over the privatization proposal.
On his part, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said the initiative aims to triple the container capacity at the port of Piraeus and increase capacity in the northern port of Thessaloniki five-fold - a reply to a press question on why the government is proceeding with a partial privatization at the profit-making Piraeus Port Authority.
 International Tourism Salon Athens 2006 exhibition inaugurated in Piraeus
ATHENS, 1/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)Tourist Development Minister Fanny Palli-Petralia inaugurated the first "International Tourism Salon Athens 2006" tourist exhibition in Piraeus on Thursday, stressing that the professional promotion and advertising of Greek tourism in foreign markets knows no precedent.
Petralia added that state initiatives for the continuous upgrading and shielding of the quality of services provided are so substantive, serious and organized for the first time.
The minister expressed optimism over the course of Greek tourism, saying that it already constitutes the biggest "development machine" of the Greek economy, providing work, either directly or indirectly, for almost 800,000 people and contributing almost one out of every five euros circulating in the country annually (meaning 18 percent of GDP).
Petralia also said that new tourist investments that are being approved in the framework of the development law are more and larger compared with any other time in the past.
 Domestic market liberalization is a major challenge for the Greek government
ATHENS, 1/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)Unless further measures for market liberalization are taken, effective competition is not conceivable in Greece, and the benefits for the consumers from the legal opening of the gas and electricity markets will be significantly diminished. Measures such as the first tender for a private power plant, and the full privatization of the Public Gas Corporation of Greece (DEPA) are welcome, but will not suffice to achieve the goal of effective competition. Full independence of the system operators and the new regional gas suppliers, and strong regulation of the incumbents are further measures that the government could consider.
 Strong resistance to energy projects is a major hurdle for the development of the energy system
ATHENS, 1/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)To increase the resilience of the electricity system following the 2004 blackout, the Greek government has made progress in implementing a range of measures that have been successful in preventing a repetition of this event. Further improvements are now required for the future development of the country's energy system, but these are difficult to achieve due to a high level of local resistance and administrative barriers. The Greek government should consider doing more to communicate its energy policy, policy goals and constraints to the general public to help them understand the true costs of energy, along with the benefits.
 Greece has made significant progress in energy policy over the last two years
ATHENS, 1/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)"The Greek government has achieved much during the last two years of which it can be proud", Mr. Mandil concluded. "Therefore, despite the challenges outlined above, the IEA is pleased to see the significant progress made in the country's energy policy in the past two years, and is hopeful that Greece will continue on this reform path."
 Greece-Australia negotiations on social security bilateral agreement
ATHENS, 1/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)The completion of the negotiations for the Greece-Australia bilateral agreement in the Social Security sector constitutes the purpose of the visit to Australia from Thursday until next week by Social Security Secretary General Demosthenes Mammonas, in Canberra.
Mammonas is heading a delegation of the Employment and Social Protection Ministry.
The establishment of the agreement in question is pending for many years and its completion will benefit thousands of overseas Greeks, working people and pensioners in Greece and Australia.
This visit constitutes a continuation of the first cycle of negotiations which were held in Athens at the beginning of last June.
National Bank says profits up 48 pct in Jan-Sept, yr/yr
National Bank on Thursday reported a 48 percent increase in its nine-month after tax and minorities earnings to 791.4 million euros and said results included earnings totaling 25.3 million euros by Finansbank (covering the period from the completion of its acquisition by National Bank until the end of the third quarter). Excluding Finansbank's participation, National Bank's profits totaled 766.1 million euros in the January-September period, up 43 percent from the same period last year.
Commenting on the results, Takis Arapoglou, the bank's chairman and chief executive, said its nine-month performance confirmed the group's strategy in Greece and abroad, while he noted that higher profits were accompanied by the highest return on equity in Greece -and one of the highest internationally. The Greek banker underlined that "Finansbank profitability in the third quarter, in the wake of a turmoil in emerging markets, confirmed the bank's dynamism and strength".
National Bank said its loan portfolio rose by 17.3 percent in the January-September period to 34 billion euros, with retail loans up 24.4 pct, and housing loans up 27 pct in the same period.
A bank's announcement said an organic expansion in Southeastern Europe remained a strategic priority of the bank, along with new takeovers currently in process. Investments (pre-acquisitions) in the region totaled 30 million euros and were expected to reach 42 million euros by the end of the year. National Bank launched 60 new units in the last 12 months in Southeastern Europe, to a total of 350 branches by the end of 2006. After the acquisition of Vojvodjanska Bank in Serbia, National Bank's network in the region would exceed 600 units by the end of 2007, almost equal the number of its branches in Greece.
Savings deposits (excluding Finansbank) rose 6.0 percent to 45.5 billion euros in the nine-month period.
Finansbank Group reported net profits totaling 223.8 million euros in the January-September period, surpassing its profits for the whole of 2005, while the bank's share in Turkish market rose to an all-time high of 5.6 percent in September 2006 from 5.1 percent in September 2005.
 Bank of Greece governor receives visiting Chilean counterpart
ATHENS, 1/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)Bank of Greece Governor Nikos Garganas on Thursday met with his Chilean counterpart Vittorio Corbo, as the latter is currently on an official visit to Greece.
The two central bankers discussed issues of mutual interest and exchanged views on monetary policy issues.
Corbo also gave a lecture on the subject of "Monetary policy in Chile" and presented in detail macro-economic developments in his country as well as the positive results of a monetary policy followed by his central bank in an effort to ensure price stability and supporting economic growth, as he said.
 Naval shipbuilding conference opens
ATHENS, 1/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)Industry secretary general Spyros Papadopoulos on Thursday opened a conference in Athens on the naval shipbuilding industry and its related technologies.
Papadopoulos stressed to delegates the strategic importance of the branch and its comparative advantages, on which he said the auspicious prospects for the growth of the Greek ship-building industry in the 21st century were founded.
Such advantages included the modern facilities and equipment, the production methods and qualitative system, its ties with Greece's robust seagoing shipping, and the country's long tradition, as well as its experience and know-how in this sector.
The conditions for the branch's further growth included the use of new technologies and innovation, high-level orientation of personnel, specialized constructions and modernization, and investments by the business community.
Referring to the development ministry's policies aimed at taking advantage of the branch's comparative advantages, Papadopoulos noted the successful implementation of the Shipbuilding and Repair enterprises registry, as well as the efforts to streamline the Perama shipbuilding and repair zone, and the drafting of joint ministerial decisions concerning financial reinforcement for the order of new buildings, as well as reinforcements to the shipbuilding and repair enterprises and projects.
He further pointed out the positive effects from the development of this branch to the growth of other industries in such areas as high technology (informatics, electronic systems, metal industries and machinery industries), the transfer of know-how, and the related businesses' turn towards international markets via expanded collaborations, mergers and co-production (joint projects)".
 PPC, Enel SpA to submit joint venture for Kosovo power plant
ATHENS, 1/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)Public Power Corp. SA (PPC) on Thursday announced the participation of its subsidiary SENCAP SA (South Eastern Energy Capital) in a joint venture with Italian energy group Enel S.p.A. for an international tender in Kosovo.
SENCAP SA and Enel S.p.A. have set up a consortium to participate in the energy tender in Kosovo. The project includes the construction of a new power station of 2,100 MW and developing a new lignite extraction unit in the province.
SENCAP is a Greek company set up by PPC and Con-tour Global LLC with the aim to acquire and develop energy assets in southeastern Europe.
 Greek GDP up 4.4 pct in third quarter, yr/yr
ATHENS, 1/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greek Gross Domestic Product grew by 4.4 percent in the third quarter 2006 from the same period last year, after growth rates of 4.1 pct in the two previous quarters this year, the National Statistics Service said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in a report said investments rose 7.6 pct in the July-September period from the corresponding period in 2005, adding 1.6 percentage points to an increase in final demand.
Greek exports grew 7.4 pct in the third quarter adding 1.1 percentage points to the increase of final demand. The value of exports totaled 7.898 billion euros.
Imports rose by 5.8 pct to 11.273 billion euros. The statistics service said final consumption grew by 3.3 percent in the third quarter.
 Greek stocks end lower on Thursday
ATHENS, 1/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greek stocks ended moderately lower on Thursday as investors ignored a batch of better-than-expected nine-month earnings announcement by large enterprises and took profits in the Athens Stock Exchange. The composite index fell 0.25 pct to end at 4,220.50 points with turnover a hefty 731.5 million euros, of which 274.2 million euros were pre-arranged transactions.
Most sectors ended lower with the Banks (2.04 pct), Insurance (1.63 pct) and Utilities (1.55 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Telecoms (3.65 pct), Travel (2.02 pct) and Constructions (1.63 pct) scored the biggest gains.
The Big Cap index eased 0.63 pct, the Mid Cap rose 0.35 pct and the Small Cap index fell 1.35 pct.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 181 to 81 with another 47 issues unchanged.
Foreign Exchange Rates â€" Friday: Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.330
Pound sterling 0.679
Danish kroner 7.514
Swedish kroner 9.138
Japanese yen 154.52
Swiss franc 1.604
Norwegian kroner 8.231
Cyprus pound 0.582
Canadian dollar 1.517
Australian dollar 1.688
 INA to establish e-governance center in 2007
ATHENS, 1/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Thessaloniki-based Southeastern Europe Telecommunication and Informatics Research Institute (INA) plans to establish a Balkan training centre on electronic governance (dGovCenter) in 2007, under the aegis of the Stability Pact, it was announced on Thursday.
The project has the support of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), USAID, and informatics and communications companies such as Microsoft SE Europe, CSI Piemonte, and SRC.SI.
The plan for the establishment of the eGovCenter will be submitted by the Stability Pact to the governments of the SE Europe countries for approval, aiming at the signing of the relevant document during the next regional ministerial meeting on the Information Society to take place in the spring of 2007.
The first meeting of the partners in this initiative was held in Slovenia on Tuesday, during which a timetable of actions was agreed. The representatives also decided exploitation of the INA Academy's network of hubs in SE Europe as national training centers.
Funding has already been secured from the private sector, while contacts have also commenced for funding from national and international resources.
INA hubs are currently operating in Thessaloniki, Sofia, Tirana, Skopje, Belgrade and Podgorica, while a hub in Sarajevo is also due to formally commence operation soon.
The eGovCenter, in cooperation with the UN's Tallinn-based Electronic Governance Centre, will focus on four axes of action: training, electronic governance base material, events and exchanges of optimum practices and know-how transfer, and conducting research projects.
 Interior minister addresses Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce event
ATHENS, 1/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos addressed an event organized by the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce on Thursday on the issue of "New technologies, transparency vehicle in governance sectors."
Pavlopoulos said that combating corruption and the substantive promotion of transparency in all the sectors of governance, and in the functioning of public administration in particular, constitutes one of the basic targets of the government.
The minister referred to the previous 20 years, pointing out that conditions had been shaped that favored the rapid swelling of the phenomenon of the lack of transparency and the spreading of corruption.
Pavlopoulos further said that the government created a new strategy from the beginning to combat corruption and, as it appears, the results of this effort are now visible.
Lastly, he said that the combination of the creative utilization of electronic governance with necessary institutional interventions and the intensification of controls can make the difference and restore the citizen's confidence in the state.
 PASOK leader George Papandreou attends Entrepreneurship Club luncheon
ATHENS, 1/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou attended a luncheon given in his honor by the Entrepreneurship Club on Thursday. Later in the day he met with journalists of Greek origin who are employed by foreign media in Europe and in North and Latin America.
 Cyprus President Papadopoulos says Commission recommendation not helpful
NICOSIA, 1/12/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos said here on Thursday that his government is not pleased with a recommendation by the European Commission to suspend partially Turkey's accession negotiations.
"The government is not pleased with the decision because we believe that it does not offer any form of pressure on Turkey to comply with its obligations," he pointed out, describing the recommendation as "not helpful at all."
Papadopoulos said that the signal Ankara has received from Wednesday's decision is not strong.
"There can be no effective pressure on Turkey without a timeframe for a re-evaluation of Ankara's stance," he added.
The Cypriot President said that "everybody wants to send a strong message to Turkey and a message has been sent to Ankara, but it is not strong enough."
"Moreover, everybody should wish for, if not an incentive, effective pressure which cannot be exerted without a timetable for a re-evaluation of Turkey's stand, in order to convince Turkey that it has to comply or it will be subject to other sanctions or more sanctions," he said.
Papadopoulos refrained from revealing his course of action in the coming days with regard to the government's handling of the situation.
"I believe you all understand that I am not going to announce here and now how the government will move on the matter," he told the press, when questioned on future action.
On Wednesday, the European Commission said it was recommending a partial suspension of Turkey's EU member-ship talks for refusing to open its ports and airports to Cypriot vessels and aircraft.
The Commission said eight out of 35 negotiating chapters would be put on hold.
EU member-state Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory. Turkey, which aspires to join the EU, has so far refused to implement numerous United Nations calling for the immediate withdrawal of its troops from this east Mediterranean island Republic.
 Cyprus' economic situation a positive one, says Commissioner Almunia
NICOSIA, 1/12/206 (CNA/ANA-MPA)Cyprus' economic situation regarding the fulfillment of the Maastricht economic criteria for entering the Eurozone is a positive one, EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Joaquin Almunia said on Thursday, but warned that this course must continue during the next crucial months, before the European Council of June 2007 decides on Cyprus' accession to the Euro zone set for January 2008.
"Regarding the fulfillment of the economic criteria, so far the evolution of Cyprus is a positive one and I hope that this situation will continue to be a good one. in the spring as well," Almunia said in statements at a press conference in Nicosia on the sidelines of the conference ''EMU Governance and Euro Changeover: Cyprus on the Path to the Adoption of the Euro'', organized by the European Commission and the Republic of Cyprus.
He noted that he can not prejudge the decision of the heads of state and government of the EU-25 in June, regarding Cyprus, since he is still not aware of the content of the Commission's convergence report.
''Slovenia for sure will join in 2007, some other member states could join in 2008, and we have now two candidates, that we will need to assess in the spring of 2007 and these two countries are Cyprus and Malta," Almunia said, adding that it is still not sure if they will be able to enter the Euro zone, since they have to be assessed next spring as to whether they fulfill the economic criteria for accession.
Almunia added that the final decision will be taken by the EU Council of June 2007 that will base its decision on the Commission's report in May 2007.
"My message is clear. The final decision will be taken in June 2007 by the EU Council. We will need to send the proposals to the EU Council in May and our assessment will take place in this moment about the fulfillment of the criteria. We will publish next week a convergence report that is transitional; it is not the final one. The final one will take place in May before the decisions that the EU Council should adopt in June 2007 for Cyprus and or Malta joining the Euro in 2008," he explained.
The Commissioner added that "this assessment in May and the decision in June will be the final one. I can not anticipate the decision of the leaders because I can not anticipate our assessment next spring. But things are going in the good direction."
He also said that the work will not end the day Cyprus will join the Euro, on the contrary, the accession to the Eurozone is "a very demanding situation."
Almunia called upon the Cypriot authorities to preserve the very good macroeconomic situation, to improve and strengthen the practical arrangements for a successful change over and the communication efforts.
In his statements at the press conference, Minister of Finance Michalis Sarris said that he interprets the Commissioner's statements as "encouraging ones, in order to help Cyprus continue its stable path."
Our efforts now, Sarris said, focus on the continuation of the fulfillment of the Maastricht criteria, which Cyprus now fulfills.
"We will also do our utmost so that Cyprus continues more intensively the information of the public, so that any doubts turn into enthusiasm," he said.
Commenting on the same issue, Governor of the Central Bank of Cyprus Christodoulos Christodoulou said that the Commission's message to Cyprus is to continue its stability policy.
"These are the messages we have to take into consideration. We have to be able to prove next spring that we still fulfill the economic criteria for entering the Eurozone," he concluded.
Cyprus joined the EU in May 2004 and has set as a strategic goal to enter the Eurozone in January 2008.