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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-12-05

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

December 5, 2006


  • [01] Karamanlis, Prodi discuss Turkey's EU prospects, bilateral ties
  • [02] FM Dora Bakoyannis attends OSCE meeting in Brussels
  • [03] President to be briefed by FM on Tuesday
  • [04] Russian DM arriving in Athens on Tuesday
  • [05] Athanassakis takes over duties as PASOK party secretary
  • [06] Antonaros on Euro-Turkish, Athens-Nicosia relations
  • [07] Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos to visit Vatican on December 14
  • [08] SYN former leader meets with private TV station owners
  • [09] FinMin George Alogoskoufis addresses Parliamentary Economic Affairs Committee
  • [10] Gov't vows more economic reform
  • [11] Greece, Italy seek to widen energy cooperation
  • [12] Government, opposition on planned tax reforms
  • [13] Government, main opposition clash over dock workers' 'go-slow', port concessions
  • [14] FinMin meets with Northern Greece industrialists
  • [15] Russia's Comstar to buy 51% of Hellas On Line
  • [16] Athens Chamber of Commerce to cooperate with Dubai, Oman counterparts
  • [17] Branding needed for Greek tourism
  • [18] Security staff shortages delay flights at Athens Airport
  • [19] EU to scrap capital duty on raising capital
  • [20] Public revenue up 8.9%, finance ministry reports
  • [21] Athens Bourse Close: Stocks decline
  • [22] Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos receives Piraeus Mayor elect Panayiotis Fasoulas
  • [23] Int'l conference on Balkan region's European prospect
  • [24] Hundreds of disabled students enroll at Aristotelion Univ each year
  • [25] Seminars for taxi drivers to develop a 'tourism conscience'
  • [26] Police chief Anastasios Dimoschakis visits Peloponnese police department services
  • [27] 'Athens-Sparta - 8th to 5th Century B.C.' exhibition in New York
  • [28] Cyprus President Papadopoulos welcomed in Shanghai
  • [29] Romanian Senate Speaker: Turkish troops must withdraw from Cyprus
  • [30] U.S. would like to see Cyprus problem solved as soon as possible, says Ambassador

  • [01] Karamanlis, Prodi discuss Turkey's EU prospects, bilateral ties

    ATHENS, 5/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis received visiting Italian premier Romano Prodi in Athens on Monday for talks dominated by the two countries' bilateral interactions in the energy sector, as well as Turkey's progress toward EU accession.

    In statements after the meeting, Karamanlis stressed that Turkey had not actively demonstrated its intention to adopt European principles and values.

    "Turkey must realize that its progress in the accession negotiations depends on its progress in fulfilling the criteria and conditions it has agreed with the EU," he stressed.

    Once again underlining Greece's support for Turkey's European prospects in general, the Greek premier said that Athens was in continuous consultation with its partners in the EU on how to establish the right framework for Turkey, given Ankara's non-fulfillment of its obligations.

    Prodi, on his part, said that the EU should "leave a door open" for Turkey while at the same time clarifying that the criteria for accession were the same as those applying to all the other candidate-countries.

    He backed Karamanlis' view, however, that the number of accession negotiation chapters that opened or closed were a technical issue to be decided by the European Commission.

    "I am not fighting for one or more chapters. Our priority is that there should be something balanced," Prodi said.

    The two premiers also discussed the situation in Kosovo, agreeing on the need to support Serbia's European orientation, while Prodi revealed that he had written to his EU counterparts on the issue.

    Karamanlis stressed that a solution for the future of status of Kosovo should be accepted by all the sides involved and that the European orientation of southeastern Europe was a factor of stability for the broader region.

    In addition, talks between the two men covered cooperation on energy issues and on a Mediterranean level.

    The Italian prime minister stressed the importance of a Greek-Italian natural gas pipeline, which he said made Greece an "important factor" and differentiated supply from the traditional suppliers, such as Russia and Algeria. He declared himself satisfied with the time schedules drawn up and referred to Greek-Italian cooperation to supply electricity.

    Karamanlis also stressed that the construction of the natgas pipeline was a supremely important project for the European Union.

    They said that bilateral cooperation between Greece and Italy on all levels was excellent, while the Italian premier focused on joint action in the energy and transport sectors in the Balkan area, as well as in tourism through a "Mediterranean package" that offered both holidays by the sea but also the closely linked history and culture of the two countries.

    Questioned about the departure of Italian troops from Iraq, Prodi said that this had been a pre-election pledge that was respected and accepted by the United States and Iraq's government, while noting that an "open and deep" dialogue was underway even within the United States on what the troops of other countries would do.

    In response to questions about the euro, Prodi said that the common European currency was strong and that the European Central Bank was making the appropriate decisions.

    Prodi received by President: President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Monday received Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi.

    The meeting, which took place at the Presidential Mansion, lasted more than half-an-hour.

    President Papoulias and Italian PM Prodi visit 'Casa d'Italia': President Karolos Papoulias and Italian Prime Minister Roma-no Prodi jointly sent a message of peace, progress and humanity from the "Casa d'Italia" on the occasion of the inauguration of the Italian exhibition's second part focusing on the Mediterranean on Monday.

    Prodi received, together with the director of Casa d'Italia Melita Palestini, President Papoulias at the entrance of the Italian Cultural Institute, while members of the Italian community applauded enthusiastically.

    Following a tour of the Institute's exhibition premises, Prodi thanked President Papoulias for honoring the Italian community with his presence at the Italians' home of culture in Athens. He also thanked the Italian community for the excellent cultural relations existing between the two countries.

    "We have a duty, being countries of the northern Mediterranean, to build bridges of friendship and dialogue with the southern part of the Mediterranean," Prodi said.

    President Papoulias in turn thanked Prodi and said he was pleased to be at the home of Italian culture.

    "Being a Greek, I do not feel like a foreigner but like being at home. Everything here underlines our common historical roots," President Papoulias pointed out, adding that "the duty of Greece and Italy, as Mr. Prodi also said, is to set up bridges of peace, progress and humanity. In any case, these were the elements of our culture that always focused on man and remains so."

    PASOK party leader holds talks with Italian PM Prodi: Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi and main opposition PASOK party leader and Socialist International President George Papandreou ascertained, as they said, an identity of views on issues concerning the Western Balkans, relations between Europe and Turkey and the Middle East in talks they held in Athens on Monday.

    Prodi expressed concern over the situation in the Middle East, while with regard to the Western Balkans, and Serbia and Kosovo in particular, he stressed the need for the region to come closer to Europe.

    Referring to relations between the European Union and Turkey, Papandreou said that "time has run out and commitments must be fulfilled."

    On the question of Kosovo, the PASOK party leader also expressed the need for the linking of the Western Balkans and of solutions to the region's problems with the European course and, with regard to the Middle East, he referred to Italy's initiatives and noted that joint initiatives will also be undertaken in the framework of the Socialist International.

    [02] FM Dora Bakoyannis attends OSCE meeting in Brussels

    BRUSSELS, 5/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Developments in the Balkans were one of the main issues examined here on Monday during the ministerial meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis had the opportunity of discussing developments in the region, mainly in relation to Kosovo, with U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, whom she briefed on Greece's positions.

    Bakoyannis also had the opportunity of meeting many of her counterparts on the sidelines of the meeting and promoting Greece's candidacy for the OSCE's presidency, probably in 2009.

    Replying to questions by the press on developments regarding the issue of relations between the European Union and Turkey, in the wake of the recent publication of the European Commission's recommendations, the foreign minister said that there is no coincidence of views within the EU on the issue.

    However, she stressed that as far as Greece is concerned the shaping of a single view by the "25" towards Turkey is an issue of particular importance. On the question of Greece's positions, Bakoyannis reiterated that a clear message must be sent to Ankara that its harmonization with the EU is not an "optional" process and that Turkey's adjustment to the acquis communautaire is not negotiable.

    The foreign minister further said that Greece and the other member-states agree that Turkey's course towards its accession to the EU must stay "on track."

    Bakoyannis went on to say that in Greece's view specific time limits must be set for the reassessment of Turkey's response to the commitments it has undertaken towards Cyprus, through its customs union with the EU.

    Focusing on procedures to achieve a solution to the issue of Cyprus under the auspices of the UN, the foreign minister said that a solution to the problem is certainly feasible, but stressed that linking this issue with the question of Turkey's unilateral commitments towards Cyprus and the EU creates mistaken impressions.

    Lastly, Bakoyannis also discussed the issue of Turkey with her counterparts from Britain, Spain, Luxembourg and Finland.

    [03] President to be briefed by FM on Tuesday

    ATHENS, 5/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulis will receive foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis on Tuesday, according to an announcement issued by the Presidency's office.

    Bakoyannis will brief the President on matters falling under her competency, the announcement added.

    [04] Russian DM arriving in Athens on Tuesday

    ATHENS, 5/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Russian Vice President and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov will be arriving in Athens on Tuesday on a two-day visit to Greece. Talks he will be having in Athens will focus on the state of security in the Balkans, military, defense and technical cooperation between the two countries and bilateral relations and prospects of widening them in general.

    Ivanov will be meeting Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis at noon on Tuesday and afterwards, accompanied by Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis, he will be received by President Karolos Papoulias.

    A meeting with Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos will follow, while in the evening he will be attending an official dinner given in his honor by Meimarakis at the Armed Forces Officers Club.

    On Wednesday, again accompanied by Meimarakis, Ivanov will visit Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and then he will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

    Lastly, he will be visiting the defense ministry for a meeting with its civil and military leadership.

    [05] Athanassakis takes over duties as PASOK party secretary

    ATHENS, 5/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The new secretary of main opposition PASOK's National Council, Nikos Athanassakis, officially took over from the previous incumbent Maria Xenoyiannakopoulou on Monday, during a ceremony held at the party's headquarters in central Athens.

    He stressed that his overriding goal was to build on the work done by his predecessor in order to ensure victory in the next general elections, whenever these might take place.

    Athanassakis was nominated for the post of party secretary last week by PASOK President George Papandreou, in the framework of a major reorganization of the party structure, and was victorious as the sole candidate in a subsequent election.

    "We are facing a government that each day strikes blows against the many while supporting the few and favored, each day leading the country further backwards," Athanassakis said in his remarks during the ceremony and underlined that it was the responsibility of all PASOK members to "wage a victorious struggle" against the ruling New Democracy party, regardless of their position.

    He said his immediate priority as party secretary would be to obtain a full briefing so that he could "pick up the thread and take the work already done even further," while he thanked Xenoyiannakopoulou for her efforts in the critical period following the 2004 elections.

    Xenoyiannakopoulou underlined that the new party secretary would have the support of all party members for his efforts in his new position.

    The new party secretary also officially quit his duties as PASOK press spokesman on Monday, handing them over to his replacement Petros Efthymiou, who served as minister for education and religious affairs in the last PASOK government.

    Efthymiou stressed that he felt honored to be taking over a position of great responsibility and stressed that PASOK's principles demanded transparency at all levels and, in consequence, clarity in providing information.

    [06] Antonaros on Euro-Turkish, Athens-Nicosia relations

    ATHENS, 5/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The Greek government is in continuous cooperation and coordination with the government of the Cyprus Republic, stated alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Monday.

    Commenting on the evaluation of Turkey's European progress, Antonaros stated that this is the beginning of a long negotiation that will culminate either at the EU Foreign Ministers Council or the summit meeting. He also characterized the current stage of consultations as sensitive and reiterated the prime minister's statement that the European Commission's proposal on Turkey constitutes a negotiation basis.

    Responding to a question on whether there is a coincidence of views with the Cyprus leadership he stated that the two sides were "in step" and had the same viewpoint on the issues.

    Antonaros on the Siemens affair: The Greek State will assist all efforts to clear up every aspect of the Siemens affair, stated alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Monday.

    Responding to a question on whether the German government has made such a request, Antonaros stated that governments cooperate based on established practices.

    [07] Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos to visit Vatican on December 14

    ATHENS, 5/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos will be meeting Pope Benedict XVI on December 14, since the Holy Synod has accepted an invitation extended to him by the Roman Catholic Church to carry out a visit to its seat on the above date.

    An announcement by the Holy Synod on Monday said that "from the meeting on December 14, the Church of Greece expects more substantive cooperation with the Church of Rome on major social issues and continues to pray for the unity of Christians in every corner of this planet."

    It added that Archbishop Christodoulos "is looking forward to the upcoming meeting with Pope Benedict XVI for the creation of wider Christian cooperation and solidarity."

    [08] SYN former leader meets with private TV station owners

    ATHENS, 5/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) MP and former leader Nikos Constantopoulos met Monday with the presidium of the Association of Private Nationwide Television Station Owners to discuss what he called "the worrisome dimensions being assumed by the phenomenon of slandering of persons and institutions, with television as the tool".

    Constantopoulos told reporters after the meeting that it was "a sick phenomenon that harms the healthy operation of the market, and harms democracy and society", adding that "the jungle in the market and also in society and democracy does not spring up suddenly, on its own".

    Consequently, he said, "it is everyone's responsibility -- social organizations, professional unions, political institutions, independent authorities of a democratic state -- to confront such phenomena that seek to render some mechanisms into super-authorities that act without restraints and issue organized slander against persons and institutions".

    He said he discussed with the presidium "all those aspects of the problem, so that there may be regulations that will not invalidate or limit the field of censure and criticism, in other words journalism of substance but, on the contrary, will consolidate and weigh the lawfulness, so that the fundamental values of our culture are not seriously offended in this abusive manner...Because, in the final analysis, irresponsible journalism invalidates journalism itself".

    [09] FinMin George Alogoskoufis addresses Parliamentary Economic Affairs Committee

    ATHENS, 5/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis addressed the Parliamentary Economic Affairs Committee on Monday and presented the European Commission's Autumn Economic Predictions Report.

    "It is Greece's obligation to find itself with balanced or slightly surplus budgets in the years to come, until 2012 at the latest," he said, adding that such a thing necessitates the continuation of the structural reforms that have already produced results, parallel to strengthening the financially weaker groups of the population.

    "It is important that there is also backing for low and medium-level incomes with the tax reform we have presented," the minister further said.

    "I wish to stress that I am amazed with the scenarios coming to light on so-called burdens from the tax reform, because dissimilar things are being compared in these scenarios: Incomes of 2006 are compared with incomes of 2007, while the proper comparison should be for the same level of income, what would apply with the previous tax scale and what would apply with the new one," he pointed out.

    "You cannot compare different levels of income and say that a burden results, because a burden does not result from tax reform but from the fact that incomes are increasing and when incomes increase it is logical that the corresponding tax increases," Alogoskoufis explained.

    The minister reiterated that the fiscal adjustment effort will be continued in the years to come, particularly in the expenditures sector and the effort to crack down on tax evasion, and that Greece's exit from the excessive deficit process will be judged "after this year's budget closes and after the Committee evaluates the budget for 2007 once again."

    Alogoskoufis also mentioned that "evaluations made by the Commission so far are positive and our intention is to keep them positive."

    [10] Gov't vows more economic reform

    ATHENS, 5/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The government will launch a second round of economic reform if it wins national elections scheduled for 2008, Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Monday.

    The overhaul would be conducted on the basis of consensus, the minister told a conference arranged in Athens by the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce.

    Turning to the government's privatization program for 2007, he reported that the Post Office Savings Bank and ATEbank were slated for further privatization, and a strategic investor would be sought for Athens-quoted OTE telecom.

    In addition, the state's shares in Attica Bank would be sold, and the Mount Parnes Casino outside Athens fully privatized.

    The minister also reported that the government's development law had brought 2,159 investment proposals worth 3.23 billion euros that were expected to create 10,000 new jobs.

    Addressing the same conference was Deputy Finance Minister Peter Doukas, who reported that his recent trips to the USA and United Arab Emirates had revealed investor investment in Greece, especially from the UAE, in sectors including tourism, telecoms, energy and financial services.

    Nikos Christodoulakis, a deputy of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement and a former finance minister, acknowledged that the domestic economy had great potential for growth but was hampered by two and a half years of what he called an inward-looking approach to business.

    The US ambassador in Athens, Charles Ries, focused on properly managed mergers in the new century that could help to maintain a dynamic economy.

    The envoy cited examples in the US banking sector that had created giants in the sector although 8,500 small, independent banks were also in operation.

    "Competition is still thriving as new financing products are continually being created," Ries noted.

    The president of the Athens Chamber of Trade and Industry complained of red tape for business, a complex web of legislation and poor public administration.

    [11] Greece, Italy seek to widen energy cooperation

    ATHENS, 5/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Greece and Italy are seeking to widen their cooperation in the energy sector, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said on Monday.

    Reporting on talks between Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his visiting Italian counterpart, Romano Prodi, the minister noted that in January the neighboring country's economic development ministry would send applications to the European Union's executive Commission in connection with the planned construction of an undersea natural gas pipeline by the two countries.

    Involved are Greek and Italian energy regulators, Greece's Public Gas Enterprise, and Italy's Edison, who have been in near daily contact since the two countries signed a pact for the project in November 2005, Sioufas said.

    The Commission is expected to approve the scheme in April, opening the way for construction of the pipeline that will carry eight billion cubic meters of gas via Turkey and Greece, he added.

    Construction of the one billion euro pipeline is expected to begin in 2008 and end in 2011.

    [12] Government, opposition on planned tax reforms

    ATHENS, 5/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The government is fulfilling pre-election pledges and passing on to the second phase of tax reforms, which were made possible by the reduction of the public deficit and the high growth rates of the Greek economy, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said on Monday.

    According to Antonaros, the second phase concerned the taxation of income earned by individuals. Each year, Greek citizens would have to pay less and less taxes, he added.

    The spokesman noted that the greatest benefits would be for low and middle incomes, while 3.3 million Greeks would not have to pay any income tax at all because of an increase in the tax-free allowance to 2,000 euros a year. Another 2.5 million tax payers would see their taxes gradually reduced from 2007 until 2009, while pensioners and people with disabilities also stood to benefit.

    Antonaros additionally listed tax breaks for seamen, who would see their income tax burden reduced by at least half due to a reduction in the tax rate, and the abolition of stamp duty for housing rent.

    "The tax reforms return to the citizens the fruits of a great effort, of a consistent and efficient policy for the economy. We are putting the state's finances in order and yet another of our program pledges is being turned into action," Antonaros stressed.

    Reacting to the government announcement, meanwhile, main opposition PASOK's newly-appointed spokesman Petros Efthymiou slammed a series of advertisements placed in newspapers by the finance ministry to publicize the planned tax cuts as an "unacceptable and utterly condemnable tactic".

    He accused the ministry of using the taxpayers' money to inform the public that their taxes were being reduced when in fact they were going up and showing "complete lack of respect for the Greek people, who were having to finance the wildest propaganda of government policies".

    Efthymiou demanded that the ads be stopped and announced that PASOK would demand to see the Greek Court of Audit ruling regarding their legality in Parliament.

    "If New Democracy wants to advertise its government policies, it should put up the money from its own party funds," he added.

    "It is inconceivable that the 10.5 million Greeks that for the past three years have been asked to pay ever heavier taxes that are skyrocketing further in 2007, 2008 and 2009 should have to pay, along with these higher taxes, this government propaganda operation using the money taken from them by Mr. Alogoskoufis," the spokesman underlined.

    He also stressed that the publicity campaign was in no way connected to EU-funded projects, for which publicity was required by EU regulations.

    [13] Government, main opposition clash over dock workers' 'go-slow', port concessions

    ATHENS, 5/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The government and main opposition PASOK party on Monday crossed swords over the government plans to privatize several port services on a concession basis, which has prompted Greek dock workers to boycott overtime work in protest and disrupted goods transport.

    "The government is making a major effort to make port services more efficient, for the greater benefit of citizens/consumers but also the economy as a whole," alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros told reporters.

    Newly-appointed PASOK spokesman Petros Efthymiou, on his part, said the government bore grave responsibilities for the chaos in the country's ports, noting that this had dealt a serious blow to the Greek economy and was benefiting neighboring, competitor countries at the expense of Greek interests.

    He also stressed his party's categorical opposition to "the sell-off being attempted by New Democracy in the country's two largest ports," stressing that this was being done in an untransparent way and "concealed promises" that had been made by Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis.

    He called on the government to officially suspend the minister's "catastrophic and unacceptable decisions" and the tender for the concessions. According to Efthymiou, it was inconceivable in terms of the public interest to announce a tender without warning that offered 30-year concession rights to the most profitable activities of the Piraeus Port Organization and the Thessaloniki Port Organization, from which they earned 70 percent of their revenue.

    He also expressed sympathy for dock workers' reactions, saying that their jobs were being threatened, and that the government had responded by suppressing them.

    According to Antonaros, the government's proposals sought to triple or even quintuple the volume of container traffic going through the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, while Kefaloyiannis was talking to all the interested parties to turn the government's intentions into action.

    Commenting on the reactions to the proposal, Antonaros said that there had been "misunderstandings" surrounding the issue and stressed that there was no issue of privatizing the ports and that the labor rights of dock workers were not affected.

    [14] FinMin meets with Northern Greece industrialists

    5/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    National economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis met Monday with representatives of the Federation of Industries of Northern Greece (SEBBE).

    The two sides discussed matters related to the new development law, which enters into effect on January 1, 2007.

    [15] Russia's Comstar to buy 51% of Hellas On Line

    5/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    JSC Comstar - United Telesystems of Russia, which is control-led by AFK Sistema, and Athens-quoted Intracom Holdings announced on Monday that they had reached agreement for Comstar to buy a 51% stake in Hellas On Line SA (HoL) for 47.9 million euros.

    The transaction is subject to regulatory approval, which is expected in the first quarter of 2007, Intracom said in a statement.

    Comstar UTS a leading telecom operator that provides services ranging from voice and data transmission to broadband Internet access, CATV, call centers and VPN services. The firm's consolidated revenues for 2005 were $ 908 million.

    HoL was the first Internet service provider in Greece, and has been a member of the Intracom Group since January 2006. Its revenues in 2005 totaled euro 25.6 million, 40% of which were derived from services to residential customers, the statement said.

    [16] Athens Chamber of Commerce to cooperate with Dubai, Oman counterparts

    ATHENS, 5/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) president Konstantinos Michalos on Monday signed two cooperation memorandums with the presidents of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Dubai and Oman, Obaid Humaid Al Tayer and Salim bin Al Ghattami, respectively, creating new prospects of cooperation between companies in Greece, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

    The memorandums were the result of a formal visit by Hellenic Republic President Karolos Papoulias to the two countries at the head of a large delegation made up of government officials, the ACCI president and business people.

    Their objective is to serve the mutual interests of the signatories, boost commercial ties and encourage business cooperation, expand the available business opportunities, and facilitate the exchange of information and trade missions.

    [17] Branding needed for Greek tourism

    ATHENS, 5/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Tourism Minister Fanny Palli-Petralia said on Monday that branding was essential for Greek tourism to become more competitive than other travel destinations, especially new venues in the market.

    The minister was addressing a working meeting with sector agencies and the ministry's strategy consultant.

    "Greek tourism has for the first time recruited a strategic counselor in a project of such decisive importance," Petralia noted.

    "It is the first time we have had such a highly documented and comprehensive answer being attempted for the questions: What do we want? What shall we aim for? How can we accomplish this?".

    [18] Security staff shortages delay flights at Athens Airport

    ATHENS, 5/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    At least 60 flights from Athens International Airport were delayed on Monday as a result of staff shortages at security checks that have slowed down boarding procedures.

    The airport reported employees hired by a private company that is in charge of screening passenger hand-luggage have turned up for work in greatly reduced numbers since Sunday, even though they have not officially announced any strike action.

    Security checks are now being carried out with skeleton staff, causing long queues, delays and inconvenience to passengers.

    Since Monday morning, several departures have been delayed between 30 to 40 minutes.

    [19] EU to scrap capital duty on raising capital

    BRUSSELS, 5/12/2006 (ANA)

    The European Union's executive Commission on Monday proposed a phasing out of capital duty by 2010 in order to support the development of EU companies.

    Capital duty is an indirect tax levied on contributions of capital for capital companies and restructuring operations involving capital companies. The levy has detrimental economic effects and is viewed as an obstacle to growth, the Commission said in a statement.

    Today only 7 of the 25 Member States continue to levy it - Greece, Spain, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Austria, Poland and Portugal.

    "I consider capital duty as an obstacle to the development of EU companies. Abolishing capital duty is in line with our strategy to create more jobs and growth" said EU Taxation and Customs Commissioner László Kovács.

    The purpose of the proposal is to abolish capital duty and reinforce the prohibition on creating or levying other similar taxes.

    The proposal states a limit of 0.5 % on the rate of capital duty by 2008 and a phasing out of capital duty by 2010. It is also part of the Commission exercise for better regulation, the statement added.

    [20] Public revenue up 8.9%, finance ministry reports

    ATHENS, 5/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The Greek economy and finance ministry on Monday said that total public revenue in January-November 2006 had increased by 8.9% to reach 43.6 billion euros, up from 40.03 billion euros in the same period of 2005.

    According to the ministry, this exceeded the budget target, which called for an 8.3% increase in revenues during the period in question.

    It attributed the increase to a very satisfactory rise in tax revenue, which rose by 7.3% and again exceeded budget targets, largely through successful collection of Value Added Tax payments.

    [21] Athens Bourse Close: Stocks decline

    ATHENS, 5/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The Athens share index closed at 4,211.84 points, showing a decline of 0.70%. Turnover was 249.1 million euros.

    The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.87% down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks 0.21% lower; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.53% down.

    Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 161 to 90 with 62 remaining unchanged.

    Stock Futures:

  • Most Active Contract (volume): Intracom (1506)

  • Total derivatives market turnover: 96.0 million euros

    Bond Market Close: 10-yr benchmark at 3.94 pct

  • Greek benchmark 10-year bond (exp. 20.7.2016): 3.94 pct yield

  • Most heavily traded paper: 10-year bond, expiring 20.7.2016 (1.3 bln euros)

  • Day's Total Market Turnover: 2.1 bln euros

    Foreign Exchange Rates: Reference buying rates per euro released

    by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.341

    Pound sterling 0.678

    Danish kroner 7.517

    Swedish kroner 9.105

    Japanese yen 155.1

    Swiss franc 1.605

    Norwegian kroner 8.221

    Cyprus pound 0.582

    Canadian dollar 1.533

    Australian dollar 1.703

    [22] Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos receives Piraeus Mayor elect Panayiotis Fasoulas

    ATHENS, 5/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos received Piraeus Mayor elect Panayiotis Fasoulas on Monday, who raised a series of issues concerning the smooth functioning of the Municipality of Piraeus in the immediate future.

    Fasoulas referred to specific projects and actions that the city of Piraeus needs and called on the minister to provide the state's assistance so that they can be carried out.

    Fasoulas will continue his contacts with government officials and agencies in the coming days for a process of mutual briefing and dialogue.

    [23] Int'l conference on Balkan region's European prospect

    ATHENS, 5/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The Institute for Democracy "Constantine Karamanlis" will organize an international conference on the European Union Partners in the Balkans to take place in Brussels on December 5 within the framework of the debate on the European prospect of Western Balkans.

    The meeting will be held in cooperation with the Friends of Europe think tank, among the most important European think tanks, and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, major political institute of the German center-right.

    The conference will attend distinguished EU politicians and economists as well as senior Balkan government officials. Its objective will be to assess the prospects of political and economic stability in the Balkans, examine the EU role in the region and present the aspects of regional economic cooperation in the Balkans.

    [24] Hundreds of disabled students enroll at Aristotelion Univ each year

    ATHENS, 5/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    An estimated 200 persons with disabilities enroll at Thessaloniki's Aristotelion University's Schools each year facing no accessibility problems, according to the institute's Social Policy Committee.

    Accessibility to Aristotle University campus and therefore, accessibility to knowledge was the issue addressed in an event organized by the committee. According to figures available, the students with disabilities show a preference to law, teaching, archaeology and philosophy.

    Students with hearing problems attend private classes with volunteer interpreters using Sign Language, while students with visual impairments have access to special computers for the blind.

    The visually impaired students can move on campus with relatively few problems as they are being assisted by especially built corridors and sidewalks, while the floor numbers on elevator buttons are written in Braille.

    In addition, tens of special elevators, card phones, parking spaces and restrooms serve the disabled students studying at Aristotle University.

    [25] Seminars for taxi drivers to develop a 'tourism conscience'

    ATHENS, 5/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Tourism Development Minister Fanny Palli-Petralia, speaking at an event organized by the Panhellenic Federation of Taxi Drivers of Greece, announced on Monday the participation of taxi drivers at special educational seminars which her ministry is planning for all the professional groups which participate in tourism.

    The minister underlined that for the taxi drivers, her ministry will immediately start the educational program, budgeted at 1.8 million euros, which are directed to five thousand professionals and includes seminars for which will be granted a special certificate to all those who attend the seminars.

    The minister further announced that her ministry, in cooperation with the Federation, will proceed in the joint advertising and transmission of messages through taxis throughout Greece for the development of a "tourism conscience."

    [26] Police chief Anastasios Dimoschakis visits Peloponnese police department services

    ATHENS, 5/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Greek Police chief Anastasios Dimoschakis visited the services of the Peloponnese General Police Department, in the frame-work of visits to services throughout the country, with the purpose of upgrading the operational readiness and the response and effectiveness of police services.

    Dimoschakis chaired a relevant meeting and gave orders and instructions on issues concerning the police such as overt policing, handling crime and improving police services.

    The police chief placed particular emphasis on the preparation of the police to tackle possible unfavorable weather conditions and for increased operational readiness in light of the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

    [27] 'Athens-Sparta - 8th to 5th Century B.C.' exhibition in New York

    NEW YORK, 5/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    The culture and differentiality of the ancient cities of Athens and Sparta are being presented to the American public from Tuesday, in a "unique exhibition,", as described by Greek Culture Minister George Voulgarakis, during a press conference on Monday at the Cultural Centre of the Alexander S. Onassis Benefit Foundation, in Manhattan.

    Voulgarakis congratulated the Onassis Foundation, particularly its president Antonis Papadimitriou, as well as the National Archaeological Museum, noting that the exhibition, like others which have been presented by the Onassis Foundation, contribute in the direction of the projection of Greece's culture.

    "For the first time, two magnificent cities of antiquity are being projected in a modern multicultural city," said Voulgarakis, noting that "the best ambassador of Greece is its culture."

    [28] Cyprus President Papadopoulos welcomed in Shanghai

    5/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    There is a longstanding relation of friendship and cooperation between Cyprus and China, Shanghai's Deputy Mayor Feng Guoqin said on Monday, welcoming Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos who is on a visit to Shanghai.

    Speaking during a meeting they had here, Guoqin said President Papadopoulos through his official visit to China will get to know the country and Shanghai better and noted that on the basis of this acquaintance the two countries will be able to further promote their cooperation.

    Guoqin thanked the Cyprus government for its participation in the 2010 World Export exhibition, to be hosted in Shanghai.

    President Papadopoulos thanked for the welcoming ceremony and expressed the belief that this visit, during which he is accompanied by Cyprus Minister of Finance, and Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Michalis Sarris and Antonis Michaelides, respectively, and a large group of Cypriot businessmen, will effectively contribute to further strengthening and development of the two countries' relations.

    Traditionally, he added, Cyprus and China maintain a constructive and close cooperation in all fields.

    Papadopoulos said the world admires the achievements of China, which for 10 years approximately, has a rate of growth between 9 and 12%.

    He described Shanghai as ''the financial lung of China'' and noted the economic development of the city during the past few years.

    Guoquin said it is a great honor that President Papadopoulos chose to visit first Shanghai and welcomed him on behalf of the local government of Shanghai of the 17 million inhabitants and the Mayor of Shanghai, who is currently away for a meeting.

    Guoquin referred to Shanghai's economic development and noted that during the first ten years of 2006 the development rate reached 12%.

    He said that this is the 15th consecutive year that the development rate is above 10%, adding that 120 countries have invested in the city and 40 thousand businesses have premises there.

    He noted that the total GDP of Shanghai is up to 1000 billion yen while that city's port trade exchanges reach 350 billion dollars.

    The city, he said, is getting ready for the World Expo 2010 in which 90 countries will participate.

    Papadopoulos is accompanied by his spouse Fotini, Ministers of Finance and Commerce and other Cypriot officials.

    [29] Romanian Senate Speaker: Turkish troops must withdraw from Cyprus

    BUCHAREST, 5/12/2006 (CNA/ANA/MPA)

    Speaker of the Romanian Senate Nicolae Vacaroiu has supported the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Cyprus, adding that as a full EU member state as of January 1st 2007, Romania will back and support Cyprus' cause.

    Vacaroiu, who was speaking during a meeting with Cyprus House President Demetris Christofias, who is paying an official visit to Romania, expressed the desire for cooperation and further development of relations between the two countries.

    CNA has learnt that during the meeting Christofias elaborated on the Cyprus question and the latest developments.

    He also noted Cyprus' readiness to help Romania as a new EU member state.

    Christofias referred to the upgrading of relations between Cyprus and Romania in all fields, including the economy, culture and tourism.

    The Speaker of the Romanian Senate thanked Cyprus for being one of the first countries which ratified Romania's accession agreement to the EU.

    Christofias and Vacaroiu referred to the relations between the two parliaments, ways to strengthen them and the exchange of visits.

    Christofias invited Vacaroiu to visit Cyprus.

    The meeting was attended by representatives of Romania's political parties.

    [30] U.S. would like to see Cyprus problem solved as soon as possible, says Ambassador

    LIMASSOL, 5/12/2006 (CNA/ANA/MPA)

    US Ambassador to Cyprus Ronald Schlicher said he was gratified that there has been some recent progress between the UN and the two sides in Cyprus, to get back to a process, which will lead to full flown negotiations to solve the Cyprus problem.

    "The United States would like to see the Cyprus problem solved as soon as possible. Yesterday in fact. We think that the best way to get there is through negotiations between the two communities, using the UN as a mediator as it has always been," he noted.

    "I am very gratified that there has been some recent progress between the UN and the two sides, to get back to a process, which is going to lead, maybe a little slower than we would like, but will lead to full flown negotiations to solve Cyprus problem," Schlicher noted.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the island's northern third.

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