|Wednesday, 25 November 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-12-12
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>December 12, 2006
 FM Bakoyannis expresses satisfaction on EU decision on Turkey
BRUSSELS, 12/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Monday evening expressed her satisfaction over an EU General Affairs Council compromise agreement regarding Turkey's European course.
Speaking to reporters after marathon talks here, Bakoyannis noted that with Monday's agreement, there was a unified stance of the 25 member states, with a clear message to Turkey. "The only safe way for Turkey's smooth accession course is its full compliance to European criteria and preconditions," she said.
"The European Union has decided, after a long and persistent debate, that none of the chapters relating to the Ankara Protocol on the customs union will open, that is, the eight chapters proposed by the European Commission. These chapters concern the free movement of goods, the right of establishment and the free rendering of services, financial services, agriculture and agricultural development, fisheries, transport, customs union and external relations," Bakoyannis said.
The Greek foreign minister also noted that after an intense debate, the 25 decided on a "mechanism of assessment and control of Turkey's compliance on the issue of the protocol which begins in 2007, with an emphasis given in 2008 and if necessary in 2009, with a special reference to the European Commission's reports to the Council of Ministers."
"In this way a concrete timeframe, with in between stops, is being established," Bakoyannis added.
Regarding the remaining 26 chapters, Bakoyannis said, it was confirmed that they would be examined within the standing framework of the Intergovernmental Conference. It was also secured that these chapters would not close as long as Turkey does not comply with its commitments.
According to the minister, the "clear references of the conclusions of the meeting to Turkey's obligations which concern, among others, human rights, religious freedoms, minority rights, good neighborly relations and the peaceful resolutions of differences, including the possibility of referral to the International Court at The Hague, are also of particular importance."
"The Council is expecting a speedy progress on these issues," Bakoyannis added.
"Today's results have confirmed Greece's correct policy and strategy regarding Turkey having a clear European prospect and concluding with accession in the EU. This prospect and conclusion presuppose the fulfillment of its obligations and commitments," Bakoyannis said.
"Our policy is summarized in 'complete fulfillment equals full accession'. We support the prospect of a European Turkey, we believe that Turkey can become a full member and it is her that should respond to the European challenge and to its obligations," Bakoyannis concluded.
 Greece reiterates call for clear EU message to Turkey
BRUSSELS, 12/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)The need for the European Union to send Turkey a strong and clear message that reflected the EU's credibility was emphasized by Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Monday, as EU foreign ministers met in Brussels to decide how they should respond to Turkey's refusal to implement a customs union agreement with member-state Cyprus.
Ankara has since refused to open its ports and airports to traffic from Cyprus unless the EU opens first opens the way for direct trade with the Turkish-Cypriots in the occupied north of the island.
Bakoyannis underlined that this message should make it clear that the EU was not shutting the door against Turkey, while at the same time ensuring that Turkey progressed toward accession in accordance with the terms and conditions set by the EU and its member-states.
Regarding a proposal for a review clause setting a new deadline for Turkey to comply with EU demands, backed by Greece, Cyprus and Austria, Bakoyannis clarified that this was not seen as a way of punishing that country, while noting that the European Commission's proposal to suspend talks on eight of the 35 chapters in the accession negotiations was not regarded by Athens as sufficient for sending a clear message to Ankara.
The Greek minister said that the EU's decisions should take into account aspects concerning the normalization of Turkey's relations with the Cyprus Republic, whose government Ankara still refuses to recognize, while pointing out that the EU was asked to judge a candidate-member, for which there should be solidarity between the member-states.
In his own address to the meeting, however, European Com-missioner for enlargement Olli Rehn said that he did not support the idea of a review clause or a deadline for re-evaluating Turkey's compliance with customs union, while he underlined the need to ratify the Community regulation for direct trade with Turkish-Cypriots.
 SYN comments on EU General Affairs Council meeting about Turkey
ATHENS, 12/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) Political Bureau member and responsible for the party's European policy issues Michalis Sabatakakis, commenting on the outcome of the EU General Affairs Council meeting on Turkey's European course, said on Monday night that "what is called for is Turkey's harmonization to the European acquis communautaire," adding that "the sanctions and the timeframe are pressing towards this direction."
He added:" What is apparently needed is the European Union's consistency and decisiveness in order for Turkey to fulfill its obligations, which concern the recognition of the Republic of Cyprus, the relations of good neighborliness with Greece and its democratization. Turkey's harmonization with the European acquis communautaire is also useful for the Turkish people and for Europe in its entirety."
 PM confers with IKA governor
ATHENS, 12/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)Prime minister Costas Karamanlis on Monday met with governor of the state-run Social Insurance Foundation (IKA), Yannis Vartholomeos, with whom he discussed IKA's new organizational program, and also instructed to speed up procedures at IKA so as to facilitate the citizens without delays.
Speaking to reporters after the hour-long meeting, Vartholomeos said he briefed the prime minister on Ikea's course in 2006 and the planning that has been made for 2007.
He said the premier was particularly interested in IKA and had asked him to proceed with the acceleration of all the procedures concerning the time required for finalizing retirement pensions, but also for speeding up appointments with in-house doctors at the IKA branches.
"It is the prime minister's standing order that we serve the people without delays," the IKA chief said.
Replying to a question, Vartholomeos said that the process of regulating the debts to IKA was expected to begin after the 20th of December, following the passing of the relevant law and its publication in the Government Gazette. "Many owe a lot of money to IKA", he said, adding that the Foundation will collect large sums from overdue contributions.
Tsitouridis meets with IKA and OGA officials: Employment and Social Protection Minister Savvas Tsitouridis announced the opening of a new IKA (Social Security Foundation) branch in the district of Stavroupolis in Thessaloniki during a meeting with local IKA senior officials on Monday.
The IKA beneficiaries in the specific area are estimated at 750,000 and the new branch will be the tenth to open in the wider Thessaloniki region. The minister also announced that a study for an 11-million-euro IKA clinic in the district of Martiou is ready while a new IKA medical center will operate in the Harilaou district. He also stated that plans are ready for a preventive medicine reference center and a mental health center for children.
Tsitouridis stated that the IKA services quality is constantly improving and less waiting time is needed for the issuing of pensions. He added that new hirings will cover vacancies in permanent administrative posts by 85 percent, while all shortages in health care personnel will be covered by 100 percent.
The minister is also scheduled to meet with OGA farmers' pension senior officials and announced a 50-euro farmer pension rise beginning January 1, 2007.
On combating contribution evasion, he said that efforts continue by hiring more personnel and by computerizing the social insurance funds.
 Meimarakis comments on election law after meeting PM
ATHENS, 12/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis on Monday said he was in favor of changing the election law in time for the general elections after 2008, allowing the winning political party to form a government with ease and proceed with the implementation of its program.
Meimarakis made the comment after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and clarified that they did not discuss the issue in question, adding that any decision will be reached collectively.
The defense minister dismissed criticism leveled against him over his position on changing election law, pointing out that his comments do not refer to the next general election due to take place by March 2008 but to the subsequent general elections.
Meimarakis stated that the EU Summit meeting was discussed with the prime minister, adding that a similar discussion was held with the foreign minister as well and stressed that Greece will go to the summit with crystal clear positions.
PASOK rejects debate on election law: Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) spokesman Petros Efthymiou on Monday rejected any debate on the election law.
"PASOK's position is clear and categorical: no debate at all on the election law," Efthymiou said in response to earlier statements by Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis.
Meimarakis on Monday said he was in favor of changing the election law in time for the general elections after 2008, allowing the winning political party to form a government with ease and proceed with the implementation of its program. He made the comment after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
According to Efthymiou "this regards tricks by the (ruling) New Democracy (ND) party which is at the start of a panic regarding political developments and uses the election law, yet anew, as a trick in which no political force has a reason to get involved. It is an internal need of the ND and not a need emanating from the political system and democracy."
 CSIS report on Greece's role for economic cooperation in Southeast Europe
WASHINGTON, 12/12/2006 (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)A report by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) which refers to the future of Southeast Europe and is titled "Economic Development and the Promotion of Investments in Southeast Europe", says that Greece's support in the accession of countries from Southeast Europe to the European Union "creates a geostrategic and geoeconomic bridge" between Greece and the rest of Europe.
The report - which also makes a special reference to the future status of Kosovo and claims that it should be independent - presents its analysis and the conclusions drawn, during an international conference which the CSIS had organized in cooperation with the Southeast Europe Economic Development Foundation and the Rochester Institute of Technology.
The report notes that Greece has expressed its support for the creation of a free economic zone in Southeast Europe, which will include Turkey, and has invested more than 14 billion euros in the region, while more than 3,000 Greek businesses operate in the Balkans.
 Gov't appears determined as opposition vehemently criticizes further OTE privatization
ATHENS, 12/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)The government exhausted all margins for dialogue and good will on changing the personnel regulations at Hellenic Tele-communications Organization (OTE), government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos stressed on Monday.
He was commenting on the finance minister's decision last week to table an amendment that changed terms of employment in OTE, imposing a regime similar to that existing in its subsidiary Cosmote that worked on lines closer to those of the private sector.
The spokesman also clarified that the bill gives an additional four months for talks between OTE staff and management, in order to achieve agreement on changes in OTE's labor regulations.
"If there is no agreement, the bill provides for a change through an act of legislation by the government," he added.
He pointed out, meanwhile, that talks between OTE management and the unions had already dragged on for nearly a year without reaching any agreement.
Regarding parts of the amendment that allows the government to reduce the state's share in OTE to below 34 percent and to hand over its management to a strategic partner, the spokesman said that it was an extension of the government's clearly stated policy of privatizations designed to make public-sector companies more competitive.
Roussopoulos also ruled out any extension of the deadline for both the negotiations between OTE staff and management and the date for selling off OTE stock.
The opposition on Monday reiterated its attack on the government's intention to further privatize the bourse-listed Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE), one of the biggest telecoms/telephony providers in SE Europe.
The opposition comes after a series of amendments were tabled in Parliament on Friday by the finance ministry, provisions aimed at opening the way for reducing the state's share in OTE to less than a 33-percent ceiling currently mandated by law. The opposition, including main opposition PASOK and the trade unions, also took umbrage to changes in state-run OTE's personnel code; overturning tenure-like status and making it similar to the code in force at its affiliated mobile service provider Cosmote.
A further privatization of OTE is scheduled to take place within 2007, part of the Karamanlis government's high-profile reforms.
On Monday, OTE trade unions blocked off the entrance to the company's north Athens headquarters, with labor leaders also threatening industrial actions and "sit-ins" at other OTE facilities this week. Other such actions were reported around Greece.
Meanwhile, a former top PASOK minister on Monday aired the main opposition's positions over developments at OTE, with MP Vasso Papandreou referring to a "sell-off" of the telephony utility via a "coup against the country's and employees' interests".
The head of the Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos), Alekos Alavanos, was even more emphatic in his criticism of the pending privatization, saying the "we believe the government of Mr. Karamanlis has surpassed all bounds ... it (government) is attacking the Greek people's purse strings because it's abandoning state property, namely, the most advanced and profitable public utility..."
 Greek tourism minister visits Washington
WASHINGTON, 12/12/2006 (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)Greece's Tourism Development Minister Fanny Palli-Petralia is currently in Washington for a working visit in the context of which she will have meetings with members of the U.S. Administration, Congress, mass media representatives as well as leading officials of the American tourism sector.
She will inaugurate an exhibition titled "The hidden children of occupied Greece", which will be held at the Greek Embassy in Washington.
On Wednesday, Palli-Petralia will have a working luncheon with U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns at the State Department, while she will also address an event at the Woodrow Wilson Foundation.
On Thursday, she will attend a working luncheon with travel agents and cultural editors to whom she will expound on the advantages of the Greek tourism industry and the great possibilities which Greece offers as a destination for alternative forms of tourism.
On Friday, she will go to the White House where she will have a working luncheon with President George W. Bush's homeland security adviser Frances Townsend.
 Trade delegation headed by deputy FM leaves for Jordan on Monday
ATHENS, 12/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)A large business delegation, headed by deputy foreign minister Evrypides Stylianidis, left Monday for Jordan, for the purpose of expanding and exploiting the export and investment opportunities, and also the establishment of joint ventures, mainly in the construction and tourism sector, as Jordan comprises the regional hub of international financial factors involved in the reconstruction of Iraq.
Representatives of more than 40 companies active in the fields of medicine, construction, aluminum, foodstuffs and others are taking part in the trade mission.
During the three-day visit to Amman, delegation members will meet with Jordanian counterparts to investigate specific fields of cooperation, while they will also attend a business congress.
At the same time, Stylianidis will, together with Jordanian minister of industry and trade Salem Khazaaleh, co-chair a meeting of the Joint Inter-ministerial Committee (MDE) on supplementing the legislative framework for bilateral trade and economic relations, aimed at reducing the risks entailed and at encouraging business cooperation.
Following the completion of the MDE, the two sides are expected to sign six bilateral accords: a Cooperation Agreement in Research and Technology between Greece and Jordan; a Memorandum of Understanding between the Hellenic Exports Promotion Organization (HEPO) and the corresponding Jordanian organization JEDCO; a Memorandum of Under-standing between the Federation of Exporters of Northern Greece (SEBE) and the corresponding Jordanian Businessmen Association (JBA); a Memorandum of Understanding between the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) and the corresponding Jordanian chambers JCI (Jordanian Chamber of Industry) and JCC (Jordanian Chamber of Commerce); a Memorandum of Understanding between the Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) and the Jordanian Chamber of Industry (JCI); and a Memorandum of Understanding between the Hellenic Organization for Standardization (ELOT) and the corresponding Jordanian organization JISM (Jordan Institution for Standardization and Metrology).
Jordan is the base for Iraq reconstruction.
Also, the preparations for the signing of a cooperation accord on customs issues and a Memorandum of Understanding in the area of renewable energy sources may also be completed during the visit.
Participating in the official delegation from Greece are officials of the national economy and finance ministry, the secretary general for research and technology, ELOT managing director N. Symferis, and HEPO managing director P. Drosos, while institutional agencies being represented include SEB, EBEA, SEBE, the Arab-Hellenic Chamber, the Federation of Photo-voltaic Companies, the Mediterranean Cooperation Foundation and others, as well as several NGOs such as the European Centre for Public Law and Solidarity, for their participation in developmental programs.
Jordan has a high growth rate (5-6 percent in 2006) and high export activity, with the port of Akkaba and its road network that links it with Iraq at the crux.
Jordan is also a member of the World Trade Organization, has an Association Agreement with the EU, and a Free Trade Agreement with the US, which allows it to export without duties and quotas and to take advantage of financing programs for the modernization of its administrative mechanism and its economy.
 Finmin meets Structural Reforms Committee head, Panagiotopoulos
ATHENS, 12/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)The Structural Reforms Committee will submit its proposals for reforming the Constitution by the end of the current week, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Monday after meeting the committee's chairman Giannis Marinos and ruling New Democracy's sponsor for the Constitutional Revision Panos Panagiotopoulos.
The minister said that the committee, which was set up by Alogoskoufis himself to handle economic and financial aspects of the Constitutional revision, will be related to those proposed by the ruling party and revealed that, on his part, he intends to propose changes to articles 79 and 106 of the Constitution that relate to fiscal policy and economic policy, respectively.
He said the change to article 106 was intended to give the message that investments will be protected.
The minister also clarified that the committee's proposals are not binding for the government, while ND's proposals are.
Panagiotopoulos stressed that the party was "open to dialogue" and had recently also received the proposals of the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE), Greece's largest umbrella trade union organization, on the issue.
 Northern industry welcomes new growth law
12/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)The Association of Northern Greek Industry said on Monday that it welcomed the government's new growth law as highly favorable for the country's north.
The new law, which is an amended version of 2004 legislation, contained measures that would particularly aid growth in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, Thrace and Epirus, the trade group noted.
 PASOK's V. Papandreou proposes on how budgets should be drafted and implemented
ATHENS, 12/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) head of the party's economy department Vasso Papandreou on Monday presented the department's proposal on how state budgets should be drafted and implemented.
"The current procedure has problems of effectiveness, transparency and the checking of the budget. The Greek Parliament usually votes one budget, while another budget is implemented. And the way with which a budget is drafted and implemented is of great importance for the utilization and effectiveness of the state's expenditures," Vasso Papandreou said during a special event.
She noted that "we should pass from the budgets which are passive tools and simply finance certain activities, in program budgets, which means that clear targets and indexes of evaluation of the result are given."
Papandreou added:"It has been proven from the countries which implement this system, that this way is very important for the confrontation of bureaucracy and introversion of the public sector, because at the same time the fiscal discipline is secured more effectively, and the social responsibility on all levels of public administration is strengthened."
 Fin Min says 'progressive policy is what moves things forward'
ATHENS, 12/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)The Research Centre of Progressive Policy, which was founded by former national economy and finance minister Yiannos Papantoniou, held its first event on Monday evening which focused on the budget and the economy's prospects.
The event took place at the National Bank of Greece's Karatzas Hall.
Speakers at the "premiere" were, apart from Papantoniou, National Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, who congratulated his predecessor for his initiative to create the centre and stressed the necessity for cool-headedness and contemporary thought, as well as former Eurodeputy Michalis Papagiannakis.
Alogoskoufis ascertained that "the economy's prospects appear better in comparison to previous years and they will become even better with continuity and consistency." The 2007 budget, the minister said, "builds upon the previous, not only of the New Democracy, but also of the PASOK governments, which handled the matter of the European Economic Monetary Union (EMU)."
He added that "progressive policy is what moves things forward."
On his part, Papantoniou noted that "decisive points of assessment of the budget are its contribution in the promotion of social justice and the developmental procedures and it will be judged from this point of view."
 National Bank completes Serbian buyout
ATHENS, 12/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)Athens-quoted National Bank of Greece said on Monday that it had completed the acquisition of 99.4% of Vojvodjanska Banka ad Novi Sad after obtaining approval from Greek and Serbian regulators.
Vojvodjanka was on the auction block in a privatization tender in which 11 banks in Europe expressed interest. The sale is the largest for a state bank in Serbia, National said in a statement.
The target bank is the sixth largest in Serbia on the basis of assets, and runs the second largest branch network there.
In June 2006, Vojvodjanska's customer deposits and loans after provisions totaled 342 million euros and 215 million euros respectively, representing a market share of about 7% and 4%; and the bank leads the market in dinar deposits at around 11%, the statement said.
In Serbia, National Bank of Greece already has 35 branches in Serbia. Its presence in retail banking accounts for almost 5.5% of the market.
Due to the acquisition, its stake in deposits in the Serbian market will rise to about 8% in deposits and 6% in loans, management said.
 'Basket of goods' price rises track November inflation, minister says
ATHENS, 12/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)Most of the 61 goods and services making up the 'Basket of Goods' index for Greek households showed price increases well below the monthly rate of inflation in November, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and Deputy Development Minister Giannis Papathanassiou said on Monday.
Thirty-six of these showed price changes roughly in line with inflation, compared with just 22 in 2003, they added.
The ministers also stressed that inflation in November this year fell to its lowest levels in the past four years at 2.9%, down from 3.3% in the same month in 2003, 3.1% in 2004 and 3.5% in 2005. Core inflation, which did not include fresh food and fuel prices, was 2.5% in the same month, compared with 3.1% in November 2003, 3.2% in November 2004 and 3.1% in November 2005.
Sioufas and Papathanassiou additionally cited a recent report by The Economist research department predicting an increase in foreign direct investments in Greece by 50%, increasing from a projected 1.6 billion euros in 2006 to 2.4 billion euros in 2010.
Overall investments increased 13.9% in the second trimester of 2006 and 7.6% in the third trimester compared with the same period of 2005, while the number of new start-ups in 2006 outnumbered business closures by 28,400.
 Intracom Defense in deal with Northrop
ATHENS, 12/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)Intracom Defense Electronics, a subsidiary of Athens-quoted Intracom Holding SA, said on Monday that it had signed a contract with Northrop Grumman for the production of the latest V9 version of APG-68 radar electronic modules for F-16 Block 52+ aircraft supplied to the Hellenic Air Force.
The initial contract budget is $ 2 million with an option to increase in line with future allocation of additional work worth of $ 8 million, Intracom said in a statement.
Implementation of the project is due for completion within a year.
Intracom Defense Electronics is Greece's largest defense electronics systems provider. It designs, develops and manufactures state-of-the-art military communication systems, encryption devices, command, and communication systems (C³), missile electronic components, radars, simulators, and testing equipment, the statement said.
The company, which is a registered member of NATO's vendors list, has products and services deployed in Belgium, Cyprus, France, Germany, Sweden and USA, it added.
 Industrial output up 1.6%
ATHENS, 12/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)The Industrial Production Index Rose by 1.6% in October 2006 versus the same month of last year, according to provisional data released by the Greek National Statistics Office on Monday.
The average Industrial Production Index in Jan-Oct. 2006 rose by 0.9% compared to the same period a year earlier, the GNSS said in a statement.
 Athens hotel occupancy rate rises
ATHENS, 12/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)The hotel occupancy rate in Athens and Attica rose in October 2006 against the same month a year earlier, the Union of Attica Hoteliers said on Monday.
Occupancy at five-star hotels was 61.01%, up 3.8%; at four-star units 64.22%, up 11.0%; three-star hotels, 59.4%, up 13.4%; and two-star facilities 53.74%, up 8.4%, the union said in a monthly report.
In January-October, the average occupancy rate was 10% higher than the same period of 2005, according to the report.
 Athens Bourse Close: Stocks rise
ATHENS, 12/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)The Athens share index closed at 4,259.29 points, showing a rise of 0.68%. Turnover was 292.4 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.62% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks 0.36% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.04% up.
Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 132 to 119 with 54 remaining unchanged.
Bond Market Close: 10-yr benchmark at 4 pct
Foreign Exchange Rates
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.328
Pound sterling 0.681
Danish kroner 7.514
Swedish kroner 9.131
Japanese yen 155.5
Swiss franc 1.604
Norwegian kroner 8.187
Cyprus pound 0.582
Canadian dollar 1.525
Australian dollar 1.697
 Getty Museum returns Greek antiquities
12/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)Two important Greek artifacts that were taken abroad by illicit trade in the past, a gold wreath and a marble statue of a "kore" (a standing young woman clothed in long robes dated before the 5th century BC), both kept in the Getty Museum in Los Angeles will be returned to Greece in the following months.
Based on a Getty Museum statement, the museum's board of trustees unanimously decided to return the two antiquities to the country of origin.
In a joint statement issued by Culture Minister George Voulgarakis and the museum it is stressed that there are plans for future cooperation between the Greek culture ministry and the Getty Museum.
In an unscheduled press conference at noon Monday, Voulgarakis stressed that an opportunity is being presented to establish a broad framework of cooperation between the museum and the culture ministry on issues of mutual interest such as antiquity loaning and exhibitions.
 Major infrastructures for human trafficking victims and the weak social groups
12/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)A central shelter for abused women and human trafficking victims will open in Thessaloniki by 2008 within the frame-work of development partnerships sponsored by the EQUAL community initiative, while transit centers will be established in Kilkis, Serres and Drama, north Greece.
In addition, two multicultural centers for immigrants and refugees will operate on a pilot basis in Athens and Thessaloniki while an employment observatory will also be established to assist the two social groups on employment issues.
Other two EQUAL program objectives are the creation of education centers for immigrants in Athens, Lavrio and Patras and the establishment of a volunteer lawyers' network for refugees based on the conclusions of the program's 6th Monitoring Committee meeting held in Thessaloniki in the presence of Employment and Social Protection Minister Savvas Tsitouridis.
In addition, a central organization-observatory for the Roma is also planned to be established to ensure the best possible way to economic integration for the socially sensitive group.
Addressing the meeting, Tsitouridis reminded that funding from community resources in the sector of development and manpower in 2007-2013 reached 2.229 billion euros while public spending was at 2.676 billion euros (recording an increase compared to the 3rd Community Support Framework). He also referred to the progress made in combating inequalities through the EQUAL program stressing, however, that there is still a lot that need to be done.
 President Papoulias' message to UNICEF telethon
ATHENS, 12/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias on Monday sent a message to the UNICEF telethon against violence and exploitation of children organized by the state broadcaster's TV channel ET1, quoting Einstein's saying "Mankind will not have progress even one step forward as long as there is at least one child that suffers".
"For many children in our world, a carefree life, play, happy school years and security are an unrealizable dream. These children live the nightmare of violence and exploitation," Papoulias said, calling on all to stand at the side of these children, be sensitive to their plight and actively show their solidarity.
 Event held in Athens marking World Children's Day
ATHENS, 12/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)An event was held in Athens on Monday on the occasion of World Chidren's Day, in the wake of recent publicity related to the sexual abuse of children.
After the event which took place at the Zappion Hall, Health and Social Solidarity Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said that he was "shocked" about what is going on at the expense of children, noting that "being shocked is not enough, as the responsibilities for all, which have been recently reported by journalists, are shared by all of us, the state, parents and society."
In his address, Avramopoulos explained the decision which his ministry has taken "to proceed dynamically, creating a network for the protection and safety for children."
 International conference in Athens on the decommissioning of nuclear facilities
ATHENS, 12/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)An international conference on the decommissioning of nuclear facilities and the safe termination of nuclear activities is underway in Athens until December 15 organized by the Greek Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) in cooperation with the foreign ministry and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Over 350 scientists from IAEA member-states are in the Greek capital to discuss issues concerning the cleaning up of areas hosting nuclear installations and issues concerning nuclear waste management.
The conference participants will discuss issues concerning legislation, planning, implementation, different techniques and the socio-economic aspect of the decommissioned nuclear installations.
GAEC chairman Professor Leonidas Kamarinopoulos stated that the conference is of special interest to Greece which, even though it does not have major nuclear installations, has to be informed about the international situation. He added that Greece deals with nuclear waste management problems linked to small units like hospitals and research centers. In addition, the competent Greek authorities have to be aware of how they can deal with such issues given the fact that a number of nuclear installations in the wider region have been shut down or are about to close. At the same time, there is increased interest on behalf of countries in the region to open new nuclear plants, he stated.
Currently, there are a total of an estimated 500 nuclear reactors worldwide that have to be closed down and thousands of smaller industrial and lab installations as well as hospital nuclear waste that need specific treatment in order to constitute no threat to public health.
 Indonesians trained in Greece on how to deal with disasters
ATHENS, 12/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Monday addressed the start of a training program organized by the Civil Protection General Secretariat for staff from Indonesia on how to deal with disasters.
Civil Protection Secretary General Panagiotis Fourlas made a brief address.
The program, which is being conducted following a request by Indonesia and will last until Friday, includes an introduction to the Greek Civil Protection system, with reference to critical parameters regarding prevention, management, confrontation and restoration from disasters.
The supervision of the presentation of the program will be made by specialized staff of the Civil Protection General Secretariat.
 Warm weather blamed for 'wide awake' bear population in NW Greece
ATHENS, 12/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)Unseasonably warm weather in northwest mountainous Greece is apparently responsible for the local bear population still being ... awake in mid December, researchers at a NGO dedicated to the preservation of the European brown bear announced this week.
According to reports, the bear population at a wildlife refuge run by the organization Arktouros, near the winter resort of Nymfaio, Florina prefecture, was still up and about this month.
However, biologists noted that there was little need for concern, as dropping temperatures in the coming days will probably send the bears into hibernation until March.
 Foreign national and two accomplices arrested for transporting 47 illegal immigrants
12/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)A foreign national was arrested by border guards in Alexandroupoli, northern Greece, on Monday for transporting in his truck 47 illegal immigrants.
Also arrested were two men aged 27 and 25, who with their cars were ahead of the truck so as to give warning in the event of police checks.
The illegal immigrants entered the country through Evros River with a dinghy, with the help of a foreigner, who, having driven at the predetermined point for their pickup, returned to Turkey.
The illegal immigrants had each paid 3,000 euros to arrive in Athens.
The truck and the two cars were impounded, while the three arrested men will be led before the Alexandroupoli public prosecutor.
 Greece finalizes spending on Beijing Olympics
ATHENS, 12/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)Greece is to spend 5.0 million euros from the 2006 budget on participation in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, rising to 15 milllion euros in 2007, and 10 million euros in 2008.
The decision was taken on Monday by Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and Deputy Sports Minister George Orfanos.
 EU FMs agree partial freeze on Turkey's talks
NICOSIA, 12/12/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)European Union Foreign Ministers agreed unanimously Monday to sanction Turkey for failing to respect its trade obligations to Cyprus by slowing down Ankara's membership talks.
Cyprus Foreign Minister George Lillikas has expressed his satisfaction with the decision, noting that Cyprus has achieved its goals.
The Finnish presidency announced that the ministers reached a ''deal on a common EU position concerning Turkey's EU accession negotiations'', which will see eight of 35 policy chapters in its membership talks frozen.
The Republic of Cyprus, an EU member state, has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied one third of its territory.
Turkey, a country aspiring to enter the EU, refuses to implement the Customs Union Protocol by opening its ports and airports to Cyprus.