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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-12-16

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

December 16, 2006


  • [01] Karamanlis hails EU's 'historic' decision to admit Bulgaria, Romania on Jan. 1
  • [02] Cyprus issue should be solved within UN, Karamanlis reiterates
  • [03] EU leaders agree on enlargement, EU-Turkey talks
  • [04] The EU Summit conclusions on immigration policy, energy
  • [05] PASOK spokesman, KKE comment on outcome of EU Summit
  • [06] UN extends UNFICYP mandate, Greece's Ambassador Vassilakis addresses Security Council
  • [07] Papandreou to visit Lebanon on Saturday
  • [08] PASOK Program Committee meeting opens
  • [09] ADAE says phone-tapping issue could have placed national security in danger
  • [10] OTE amendment in line with government program, PM says
  • [11] Government has uniform stance on OTE, spokesman stresses
  • [12] Deputy farming minister on veterinarian's strike
  • [13] KKE leader visits Piraeus port
  • [14] Cosmote acquires 90% of Germanos
  • [15] Real estate market down
  • [16] Athens Bourse Close: Stocks rise, led by blue chips
  • [17] Archbishop Christodoulos visits Santa Maria Majore church and catacombs of Saint Priscilla
  • [18] Armed robbery at IKA branch in Athens suburb
  • [19] Police intercept 20 illegal immigrants
  • [20] Fire Brigade photo exhibition
  • [21] Cypriot President satisfied with European Council conclusions
  • [22] Cypriot government satisfied with resolution renewing UNFICYP mandate
  • [23] EU Commission adopts financing decision for Turkish Cypriots

  • [01] Karamanlis hails EU's 'historic' decision to admit Bulgaria, Romania on Jan. 1

    BRUSSELS, 16/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    When Romania and Bulgaria officially join the European Union in two weeks time, the EU will have successfully completed its fifth enlargement, one that marked a decision of historic importance for the Balkan region, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said after the end of the European leaders' summit in Brussels on Friday.

    Speaking during a press conference in the Belgian capital, the Greek premier underlined that this development would also be an incentive and a message to other countries in the Balkans to fully comply with European principles and values.

    Karamanlis reiterated Greece's support for the European prospects of south-eastern Europe but also emphasized that the progress made by candidate-states depended primarily on themselves and their compliance with EU criteria. Regarding Turkey, meanwhile, he said that Athens' position could be summed up with the phrase "full compliance, full accession", noting that such a "clean" final outcome would be an incentive to Greece's neighbor to adapt to EU criteria and an effective lever for putting pressure on Turkey to conform.

    The Greek premier noted that European leaders agreed to partially suspend accession talks with Turkey, in accordance with a decision by EU foreign ministers at the General Affairs Council, over its failure to implement a customs union protocol and open its ports and airports to traffic from Cyprus. He also stressed that there had been close cooperation with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos on this issue to achieve the desired result.

    "There was a double goal. On the one hand, we want Turkey to adapt to Europe and to adopt European principles, values and behavior; and on the other hand, we want to send a message that it must meet all its obligations and all the criteria in order to have progress in its accession negotiations," Karamanlis told reporters.

    Greece's position on Turkey's European prospects was clear and there was no reason why it should affect bilateral relations, the Greek premier added, while denying that personal relations with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan were undergoing a crisis.

    "Recently, Mr. Erdogan and myself had a conversation over the telephone, during which we may not have had agreement of views but the positions and arguments we express were understood," he said.

    According to the Greek premier, the decision to suspend talks on eight chapters of the accession talks with Turkey sent a clear message, noting that the eight chapters would not be opened at all, while the remaining chapters might open but would not be closed.

    Asked whether he planned to visit Turkey, Karamanlis said that the visit was outstanding and would be arranged via diplomatic channels and pointed out that Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul was expected to visit Athens soon, noting that Gul's visit had been postponed a few days earlier for purely technical reasons.

    Karamanlis on EU prospects of southeastern Europe: Noting that Greece had worked hard and long to ensure the now imminent accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU, the Greek prime minister said that this would make a decisive contribution to establishing stability and peace in the region.

    He also emphasized Athens' political intent to gradually incorporate all the Balkan countries into united Europe.

    In Serbia's case, Karamanlis said that he had discussed this country's European hopes with Serb Prime Minister Boris Tadic during their meeting in Brussels on Thursday.

    He said that Greece was in favor of continuing EU enlargement but also pointed out the need to simultaneously make progress on processes to deepen Europe's unification.

    The conviction was growing among European leaders that, following the arrest of process for ratifying a European Constitutional Treaty, they must now begin to seriously occupy themselves with revising European institutions and structures, Karamanlis said.

    On the other major issue discussed during the summit, that of controlling illegal migration, the Greek premier underlined Greece's particularly strong interest and pointed to a Greek proposal dating back to 2004 for creating a European coast guard force to police the EU's external borders.

    He said that Greece was collaborating with its Mediterranean partners on this issue and expressed satisfaction that cooperation between member-states on dealing with illegal immigration was building up, step by step.

    [02] Cyprus issue should be solved within UN, Karamanlis reiterates

    BRUSSELS, 16/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday repeated Athens' standard position in favor of resolving the Cyprus issue through the United Nations, under the auspices of the UN secretary-general.

    Speaking after the end of the European leaders' summit in Brussels, the Greek premier said that a process was already underway within the UN and stressed that this process that concerned the UN should not be linked with that of an effort to reach agreement on an EU regulation for establishing direct trade with the Turkish-Cypriot community.

    Concerning the direct-trade regulation, Karamanlis emphasized the seamless cooperation between Greece and Cyprus on this issue, while noting that Greece would like to see progress.

    He also pointed out that there had already been a lengthy period of deliberations and agreement had been achieved on certain aspects of the regulation, while efforts to achieve an overall agreement should be based on what had already been agreed on.

    [03] EU leaders agree on enlargement, EU-Turkey talks

    BRUSSELS, 16/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    European Union leaders on Friday decided to adopt the decisions of the EU General Affairs and Foreign Relations Council and partially suspend accession talks with Turkey, freezing eight of the 35 chapters in the negotiations.

    The summit also reached agreement on the EU's enlargement strategy, signaling that Europe's door remained open but that prospective members would have to face tougher scrutiny in order to join.

    The text of the summit conclusions, while noting that enlargement was a success for the EU and Europe as a whole because it helped overcome divisions in Europe, underlines that the rate of future enlargement should take into account the EU's capacity to absorb new members.

    In this framework, the European Commission will be called to assess the impact of accession for each applicant country. At the same time, acceding countries should be ready and able to undertake the obligations of an EU member state to the fullest, while the EU should be able to operate effectively and evolve. These two aspects are vital for securing the agreement of EU citizens, the summit conclusions said.

    At another point, the conclusions clarify that the pace of the accession process depends on the outcome of reforms in the candidate-country and that each country is judged individually. It is underlined that, for as long as negotiations are not close to being completed; the EU will avoid setting a date for final accession.

    EU leaders also reaffirmed that the future of the western Balkan countries lies with the EU and that each country's progress depends on its efforts to comply with the Copenhagen criteria and other terms in the process.

    On the European prospect of FYROM it is stressed that the candidate state status granted to the country was in recognition of its reform achievements and an appeal is being issued, calling it to accelerate the reform pace in basic sectors to allow the enlargement procedure to proceed.

    [04] The EU Summit conclusions on immigration policy, energy

    BRUSSELS, 16/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    The EU Summit meeting that ended in Brussels on Friday reached decisions on European immigration policy and the improvement of decision-making procedures in the areas of freedom, security and justice.

    The European Council concluded that international cooperation and dialogue aimed at combating illegal immigration should be strengthened in 2007, not only with third countries but among the EU member states as well.

    The 25-member bloc also agreed that the management of the external EU borders should be improved by reinforcing the external borders management organization, Frontex.

    Within the framework of a European monitoring system for the EU sea frontiers in the south, the "25" call on Frontex to establish a permanent Mediterranean Coast Patrol Network, MEDSEA, in cooperation with the Mediterranean member states.

    Regarding legal immigration, the "25" agreed that a proper immigration policy management, fully respecting the national authority, must be established to help member-states meet current and future labor force needs. Also, the member states are being called to exchange information on the measures taken in the areas of asylum and immigration.

    They also decided to boost innovation at European level and called on the European Commission to submit proposals for the creation of Joint Technological Initiatives under the guidance of the industry to which small and medium sized companies will also have access.

    On energy policy for Europe, EU leaders pledged to work toward achieving greater energy supply security - mainly through cooperation with countries that are major energy producers, transit centers and consumers.

    Also, another major goal of the European energy policy is energy efficiency and energy saving.

    The establishment of an EU security correspondents' network on energy issues is being hailed and regarded as an important tool for the collection and processing of available information on geo-policy and security issues.

    On climate change, the European Council is looking forward to the revision of the European directive on the carbon dioxide gas emissions trade rights which will have to be implemented in 2013. The "25" also applauded the UN Climate Summit conclusions in Nairobi.

    Finally, the European council conclusions text adopts decisions concerning EU foreign relations.

    On Kosovo, the "25" expressed their unreserved support to the efforts made by UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari on the future status of Kosovo which, they stress, should promote a multi-ethnic and democratic society, based on the rule of law, and offer a future to all its citizens while contributing to a greater regional stability.

    [05] PASOK spokesman, KKE comment on outcome of EU Summit

    ATHENS, 16/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) spokesman Petros Efthymiou on Friday commented on the conclusions of the EU summit in Brussels and to statements made by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

    "The recent developments in foreign policy issues, particularly after the decision of the Foreign Ministers Council on Euro-Turkish relations, confirm the intense concerns which PASOK has expressed over the handlings of Mr. Karamanlis and his government," Efthymiou said.

    The PASOK spokesman added:"The timeframe of assessment and implementation of Turkey's obligations towards Turkey, finally became a timeframe of suspension, with the agreed opinion of the New Democracy government. The continuing practice of referral to the future and undetermined, in essence, time of Turkey's obligations, will accumulate new impasses in Greek-Turkish relations and the Cyprus issue and will be at the expense of national interests."

    Efthymiou said that "unfortunately, yet again, the prime minister handled the Euro-Turkish relations with eyes tuned to the country's interior, while his absence in the negotiations to the European institutions is 'deafening'."

    On its part, the Communist Party of Greece in an announcement said:"The EU Summit's decisions express and serve the increased aggressiveness of European capital both in the external and the interior of the EU. Peoples should be concerned and act so as to obstruct them. The Greek government also contributed to these anti-popular decisions."

    The KKE announcement added:"The EU leaders ratified the decisions of the foreign ministers which facilitate Turkey's ruling class and are turned against the peoples of Cyprus and Turkey.

    "The plan of intervention which they formulated for the Balkans, the Middle East, Africa and Asia expresses the striving of the European monopolies for greater infiltration and participation in the imperialist theft of the peoples, the interventions, the unjust wars."

    [06] UN extends UNFICYP mandate, Greece's Ambassador Vassilakis addresses Security Council

    NEW YORK, 16/12/2006 (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)

    Greece's Permanent Representative at the United Nations, Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis, speaking during Friday's UN Security Council session, shortly before the adoption of Resolution 1728 for the mandate of United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), with which is extended the Force's service on the island republic for another six months, said that for as long as there are Turkish occupation troops in Cyprus, the presence of UNFICYP is necessary.

    "Today is the last time which Greece participated, in its capacity as non-permanent member of the Security Council, at a meeting on an issue of particular importance to my country, the Cyprus issue," Ambassador Vassilakis said. "On this occasion, I would like to express my country's deep appreciation, first of all to UNFICYP, to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and to the Secretariat in general, for their contribution in the maintenance of stability on the island, a stability which is necessary for the promotion of any solution. We also thank the countries which contribute forces to UNFICYP for their continued presence," Greece's Permanent Representative at the UN said.

    "We all agree that the status quo is not viable. The two communities have also agreed on the basic form which the reunification of the island will take, that is a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. We must now build upon those which have already been achieved. The Agreement of July 8th gives us the framework for us to work carefully and to prepare the ground for the achievement of the necessary progress, which will allow the political process to proceed and lead to a comprehensive, permanent and viable solution. A solution which will respect international law and will adhere, both to the decisions of the United Nations and to the rules and principles of the European Union," Ambassador Vassilakis said in conclusion.

    Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat agreed on July 8th 2006, during a meeting in the presence of UN Undersecretary General for political affairs Ibrahim Gambari, to begin a process of bi-communal discussions on issues that affect the day to day life of the people and concurrently those that concern substantive issues, both contributing to a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem.

    Following the agreement, senior aides of the two leaders in Cyprus, Tasos Tzionis and Rasit Pertev, began meetings in the UN-controlled buffer zone to work out the modalities for the implementation of the July agreement.

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

    [07] Papandreou to visit Lebanon on Saturday

    ATHENS, 16/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    The leader of Greece's main opposition PASOK party and Socialist International President George Papandreou is to visit Lebanon on Saturday at the head of a Socialist International delegation, following an invitation issued by Lebanon's Progressive Socialist Party and its president Walid Jumblatt.

    Papandreou is scheduled to meet with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and attend a dinner given by the Lebanese premier in honor of the Socialist International delegation. The PASOK leader will also have a separate meeting with Lebanon's Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt.

    The visiting Socialist International delegation will meet with 25 leaders and distinguished figures of the March 14 Movement established on March 14, 2005, when one million Lebanese people rallied in Beirut demanding that the assassins of the then Prime Minister Rafic Hariri be brought to justice.

    The objective of the visiting Socialist International delegation is to express support and solidarity to the March 14 Movement and the Siniora government and exchange views with leading Lebanese figures in search of a common platform of initiatives and actions that will allow the country to exit the current crisis, according to a statement issued by PASOK.

    [08] PASOK Program Committee meeting opens

    ATHENS, 16/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    The main opposition PASOK party's Program Committee opened its meeting on Friday morning, with an address by party leader George Papandreou.

    Papandreou, who is chairing the meeting, said that the Committee, with its work, was unfolding the party's platform, giving the floor to the citizens, and deliberating with the social partners.

    "We know how to put Greece and the forefront and liberate the most creative forces that our country has. We protect the weak and are proceeding to the formation of a just society. Wity our work, our program, our vision and our commitments, we will once again inspire the Greek men and women and earn the confidence of the Greek people," Papandreou said.

    [09] ADAE says phone-tapping issue could have placed national security in danger

    ATHENS, 16/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    The Authority for the Assurance of Communication Privacy (ADAE) in a press conference on Friday described the phone-tapping issue which was revealed in the mobile phone company Vodafone as a scandal of national importance which could have placed national security in danger. The members of the Authority, despite the fact that it not attribute to the company intent, attributed to it responsibilities over the fact that its network was violated.

    The members of ADAE clarified that the activation of the illegal software, which required specialized knowledge, was not done by a hacker, that is, from a distance, but through a password within the company. They also stressed that that is evidence about the perpetrators of the phone-tappings and that ADAE has the means to locate them.

    According to ADAE's assessment the fine (76 million euros) imposed on Vodafone should not be reduced, while regarding the company's reactions, the members of the Authority stated that it has the right to recourse wherever it wants, but it cannot turn against the ADAE members.

    At this point, the ADAE members left open the possibility for imposition of economic sanctions against Ericsson, as there is evidence against it.

    [10] OTE amendment in line with government program, PM says

    BRUSSELS, 16/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday said he was "absolutely satisfied" with the passage of an amendment for the further privatization of the state telecoms company Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE), during a press conference held after the European Union summit in Brussels.

    "What I can say is that we are bound by our program, that it is being carried out and we are using it to promote government policy. In this sense, I am absolutely satisfied," he noted in response to questions about apparently different approaches to the issue of OTE shown by Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, on the one hand, and Environment Minister George Souflias on the other hand.

    The premier refused to expand on the issue any further, however, saying that it was his policy not to comment on domestic developments when abroad.

    The government's actions regarding OTE came under fire from main opposition PASOK again on Friday, however, with PASOK MP Nikos Christodoulakis noting from Athens that the former state telecom was being launched into a "great adventure without any planning or program".

    The former finance minister said that the government's plan to hand over management to a strategic partner and retain only a minority stake in OTE would lead to a loss of several advantages built up with great effort.

    [11] Government has uniform stance on OTE, spokesman stresses

    ATHENS, 16/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    The government had a uniform stance on the amendment for Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros underlined on Friday. He was responding to questions that referred to statements made on the issue by ruling New Democracy MP and former party leader Miltiades Evert, as well as the absence of Environment Minister George Souflias from Parliament when the amendment was put to a vote.

    Reacting to statements by main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou regarding the amendment, the spokesman called on PASOK to respect "Parliament's function and the principle of majority rule".

    [12] Deputy farming minister on veterinarian's strike

    ATHENS, 16/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Food Alexandros Kontos on Friday appealed to state-employed veterinarians to suspend strike action that is threatening to disrupt meat supply in the run-up to the Christmas holidays, stressing that the reasons that prompted the strike no longer exist.

    Speaking from Thessaloniki, he called on the strikers to consider their responsibilities stressing that their actions will affect mainly the consumers who are being left unprotected.

    The deputy minister stated that the strikers rejected the offer to double the hazardous occupation benefit proposed after consultations with the ministry of economy and finance.

    Meanwhile, inspections on imported foodstuff and meat coming from the EU, third countries and Balkan countries were held without problems in the customs offices of northern Greece, while minor problems were reported in a few slaughter houses as a result of the four-day strike called today by the association of state-employed veterinarians.

    [13] KKE leader visits Piraeus port

    16/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga on Friday toured the port of Piraeus, where she spoke with employees and met with the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) board of directors. She reiterated her party's opposition to the planned privatization of OLP, claiming that the move aimed at ensuring the interests of multinationals via inter-state and other collaborations.

    "As I have frequently stated, the OLP program for privatization of OLP, at least its 'prime' sections, constitutes a pre-announced death that has been priory prepared. What concerns us is that, on the party of the government and the main opposition (PASOK party), things are not being called by their true names," Papariga said.

    She said that an effort was being made, particularly by the government, to seek various 'alibis'. And, as always when it comes to privatization, the employees are always to blame, she added.

    Let the truth finally be told, Papariga said, and continued: The choice is to ensure the interests of the multinational groups via inter-state and other collaborations.

    "We, at least, will wage a very big effort for broadly informing the people on this issue and to safeguard the workers' interests, both those working today and those who will be hired in the future under much worse conditions," Papariga concluded.

    [14] Cosmote acquires 90% of Germanos

    ATHENS, 16/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    Athens-quoted Cosmote- Mobile Telecommunications S.A. announced that on Friday its 100% subsidiary Cosmoholding Cyprus Ltd acquired 344,396 common registered shares in Germanos S.A. through the Athens bourse at euro 19 per share.

    The latest transactions take Cosmote's direct and indirect participation in Germanos' paid-in share capital to approximately 90.27% with corresponding voting rights, management said in a statement.

    [15] Real estate market down

    ATHENS, 16/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    The domestic real estate market has been in crisis since the second half of 2005, an across-the-board downward trend that is forecast to hold until 2010, a trade group said on Friday.

    Gregory Liantas, president of the Federation of Greek Real Estate Agents, told a news conference in the northern port city of Thessaloniki that demand for the purchase of used and new apartments was down by more than 50% this year.

    [16] Athens Bourse Close: Stocks rise, led by blue chips

    ATHENS, 16/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    The Athens share index closed at 4,378.36 points, showing a rise of 1.20%, a new high since September 8, 2000. Turnover was 418.5 million euros.

    The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 1.50% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks 1.10% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.45% up.

    Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 156 to 97 with 57 remaining unchanged.

    Stock Futures:

  • Most Active Contract (volume): Intracom (7047)

  • Total derivatives market turnover: 235.3 million euros

    Bond Market Close: 10-yr benchmark at 4.03 pct

  • Greek benchmark 10-year bond (exp. 20.7.2016): 4.03 pct yield

  • Most heavily traded paper: 10-year bond, expiring 20.7.2016 (1.4 bln euros)

  • Day's Total Market Turnover: 3.1 bln euros

    Foreign Exchange Rates

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.321

    Pound sterling 0.675

    Danish kroner 7.514

    Swedish kroner 9.135

    Japanese yen 156.2

    Swiss franc 1.610

    Norwegian kroner 8.225

    Cyprus pound 0.582

    Canadian dollar 1.527

    Australian dollar 1.693

    [17] Archbishop Christodoulos visits Santa Maria Majore church and catacombs of Saint Priscilla

    ROME, 16/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos and his entourage on Friday evening visited Santa Maria Majore church and immediately after, the catacombs of Saint Priscilla.

    The Archbishop and his entourage conducted a service at the Greek chapel which is in the catacombs, at a depth of 13 meters. Found at the catacombs were 40,000 tombs, among which of hundreds of children but also of martyrs and saints.

    The Archbishop was given a tour of the catacombs where the most ancient wall paintings of Christianity exist and where the Greek chapel has a prominent place with well preserved wall paintings depicting the three wise men who offered gifts to the Virgin Mary.

    Tens of inscriptions in Greek are scattered in all the area. Seven popes were buried in this region when it operated as a cemetery, that is, from the 2nd to the 5th centuries.

    On Saturday, Archbishop Christodoulos will visit the pontifical council for the promotion of unity amongst Christians and will visit the Vatican's library. He will depart for Athens early afternoon, concluding his visit to the seat of the Roman Catholic Church.

    [18] Armed robbery at IKA branch in Athens suburb

    ATHENS, 16/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    An armed robbery took place at a branch of the Social Security Foundation (IKA) at 6:10 p.m. on Friday.

    The incident took place at the Athens suburb of Neos Kosmos at IKA's branch. The thieves made off with about 200,000 euros, having first disarmed two police officers.

    Police said that three unidentified individuals, who had their faces uncovered, entered IKA's basement at the time the employees of the afternoon shift were paying the Christmas bonus to foreigners, mainly working people.

    Initially, the culprits stood in the queue so as not to arouse suspicions to the two police officers who were on duty there. At one point, one of them proceeded to the cashier's desk and handed over a backpack to the cashier, at the same time pulling out a gun and threatening him. One of the police officers became aware of what was going on and approached the culprit. However, he took the officer by surprise and punched him in the face and grabbed his gun.

    A clash ensued between the police officers and the thieves during which the assailants took away from the second police officer his service revolver, then snatched the cash from the cashier's desk and shot in the air to frighten people off. They then left IKA in a private car which was driven by a fourth accomplice.

    [19] Police intercept 20 illegal immigrants

    ATHENS, 16/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    Greek police in Ioannina intercepted 20 illegal immigrants from Albania as they were being smuggled into the country by two Greeks, according to a report on Friday. The immigrants had been loaded into the back of a truck and hidden by straw so they would not be seen.

    The group had been guided across an unguarded section of the border by two Albanians, where they were picked up by the Greek immigrant-smugglers, who had charged each illegal immigrant 700 euros to take them away from the border.

    [20] Fire Brigade photo exhibition

    ATHENS, 16/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    A photographic exhibition organized by the Fire Department opened Friday at the Athens Metro station at Syntagma Square.

    The Fire Department leadership presented the photo exhibition on the Fire Brigade's work to Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras and the mass media.

    Nationwide, more than 20,000 urban fires are handled success-fully each year while the well-trained firefighting personnel have managed to limit considerably the destruction caused by forest fires.

    The Fire Brigade also intervenes in cases of natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods, having as its top priority the protection of human lives.

    The specially trained personnel also play a life-saving role in cases of serious traffic accidents by helping to disengage auto accident victims from their smashed cars.

    The Greek Fire Brigade was founded in 1930 and falls under the jurisdiction of the ministry of public order.

    [21] Cypriot President satisfied with European Council conclusions

    NICOSIA 16/12/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    Cypriot President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos, expressed Friday satisfaction over the conclusions of the European Council, noting that the amendments that have been adopted by the EU-25 Foreign Ministers last Monday managed to avert the negative provisions that were included in the European Commission's recommendations regarding sanctions due to Turkey's failure to meet its obligations under the Ankara Protocol.

    "The European Council's conclusions are in general satisfactory for us, bearing in mind that the recommendations proposed by the European

    Commission included provisions, which I believe would have had a negative effect on the developments of the Cyprus issue in relation to Turkey, such as coupling of Ankara's EU obligations with the developments of the Cyprus problem, setting timeframes and many other", President Papadopoulos noted.

    He added that Cyprus' EU partners have shown understanding towards Cyprus' concerns regarding the content of the Commission's recommendations thus averting any negative consequences.

    "With the understanding on the part of our EU partners, the negative provisions have been averted and a text has been adopted that satisfies us", he said.

    The Cypriot president pointed out that every EU member state reserves the right to block the opening of any negotiating chapter for any candidate country, including Turkey, bearing in mind the circumstances under which the opening is recommended, the content of the chapter as well as, in the case of Turkey, Ankara's stance at that particular time.

    He also expressed the view that it would not be possible to open a negotiating chapter with Turkey in the next days, noting the long procedures needed to open any chapters.

    Regarding the European Union's direct trade regulation between the Turkish Cypriot community and the EU countries, he said that it has been agreed that work on this regulation begins in January, under the German EU presidency.

    He recalled that within the framework of the Finnish EU presidency's initiative to avert a crisis between the EU and Turkey, there have been discussions regarding amendments of the Green Line Regulation that provides for trade of Turkish Cypriot goods via Cyprus' legal ports.

    "The work has progressed very well during the Finnish presidency and this work will continue", he said.

    Answering to questions he said that the government of Cyprus has asked for a meeting with Finland and Germany in order to continue the discussions on the direct trade regulation.

    "What has been agreed upon until now is that on the 17th of January we will begin work on the regulation", he added.

    Replying to questions, he dismissed press information that he has made an agreement with German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the use of the Limassol port for trade of Turkish Cypriot goods.

    "I did not make any such agreement with the German Chancellor. And let me remind you that the export of Turkish Cypriot goods from the

    ports of Larnaca and Limassol, as provided by the Green Line regulation, has already been submitted as a written proposal by myself two years ago", he said.

    President Papadopoulos added that what has been agreed, is that the EU would like to see work done for the Green Line Regulation.

    He also said that Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, is not really interested in the implementation of the Green Line Regulation, "since its implementation would not enable him to claim that there is an economic embargo imposed upon the Turkish Cypriots".

    EU member state, Cyprus is divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied one third of its territory.

    [22] Cypriot government satisfied with resolution renewing UNFICYP mandate

    UNITED NATIONS, 16/12/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    The Government of Cyprus expressed satisfaction over the adoption by the Security Council of Resolution

    1728 on Friday, renewing the mandate of UNFICYP for six more months.

    The Security Council unanimously adopted the resolution, expressing full support for the process agreed by the leaders on 8th July, encouraging active participation in bicommunal discussions as described in Under-Secretary-General Ibrahim Gambari's letter of 15 November 2006, under the auspices of the SRSG, and calls for early completion of the preparatory phase so that a fully-fledged Good Offices process may resume as soon as possible.

    In a statement, Cyprus' Permanent Representative to the UN Andreas Mavroyiannis expressed the government's "satisfaction of the adoption by SC Resolution 1728 renewing the mandate of UNFICYP for six more months", noting that "the Resolution is a satisfactory one, that addresses the main issues and the renewal is for the Force to remain as it is right now, the same strength, the same numbers, the same concept of operations and the same mandate".

    He also expressed the Cypriot government's "appreciation to the Council for supporting the ongoing process and the effort to start technical discussions in order to prepare the ground for full-fledged negotiations as soon as there is sufficient progress". "We also express our appreciation to all members of the SC, to the DPKO, to the Secretariat, the Special Representative of the SG and to all the troop-contributing countries that maintain UNFICYP in Cyprus, a presence which is necessary as long as the occupation of the northern part of Cyprus persists", he concluded.

    According to the resolution, the Security Council welcomes the report of the Secretary-General of 1 December 2006 on the United Nations operation in Cyprus.

    It notes that the Government of Cyprus agrees that in view of the prevailing conditions in the island it is necessary to keep UNFICYP beyond 15 December 2006.

    It takes note of the assessment of the Secretary-General that the security situation on the island continues to be generally stable and that the situation along the Green Line remains calm, and welcomes the decrease in the overall number of incidents involving the two sides.

    The Security Council urges both sides to avoid any action which could lead to an increase in tension such as military exercises and, in this context, notes with concern that disagreements have arisen over civilian activities in the buffer zone, including farming and construction, and encourages both sides to engage in consultations with UNFICYP on the demarcation of the buffer zone, respecting UNFICYP's mandate, and to reach an agreed approach to UNFICYP's operations in the buffer zone on the basis of the UN‘s 1989 Aide Memoire.

    The Council expresses its strong appreciation for the work of Under-Secretary-General Gambari in achieving the 8 July agreement.

    It welcomes ''the principles and decisions enshrined therein, including recognition that the status quo is unacceptable and that a comprehensive settlement based on a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation and political equality, as set out in the relevant Security Council Resolutions, is both desirable and possible and should not be further delayed''

    It notes ''with regret, the Secretary-General's assessment that continued lack of trust between the parties has so far prevented the implementation of any of those decisions''.

    The Security Council underlines ''the need to implement the 8 July agreement without further delay, expressing the hope that the recent positive reaction of the leaders of both communities to suggestions by the UN will result in the finalization of the preparatory phase as soon as possible in order to prepare the ground for fully-fledged negotiations leading to a comprehensive and durable settlement.''

    The international body welcomes continued progress in demining, expresses strong support for UNFICYP's efforts to extend demining operations to Turkish Forces minefields in the rest of the buffer zone, and welcomes the prospect that it could be declared free of mines within two years.

    The Council reiterates its call to the parties to assess and address the humanitarian issue of missing persons with due urgency and seriousness, and welcomes in this regard the resumption of the activities of the Committee on Missing Persons since August 2004, and the progress which has since been made, as well as the appointment by the Secretary-General of a Third Member.

    It also welcomes the continuing crossings by Greek Cypriots to the north and Turkish Cypriots to the south which have taken place peacefully, and encourages early progress on other confidence building measures, such as the opening of additional crossing points, including at Ledra Street.

    It welcomes all efforts to promote bicommunal contacts and events, including, inter alia, on the part of the United Nations, and urging the two sides to promote further bicommunal contacts and to remove any obstacles to such contacts.

    ''Expressing concern, in this respect, that opportunities for constructive public debate about the future of the island, within and between the communities, are becoming fewer, and that this atmosphere is hampering, in particular, efforts to foster bi-communal activities intended to benefit Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, and to promote reconciliation and build trust in order to facilitate a comprehensive settlement,'' the draft resolution adds.

    The Security Council notes the primary role of the UN in assisting the parties to bring the Cyprus conflict and division of the island to a comprehensive and durable settlement.

    It reaffirms the importance of the Secretary-General continuing to keep the operations of UNFICYP under close review while continuing to take into account developments on the ground and the views of the parties, and ''reverting to the Council with recommendations as appropriate for further adjustments to UNFICYP‘s mandate, force levels and concept of operation as soon as warranted.''

    It echoes the Secretary-General's gratitude to the Government of Cyprus and the Government of Greece for their voluntary contributions to the funding of UNFICYP, and his request for further voluntary contributions from other countries and organizations.

    It welcomes and encourages efforts by the United Nations to sensitize peacekeeping personnel in the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS and other diseases in all its peacekeeping operations.

    The resolution also welcomes the observations in the Secretary-General's report on progress since June, and in particular on developments since 8 July, and expresses appreciation for his personal efforts over the last 10 years, and those of his staff, aimed at achieving a comprehensive solution.

    It reaffirms all its relevant resolutions on Cyprus, in particular resolution 1251 (1999) of 29 June 1999 and subsequent resolutions.

    The Council expresses its full support for UNFICYP, including its mandate in the buffer zone, and decides to extend its mandate for a further period ending 15 June 2007.

    It calls on the Turkish Cypriot side and Turkish forces to restore in Strovilia the military status quo which existed there prior to 30 June 2000.

    The Council expresses full support for the process agreed by the leaders, encourages active participation in bicommunal discussions as described in Under-Secretary-General Gambari's letter of 15 November 2006, under the auspices of the SRSG, and calls for early completion of the preparatory phase so that a fully-fledged Good Offices process may resume as soon as possible.

    It requests the Secretary-General to submit a report on implementation of this resolution by 1 June 2007.

    It welcomes the efforts being undertaken by UNFICYP to implement the Secretary-General's zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse and to ensure full compliance of its personnel with the United Nations code of conduct, requests the Secretary-General to continue to take all necessary action in this regard and to keep the Security Council informed, and urges troop-contributing countries to take appropriate preventive action including the conduct of pre-deployment aware-ness training, and to take disciplinary action and other action to ensure full accountability in cases of such conduct involving their personnel.

    Finally the Council decides to remain seized of the matter.

    [23] EU Commission adopts financing decision for Turkish Cypriots

    NICOSIA, 16/12/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    The European Commission adopted on Friday a financing decision for a total of 197.55 million Euros to encourage the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community of EU member state, Cyprus.

    The financial assistance will focus on five objectives, which are, developing and restructuring of infrastructure, promoting economic and social development, fostering reconciliation, confidence building measures, and support to civil society, bringing the Turkish Cypriot community closer to the EU and preparing the Turkish Cypriot community to introduce and implement the EU's legal order.

    From the 197.55 million Euros, 18 projects will be supported covering support for water/wastewater infrastructure, nature protection, telecommunications, energy, rural development, human resources development, support for medium-sized enterprises, urban infrastructure, reconciliation projects including continuation of the de-mining effort, community scholarships, people-to-people contacts and support to the process of harmonization with the acquis communautaire.

    This financial decision is implementing the Aid Regulation of 259 million Euros adopted by the EU Member States in February 2006.

    EU member state Cyprus is divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied one third of the Republic's territory. In April 2004 the EU Council for General Affairs and External Relations, upon an initiative by the government of Cyprus, recommended that the 259 million Euros earmarked for the northern part of Cyprus in the event of a settlement of the Cyprus problem, be used for the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community of Cyprus.

    This EU financial aid regulation for the Turkish Cypriots was adopted last February, after being decoupled from the EU direct trade regulation of the Turkish Cypriots with the EU states.

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