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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-12-19

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

December 19, 2006


  • [01] Sioufas receives visiting Montenegro foreign minister
  • [02] Bakoyannis meets Organization of the Islamic Conference GenSec
  • [03] Roussopoulos on Gul's planned visit to Greece
  • [04] Defense ministry gives briefing on national strategy for 2007-2013
  • [05] Minister says troublemakers who attack police officers or stations 'are playing with fire'
  • [06] Celebration for new EU official
  • [07] Greeks support common foreign policy for EU, Eurobarometer finds
  • [08] Support for same sex marriage low in Greece, EU poll shows
  • [09] Academic community plans strikes in January in reaction to Article 16
  • [10] Finmin meets central bank governor
  • [11] Jobless rate at 8.3%
  • [12] Basiakos says farmers' incomes, agricultural exports have increased under ND rule
  • [13] Eurostat puts Greece's trade deficit at 25.2 bln euros for Jan-Sep '06
  • [14] Gov't working to boost solar energy
  • [15] Ruling party MPs propose incorporating EKAS into minimum IKA pension
  • [16] Retail sector employment index rises 1.1%
  • [17] Athens Bourse Close: Stocks drop
  • [18] National Gallery exhibition explores French influence on Greek painters
  • [19] Greek language taught at Egypt's Armed Forces institute
  • [20] Two tankers collide in sea region of Thessaloniki; no injuries
  • [21] Archbishop Christodoulos visits military hospitals
  • [22] Immigrants march to Macedonia-Thrace Ministry
  • [23] Fundraising campaign for paraplegics shelter in Athens
  • [24] Drug abuse prevention conference in Thessaloniki
  • [25] Men's National Basketball team voted best of 2006
  • [26] Vanhanen: 'Turkey did not honour its commitments and that has consequences'
  • [27] Purchasing power standards in Cyprus rise

  • [01] Sioufas receives visiting Montenegro foreign minister

    ATHENS, 19/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas on Monday received Montenegro Foreign Minister Milan Rocen, currently on a visit to Athens, to discuss the prospects of Greek investment in Montenegro and bilateral relations.

    After the meeting, Sioufas said that the development ministry, the organizations supervised by the Greek government and Greek businesses would "make use of the opportunities arising in Montenegro in the best possible way", while assuring Rocen of Greece's steadfast support of the efforts of countries in the region to join the European Union.

    Rocen underlined the good prospects for developing bilateral cooperation, with an emphasis on economic cooperation, through bilateral agreements and through regional initiatives within an EU framework.

    "Until now we have seen the presence of Greek investors in Montenegro. We welcome them. We believe that the way will open for more Greek investors in Montenegro. I am particularly pleased to note that the financial and banking sectors show a desire to be present in Montenegro," he said.

    The two ministers agreed to encourage more bilateral contacts on a state level and to create the right conditions for collaboration between businesses in the two countries, while Rocen invited Sioufas to visit his country and discuss specific initiatives.

    Also present at the meeting were Greek Deputy Development Minister Anastasios Nerantzis and ministry general secretary Nikos Stefanou, while the Montenegrin delegation included the country's deputy foreign minister Ljubomir Misurovic.

    [02] Bakoyannis meets Organization of the Islamic Conference GenSec

    ATHENS, 19/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis had a half-hour meeting with Organization of the Islamic Conference General Secretary Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu at the foreign ministry on Monday.

    "We had a very sincere and constructive meeting during which we discussed the latest developments in the Palestinian issue," stated Ihsanoglu speaking to the Turkish mass media.

    Ihsanoglu, who visited Athens to address a National Hellenic Research Foundation event on Sunday evening, added that his next stop will be Palestine where he will undertake an initiative aimed at improving relations between Hamas and Fatah.

    [03] Roussopoulos on Gul's planned visit to Greece

    ATHENS, 19/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Government spokesman Thodoros Roussopoulos on Monday cited the statements made by the prime minister on Friday regarding the visit to Greece by Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul. Prime Minister Karamanlis had stated from Brussels that Gul is expected to visit Athens soon, noting that his visit had been postponed a few days earlier for purely technical reasons.

    Responding to a question on whether Gul will visit Thrace (northeast Greece) Roussopoulos commented that Greece has absolutely nothing to fear, adding that foreign officials can visit the different regions in the country.

    Press 'inflated' incident with Turkish F-16, government claims: Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Monday claimed that reports appearing in the newspaper "Ethnos" regarding an incident above the Aegean involving two Turkish F-16 fighter jets were "inflated".

    Roussopoulos said the incident where two Turkish F-16s had violated Greek airspace occurred but that there had been no harassment of a Greek aircraft or interception. According to the spokesman, the two Turkish jets had approached within three kilometers of a Greek C-130 transport plane before they were identified and intercepted by Greek Mirage figher jets.

    He stressed that the Greek foreign ministry had carried out all the necessary actions over the incident.

    Spokesman denies different approaches to OTE privatization within government: Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos underlined on Monday that there were no different approaches to the planned further privatization of Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) between members of the government, stressing that the issue was considered "closed".

    He also denied all knowledge of a statement attributed to the prime minister's advisor Yiannis Kefaloyannis, who allegedly said that any minister disagreeing with government policy should resign, stressing that there was no question of resignation for Environment Minister George Souflias or any other member of the Cabinet.

    Asked about a statement by Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis referring to 'fifth column-type thinking' within the government, the spokesman said that he contacted the minister, who said that he had not made the statement in the sense attributed to it by sections of the media.

    [04] Defense ministry gives briefing on national strategy for 2007-2013

    ATHENS, 19/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The National Defense Ministry's military and civil leadership on Monday briefed the secretary-generals of the country's regions on the 57 activities being advanced by the ministry, through the National Strategic Reference Network (ESPA) for the 2007-2013 period, for the further strengthening of the Armed Forces' social mission as well as its multi-faceted work.

    The meeting was chaired by National Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis and attended by Deputy National Defense Minister Vassilis Michaloliakos, Deputy Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister Athanassios Nakos, Deputy Economy and Finance Minister Petros Doukas as well as Chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (GEETHA) Admiral Panagiotis Hinofotis.

    [05] Minister says troublemakers who attack police officers or stations 'are playing with fire'

    ATHENS, 19/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras in a press conference he gave on Monday made a review of the work of the Greek Police during 2006.

    The minister warned that troublemakers who attack armed police officers or police stations with explosive devices "are playing with fire."

    Polydoras said that the political parties should take a stance on such attacks and he particularly called on the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party to clarify its position on such phenomena, "protagonists of which are individuals who self-proclaim themselves anti-authority" elements and who "are opposed to the existing system of governance in our country."

    The public order minister called on Synaspismos to give a straight answer whether it condoned the stoning last week of a police station in the Athens suburb of Papagos and the "various 'parties' by anti-authority anarchists."

    [06] Celebration for new EU official

    ATHENS, 19/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas on Monday held a celebration for the election of Dimitris Dimitriadis as chairman of the European Union's economic and social committee for the next two years.

    In the October vote, Dimitriadis gained 238 votes in favor, 2 against and 9 abstentions.

    The 317-member committee, which was established under the Treaty of Rome in 1957, acts as an advisory body to the EU that represents employers and employees in the bloc's decision-making process.

    Dimitriadis, first vice-president of the National Confederation of Greek Commerce, has been a member of the committee since 1999. In October 2004, he was elected vice-president responsible for budget issues.

    [07] Greeks support common foreign policy for EU, Eurobarometer finds

    BRUSSELS, 19/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    Greeks and Slovenians are the staunchest supporters of a common foreign policy for the European Union among the 25 EU member-states, according to a Eurobarometer survey released on Monday.

    The opinion poll was conducted between September 6 and October 10 in the 25 EU member-states, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Croatia and the Turkish-Cypriot community on Cyprus.

    It found that 80% of Slovenians and Greeks are in favor of a joint EU foreign policy, compared with an EU average of 68%. The lowest level of support was in the United Kingdom at 48% and Sweden with 51%.

    Among candidate-countries, support for a common foreign policy was 39% among Turks and 48% among Turkish-Cypriots.

    Support for continued EU enlargement is also strong in Greece at 71%, though higher in Poland (76%) and Slovenia (74%), compared with an EU average of 46%. The lowest support is recorded in Germany (30%) and Austria (31%). Further enlargement is supported by 50% of Turks and 53% of Turkish-Cypriots, compared with 66% for the Cyprus Republic.

    With 74%, Greeks and Danes also rank third-highest for believing that their country benefited from joining the EU, after the Irish with 87% and Lithuanians with 77%, while the EU average on this question is 54%. The lowest percentages for this question were among the British (39%) and Hungarians (41%).

    [08] Support for same sex marriage low in Greece, EU poll shows

    BRUSSELS, 19/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    Support for marriage or adoption by homosexual couples runs low in Greece compared with the European Union average, according to a Eurobarometer poll released here on Monday.

    Greeks ranked third-lowest in the EU on whether marriage between homosexual couples should be allowed, with only 15% in favor, after Latvians with 12% and Cypriots with 14%. The EU average for this question was 44% and the highest rates of approval were recorded in the Netherlands with 81% and Sweden with 71%.

    Support for allowing homosexual couples to adopt children was even lower among Greeks at 11%, while only 10% of Cypriots, 8% of Latvians and 7% of Poles or Maltese were in favor. The EU average for adoption by homosexuals was 32%, with the highest rates of approval in the Netherlands with 69% and in Sweden with 51%.

    Regarding the contribution made by immigrants to their country, 43% of Greeks believe that immigrants have made a positive contribution, compared with 40% for the average EU resident. In Sweden, 79% believe immigrants have contributed to Sweden, while only 12% of Slovakians believe that immigrants have contributed to their own country.

    On the legalization of cannabis for personal use, 19% of Greeks are in favor against an EU average of 26%. Support is highest among the Dutch with 49% and in Spain (40%), while least in favor are the Finns (8%) and Swedes (9%).

    [09] Academic community plans strikes in January in reaction to Article 16

    ATHENS, 19/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    University and secondary school professors, primary school teachers and students, along with trade unions, are planning strikes in January in reaction to the debate on the revision of Article 16 of the Constitution.

    In a press conference on Monday, the Panhellenic Federation of University Professors, with the participation of students, stressed the intention of the academic community to strike on January 10, the day Article 16 will be discussed in Parliament.

    The federation's president, Lazaros Apekis, said that many initiatives will be taken by various agencies which converge on a common target:"The utmost sensitivity of society so as to avert the revision of Article 16 and for a more effective defense of public and free higher education."

    Apekis noted:"the public good of education must be granted free of charge by the state for all citizens. It will not become a commodity which only those who can manage can buy."

    Meanwhile, in view of the ensuing debate in Parliament on the 2007 budget, 33 student associations have decided in a symbolic move, to encircle Parliament at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.

    The students are also planning, along with their teachers, to hold two rallies in Athens, on Wednesday and Thursday.

    [10] Finmin meets central bank governor

    ATHENS, 19/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and Bank of Greece Governor Nikos Garganas held their regular monthly meeting at the finance ministry building on Monday.

    The meeting focused on budget issues and the regulations that will have to be implemented in the operation of the financial system, based on Community Regulations.

    [11] Jobless rate at 8.3%

    ATHENS, 19/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis reported on Monday that the unemployment rate was 8.3% in the third quarter of 2006.

    "It is many years since we have seen this figure," the minister told parliament on the second day of debate on the government's budget for 2007.

    The jobless data is due for official release by the Greek National Statistics Service on Tuesday.

    Alogoskoufis, architect of the budget, noted that unemployment had fallen three percentage points to 8.3% from 11.3% in March 2004 when the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) lost national elections.

    "No-one can be satisfied with this level of joblessness, as people are behind the figures. Government policy aims to provide more Greeks with jobs every day, aided by tax reform, the investment law, a law on joint private and public sector ventures, and privatization," he said.

    "Unfortunately PASOK has said no to each of these initiatives," he added.

    The house budget debate will end with a roll-call vote by midnight on Thursday.

    [12] Basiakos says farmers' incomes, agricultural exports have increased under ND rule

    ATHENS, 19/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Evangelos Basiakos, speaking in Parliament on Monday night during the ensuing debate on the 2007 state budget, accused the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) of being "untrustworthy," challenging statements made by members of the party that farmers' incomes have decreased.

    Basiakos said that PASOK leader George Papandreou spoke in 2005 of "a drop of up to 50 per cent," at the same time stating that PASOK "has been transformed into an of irresponsible danger-mongering" party.

    Commenting on PASOK's charges that there has been a drop in the income of farmers, Basiakos referred to Statistics Service data, according to which, as he said, "in the last two years of PASOK governance, agricultural income showed a decrease of 11.2 per cent, while in the first two years of governance by the New Democracy (ND) party, it showed a 2.5 per cent increase." The minister noted that "the increase would have been greater if it was not for the increase in the price of fuel."

    The minister expressed his satisfaction "over the increase of agricultural exports by 24 per cent in 2005 (compared to 2004) and by 29 per cent in the first eight months of 2006." He noted that under PASOK, "agricultural exports showed a stable downward trend."

    Basiakos also observed that the increase in public investments in the agricultural sector "increased from 430 million euros in the 2002-3 period to 823 million euros in the 2004-5 period, while only in 2006, it is assessed that 479 million euros will be absorbed."

    [13] Eurostat puts Greece's trade deficit at 25.2 bln euros for Jan-Sep '06

    BRUSSELS, 19/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    Greece's trade deficit reached 25.2 billion euros over the first nine months of 2006, increasing by 3.1 billion euros in relation to the corresponding period in 2005, Eurostat reported here on Monday.

    Specifically, the EU executive's statistical service said exports from the country totaled 12.3 billion euros, whereas imports reached 37.4 billion euros.

    On a more optimistic note, exports increased by 22 percent over the same period in comparison with Jan-Sep 2005, while imports increased by 16 percent.

    [14] Gov't working to boost solar energy

    ATHENS, 19/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The government is working to promote solar energy firms, and six sector companies have joined a subsidies program, Deputy Development Minister Tasos Nerantzis said on Monday.

    He was speaking after a meeting with the Union of Solar Energy Industries chaired by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas.

    The sector currently has more than 3,000 employees.

    [15] Ruling party MPs propose incorporating EKAS into minimum IKA pension

    ATHENS, 19/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Eight ruling New Democracy MPs on Monday asked the government to examine the possibility of incorporating the EKAS low-pension supplement into the minimum pension given by the Social Insurances Foundation (IKA), the pension fund covering the majority of pensioners in the country.

    The proposal was put to the economy and labor ministers through a question tabled in Parliament, in which the MPs note that the EKAS system established by PASOK was complex, bureaucratic and created numerous distortions and income inequalities among those on low pensions.

    They note that retaining the system, even though the government will fulfill a pledge to double EKAS to 230 euros a month from 2008, will still cause the same unfair income disparities.

    [16] Retail sector employment index rises 1.1%

    ATHENS, 19/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The general index for staff employed in the retail sector rose 1.1% in the third trimester of 2006, compared with the same period in 2005. The increase was a result of a 2.3% rise of the index for retail outlets selling food products and a 0.1% decrease in the index for shops selling goods other than food.

    Eurobank acquires Bulgarian bank

    Athens-quoted Eurobank EFG said on Monday that it had acquired control of DZI Bank after concluding the purchase of 74.26% of the Bulgarian credit institution's shares through the Sofia Stock Exchange.

    The sale agreement was made on September 29, management said in a statement.

    The Eurobank EFG group has submitted documentation to the Financial Supervision Commission of Bulgaria (FSC) to proceed with a tender offer for the remaining shares of DZI Bank, the statement said.

    Eurobank EFG already has a presence in Bulgaria through a subsidiary, Bulgarian Post Bank, which has a distribution network of more than 150 branches.

    Eurobank's objective is to merge the two banks in 2007 in order to create a leading banking institution, operating a network of 280 branches and commanding an aggregate market share of approximately 10% in the rapidly growing Bulgarian market, management reported.

    Following the acquisition of DZI, Eurobank employs more than 3,000 people in Bulgaria, investing more than 300 million euros in the country since 1998.

    [17] Athens Bourse Close: Stocks drop

    ATHENS, 19/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The Athens share index closed at 4,377.78 points, showing a decline of 0.01%. Turnover was 301.0 million euros.

    The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.21% down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks 0.46% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.88% up.

    Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 139 to 111 with 56 remaining unchanged.

    Stock Futures:

  • Most Active Contract (volume): Alpha Bank (993)

    • Total derivatives market turnover: 68.4 million euros

    Bond Market Close: 10-yr benchmark at 4.09 pct

  • Greek benchmark 10-year bond (exp. 20.7.2016): 4.09 pct yield

  • Most heavily traded paper: 10-year bond, expiring 20.7.2016 (1.1 bln euros)

  • Day's Total Market Turnover: 2.7 bln euros

    Foreign Exchange Rates

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

    U.S. dollar 1.320

    Pound sterling 0.676

    Danish kroner 7.513

    Swedish kroner 9.127

    Japanese yen 155.5

    Swiss franc 1.612

    Norwegian kroner 8.206

    Cyprus pound 0.582

    Canadian dollar 1.523

    Australian dollar 1.691

    [18] National Gallery exhibition explores French influence on Greek painters

    ATHENS, 19/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The exhibition "Paris-Athens 1863-1940" that will be inaugurated on Wednesday at the National Gallery by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias will explore the largely overlooked influence of the avant-garde French artists of the 19th and early 20th century on Greek painters of that period. It will run until the end of March 2007.

    According to the exhibition organizers, the general public knows very little about the influences on Greek art of painters like Cezanne, Renoir, Van Gogh, Matisse and several others, unlike the much better-documented relationship between Greeks and the Munich school.

    The exhibition will feature about 60 works by French artists on loan from French museums and collections in Switzerland, Canada, the United States and elsewhere. These will be displayed alongside 160 works of art by Greek painters that illustrate the influences between them.

    It is taking place under the auspices of the Greek and French culture ministries and sponsored by the EFG Eurobank.

    [19] Greek language taught at Egypt's Armed Forces institute

    CAIRO, 19/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)

    The Greek language is being taught, as of Monday, at Egypt's Armed Forces Institute of Foreign Languages in Cairo.

    During an inaugurating ceremony, Greece's Ambassador to Egypt Panagiotis Vlassopoulos expressed his satisfaction saying that the teaching of Greek "is an effort added to the existing close cooperation between the two countries and especially in the military sector."

    [20] Two tankers collide in sea region of Thessaloniki; no injuries

    ATHENS, 19/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Two tankers collided in the sea region of Thessaloniki, northern Greece, on Monday. There were no injuries. Only material damage was caused.

    The Thessaloniki Port Authority was informed at 09:50 by the skipper of the tanker "Amalia", which was heading for Aghios Theodoros, that it collided with the Portuguese-flag tanker "Diamond Star" which was on its way to Italy.

    Both tankers were without cargo. The first had a 12-member crew and two passengers and the second a 15-member crew.

    No injuries occurred from the collision and neither was any pollution caused. There was only minor damage to the vessels.

    The tankers returned to Thessaloniki port, accompanied by a patrol boat.

    [21] Archbishop Christodoulos visits military hospitals

    ATHENS, 19/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos on Monday visited the patients at Athens' Navy and Army hospitals and exchanged best wishes and gifts with them in view of the Christmas and New Year celebrations.

    The Archbishop was accompanied by Deputy National Defense Minister Vassilis Michaloliakos.

    Addressing himself to the medical staff, Christodoulos underlined "the importance of cooperation" between the Church and the State "for the common good of society."

    [22] Immigrants march to Macedonia-Thrace Ministry

    ATHENS, 19/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    On the occasion of World Day of Migrants, immigrants residing in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, carrying banners with slogans in various languages, on Monday held a rally at the city's Aristotelous Square and then marched to the Macedonia-Thrace Ministry.

    The demonstrators called for the speeding up of procedures for the issuing of residence permits and the lifting of what they termed "social exclusion."

    They made reference to the new bill which is due to be submitted in Parliament, noting that "it must be further improved so as to cover greater categories of immigrants living in Greece."

    [23] Fundraising campaign for paraplegics shelter in Athens

    ATHENS, 19/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The construction of a shelter for paraplegics in the Kipseli district in Athens is the goal of the "Love Builds" nationwide campaign launched jointly on Monday by Solidarity, a non-governmental organization associated with the Church of Greece, and the Transport and Communications Ministry.

    Those wishing to assist in raising the necessary funds for the construction of the shelter can do so by sending an SMS message with the word "AA" (love in Greek) to 4578.

    The first SMSs were sent symbolically by Transport Minister Michalis Liapis and Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens, who attended a special event held at the Nerantziotissa metro station.

    [24] Drug abuse prevention conference in Thessaloniki

    ATHENS, 19/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    A drug-related death is recorded every day on average in the wider Thessaloniki region while thousands of schoolchildren aged between 10 and 13 can easily get their hands on drug substances that are being sold on the market for just 50 cents.

    In a conference on the participation and role of educators in drug abuse prevention held in Thessaloniki, it was also mentioned that the wholesale price of cocaine is 20,000 euros a kilo, heroin can be purchased for 10,000-12,000 euros and hashish for 800-1,000 euros a kilo. However, young children can purchase inhalable substances sold freely on the market like solvents or gas in canisters for just a few cents. Such substances can cause hallucinations and can seriously damage the users' brain and kidneys.

    According to figures presented in the conference by the Thessaloniki police, drug dealing in schools has been eradicated as a result of the strict policing in the regions close to school buildings.


    [25] Men's National Basketball team voted best of 2006

    ATHENS, 19/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    The triumph of Greece's Men's Basketball team, which won the silver medal in the World Basketball Championship which took place in Japan, gained it the title of the best team in 2006.

    In a voting conducted by the Panhellenic Association of Sports Editors (PSAT), the world silver medalists garnered 2,248 points, followed by Iraklis (Volley - 503) Women's National Beach Volley Team (486) Panathinaikos (Basket - 418) and Olympiakos (Soccer - 370).

    Best coach was elected Panagiotis Yiannakis, who was the architect behind the brilliant performance by the men's national basketball team in Japan. He garnered 1,259 votes.

    Pericles Iakovakis was named top athlete of the year. The European champion in the 400-metres hurdles received 1,850 votes.

    Chrysopigi Devetzi was proclaimed best woman athlete, with 2,007 votes, for her second position in the triple jump in the European Championship in Goteborg.

    [26] Vanhanen: 'Turkey did not honour its commitments and that has consequences'

    BRUSSELS, 19/12/2006 (ANA/MPA)

    Finland's Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen told the European Parliament on Monday that the decision of the 25 EU member states concerning Turkey shows that the EU is capable of making decisions.

    In a speech at the European Parliament as the Finnish presidency of the EU draws to a close, Vanhanen said the decisions concerning Turkey's accession process were taken at the General Affairs and External Relations Council preceding the European Council meeting, adding that ''the EU is capable of making decisions."

    Vanhanen emphasized that during its Presidency, "Finland tried to find solutions that would lead to implementation of the Protocol to the Ankara Agreement and direct trade with north Cyprus".

    However, he said, "we were unsuccessful and so we were forced to take measures with regard to Turkey". Vanhanen said the "situation was clear: Turkey did not honor its commitments and that has consequences".

    "But I want to stress that Turkey's future is in the European Union. Turkey's accession process did not grind to a halt during the Finnish Presidency, nor was it shunted into a siding. And there was no question of the much predicted derailment. The process may have slowed down for a while but the final destination is unchanged", he added.

    Jose Manuel Barroso, Commission President said he agreed with everything that Vanhanen said.

    On his part, European People's Party and European Democrats (EPP-ED) leader in the European Parliament Hans-Gert Poettering, who is expected to replace next month European Parliament President Josep Borrell Fontelles, stated his is a friend of Turkey, and called on the country to fulfill its obligations.

    Cypriot Euro MP Kyriacos Triantafyllides, in an intervention, called on Vanhanen to correct his reference to "north" Cyprus, noting that there is no such name either on maps.

    He also said that direct trade with the Turkish occupied north of Cyprus can only be eased with the removal of the "40 thousand occupation troops from that part of Cyprus".

    Cyprus, a member of the EU since May 2004, has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the island's northern third.

    [27] Purchasing power standards in Cyprus rise

    BRUSSELS, 19/12/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)

    The GDP per capita in purchasing power standards in Cyprus in 2005 had reached 89% of the average EU citizen compared to 2004, according to data made public here Monday by Eurostat.

    It said that the Cypriots' purchasing power is stronger than those of the rest of the new EU states as well as Greece and Portugal.

    Cyprus was about 10% below the EU25 average, while Greece and Slovenia were around 20% below. The Czech Republic, Portugal and Malta were around 30% below the EU25 average, while Hungary, Estonia and Slovakia were about 40% below. Lithuania, Poland and Latvia were around half of the EU25 average.

    The data for 2005, 2004 and 2003, published by Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Communities, are based on revised purchasing power parities and the latest GDP and population figures.

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