|Thursday, 14 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 01-05-25
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>May 25, 2001
 KYSEA finalizes decision to delay 'high-priced' armaments deals
Athens, 25/05/2001 (ANA)The Greek government on Thursday formally announced that it was delaying several “high-priced” weapons procurement programs until 2008, part of an effort to cut defense outlays in favor of social spending during a period that also includes the hosting of the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
The purchase of a fourth-generation fighter plane for the Hellenic Air Force and a new main battle tank for the Greek army -- the two most expensive items on the military’s “shopping list” -- were among the programs delayed until 2008, three years more than the initial 2001-2005 timetable planned.
The decision was announced after a top government defense and foreign policy council (KYSEA) meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Costas Simitis.
In comments afterwards, Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos reiterated, however, that Greece continues to stand by its decision to purchase the “Eurofighter” consortium’s “Typhoon” fighter plane, while he specified that the weapons procurement budget remains at four trillion drachmas, with the only difference that it is now spread over an eight-year period. (One euro equals 340.750 drachmas)
Additionally, he said a decision on which main battle tank the Greek army will choose should be announced “within the next two to three months.”
Greece had originally selected the “Typhoon” to replace its fleet of US- and French-made third-generation fighters, saying it wanted 60 planes -- with an option for another 30 -- and the right to participate in the four-nation consortium building the plane.
The wide-ranging “Eurofighter” contract, initially pegged at around the 1.7-trillion-drachma mark, had originally expected to be tabled in Parliament for approval in the early autumn and with its signing by October, before a budget crunch forced the defense cutbacks.
 Government spokesman comments on KYSEA armaments programs decisions
Athens, 25/05/2001 (ANA)Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said on Thursday the Government Defense and Foreign Policy Council (KYSEA) discussed three issues proposed by Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos: the unified medium-term program for the development and modernization of the armed forces (EMPAE) covering the 2001-2005 period, the development of armaments programs and defense strategy revision.
"You are aware that at the inner cabinet's meeting on March 29 it was decided that the implementation of certain parts of the armaments program will be delayed and the signing of relevant contracts will be transferred for the period following 2004. This decision concerns the fourth-generation "Eurofighter" fighter plane for which a relevant decision has been taken during a past KYSEA meeting," Reppas told reporters during his regular press briefing.
"Moreover, apart from this specific aircraft, the decision also concerns armaments costing a total of about one trillion drachmas. We shall decide which specific armaments will be transferred for the period following 2004, after a proposition to be made by the defense minister, in accordance with processes anticipated, that is at a new KYSEA meeting," he added.
Reppas further said the EMPAE for the 2001-2005 period will be extended until 2008 to enable expenditures on armaments programs amounting to about one trillion drachmas to be made after 2005 and until 2008.
"We have, in other words, a decrease in armaments expenditures by this amount until 2005. These expenditures will be made over the next period until 2008," he said.
Referring to the air force in particular, Reppas said it was strengthened spectacularly with the first EMPAE covering the 1996-2000 period.
He said F-16 fighter planes were obtained at a cost of 720 billion drachmas, Mirage-2000 fighter planes were also acquired for 558 billion, while PHANTOM aircraft were modernized at a cost of 100 billion and the T-6 training aircraft were purchased with 78 billion.
"We also had the procurement of long-range anti-aircraft missiles, the known PATRIOT ones, for a total expenditure of 390 billion drachmas, as well as of short-range anti-aircraft missiles, the known 'CROTALE' for a total expenditure of 80 billion drachmas," he said.
Reppas further said that six companies made finalized and improved offers in January this year for the procurement of a new battle tank for the Greek armed forces.
He added that the evaluation for the new tank is continuing and the finalized and improved proposals made are being studied to enable a final decision to be taken.
 Cyprus' EU entry is Greece's priority during enlargement, Greek premier says
VALETA, 25/05/2001 (ANA - G. Papachristos)Greek-Turkish relations cannot progress much more if conditions in Cyprus remain unchanged, Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis said Thursday evening during his ad-dress to a dinner hosted in his honor by his Maltese counterpart Eddie Fenech Adami.
Simitis is in Malta on a two-day visit as part of a tour of candidate states to the European Union. Both Cyprus and Malta applied for entry in the Union.
"Greek-Turkish relations can not move forward by much, if conditions in Cyprus remain unchanged," Simitis said, adding that a just and overall solution to the Cyprus problem is a priority for the Greek government.
He stressed that negotiations for Cyprus' entry to the European Union, which continue unabated and are progressing normally, are also a priority of the Greek government
The Greek premier also said that compared to Turkey, Greece has made several courageous steps forward and has began a "step by step" rapprochement, in efforts to establish relations of peace and good neighborliness based on international law.
Simitis stressed that Greece played a crucial role in the Union's acceptance of Turkey's candidacy, adding that "this entails advantages as well as obligations, specifically on the fields of Turkey's relations with its neighbors, human rights and the Cyprus problem".
He said that the Union's enlargement is a great challenge and a great opportunity for the European Union, thus Greece supports the speeding up of the substantial negotiations with candidate states.
He also noted that next month European leaders will meet to access the course of candidate states and expressed the hope that European leaders will send them a political message of support.
Speaking on Malta's candidacy, Simitis said that the small island nation complies with all political and economic criteria to become a member-state of the Union, adding that he believed Malta would progress toward the adoption of the aquis communautaire.
He concluded noting that Greece supports Malta's accession prospect, as it would greatly contribute to the stabilization of the Mediterranean and would benefit the Union.
Simitis hopes for EU enlargement early in 2003: Greece hopes that European Union enlargement will be definitely decided in the first half of 2003, when Greece will be holding the six-month EU rotating presidency, Prime Minister Costas Simitis told a press conference after talks with his Maltese counterpart Eddie Fenech Adami.
"Some difficulties will probably arise but in any case we will try to overcome them because we want a stronger European southern wing. That is why Malta and Cyprus must become EU members," Simitis said.
The Greek premier said that enlargement should proceed fast and be implemented according to the agreed timetable.
Fenech Adami, on his part, said that his country warmly supported Cyprus' EU entry, adding that he was fully convinced that the island republic should enter the Union because it fulfilled all conditions. Cyprus' accession should take place regardless of a solution to its protracted political problem, he said.
The Maltese premier said Greek-Maltese relations were very good.
Simitis arrived on Thursday afternoon and was greeted by Fenech Adami upon arrival, before the two men held talks over a series of bilateral and international issues.
Malta's president, Guido De Marco, will receive Simitis on Friday.
Malta's EU accession prospects dominated talks, as Greece has consistently favored an expansion by the 15-member bloc for reasons of principle and in relation to Cyprus' EU accession course.
In terms of bilateral relations, improving economic and trade ties will be on the agenda, as well as a briefing by the Greek delegation on the situation in the SE Mediterranean.
Two agreements will be signed during Simitis' stay, including a pact on cooperation in the public safety sector.
Simitis is also accompanied by Press and Mass Media Minister Dimitris Reppas.
The Greek PM, his wife and the rest of the delegation return to Athens on Friday afternoon.
 Greek President meets Croatian PM, attends economic forum in Zagreb
ZAGREB, 25/05/2001 (ANA - N. Megadoukas)President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos concluded the official part of a three-day visit to Croatia on Thursday by meeting with Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan for talks on bilateral relations, particularly about boosting trade between their two countries.
Another topic discussed was Balkan affairs and the continued instability in certain regions of southeast Europe.
Greece's Balkan neighbors also figured during an exclusive interview with Stephanopoulos broadcast by Croatia's state television channel HRT on Wednesday night, during which he noted that Greece was in favor of facilitating the course of all European countries that wished to join the European Union.
Responding to a question on how Greece could help Croatia as a long-time member of the EU and NATO, Stephanopoulos said:
"Greece follows a policy toward countries that wish to become members of NATO and the EU that leads to facilitating them with all the means at the disposal of our country.
"For the EU in particular, Greece has from the first been in favor of EU enlargement with all European countries that wish to become members. I believe that it is the right of these countries to become EU member-states and that Europe must be integrated, so that it can fulfill its historic mission with all the states that make it up."
The Greek president also answered questions on Greece's relations with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), which he said were normalized in all areas except the issue of the republic's name.
Greece objects to the state's adoption of the name Macedonia, which is the same as that of an adjoining northern Greek province.
"We consider the viability of this state very important for the stability of the area. We are aiding its developments and Greek investments rank first or second among foreign investments in that country."
Regarding the name issue, Stephanopoulos stressed that Greek objections were not simply a whim or a display of intransigency but were based on historic and political arguments. He did not, however, go into these any further.
He also clarified that even though Greece would like to help FYROM join the EU, it would be difficult for any agreement to get past the Greek Parliament while the republic retained the name 'Macedonia'.
Responding to the observation that Greece would be losing the most ancient currency in the world when the euro was introduced in 2002, the Greek president noted that the drachma was indeed the oldest coin in Europe and its name was linked to both ancient and modern history, as a living currency used by Greece in the past 150 years.
"There are, therefore, bitter feelings associated with losing the drachma. But because we hope that the common European currency will be very beneficial and useful for all Europe and because we joined Monetary Union after substantial effort, we have also accepted the name of the euro currency," he said.
The interview then turned to economic ties between Greece and Croatia, which Stephanopoulos said were not yet sufficiently developed, even though political relations between Greece and Croatia were excellent.
In fact, speaking at an economic forum attended by Greek and Croatian business people on Thursday afternoon, Stephanopoulos said that the success of his visit was ultimately judged by whether the business delegation accompanying him made successful contacts.
He said that his visit was important for developing economic and trade relations between Croatia and Greece and that there were no obstacles to prevent closer business ties. Conversely, he noted, several factors were conducive to such cooperation, such as the political stability of both countries, the relatively small distance between them and the ability of Greek and Croatian businessmen to cooperate effectively.
Earlier on Thursday, the president received courtesy calls from the leaders of Croatia's political parties and then visited Zagreb University, where the economic forum he inaugurated and addressed was taking place.
Greek president calls visit to Croatia a "total success": Greek President Kostis Stephanopoulos on Thursday described his visit here as totally successful and his contacts with the country's leadership positive for the future of bilateral relations.
He said that in talks with his counterpart Stjepan Mesic and the country's Prime Minister Ivica Racan, he noted an identity of views especially regarding the condemnation of violence as a means to resolve disputes and actions aiming at changing the existing borders.
Stephanopoulos noted that Croatia wishes to maintain the current status quo agreed on in Dayton regarding Bosnia.
He added that he agreed with Croatia's leadership that efforts to expand Greek-Croatian commercial and business relations should continue.
Responding to relevant questions by journalists, Stephanopoulos said that he did not believe the Greek Parliament would accept a name for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) that would include the term "Macedonia".
The Greek president departed for Dubrovnik later in the day and will return to Athens on Friday.
 Balkans, EU defense the focus of Papandreou-Wolfowitz talks in Washington
WASHINGTON, 25/05/2001 (ANA - T. Ellis)The situation in the Balkans and European defense were at the focus of talks between Greece's foreign minister George Papandreou and US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz in Washington on Tuesday.
During the 40-minute meeting at the Pentagon, the two officials made an in-depth analysis on the situation in the Balkans and its flashpoints, and the search for a way out of the impasse created by Turkey's stance to the operation of the European defense mechanism.
"We entered into details surrounding the flash points in the Balkans. We did not limit ourselves only to the crises in FYROM, Kosovo, Montenegro and southern Serbia, but also to the prospects for the future, how the crisis can be overcome so that we can consolidate stability in the Balkans," Papandreou told reporters after the meeting.
Wolfowitz said that Washington was interested in EU-Turkey relations with respect to European defense.
"It is an issue that concerns the US, and they wanted to hear our views, too. I cannot say that a solution exists. Efforts are being made, but there is nothing specific yet," Papandreou said.
Papandreou said he and Wolfowitz also discussed Greek-US relations, and mainly the on-going negotiation of the Comprehensive Technical Agreement (CTA) on the regime governing the US forces in Greece and the Greek forces in the US.
They further discussed security for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, and cooperation between the two countries in combat-ting terrorism.
Papandreou said they did not discuss the issue of Confidence-Building Measures between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean, or the prospect of the procurement of American weapons systems for the Greek Armed Forces.
 FM spokesman says Albanian leaders undermine stability in FYROM
Athens, 25/05/2001 (ANA)Foreign ministry spokesman Panayiotis Beglitis, referring to a statement on joint action being taken by leaders of Albanian parties in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and the so-called National Liberation Army, said on Thursday the statement undermines political stability in FYROM and creates a climate of tension in the wider region.
"The statement by the leaders of the Albanian parties substantively undermines FYROM's political stability and creates a climate of tension in the wider region. For this reason, we believe that the statement in question is unacceptable and it is condemned by the international community in its entirety," he said.
"Legal political forces in FYROM should continue and complete political dialogue with the aim of achieving necessary reforms for the country, ruling out at the same time any legalization of extremist forces and terrorist elements, to prevent whatever effort made so far by the international community and the European Union in particular from misfiring," he added.
 Activities of SE Europe Multinational Brigade to be discussed in Athens
Athens, 25/05/2001 (ANA)Issues concerning the Multinational Brigade of Southeastern Europe's activities will be discussed in Athens on Friday by members of the coordinating committee of SEDM (the countries comprising the force).
The meeting is being held in light of a conference of SEDM defense ministers in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, on June 5-6.
Issues on the meeting's agenda are Ukraine's participation in SEDM with observer status, organizing issues regarding the meeting of SEDM deputy defense ministers in Italy in October 2001, types of operations in support of peace in which the brigade can be used, the satellite simulator system for training on issues concerning the handling of crises and natural disasters and the telemedical linkage of military hospitals in countries of southeastern Europe.
Representatives from Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Italy, Romania, Turkey, the U.S., Slovenia and Croatia participate in SEDM's coordinating committee.
 DM says economic and political crisis in Turkey leading to high tones
Athens, 25/05/2001 (ANA)Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, on Thursday that "the economic, social and political crisis being experienced by Turkey are leading it to use high tones as well."
Referring to a Greek foreign ministry document revealed by an Athens daily on Thursday and which does not rule out the possibility of an incident in the Aegean or Cyprus when the latter joins the European Union, Tsohatzopoulos said "such assessments are mentioned at times."
"Turkey has been realizing very correctly for some months that the accession of Cyprus and other countries of eastern Europe to the EU is proceeding with speedy rates. Turkey has difficulties. The economic crisis, the social crisis and the political crisis it is going through are leading it to use high tones. However, it cannot be concealed that the country itself in its entirety has entered a course of adjustments at many levels and, despite reactions, I am optimistic, with regard to Greece's interests, that this adjustment of Turkey's to the new situation will produce results," he added.
 Turkish aircraft violate Greek national airspace on 12 occasions
Athens, 25/05/2001 (ANA)The Turkish air force violated Greek national airspace repeatedly on Wednesday, according to press reports.
The same reports noted that four formations (each formation contains four aircraft) of Turkish aircraft made four infringements of air traffic regulations in the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR), which developed into 12 violations of national airspace in regions south of the island of Samos and between the islands of Rhodes, Karpathos and Kastellorizo.
Greek fighter planes identified and intercepted the Turkish aircraft immediately on all occasions.
Papazoi discusses, EU, Balkans and bilateral relations in Beijing talks
BEIJING, 25/05/2001 (ANA - D. Constantakopoulou)Greece's alternate foreign minister Elisavet Papazoi met Wednesday with Chinese deputy foreign minister Guangua Wang and the chairman of the country's Foreign Affairs Institute Ambassador Zhaoroi Mei.
Papazoi, in Beijing for a meeting of Asian and European foreign ministers (ASEM), discussed Euro-Chinese relations, issues concerning the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean, and bilateral relations, ahead of Greek prime minister Costas Simitis' scheduled visit to China next month.
During the talks, similarity was ascertained in Athens' and Beijing's positions on a number of international matters, and China’s continued support of Greece's positions on Cyprus and the Cyprus issue, in light of China's imminent assumption of the presidency of the UN Security Council.
The two sides stressed the need to further expand bilateral economic relations and trade, the scale of which is tipped in China's favor.
Beijing further supports Athens' position that there should be no changes of borders in the Balkans, and considers that Greece is one of the countries in the framework of the western alliance that always maintained a good stance during the war against Yugoslavia.
China is also supportive of European unification, but has reservations on the repercussions of EU enlargement on the European Union's ability to exercise an autonomous role.
 Reppas urges everyone to participate in dialogue on social security
Athens, 25/05/2001 (ANA)Labor Minister Tassos Yiannitsis announced on Thursday that he had arranged to meet with representatives of the civil servants' union ADEDY on May 31, in one week's time, as part of efforts to organize dialogue on the social insurance issue.
The meeting has been scheduled one day after a meeting between Yiannitsis and Greece's largest umbrella trade union, the General Confederation of Workers' of Greece (GSEE).
In statements on Thursday, the labor minister reiterated a call to GSEE to take part in dialogue, while noting that the government had committed itself to state contributions for the social insurance system but could not be more specific until the issues had been examined in dialogue with the social partners.
Commenting on the issue earlier on Thursday, meanwhile, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said that everyone should take part in dialogue on reforming the social security system with a due sense of responsibility, when asked if the government expected unions to respond to an invitation from the labor minister to begin talks.
The spokesman said that everyone should come forward with their proposals for an issue as important as that of social insurance, where the reforms would affect many future generations.
On Wednesday, the main Greek umbrella trade union GSEE (General Confederation of Workers of Greece) had said it would attend a first meeting with the Labor minister, but stressed that conditions were not good for the beginning of dialogue to reform the country's social security system.
GSEE's chairman Christos Polyzogopoulos stressed, meanwhile, that this did not mean GSEE was participating in social dialogue since the trade unions' conditions have not been met.
The Supreme Administrative Council of Civil Servants (ADEDY) also adopted the same policy.
Wide-spread and heated opposition by trade unions, the opposition and even many PASOK deputies last month led to a "freezing" of a set of labor ministry's measures to reform the country's bloated social security and pensions sector.
 SEB boards meets with Karamanlis over social security reform issue
Athens, 25/05/2001 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader met with the leadership of the Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) on Thursday for talks centering on the social security reform issue.
Afterwards, SEB President Odysseus Kyriakopoulos said his group agrees with the "tripartite funding" model (state-employees-employers) for social security. Asked if SEB agrees with ND's proposals on the contentious issue, Kyriakopoulos said all tabled proposals include a positive aspect.
 Gov't flatly denies report related to Mount Athos prohibition
Athens, 25/05/2001 (ANA)The Greek government on Thursday categorically denied that it was considering any issue related to the prohibition against females visiting the semi-autonomous monastic community of Mount Athos.
A government spokesman also stressed that there is no intention of even considering such an issue.
Mount Athos, an all-male monastic community for roughly 1,000 years that is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, hosts around 20 Orthodox Christian monasteries on its isolated territory - a narrow peninsula in northern Greece west of the port city of Thessaloniki.
No female visitors are allowed on the peninsula, part of the community's unique and long-standing religious tradition.
The foreign ministry in Athens is responsible for relations between the Greek state and the semi-autonomous community, while the central government also appoints a governor for Mount Athos.
Spokesman Dimitris Reppas made the comments in response to a question regarding a recent initiative by a ruling PASOK party Eurodeputy, Anna Karamanou, who also doubles as the party's equality sector secretary.
The question comes in light of repeated government statements this past distancing official policy from remarks by the justice minister, among others, touting the idea of instituting mandatory civil wedding ceremonies in the country.
On that subject, Reppas emphasized that there were no intentions or even consideration to enact such legislation.
 Protestors of anti-terrorism bill march to Parliament
Athens, 25/05/2001 (ANA)Members of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), leftist organizations and of a committee against the bill on organized crime and terrorism on Thursday evening rallied at a central Athens plaza and marched to Parliament.
The committee against the bill expressed the belief that the bill drafted by the government was "dangerous for the present and future of individual rights and democratic freedoms, which the people gained with struggles and sacrifices".
The protestors requested that the bill be withdrawn from Parliament.
 900 billion drachmas to fight poverty over next 3 years
Athens, 25/05/2001 (ANA)Labor and Social Insurances Minister Tassos Giannitsis said on Thursday more than 900 billion drachmas would be provided over the next three years for the national plan against social exclusion and poverty.
The national plan will be sent to the European Commission for ratification after being debated in Parliament first.
Giannitsis said the plan against social exclusion and poverty, together with the national action plan on employment and social security reform, constitute the government's major interventions in the social field.
He added that social expenditures have increased by three percent since 1993.
 EU post-expansion policies should tend to economic and social convergence, Greece says
Athens, 25/05/2001 (ANA)European Union policies, even in the post-expansion era, should tend to economic and social convergence, Greek National Economy Deputy Minister Christos Pahtas said on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters, during a press conference, Pahtas said this was the Greek position ahead of the beginning of negotiations on future Community Support Frameworks in the EU.
"We cannot speak about economic and political integration with first achieving economic and monetary cohesion and social convergence," he said.
EU policies should contribute to the growth of less developed regions, he said. "These regions should be support more in the coming years, because developed areas continued growing, with the risk of instead of achieving convergence to witness a divergence among EU member-states," Pahtas warned.
The Greek position urged for EU policies (farm, research and technology) to focus on convergence and cohesion.
Pahtas said that according to current data, certain Greek regions (Crete, Ionian islands, Attica) would stop receiving EU funding.
Greek regions were eligible to EU structural funds if their average per capital Gross Domestic Product is less than 75 percent of the EU average. Pahtas said this rate should be reviewed upwards following the EU's expansion.
 Greece and Cyprus achieve 20 percent increase in bilateral trade in 2000
Athens, 25/05/2001 (ANA)Bilateral relations between Greece and Cyprus in the wider economic sector are following a stable upward trend in past years, according to a bulletin issued by the office of the Greek embassy's Economic and Commercial Affairs adviser in Cyprus.
Commercial transactions between the two countries are also expected to be strengthened even further in the near future in view of Cyprus' accession to the European Union and the subsequent decrease in dues for a number of products.
Commercial transactions, according to the bulletin, are constantly increasing, resulting in their volume increasing from 136.9 million Cyprus pounds in 1994 to 254.4 million in 2000, registering an increase of 85.7 percent. In 2000 alone, the increase in the volume of bilateral trade amounted to about 20 percent.
Greek exports to Cyprus more than doubled over the 1994-2000 period and increased from 100.1 million Cyprus pounds in 1994 to about 206.1 million in 2000.
In addition, Cyprus's exports to Greece over the same period also went fairly well. Cyprus, a purely importing country, increased its exports to Greece from 36 million Cyprus pounds in 1994 to 48.3 million in 2000, increasing by about 34 percent.
 Gov't emphasizes importance of renewable energy sources in Greece
Athens, 25/05/2001 (ANA)An increase in economic activity and a corresponding improvement in the standard of living have led to a dramatic rise in energy consumption in both Greece and internationally, delegates at an Athens conference on renewable energy sources heard on Thursday.
In addressing the conference, Development Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said renewable energy sources account for 9 percent of Greece's needs at present, whereas a 20-percent figure should be reached within a decade.
He also cited a 180-billion-drachma program to fund the construction of RES units throughout the country, sans the island of Evia.
According to Public Works and Environment Deputy Minister Ilias Efthymiopoulos, although certain energy-saving measures have begun to pay off in the east Mediterranean country, a comprehensive policy to reduce emissions blamed for the so-called "Green House Effect" has not been developed.
The deputy minister, who was Greenpeace Hellas' director before joining the government, said Crete leads all regions in Greece in terms of using renewable energy sources (RES) to generate electricity - 10 percent, expected to soon reach 15 percent.
Efthymiopoulos said opposition by local residents and municipalities to infrastructure works for RES units -- such as windmills and hydroelectric dams -- mark the greatest obstacle in employing such "environment-friendly" technology.
He added that establishing zones for RES infrastructure away from environmentally sensitive or historically significant areas in the country could allay opposition.
 Consumer tax on fuel the lowest in EU, Apostolaki tells parliament
Athens, 25/05/2001 (ANA)Deputy development minister Milena Apostolaki told parliament Thursday that there was no room for further reduction of the special consumer tax on fuel, which she said was the lowest in the EU.
She was replying to questions tabled by two PASOK MPs on the recent increases in fuel prices.
Apostolaki advised consumers to compare prices and prefer gas stations that adhered to the indicative prices issued by the development ministry.
She also said that a proposed bill on normalization of the fuels market would be forwarded next week to all agencies involved, adding that, under the bill, gas station owners would be able to have direct access to refineries while mechanisms to guarantee transparency and safety in the transport of fuels were also provided.
 Gloomy forecasts for Greek tourism this year
Athens, 25/05/2001 (ANA)The Institute for Tourism Research and Forecasts (ITEP) on Thursday revealed gloomy forecasts for the tourism industry in Greece this year, in contrast with an optimistic forecast of a 7.0 percent increase in tourist arrivals made by the Greek Tourism Organization recently.
In its latest report on tourism, ITEP said "prospects for the current year did not look optimistic at all". The institute, reflecting views from the private sector and particularly the Greek Hotels Chamber, forecasts a decline of at least 3.0 percent in tourist arrivals in 2001, with big declines in Athens (-10%), Crete and south Aegean islands (-3% to -5%).
The only regions likely to show increases this year were central Macedonia/Chalkidiki and the Ionian islands (2%-3%, respectively), the report said.
ITEP said that these forecasts were based on a combination of "cheaper destinations in Turkey, Egypt and Bulgaria have attracted major tour operators' interest for the year and a relative idle reaction from Greek authorities to prevent this development".
The report said that the operation of a new Athens airport at Spata would undermine tourism in the country's capital, because the airport was considered one of the most expensive in the world (around 2-1/2 times more than Rome's airport, two times more than Barcelona's and 50 percent more than Istanbul's).
ITEP said it was opposed to a decision to build new hotels in Athens ahead of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, saying their future viability was uncertain.
However, the institute said it believed that a gradual opening of tourism markets in the Balkans and eastern Europe would benefit Greek tourism.
Athens hotels record biggest room yield decline in Europe: Hotels located in Athens recorded the biggest declines in capacity and room yield rates in Europe in the 1st quarter of 2001, an international report by Arthur Andersen said on Thursday.
Hotels in Athens recorded a capacity rate of 59.5 percent in the January-March period, down 9.7 percent compared with the same period last year, while room yields fell by 4.0 percent to 68.2 euros.
These figures were the worst among European countries where average capacity rate grew by 1.3 percent in the first quarter to 62.5 percent. In Rome, the capacity rate totalled 69.8 percent (up 10.8%), in Barcelona 74.7 percent (up 4.5%), in Istanbul 58.5 percent (up 7.6%) and Cyprus 65.5 percent (up 10.6%).
The average hotel room price in pan-European level increased by 4.7 percent over the same period, while in Greece the increase was 6.3 percent.
The report was based on figures selected from more than 4,000 hotels in 140 countries. Greek hotels in the survey were luxury class hotels.
 Black Sea Bank signs credit lines with Russia and Georgia
Athens, 25/05/2001 (ANA)The Black Sea Cooperation and Development Bank signed four credit line deals, worth 13 million US dollars, with Russian and Georgia during the bank's 3rd annual meeting in Tbilisi, Georgia, recently.
The deals, signed between the bank's chairman Ersoy Volkan and executives from commercial banks in Russia and Georgia, were aimed to facilitate trade growth and pre-export credits to the two countries.
The first deal, worth 10 million US dollars, was signed with Russian bank Vneshtorgbank to support pre-export activities in the country.
Such programs, worth 30 million US dollars, were already under way in Turkey, Romani, Bulgaria and Georgia, the Black Sea Bank said.
The bank also signed a 500,000 loan deal with Center-Invest Bank to support small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the southern regions of Russia (Stavropol, Krasnodor and Rostov).
Supporting SMEs was a priority for the Black Sea Cooperation and Development Bank and accounted for 25 percent of its actions. The bank, in cooperation with IFC, US AID, SEAF and several businessmen set up a Transbalkan SME equity fund, with a capital of 25 million US dollars, to promote its goals in the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Pact area.
The bank's chairman, Ersoy Volkan, also signed a cooperation protocol with Georgian Economy and Industry Minister Vano Chkhartishvili. Under the agreement, the two sides will set up a work group to offer consultancy services for export and development credit lines in the Black Sea and to promote Georgian products abroad.
 Viohalco buys Bulgarian steel maker
Athens, 25/05/2001 (ANA)Viohalco, a listed Greek metals group, on Thursday announced the acquisition of a thermal grading/steel processor unit of Bulgarian industrial group Stomana AD through its subsidiary Terro Metall Ltd.
The unit is based in Pernik, Bulgaria. It has an annual production capacity of 100,000 tones of steel.
 Greek stocks rebound on ASE
Athens, 25/05/2001 (ANA)Equity prices resumed their advance on Thursday supported by renewed buying interest in smaller capitalization stocks on the Athens Stock Exchange.
Traders said that the market was due for an upward correction following several sessions of declines.
Shares in the construction sector attracted heavy demand to score the biggest gains ahead of publication by the government of a new draft bill aiming for the restructuring of the sector.
The general index ended 0.52 percent higher at 3,165.52 points, off the day's highs of 3,183.16 points, with turnover a low 130.23 million euros, or 44.38 billion drachmas.
The FTSE/ASE 20 for blue chip and heavy traded stocks ended 0.41 percent higher at 1,880.32 points, and the FTSE/ASE 40 index ended at 354.92 points, up 0.66 percent.
The parallel market index for smaller capitalization stocks ended at 300.80 points, up 0.01 percent.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 201 to 116 with another 43 issues unchanged.
Etma, Balafas, Progressive, Mesohoritis, Naoussa Spinning, Klonatex, Athenian Holdings, Efklidis and Sigalas scored the biggest percentage gains, while Barba Stathis, Xifias, Desmos, Sfakianakis, Pouliadis, Mouriadis, Marfin Classic and Informatics suffered the heaviest losses.
Hellenic Telecoms, National Bank, Follie Follie, Naoussa Spinning and Piraeus Bank were the most heavily traded stocks.
Bond prices rise in mild trade: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market on Thursday finished higher with players focusing on 10-year paper.
The Greek benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 5.6 percent from 5.17 percent a trading day earlier.
The yield spread over German bunds was 45 basis points from 44 basis points in the previous session.
Turnover through the central bank's electronic system totaled 720 million euros (245.3 billion drachmas) from 1.2 billion euros (437.8 billion drachmas) in the trading day before.
Buy orders accounted for the bulk of turnover.
Athens Derivatives Exchange launches two new products: The Athens Derivatives Exchange launched two new pro-ducts on Thursday the Stock Repo and the Stock Reverse Repo, as short-term contracts for the repurchase and resale of stock options.
The derivative clearing company ETESEP will loan the titles to those wishing to enter the exchange with these two new products and receive interest payment from them, while paying interest to individuals willing to loan their titles.
Equity futures end higher, tracking Athens bourse: Equity futures traded on the Athens Derivatives Exchange ended higher on Thursday, with a rise seen in both FTSE/ASE-20 deals and in FTSE-ASE-40 contracts.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index closed 0.41 percent up, and the FTSE/ASE 40 ended 0.66 percent higher.
Traded were 4,158 contracts on turnover of 27.8 million euros.
 Novartis predicts leukemia wonder-drug will be approved by end of year
Athens, 25/05/2001 (ANA)A new drug for the treatment of myeloid leukemia, presented as a major breakthrough by pharmaceuticals firm Novartis that developed it, should be approved for use in Greece by the end of the year according to the company.
Novartis claims impressive results with the use of the new drug, which will be marketed under the name of Gleevec.
In an announcement on Thursday, the company's Greek representatives said that the costs of the treatment would not exceed 800,000 drachmas per month per patient and would be covered by state health insurance.
There are currently 600 people in Greece who need the new drug, which in clinical trials achieved near complete recovery in 50 per cent of cases and succeeded in preserving the life of 88 per cent of patients who were considered beyond help.
Novartis said that the drug was also being tested experimentally for other forms of cancer, such as rare forms of stomach and prostate cancer.
While cautious about the results of these tests, they estimated that the way the drug works could become a model for future treatments developed by molecular biology, where drugs may not provide a cure but do allow patients to deal with their disease as a chronic ailment.
 International conference examines victimization of children by war
Athens, 25/05/2001 (ANA)An international conference on children victimized by war began in Athens on Thursday.
The conference, which is organized by the "Foundation for the Child and the Family" in cooperation with "The Hague Call for Peace" and is being held under the auspices of the foreign ministry, called attention to the use of children in warfare.
Mariana Vardinoyiannis, president of the Foundation for the Child and the Family, addressed the conference calling for action against the use of children in warfare and for the protection of children from violence.
The conference is attended by notable Greek and foreign personalities, while international figures sent telegrams lauding the effort, which is part of the International Decade (2001-2010) for the Culture of Peace and the Avoidance of Violence.
 Stephanopoulos to attend events commemorating Souli resistance
Athens, 25/05/2001 (ANA)President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos will attend events in Souli on Sunday that commemorate the town's legendary resistance to Ottoman Turkish rule in the 19th century, which culminated with a leap to their death for 63 Souli women in 1803, who preferred to sacrifice their lives rather than fall into the hands of the Turks.
 President to inaugurate exhibition on images of Christ
Athens, 25/05/2001 (ANA)President Kostis Stephanopoulos will inaugurate an exhibition at the Byzantine Museum on May 28, focusing on the images of Christ throughout the centuries.
It is the most important event organized by the Greek Church to mark the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Christ.
Exhibits, about 200 in all, concern icons, murals, small artifacts and ecclesiastical embroidery from the Byzantine Museum and private collections.
An excellent icon of Christ, probably the oldest of its kind to be saved and dating back to the 6th century, comes from the Sinai Monastery and it is leaving for the first time together with eight more icons and a manuscript.
The exhibition is taking place in cooperation with the culture ministry.
The exhibition shows that "the Church and the state are the two sides of one and the same coin, continuing longstanding tradition through the centuries, as it was safeguarded during the years of the Byzantine Empire," Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos told a press conference on Thursday.
 Journalists condemn bomb attack against opposition paper in occupied Cyprus
NICOSIA, 25/05/2001 (CNA/ANA)The Union of Cyprus Journalists has strongly condemned Thursday's bomb attack against a Turkish Cypriot opposition daily in the island's northern Turkish occupied areas and has asked for the intervention of the UN and other international bodies with a view to safeguard freedom of expression and human rights among the Turkish Cypriot community.
In a written statement the Union also said that the attack aims at muzzling those Turkish Cypriots who are working to reunite Cyprus, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion of the island, and who oppose the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime, backed by Turkey.
Noting that the attack is probably the work of a terrorist organization in occupied Cyprus, the Union points out that the main opposition daily "Avrupa" has been a target in the past in an attempt to silence the many critics of the oppressive regime.
"The Union denounces and condemns with indignation and abhorrence the new criminal attack against the Turkish Cypriot daily, early this morning, in which a powerful explosion caused a big fire that destroyed printing equipment and other material," a press release sent to the UN, the International and European Federation of Journalists and the International Press Institute said.
This is not the first time that the offices and printing works of Avrupa are the target of bomb attacks, it stressed, adding that journalists working at the paper are daily threatened and blackmailed to silence them from criticizing the illegal regime of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and the 35,000 Turkish occupation troops, on the island since they invaded in 1974.
The Union of Journalists has appealed to the recipients of its protest to "intervene urgently for the protection of Avrupa and its journalists and the safeguarding of the freedom of expression and other human rights in the Turkish Cypriot community."
The press release, sent also to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and other world bodies, said that all indications are that the bomb attack is the work of a recently reconstituted terrorist organization, operating in the occupied part of the Republic under the name of TMT B that aims "at muzzling and stifling the voices of those Turkish Cypriots who are opposed to the Denktash regime and the Turkish army.
These voices, it points out, are fighting to reunite the country and to safeguard the human rights of all its inhabitants.
TMT B is the successor to TMT A, an underground terrorist organization set up by the Turkish Cypriots in the 1960s.
Foreign minister: Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides has expressed regret and concern over the bomb attack against the Turkish Cypriot opposition daily "Avrupa".
Speaking at a press conference, Kasoulides also said the collapse of the illegal government in the areas of Cyprus occupied by Turkey since 1974 will only reinforce the Turkish side's intransigence in the UN-led effort for a settlement on the island.
"We must all feel sorrow but also concern over the bomb attack," he said, recalling statements made by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash about the revival of a Turkish Cypriot terrorist organization, TMT, which operated on the island in the 1960s.
Invited to comment on the collapse Thursday of the illegal "government" in the Turkish occupied areas, Kasoulides said he considers these developments "reinforce Mr. Denktash's intransigence."
The UN effort for a settlement in Cyprus that got underway in December 1999 reached an impasse after Denktash refused to return to proximity talks in January unless there is a change in the procedure followed and the illegal regime is recognized.
 Illegal government in occupied areas resigns
NICOSIA,25/05/2001 (CNA/ANA)The so-called coalition government in the Turkish-occupied northern part of Cyprus formed between the National Unity Party (NUP) and the Communal Liberation Party (CLP) was dissolved.
According to press reports from the Turkish-occupied areas of the island, the decision to dissolve the so-called coalition was taken by majority by the NUP, which met Thursday under its leader Dervis Eroglu, who held the post of the so-called prime minister.
CLP leader, Mustafa Akinci, so-called vice-president, has already been informed of the decision.
The Turkish Cypriot press wrote Thursday that Eroglu expects a "mandate" from Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to form a new "government", this time with the Democratic Party.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the island's northern third. The illegal regime in the occupied areas is recognized only by Ankara.