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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-01-07
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>January 7, 2004
 PM Simitis announces elections on March 7, new leader for PASOK
Athens, 07/01/2004 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Wednesday announced that he was initiating procedures for the election of a new president for ruling PASOK, who would take over the reins of government if PASOK emerged victorious from early elections on March 7.
Simitis said he would remain prime minister until that time.
The premier said PASOK's Central Committee will meet on Thursday to decide the details of the succession process.
He justified the decision to bring the elections forward to March 7 by citing developments in the Cyprus issue and efforts to ensure that Cyprus was united before it officially joined the European Union on May 1, saying this would require a government with a fresh mandate.
FM Papandreou speaks of prospects and hopes of Greek people, following meeting with premier: ''There are great prospects and hopes, which overstep the bounds of the party and this is something that expresses me,'' Foreign Minister George Papandreou said on Tuesday, after his meeting with Prime Minster Costas Simitis.
''We exchanged opinions on the initiatives of the next few days, which the Prime Minister has announced. Of course we discussed issues beyond politics. These historic moments are very personal ones, moments of emotion and for me, much more so for Costas Simitis,'' Papandreou said.
''We hear, from all neighborhoods and corners of the country first ever heard messages of hope and optimism for a new course of renewal, for a course of changes,'' he added.
He noted, however, that announcements on decisions will be made over the next few days.
On Wednesday at 10 am, Simitis will meet with President Kostis Stephanopoulos to brief him of the initiatives that he will undertake, while later he will chair a joint meeting of the ruling PASOK's Executive Bureau and the cabinet.
Following these meetings Simitis will issue a proclamation directly to the Greek citizens, to announce his decisions to the Greek people.
Main opposition New Democracy (ND) spokesman Theodoros Rousopoulos issued a press release immediately after Papandreouís statements, saying that ''these people that created the problems, which all Greeks know very well, can not be hidden be-hind smiles and communications tricks''.
Premier, party, gov't officials discuss upcoming elections: Prime Minister Costas Simitis met on Tuesday in his home with PASOK party Secretary Michalis Chrysohoidis and Deputy Press and Media Minister Telemachos Hytiris to discuss developments within PASOK in light of the national elections.
Following the meeting Hytiris said that decisions will be announced on their ''own good time'', limiting his responses by saying that during the meeting they discussed all upcoming developments, including the date of the national elections.
He added that all relevant announcements will be made by Simitis, after his meeting with President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos and the decisions that will be made by the PASOK bodies.
 Main opposition plans strategy for foreign policy, pre-election period
Athens, 07/01/2004 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis on Monday chaired a meeting at ND party headquarters to discuss his plan of action for the coming period.
The talks also covered developments in the Cyprus issue and in relations between Greece and Turkey.
After the meeting, Karamanlis said that ND planned to adopt a policy of normalizing Greek-Turkish relations on the basis of international law once it became a government.
''I hope that 2004 is a year of peace and prosperity for the two peoples,'' Karamanlis added.
With regard to the Cyprus issue, he said that ND supported the start of talks based on the United Nations peace plan presented by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Sources said that ND officials expect developments on the issue of the Aegean continental shelf and are preparing for this event.
According to the schedule for the period leading up to elections that was worked out during Monday's meeting, Karamanlis will meet electoral candidates for one-seat constituencies on Friday and visit the Athens suburb of Halandri on Saturday.
On January 14, he will announce ND's health program, while at the end of January he will announce the party's economic program.
In mid-February, ND plans to hold a national convention for the presentation of its government program, though these dates might be changed if the date for elections is brought forward.
 Coalition leader slams succession within PASOK as political 'distortion'
Athens, 07/01/2004 (ANA)Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party leader Nikos Constantopoulos on Monday slammed plans for a change of leadership for ruling PASOK prior to the elections as an ''additional distortion of the political system''.
He said it would be used as a ''communications plan'' to divert public opinion from the reality of the problems.
''If we embark on the 21st century with political developments in Greek society and our country being determined by impressions and names, then this is an additional distortion of our political system,'' he said.
He also claimed that George Papandreou was jointly responsible for the government's present policies and had a hand in their creation, adding that the Coalition party sought to have these same policies changed.
Constantopoulos stressed that the next elections will be judged by the government's overall policies and ''additionally by the fact that the prime minister was avoiding the responsibility of answering to and being judged (by the electorate)''.
He said an attempt was being made to polarize the political scene, while predicting that the Coalition would once again be elected to Parliament in the coming elections.
 Epiphany Day celebrations take place around the country
Athens, 07/01/2004 (ANA)One of Orthodox Christianity's most important days, that of the "Epiphany" was celebrated throughout the country on Tuesday, with the customary church services and the blessing of the waters, in memory of Christ's baptism in the River Jordan.
Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos, breaking with tradition officiated the ceremonies and doxology in Greece's second largest city Thessaloniki, replacing temporarily late bishop Panteleimon, who died six months ago.
Following a grand ceremony in the city's Cathedral of the Wisdom of God and with temperatures of close to 3 degrees centigrade, the archbishop led a litany to the waterfront of the port city and from a boat he cast a cross in the water, concluding the blessing, which customarily is also a call for youths to jump in the water and recover the cross.
Despite the cold weather a large number of people participated in the outdoors ceremonies, which were also attended by civic and political leaders, with Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos representing the government, along with Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Macedonia Thrace Minister Haris Kastanidis
Similar ceremonies took place in Piraeus officiated by Metropolitan of the city Kallinikos, with President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos, Prime Minister Costas Simitis and main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis in attendance.
The Piraeus ceremonies were also attended by Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) President Dimitris Tsovolas, Merchant Marine Minster George Paschalidis and local government leaders.
In Athens, the Epiphany Day celebration was focused in central Kolonaki plaza Water Reservoir, where the government was represented by Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and the Municipality by Mayor Dora Bakoyianni.
 EU Commission takes Greece to court over pollution directive
BRUSSELS 07/01/2004 (ANA/V. Demiris)The European Commission on Tuesday initiated procedures to take Greece and another five EU member-states to the European Court for violations of directives concerning industrial pollution.
The Commission announced that it will take Greece, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands to court sending a written warning and calling them to implement a 1996 directive, which mandated that each EU member-state would submit reports on the ways to implement relevant legislation.
The directive called for stringent controls of farming and industrial facilities that can cause air pollution.
 Vartholomeos sends letter to Pope John Paul
II ISTANBUL 07/01/2004 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos on Tuesday sent a letter to Pope John Paul II, in light of the 40 anniversary since the meeting of late Ecumenical Patriarch Athinagoras and late Pope Paul VI in Jerusalem.
This was the first meeting between the two Church leaders in almost 1.000 years, due to the schism of the Christian Church that took place in the middle of the 11th century.
"Our thoughts turn, with gratitude to the memory of our late predecessors, Pope Paul and Patriarch Athinagoras. We think of the vision of the full in common faith and mysteries union of the sister churches," Vartholomeos said in his message to John Paul II.
Vartholomeos receives Istanbul prefect: Istanbul Prefect Muamer Giuler visited the Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos on Tuesday, according to a press release issued by the Holy See.
Giuler gave the government's wishes to the Patriarchate, to the Greek community of Istanbul for the holidays and announced that soon there will be a meeting between government officials and representatives of the minorities to examine existing problems.
 ND leader expresses condolences over air accident to French president
Athens, 07/01/2004 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday sent a letter of condolences to French President Jacques Chirac, for the tragic death of scores of French citizens in the recent airplane accident in Egypt.
He also sent a similar letter to French Prime Minister Jean-Pier Raffaren.
 ECB announces rise of Greek participation in bank's capital
BRUSSELS 07/01/2004 (ANA/G.Daratos)The contribution of Greece to the European Central Bank's capitalization participation rose from 2.06 per cent to 2.16 per cent, according to bank officials.
Along with Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands and Britain also saw their participation rise in 2003, since they experienced higher development rates than the rest of the Union.
Britain was the country with the highest growth in its participation to ECB's capitalization, rising from 14.68 per cent to 15.98 per cent, while France and Germany saw their percentages drop.
 EU Commission calls on interested parties for talks on working hours legislation
BRUSSELS 07/01/2004 (ANA/A.Simatos)The European Commission on Tuesday called on all interested parties to contribute to talks concerning working hours, following the drafting of a report related to the EU's legislative projects.
The focus of the report is on the ''opt-out'' choice of the employees, Britain negotiated with the Union, allowing workers to relinquish their rights, stemming from a European directive protecting their rights on working hours per week.
Greek EU Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou, who is responsible for labor affairs, said that ''we understand the significance of the freedom of choice for individuals, concerning on how they work, but, in effect, the measures mandated by the directive for securing workers' interests, when they choose to be exempt, are not implemented correctly''.
''We have to find a solution that balances the interests of all interested parties. We need to also examine which is the best way to define working hours,'' she concluded.
 Strong political overtones in Commerce & Industry Chamber event
Athens, 07/01/2004 (ANA)The New Year's customary celebration events of the Commerce and Industry Chamber of Athens on Monday evening had strong political overtones, in light of the upcoming elections, which provided the tone of the statements made.
Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis said that the country is undergoing a ''never seen before wave of rising cost of living and economic insecurity, which is exacerbated by the closing of scores of businesses''.
He added that ND's aim is to support the small and medium businesses, while commenting on changes in PASOK, he said that ''things can not change with wrapping them in different cover''.
Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos, on his part, said that the government is attempting to escape from problems, which as he said can not be resolved with changes at the top, adding that the problem of the Greek economy is self-sustainable development, that can not be achieved with actions of the government.
Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos noted that there are prospects for continuance and renewal for change, which the government and the (ruling PASOK) party are attempting, while he said that the political stage is changing and stressed that conditions demand that everyone undertakes his responsibilities.
Speaking of the upcoming elections, he said that they would take place at the end of March.
On his part, Chamber President Drakoulis Fountoukakos said that the government that would emerge from the upcoming elections should move fast toward the necessary structural changes, adding that early elections would not only clear the political air, they would also improve the economic climate.
 Greek stocks jump 1.41 percent on Monday
Athens, 07/01/2004 (ANA)Greek stocks soared on Monday pushing the general index closer to the 3,350-point resistance level. The index ended 1.41 percent higher at 2,346.19 points, remaining on an upward trend for the sixth consecutive session, reflecting improved climate in the domestic market and a rally of prices in other international bourses over the same period.
Turnover was a huge 289.2 million euros. The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks rose 1.46 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index ended 1.32 percent higher and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index rose 1.39 percent.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 231 to 83 with another 44 issues unchanged.
ASE closing prices: Analysts said the market, after breaking 2003's highs, was entering new technical trading ranges of 2,450-2,550 points for the Greek bourse. The banking sector ended higher although gains lagged the market's average percentage advance.
A UBS report said that the banking sector offered significant profit prospects in 2004 and projected that the sector could rise by 20 percent this year. UBS said profit increases could rise by 25 percent in 2004 and 15 percent in 2005, while the P/E ratio could rise to 11.5 percent in 2005. National Bank and EFG Eurobank shares are upgraded to Buy 1 from neutral.
The wider FTSE/ASE 140 index rose 1.43 percent to 2,774.03 points.
 Greece, Cyprus donate funds for ancient Greek culture in Bulgaria
SOFIA 07/01/2004 (ANA/B. Borisov)Greece and Cyprus donated 20,000 euros and 6,000 dollars respectively for archaeological projects in Bulgaria, that are related to the ancient Greek and Byzantine antiquities in the country.
According to Bulgarian National History Museum director Bozidar Dimitrov, Greece donated the money for excavations in the necropolis of the ancient Greek city of Apollonia of Pontos, near the modern city of Sozopolis.
The ancient city, which was founded in the 6th century B.C., but was abandoned in the 1st century B.C., was one of the most important trade and culture centers of its day in the region.
The Cypriot donation was provided for restoration work done in the ''St. John'' Byzantine monastery also near Sozopolis.
Both donations are part of a project to maintain and promote ancient Greek cultural heritage in Europe, Dimitrov said, adding ''we are grateful for the donations, despite the fact that we are sad that our own state is not taking care of our heritage in Europe, in a similar fashion.''
 Third issue of 'Metoikos' magazine released by ANA
Athens, 07/01/2004 (ANA)The third issue of the magazine ''Metoikos'' on immigrant issues, prepared in collaboration with the refugees and immigrant communities, was released on Monday by the Athens News Agency (ANA).
The magazine is published as part of the ''Forum for Social Cohesion'' project, which in turn forms part of the EU's Equal program against phenomena of racism and xenophobia and in support of a multicultural society within Europe.
The issues covered in the latest issue of the magazine are matters that concern immigrant and refugee communities living in Greece, particularly that of educating children from immigrant backgrounds.
It also contains interviews and articles written by refugees living in Greece dealing with integration in Greek society and provides information on books and events for immigrant and refugee communities. Among the interviews there is one by Deputy Labor and Social Insurance Minister Eleftherios Tziolas on immigrant issues.
The magazine is written mainly in Greek and Arabic, with summaries in Albanian, Russian, English and Turkish.
The publication is brought out under the aegis of the Labor ministry by a Developmental Collaboration for Equality and Social Cohesion with the participation of 24 bodies, including Attica-based immigrant and refugee organizations, and the ANA in the role of coordinator.
 Cyprus President to reply shortly to Bush's Cyprus question letter
LARNACA 07/01/2004 (CNA/ANA)Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos said on Tuesday he would be replying shortly to a letter he received from US President George Bush referring to the Cyprus question.
The president noted that Bush's letter is similar to the one sent by the US president to Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis.
Speaking on the sidelines of Epiphany celebrations in Larnaca, President Papadopoulos also commented on reports that bring Ankara accepting a UN solution plan as a basis for negotiations, saying that this has been heard many times and it is still to be seen in practice.
Asked if he intended to reply to Bush's letter, the president said he would be doing so very soon, adding that the letter ''repeats the text sent to Mr. Simitis''.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's twice revised solution plan has been accepted by the Greek Cypriot side as a basis for negotiations. Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has proclaimed it ''dead and buried''.
 President Bush's letter to Cyprus President
Athens, 07/01/2004 (ANA)US President George Bush has sent a letter to President Tassos Papadopoulos which refers to the question of Cyprus, Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides announced here on Monday after a three-hour long meeting of the National Council.
The spokesman said that the Council, comprising parliamentary parties and acting as the top advisory body to the president on the Cyprus problem, made an in depth assessment of the current situation as well as future prospects with regard to the effort to find a negotiated settlement.
Replying to questions about the Bush letter, the spokesman said ''it contains elements that refer to the question of Cyprus which will be made public in due time once the President replies to Bush.''
Chrysostomides said he has no information about Bush sending a similar letter to Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.
Asked if Bush's letter to Papadopoulos is different than that sent to Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, the spokesman replied ''I believe no.''
Bush sent a letter to Simitis saying that 2004 will be a year of historic significance for Cyprus, as the country will join the European Union. Bush also said the US believe it is important to seize the opportunity and find a just and viable solution.
Replying to questions, the spokesman said the Greek Cypriot side wishes to see a speedy resumption of talks on the substance of the problem.
''We believe there is time to negotiate and this will depend on the position of the other side,'' he said.
Asked if a timeframe for a referendum on an agreed settlement should be fixed, the spokesman said ''if we conclude an agreement, we certainly have to take into account all these factors, however let us wait and see how things will develop and if there is a change in the Turkish positions.''
''The National Council reiterated unanimously its position that the Greek Cypriot side is ready to resume negotiations on the basis of the Annan plan to find a functional and viable solution before May 1 so that a reunited Cyprus can join the Union,'' Chrysostomides said, adding that there is enough time between now and May 1 for negotiations but that would depend on the attitude of the Turkish side.
The president briefed Council members about the Bush letter, President Papadopoulos' letter to the UN Secretary General, Annan's letter to Papadopoulos and Denktash about the issue of missing persons, the Intergovernmental Conference dealing with a constitution for Europe and reports on a Turkish plan for a political settlement in Cyprus, as this has leaked to the press.
He said that no substantive discussion took place during Mon-day's meeting about the Turkish plan, as this was published in the Turkish press, because there is nothing specific on the table.