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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-01-09

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

January 9, 2004

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM Simitis resigns as PASOK president, initiates election of new party leader
  • [02] Powell says about FM Papandreou it is up to Greek people to decide who will be next Premier
  • [03] ND slams PASOK reshuffle, says policies remain unchanged
  • [04] Interior ministry preparing for upcoming elections, minister says
  • [05] US Ambassador to Nicosia says solution to Cyprus problem 'possible' before May 1
  • [06] Parliament passes bill introducing new tax measures
  • [07] Greek hotel business outlook positive, survey says
  • [08] Greek stocks rally for eight consecutive session
  • [09] Bulgarian minister says Athens Olympic Games will increase tourism cooperation
  • [10] PM Simitis to inaugurate new railway line on Monday
  • [11] Cyprus president hopes for return of Turkish side to negotiations
  • [12] PACE Political Affairs Committee approves Eorsi's draft report on Cyprus

  • [01] PM Simitis resigns as PASOK president, initiates election of new party leader

    Athens, 09/01/2004 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis officially resigned as president of ruling PASOK before the party's Central Committee on Thursday and initiated procedures to elect a new leader for the party.

    In his address to gathered Central Committee members, he called on them to agree to an emergency PASOK conference on February 6 and proposed that the new leader be elected by the entire PASOK membership in a vote to be held on February 8, two days after the conference.

    Simitis also proposed that the conference make decisions regarding PASOK's pre-election program.

    He reiterated that the new president of the party will lead PASOK's government after the elections and that his decision to step down was prompted by clear goals, namely that PASOK would be able to contend in the upcoming elections on ''terms of victory'' rather than the 'deceptive characteristics' that the main opposition was seeking to impose, with clear risk that it would succeed.

    Simitis also underlined that his decisions were not motivated by personal goals and criteria but by his duty to shape developments in such a way as to ensure that Greece would continue after his departure on the best possible terms.

    Urging members of the party to act in the same way, he defended the timing of his move as a response to Greek society's urgent call for renewal.

    ''PASOK must act and not put itself in the position of being a spectator of events. Waiting rooms befit conservatism and the right, not us,'' he stressed.

    The premier sought to assuage concerns about the brief period of 'dual leadership' for PASOK, stressing that it will end on March 8 after the elections and noting that such a an arrangement had already been tested before in other European countries.

    He also underlined that he would be an active presence in PASOK's pre-election campaign and rejected the term 'interim prime minister' voiced by his critics, while noting that he would be present to assist the new president of PASOK with his experience and the work of the past eight years and that he would contribute to forming PASOK's positions.

    Simitis stressed that main opposition New Democracy was now viewing developments with "confusion and anxiety" after its hopes of conducting a pre-electoral campaign based on non-stop attacks against a government on the defensive were confounded. It would now have to answer questions that it had been trying to avoid, such as the precise details of its program, its stance on major foreign policy issues and how it intended to bring about the economic reforms it had announced, he said.

    Finally, in a message that analysts believe was aimed at high-ranking PASOK members that have been slow to support his latest initiatives, such as Alekos Papadopoulos and Costas Laliotis, Simitis urged all members of PASOK to put personal egotism aside and bear in mind that this was not the way to win elections.

    ''When we win, we win together and when we lose, we lose together,'' he concluded.

    FM Papandreou announces his intent to lead PASOK: Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who by all accounts will be the new president of ruling PASOK ahead of the March 7 elections, on Thursday announced his intention to “lead the great democratic faction”, as he said, a clear reference to his assumption of the prime minister’s post in place of PM Costas Simitis if PASOK wins the next elections.

    Papandreou, speaking at the end of an urgently called PASOK central committee meeting, called an executive bureau proposal for the election of a new party leader by grassroots supporters a “ground-breaking event without precedent; it also expresses a new beginning, because society demands a say in order to jointly make decisions.”

    Papandreou also called on the social strata he said traditionally supported PASOK, farmers, women, small business owners, to participate in a “process of dialogue to formulate the party’s program (statements) and the election of a president.”

    “In this procedure, with a sense of responsibility and great emotion, I am submitting my request to lead this great democratic party,” his statement concluded.

    PASOK votes to change party charter for election of new president: Members of ruling PASOK's Central Committee on Thursday gave a yea vote to the prime minister's proposal to change the party charter, so that the new party leader will be elected by PASOK's entire support base, namely all PASOK ''members and friends''.

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis had earlier addressed the conference and resigned as party president, urging the gathering to approve the procedure he proposed for electing a new party leader.

    In a unanimous vote based on a count of hands, the Central Committee augmented by PASOK's Parliamentary group approved the Executive Bureau's proposal, as presented by PASOK Central Committee Secretary Mihalis Chrysohoidis.

    Apart from a vote by the party base for the new president, the proposal also allows expanded participation in an emergency PASOK conference to be held on February 6.

    Among those allowed to participate will be members of regional, prefectural and sector committees as representatives of organizations, the secretaries of recently-elected secretariats of local, municipal and other organizations, and of organizations linked to labor, representatives of PASOK Youth and members that are on the board of ''tertiary organizations with nationwide remits''.

    The election for the new PASOK president will take place on February 8 and the details of the process will be worked out in the time leading up to the party conference by the Executive Bureau.

    Addressing the gathering, Chrysohoidis praised the prime minister ''for giving a personal example of a leader who does not see power as a personal monopoly with an indefinite time limit''.

    Turning on main opposition New Democracy, he accused it of ''attempting to reduce political argument to scandal-mongering and mud-slinging'' and of seeking to ''dismantle the social state''.

    [02] Powell says about FM Papandreou it is up to Greek people to decide who will be next Premier

    WASHINGTON 09/01/2004 (ANA - T. Ellis)

    US Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking at a press conference at the State Department on Thursday, referred to Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou's decision to assume the leadership of the ruling PASOK party and to his political future, saying it is up to the Greek people to decide which party they want to rule them and who the next prime minister will be.

    ''George Papandreou is a very good friend of mine. We have done a great deal together during the past years. I congratulate him on the announcement he made today that he will claim the leadership of his party and I wish him every luck. But it is a free and open election and it is up to the Greek people to decide which party they want to rule them and who the next prime minister will be,'' said Powell, who has worked closely with his Greek counterpart over the past three years.

    [03] ND slams PASOK reshuffle, says policies remain unchanged

    Athens, 09/01/2004 (ANA)

    The main opposition New Democracy (ND) party on Thursday continued its direct attack on the government and especially Prime Minister Costas Simitis, hours after the latter resigned as the head of ruling PASOK and a day after Simitis said he would step down after the March 7 general elections.

    A ND spokesman charged that Simitis and PASOK are attempting to “muddle” the political waters, while noting that the ruling party and the problems it created remain unchanged.

    “PASOK’s strategy will lead it to defeat,” spokesman Thodoris Roussopoulos predicted.

    On his part, high-ranking ND deputy Prokopis Pavlopoulos said “those who tried to surprise the (domestic) political world ... are still searching for a leader, for policy plans.”

    In echoing previous statements by other ND cadres, Pavlopoulos said the out-going prime minister is “shadow boxing” and fleeing in order to avoid the Greek people’s judgment, “because with his stance he is admitting defeat, using images to deceive the citizenry.”

    Deputy Dimitris Sioufas said ND is more than ready and confident about the March 7 elections, announced on Wednesday by Simitis during a nationally televised address.

    Campaign strategist and former minister George Souflias, moreover, warned that the nation’s political life is being targeted by a “communications barrage from fantastic heroes and messiahs, which however, do not exist in the modern era.”

    “Citizens judge policies, and PASOK remains the same, just as its policies (remain the same),” he said.

    Souflias’ presence at ND’s headquarters marked the first time he returned to his office since a serious traffic accident late last year left him hospitalized.

    A meeting in Souflias’ office was chaired by ND leader Costas Karamanlis.

    Asked about the possible return of former Athens mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos to the ND fold, Souflias merely responded that “talks have proceeded”.

    In other election matters, sources said former AEK Athens football star Daniel Lima Batista, a naturalized Greek citizen from Cape Verde, and the coach of the men’s national basketball team, Yiannis Ioannidis, will be ND candidates in the 2nd Athens and 1st Thessaloniki election districts, respectively.

    Finally, it was announced that Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni is expected to have a hands-on role in the campaign, with an address by her at a rally in the northeastern town of Alexandroupoli planned for Monday.

    ND leader calls for television debates with Papandreou: Main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis, in an interview with a private television channel on Thursday night, called for television debates on various issues with George Papandreou, insisting on his position that the new PASOK party leader will continue the same policy.

    Karamanlis indicated statements by Prime Minister Costas Simitis in this respect and added that Papandreou has never proposed a different policy all the years he had participated in the government.

    The ND leader reiterated repeatedly that the country urgently needs a change of policy and that the citizens are not influenced by communications tricks and have taken their decisions.

    Karamanlis once again termed Simitis' decision to ''abandon the leadership'' of the ruling party an admission of defeat and failure and assessed that he will be facing both in the elections.

    Karamanlis appeared certain of ND's election victory and stressed that Papandreou is equally to blame for the policy followed since he supported it wholeheartedly, adding that ''it is insolvent for one to promise a policy which he has not applied during the 20 years he has been in power.''

    DHKKI slams 'anti-democratic' succession within ruling PASOK: In an announcement on Thursday, the president of the Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) Dimitris Tsovolas slammed moves for a change of leadership within ruling PASOK as an "undemocratic procedure to appoint a new leader" that took the party several decades back.

    Responding to the speech made by Prime Minister Costas Simitis before PASOK's Central Committee, where he announced his resignation and asked it to approve his proposals for the succession, Tsovolas said the procedures proposed "abolished all sense of internal party democracy and undermined democratic institutions".

    Noting that public debt had exceeded 60 trillion drachmas, rapidly rising prices, poverty and unemployment, Tsovolas accused Prime Minister Costas Simitis and PASOK Secretary Mihalis Chrysohoidis of "living in an imaginary world where everything is rosy" and urged the electorate to give a strong response to PASOK and main opposition New Democracy, saying that they both expressed the same neoliberal, anti-working-class policies.

    [04] Interior ministry preparing for upcoming elections, minister says

    Athens, 09/01/2004 (ANA)

    Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis on Thursday told Parliament's Public Administration Committee that his ministry was in the final stages of preparations for the upcoming elections and would announce the members of a cross-party elections committee on Monday.

    He said invitations had been sent out to all the parties, including the Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI), to attend the committee's first meeting on Wednesday.

    Skandalidis said the committee will discuss issues such as electoral rolls, non-resident voters, distribution of electoral time and party funding and upper limits for campaign spending.

    He made the announcement while presenting his bill on reforming the system for parliamentary elections, which the government says will enhance the degree of proportional representation.

    Main opposition New Democracy MPs on the committee, however, criticized the government for initiating discussion on a new electoral system after it had already announced elections on March 7, even if the new system would not go into effect until the following elections.

    The discussion was cut short because Skandalidis was called to attend a meeting of PASOK's Central Committee and will be resumed on Tuesday.

    [05] US Ambassador to Nicosia says solution to Cyprus problem 'possible' before May 1

    WASHINGTON 09/01/2004 (ANA/T.Ellis)

    US Ambassador to Nicosia Michael Klosson, in a speech he gave at the ''Centre of Western Politics'' here, expressed the view that a settlement of the Cyprus problem was ''possible'' before Cyprus formally becomes a full member of the European Union on May 1.

    Klosson described as catalytic the EU's role, noting the fact that the Turkish government has set as a priority the securing of a date for the start of accession talks with the EU.

    The ambassador described developments last year, particularly the free movement and increased communication and contacts between the two communities on the island, as useful and encouraging for the prospects of a settlement.

    Having stressed that the collapse of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's efforts at The Hague last March had caused disappointment in Washington, Klosson said that the wave of popular support for the Annan Plan, which appeared at the end of 2002 and in the spring of 2003 in the Turkish Cypriot community, was confirmed and strengthened by the results of the ''elections'' in the Turkish-occupied north of the island on December 14. And this, he added, despite the difficult conditions under which the ''elections'' were held and the pressure, as he said, the regime of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash exerted and which affected the final result.

    The absence of a solution would harm all, said Klosson who called on the two sides to show the necessary flexibility and be ready to accept ''difficult and maybe bitter compromises'' for a solution to the problem and the reunification of the island.

    [06] Parliament passes bill introducing new tax measures

    Athens, 09/01/2004 (ANA)

    A government bill introducing new tax measures was passed by Parliament on Thursday, with the exception of an article on Hellenic Tourist Properties SA, for which main opposition New Democracy asked that it be passed with a roll-call vote.

    This will be held next Tuesday.

    ND said the article of Hellenic Properties "encouraged the selling-off of public property in an untransparent way," while the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) spoke of "the laundering of state property" and the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology claimed it was "scandalous, unconstitutional and illegal".

    One of the measures approved during Thursday's vote was the contract giving the mines in Kassandra, Halkidiki to new owners, the consortium "Ellinikos Chrysos SA" that emerged after the departure of TVX.

    [07] Greek hotel business outlook positive, survey says

    Athens, 09/01/2004 (ANA)

    The outlook for Greek hotel enterprises is positive over the next few years, although a large number of companies say they fear over the sector's short-term future, a survey by IOBE said on Thursday.

    A survey by the Institute of Industrial and Economic Research said that the main reasons of optimism were the forthcoming Athens 2004 Olympic Games, the implementation and improvement of a large number of infrastructure projects in the country, strengthening the special tourist infrastructure of hotel units (conference centers, golf courses, ski centers, etc), and a more efficient use of EU structural funds.

    Hotel businesses' worries focusing on intense competition facing Greek tourism by other countries (Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Romania) which are not included in traditional competitors in the Mediterranean (Spain, Portugal, Italy).

    Advertising spending, a significant factor in the contribution of tourist product to national tourism organization’s budgets, accounted for 18.7 percent in Greece, compared with 35.7 percent in Italy and 83.7 percent in Portugal.

    Domestic businesses' main worries are focusing on inadequate technical infrastructure, lack of a specialized agency to promote the country's tourist product, a low level of hotel training programs, highly seasonal tourist product, strong negotiating power by tour operators, existence of a large number of non-registered beds and lack of quality in offered tourist services.

    Greece's active hotel capacity in 2002 totalled 8,331 units, with the majority in the regions of Southern Aegean (21%), Crete (16%), Central Macedonia (12%), Ionian Islands (9%) and Attica (8%). The average number of rooms per hotel unit was 38.

    The survey said that hotel overnight stays raised an average annual 5.1 percent in the period 1996-2001, with the months of August and July representing 20% and 17.5% of total overnight stays in 2000, while December and January recorded the lowest percentage rate (1.8%).

    Foreign tourists arrivals in Greece in the period 1990-2001 rose an average annual 4.3 percent, a rate falling to 3.4 percent if the number of arrivals from Balkan states seeking jobs in Greece was excluded.

    The UK and Germany were the biggest sources of foreign tourist arrivals (23% and 20%) in 2000, followed by Italy (7%), Holland (5.4%) and France (5%).

    [08] Greek stocks rally for eight consecutive session

    Athens, 09/01/2004 (ANA)

    Greek stocks ended higher on Thursday, extending their rally for the eight consecutive sessions in the Athens Stock Exchange.

    Buying activity focused on blue chip stocks pushing the general index 0.85 percent higher to end at 2,411.79 points.

    Turnover was a heavy 268 million euros.

    The Bank, Telecommunications and Investment sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day (1.26 percent, 1.03 percent and 0.67 percent, respectively), while the Textile (0.99 percent), Cement (0.88 percent) and the parallel market for smaller capitalization stocks (0.74 percent) suffered the heaviest percentage losses.

    The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks rose 1.20 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index ended 0.43 percent and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index ended 0.08 percent up.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 197 to 119 with another 43 issues unchanged.

    FOREIGN EXCHANGE

    Closing rates of January 8 2004

    Parities in euro

    For. Exchange Buying Selling

    US Dollar 1,273 1,244

    [09] Bulgarian minister says Athens Olympic Games will increase tourism cooperation

    SOFIA 09/01/2004 (ANA/M. Borisov)

    Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Lidija Suleva said on Thursday that the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens not only brings Greece, but also all the Balkans, at the centre of international tourism interest.

    Inaugurating an international conference of tourism professionals on the theme ''Bulgaria: Dream Country'', Suleva said:''The Athens Olympiad not only brings Greece, but also all the Balkans, at the centre of international tourism interest. For Bulgaria, this major sports and cultural event is an opportunity for it to project its best self as a country of recreation with a rich historic heritage.''

    [10] PM Simitis to inaugurate new railway line on Monday

    Athens, 09/01/2004 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis, accompanied by Transport and Communications Minister Christos Verelis, on Monday will inaugurate the new Evangelismos-Leptokarya railway line, the new bridge of Axios River and the Tempi and Platamona tunnels.

    The new high-technology Evangelismos-Leptokarya railway line is 36 kilometers long and allows speeds of up to 250 km per hour. The two tunnels, one in Platamona (4.3 km long) and one in Tempi (5.5 km long) are the biggest in Greece.

    [11] Cyprus president hopes for return of Turkish side to negotiations

    NICOSIA 09/01/2004 (CNA/ANA)

    Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos hopes that Thursday's high level meeting in Ankara on the Cyprus issue would lead the Turkish side back to the negotiating table.

    He also said decisions on Cyprus are taken in Turkey and subsequently Turkish Cypriot parties are briefed.

    The president reiterated his readiness to accept without terms or preconditions a call by the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to talks with a view to reaching an agreement before May 1 when Cyprus joins the European Union.

    ''I hope today's meeting in Ankara marks the return to the negotiating table for talks on the basis of Annan's peace proposal.

    This does not depend on us, we will not determine what they will decide,'' he said, in statements to the press at the Presidential Palace.

    Turkish President Ahmet Sezer chaired a three-hour long meeting on Thursday in Ankara in which the question of Cyprus was taken up in detail.

    Turkey's premier, foreign minister and Chief of General Staff were among those present at the meeting. Turkish Cypriot party leaders were invited to Ankara on Thursday and flew there at noon.

    Commenting on continuing efforts in Turkish occupied Cyprus to form an illegal government, President Papadopoulos said he was surprised by the fact that it is made abundantly clear, through public statements, that first Turkey decides and then it informs the Turkish Cypriot parties.

    ''This confirms what I had been saying all along prior to the illegal elections in December in occupied Cyprus, that decisions are taken in Turkey by Turkey,'' the Cypriot president said.

    He noted that Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash represents the uncertainty that there cannot be any progress towards a settlement whereas the opposition parties offer hope that it is possible to see changes in intransigent positions.

    ''We opt for hope, between uncertainty and hope,'' the Cypriot president noted.

    Asked if he believes that talks would take place in February, he said he is not in a position to know what the UN Secretary General would do but acknowledged that more and more people believe this will be the case.

    ''I repeat that we are ready whenever the Secretary General invites us to participate in talks without terms or preconditions on the basis of his plan,'' he stressed.

    [12] PACE Political Affairs Committee approves Eorsi's draft report on Cyprus

    NICOSIA 09/01/2004 (CNA/ANA)

    The Political Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) approved a draft report by Matyas Eorsi (Hungary, LDR) on the situation in Cyprus as its members called for a speedy solution to the Cyprus problem before the island enters the European Union in May.

    The committee, which convened in Paris on Thursday, adopted the draft report, including draft resolutions and Eorsi's recommendation on the situation in Cyprus and decided to discuss the issue within the framework of PACE winter session in Strasbourg to be held from January 26-30 and after Eorsi's visit to the island between January 11-15, an official statement said here.

    A PACE press release said Eorsi will be received on January 12 by Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and will meet the following day Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.

    Talks with the leaders of the main political parties from both sides of the divide are also planned, the statement said.

    Participating at the Paris meeting were Cypriot deputies Christos Pourgourides, who is chairing the Cyprus delegation at PACE and Doros Christodoulides.

    Pourgourides stressed the need to achieve a functional and viable solution to the Cyprus problem, based on the resolutions of the UN, the CoE, the EU, the European Court of Human Rights and within the framework of international law and order.

    Christodoulides said that in order for this to be achieved, Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot leadership in the occupied north of Cyprus will have to cooperate with sincerity and good intention, based on the above principles, the official statement added.

    Eorsi and other members of PACE stressed the need to secure a solution to the Cyprus problem and put an end to the longstanding division of Cyprus and its people the soonest and before May 1 so that a united Cyprus will enter the EU.


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