|Thursday, 22 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-11-12
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>November 12, 2004
 Greek leadership's condolences over Arafat death pour in
Athens, 12/11/2004 (ANA)Condolences were expressed by Greece's political leadership on Thursday over the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat early in the day in Paris, whereas the Palestinian diplomatic representation in Athens opened a book of condolences for the Palestinians' supreme leader.
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' condolences over Arafat's death were conveyed by government spokesman Thodoris Roussopoulos.
Roussopoulos, speaking on behalf of the prime minister, said Arafat had been an "outstanding figure of the Arab world and the international political scene" who struggled for the fruition of the Palestinian people's efforts towards independence and statehood.
In a message read out by Roussopoulos, Karamanlis expressed hope that the new leadership will contribute substantively to continuing Arafat's work within the framework of the "Road Map" and the relevant United Nations resolutions.
Replying to questions, Roussopoulos said the Greek government would be represented by Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis at Arafat's funeral, adding that the service did not affect the premier's planned visit to Egypt, which is scheduled for Nov. 26-28.
Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki also expressed her sorrow over the death of Arafat, who she said had marked the history of the Palestinian people with his presence while serving as a symbol for the entire Arab world.
In a letter of condolences to the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council Rawhi Fattouh, who was sworn in as interim president of the Palestinian Authority, Psarouda-Benaki said the Greek people had during the past days followed with great sorrow the course of Arafat's health.
"Yasser Arafat marked, with his presence, the history of the Palestinian people and was a symbol for the entire Arab world," she added.
Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou expressed a hope that the new Palestinian leadership would be able to meet the great challenges and responsibilities it will undertake to achieve the goals which Palestinian Authority president Arafat had dedicated his life to.
"We share the Palestinian people's sorrow and grief on the death of their leader, Yasser Arafat, a historic figure and symbol of the Palestinian people's struggle for a free homeland. The Greek people and PASOK, with devotion to the principles of freedom, democracy and justice, always stood at the side of the struggling Palestinian people and their leader Yasser Arafat, supported their struggle and expressed, in every way, their solidarity for a solution to the Palestinian problem, for peace in the Middle East," Papandreou said in his message.
He said that Arafat had "defended, with self-sacrifice, his ideas and goals, the goals of the Palestinian people, for self-determination and independence"
"I can speak of my own close and long cooperation with him, and also of his passion for what he believed, of how totally dedicated he was to his struggle," Papandreou said, adding that Arafat's death was a great loss for the Palestinian people, who have been deprived of his leadership.
On his part, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos also conveyed his condolences to the Palestinian delegation, noting in a letter that "...the pious Greek people and we deliver our deepest sentiments of sympathy for the deceased. The man who has stamped with his personality the history of the Palestinian people in the 20th century is no longer among us. This, however, does not stand as an obstacle to your liberation cause, because the rightful claim for a state for the Palestinian people has grown ripe in the conscience of every civilized nation which will stand by you during these difficult moments..."
In his statement, New Democracy (ND) honorary president and former prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis expressed deep sorrow and frank condolences over Arafat's death to the deceased's family and to the Palestinian people.
"Arafat was a great leader, one of those (leaders) who write history, with also his weaknesses and mistakes, but what is important is that, up to the very end, he maintained control of the Palestinian side during a restless and hazardous period," Mitsotakis said, expressing hope that chaos would not arise following his death.
Mitsotakis said that Arafat was a true friend of Greece, and had personal ties with all the veteran politicians of Greece, including himself.
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga sent a telegram of condolences to the Palestinian Authority upon hearing of Arafat's death, expressing grief and support for the Palestinian people and their struggle.
"With deep grief I was informed of the death of the President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat. A great leader of the national liberation movement internationally and of the unceasing struggle for the liberation of the Palestinian people from the Israeli occupation has left us. Let me express my deepest condolences to the Palestinian people for the loss of their leader, and to the family of President Arafat," Papariga's message said.
"In these difficult hours for the Palestinian people and the just struggle they are carrying out, the communists of Greece stand at their side and support them in the continuation of their struggle," the message added.
The KKE would be represented at Arafat's funeral by party central committee member and Euro-deputy Thanassis Pafilis, a KKE announcement said later.
Palestinian Diplomatic Representation: The Palestinian Diplomatic Representation opened a Book of Condolences on Arafat's and expressed unbearable grief over the passing away of the Palestinian people's historic leader.
"With particular sorrow, unbearable grief and deep mourning, the Palestinian people today bid farewell to their historic leader, the martyr/symbol of their struggle, the expresser of their visions for freedom and independence, their president and ethnarch, Yasser Arafat," a Diplomatic Representation statement said.
It said that the millions of Palestinians in the occupied areas and abroad mourned the death of Abu Amar, as Arafat was affectionately called, and respectfully bowed their heads "in memory of the man who, for four decades, stood as the brave leader in our struggle, as our friend and brother in our need, and as a wise leader on the road to peace".
All the Palestinians throughout the world "will keep his immortal figure ... and sweet smile always in our hearts", it said, adding: "We will trod the path you forged, the path of the just and brave struggle to victory, to the day when, as you would say, a child will raise the flag of Palestine on the minarets and church bell towers of Jerusalem".
"Our only consolation is this wave of sympathy and solidarity that comes from all over the world, and particularly here from all the Greeks whom you so loved and correctly called our brothers. Good journey, Abu Amar. Good journey, brother," the statement said.
A book of condolences will be open at the Diplomatic Representation in the Paleo Psychico district on Monday through Wednesday for the public.
 President Stephanopoulos expresses condolences over Arafat's death
Athens, 12/11/2004 (ANA)President of the Hellenic Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos expressed his condolences over Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's death to the interim President of the Palestinian Authority Rauhi Fattouh on Thursday.
"On behalf of the Greek State, as well as personally, I would like to express deepest condolences over the death of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. For decades, the deceased embodied the desire of the Palestinian Nation to acquire its own state entity and sovereignty. The Greek People always respected and sympathized with him as well as with the entire Palestinian Nation," Stephanopoulos wrote in his statement. The Greek president also expressed the hope that the Palestinian Authority will find a way to put an end to the pain and suffering of the population of Gaza and the West Bank.
Nikos Constantopoulos, President of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party also expressed his condolences.
"Arafat is Palestine; A symbol of the struggle of a people for freedom and for their land. The international community, which will honor him after death, left him defenseless, a 'free besieged'. It honored him with the Nobel Peace Prize, but left him not vindicated," Constantopoulos stated.
"We share the Palestinian people's devastation. We are at everyone's side: Palestine, Israel, everyone who is anxious about peace in the region and who is demanding coexistence and peaceful cohabitation between Israel and Palestine. We hope the Palestinians, united, will overcome this trial. Peace and stability in the Middle East concerns everyone. It concerns Greece. It concerns Europe, which can and must play a decisive role [in achieving peace and stability]," he concluded.
Constantopoulos and SYN's IR Director Panos Trigazis will be representing the party at Arafat's funeral in Cairo.
Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis sent her expression of condolences to the Palestinian Authority's Diplomatic Representative in Athens Marwan Abdelhamid.
"On behalf of the city of Athens, and on my behalf personally, I would like to express my sincere condolences over the death of the Palestinian leader, President Yasser Arafat," Bakoyannis wrote.
"We will remember President Arafat for his leadership and the vision he had for the Palestinian people. He faced many difficult times but this did not prevent him from always trying to realize his dream for a united, free and democratic Palestine. We hope that in the future his expectation and dream for a free Palestine to exist peacefully among its neighbors will be realized," Bakoyannis continued.
Finally, Paris Koukoulopoulos, President of the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE), on behalf of Greece's local authorities expressed condolences over the death of the Palestinian leader. He also expressed hope that, "Yasser Arafat's death will unite the Palestinians, but also the Israelis and the friends of both peoples all over the world, so that the ideals to which he [Arafat] dedicated his life can prevail and that the right of Palestinians for self-determination will be peacefully realized," Koukoulopoulos stated.
A KEDKE delegation departed Thursday evening to attend Arafat's burial in Ramallah.
GSEE expresses condolences over Arafat's death: "The General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) expresses Greek employees' deepest sorrow over the death of Yasser Arafat, the great fighter and visionary, who fought decisively under very difficult conditions for the values and universal principles of self-determination of peoples, of peaceful coexistence," GSEE stated on Thursday.
"Greek workers supported and continue to support the Palestinian people's struggle; they were at his side and supported his struggle and will continue to offer their support until the Palestinian people's demand for their own free country is realized," GSEE concluded in its statement.
 Karamanlis receives Cyprus House speaker Christofias
Athens, 12/11/2004 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday received visiting Cypriot House of Representatives speaker Demetris Christofias, with talks expectedly focusing on the latest developments in the long-standing Cyprus problem as well as Turkey's touchy European prospects.
The meeting with Karamanlis topped Christofias' agenda, as he also met with the Greek foreign minister and the main opposition leader, among others.
No comments were made following the meeting with the premier.
Molyviatis: Conversely, following his meeting with Christofias, Greek FM Petros Molyviatis said he and his interlocutor agreed to intensify diplomatic efforts related to the Cyprus problem in the coming period.
On his part, Christofias said the meeting was in preparation for this week's visit to the island republic by Karamanlis and Molyviatis, ahead of talks with Cyprus' leadership.
In response to a press question on whether Cyprus will veto Turkey's commencement of European Union accession talks at next month's EU summit - should such a prospect arise -- Christofias declined to answer, saying the specific moment was not appropriate for such deliberation.
However, he did stress that Turkey is obligated to recognize the Republic of Cyprus, one of 25 EU member-states after the bloc's recent expansion.
"When a country knocks on the EU's door to become a member, then it must recognize all of the countries that are part of it (the Union)," Christofias, the leader of Cyprus' leftist AKEL party, added.
Papandreou: During a later meeting with main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, a one-time foreign minister in the previous Simitis governments, Christofias appeared confident that all political parties in Greece and Cyprus will work together prior to the Dec. 17 EU summit.
On his part, Papandreou called for a "quick clearing up" of the policy Athens and Nicosia will follow regarding Turkey's EU course at next month's summit.
Papandreou said such a clarification should come on Friday with the prime minister's official visit to the island republic.
Finally, the PASOK leader stressed that the Dec. 17 summit was tremendously important for EU-Turkey relations, and by extension, Greek-Turkish relations and the Cyprus issue.
Christofias reacts to Mitsotakis comments: Meanwhile, in a related development, Christofias criticized former Greek prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis for the latter's statements against Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos.
Mitsotakis charged that Papadopoulos' leadership has isolated Cyprus.
On his part, Christofias called the comments untimely, while noting that the overwhelming decision by the Greek Cypriot community to reject the Annan peace plan should be respected by all.
 Cypriot House President Christofias says Greece and Cyprus need to intensify their efforts
Athens, 12/11/2004 (ANA)Visiting Cypriot House of Representatives President Demetris Christofias said on Thursday that efforts of Cyprus and Greece should be intensified in view of the European Council in December, which will decide whether a date will be given to Turkey to start accession negotiations, so that the recognition of the Republic of Cyprus by Turkey is linked with the attribution of a date to Ankara.
Speaking at a joint press conference in Athens with Greek Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki, Christofias, who is on an official visit to Greece, added that the Greek Cypriot side must declare its readiness to engage at any time in an initiative for a Cyprus settlement and call on the various factors to undertake initiatives.
Psarouda-Benaki said ''we feel from the bottom of our heart the need to support the Parliament of the Cyprus Republic in the new horizons opened after the island's accession to the EU."
Responding to questions on Turkey's European course Christofias wondered whether ''it is conceivable for the EU to start negotiations with a country which knocks on the door of the EU and at the same time insists not to recognize an EU member-state and not to expand the Customs Union with an EU member-state."
He added that this is a matter that should not concern only Greece and Cyprus but the EU as a whole that should react ''and tell Ankara to recognize the Cyprus Republic, an equal EU member-state."
He noted that this is a goal set out in view of the European Council ''to exercise our influence towards our EU partners," adding that ''the European Commission's report on Turkey has set conditions relating indirectly to Cyprus and the Cyprus issue."
Asked if the Cypriot leadership still considers the Annan plan as the basis for a settlement, Christofias said that the UN sponsored plan remains on the table, adding that some changes are sought to make it functional.
As regards the cooperation between the two parliaments, Christofias described as a historic step the signing of a cooperation protocol between him and Psarouda-Benaki adding that he will make sure that its provisions and declarations will be implemented.
''We are building on solid ground, extending our cooperation in new fields within the EU framework," Christofias said, noting the importance of the Greek European experience for over 20 years.
Psarouda-Benaki avoided commenting on the Cyprus issue and on recent statements made by ruling New Democracy (ND) party Honorary President Constantine Mitsotakis, restricting herself in giving a briefing relating to the protocol of cooperation which was signed between the Greek and Cypriot parliaments.
"The protocol will facilitate the necessary understanding of the two parliaments, will upgrade the briefing of the two sides, while it will also strengthen cultural cooperation," the Greek Parliament president said.
 PM Karamanlis discusses Greek national issues with visiting US Congressman Bilirakis
Athens, 12/11/2004 (ANA)Prime minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday met with a visiting delegation of the US House of Representatives, headed by Republican Congressman for Florida Mike Bilirakis, and discussed the full range of Greek national issues.
Bilirakis told reporters after the meeting that they had discussed the FYROM issue, Turkey's candidacy for EU accession, and Cyprus' recent EU membership.
Bilirakis reiterated his displeasure over the US government's decision to recognize FYROM with its disputed constitutional name of 'Republic of Macedonia' was taken at a time when Congress was not in session, and without prior consultations having been held with NATO and the EU.
However, he said, "what is done, is done, the issue is what can be done from here on".
He pledged that the US Congress would help so that the ongoing UN-brokered talks between Greece and FYROM on finding a mutually acceptable name for the latter would continue.
On Tuesday, after a meeting with parliament president Anna Psarouda-Benaki, Bilirakis had stated that the US decision was a blow to US relations with Greece and the southern wing of NATO in general, warning that it had only negative consequences.
 FM Molyviatis briefs party leaders on foreign policy issues
Athens, 12/11/2004 (ANA)"As you all know, the government's constant goal is the creation of terms and conditions conducive to consensus and understanding regarding the country's major foreign policy issues," Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis said on Thursday, after separately meeting with the leaders of PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Movement), KKE (Communist Party of Greece), SYN (Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology) and LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally).
"This does not mean that we are asking for 'carte blanche' from anyone. Foreign policy is the government's responsibility; and it is the government which exercises it. We do believe, however, that exercising foreign policy is more effective and more credible when there is cooperation, as much as possible, among the country's political forces, on major issues of foreign policy," he continued.
During the briefing, main opposition PASOK President George Papandreou expressed particular concern for the decisions to be taken with the upcoming Summit Meeting in December and especially for the beginning of talks regarding Turkey's EU accession.
KKE Secretary General Aleka Papariga expressed concern over increasing tension in the Aegean. She said the issue wasn't so much the number of violations of Greek airspace by Turkey's air force, but the violations from a qualitative aspect. Papariga criticized the PASOK governments for the Treaties of Madrid and Helsinki, as being responsible for Turkish provocation.
As for FYROM, Papariga emphasized that the main problem is US policy in the Balkans and possible new plans the US may have regarding the region, adding that the argument over the country's name is not the main issue. The main issue is the coexistence with neighboring peoples and that borders remain unchanged, according to Papariga.
SYN leader Nikos Constantopoulos commented on the meeting he had with Molyviatis, saying that the entire range of current issues was discussed, and expressed his belief that all of the country's political forces should exchange views regarding these issues and find a common ground of understanding, without reaching a dead-end.
"As for us, we are interested in stability in the Balkans, the capitalization of all possibilities so that the Greek side's negotiations could lead to the acceptance of what we have been supporting for years now, that is a composite name for FYROM," the SYN leader concluded.
LAOS leader George Karatzaferis, after a 30-minute meeting with Molyviatis, termed the discussion he had with the foreign minister as being "particularly significant" and said that the "road ahead is a difficult one - uphill and full of potholes."
Papandreou briefed by FM Molyviatis on foreign policy issues: Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou was briefed by Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis on Thursday over recent developments in foreign relations, with the former expressing his concerns over the outcome of next month's crucial European Union summit, and especially over Turkey's EU course.
Speaking from PASOK's headquarters, Papandreou once again reiterated his criticism of the government's handling of foreign policy, in comparison with the way the previous PASOK governments dealt with foreign policy, as he noted.
Moreover, the former foreign minister placed particular emphasis on the provisions governing any future Turkish EU accession talks, should the bloc's leaders give Ankara the "green light" to proceed with such negotiations.
In an unrelated development, Papandreou also met on Thursday with representatives of the country's police, coast guard and fire fighters' unions at his office.
 Premier's upcoming three-day visit to Egypt the first in 18 years
Athens, 12/11/2004 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will be going to Egypt on a three-day visit, from November 26-28. This is the first official visit by a Greek prime minister on a bilateral level to Cairo in 18 years.
Karamanlis will be meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and with Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazief. During the meetings, issues of bilateral interest as well as other matters including the situation in Iraq and developments in the Middle East will be discussed.
Of interest however, is also the agreements that are expected to be signed between the two countries on November 27, which will deal with the avoidance of double taxation (important for investors in both countries) as well as the scientific and technological cooperation of research centers and universities of both countries. Furthermore, a memorandum of understanding may also be signed, whose aim will be the legislation and reinforcement of investor protection, along the lines of a similar agreement which was signed in 1996.
Finally, the issue of illegal immigration will also be discussed, an issue on which both sides place great emphasis.
Other issues that will be dealt with are strengthening economic relations, cultural cooperation and issues that concern Greeks of Egypt, such as that of citizenship.
Karamanlis will also meet with Patriarch of Alexandria Theodore II on November 26 in Alexandria. The following day he will meet with representatives of the Greek community and Archbishop of Sinai Damianos.
 Greek-Canadian Congress president addresses letter to Canadian PM on FYROM name issue
OTTAWA 12/11/2004 (ANA/I. Frangouli)Greek-Canadian Congress President Athanassios Fousias has addressed a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew, Canadian opposition leaders and Greek-Canadian federal deputies, expressing the displeasure of the Greek-Canadian community over the recent unilateral decision taken by the United States to recognize the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as "Republic of Macedonia."
The letter calls on Ottawa to remain steadfast in its commitment towards the mediatory role of the UN in seeking a solution to the issue.
It notes that the decision taken by the U.S. shows an effort by the U.S. to serve its diplomatic interests in the region without taking into consideration international law, the countries involved and the decisions and resolutions of the UN.
In another related development, Elias Rallis, Secretary of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad, said "I welcome that the Australian government will not follow the U.S. in recognition of the name 'Republic of Macedonia' in reference to FYROM."
At a meeting in Melbourne between the newly appointed Australian Ambassador to Greece Paul Tighe and Rallis and George Fountas, President of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria, Tighe reiterated the Australian government's position regarding FYROM had not changed and that "Australia would not follow the U.S. in recognition of the name 'Republic of Macedonia' in reference to FYROM."
Tighe will take up his new post in January 2005.
 Deputy DM watches SEDM simulation exercise in Istanbul
Athens, 12/11/2004 (ANA)Deputy Defense Minister Vassilis Mihaloliakos on Thursday watched a part of the simulation exercise being carried out in Istanbul, Turkey, by the multinational brigade of the cooperation forum of defense ministers from countries in southeastern Europe.
The simulation exercise anticipated forum member-states confronting a possible terrorist attack. Each country developed its national scenario in the framework of the exercise.
For the first time, Greece selected the island of Samos as the venue for the exercise's scenario, which was ultimately carried out without any problems, despite initial objections from Turkey.
Mihaloliakos stressed the need for international and regional cooperation to handle the scourge of terrorism.
All SEDM member-states participated in the exercise, either as countries sustaining a terrorist attack or as countries which contributed to its handling.
Mihaloliakos will be meeting Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos on Friday.
 Defense Minister to make official visit to UK on November 16-18
Athens, 12/11/2004 (ANA)Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos will make an official visit to the United Kingdom on November 16-18, according to an announcement issued on Thursday.
The Greek minister will be meeting his British counterpart Geoffrey Hoon during an official working luncheon at the Lancaster House in London on November 16.
On the next day, Spiliotopoulos will be having private meetings with Hoon and the alternate minister responsible for armaments issues, Lord Bach.
Talks will follow at delegation level, headed by the two countries' defense ministers. Spiliotopoulos will then be briefed on issues concerning the operation of the Crises Management Centre and the Permanent Joint Operation Headquarters.
 Education Minister Yiannakou begins official visit to Germany
Athens, 12/11/2004 (ANA)Education and Religious Affairs Minister Marietta Yiannakou began an official visit to Germany on Thursday, accompanied by a ministry delegation.
According to the program, Yiannakou will meet with her German counterpart, Federal Minister for Education and Research Edelgard Bulmahn, Metropolitan Avgoustinos of Germany and the Presidium of the Federation of Greek Communities.
On Friday she will visit the bilingual primary school "Omiros" and the Greek Lyceum "Berlin", while she will meet with the Greek community of Berlin and visit the seat of the Modern Greek Studies of Berlin's Free University.
On Saturday, the Greek minister will visit Munich where she will meet with the education minister of Bavaria, as well as with the presidiums of Bavaria's Greek communities and parents' associations.
Finally, she will depart for Brussels on Sunday to take part in the European Union's Council of Education Ministers.
 PASOK leader Papandreou says he favors a 'decentralized and flexible education system'
Athens, 12/11/2004 (ANA)Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou, in a discussion he had with parents and teachers in the district of Elefsina, outside Piraeus, on Thursday evening, said that he stood in favor of a "decentralized and flexible education system."
Present at the meeting were PASOK's coordinator for education affairs Maria Damanaki as well as Stefanos Tzoumakas and Rovertos Spyropoulos.
The PASOK leader supported an increase of funds for education, stating that 5 per cent of the state budget should go for education and the 10 per cent of EU funds for education should increase to 40 per cent. At the same time, he claimed that consolidation of stability and peace in the Balkans will allow the allotment of part of the defense funds to education.
 Garganas concerned over high labor cost growth, competitiveness
Athens, 12/11/2004 (ANA)Bank of Greece governor Nikos Garganas on Thursday urged workers to show more restraint in their wage increase demands and expressed his concern over the impact of an accelerating labor cost growth rate on the country's economic competitiveness in 2004.
Presenting the bank's interim report on monetary policy to a parliamentary commission, the central banker said that labor cost per product unit rose by 9.2 percent in the Eurozone in the period from 1999 to 2004 and by 20.7 percent in Greece over the same period.
Garganas noted that average gross workers' income rose by 6.4 percent in 2004 (compared with a 2.2 percent increase in the Eurozone) reflecting an 8.4 percent rise in public sector pay rises in Greece.
The Greek central banker said "we should all be concerned" by a slowdown in economic growth rates that begun in August 2003 (growth rate was 4.5 pct in July 2003) to 3.8 percent in October 2004. Garganas stressed that the Greek economy failed to become export-oriented and was based mainly in domestic demand. He underlined that Greek shipping was the most competitive and dynamic sector of the economy as it was "not subject to limitations and regulations".
Garganas said that Greek businesses showed less need for financing because of their improved profitability while he added that a high growth rate of consumer loans in the country led the Bank of Greece to recommend to commercial banks of adopting stricter criteria in money lending.
 Greek state completes sale of 7.46 pc equity stake in National Bank
Athens, 12/11/2004 (ANA)The sale of the 7.46 percent equity stake of the National Bank of Greece that was under the control of the Greek state and the Public Securities Enterprise DEKA, with the use of an accelerated book building procedure, was completed with great success on Thursday evening.
Demand came primarily from abroad, where about 80 percent of the shares were directed. The sale price of the package of 24,733,000 state shares was set at 22.74 euros. The state will be receiving about 560 million euros from the sale of the package.
The National Bank's greatest shareholder are local private investors with a 29.5 percent stake, followed by institutional investors from abroad with 25 and local institutional investors with about 20.5, while subsidiaries of the National Bank group control 3.5.
Greek gov't sells 7.46 pct equity stake in National Bank: Greek Economy and Finance Ministry announced it was selling its remaining equity stake in National Bank of Greece as part of its privatization program for 2004.
A ministry announcement, on Wednesday night, said that a ministerial privatization commission -including Economy and Finance, Development, Labor and Social Protection Ministers- agreed to sell its 7.46 percent equity stake in National Bank, currently owned by the Greek state and the Public Securities Enterprise (DEKA SA).
The privatization will be made through a private placement to institutional investors in Greece and abroad, using an accelerated book building procedure.
The announcement stressed that the state was exiting from the country's commercial banks in conditions of full transparency and with the best possible terms, highlighting the government's economic policy. "The privatization ensured the development of a dynamic and flexible financial sector in conditions of stability and healthy competition, capable to meet the high demands of a European and global economic reality," the announcement said.
Completion of the procedure will be a landmark development for National Bank with the majority of the bank's equity stake to be held by private sector investors (both domestic and foreign institutional and private investors) and pension funds.
 Gov't supports private life insurance and pension schemes
Athens, 12/11/2004 (ANA)Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Thursday announced a series of government initiatives and incentives aimed boost the private life insurance and pension business in the country.
Addressing a seminar organized by the Union of Greek Insurance Companies on the occasion of a "Private Insurance Day", the Greek minister stressed that the government has already made the first steps aimed to support private insurance business through a new tax draft bill and added that "more steps will be made". Alogoskoufis reiterated that the government was not planning a reform of an existing social insurance system and noted that the government would focus on dealing with a demographic problem and to include foreign and young workers to the country's pension funds.
Alogoskoufis said that I.Sidiropoulos would be appointed as head of a new Independent Supervisory Authority for the insurance market. Sidiropoulos was director general at the Finance ministry for several years.
Addressing the seminar, Development Deputy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou said that the state no longer performed "visual" inspections in the country's insurance market and urged all companies in the sector to adhere to an existing legislation or fail to receive reliability certificates.
Union representatives stressed the need for the country to adopt pension saving schemes that would allow a strong presence of private insurance companies in the pension system.
 High-ranking delegation from China's Dongguan province in Athens
Athens, 12/11/2004 (ANA)Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas on Thursday received a high-ranking delegation from Dongguan province in the People's Republic of China, led by the general secretary of the province's Communist Party and president of the province's legislature, Tong Xing.
Talks focused on opportunities for bilateral trade relations, especially with Dongguan province, as well as Greece's recent push to better attract foreign investments in the east Mediterranean nation.
Deputy Minister George Salagoudis and Thessaloniki Prefect Panayiotis Psomiadis also participated in the meeting.
 Greek authorities say imported Dutch milk products safe from dioxin
Athens, 12/11/2004 (ANA)Greece's Foods Inspection Agency (EFET) on Thursday announced that results from an inspection on dairy products, condensed milk, pasteurized milk and baby milk solution imported from the Netherlands were clean, reassuring consumers that products offered in the Greek market were safe from dioxin.
EFET decided to perform urgent controls on dairy and meat products imported from the Netherlands after a dioxin scare scandal gripped the country.
The Agency said that all controls were made in Demokritos' laboratory, one of the most reliable research laboratories in Europe.
EFET said it would continue monitoring the market, through the European Union's early warning system, over developments in the dioxin case. The Agency stressed that no animal feed -- used in the 150 Dutch farms placed under quarantine -- was imported or used in Greece.
 Gov't says no change to social insurance law
Athens, 12/11/2004 (ANA)Employment and Social Protection Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos said on Thursday that no changes were planned in social insurance law.
The minister was speaking after a meeting with the head of the General Confederation of Employees of Greece, Christos Polyzogopoulos.
The two officials said that pending issues in the sector were the conditions for incorporation of smaller social insurance funds belonging to banks and state corporations into the main IKA state fund; and government debts to social insurance funds, especially IKA.
 Hellenic Stock Exchanges reports 9M earnings drop
Athens, 12/11/2004 (ANA)Athens-quoted Hellenic Stock Exchanges SA, owner of the Athens bourse, on Thursday reported nine-month 2004 group net earnings before tax and after minorities of 32.702 million euros versus 35.584 million euros in the corresponding period of 2003.
Consolidated turnover totalled 42.229 million euros, down 2.45% from 43.290 million euros in January-September 2003, stemming mainly from a decrease in revenue from the derivatives market and secondarily from non-financial transactions, management said in a statement.
Operating costs decreased by 7.96%; and consolidated earnings before depreciation, interest, minority rights and taxes (EBITDA) showed an increase of 1.32% to 20.594 million, despite the drop in turnover, the statement said.
 High court says no gov't intervention to restart bourse-related prosecution
Athens, 12/11/2004 (ANA)A majority of justices (33 to 22) of a Supreme Court administrative plenum on Thursday ruled there were no grounds to investigate Justice Minister Anastassis Papaligouras' recent request that the high court's top prosecutor appeal the controversial dismissal of any further prosecution against former members of the Athens Stock Exchange's (ASE) board of directors.
In essence, the majority of the Supreme Court justices dismissed high-profile criticism that Papaligouras' action constituted an intervention by the government vis-a-vis the independent judiciary.
The justice minister had summoned high court prosecutor Dimitris Linos to his office and had urged him to appeal a decision relieving past members of the bourse's and capital market committee's board members of criminal actions during the period preceding the bourse's "burst bubble" in 1999.
The ruling followed explanations by the prosecutor in question, Linos, to the court plenum via an assistant Supreme Court prosecutor.
 Growth at 3.8% in Q3
Athens, 12/11/2004 (ANA)Gross domestic product grew by 3.8% in the third quarter of 2004 against the same period a year earlier, the Greek National Statistics Service (GNSS) said on Thursday.
In the second quarter growth was at 3.9%, the GNSS said in a statement.
 Stocks rise on buying in selected blue chips, small shares
Athens, 12/11/2004 (ANA)Stocks finished higher with players buying into selected blue chip paper and across the board in smaller stocks, traders said.
The Athens general share index closed at 2,619.69 points, showing a rise of 0.86 percent. Turnover was 186.2 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.74 percent up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 1.75 percent up; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 2.49 percent higher.
Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 288 to 40 with 37 remaining unchanged.
 Interior minister attends EU ministerial meeting on immigration policy
GRONINGEN 12/11/2004 (ANA)Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos attended the European Union's three-day conference that ended here on Thursday and which examined the issue of establishing common basic principles on the policy of immigrant integration in the EU.
At the beginning of the meeting, Pavlopoulos extended the condolences of the Greek government to the EU Dutch presidency over the assassination of film director Van Gogh by an extremist in Amsterdam.
"Democracy, by nature and according to its destination, replies to every form of terrorism and extremism with the enlargement of freedom as its spearhead," he said.
The Dutch presidency then presented an analysis of the 11 basic principles on the establishment of common policies on the integration of immigrants in the EU.
Pavlopoulos said on his part "these principles are directive ones for member-states in the sense that the criterion in shaping every integration policy belongs to member-states, while the EU's relevant duty is governed by the principle of auxiliarity."
 New leadership announced for Acropolis museum project, modern art museum
Athens, 12/11/2004 (ANA)The government on Thursday announced the new heads and board members of the Organization for the Construction of the New Acropolis Museum (OANMA), a private-law legal entity supervised by the culture ministry, as well as the National Museum of Modern Art.
Distinguished archaeologist Demetris Pantermalis and noted artist Sotiris Sorogas, respectively, will head up the two organizations, according to an announcement on Thursday by Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis.
Regarding the long-delayed effort to build a new Acropolis museum near the actual site in downtown Athens, Tatoulis said the project was only recently approved for 3rd Community Support Framework financing. He also accused the previous government for omissions, as he said, in beginning constructing of the museum.
 Alternate gov't spokesman represents Athens in Hanover's 'Greece Day' celebrations
HANOVER, 12/11/2004 (ANA)"Greece Day" was celebrated here on Wednesday with a series of events, mostly centered around the historic German city's town hall building.
A photo and art exhibition, along with musical and dance performances were also held, as Hanover is home to some 7,000 ethnic Greeks.
Additionally, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros spoke at a roundtable discussion in the city, where he stressed the traditionally friendly relations between the two countries and the common goal of European integration.
 PM approves Greece's bid to host 2012 European Soccer Championship in talks with deputy sports minister
Athens, 12/11/2004 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis gave his approval for Greece to be a candidate to host the 2012 European Soccer Championship in talks with Deputy Sports Minister Giorgos Orfanos on Thursday.
"The prime minister is in favor of us seeking to host the European Soccer Championship in 2012. However, our basic target is for us to win it and not to seek it," Orfanos said afterwards.
Orfanos further said he briefed the prime minister on his recent discussion with the president of the Greek Soccer Federation (EPO) and on the possible prospects of success.
"Our assessment is that such prospects exist and so we shall go ahead with the next steps," he said.
 PM calls for an intra-party committee to ensure transparency in sports
Athens, 12/11/2004 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has requested that an intra-party committee which will deal with formulating a legislative framework to ensure transparency in sports, particularly in matters concerning the use of prohibited substances, be established, in a letter he sent to Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki on Thursday.
"The evidence contained in the court file which was recently submitted to Parliament, as well as the evidence that concerns funding of associations and athletes further reinforces the above position," Karamanlis wrote in his letter.
Finally, Karamanlis underlined that "the creation and operation of this committee, as well as the proposals it will formulate should not affect court investigations either currently under way or to be conducted in future, nor should they bias the results of these investigations regarding the persons involved."
 Cyprus government expects recognition by Turkey, says Government Spokesman
NICOSIA 12/11/2004 (CNA/ANA)The Cyprus government expects the recognition of the Republic of Cyprus by Turkey without any reservations, Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said on Thursday.
The spokesman noted that in its report on Turkey, that will be discussed at the European Council in December, the European Commission demands from Ankara to sign the protocol extending its Customs Union with the ten new EU member states.
''This means the unconditional recognition of the Republic of Cyprus. It also means that this is also a problem that the EU itself will have to face," Chrysostomides noted, adding that Nicosia expects the recognition of the Republic of Cyprus by Turkey without any reservations.
Asked whether these issues will be raised at the talks the Cyprus Government will have on Friday here with Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, Chrysostomides said that all issues regarding Cyprus and Greece will be discussed.
Replying to another question Chrysostomides noted that Turkey has not yet signed the protocol extending its Customs Union with the new EU member states.
Asked whether Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos is willing to meet with the so-called Turkish Cypriot prime minister Mehmet Ali Talat, Chrysostomides said that ''if there is any initiative under the UN auspices, then Cyprus President and our side will express their position.''
He also said that discussions regarding the Cyprus issue continue in the framework of the National Council (top advisory body to the President on the handling of the Cyprus problem).
Chrysostomides added that neither Turkey nor the Turkish Cypriot side have expressed any willingness for discussion in the UN framework.
 MacShane: We understand Greek Cypriot concerns as regards Annan plan
NICOSIA 12/11/2004 (CNA/ANA)British Minister for Europe Denis MacShane said on Thursday that the British government understands the concerns that made Greek Cypriots reject the UN plan for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue, and looks forward to seeing Greek Cypriot proposals on moving the process forward.
MacShane noted that if the British government believes that the Greek Cypriot proposals are reasonable and have a realistic chance of success, it would then encourage the UN to reengage to the efforts to solve the Cyprus issue.
''We understand the concerns that made Greek Cypriots vote 'no' to the UN plan and look forward to seeing Greek Cypriot proposals on moving the process forward. If we believe the proposals are reasonable and have a realistic chance of success, we will encourage the UN Secretary-General to reengage and put all our resources and influence behind finding a solution on the basis of the Annan plan, that is acceptable to all sides," the British Minister for Europe said.
Answering a question at the House of Commons, as to what steps are taken to encourage movement towards a settlement in Cyprus, MacShane said that the British government continues to believe that the Annan plan offers the only realistic basis for a settlement to the Cyprus problem.
He also said that the British government works to reach an EU agreement on regulations to enable preferential direct trade between north Cyprus and the rest of the EU, and to disburse the 259 million euros of aid allocated for the north of the island.
''We support these measures, as we believe it is important for the EU to bring Turkish Cypriots closer to Europe and help to build trade links and reduce the economic gap between the two communities," he said, adding that ''this will make reunification more likely, easier to consolidate and less costly''.
''Trade will increase trust and lay the foundations for co-operation in a reunified Cyprus. a widening wealth gap and continued economic division will make a solution much more difficult," MacShane noted.