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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-11-19

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

November 19, 2004


  • [01] Government tables finalized 2005 State Budget in parliament after approval by Cabinet
  • [02] PM Molyviatis sends letters to EU counterparts, UN chief, on FYROM name issue
  • [03] Athens says EU partners' 'positive' over Greek concerns ahead of summit
  • [04] Non-recognition of EU member state by candidate member is 'political and institutional irrationality', FM spokesman says
  • [05] US insists on upgrading relations with Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus
  • [06] Psarouda-Benaki says Papandreou violated Parliament regulation
  • [07] Pavlopoulos addresses 4th Information Society conference
  • [08] Gov't stresses support for justice minister after rejection of bourse case appeal
  • [09] Turkish warplanes violate Greek national air space
  • [10] European Parliament approves report on European Ombudsman for 2003
  • [11] Govt spokesman says ERT must become locomotive for qualitative upgrading in radio and TV sector
  • [12] Gov't on S&P report lowering Greece's credit rating
  • [13] National Bank says SMEs sector a priority
  • [14] EU Commissioner denies Bank of Greece reports contradicted figures supplied by Athens
  • [15] Labor confederation president says bank president's proposal on social security issue rejected
  • [16] Greece assumes BSEC presidency; focuses on bringing region's countries closer to EU
  • [17] Greek bond market report: prices rose in October
  • [18] Stocks drop in profit taking
  • [19] ATHOC chief briefs Papandreou, Papariga on post-Olympics issues
  • [20] Athens prosecutors urge misdemeanor charges against Kenteris, Thanou
  • [21] European Court decides that Greece violating EU legislation in case of Cretan landfill
  • [22] ISF and ITF voice concerns over EU directive regarding ship-source pollution
  • [23] 'Green' award by Commission to Athens' Eleftherios Venizelos Airport
  • [24] ESA hopes to send first unmanned mission to Mars by 2010, scientist tells reporters
  • [25] Thessaloniki film festival opens Friday
  • [26] Five arrests for disorderly conduct related to Polytechnic march
  • [27] Cypriot President asks for Italian Prime Minister's support
  • [28] EU postpones discussion on regulations for Turkish Cypriots
  • [29] Unacceptable to grant Turkey a date without Cyprus recognition, EU official says
  • [30] Unilateral de-mining in buffer zone begins

  • [01] Government tables finalized 2005 State Budget in parliament after approval by Cabinet

    Athens 19/11/2004 (ANA)

    The government on Thursday tabled its finalized State Budget for 2005 in parliament, immediately after its approval by the Cabinet.

    The budget was tabled by economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis after it was approved at noon by the Cabinet during a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

    In his introduction, Karamanlis said that the first budget to be drafted and submitted for approval by his New Democracy (ND) government, in office since March, "is of high symbolic importance and based on three axes: a new economic policy, a leap in quality from the "plasmatic and lack of credibility to reality and the truth", and materialization of ND's governmental platform.

    The premier defended the fiscal audit of the Greek economy that was conducted after his party took over the government, stressing that it had been necessary and imperative because "it is unthinkable that the country should proceed, defrauding its (EU) partners and the citizens".

    If nothing else, he continued, it was the citizens' inalienable right to know the truth, adding that the only way to tackle the problems was to know and acknowledge their true dimensions.

    He further said that the outcome of the recent EU Council of Economy and Finance (Ecofin) Ministers had vindicated the government's choice to conduct the fiscal audit on the economy and belied the danger-mongering and disaster-mongering which, he said, had not only been groundless, but was also suspicious, given that it emanated "from those who for years were lying to the Greek citizens" (referring to the preceding PASOK governments).

    Karamanlis said that his government's strategy was one of "reform with social responsibility", and spoke of mild adjustment and tidying up the economy, rather than reduction of the working people's and pensioners' incomes, as well as containing state excess spending rather than higher taxation, and streamlining and rational management rather than passing the cost onto the citizens.

    Speaking in more detail on fiscal adjustment, Karamanlis referred to combating wasteful spending by the state, containment of the public sector's consumer expenditure, the advancement of genuine denationalizations, clashing with corruption, transparency in the management of the public monies, and exploiting the state properties.

    The premier called on his ministers to contain the public sector consumer spending, stressing that the rate of increase should be below the growth rate of the economy, as was done with the budget, noting that the basis for an efficient developmental policy and advanced social policy was the good condition of the public finances.

    He further said that the government had kept his world and that the increases to salaries and pensions for 2005 would be above the inflation rate, despite the fiscal difficulties.

    Alogoskoufis and main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou had a brief, heated exchange in parliament later as the minister tabled the new budget.

    Papandreou charged that the budget was being tabled under the burden of a "fiasco fiscal audit of the economy" that had "harmed the country's credibility", to which Alogoskoufis replied that he would have expected "more modesty and self-criticism from the party that turned over the Greek economy in such dire straits".

    Greek 2005 budget sees 7.2% rise in revenue: Greece's 2005 state budget anticipates a 4.8 percent increase in public spending and a 7.2 percent rise in revenue.

    Presenting the budget to parliament, Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said the budget aimed to achieve five main targets: maintaining and strengthening growth, lowering the central government deficit, reducing the public debt, supporting low income groups, and boosting spending on healthcare and education by 6.0 percent.

    The budget plan envisages that revenue will rise by 7.2 percent in 2005 to 3.363 billion euros, or 26.7 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), from 26.6 percent in 2004.

    State spending is projected to rise by 4.8 percent in 2005 from 11.5 percent in 2004, while spending in the public investment program, which is co-funded with the European Union's Community Support Framework package, will rise by 6.2 percent to 8.05 billion euros from 9.6 billion euros in 2004.

    The budget also anticipates that the general government deficit will fall to 2.8 percent of GDP from 5.3 percent in 2004; and the public debt to 109.5 percent of GDP in 2005 from 112.1 percent in 2004, and 109.9 percent in 2003.

    Allowed are above-inflation public sector wage rises in 2005, with pensions to show a higher increase than salaries.

    Growth is forecast at 3.9 percent in 2005 from 3.7 percent in 2004, and 4.5 percent in 2003.

    Inflation is seen running at 2.9 percent next year from 3.1 percent this year, and 3.4 percent last year.

    In addition, the budget anticipates an average oil price of 40 US dollars per barrel, although Alogoskoufis qualified that leeway has been allowed for a higher price.

    Average real wages are to increase by 2.8 percent against 3.3 percent in 2004 and 0.6 percent in 2003.

    Forecasts contained in the 2005 budget for two years ahead are growth of 4.0 percent in 2006 and inflation of 2.8 percent; and growth of 4.2 percent in 2007, with inflation at 2.7 percent in that year.

    Unemployment is seen at 10.5 percent in 2005; 9.8 percent in 2006; and 8.9 percent in 2007, the minister said.

    Gov't on tabling of 2005 draft budget: The government on Thursday echoed Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' same-day statements in Parliament regarding the tabling of the 2005 draft state budget, saying the intent was to absolutely restore reliability and truth in state finances.

    Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, moreover, referred to a "new policy" inaugurated by the government with its draft budget for the coming fiscal year, one without "fictitiousness and unreliability ... but with truth".

    He also said the budget has a social character, one aimed at supporting low-income citizens as well as aiding development and combating waste.

    Opposition parties, trade groups mostly criticize 2005 budget: The main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) said on Thursday that the government's budget for 2005 lacked credibility and would be impossible to implement.

    "The New Democracy government has created the current problem with its so-called fiscal audit, and its changes in calculation methodology for party political reasons," PASOK spokesman Nikos Athanassakis said in a statement.

    "In its eight months in office, the government has brought fiscal derailment in both revenue and expenditure. The government has struck a blow at the economy's credibility, resulting in (Wednesday's) lowering of the country's long-term credit ratings (by Standard & Poor's)," the statement said.

    The Communist Party of Greece said the budget redistributed wealth in favor of the country's "plutocracy".

    In addition, the budget aligned with the government's new tax and growth legislation in implementing policy against working people and assisting "big capital", the party claimed in a statement.

    According to the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology, the budget contained nebulous, over-optimistic targets, and was based on unrealistic expectations of a favorable domestic and global economic climate.

    The General Confederation of Employees of Greece, which represents nearly 800,000 workers in the private and public sectors, said the budget was formulated "along class lines" in supporting capital.

    The ADEDY civil servants union noted that the budget confirmed their initial fears of a restrictive incomes policy and resulting difficulty for working people and households.

    Commerce chamber basically backs budget

    Finally, the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the 2005 budget had been formulated along the right lines.

    At the same time, the government needed to be sure of attaining its projected growth rate, which was relatively high, and reduction of the fiscal deficit below 3.0 percent for it to work, the chamber said in a statement.

    U.S. President says Washington will embrace any solution arising from Greece-FYROM talks in letter to PM:

    In a letter sent to Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and released on Thursday, United States President George Bush stressed Washington's support for efforts within the United Nations to find a mutually acceptable solution to a dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) over FYROM's name, assuring him that the U.S. will embrace any solution arising from these negotiations.

    "We hope that you will quickly reach an agreement so that our two countries can focus on our common goals in the Balkans and beyond," the U.S. president added.

    In the letter that he started off 'Dear Costas', Bush also noted his awareness that Washington's decision to recognize FYROM by its constitutional name 'Republic of Macedonia' - which Greece objects to - had created considerable controversy in Greece. At the same time, he pointed out that he had discussed the issue with Karamanlis during the latter's visit to the U.S. in May, during which they both expressed the wish that the issue could have been resolved a long time ago.

    The U.S. president explained that the United States had been forced to act quickly in view of the referendum of November 7 in FYROM, stressing that Washington's only goal had been to shore up the stability of the republic and the neighboring regions at a crucial moment.

    At another point, Bush noted that Greece and the U.S. share the desire for stability in the Balkans and have common strategic interests and deep cultural ties, stressing that Washington attaches great importance to its excellent bilateral ties with Greece.

    He also reiterated his congratulations on the "extremely successful Olympic Games in Athens" and thanked Karamanlis for a message congratulating Bush on his re-election as president - sent before the U.S. had announced its decision to recognize FYROM as 'Macedonia' - while expressing his desire to cooperate with the Greek premier over the coming years.

    Foreign minister and future U.S. Secretary

    of State talk on the phone: Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis spoke on the phone with Condoleezza Rice, who will be taking over from Colin Powell as U.S. Secretary of State, congratulating her on her new position in the U.S. government and wishing every success in her work, the Greek foreign ministry announced on Thursday.

    The announcement said the discussion was carried out in a cordial climate, with Rice and Molyviatis agreeing to continue cooperation in order further strengthen the good climate in bilateral relations. This is also expected to be confirmed during a visit to Washington by Molyviatis at the start of 2005. The visit will probably take place in January though the precise date remains to be arranged via diplomatic channels.

    [02] PM Molyviatis sends letters to EU counterparts, UN chief, on FYROM name issue

    Athens 19/11/2004 (ANA)

    Foreign minister Petros Molyviatis on Thursday sent letters to his 24 EU counterparts and to UN secretary general Kofi Annan concerning the FYROM name issue, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos told a regular press briefing.

    In the letters, Molyviatis outlines the latest developments on the issue and details the Greek positions.

    In his letter to the UN chief, in particular, Molyviatis stressed the importance placed by Greece on the FYROM name issue, reiterating the country's dedication of the procedure that has been agreed for continuation of the UN-sponsored dialogue between Greece and FYROM to find a mutually agreeable solution.

    He also called for a reaffirmation of that process and Annan's encouragement for its continuation.

    In his letter to the EU foreign ministers, Molyviatis pointed out, inter alia, that European dimension of FYROM's future was affected by the outstanding name issue.

    [03] Athens says EU partners' 'positive' over Greek concerns ahead of summit

    Athens 19/11/2004 (ANA)

    The foreign ministry on Thursday said it considers the feedback of European partners to Greece's concerns ahead of next month's European Union summit as "positive".

    Ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos made the statement during a press conference here and in response to Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis' recent meetings with his counterparts from France, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

    Moreover, the spokesman said Turkey's EU prospects are of interest "to all EU member-states from various angles".

    He added that what is still being discussed is whether possible accession negotiations will be "open-ended", or, according to Athens' position, Turkey's accession will be realized when negotiations and the fulfillment of conditions and criteria is achieved.

    [04] Non-recognition of EU member state by candidate member is 'political and institutional irrationality', FM spokesman says

    Athens 19/11/2004 (ANA)

    Non-recognition of an EU member state by a candidate member state was a "political and institutional irrationality that must be lifted, and we must return to the European rationalism", foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said Thursday during a regular press briefing.

    Asked to comment on a statement by Turkish Prime Minister Recept Tayyip Erdogan that Ankara had no intention of recognizing the Republic of Cyprus before the EU summit in December, Koumoutsakos noted that "that is the Turkish position".

    He stressed, however, that efforts were being made by the Greek and Cypriot sides so that the best possible outcome would be achieved, and warned that "non-recognition of an EU member state by a candidate state for accession constitutes a political and institutional irrationality that must be lifted, and we must return to the European rationalism".

    Asked whether Turkey's threat of a casus belli towards Greece was also put forward as an institutional and political irrationality in Greece's talks with its EU partners, Koumoutsakos replied that all the issues were put forward at various levels, adding that "the candidate country's deportment is continuously recorded".

    [05] US insists on upgrading relations with Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus

    WASHINGTON 19/11/2004 (ANA/A.Ellis)

    The US is insisting on its decision to upgrade its relations with Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus, despite American Airlines' refusal to operate flights in the occupied part of Cyprus.

    According to a State Department official, the US is exploring the possibility of establishing air routes between occupied northern Cyprus and the US, as well as other destinations, in order to put an end to the Turkish-Cypriot community's isolation. According to the same official, the State Department spokesman will give a similar answer if asked on the issue during the daily press briefing which was to take place later on Thursday.

    The same official added that there is no specific timeframe for the operation of flights and that the US policy has not changed regarding recognition of the island's Turkish-occupied north. The official said that the US embassy in Nicosia discussed the issue with the Cyprus government on Thursday.

    [06] Psarouda-Benaki says Papandreou violated Parliament regulation

    Athens 19/11/2004 (ANA)

    "The main opposition leader should have been informed and should have protected himself from obviously violating the [Parliament] regulation, which I am certain he would not have wanted to do," Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki said on Thursday, commenting on Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) President George Papandreou, who made statements in parliament after Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis submitted the 2005 state budget for approval.

    According to the regulation, leaders of political parties represented in parliament, can only make statements if the finance minister comments on the content of the budget. In that case, the president of each party has five minutes to respond; the entire process cannot last more than one hour.

    On Thursday, when Alogoskoufis presented the budget his comments did not pertain to the budget's content. "The initial statement made by Mr. Alogoskoufis did not concern the content of the budget and it was exactly the same as the statements each finance minister has made over the last 30 years," Psarouda-Benaki said.

    Papandreou, however, was quick to comment on Alogoskoufis' statements. Alogoskoufis responded, but Papandreou was denied the right to counter-respond. Consequently, PASOK Parliamentary Spokesman Athanassios Tsouras protested that Papandreou was not given the opportunity to respond.

    [07] Pavlopoulos addresses 4th Information Society conference

    Athens 19/11/2004 (ANA)

    The 4th Information Society conference kicked off Thursday with an opening address by Minister of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Prokopis Pavlopoulos.

    Pavlopoulos referred to the goals outlined by the Lisbon Strategy, which link the information society with a system of sustainable development. However, a prerequisite for this, according to Pavlopoulos, is an appropriate public administration, meaning that the state be organized in such a way so that it can use information technology.

    "As part of the effort to establish e-governance, the government has initiated certain changes. These are evident primarily in the two laws which deal with the elimination of bureaucracy but also in issues pertaining to e-governance," he said.

    The second change is the creation of a national municipal management system. "It is along these lines that the implementation of the 'Theseas' program - the new development program for local authority organizations - is being implemented," he explained.

    Pavlopoulos also referred to the Citizen Service Centers (KEP), which "we have transformed into a modern network of comprehensive administrative products, that operates according to 'banking' standards," he said. The minister also referred to the comprehensive transactions and electronic exchange of information between public agencies which are already taking place and are based on the principles of interoperability.

    In closing, Pavlopoulos said: "Our main concern is to establish electronic governance. To do that, we need a flexible and effective design and management tool. We studied all the corresponding systems of other modern countries and we are leaning towards a system that contains two complementary subsystems. First: a central, collective body which will design and propose the national strategy regarding e-governance issues; Second: a Special Service which will operate as a task force and will act in cooperation with the relevant agencies and the corresponding national programů. We have already created the 'Electronic Governance Council' and we are now proceeding with the creation of the Special Service."

    [08] Gov't stresses support for justice minister after rejection of bourse case appeal

    Athens 19/11/2004 (ANA)

    Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Thursday stressed that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had full confidence in Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras, stressing that there was no 'Papaligouras issue' for the government.

    The spokesman was responding to questions regarding the government's stance after an appeal instigated by Papaligouras against a judicial decision to dismiss a case of bourse mismanagement was rejected by the Council of Appeals Justices, who said the original decision to dismiss the case was fully justified.

    While noting that the government 'does not comment on judicial judgments', Antonaros stressed that the government continued to believe that the stock market 'bubble' of 2000 was a scandal and would continue to do everything in its power to shed light on the case, refusing to politically write off an affair that had cost 1.5 million Greeks the bulk of their savings.

    [09] Turkish warplanes violate Greek national air space

    Athens 19/11/2004 (ANA)

    The Turkish air force continued its violations of Greek national air space on Thursday. According to press reports, six formations of Turkish warplanes entered the region of the Aegean without submitting flight plans and in five cases they violated national air space in the region of the central Aegean between the islands of Limnos and Lesvos.

    In all cases, the 12 Turkish aircraft were recognized and intercepted by Greek air force jets, while in five cases the interception process developed into mock dogfights.

    Two of the Turkish aircraft were armed.

    According to the same reports, during one dogfight in which a Greek pilot was in an advantageous position, the defending Turkish pilot fired three flares. The firing of flares has the purpose of freeing the defending aircraft. The dogfight lasted for three minutes after which the Turkish aircraft returned to Turkey.

    [10] European Parliament approves report on European Ombudsman for 2003

    STRASBOURG 19/11/2004 (ANA/O.Tsipira)

    A crushing majority of the plenary session of the European Parliament on Thursday approved the report Ireland's Proinsias De Rossa submitted regarding the activities of the European Ombudsman for 2003, with 530 votes for, 9 against and 20 abstentions.

    De Rossa's report commended the efforts and activity of Nikiforos Diamantouros, who assume the position of European Ombudsman in April 2003, with the following statement: "...since taking office in April 2003, [Diamantouros] has successfully pursued the objectives of enhancing the effectiveness of the European Ombudsman's Office and promoting good public administration, respect for the rule of law and respect for human rights."

    The Committee on Petitions also commended the Ombudsman for creating a network of national and regional ombudsmen and other entities to whom complaints falling outside the jurisdiction of the European Ombudsman, are referred.

    The Committee on Petitions also, "calls on all EU institutions and bodies to fully implement Regulation (EC) 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to EP, Council and Commission documents in a spirit of recognition that access to documents held by the European institutions and bodies is a fundamental right pursuant to Article 42 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and with the sincere objective of taking decisions as 'openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizen'; stresses that the institutions and bodies of the EU should examine each request extremely carefully and on a case by case basis before the provisions on derogations from the principle of free access are possibly applied." The Committee also "supports the need for a review of the Ombudsman's Statute, as adopted on 9 March 1994, in light of developments during the last decade, including the powers of investigation of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF)..."

    Diamantouros had the opportunity to present parliament with some basic facts and figures before the voting took place. According to Diamantouros, the number of complaints in the first 10 months of 2004 increased by 54% compared with the same period in 2003. This, according to Diamantouros, is due to the fact that EU citizens are more aware of their rights rather than an indication that European organizations' administrative services are deteriorating. However, Diamantouros argued that there is room for improvement and would like to see further efforts in ensuring greater transparency and sound administrative behavior. Diamantouros believes that the greatest percentage of complaints stem from a lack of or refusal to provide information.

    As for administrative behavior, Diamantouros believes that the European Code of Good Administrative Behavior, which was adopted by parliament in September 2001, has yet to be fully adopted and applied by all EU institutions and organizations.

    Bill establishing Consumer Ombudsman goes to Parliament: A draft bill establishing a Consumer Ombudsman, designed to act as an arbitrator for the out-of-court settlement of disputes on consumer issues, was tabled in Parliament on Thursday.

    The bill is intended to further harmonize Greek administrative structure with internationally established models and achieve administrative harmonization on an EU level.

    [11] Govt spokesman says ERT must become locomotive for qualitative upgrading in radio and TV sector

    Athens 19/11/2004 (ANA)

    Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, addressing the 20th regular congress of the POSPERT union on Thursday, said the Greek Broadcasting Corporation (ERT) must become the locomotive for qualitative upgrading in the radio and television sector.

    Also present at the congress were ERT President Christos Panagopoulos and representatives of parties, the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) and the Athens Journalists Union (ESHEA).

    "I consider it my obligation to state publicly that considerable steps have been taken by the previous administration for upgrading the quality of the program of ERT and that these steps will be continued with even greater boldness and determination," Roussopoulos said.

    POSPERT President Sifis Kakavoulis said ERT must disengage itself from governmental authority and the logic of profit, stressing the need for the implementation of rules of merit for the selection of ERT's administration bodies.

    ERT's President Panagopoulos reiterated that "we alone must seek suitable solutions for the accumulated economic burdens" and underlined that ERT must safeguard and improve its position in the competitive environment without affecting its quality, while the roles of the unions and the administration must be distinguishable.

    The congress will come to an end on Friday.

    [12] Gov't on S&P report lowering Greece's credit rating

    Athens 19/11/2004 (ANA)

    Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Thursday stressed that poor fiscal policies by the previous government had prompted the international credit rating agency Standard & Poors to lower Greece's long-term credit rating.

    Antonaros noted that S&P's report had attributed the decision to the previous government's underestimate of the cost of the Olympics, and a policy of fiscal looseness and pre-election handouts in the run-up to elections in March.

    At the same time, S&P had not revised its assessment of Greece's steady economic prospects and had acknowledged the present government's efforts to set up a tax system that was friendlier to tax payers as a positive measure, he added.

    The spokesman also lashed out at critics within Greece who had adopted S&P's call for further measures to increase fiscal discipline, saying that this was tantamount to demanding an austerity program.

    "The government, as one can easily see by examining the figures in the budget, has decided to adopt a policy of gradual adjustment in conjunction with tax reforms, so as to protect and increase the income of the workforce," he underlined.

    [13] National Bank says SMEs sector a priority

    Athens 19/11/2004 (ANA)

    National Bank places believe that small- and medium-sized enterprises are of primary significance for the expansion of the bank's operations, its governor, Takis Arapoglou, said on Thursday.

    Addressing a meeting with businesspeople from the Larissa and Karditsa regions in central Greece, National Bank's head said "most Greek enterprises are of smaller size compared with their European counterparts. This characteristic negatively affects their credit ability."

    "Maximizing your enterprises must be one of your priorities and National Bank will support this effort. This needs a satisfactory communication between us. We want to have a clear picture of your activities, to better understand your needs to meet your demands more effectively."

    National Bank currently cooperates with more than 40,000 small- and medium-sized enterprises around Greece and has approved funding of around 7,500 new customers. The bank said its loans towards the sector are growing at an annual rate of 25 percent.

    Arapoglou stressed that National Bank was implementing a restructuring program aimed to cut its operating cost as part of a plan to maintain its leading position in the market and to remain competitive.

    [14] EU Commissioner denies Bank of Greece reports contradicted figures supplied by Athens

    Athens 19/11/2004 (ANA)

    European Commissioner Joaquin Almunia on Thursday denied that the Bank of Greece had ever expressly raised doubts about the quality figures supplied to the European Union by the government in Athens.

    Responding to a question by Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology MEP Dimitris Papadimoulis, Almunia stressed that the public debt and public deficit figures announced by the Greek central bank in its reports had always been the same as those announced by the government.

    The question was placed after former Bank of Greece governor Loukas Papademos, currently an ECB vice-president, had countered criticism of his role at that time and asserted that the revised figures turned up by the new government's fiscal audit of the Greek economy had been included in Bank of Greece annual reports "in plain view". Papadimoulis asked the Commission to confirm whether this was the case.

    In his reply, Almunia said that Bank of Greece reports had included figures on certain other definitions of the deficit. He stressed that differences between deficit figures arrived at by different sets of rules or covering different areas could not be considered contradictory, while they could not and should not be considered to indicate a problem with the figures being supplied to the European Commission by the Greek government.

    [15] Labor confederation president says bank president's proposal on social security issue rejected

    Athens 19/11/2004 (ANA)

    The proposal by the Commercial Bank's President Provopoulos on a solution to the social security issue concerning the bank's employees will be rejected in its entirety, according to a statement by General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) President Christos Polyzogopoulos, following a meeting he held on Thursday with the Commercial Bank's president at the latter's initiative.

    Polyzogopoulos said there were two reasons leading labor unions to reject the proposal. The one is that if it is implemented it will convey a huge economic cost to the social security foundation (IKA) and the other is that it will overturn social security expectations and pensioning rights of bank employees.

    GSEE's president called on the government to honor its election commitments which spoke of maintaining the existing legislative framework, adding that whatever problems exist in specific insurance funds must be handled primarily through dialogue.

    [16] Greece assumes BSEC presidency; focuses on bringing region's countries closer to EU

    Athens 19/11/2004 (ANA)

    Greece's goal as president of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organization is to bring the countries in the region closer to the EU, to upgrade the region's economic significance, and to reinforce stability and security in the EU "neighborhood," Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis said in a press conference on Thursday. During the press conference, Stylianidis presented the Greek agenda for the BSEC presidency, which began November 1, 2004 and ends April 30, 2005.

    "We are the only country among the 12 BSEC member-states, that is a member of the EU and NATO, (...) we are the 'bridge' between these countries and the EU (...)," he said. "The Greek presidency will give the organization [BSEC] a distinct European dimension," Stylianidis continued, adding that, "we have a complete political platform; we will work methodically during the presidency with work groups; we have organized ministerial meetings with an emphasis on energy, transport, tourism, commerce, environmental protection, education, science and technology."

    The first ministerial meeting will be held December 1-3 and will focus on security and on the fight against organized crime. The Greek presidency is preparing a protocol which will deal with the issue of human trafficking. This is a move that falls within the context of the EU's standard policy, according to which, regional cooperation must serve first and foremost as a tool for reinforcing stability and security in regions that lack it, and secondly as a form of approach towards European policies and economic structures.

    [17] Greek bond market report: prices rose in October

    Athens 19/11/2004 (ANA)

    Turnover in Greece's Electronic Secondary Securities Market eased to 106.52 billion euros in October from a record-high of 135.75 billion euros in September, although it jumped more than 30 percent compared with the same month last year, official figures said on Thursday.

    The Bank of Greece, in its monthly report, said that investors' interest focused on long-term securities (with a maturity between seven and 10 years) which accounted for 63 percent of monthly turnover (74.44 billion euros).

    The 10-year benchmark bond was the most highly-traded security, with turnover totaling 47.66 billion euros, followed by the 15-year benchmark bond with a turnover of 11.70 billion euros.

    The report said that from a total of 18,696 orders in the market in October, 50.10 percent were bid orders and 49.90 percent sell orders.

    Bond prices rose significantly in October, with benchmark bond prices rising 42-119 basis points and the 20-year bond ending at 115.93 (yielding 4.58 percent) at the end of the month from 114.74 (4.67 pct) a month earlier. The 10-year benchmark bond price rose to 103.31 (yielding 4.07 pct) from 102.32 (4.19 pct) over the same period, respectively.

    The average spread between the Greek and the German 10-year benchmark bond rose to 19 bps in October from 18 bps in September, with the yield spread between the three- and 20-year benchmark bonds jumped to 187 bps in October from 179 bps in September.

    [18] Stocks drop in profit taking

    Athens 19/11/2004 (ANA)

    Stocks finished lower in mild, across-the-board profit taking, traders said.

    The Athens general share index closed at 2,632.01 points, showing a decline of 0.47 percent. Turnover was 192.0 million euros.

    The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.61 percent down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.25 percent down; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.52 percent lower.

    Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 160 to 130 with 67 remaining unchanged.

    [19] ATHOC chief briefs Papandreou, Papariga on post-Olympics issues

    Athens 19/11/2004 (ANA)

    The president of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games Organizing Committee, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, on Thursday met separately with main opposition PASOK president George Papandreou and Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga -- part of her post-Olympics briefings of the country's political leadership.

    In statements afterwards, Papandreou, the former foreign minister, criticized the government for saying that the 2004 Summer Games cost more than nine billion euros. Papandreou disputed the disclosed figure, saying the government, and specifically the national economy ministry, was trying to create an alibi for petty partisan reasons and to justify the current state of the economy.

    On her part, Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said:

    "We agreed over the positive climate (from the Games) that has been created abroad, the fact that we're talking about a 'Greek miracle' must be continued," she said.

    Additionally, the high-profile ATHOC head reiterated that her organization will soon release its financial results.

    Finally, she thanked Papandreou for his support during his tenure at the foreign ministry, while also praising him for his efforts to promote the "Olympic Truce" initiative.

    In a later meeting with Papariga at the KKE's headquarters, Angelopoulos-Daskalaki briefed the former on the Games' conclusion, its financial results and the country's promotion abroad.

    No comments were made following the one-and-a-half-hour meeting.

    [20] Athens prosecutors urge misdemeanor charges against Kenteris, Thanou

    Athens 19/11/2004 (ANA)

    A pair of Athens prosecutors on Thursday recommended the filing of eight misdemeanor charges in relation to a doping furor involving Greece's top sprinters and their coach, an uproar that crashed onto the international limelight only a day before the 2004 Games began on Aug. 13.

    Charges include multiple counts of obstructing a doping test by the two Olympic track stars, Costas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou, as well as their controversial one-time coach and manager, Christos Tzekos. The prosecutors cited missed doping tests in Tel-Aviv, Chicago and Athens to validate their charge.

    Other misdemeanor charges recommended against the trio include making a false report to authorities and multiple counts of moral instigation towards providing false testimony.

    The judicial investigation also recommended charges of procurement, import, possession, production and storage of prohibited substances against Tzekos, the owner, among others, of a firm that imports food supplements.

    Additionally, charges were recommended against a handful of doctors and individuals involved with the same incident.

    Specifically, prosecutors urged that breach of duty and fake medical certification charges be filed against several physicians of the KAT hospital (in northern Athens) that treated Kenteris and Thanou after a mysterious late-night motorcycle accident left the pair hospitalized at the facility for several days as a whirlwind of controversy surrounded the affair.

    Along those same lines, prosecutors recommended that an undisclosed number of people -- claiming to be eyewitnesses of the motorcycle accident -- that provided statements to police regarding the mysterious accident be charged with perjury and providing false testimony.

    Due to the seriousness of the charges, a higher ranking judicial magistrate was assigned the case for further action.

    [21] European Court decides that Greece violating EU legislation in case of Cretan landfill

    BRUSSELS 19/11/2004 (ANA/M. Spinthourakis)

    The European Court decided on Thursday that the way with which a landfill is operating in the region of "Pera Galini", in the prefecture of Iraklio on the island of Crete, is creating dangers for public health and, consequently, Greece is violating European Union legislation.

    "Greece, omitting to take necessary measures to ensure that the disposal or utilization of solid refuse deposited at the location of 'Pera Galini' in the prefecture of Iraklio in Crete will take place without the health of man being placed at risk, without any danger being created for water, the air or land, nor for fauna or flora, and without any discomfort being created by noise or smells and by providing a license for the operation of this facility lacking necessary aspects, violated the obligations it is subject to by articles 4 and 9 of the directive 75/442/EOK on solid refuse, as amended by directive 91/156/EOK," the European Court said in its announcement.

    [22] ISF and ITF voice concerns over EU directive regarding ship-source pollution

    BRUSSELS (ANA/A. Simatos)

    The International Shipping Federation (ISF) and the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) voiced their concerns in a joint statement issued Thursday over the proposed EU Directive on Criminal Sanctions for Ship-Source Pollution.

    Their statement comes one day before the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council Meeting takes place in Brussels.

    The ISF and ITF agree that in case of intentional pollution those responsible should be penalized, but do not agree that the same should apply in case of an accident. The organizations argue that in case of accidents, enforcing penalties is less effective than searching for the cause of the accident, which would enable the improvement of safety criteria and thus help prevent future accidents.

    In closing, the two organizations support that penalizing seafarers in cases of accidents will discourage conscientious individuals from pursuing seafaring careers.

    [23] 'Green' award by Commission to Athens' Eleftherios Venizelos Airport

    Athens 19/11/2004 (ANA)

    Athens' Eleftherios Venizelos Airport has been tapped for the European Commission's Green Light Award in honor for its efforts to implement energy-efficient lighting technology at the facility. The airport is the first-ever company in Greece to win the distinction.

    The voluntary Green Light program was begun in February 2000 by the Commission's general directorate for energy and transports.

    [24] ESA hopes to send first unmanned mission to Mars by 2010, scientist tells reporters

    Athens 19/11/2004 (ANA)

    The European Space Agency (ESA) hoped to send its first unmanned mission to Mars by 2010, the head of the ESA Physical Sciences Unit told reporters in Thessaloniki on Thursday.

    According to Dr. Olivier Minster, the first phase of the ESA Mars program was complete, with two more to follow before European scientists gave the green light to a Mars mission.

    Dr. Minster stressed that the failed mission by the spaceship 'Beagle 2' was a primarily British rather than European project and that its failure was due to a limited budget and hurried execution, which meant that there had been incomplete tests of the craft's landing systems.

    He said the ESA was currently working on another mission that will place the spaceship 'Mars Express' into orbit around Mars.

    Asked when the first human was likely to land on Mars, the ESA scientist stressed the dangers involved and said this should not be rushed.

    "We must not and do not want to send people to their death," he warned, noting that Europe had not yet decided whether or not it will participate in a manned mission to Mars and that the ESA's position on this was different from that of NASA, stressing that the two organizations served different purposes and had different resources at their disposal. At the same time, he said the two organizations do cooperate and this cooperation may well become closer in the future.

    Regarding the 'Smart' spaceship sent up by the ESA, Minster said that it went into orbit around the Moon two days ago and would gradually start sending data from which European scientists hoped to ascertain how the Moon was created and what it was made of.

    The 'Smart' will also look for evidence of water on the Moon and send back data on its rock in order to decide whether a space station might be built there.

    [25] Thessaloniki film festival opens Friday

    Athens 19/11/2004 (ANA)

    The 45th Thessaloniki Film Festival opens on Friday with a series of films, however, the official opening has been pushed back to Saturday, 8:30 p.m. Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis, members of parliament and foreign and Greek filmmakers, including Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Kostas Sfikas, will be attending the opening ceremony.

    The festival, which will run through November 29, will feature a total of 189 movies, broken down in the following categories: 14 films are competing in the festival's international segment; 24 in the Greek Film category; 10 in the "Balkan Survey" category; 41 in "New Horizons"; and the rest within the context of tributes to foreign cinema (Argentinian, Russian, French, etc.).

    This year's festival will honor Isabelle Huppert, showing two films in which she stars: "Les Soeurs Fachees" and "My Mother."

    Honorary ceremonies will also be held as tributes to Iakovos Kambanellis and Manos Zacharias.

    [26] Five arrests for disorderly conduct related to Polytechnic march

    Athens 19/11/2004 (ANA)

    Five individuals, all teens or young adults, were charged on Thursday with disrupting the peace and disorderly conduct after they were arrested a day earlier during an annual march to commemorate the 1973 Polytechnic students' uprising against a military junta then ruling Greece. All five were referred for trial.

    Meanwhile, a total of 35 people were detained during and following the march through downtown Athens.

    Wednesday's march, held annually on Nov. 17, was amongst the most peaceful of recent years, with the worst incident of violence being the lobbing of three home-made firebombs against riot police in the Exarchia district. Three vehicles were destroyed in an ensuing blaze.

    [27] Cypriot President asks for Italian Prime Minister's support

    ROME 19/11/2004 (CNA/ANA)

    Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos has asked for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's support in the difficult days that lie ahead for Cyprus, as Turkey's EU aspirations are decided on.

    Speaking after concluding meetings with Berlusconi and the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Pier Ferdinando Casini, President Papadopoulos said he has ascertained the need to be able to explain Cyprus' position to all EU countries.

    On his talks with Berlusconi earlier Thursday, President Papadopoulos said ''it was a very interesting and useful meeting, we explained our positions and asked Mr. Berlusconi for his support in the difficult hours and decisions that lie ahead in the future.''

    Asked what Berlusconi's response was, President Papadopoulos said he did not want to make his discussions with the Italian Prime Minister public.

    To a question whether he found understanding, he replied, ''My job and my duty is to try to explain as persuasively and completely as I can our positions to as many governments as possible, either they are considered friendly or hostile.''

    ''The response we had, I believe, proves that this effort is necessary,'' he added.

    Asked if he was satisfied with his meetings, President Papadopoulos said ''one is always satisfied when he is given the chance to explain his positions through a friendly, unofficial and understanding climate and this was the case today.''

    President Papadopoulos and his entourage were later received by Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. He rounded up this visit to the Italian capital with a meeting with Senate President Marcello Pepa.

    The president and his entourage depart for Cyprus, via Athens, on Friday morning.

    [28] EU postpones discussion on regulations for Turkish Cypriots

    BRUSSELS 19/11/2004 (CNA/ANA)

    The EU Dutch Presidency has decided that no discussion on the EU regulations regarding financial aid to Turkish Cypriots and direct trade between the EU and Cyprus' Turkish occupied areas will take place on November 22, at the EU Foreign Affairs and External Relations Council.

    The regulations were going to be discussed over lunch here on Thursday by the Permanent Representatives of EU member states in Brussels

    (COREPER) but this did not happen because the Dutch Permanent Representative ascertained, as he said, that there was no new development since discussions last week.

    The Dutch Representative asked his 24 counterparts if they agreed with the postponement of the discussion for the regulations at Monday's Council. None of them disagreed and so the issue is not expected to be included to the Council's agenda.

    The Council's next meeting after November 22 will take place on December 13, four days before the European Council will decide whether Turkey will be granted a date to begin accession negotiations with the EU.

    Diplomatic sources in Brussels consider that the Dutch Presidency will refrain from putting these regulations on the agenda of December's EU Foreign Affairs and External Relations Council meeting and that it is very possible that the issue will be taken over by Luxembourg's EU Presidency.

    [29] Unacceptable to grant Turkey a date without Cyprus recognition, EU official says

    LONDON 19/11/2004 (CNA/ANA)

    With the fixing of the date for starting accession talks between Turkey and the EU, Ankara will recognize the Cyprus Republic, a high rank EU official has said.

    Giving oral evidence before Britain's House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee on Wednesday, Pierre Mirel, Director of the Enlargement Department of the European Union, said: ''… can not but feel that the Council can not accept a partner which does not extend its Customs Union to include the Cyprus Republic''.

    He noted that Cyprus is one of the 25 EU members-states which will be giving its vote and it will not do so without official recognition of the Cyprus Republic by Turkey.

    Responding to a question whether the issue of the Turkish occupation forces will also be raised, Mirel said that it could also be discussed, adding that Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos could propose a timetable for the withdrawal of the forces.

    Asked to comment on the idea of replacing the Turkish forces with other forces, he said this issue is outside the competence of the Commission.

    Mirel expressed his confidence that if a date for accession negotiations is fixed the whole climate within the EU will change affecting the Cyprus issue too.

    The EU official said that the Regulation on Financial Aid for the Turkish Cypriots has been agreed upon but the Dutch Presidency decided to link it with the Regulation on Direct Trade. He added that the Regulation on Trade will take two-three months to resolve.

    Responding to a question whether the feeling within the Commission is that they "were cheated" by the Greek Cypriots over the April 2004 referendum on a Cyprus solution, Mirel said that "there was extreme disappointment and frustration".

    He added that the impression was that with the arrangement that the solution of the Cyprus problem was not a precondition of Cyprus' accession to the EU and with Turkey becoming a candidate, the Greek Cypriot leadership would work for a positive response.

    ''We felt they did not make enough effort'', Mirel said, adding that the main effort was needed in order to ensure that Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots would support the Annan Plan whereas the Greek Cypriots were expected to give a positive answer.

    Asked whether Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos was against the Annan Plan as a whole, Mirel answered ''I would leave that to history''.

    Asked whether it was true that EU Commissioner for Enlargement Gunter Verheugen sought access to the Cypriot mass media, Mirel said that he did it in the same way as he did for the media of the other nine candidate countries.

    Asked whether Verheugen got a negative answer, Miler replied ''he (Verheugen) did not get an answer''.

    [30] Unilateral de-mining in buffer zone begins

    NICOSIA 19/11/2004 (CNA/ANA)

    A symbolic destruction of two mines in an area south of Nicosia's Airport, closed since the 1974 Turkish invasion of the island, signaled here Thursday the commencement of the Republic of Cyprus' unilateral decision to destroy its minefields in the buffer zone, in full support of the UN policy and in accordance with the provisions of the Ottawa Convention.

    During an official ceremony that started the de-mining procedure, UN Acting special representative in Cyprus and Chief of Mission Zbigniew Wlosowicz and Head of the European Commission's office in Cyprus Adriaan van der Meer symbolically cut barded wire fencing a minefield, while two mines were destroyed.

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