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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-11-24

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

November 24, 2004


  • [01] Inner Cabinet unanimously approves new development law
  • [02] Foreign minister visits Spanish counterpart for talks prior to EU summit
  • [03] Stylianidis briefs BSEC on Greek presidency's priorities
  • [04] Stylianidis says EU development policy should be 'honest and realistic'
  • [05] Karamanlis congratulates Barroso on his assumption of duties
  • [06] Greek and Cypriot delegations prevent abolition of Greek language use at European Affairs Committees conference
  • [07] Euro-Socialist Party group reps to hold high-level meetings with Turkish leaders
  • [08] Gov't denies report in 'Ta Nea' regarding TOR anti-aircraft missile system purchase
  • [09] Mihaloliakos represents Greece at the 3rd International European Defense Conference
  • [10] MEP Dimitrakopoulos stresses agreement with government's 'general policies'
  • [11] PM and party secretary hold talks on party strategy, communications
  • [12] National Defense General Staff spokesman rejects Turkish claims
  • [13] Turkish warplanes violate Greek national air space
  • [14] PM to meet with deputy economy minister
  • [15] PASOK party leader says talk of presidential elections creates instability and insecurity
  • [16] Denktash says NGOs influenced T/C vote on Annan plan, cites 50% 'no' vote today
  • [17] Five Greek Americans killed to date in Iraq
  • [18] Foreign ministry secretary general meets foreign ambassadors
  • [19] Greek trade deficit up 19 pct in Jan-Aug, yr/yr
  • [20] 11 countries oppose European Commission's proposals regarding sugar sector reform at Agriculture Ministers' Council
  • [21] Banker urges private, public sector construction alliances
  • [22] Stocks drop in blue-chip profit taking
  • [23] PM discusses use of Olympics infrastructure with environment, alternate culture ministers
  • [24] 2004 ranks second best in fire protection in last 50 years
  • [25] Greek Ombudsman Kaminis organizing conference in Istanbul on establishing Ombudsman institution in Turkey
  • [26] KEDKE awards commendation to President Stephanopoulos for his services in office
  • [27] European Forum presents positions on structural funds and cohesion fund
  • [28] British director awarded Golden Alexander at Thessaloniki Film Festival
  • [29] Protesting local residents dislodged from would-be drug rehab centre
  • [30] Three female members of TV crew to be charged over incidents at Ehinos mosque
  • [31] Bulgaria's youth maintains strong interest in Greek language
  • [32] Earthquake in Albania rattles border region with Greece
  • [33] House President says Turkey's EU course passes through Cyprus
  • [34] Congress members express concern to Powell over Cyprus policy

  • [01] Inner Cabinet unanimously approves new development law

    Athens, 24/11/2004 (ANA)

    The Inner Cabinet, chaired by prime minister Costas Karamanlis, on Tuesday unanimously approved the new developmental law, which will be unveiled later in the day at the Zappeion Press Centre, development minister Dimitris Sioufas told reporters after the meeting.

    Sioufas said it was a different developmental law, that provided for growth "everywhere and for everyone", adding that the government's commitment for development of the Greek periphery would become "action".

    Economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis said that it was a landmark law that would give breath to all the branches of the economy, to business, entrepreneurship, quality, tourism, the services, and all the regions of the country.

    New development law offers investment incentives, Greek FinMin says: The government was creating a package of strong incentives to promote private investments in Greece with a new draft bill on economic development and regional convergence, Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Tuesday.

    Speaking to reporters, presenting the new draft law, Alogoskoufis said that the bill was expected to be tabled to parliament next week, to be approved by the end of the year and to be put into action from 2005.

    "It is a very big step towards strengthening private investments and signals the government's new economic policy," the Greek minister stressed.

    The draft legislation envisages expanding financial support schemes to businesses and to offer an additional support -of up to 15 percent- to small- and medium-sized enterprises in the country's regions.

    It also seeks to support new business activities, such as innovative investment plans, creating cargo and logistic centers, warehouse, packaging, parking infrastructure, creating theme parks to expand the country's tourist product, and building desalination units.

    The new legislation also raises support percentages towards investments in the tourism sector and hotel upgrading while it frees a 4.5 million euros ceiling in support for hotel upgrading projects.

    The draft bill also lowers significantly the minimum required participation in an investment project to 25 percent from 40 percent currently.

    Greek authorities also seek to expand and accelerate procedures for evaluating investment projects by using specialized experts and outside consultants and cutting the time of evaluating investment projects to two months from three months currently.

    Alogoskoufis said the new law was simple, without any references to previous legislation, easy to understand and that in connection with new tax legislation, the government signaled a new era for the country's development.

    Simplified procedures for investment proposals: The Greek government expects a significant increase in new investment plans and approvals in 2005, Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said on Tuesday.

    Presenting a new development draft bill, the three ministers said that more simple procedures in submitting investment proposals and licensing would lead to higher investments in regional Greece and create new job positions. Avramopoulos said that the tourism ministry was already evaluating several investment plans by large hotel groups.

    The new law envisages offering financial support to investment projects according to their size, with large businesses eligible for investment plans exceeding 500,000 euros, medium-sized enterprises (250,000 euros), small companies (150,000 euros) and very small companies (100,000 euros). Company sizes were based on European Commission directives.

    The draft bill also envisages offering financial support to manufacturing or mining companies, employing at least 100 workers and facing severe financial problems. These companies will be able to submit an integrated multi-year rescue and restructuring plan.

    Gov't offers equal incentives to new and existing firms: The government has offered equal incentives to new and existing companies in its new development bill released on Tuesday that contains many innovations in comparison with past legislation, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said.

    In addition, the scope of incentives has been widened to cover roughly half of the population around the country, with 70% of perks offered to small- and medium-sized enterprises and 30% to large firms, Sioufas told a news conference.

    A company's contribution to the cost of an investment has been lowered to 25% from 40% previously in order to encourage new businesses and more ambitious investments by younger entrepreneurs who lack large amounts of capital, he said.

    The bill aims to encourage regional development; offers an option of tax relief of up to 100% of the cost of an investment; and allows the use of venture capital to companies requiring aid in raising their share of the capital.

    Tourism Development Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said that the bill contained a separate section for tourism, reflecting the government's focus on the sector.

    "Tourism is a powerhouse that can boost a plethora of products in the primary, and mainly secondary sectors of output," the minister said.

    Among incentives are 30%-40% grants to modernize accommodation, with another 5% for four-and five-star hotels; and 30%-40% grants for accommodation housed in buildings with a preservation order, he added.

    Reactions of political parties, trade groups to new development bill: The Communist Party of Greece on Tuesday sharply criticized a new government development bill released earlier in the day, saying it hurt working people.

    "This so-called development bill runs contrary to the people's interests. It is an updated institutional framework for a greater and more rapid redistribution of social wealth to big capital," the party said in a statement.

    The Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology criticized the bill for over-generous grants to private sector firms

    The Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry said in a separate statement that the bill was pointing in the right direction, but practice would show whether or not it would work as past legislation had been marred by deterrents in the form of red tape.

    "Abolition of the distinction of new and existing companies is a positive point," the chamber's president," Drakoulis Fountoukakos said.

    [02] Foreign minister visits Spanish counterpart for talks prior to EU summit

    MADRID 24/11/2004 (ANA - D. Makri)

    Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis on Tuesday met his Spanish counterpart Miguel Angel Moratinos in Madrid for talks prior to the European Union summit on December 17.

    Afterward, Molyviatis said he was very satisfied with the good level of bilateral relations between the two countries and noted that the Greek and Spanish governments had similar positions on fiscal issues.

    Regarding Turkey, the Greek minister reiterated Athens' positions, expressing support for Turkey's European prospects but stressing that the rate and final outcome of Turkey's course toward EU accession was entirely dependent on its own actions.

    According to analysts in Madrid, the high level of bilateral relations between Greece and Spain was indicated by the fact that the two sides discussed the issue regarding the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), after which they reiterated the EU positions on FYROM's name and Spain expressed its full support for these.

    In statements afterward, Molyviatis said they also discussed the crisis in the Middle East, Mediterranean cooperation within the framework of the EU and the Cyprus issue.

    The visit forms part of a series of bilateral contacts arranged by Molyviatis prior to the December 17 summit, which will also take him to Berlin and London.

    [03] Stylianidis briefs BSEC on Greek presidency's priorities

    Athens, 24/11/2004 (ANA)

    "The main objective of the Greek BSEC (Black Sea Economic Cooperation organization) presidency will be for us to try and bring the organization closer to the European Union and to promote closer ties with them [the Union] on all levels," Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis said during his speech at the Development Cooperation Council in Brussels on Tuesday.

    "We are anticipating cooperation on all levels(...) intergovernmental, intraparliamentarian, business, academic, as well as in certain sectors of multilateral economic cooperation, such as energy, transport, tourism, commerce and investments, institutional reform and sound governance," Stylianidis added.

    The deputy minister explained that Greece has scheduled work group sessions and ministerial meetings to be held in various Greek cities.

    Stylianidis also said that Greece is looking forward to input from the Dutch EU presidency and the upcoming Luxembourg EU presidency.

    [04] Stylianidis says EU development policy should be 'honest and realistic'

    BRUSSELS 24/11/2004 (ANA/A.Simatos)

    Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis said that EU development policy must be 'honest and realistic" in comments he made immediately after the EU Development Council meeting, concluded here on Tuesday.

    Specifically, during the meeting, Greece - in cooperation with Austria and Italy - requested that the increased development aid that the EU provides should be reasonable in order to be effective and credible. "The EU's objectives in this area must be characterized by honesty and credibility.(...)If you make big promises to poor countries and then you don't make good on those promises, then they won't take you seriously," Stylianidis said.

    [05] Karamanlis congratulates Barroso on his assumption of duties

    Athens, 24/11/2004 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday sent a congratulatory letter to the new President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso on his assumption of duties.

    "During this crucial period, I hope that the Commission will play an important and effective role in developments regarding the European Union," Karamanlis wrote.

    "I would like to assure you that you will have my government's full support in our common course," the Greek Premier concluded.

    [06] Greek and Cypriot delegations prevent abolition of Greek language use at European Affairs Committees conference

    THE HAGUE 24/11/2004 (ANA)

    A Greek Parliamentary delegation succeeded on Tuesday, in close cooperation with the Cypriot delegation, to prevent the effort made by major European countries to abolish the use of national languages, including the use of the Greek language, during the conference of the European Affairs Committees of European Union Parliaments.

    The EU Dutch presidency attempted to "trap" delegations in the need to limit languages. However, using convincing arguments, the Greek Parliament's European Affairs Committee President Sotiris Hatjigakis defended the significance of national cultural heritage and European unity in multiformity.

    [07] Euro-Socialist Party group reps to hold high-level meetings with Turkish leaders

    ISTANBUL 24/11/2004 (ANA)

    A delegation of the European Socialist Party grouping was scheduled to be received here on Tuesday by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan, followed by separate meetings with other Turkish leaders and ministers.

    One of the delegation's members, PASOK MEP Panos Beglitis, stressed that the ESP visit comes at a particularly crucial period in Euro-Turkish relations.

    "The European Socialist Party and PASOK have come out in favor of strengthening Turkey's European prospects and for the start of accession negotiations. This position of ours, however, is not a 'blank check' for Turkey. Quite the opposite, it is linked with a framework of conditions and pre-conditions, based on European Union decisions," he added.

    Beglitis cited Turkey's stance vis-a-vis Greece, the Republic of Cyprus, as well as its commitment to implement the Union's acquis communautaire.

    The delegation members will also meet with main opposition leader Deniz Baykal and Turkish ministers.

    [08] Gov't denies report in 'Ta Nea' regarding TOR anti-aircraft missile system purchase

    Athens, 24/11/2004 (ANA)

    Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Tuesday denied the accuracy of a report in the Greek daily 'Ta Nea' regarding the contract determining an offset agreement for the purchase of the Russian-made TOR anti-aircraft missile system.

    The paper accused the government of setting up a Parliamentary inquiry into the agreement after its own ministers had in July 2004 signed a contract identical to that signed by the previous PASOK government in 1999.

    Antonaros clarified that the document referred to by the paper was not a contract or a preliminary agreement but simply a briefing and presentation document that was drafted in order to brief the minister. He described it as an "internal briefing memorandum that records all the requirements for the signature of a contract".

    He stressed that one of the requirements for an offset agreement, the existence of a bank guarantee, did not exist in this case and that no contract had ever been signed. According to the spokesman, it was standard practice for internal ministry documents to be signed by recipients upon their delivery, which was why the documents in question bore the signatures of Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos and ministry's general secretary.

    Responding to questions on whether the specific documents had been made available to the parliamentary investigation, the spokesman referred reporters to the investigative committee itself, noting that it operated autonomously, and said he was unaware if the public prosecutor had known of their existence, while stressing that "all relevant documents had been submitted".

    Antonaros also noted that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis could not possible be aware of all internal ministry documents and that he had been "fully briefed on the case".

    Defense ministry denies press report on Russian armaments systems: The defense ministry in an announcement denied a report appearing on Tuesday in the Athens daily "Ta Nea" which referred to the reported signing of an amending contract on offset benefits regarding the procurement of the Russian-built TOR M1 anti-aircraft system.

    The announcement said the briefing note presented by the newspaper is aimed at informing the defense minister to enable him to authorize the Economic Planning and Defense Investments General Secretary on the signing of the amending contract.

    However, the announcement added, despite initial approval the defense ministry never concluded a relevant contract.

    Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos also reiterated that despite the initial agreement with the Russian government the contract has not been signed to date.

    [09] Mihaloliakos represents Greece at the 3rd International European Defense Conference

    BERLIN 24/11/2004 (ANA/P.Stangos)

    The European Defense Organisation's role - which concerns coordination of armaments programs and promotion of the European defense industry - as a catalyst for the gradual integration of countries aspiring to EU accession and NATO membership, was one of the topics that dominated the agenda of the 3rd International European Defense Conference that was held in Berlin on Tuesday. Additionally, the Organisation's role as a vehicle to reinforce security in 'vulnerable' regions, such as the Balkans, was also discussed. Deputy Defense Minister Vassilis Mihaloliakos represented Greece at the conference.

    A roundtable, titled "Military and Armaments Cooperation - Prospects under an EU enlargement perspective," was held in the afternoon, with the participation of the defense ministers of Serbia-Montenegro, Albania, FYROM, Greece and Turkey. During the roundtable, participants agreed that there is an ongoing competition between the US and Europe, regarding who will play a key role in the modernization of armed forces in the Balkans.

    "There is no clear scenario regarding security and stability in the region, especially after the fragmentation of Yugoslavia," Albanian Defense Minister Panteli Maiko said. "Between the vision for a European army with common standards that will ensure security and stability in the Balkans and today's reality, there is a huge gap," he added.

    FYROM Defense Minister Vlado Buchkovsky said that military cooperation among the region's countries within the framework of NATO programs, along with a modernization policy of military forces that takes into consideration peripheral cooperation with countries such as Greece and Turkey, can lead FYROM to become a part of the broader security system in the area, at the same time helping the country become a part of European and Atlantic structures.

    Mihaloliakos focused on the challenges and threats that are the result of regional crises and incidents of regional instability, emphasizing that because security and stability are in the common interest of all countries in the region military cooperation among Balkan countries is imperative.

    [10] MEP Dimitrakopoulos stresses agreement with government's 'general policies'

    Athens, 24/11/2004 (ANA)

    Ruling New Democracy MEP Giorgos Dimitrakopoulos underlined his agreement with the party's and the government's "overall political proposal and its general policies and guiding lines" in a statement made on Tuesday.

    At the same time, he noted that his "views on specific, individual aspects of the government's general policy were submitted with a view to the improvement and better implementation of these specific policies".

    "It stands to reason that in the framework of the European Union, where I have been for many years, I strive through my work, my contacts and my general actions so that the government's work is crowned with success," the MEP added in his statement.

    Dimitrakopoulos caused the government considerable embarrassment over the weekend after he questioned the necessity and wisdom of its decision to carry out a high-profile fiscal audit of the Greek economy involving the European Union, echoing the arguments of main opposition PASOK, in an interview with the Sunday paper "Kyriakatiki Eleftherotypia".

    The interview earned him a strong reproach from the government, which stressed its disagreement and said that it 'deplored' his views. It also underlined that they were strictly personal and in no way aligned with the government's policy.

    [11] PM and party secretary hold talks on party strategy, communications

    Athens, 24/11/2004 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday had a meeting with New Democracy Central Committee Secretary Vangelis Meimarakis to discuss party strategy and related issues.

    After the meeting, Meimarakis announced that the central committee will meet on December 4.

    The party secretary also referred to a statement made on Tuesday by ruling party MEP Giorgos Dimitrakopoulos, saying that it fully satisfied the party after the government's and the party's public reproach of the MEP's earlier statements to a Sunday newspaper.

    At the same time, Meimarakis noted that ND needed a more effective communications strategy regarding its decision for a high-profile fiscal audit of the economy and called for the immediate implementation of the model he had proposed. He clarified that his statements on this issue did not refer to either government spokesman Theodoros Rousopoulos or Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis but aimed to highlight the shortcomings of the existing communications model.

    [12] National Defense General Staff spokesman rejects Turkish claims

    Athens, 24/11/2004 (ANA)

    A National Defense General Staff spokesman, commenting on Tuesday on an announcement made by the Turkish National Defense General Staff on the use of flares, said the announcement reflects the Turkish interpretation of events which does not live up to reality.

    He said Turkey's illegal activity in the Aegean is continuing, adding that even on Tuesday five formations (10 aircraft) of Turkish F-16s and two CN 235 aircraft made seven infringements of air traffic regulations and 22 violations of national air space.

    In addition, the announcement said, one violation of national air space occurred over national territory, over the islet of Levitha, at an altitude of 24,000 feet. Three formations were armed and in four cases they were involved in mock dogfights with Greek warplanes.

    Regarding allegations that the use of flares is natural, the announcement said this is not so because, in the framework of rules set by NATO, the use of flares in peacetime is governed by a number of restrictions which fall under arrangements concerning scheduled exercise activities.

    In no case is the activation of flares permitted during a recognition process because it entails risks for the safety of flights, it was added, while the interception process always takes place with the use of the aircrafts' radars to render the recognition process absolutely safe.

    [13] Turkish warplanes violate Greek national air space

    Athens, 24/11/2004 (ANA)

    The illegal activity of the Turkish air force in the Aegean continued on Tuesday with new violations of Greek national air space.

    According to press reports, five formations of Turkish warplanes entered the area of the Aegean without submitting flight plans and in 22 cases they violated national air space.

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

    It was also reported that a Turkish F-16 warplane flew over the islet of Levitha, located between the islands of Kalymnos and Amorgos, but at an altitude of 24,000 feet.

    Three of the Turkish warplanes were armed and two were navy escort aircraft.

    [14] PM to meet with deputy economy minister

    Athens, 24/11/2004 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday will receive Deputy Economy Minister Christos Folias at his office in the morning, before he attends a special Parliament session convened in honor of Greece's Paralympic champions.

    [15] PASOK party leader says talk of presidential elections creates instability and insecurity

    Athens, 24/11/2004 (ANA)

    Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou said on Tuesday talk of the presidential elections, due next spring, creates instability and insecurity and blamed the ruling New Democracy party for this which, as he said, could close the issue one way or another.

    Papandreou further said PASOK will not remain a mere observer if ND is late in taking the necessary initiative, adding that on the issue of the president of the republic PASOK will act within the spirit of the constitution and in the interests of the public.

    Asked whether other forces are involved in the issue of the presidential elections, apart from parties and politicians, Papandreou said "the whole of Greek society, either rightly or wrongly, is preoccupied with the issue and, of course, everyone can have his views or the reasons for which he wants this case to move in the one or the other direction."

    In another development, Papandreou chaired a meeting of the party's Coordinating Body, focusing on the issue arising in a press report in a daily newspaper on armed forces armaments, as well as on issues concerning the economy and the fiscal audit and certain party issues.

    Papandreou said it is confirmed on a daily basis that ND ''lacks the moral standing to be an accuser.''

    PASOK's leader also reiterated that the fiscal audit was a ''fiasco'' and reminded of a proposal he had made during the Parliamentary debate on policy statements on the creation of an all-party committee to avoid doubts or conflict on the fiscal audit's data.

    Government spokesman replies to PASOK leader on economy statements: Minister of State and government spokesman Theodoros Rousopoulos on Tuesday criticized main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou on statements he made on the economy.

    "Mr. Papandreou told us today that the Greek citizens must not know the truth about the economy, that the country can deceive the European Union with ease, that Parliament must cover up issues sent by Justice for investigation and that the constitution and institutions must bow to his own petty-partisan interest," the spokesman said.

    "All the Greeks realized today which were the new ethics envisaged by Mr. Papandreou for so long," Rousopoulos added.

    [16] Denktash says NGOs influenced T/C vote on Annan plan, cites 50% 'no' vote today

    ISTANBUL 24/11/2004 (ANA)

    Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash was quoted by a newspaper here this week as saying that huge amounts of money funneled to NGOs influenced the Turkish Cypriots' vote in favor of the Annan peace plan, while claiming that a 'no' vote would reach the 50-percent mark today.

    "... and that's because not one of the promises was kept," he was quoted by the Turkish daily "Vatan" as saying.

    Moreover, the man who has ruled over a puppet regime in the one-third of the island republic occupied by Turkish troops since 1974 complained that many Turkish businessmen consider Cyprus a "burden" for Turkey.

    Denktash also referred to a split amongst Turkish intellectuals over Cyprus, at one point saying that a predominate view emerged in the country that "Cyprus is a sacred lie, and that it's time to wake up from this lie, otherwise, the EU issue will be lost," the paper quotes him as saying.

    "A portion of them (intellectuals) wholeheartedly support us, and another portion, the minority -- but the one heard more because it controls the media -- says that the 'significant issue is the EU and not Cyprus' ... they are the ones that do the damage," he added.

    Asked how Ankara can be "relieved" of the Cyprus issue, Denktash said: "Relieved of what? Will you be relieved of a Turkish bastion that protects your southern shores?..."

    [17] Five Greek Americans killed to date in Iraq

    New York 24/11/2004 (ANA/P. Panagiotiou)

    Apparently five Greek Americans have been killed to date in Iraq, according to an official list of names released by the US Pentagon that was printed in the American press on Monday.

    The latest death of a Greek American was that of 28-year-old marine Dimitris Gabriel (Gavriilidis), who was killed during hostilities in Fallujah. The marine's parents are from Ptolemais, and live in Boston, while his 26-year-old sister lives in New York.

    Gabriel was employed as an economist at the New York Stock Exchange, and was left unemployed after the September 11, 2001 terrorist hits in NY and Washington D.C.. He lost two friends in the attack on the World Trade Center's twin towers in NY and, according to his family and friends, those losses affected him psychologically, leading him to enlist in the US army without informing his parents of his intentions in advance.

    [18] Foreign ministry secretary general meets foreign ambassadors

    Athens, 24/11/2004 (ANA)

    The ambassadors of Italy, Spain, South Korea, Argentina, Mexico and Pakistan on Tuesday visited, at their request, foreign ministry secretary general Giorgos Gennimatas and briefed the Greek government on their countries' basic positions regarding the UN Security Council's planned reforms.

    The briefing took place in light of the upcoming assumption by Greece of a non-permanent Security Council seat as of January 1, 2005.

    [19] Greek trade deficit up 19 pct in Jan-Aug, yr/yr

    Athens, 24/11/2004 (ANA)

    Greece's trade deficit rose by 19 percent in the first eight months of 2004 to 18.382 billion euros from 15.445 billion euros in the same period last year, the National Statistics Service said on Tuesday.

    NSS, in its monthly report, said that the country's widened trade deficit in the period January-August reflected an 11.7 percent increase in import-deliveries to 26.243 billion euros (or 15 percent up excluding oil products), and a 2.2 percent fall in exports to 7.861 billion euros over the same period.

    [20] 11 countries oppose European Commission's proposals regarding sugar sector reform at Agriculture Ministers' Council

    BRUSSELS 24/11/2004 (ANA/B.Demiris)

    Eleven EU member states, including Greece, presented their objections to the European Commission's proposal regarding sugar sector reform, during the second day of the EU Agriculture Ministers' Council meeting that was held here on Tuesday. As a result, the European Commission agreed to re-examine its initial proposal.

    Minister of Agricultural Development and Foods Evangelos Basiakos, who represented Greece at the meeting, expressed satisfaction with the developments. "The Dutch Presidency and the Commission will re-examine the proposal regarding sugar, following the strong reaction of 11 member states, which managed to change the initial, unfavorable conditions," Basiakos said. The Commission's revised proposals are expected to be submitted in May 2005.

    The Council also agreed on a regulation regarding the protection of animals during transport. The Commission must, within the next four years, submit relevant proposals, which will be based on scientific studies and will take into consideration the socioeconomic effects this will have on the member-states.

    As for the regulation pertaining to the European Fisheries Fund, Basiakos requested that the proposal be amended to include modernization of fishing boats (including the engine), the ability to replace an old boat with a new one, and a series of socioeconomic measures aimed primarily at supporting newcomers to the fishing industry.

    Basiakos also met with Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel and discussed with her current issues as well as her upcoming visit to Greece on December 10. During her visit, Boel will be briefed on issues concerning Greek farmers as well as the Greek government's proposals.

    [21] Banker urges private, public sector construction alliances

    Athens, 24/11/2004 (ANA)

    Alliances among firms in the private and public sectors in order to carry out projects would help to tone up growth of the economy, competitiveness, technological progress and innovation, the governor of Athens-quoted National Bank of Greece, Takis Arapoglou said on Tuesday.

    The investors, engineering contractors, banks and consultants involved wanted to see more cooperation between the private and public sectors, along with the public, which would benefit from the projects, Arapoglou told a conference in Athens organized by the Euromoney magazine.

    [22] Stocks drop in blue-chip profit taking

    Athens, 24/11/2004 (ANA)

    Stocks finished lower in across-the-board profit taking, especially blue chips, traders said.

    The Athens general share index closed at 2,563.70 points, showing a decline of 1.38 percent. Turnover was 171.3 million euros.

    The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 1.41 percent down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.68 percent down; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 1.30 percent lower.

    Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 219 to 58 with 79 remaining unchanged.

    [23] PM discusses use of Olympics infrastructure with environment, alternate culture ministers

    Athens, 24/11/2004 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had a lengthy meeting with Environment Minister George Souflias and Alternate Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia on Tuesday after a meeting of the cabinet to discuss the post-Olympics use of infrastructure built for the Athens Games.

    According to sources, plans for using the sports and other facilities built for the Games are nearly completed and will probably be finalized in the coming week, after which they will be announced.

    The main thrust is to obtain the maximum possible benefit for the general public and to give the infrastructure to municipalities and private enterprise for use in sports, culture and tourism-related activities.

    The Main Press Centre built for the Olympics will very likely be used to house the environment ministry, which will relocate from its present premises, while the OAKA main sports complex will continue to be used as an Olympic sports facilities and a tourist destination.

    Other Olympic facilities at the Hellenikon site will be used in theme parks in accordance with original plans to turn the site into a metropolitan park and residential area, for which tenders have already taken place.

    Palli-Petralia discusses post-Olympics use

    of sports venue: Alternate Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia described the post-Olympics use of sports venues as a priority and a challenge for the government, in a speech she gave at a seminar on Tuesday evening, organized by the European Organization for Strategic Planning.

    Palli-Petralia reiterated that the Olympic venues will not be sold and will remain under the ownership of the Greek state. She noted that in the next few days Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will announce the government's plan regarding making the most of the Olympic Games' legacy.

    The plan is based on using Olympic venues for various purposes, safeguarding the state's interests and citizens' quality of life, in cooperation with local communities, Palli-Petralia said.

    [24] 2004 ranks second best in fire protection in last 50 years

    Athens, 24/11/2004 (ANA)

    The year 2004 ranked the second best in fire protection in the last 50 years, coming a very close second to 2003, according to statements on Tuesday by Public order minister George Voulgarakis and the Fire Corps leadership.

    Voulgarakis and the Fire Corps noted that 2004 ranked only slightly behind 2003, which has been ranked as the most successful year in fire protection in the last 50 years.

    According to data unveiled by Voulgarakis and the Fire Department, a total of 9,766 forest fires broke out in 2004, resulting in the burning of 37,787 stremma, compared with 9,117 fires and the burning of 26,702 stremma of forestland in 2003.

    According to the overall figures, which included fires involving expanses of farmland and garbage dumps, the total reached 125,966 stremma in 2004 against 82,846 stremma the preceding year.

    The increase in 2004 over 2003 was relatively small with respect to damage, and was due to more adverse weather conditions in 2004 than in the two preceding years, according to the Fire Department.

    Also, there was a lack of rainfall this year in southern Greece, coupled by strong winds, and these were cited as the chief reasons for the increase in the number of fires, particularly on the islands.

    Voulgarakis noted, however, that the number of fires in garbage dumps remained high, despite the efforts of the Fire Department, adding that greater efforts would be made in fire protection in dumps.

    Conversely, the number of burnt farm expanses was consistently declining, and this was attributed to preventive measures taken.

    Of the fires in forests, only 3 percent were due to natural causes, while the remaining 97 percent were attributed to the human factor, and the Fire Department said that an even greater effort would be made in that area.

    The Fire Department chief noted that 2004 had been a particularly successful year in fire protection given that, during the 'hottest' period, some 1,500 firefighters had been transferred to the installations for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, thus substantially reducing the number of the available firefighting force.

    [25] Greek Ombudsman Kaminis organizing conference in Istanbul on establishing Ombudsman institution in Turkey

    Athens, 24/11/2004 (ANA)

    Greece's Ombudsman George Kaminis, under the EVNOMIA program, is organizing a conference in Turkey next month for the establishment of the Ombudsman institution in the neighboring country, it was announced on Tuesday.

    The conference, titled "Setting up an Ombudsman Institution", will be held December 10-11 in Istanbul, and is being organized in cooperation with the Turkish National Assembly and Istanbul's Bilgi University, where the conference will be held.

    Taking part in the conference will be the Ombudsmen of Austria, Belgium, France, Estonia, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, and Catalonia, as well as EU Ombudsman (and former Ombudsman of Greece) Nikiforos Diamandouros, and Council of Europe commissioner for Human Rights Alvaro Gil-Robles.

    Kaminis, who will be heading a 15-member Greek delegation, will open the conference together with Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and justice minister Cemil Cicek.

    The aim of the conference is to take advantage of the European Ombudsman's knowledge and experience in view of setting up an Ombudsman institution in Turkey.

    [26] KEDKE awards commendation to President Stephanopoulos for his services in office

    Athens, 24/11/2004 (ANA)

    The Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE) on Tuesday awarded President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos a commendation for his services while in the highest office in the country, along with a commemorative plaque bearing extract's from Plato's "Republic" and the Epitaph for ancient Athenian statesman Pericles.

    KEDKE President Paris Koukoulopoulos said the decision to award the commendation had been taken unanimously by the KEDKE board and expressed the views of the Greek people on Stephanopoulos' contribution, which he said had been marked by a high sense of duty and had raised the prestige of the institutions of state.

    [27] European Forum presents positions on structural funds and cohesion fund

    BRUSSELS 24/11/2004 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)

    The European Forum of Disabled People and its president Yiannis Vardakastanis held a press conference here on Tuesday and presented positions on regulations regarding structural funds and the cohesion fund for the period 2007-2013.

    The purpose of the proposals is the recognition of problems faced by disabled people and to have special care taken for them during the shaping of the structural funds' new operation framework and the preparation of programs for the next period.

    Varadakastanis said the structural funds constitute the basic tool in combatting discrimination and a decline in social exclusion since they can contribute decisively to the creation of an accessible natural environment, particularly in such sectors as transport and the informatics society.

    He added that discussions currently taking place at the European Parliament and the Council on the Regulation of the 4th Community Support Framework (CSF) are a unique opportunity to achieve this target.

    [28] British director awarded Golden Alexander at Thessaloniki Film Festival

    Athens, 24/11/2004 (ANA)

    British film director Peter Greenaway was awarded the Golden Alexander Best Film Award at the 45th Thessaloniki Film Festival on Tuesday.

    "Cinema, like every other medium, must be reinvented, must change, must set new boundaries. Cinema is the game a director plays with images and with the audience; a social, political and deeply aesthetic game," Greenaway said during a press conference after receiving his award.

    Greenaway is participating in this year's film festival under the "New Horizons" category with a seven-hour long trilogy: "Tulse Luper Suitcases, Parts I-III."

    Speaking of the trilogy, Greenaway described it as a "manifesto" of the digital revolution that has changed cinema.

    [29] Protesting local residents dislodged from would-be drug rehab centre

    Athens, 24/11/2004 (ANA)

    A police operation on Monday in downtown Thessaloniki, northern Greece, dislodged a group of neighborhood residents from a building they were occupying since 2001, part of protests against the creation of a drug rehabilitation centre in the same neighborhood.

    Residents have charged that an OKANA drug rehabilitation and methadone centre will downgrade their area.

    Minor scuffles broke out during the operation, held under the supervision of a local prosecutor.

    [30] Three female members of TV crew to be charged over incidents at Ehinos mosque

    Athens, 24/11/2004 (ANA)

    Three female members of a television crew that triggered violent protests in the northern Greek town of Ehinos after they allegedly showed disrespect for the local mosque are to be charged with "jointly disturbing domestic peace", a Xanthi public prosecutor announced on Tuesday.

    The charge is a misdemeanor and the case file will now be transferred to an Athens public prosecutor so that the three women can give their testimony.

    The public prosecutor has also ordered an immediate preliminary investigation into the affair that will also look into whether local residents committed unlawful acts during their protest against the actors and the television crew.

    The incident occurred on November 16 during the filming of scenes for a TV series by one of the larger private television channel broadcasting nationally. The women actors were accused by Moslem residents of entering the mosque in flagrantly inappropriate attire and showing disrespect for their religion.

    The event triggered angry reactions from Moslems living in the area, who gathered around the mosque and accosted the TV crew, while the angry protests continued after they were taken to the local police station for safety. Eventually, the entire TV crew was escorted to the town of Xanthi under heavy police guard for their protection.

    In statements after the incident, the actresses and TV crew denied that they done anything to provoke the outrage of local residents and said that the incident was due to a fabricated rumor.

    [31] Bulgaria's youth maintains strong interest in Greek language

    SOFIA 24/11/2004 (ANA/B.Borisov)

    "Bulgaria's youth maintains an impressively strong interest in the Greek language," Stoina Poromanska, Head of the Modern Greek Department of Sofia University told the ANA on Tuesday, on occasion of a ceremony held at the Greek embassy in Sofia on Monday night, during which Greek Ambassador to Sofia P. Mantzouranis gave awards to seven Bulgarian students who excelled in the department.

    "There were 2,450 candidates this year for the 24 available seats in the Modern Greek department," she added.

    According to Poromanska, the continuous improvement in Greek-Bulgarian relations and the growth of economic cooperation in the form of 1,500 Greek companies operating in Bulgaria are among the factors that have contributed to young Bulgarians having an interest in the language.

    Prizes included a seven-day trip to Athens and Thessaloniki. It is the fifth time this annual event is being held, always with the support of the Greek Education Ministry.

    [32] Earthquake in Albania rattles border region with Greece

    Athens, 24/11/2004 (ANA)

    A strong earthquake measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale, emanating from Albania, rattled the area near the Greek-Albanian border early Tuesday, but seismologists were reassuring.

    The earthquake was recorded at 4:20 a.m., with its epicenter 80 kilometers north-northwest of Greece's border with Albania.

    Seismologist Costas Papazachos told the ANA that there was no particular cause for concern as the aftershocks were of minor magnitudes.

    Papazachos said the fact that only small aftershocks had followed the original quake, given that the area was not particularly seismic, was indicative that no larger earthquake should be expected.

    [33] House President says Turkey's EU course passes through Cyprus

    NICOSIA 24/11/2004 (CNA/ANA)

    Cypriot House of Representatives President Demetris Christofias pointed out that Turkey's European Union course unavoidably passes through the Cyprus problem, the core of which is no other than the blatant violations by Turkey of the fundamental

    European principles and rules and the safeguard of human rights of the people of Cyprus, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike.

    Speaking at a dinner he hosted Monday night in honor of the President of the Senate of the Czech Republic Petr Pithart and the delegation accompanying him, Christofias noted that the recognition of the Republic of Cyprus was Ankara's obligation towards the EU itself, adding that ''we will fight with all our might so that these realities are properly taken into consideration at the EU summit on December 17", which will decide whether to open accession negotiations with Turkey.

    Turkey's EU course ''depends primarily on itself, its willingness to comply with European principles and rules, from which no candidate country can be exempted,'' he said.

    Christofias furthermore explained the reasons for which the Greek Cypriot community rejected a UN plan for a settlement, noting that it did not provide for security safeguards or the viability of the proposed solution and thus did not guarantee a common future for Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.

    He also mentioned that the government is in favor of the financial support of the Turkish Cypriots, and that the government has proceeded with the de-mining of National Guard minefields in the buffer zone, a move which has not been met by the other side.

    [34] Congress members express concern to Powell over Cyprus policy

    WASHINGTON 24/11/2004 (CNA/ANA)

    Members of the US Congress Michael Bilirakis and Carolyn Maloney have expressed concern that recent US actions imply a shift in the States' policy towards Cyprus and request to know if these actions are part of an effort to diverge from the US policy of non-recognition of the regime set up illegally in the northern Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus.

    In a letter dated November 19 to US Secretary of State Colin Powell, which was also sent to President George Bush and future Secretary of

    State Condoleeza Rice, Bilirakis and Maloney express concern over ''certain actions towards the Republic of Cyprus recently taken by the State Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).''

    ''We feel that these actions strongly indicate a possible change in our government's long-standing policy of non-recognition of the occupied, northern part of the island and are detrimental to finding a solution in Cyprus,'' they add.

    Bilirakis and Maloney refer to US administration and Congress efforts for a Cyprus settlement since 1974, when Turkey invaded the island, and for the promotion of rapprochement between the two communities of Cyprus, as well as the refusal on behalf of the US to recognize the entity that declared itself the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus'' and note that they are ''alarmed by recent decisions taken by your Department and USAID, which are contradictory to these goals.''

    ''While we support efforts to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots in the north, we believe that the actions by your Department and USAID are detrimental to efforts of unifying both communities,'' they point out.

    Specifically, they note that a few months ago USAID sent a reprogramming notice to Congress identifying certain funds that will be directed toward support of programs only in the northern, Turkish-occupied area of Cyprus. Although the two members of Congress agree with the economic support for all Cypriots, they note that ''there are certain aspects of the reprogramming request which raise serious issues.''

    ''The USAID notice states that it will provide institutional support to key financial institutions including the 'Ministry of Finance,' an entity the United States does not recognize as legitimate,'' they note.

    They also point out that ''the USAID notice did not detail any safeguards to ensure that US funds do not inadvertently support businesses using illegally occupied properties.''

    Bilirakis and Maloney furthermore say they were ''disappointed to discover that Federal Aviation Administration officials are exploring ways to designate airports in the northern, occupied territory as open for civil aviation.''

    ''With Cyprus' borders and by extrapolation the EU's borders encompassing the entire island, it would be inconceivable for the US to bypass consulting with the legitimate government of Cyprus and/or the EU on this matter,'' they add.

    They also refer to the revision by the State Department of the long-established allocation of scholarships between visiting Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot students.

    The two members of Congress note that ''although the allocation has been roughly linked to the relative size of the two communities, we understand that the allocations were recently changed to 57% for Turkish Cypriot students and 43% for Greek Cypriot students.''

    ''While there is no legal obligation that the scholarships are tied strictly to the relative size of the two communities, even symbolic changes could have significant consequences,'' they point out.

    In conclusion, they say they are ''deeply concerned that these actions imply a shift in US policy toward Cyprus, and are inconsistent with our history of condemning the invasion of the island and supporting efforts to end the division between the two communities,'' and note they would like to know ''whether these actions are part of an effort to diverge from our policy of non-recognition for the 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.'''

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