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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-11-25

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

November 25, 2004


  • [01] Dutch FM says extension of customs union protocol implementation by Turkey desirable
  • [02] European Socialist Group chief warns Turkey over accession course
  • [03] PM briefed on foreign policy issues by foreign ministry leadership
  • [04] Molyviatis presides over meeting as Greece prepares to serve on UN Security Council
  • [05] Ruling ND coordinating body meeting held in Parliament Wednesday
  • [06] Deputy FM meets Turkish National Assembly president
  • [07] Main opposition leader accuses gov't of 'discrediting' Greece abroad
  • [08] ND Eurodeputy meets FYROM Parliament president
  • [09] Members of Congress protest US decision on FYROM issue
  • [10] Defense ministry denies signing contract for TOR M-1 missile offsets; gov't reiterates support for minister
  • [11] National defense ministry information department director resigns
  • [12] Michaloliakos presents Greek positions on European security at defense conference
  • [13] Papandreou to visit Middle East, Spain
  • [14] Alternate government spokesman says abolition of pharmaceuticals list part of ND's election program commitments
  • [15] Greek Development minister in Brussels for EU Competitiveness Council
  • [16] Capital Markets' Commission announces measures to boost domestic market
  • [17] Turkey to tender natgas pipeline to Greece
  • [18] Greek insurance market inspections to be completed by end year
  • [19] Mixed reaction to govt's development bill from tourism firms
  • [20] Survey: Business services down in 2003
  • [21] Stephanopoulos gives "Kouros 2004" awards to Greek entrepreneurs
  • [22] Stocks rise in blue-chip bank buying
  • [23] PM, party leaders attend award ceremony for Paralympic athletes in Parliament
  • [24] Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos to visit Rome to receive remains of two saints
  • [25] Home-made bomb causes minor damage outside PASOK local office in Thessaloniki
  • [26] Public order minister visits Crete to meet 9-year-old victim of accidental shooting
  • [27] Greek filmmaker receives Italian honors
  • [28] Athens presents candidacy to host 2009 swimming world championship
  • [29] Cyprus has defined its course of action in view of EU December summit

  • [01] Dutch FM says extension of customs union protocol implementation by Turkey desirable

    THE HAGUE 25/11/2004 (ANA/A.Simatos/CNA)

    Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot said here on Wednesday the extension of the customs union protocol's implementation to all European Union member-states by Turkey, including Cyprus, is "desirable."

    Bot answering a question during a press conference with Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn and Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah Gul, following a meeting with Gul, said ''we have submitted to our Turkish friends the fact that it would be desirable to sign'' the protocol on which its customs union agreement with the EU will be valid with all member states, including the Republic of Cyprus.

    ''We have discussed it and submitted it to their attention'', Bot said, noting that ''we pointed out the fact that Turkey will be negotiating with the 25 member states and that we hope that the situation can be settled before we open negotiations''.

    Bot said the EU troika had a very constructive and sincere meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, in which many issues relating to the decision by EU leaders on December 17 whether to open accession negotiations with Turkey were discussed.

    Replying to a question by the Athens News Agency (ANA) on whether Turkey intends to recognize the Republic of Cyprus in the event it is given a date on December 17 for the commencement of EU accession negotiations, Gul avoided giving any reply, saying that the issue of Cyprus has not yet been resolved although there had been the possibility provided by the Annan plan.

    "Turkey made concessions and said yes in the referendum. It did all that was possible but, unfortunately, the opportunity was lost due to the refusal of the Greek Cypriot people and their leadership in the referendum," he said.

    Gul also said that although the issue of Cyprus is not included among criteria required for the beginning of accession negotiations "we will certainly work for a final solution but it does not depend on us alone."

    In his opening remarks at the joint press conference in the Hague with Gul and the EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, Bot said his government, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, is collecting information from the 25 EU member states in order ''for us to prepare as carefully we can'' for the decision to be taken.

    Bot said he noted in his discussions with Gul that the Dutch presidency was doing so ''in a neutral and an objective manner''.

    ''We are collecting information and we are trying to put together a list of all the conditions we think are important before the accession talks can be opened'', he added.

    Bot said it is very important that Turkey understands the preoccupations on the part of the member states, but at the same time he acknowledged ''the enormous progress Turkey has made in fulfilling the criteria'' for talks to begin.

    The Dutch minister said that the troika, which included Luxembourg as the next presidency and the Commission, discussed with Gul a number of elements that were mentioned in the October 6 Commission report on Turkey's candidature and that in the view of member states can be improved, centering on human rights and the religious rights of minorities in Turkey. He said discussion was ''very open and very frank.''

    Bot said the decision on opening formal accession talks with Turkey would be taken on December 17 by the 25 EU leaders on the basis of the Commission report and on their assessment of whether the criteria had been met.

    ''The member states are the masters of the field. They are the ones to decide'', he stressed.

    EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said the exchange of views with Gul had been very useful and he described Gul's approach as very constructive.

    Rehn said his presence in The Hague on the day when the new Barroso Commission was having its very first official meeting in Brussels showed that the Commission considers EU-Turkey relations ''a key priority''.

    He referred to the Commission report of October on Turkey and recalled its conclusion that Ankara had made significant progress in its reforms and fulfilled the criteria to a degree that the opening of accession talks could be decided.

    He also referred to a proposal by the Commission to set up a monitoring committee in order to ensure that the reforms are ''irreversible.'' All in all, he said, the commission report strikes ''the right balance between the legitimate aspirations of Turkey and the concerns of the 25 member states and the public in Europe.''

    He said it was ''extremely important'' to maintain and reinforce the European perspective of Turkey in order to encourage the legal and political reform, but as with other candidate countries, Turkey has to be able to meet the criteria for membership.

    ''I trust the European Council will be able to take its decision on the Commission recommendation when it meets on December 17,'' Rehn concluded.

    In his remarks, Gul said the leaders of the EU had already decided that accession talks with Turkey would begin ''without delay'' when the criteria are fulfilled. ''We have met the criteria and we await the decision. We believe it will be objective and neutral,'' he remarked.

    Gul made a point of referring to the murder by a Muslim of Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh. He called on European citizens ''not to demonize'' all Muslims over the murder, which he condemned.

    Responding to a question, Gul said religious rights in Turkey were respected. He refrained however from commenting on calls by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate for restoration of its rights, including the reopening of a seminary in the island of Halki.

    [02] European Socialist Group chief warns Turkey over accession course

    ISTANBUL 25/11/2004 (ANA/A.Kourkoulas)

    The European Parliament's Socialist Group leader Martin Schulz said that Turkey's chances of EU accession will diminish if Ankara's problems with the Republic of Cyprus continue. Schulz's comments were made at a press conference in Ankara on Wednesday before a meeting of his party's delegation with Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

    Schulz asked Turkey to solve the problem by 'taking a step.' The European socialist leader also criticized Turkish diplomacy for insisting that all problems in Europe have been solved since Germany agreed for accession talks with Turkey to begin.

    While in Ankara, the Socialist Group delegation will also meet with the Minister of the Interior Abdulkadir Aksu, Justice Minister Cemil Cicek and with the main opposition leader Deniz Baykal.

    Later on Wednesday, the delegation was to meet with representatives of employers' and employees' unions, with non-governmental organizations regarding human rights and with representatives of minority groups.

    The purpose of the delegation's visit was to confirm the progress Turkey has made in political and economic reform, in human rights and minority rights protection ahead of the adoption of a related report by the European Parliament's Plenary Session and the European Council on December 17.

    [03] PM briefed on foreign policy issues by foreign ministry leadership

    Athens, 25/11/2004 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had a meeting with Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis and Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis on Wednesday, during which they discussed all current foreign affairs and upcoming visits by Karamanlis to Egypt and Russia.

    After the meeting, Molyviatis said he had briefed the premier on the results of his recent visits carried out by himself and Valinakis abroad, as well as current issues in foreign policy.

    [04] Molyviatis presides over meeting as Greece prepares to serve on UN Security Council

    Athens, 25/11/2004 (ANA)

    Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis presided over a meeting held at the ministry on Wednesday, regarding the country's preparations ahead of its assumption of duties as non-permanent member of the UN Security Council on January 1, 2005.

    Meeting participants included Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis, the ministry's Secretary General Ambassador George Gennimatas, Greece's Permanent Representative at the UN Ambassador A. Vassilakis and other officials.

    [05] Ruling ND coordinating body meeting held in Parliament Wednesday

    Athens, 25/11/2004 (ANA)

    The Coordinating Body of the ruling New Democracy party met in Parliament on Wednesday to discuss the programming of activities by the party and ND's parliamentary group and ways of improving coordination between the party, the parliamentary group and the government.

    The aim was to clarify the boundaries of responsibility for party officials that will make their cooperation with ministers more effective, in order to improve the operation and coordination of the communications model proposed by ND Central Committee Secretary Vangelis Meimarakis.

    The party's economy, production and trade sector is due to meet on Thursday to discuss the budget and development law, during which the MPs on the committee will be briefed by the ministers in question.

    At the same time, a party delegation headed by Meimarakis will visit trade union organizations to discuss the budget and ND parliamentary group secretary Apostolos Stavrou will meet with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in order to set a date for a meeting between trade unionists and ND's parliamentarians.

    [06] Deputy FM meets Turkish National Assembly president

    Athens, 25/11/2004 (ANA)

    Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis met on Wednesday with Turkish Parliament President Bulent Arinc and held a friendly conversation with him on the sidelines of the Organization for Black Sea Economic Cooperation's three-day Parliamentary Assembly which began in Antalya, Turkey, on Tuesday.

    Addressing the Assembly, Stylianidis said the claiming by the Organization of a more active role on the European stage, primarily on issues concerning energy, and the combatting of organized crime will be Greece's pursuit during the Greek six-month presidency's term between November and April.

    Serbia-Montenegro became the Parliamentary Assembly's 12th member during Wednesday's session.

    Issues examined by the representatives of member-states mainly concerned economic issues and strengthening the struggle to crack down on terrorism, while almost all speakers placed emphasis on the issue of terrorism.

    [07] Main opposition leader accuses gov't of 'discrediting' Greece abroad

    Athens, 25/11/2004 (ANA)

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Wednesday accused the government of "going abroad in order to discredit the country" during a speech at the Evia Chamber of Industry and Commerce.

    "Abroad they don't understand about the change in governments, they only know the country and they are shocked when they receive various papers that say the economy is not doing well," Papandreou said in a reference to the government's upward revision of fiscal data for the Greek economy, such as the public debt and deficit, as a result of a fiscal audit.

    According to Papandreou, the entire issue could have been handled by setting up a cross-party committee in which all the issues could have been laid out openly and transparently.

    The result of the government's actions was that Greece was no longer taken seriously abroad and the inflexible measures against Greece would be used as an example for other countries wishing to enter Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), Papandreou asserted.

    PASOK's leader also accused the government of having a very limited public investments program in the budget, with the risk of losing 3rd Community Support Framework (CSF) funds.

    Papandreou was briefed by local producer and trade associations about the problems of the Evia region, such as deindustrialization and high unemployment, while they also presented demands for the operation of the Public Power Corporation's Energy Centre at Aliveri for the production of natural gas.

    PASOK party leader says government squandering with nonsense capital created for country by PASOK governments: Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou, speaking to farmers in the town of Psachna, in the prefecture of Evia, on Wednesday night, said the government is ''squandering with nonsense the capital created for the country'' by the PASOK governments and with which Greece ''had acquired international prestige, organized excellent Olympic Games, became a model in the Balkans and the Middle East and received 188 votes out of a total of 190 and was elected to the UN Security Council.''

    Speaking in the town of Halkida earlier in the day, Papandreou also said the cost of the Olympic Games is about half of what the government says.

    Government spokesman says citizens' confidence gained with seriousness, responsibility and reliability: Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said on Wednesday, replying to statements made by main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou in Evia, that the citizens' confidence is gained with seriousness, responsibility and reliability.

    "In the 'new beginning' he is planning for his party Mr. Papandreou must always bear in mind that the citizens' confidence is gained with seriousness, responsibility, reliability and with the truth which the president of PASOK is distorting intentionally and unequivocally," Roussopoulos said.

    [08] ND Eurodeputy meets FYROM Parliament president

    BRUSSELS 25/11/2004 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)

    The European Union's Parliamentary Delegation President on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and New Democracy party Eurodeputy Giorgos Papastamkos met on Wednesday with FYROM Parliament President Jordanovski and expressed the European Parliament's support for FYROM's European course, also following the positive message regarding the outcome of the November 7 referendum.

    Papastamkos said many challenges will still have to be faced concerning crucial political, economic and social reforms, adding that FYROM must seize the historic opportunity for rapprochement with the EU.

    He also said that FYROM's full incorporation in the European integration process will contribute to further political stability in the region.

    Addressing the FYROM Parliament president in his capacity as Greek EMP, Papastamkos underlined that the neighboring country's name issue should be resolved within the existing climate of dialogue and good neighborly relations so that the entire spectrum of good relations between Greece and FYROM be reinforced further more.

    [09] Members of Congress protest US decision on FYROM issue

    WASHINGTON 25/11/2004 (ANA)

    Seventy members of the US House of Representatives and 11 Senators sent letters to US Secretary of State Colin Powell on Tuesday evening protesting against the recent US decision to recognize the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) by its constitutional name "Republic of Macedonia."

    The representatives described the US decision a "sudden, unilateral departure from the long-standing US, UN, EU and NATO policy regarding FYROM" and called on the State Department to reverse its decision. They added that this "interferes with the very successful efforts of our long-time ally, Greece, to bring economic prosperity to FYROM and bring peace and stability to the Balkans."

    The 11 US Senators termed the US decision as "ill-advised and ill-timed" in their letter to Powell, urging the US Secretary of State to "reconsider this decision."

    The prime sponsors of these letters to the State Department are Representatives Shelley Berkley (D-NV) and Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R-FL), members of the House International Relations Committee; Representatives Mike Bilirakis (R-FL) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), co-chairs of the Hellenic Caucus; and Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

    In a press release issued by The National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes (CEH), which supported the above effort on November 4 immediately after the US decision was announced, CEH leaders expressed their satisfaction with the outcome of their efforts.

    [10] Defense ministry denies signing contract for TOR M-1 missile offsets; gov't reiterates support for minister

    Athens, 25/11/2004 (ANA)

    National Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos on Wednesday categorically denied that he had signed an offsets contract linked to the purchase of Russian-made TOR M-1 anti-aircraft missile systems, saying that all reports to the contrary were "blatant lies".

    "As defense minister I will never sign a contract without legal guarantees and without fully ensuring that the interests of the public sector are protected," he stressed, referring to a front-page article in the daily newspaper "Ta Nea" which claimed that he had signed an offsets agreement for the TOR missiles that was identical to that signed by previous PASOK governments.

    According to the paper, the ministry had then failed to inform the government and Parliament of the alleged agreement, which then proceeded to set up a parliamentary inquiry into the previous contracts for the deal drafted under PASOK.

    "All those claiming that we have signed a PASOK-type contract, without ensuring legal guarantees, are lying shamelessly," Spiliotopoulos countered on Wednesday.

    "Everyone must finally realize that such damaging contracts are a thing of the past since March 7 [day of the last Greek elections]," he added.

    According to the ministry and the government, the leaked documents on which the newspaper's report was based were internal ministry documents purely for briefing purposes and the minister's signature was simply an acknowledgement that he had received and read them, in accordance with standard ministry procedure for internal papers.

    The government also reiterated its full confidence in the minister via alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Wednesday. The spokesman said that there was no reason for the minister to resign and denied rumors that the defense ministry's economic planning and defense investment general secretary Giorgos Zorbas had resigned over the affair.

    Antonaros also underlined that the negotiations with the Russian side for the offset agreements had not progressed because there had been no guarantees accepted by Greek law.

    "Guarantees can be given either by the state, in which case there should be a bilateral agreement between the economy ministries of both countries, or by banks. These are the guarantees required by the Greek state and Greek law," Antonaros underlined.

    Asked about an announcement issued by the ministry on July 21 saying that Russia and Greece had reached an agreement for the deal, Antonaros said that the announcement referred to a framework-agreement, on the basis of which the Greek State will renegotiate the terms of the contract with the company so that the company is obliged to proceed with the implementation of offset benefits. He said that the previous government had failed to do this since the signature of the original agreement in 1999.

    Responding to further questions, Antonaros said that the way the original agreement and the "provision of the so-called guarantees" had been drawn up was not in accordance with Greek laws.

    "It was a simple letter from the vice-president of the country where the specific company is based and this is not adequate under Greek law. This is the reason why the part of the agreement referring to offsets was not carried out," the spokesman clarified.

    Meanwhile, Athens First-Instance Public Prosecutor Dimitris Papangelopoulos on Wednesday announced that he was studying the reports in 'Ta Nea' and other newspapers regarding the issue in order to determine whether there was any legal cause for justice to intervene. He is expected to announce his decision on whether or not to order a preliminary inquiry into the affair within the next few days.

    PASOK Spokesman Nikos Athanassakis, in response to Spiliotopoulos' statements, said that the defense minister was "heavily exposed" and added that "it is useless [for the defense minister] to try and save himself by distorting reality, which he is currently doing."

    PASOK Coordinator on Foreign Affairs and Defense Issues Anna Diamantopoulou said that Spiliotopoulos during the past eight months "has been the protagonist of comedy and drama on the Greek political stage," adding that "members of Parliament have repeatedly asked that he resign over issues of major importance, which he handled with off-handedness and ignorance." Diamantopoulou asked for the prime minister's intervention.

    [11] National defense ministry information department director resigns

    Athens, 25/11/2004 (ANA)

    The director of the national defense ministry's information department A. Gouriotis tendered his resignation to Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos on Wednesday, invoking personal reasons, according to an announcement by the ministry.

    The announcement further said Spiliotopoulos thanked him for his services for the government and at the defense ministry and accepted his resignation

    [12] Michaloliakos presents Greek positions on European security at defense conference

    Athens, 25/11/2004 (ANA)

    Deputy Defense Minister Vassilis Michaloliakos presented the Greek positions regarding the future of European defense and security during the European Defense and Security Conference that was held in Berlin on Tuesday.

    Referring to policy the EU must follow in order to meet the demands and challenges of a new security environment, Michaloliakos emphasized that the EU must be able to act and prevent, not simply to react.

    Michaloliakos also referred to the EU's defense capabilities, saying that in order to reinforce them defense budgets must be adjusted, number of forces must be reduced and resources must be allocated for the modernization of member-states' weaponry systems. The deputy defense minister proposed that cost-effective solutions be explored, such as the creation of joint military forces, increased specialization and multinational financing.

    Speaking of the European Armaments Organization, Michaloliakos reiterated that its goals include reinforcing Europe's defense industry and technological base and supporting the creation of an internationally competitive European defense materials market. Michaloliakos proposed promoting cooperation among nations' defense industries and investing in new technology so that the European defense industry can become competitive.

    [13] Papandreou to visit Middle East, Spain

    Athens, 25/11/2004 (ANA)

    Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) President George Papandreou will be traveling to the Middle East on Thursday and Friday. Specifically, Papandreou will visit Tel Aviv on Thursday afternoon where he will meet with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and Labor Party President Simon Peres.

    On Friday, the PASOK president will travel to Ramallah where he will meet with Palestinian leaders: President of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei and Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath.

    Later on Friday, Papandreou will head for Spain to attend the European Socialist Leaders Summit in Madrid, which will end on Saturday. Issues to be discussed during the summit include the EU's course and prospects, the social-democratic proposal for the "EU political agenda 2005-2009," and the ratification of the EU constitution and the Socialist Group's contribution to this process.

    [14] Alternate government spokesman says abolition of pharmaceuticals list part of ND's election program commitments

    Athens, 25/11/2004 (ANA)

    Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said on Wednesday the abolition of the pharmaceuticals list is part of the New Democracy party's election program commitments.

    "The abolition of the pharmaceuticals list is part of the commitments of the New Democracy party's election program and, therefore, that program is being implemented now in the framework of collective consultations taking place in the government," he said.

    "The issue of pharmaceuticals constitutes the joint responsibility of many ministers. The announcements by (health minister) Mr. Kaklamanis are part of a pharmaceutical policy presented for public deliberation. All the interested parties are called on to state their positions by December 15 on shaping the general framework of pharmaceutical policy," Antonaros added.

    [15] Greek Development minister in Brussels for EU Competitiveness Council

    Athens, 25/11/2004 (ANA)

    Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas will represent Greece to an EU Competitiveness and Development Council to be held in Brussels November 24-26.

    Sioufas will head a Greek delegation including Economy and Finance Deputy Minister Christos Folias, Development ministry secretary-generals Spyros Papadopoulos, Yiannis Tsoukalas, Dimitris Vrettakos, Spyros Eftathopoulos and other ministry officials.

    The EU Council's agenda includes discussion of economic situation and competitiveness in the European Union, an intermediate review of the Lisbon strategy, improving and simplifying legislation and regulations, regulations on the use of chemicals, services, cross-border mergers, textile-clothing, space policy, and technology and research.

    [16] Capital Markets' Commission announces measures to boost domestic market

    Athens, 25/11/2004 (ANA)

    Greece's Capital Markets' Commission on Wednesday announced a series of measures aimed to improve market operations, listed companies and mutual funds in the country.

    Presenting the measures, A. Pilavios the Commission's president urged for the implementation of International Accounting Standards from the first half of 2005.

    The measures include the abolition of limit up and limit down for shares included in the FTSE/ASE 20 index, valid from 2005, and raising limits, to 20 percent from 18 percent currently, for all other shares in the market.

    Pilavios also announced a series of measures aimed to support listed companies and boost transparency in the market, such as more detailed presentation of balance figures.

    Measures to support the mutual fund industry included more transparency in management and treasurer commissions' data, detailed report on the three-year return of mutual funds, reporting three-month investment figures instead of six-month currently and prohibiting money management mutual funds from investing in stocks.

    Commenting on the implementation of International Accounting Standards, the Capital Markets' Commission recommended that all listed companies report their 2005 first half results based on IAS and stressed that financial reports would be largely more credible if accompanied by an auditor's certificate.

    [17] Turkey to tender natgas pipeline to Greece

    ISTANBUL 25/11/2004 (ANA/A Kourkoulas)

    Turkey on Thursday is to tender a pipeline that will carry natural gas from the Caspian Sea and Iran to Greece, an access point for the European Union's energy network.

    The 210-kilometre conduit will extend to Kipi, Evros, on the border with Greece and include an undersea section of 17 kilometers, Turkey's BOTAS oil and pipelines company said in a statement on Wednesday.

    A preliminary study on economic viability of the project, which will link the two countries' natural gas grids, was completed in 2002.

    When Italy joins the network, the volume of gas to be transported will rise to 11-12 billion cubic meters, of which 3.0 billion will be destined for Greece and 8.0 billion for Italy, the statement said.

    [18] Greek insurance market inspections to be completed by end year

    Athens, 25/11/2004 (ANA)

    State authorities will have completed a round of inspections in the domestic insurance market by the end of the year, Development Deputy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou said on Wednesday.

    Speaking to reporters, Papathanasiou acknowledged the market's bad financial situation saying that inspections so far "confirmed our worries over the financial situation of companies," with heavy unsafe claims and big divergence in provisions for outstanding losses.

    Papathanasiou also announced that, according to his information, National Insurance would raise its car insurance premiums by 5.0 percent in Attica and 2.5 percent in regional Greece.

    Commenting on the operations of Soccer and Basketball companies, the Greek minister said that companies in the sector must cover 50 percent of their share capital increase plans by the end of the year to avoid decisions to revoking licenses and be able to participate in the players' transfer season in January.

    Papathanasiou said that the domestic market was operating smoothly with prices moving within accepted levels. He announced stricter inspections in open markets.

    [19] Mixed reaction to govt's development bill from tourism firms

    Athens, 25/11/2004 (ANA)

    The Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE) on Wednesday welcomed a government development bill released a day earlier for feedback, on the basis of a preliminary study of the legislation.

    "The solution to chronic problems and the removal of investment disincentives are apparent. Equally apparent is the possibility of further improving the bill," SETE said in a statement.

    In a separate statement, the Association of Tourism and Travel Agencies in Greece (HATTA) expressed "surprise and disappointment" at the contents of the bill.

    The trade group claimed that the sector's proposals had been ignored, despite earlier assurances to the contrary by the government.

    [20] Survey: Business services down in 2003

    Athens, 25/11/2004 (ANA)

    Business services dropped by 3.0% in 2003 against a year earlier, with the market totalling 1,280 million euros from 1,320 million euros in 2002, according to a survey released by Kantor on Wednesday.

    The drop was attributed to a slowdown in growth of all sectors, and a 7.0% decline in information technology, which holds 62% of supply in business services.

    The average annual rate of growth of business services was 13% in 1990-2003, accelerating to 19% in 1999-2003, the survey said.

    [21] Stephanopoulos gives "Kouros 2004" awards to Greek entrepreneurs

    Athens, 25/11/2004 (ANA)

    President of the Hellenic Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos gave the Entrepreneurial Club's "Kouros 2004" awards to recipients during a special ceremony held in Athens on Wednesday evening.

    The award for development and innovation went to Vassilis Fourlis, major shareholder and Managing Director of the Fourlis Group. Dimitris and Michalis Sarantis, main shareholders of Tyras and Olympos dairy companies were awarded for their performance in the international financial arena. Finally, the award for social contribution went to Vassilios Konstantakopoulos, Founder and President of Kostamare Shipping.

    The Entrepreneurial Club has been giving out the "Kouros" award for the past 10 years.

    [22] Stocks rise in blue-chip bank buying

    Athens, 25/11/2004 (ANA)

    Stocks finished higher with players buying into blue-chip banking stocks, traders said.

    The Athens general share index closed at 2,574.50 points, showing a rise of 0.42 percent. Turnover was 152.5 million euros.

    The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.54 percent up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.12 percent up; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.39 percent low-rise in blue-chip bank buying

    [23] PM, party leaders attend award ceremony for Paralympic athletes in Parliament

    Athens, 25/11/2004 (ANA)

    The athletes of the Greek team in the Athens Paralympic Games were awarded by Parliament on Wednesday in a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and the heads of the political parties in Parliament.

    Addressing the gathering, Karamanlis stressed that the athletes that took part in the Athens Paralympics were an inspiration for millions of people all over the world and protagonists in its authentic message of social responsibility, duty and solidarity with the disabled and people that had greater needs.

    "You have proved that you are capable of many things, and we owe you even more," he told the gathered athletes, noting that their participation in a top global event acted as a reminder that disabled people in Greece in the 21st century could not but be treated equally, be given greater opportunities and actively take part in the "road to success".

    According to main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, the athletes greatest achievement was that they had succeeded in changing attitudes toward the disabled within Greece. He also stressed that the state had been right to dispense with the fee for participation in the Paralympics and to provide incentives for Paralympic winners.

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga praised the athletes for their success but urged them to use this to help the disabled movement in seeking its rights, pointing out that the only Olympic sports facility specifically for the disabled had never been completed, that special schools were under funded and that disabled sports clubs had not received regular grants in past years.

    Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party leader Nikos Constantopoulos also stressed that "society, which applauded you during the Paralympic Games, now has a duty to stand by you, to draw from you collective optimism and to keep alive the social solidarity that will neither marginalize nor embitter you and yours."

    The athletes were also addressed by Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki, who greeted them on their arrival. "You have earned our recognition and respect, not only for you successes but also for your efforts. This effort might for others be a part of daily life that is taken for granted but for Paralympic champions it is a physical, mental and spiritual feat," she said.

    Each of the athletes that finished in the top three positions of an event during the Athens Paralympics were awarded gold medals bearing a replica of a god of Games Agonas found on 5th century B.C. coin from the Greek island of Skopelos and a wreath to symbolize their victory.

    [24] Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos to visit Rome to receive remains of two saints

    ROME 25/11/2004 (ANA - L. Hatzikyriakos)

    Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos will visit Rome to receive the remains of two saints.

    The Pope will deliver the holy remains to Vartholomeos during a ceremony to be held at the Vatican on November 27, according to officials of the Holy See.

    The remains of 4th century saints Grigoris Nazianzinos and Ioannis Chrysostomos had been stolen from Istanbul during the crusade in 1204.

    An announcement by the Vatican said "this is a sign of the desire of the Western and Eastern Church to proceed together towards an obvious unity."

    [25] Home-made bomb causes minor damage outside PASOK local office in Thessaloniki

    Athens, 25/11/2004 (ANA)

    A home-made bomb exploded outside a main opposition PASOK party office in Thessaloniki at dawn Wednesday, causing damage but no injuries, police said.

    They said unknown perpetrators placed the makeshift device, comprising two small propane canisters, outside the PASOK local organization office in Falyro, Thessaloniki, and set fire to it, causing an explosion that broke the office window panes and damaged a car parked on the curb.

    Damage was estimated at 500 euro. Police were investigating the incident.

    [26] Public order minister visits Crete to meet 9-year-old victim of accidental shooting

    Athens, 25/11/2004 (ANA)

    Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis arrived on the island of Crete on Wednesday to meet a nine-year-old boy who was seriously injured during an accidental shooting the previous month, after the boy wrote him a letter asking him to take action against the widespread problem of illegal weapons possession and use on the island.

    Soon after meeting Vassilis Kokotakis, the minister announced that he had asked renowned Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis to head a local citizens' movement in order to sensitize public opinion to the problem of illegal firearms on Crete.

    Voulgarakis had originally asked the boy's family to travel to Athens for the meeting but this proved too difficult because the young shooting victim has to regularly travel to hospital to undertake tests. The boy was injured in October when a hunting rifle accidentally went off.

    The minister stressed that illegally bearing and using arms was a huge social problem on Crete that the "arsenal of the law" had failed to solve, since it continued despite strict penalties forbidding the use of fire-arms.

    He said that Theodorakis had responded favorably to the proposal that he lead an effort with the support of other distinguished Cretans to change the island traditions of bearing arms, which Voulgarakis stressed had caused suffering to thousands of island residents and "gives us a flavor that we neither wish nor deserve".

    The minister was accompanied by Greek Police Chief George Agelakos, the leadership of the police force and fire department on Crete and local government officials.

    [27] Greek filmmaker receives Italian honors

    ROME 25/11/2004 (ANA/L.Hadzikyriakos)

    Greek filmmaker/director Theodoros Angelopoulos received double honors in Italy on Wednesday where he received the Vittorio de Sica award for his film "The Weeping Meadow."

    Angelopoulos, along with Spanish director Carlos Saura and German director Volker Schlondorff were the only foreigners (i.e., not Italian) to receive the award.

    Additionally, Angelopoulos also received an award from the Italian Republic. Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, who presented Angelopoulos with the award, praised the Greek director's work and said that there always needs to be an ongoing dialogue between cinema and society.

    Angelopoulos said that the awards constituted a touching moment in his career and thanked Italy for 'adopting' him.

    [28] Athens presents candidacy to host 2009 swimming world championship

    Athens, 25/11/2004 (ANA)

    FINA held its conference in Lausanne on Wednesday on the presentation of the organizational and financial data of the 2009 world championship in the presence of Greek Swimming Federation President Dimitris Diathesopoulos and the director of the Athens municipality's sports organization Iraklis Efstathiou.

    Athens has initially declared its candidacy to host this sports event, for which interest has been shown by Paris, Moscow, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Rome, Tokyo and Dubai.

    Files must be submitted to FINA in early February, while on June 26 all the cities interested in hosting the games must have signed a contract with the world federation.

    The decision on the city to host the games will be taken in Montreal in July during the world championship.

    [29] Cyprus has defined its course of action in view of EU December summit

    LARNACA 25/11/2004 (CNA/ANA)

    Several European countries believe that Turkey cannot ask for Cyprus' vote to start accession negotiations with the European Union and at the same time not recognize the Republic, Foreign Minister George Iacovou has stated.

    Speaking at Larnaca airport upon arrival from Brussels, Iacovou said that the Cyprus Republic ''with clear thinking and a determined spirit'' has defined its own course of action and will brief accordingly all EU partners as well as EU institutions, which will play a decisive role in the drafting of the final document of the conclusions of the 17th December EU summit as regards Turkey''.

    The summit will decide whether to open membership talks with Turkey, as recommended by the Commission in its report on Ankara's bid to join the Union.

    On his participation in the EU General Affairs Council, he said the discussion focused on the methodology the Dutch Presidency will follow for the preparation of its conclusions on 17th December.

    He added that various views were expressed with several countries saying that the Turkish bid to join the EU should be examined separately from the Croatian one, noting that this issue has already been decided.

    The foreign minister was due to depart Wednesday for Berlin for talks with his German counterpart and on Thursday he will be in Madrid ''for a refreshing of views with Mr. Moratinos, who exhibits great interest in Cyprus and in Turkey's European course".

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