|Tuesday, 20 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 04-11-30
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>November 30, 2004
 Greece will continue efforts in shaping EU Summit Conclusions until the last minute, Foreign Ministry says
Athens 30/11/2004 (ANA)Foreign Ministry Spokesman George Koumoutsakos said on Monday that Greece will continue its efforts in shaping the final text of the EU Summit Conclusions until December 17th, the day the EU Council will be held. It is to this end that Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis is scheduled to meet with his EU counterparts on Thursday.
Asked about information that has been publicized regarding the EU Summit Conclusions, Koumoutsakos said: "The information that has been publicized concerns the draft Conclusions prepared by the Dutch Presidency of the upcoming European Council. Of course, the first exploratory discussions have taken place. However, the essential negotiation regarding the text is just now beginning. Therefore, any comment at this stage would be premature, probably even counter-productive."
He went on to add: "Greece will continue its efforts and actions in shaping the final version of the text until December 17th. Greece's actions will be in line with its declared policy - a positive response to Turkey's EU prospects provided that Turkey fulfills European criteria, prerequisites, rules and values."
On Thursday, Molyviatis will be meeting with the foreign ministers of Italy, the UK, Germany and Austria.
 EU Dutch presidency's draft final conclusions plan refers to Turkey's customs union with all EU member-states
BRUSSELS 30/11/2004 (ANA/A.Simatos)A draft final conclusions plan prepared by the European Union's Dutch presidency, in light of the summit scheduled to take place here on December 16-17, refers to Turkey extending customs union to all EU member-states, including Cyprus, saying in paragraph 19 that "the European council welcomes Turkey's decision to sign the protocol on adopting the Ankara agreement, taking into consideration the accession of the new member-states."
The decision in question has not yet been taken by Turkey but with this reference, however, the EU calls on Turkey indirectly to proceed with the adoption of this decision.
It also refers among other issues to the EU's further enlargement, practical aspects to be followed in the holding of accession negotiations with candidate countries, the EU's economic prospects during the period between 2007 and 2013 and the combatting of terrorism.
The conclusions plan brought to the attention of the Athens News Agency (ANA) contains five paragraphs concerning Turkey's accession prospect. However, the three most important issues remain open in connection with this prospect that is if and when accession negotiations with Turkey will get under way and which procedure will be followed.
The conclusions plan reminds of the past decision taken by the European Council according to which Turkey had become a candidate country with the same criteria which applied to the other candidate countries.
It also recalled the decision taken by the European Council (held in Copenhagen in December 2002) by which the EU would decide in December 2004 to commence negotiations with Turkey without delay on condition that the relevant report (and the corresponding proposal) by the Commission would state that Turkey fulfills the political criteria set in Copenhagen.
In addition, the conclusions plan notes that "the European Council welcomes Turkey's decisive progress in the longstanding reformist process it has followed and reiterates that it is determined to allow Turkey to join the European community of values, convinced that Turkey will complete the reformist process."
It is noteworthy that this paragraph entails the condition that the December summit will give the "go ahead" for the commencement of negotiations.
As regards Turkey, paragraph 20 stresses that "the European Council welcomes Turkey's commitment for good relations with its neighboring countries and its readiness to continue to work with member-states for a solution to pending border differences, in accordance with the principle of a peaceful solution to differences, as determined by the UN's Charter."
 Foreign ministry reports correction of 'wholly mistaken' U.S.-issue map of FYROM
Athens 30/11/2004 (ANA)The Greek foreign ministry on Monday reported that a "wholly mistaken" map of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) contained inside a manual issued by the United States defense department had finally been corrected, after four months of concerted efforts by the Greek foreign ministry.
According to foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, the map labeled parts of Greek and Bulgarian territory as 'occupied Macedonian territory' and was included in briefing material issued by the Pentagon to a special unit of U.S. marines since 1999.
 Premier Karamanlis sends letter to President Bush over FYROM issue
Athens 30/11/2004 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in a reply letter to U.S. President George W. Bush on Monday, said that the recognition of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) under its constitutional name, i.e. ''Republic of Macedonia'', does not help efforts for the finding of a mutually acceptable solution to the problem, sources said.
The same sources added that Karamanlis also underlines in his letter, which is a reply to a recent Bush letter to the Greek premier, the assurance given by the U.S. president that he would support any decision resulting from the U.N. sponsored talks for the finding of a solution, was a positive element.
Karamanlis further more thanked President Bush for his letter while reiterating the Greek government's disposition for further cooperation between Greece and the U.S.
 Roussopoulos talks of 'organized campaign to confuse ND's message' in interview to Greek daily
Athens 30/11/2004 (ANA)In an interview appearing in the newspaper "Eleftheros Typos" on Monday, Minister of State and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos claimed that there was an organized plan orchestrated by certain unnamed business interests with the assistance of sections of the media that sought to confuse ruling New Democracy's message and distort the truth.
He said this attempt could be tracked to the government's plans to bring a new law on 'main shareholders' and the restrictions on media ownership to combat corruption and graft, and had begun when it became clear that the government was preparing to bring a draft bill on the issue to Parliament.
Asked if he expected the attacks on the government to escalate after the bill was tabled, Roussopoulos replied affirmatively and said the government would seek to counteract them by making sure people understood what it was trying to do.
In response to other questions, the spokesman denied that the government was avoiding controversial issues with high political cost because it was planning or afraid of early elections.
"We are not afraid of elections; we are not aiming at elections. Our goal is to implement our program," Roussopoulos stressed, while at another point he strenuously denied that the government was seeking to trigger elections over the election of a new president of the republic.
Regarding the presidential elections, Roussopoulos underlined that ND was in government and its choice of candidate would depend only upon on its own policy and the policy of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
He also accused main opposition PASOK of political arrogance on the issue, pointing out that the distribution of votes in Parliament allowed ND to elect a president in cooperation with the two left-wing parties. At another point regarding the same issue, he noted that the government spoke "with the confidence of those who know exactly what they want, exactly what they are doing and exactly what they are going to do".
Responding to questions about his relations with ND Central Committee Secretary Vangelis Meimarakis and the latter's criticism about the efficiency of the government's communications strategy, Roussopoulos defended the current communications model, saying it had been greatly successful during the Olympic Games and continued to operate successfully at present.
At the same time, he stressed that the government spokesman could not act as a press office for all the ministries but expressed the central policies of the government and prime minister. He underlined that ministries had to have their own well-organized press offices and were responsible for ensuring that the public understood the ministry's policies and their impact on daily life.
 Defense Ministry denies news reports regarding TOR-M1 tests
Athens 30/11/2004 (ANA)The Ministry of Defense denied reports appearing in the newspaper "Ethnos" according to which the TOR-M1 missile system had been successfully tested and that the ministry had refused delivery of parts, in a statement issued Monday.
The ministry also denied the newspaper's comments that the ministry did not want a comprehensive battery of factory tests that would enable it to integrate TOR-M1 into the existing air defense network. The ministry notes in its statement that progress in this respect was not made due to Russian reactions during negotiations held last July.
Finally, according to the ministry's statement, the purpose of such news reports is to create confusion surrounding crucial issues, which the parliamentary investigating committee is already looking into.
Documents published in 'Ethnos' are at Parliamentary investigation's disposal, gov't says: Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Monday noted that three documents regarding defense procurements that were published in the newspaper 'Ethnos' were at the disposal of a parliamentary investigating committee, which could ask for them if it wished.
Antonaros also noted that all the documents necessary to the investigation had been included in the file submitted to Parliament and that this was complete, when asked why the documents had not been supplied from the start.
The spokesman clarified that the committee was investigating a specific transaction over a specific period of time and referred further questions to a defense ministry announcement on the issue. He also reiterated that the guarantees supplied for the TOR M-1 missile system purchase offsets agreement were not legally acceptable to the Greek State.
He ruled out the possibility that the committee might extend the scope of its investigation to include other periods of time, saying that the committee's remit could not be changed.
Antonaros also denied that the issue was putting a strain on relations between Greece and Russia, saying that attempts to make this a key issue in Greek-Russian relations were unfounded, while noting that guarantees was not something to be negotiated at a head of government level.
The spokesman also denied all knowledge of reports claiming that the Russian side had supplied a bank guarantee required by the Greek State but this had not been accepted because a ministry official had asked Moscow to also pay a fine.
 ND party secretary on 'arrogant' ministers, party policy
Athens 30/11/2004 (ANA)In a warning to wayward ministers and organization chiefs accused of arrogant, uncooperative behavior, New Democracy's Central Committee Secretary Vangelis Meimarakis again stressed that every government member and official had to behave "in the manner and with the quality of language demanded by the party" in an interview appearing in the newspaper 'Ta Nea' on Monday.
Meimarakis noted that his comments regarding ministerial 'arrogance' over the weekend, at a conference of the ND-affiliated DAKE trade union group where trade unionists first aired their complaints about certain members of government, were not directed at anyone in particular but a general warning to those who reportedly refused to cooperate, failed to understand the problems and did not know how to behave.
Clarifying earlier comments regarding the government's fiscal audit, meanwhile, Meimarakis made it clear that he considered the decision to carry out the audit correct and necessary, stressing that the Greek people had to know the truth.
"What do they suggest? That we should let the country and the citizens live in a lie?" he said.
At the same time, he noted, doubts were raised about whether the electorate had fully understood the reasons that led the government to carry out the audit.
"What I said was that, since the issue of the audit was a central political choice, if the electorate has truly failed to understand it then we must intensify our communications effort. This was not censure. It was encouragement to make our communications model more effective," Meimarakis added.
He said the goal was to ensure that there was better communications among ministers, between the government and party MPs, the government and the party and, finally, the citizens and that all involved were fully informed on government policy so that a uniform political line and a clear message was expressed outwardly.
In response to other questions, the party secretary denied all disagreement between himself and Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos, who also acts as government spokesman, and said there was no dispute over the distribution of power between the government and the party.
"The roles are distinct. ND supports the government, it is the connecting link between the government and society and there is constructive cooperation between the government and the party," he said.
According to Meimarakis, the party's task was to act as a two-way channel of communication between the government and the citizens, so that government actions were understood and the citizens' problems were conveyed to the government.
"We made it clear from the start that we have no relation with the state and the management of state affairs. And this is because the absolute identification of party and state that existed in recent years led to extreme incidents of corruption and graft, had made the state party-dominated and helped establish party bigotry," the party secretary said.
He also noted, however, that the state was not the same as the government and that his earlier proposals concerning the government were not linked to specific people but to processes.
Regarding the choice of candidate for president of the Republic, Meimarakis underlined that ND did not want the election of the president to be entangled in national elections and that the president was an institution that symbolized national unity.
At the same time, he stressed that potential presidents with universal appeal above party lines were not necessarily restricted to candidates from parties other than ND.
"If main opposition PASOK chooses not to agree to the candidate proposed by the government then we will necessarily be led to general elections. The possibility of general elections, therefore, depends on the main opposition and [PASOK leader] George Papandreou must then explain to the citizens the reasons why he is leading the country into another electoral process," Meimarakis noted.
 PM Karamanlis confers with interior minister Pavlopoulos
Athens 30/11/2004 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Monday had a two-hour meeting with Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos.
No statements were made after the meeting, but sources said that two ministry bills will be tabled in parliament by next week.
The two bills concern public sector contract workers, and the finances of the Prefectural governments.
 New EETAA offices inaugurated; Pavlopoulos' address
Athens 30/11/2004 (ANA)Minister of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Prokopis Pavlopoulos visited the new offices of the Hellenic Agency for Local Development and Local Government (EETAA) which were inaugurated on Monday.
In his address, Pavlopoulos called on the main opposition to "clarify" its position regarding the organizational structure of prefectural government before the next elections. "We emphasize this so that it is clear: first- and second-degree regional governments are municipalities, communities, prefectures. We are shaping their status, we are completing the institutional structures that must be in place, we are providing the financial means, which are necessary for them to operate," Pavlopoulos said.
Speaking of EETAA, Pavlopoupos described it as a "tool for development, which regional government must realize exists, regardless of political party affiliations and personal politics."
The minister criticized the previous government for the state in which it left regional government. According to Pavlopoulos, the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE) and the Union of Prefectural Governments of Greece (ENAE) have admitted that regional government has never been in such a bad state as it is currently. According to Pavlopoulos, first-degree regional government is heavily indebted and greatly understaffed, while prefectural government has for a long time not been able to play a substantial role.
Pavlopoulos referred to the efforts the New Democracy government is making in this area with legislation passed in March 2004, shortly after the general elections, which has been a "sigh of relief" for regional government solving many of its chronic, debt-related problems. Another measure the government has taken is to replace the program "EPTA", which ends at the end of 2004, with the program "Theseus" modeled on the fourth Community Support Framework.
EETAA Managing Director I. Gogozotos emphasized that quality in all sectors of contemporary society is key. The smooth operation of the state, updated institutions tailored to current conditions and needs, making the most of established practices and daring to try new ones, all contribute to quality for citizens.
"With our new offices, which we are inaugurating today, we are trying to meet this desired goal, beginning with providing the Organization's employees with the best possible working conditions," he said.
 Army chief Douvas on formal visit to Bulgaria
Athens 30/11/2004 (ANA)Chief of the Army General Staff (GES) Lieutenant-General Nikolaos Douvas on Monday begins a three-day formal visit to Bulgaria at the invitation of his Bulgaria counterpart Zlatan Stoikov.
While in Bulgaria, Douvas will hold talks with Stoikov on matters of mutual military interest and bilateral cooperation, while he will also visit the 68th Armed Forces Brigade, a GES announcement said.
Douvas will further visit the Greek embassy in Sofia and the Rakovski military academy, where he will meet with Greek students there.
 Leading constitutional and int'l experts to discuss Cyprus solution in Athens
Athens 30/11/2004 (ANA)Leading European constitutional and international experts will be convening at Panteion University (University of Social and Political Science) in Athens on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss a European solution to the Cyprus problem.
The conference, titled "Constitutional and Legal Principles for a European Solution to the Cyprus Issue," is being co-organized by the Greek Institute of Constitutional Research, the Greek Union of Constitutional Experts and the Committee for a European Solution to the Cyprus Issue.
Items on the agenda of the two-day conference include:
• The Belgian model and the Annan Plan;
• The acquis communautaire as a point of reference in solving the Cyprus issue;
• International law and the Cyprus solution;
• Lessons from Switzerland's federal and democratic experience regarding the Cyprus issue;
• European political and legal culture as the basis for the Cyprus solution.
 Cyprus House of Representatives president proclaimed honorary citizen of Patra
Athens 30/11/2004 (ANA)Cyprus House of Representatives President Demetris Christofias was proclaimed an honorary citizen of the city of Patra, in western Greece, on Sunday night and expressed reserved optimism that on December 17, on the day of the European Union summit, Turkey will recognize all the EU member-states, including the Republic of Cyprus. The event was attended by Cyprus Defense Minister Kyriakos Mavronikolas.
Christofias arrived to attend the unveiling ceremony of two busts created in memory of corporal Christos Gavos and sergeant Constantine Antonopoulos in their respective home towns.
Both men had been killed in combat during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in July 1974.
 Turkish foreign ministry proposing security doctrine amendment for Halki School of Theology
ISTANBUL 30/11/2004 (ANA/A. Kourkoulas)The Turkish foreign ministry is proposing an amendment of the security doctrine regarding the reopening of the Halki School of Theology.
The security doctrine must stress explicitly that "the Phanar Patriarchate cannot constitute a threat for Turkey", according to the Turkish foreign ministry's proposal, the newspaper Radikal said.
In any case, the Turkish foreign ministry is speeding up the change in the security doctrine to enable an adjustment to observations made by the European Commission's report on October 6.
The newspaper brings to light the "secret" procedures which prevented even the government from handling the issue of the Halki School of Theology.
The Turkish foreign ministry has proposed the reopening of the school with the status it had before it closed and has stressed that the relevant decision must be taken by the prime minister's office.
 Coalition party president on private visit to Mount Athos
Athens 30/11/2004 (ANA)The leader of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party Nikos Constantopoulos on Monday carried out a private visit to Mount Athos, to worship at the monasteries on the peninsula.
Constantopoulos arrived at the capital of the monastic community Karyes in the morning. He is due to visit the monasteries of Megisti Lavra and Ibiron in the afternoon, while tomorrow he will travel to the Vatopedi and Symonas Petra monasteries.
 Policy of restoring transparency in fiscal data confirmed in Commission draft letter, economy ministry says
Athens 30/11/2004 (ANA)The policy of restoring transparency in the fiscal data of the Greek economy that was followed by the present government from the first moment is confirmed in the draft of the European Commission's letter on the economic state of the country, the Economy ministry said in an announcement on Monday.
The draft letter calls on the Greek government to firmly adhere to its policy of transparency, completing the structural changes in the manner of recording the deficits and debt, particularly with respect to the wider public sector and defense expenditures, the ministry announcement
 Greek govt reiterates will to reduce its fiscal deficit below 3.0 pct in 2005
Athens 30/11/2004 (ANA)The Greek economy will not be placed under surveillance by the European Union even if the country was placed under the article 104/9 for its excessive fiscal deficit, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Monday.
Speaking to reporters, Alogoskoufis reiterated the government's will to reduce the country's fiscal deficit below 3.0 percent of GDP in 2005 and noted that the Greek case would not be discussed at an ECOFIN meeting in December 5, but in January.
The Greek minister said that the government would seek the best timing and the best way if it decided to list the Athens International Airport "Eleftherios Venizelos" in the Athens Stock Exchange. He expressed the hope that a general shareholders' meeting of the airport operating company, scheduled for December 17, would resolve a problem created by the intention of German company Hochtief to sell part of its equity stake in the airport.
Main opposition, gov't trade charges over fiscal audit: The main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) on Monday again criticized the government for an informal audit it conducted into fiscal data given by its PASOK predecessor in office.
"This has only created problems for the country and hurt its prospects, also lowering the public's standard of living and income. This is a fiasco created by (ruling) New Democracy that the country is paying for," party spokesman Nikos Athanassakis said in a statement.
Athanassakis was responding to comments by the finance minister earlier in the day.
Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros retorted in a separate statement that PASOK was continuing its distortion of reality, and had shown itself unable to learn.
"Greeks and our European partners only now have obtained a true picture of the country's economic indicators," Antonaros said.
 EU to study Greek proposal for tax cuts in fuel crises
BRUSSELS 30/11/2004 (ANA/G.Zitouniati)The European Union's executive Commission is to study a Greek proposal on creation of a mechanism that would allow short-term tax cuts on petroleum products in times of crisis.
Deputy Development Minister George Salagoudis told reporters after a meeting of EU energy ministers in the Belgian capital that Italy and France backed the proposal.
During debate of oil supplies for the EU, Salagoudis briefed the meeting a political agreement forged by Greece, Bulgaria and Russia to build a pipeline between Burgas and Alexandroupoli pipeline that will carry Russian oil.
The project met EU criteria of competitiveness as it reduced transportation time and costs; ensured supplies through a diversification of sources; and aided environmental protection by contributing to avoidance of maritime accidents in the Bosphorus, Salgoudis added.
 PM comments on trade unionists complaints about 'arrogant' ministers
Athens 30/11/2004 (ANA)"Trade unionists have their views and these are respected. The government and its ministers carry out government policy," Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said on Monday in comments regarding complaints of 'ministerial arrogance' voiced by trade unionists affiliated to the ruling New Democracy party over the weekend.
Karamanlis made the statement during a meeting with Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas held on Monday to discuss the new bills on developmental law, the budget and legislation establishing a Consumer Ombudsman.
During the weekend conference of the DAKE trade union group, trade union officials complained of 'poor communication' with certain government ministers and heads of state organizations, who they said had refused to meet with them and discuss the workers' problems. According to sources, ND Central Committee Secretary Vangelis Meimarakis had admitted that the complaints had some foundation during his talks with trade unionists on Saturday, while he stressed that government officials should behave in 'the required manner' during an interview with 'Ta Nea' published on Monday.
Commenting on the trade unionists' attacks against members of the government, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Monday said that it was natural for "various views to be expressed during a conference of trade union officials" and stressed that the government listened to and respected the views expressed.
At the same time, he stressed that "the government governs" and clarified that contact between party officials and government members existed when this was required and that demands were examined when they were presented in accordance with procedure.
"There are no ministers' doors closed to ND officials," Antonaros underlined.
 Tourism minister in two-day official visit to Turkey
Athens 30/11/2004 (ANA)Greek Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Tuesday begins a two-day official visit to Ankara and Istanbul on the invitation of Turkey's Culture and Tourism Minister Erkan Mumcu.
The two ministers will discuss bilateral issues ahead of the signing of a cooperation agreement between the two countries and will inaugurate a Melina Merkouri poster exhibition called "Melina Tekrar Topkapi Sarayinda".
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan will host Avramopoulos at a dinner table held in the prime minister's house. The Greek minister will meet with the mayors of Ankara and Istanbul, representatives of tourist enterprises, and will visit Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos.
 Greek, Turkish SMEs discuss cooperation
Athens 30/11/2004 (ANA)Greece and Turkey present significant prospects of developing their trade transactions and at the same time highlight comparative advantages offered by small- and medium-sized enterprises in both countries. That was the conclusion of a meeting between a visiting Turkish business delegation and the Athens Chamber of small- and medium-sized enterprises held on Monday.
The meeting discussed the role of the Chamber as a consultant to the state, its structural rose and its contribution to the thousands of small- and medium-sized enterprises in the country. The two sides also discuss Greek exports to Turkey.
Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, Mrs. Sophia Economakou, president of the Chamber, said that such meetings contributed to economic development and enhanced friendship between the two peoples.
 Screeners' strike cause several-hour delays in Athens airport
Athens 30/11/2004 (ANA)Travelers at the Eleftherios Venizelos international airport in Athens are facing several-hour delays at the airport's control check points due to a strike by screeners, now in their third day, on Monday.
Workers at passenger control check points will continue their mobilization on Tuesday and will hold a new general assembly on Monday afternoon to decide on their future actions.
Athens airport's authorities have called on travelers to arrive at the airport two hours before scheduled take-off time.
 OAED's vocational centers to receive staff reinforcements
Athens 30/11/2004 (ANA)Minister of Labor and Social Protection Panos Panayiotopoulos announced that the Greek Manpower Employment Organization's (OAED) vocational centers are to receive staff reinforcements with the hiring of 437 additional career counselors.
Panayiotopoulos' comments were made on Monday, during a two-day OAED training seminar. According to a ministry's statement, the seminar was organized in order to bring OAED closer to the business community and to provide its career counselors with knowledge specific to the private sector.
Deputy Labor and Social Protection Minister Gerassimos Yiakoumatos and OAED Director G. Vernanakis explained that the organization's vocational centers will now be operating with specific goals, pre-determined and evaluated, in order to fight unemployment effectively.
 International food, beverages trade fair set for 2005
Athens 30/11/2004 (ANA)Detrop, an international food and beverages trade fair will be held in the northern port city of Thessaloniki on March 4-7, 2005, organizers said on Monday.
Arranged by Helexpo, the trade fair also includes machinery and equipment associated with the food and drinks sector.
 Stocks hit new year's high in across-the board buying
Athens 30/11/2004 (ANA)Stocks finished higher to set a new year's high with players buying across the board in high turnover, traders said.
The Athens general share index closed at 2,672.27 points, showing a rise of 0.95 percent. Turnover was 183.1 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.72 percent up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 1.35 percent up; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 1.31 percent higher.
Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 180 to 106 with 74 remaining unchanged.
 Transport Minister discusses road safety issues
Athens 30/11/2004 (ANA)Transport and Communications Minister Michalis Liapis met with members of social organizations on Monday within the context of scheduled meetings regarding improving safety on Greek roads, with the aim of slashing traffic accidents in half by 2010.
During the meeting, Liapis outlined his ministry's strategy in improving road safety to be passed into law, entailing a series of measures aimed at modernizing the system by which new drivers are tested and issued drivers' licenses as well as stricter fines and penalties for violators and reckless drivers.
Among the measures proposed by the ministry is computerizing the theoretical segment of the drivers' exam at all test centers, while the practical segment will be held in the presence of observers, in order to minimize the incidence of under-handed transactions and corruption between examiners and those taking their driving test.
The ministry also intends to have drivers regularly tested in all vehicle categories.
During Monday's meeting, ministerial officials met with members of the Technical Chamber of Greece, the Association of Civil Engineers and Transport Experts, the Association of Professional Driving Instructors, and others.
 Health minister inaugurates new Health and Welfare Citizens Service Centre in Thessaloniki
Athens 30/11/2004 (ANA)Health and Social Solidarity Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis on Monday inaugurated the first Health and Welfare System Citizens Service Centre in Thessaloniki, designed to assist the public in solving day-to-day problems in its dealings with the national health and welfare system.
The Thessaloniki centre will operate for all of Greece on a pilot basis, providing information and guidance on all health and welfare services and copies of all printed matter issued by the health ministry, hospitals and institutions.
It will also provide advice on how to obtain documents needed for specific health and welfare-related benefits, health service job postings and other information.
Speaking to reporters, Kaklamanis asked them to inform the public about the existence of the centre, which will also process complaints and reports of problems in the health service with a view to improving procedure. He also asked the media to brief the public on the new emergency duty system for state hospitals in Athens, which he said aimed to eliminate the phenomenon of hospital overcrowding and ensure a better and quicker service for patients.
While in Thessaloniki, the minister also visited the newly-renovated ICU at George Gennimatas Hospital and the renovated psychiatric clinic at the AHEPA Hospital. During the visit, he announced that the government will be hiring 1,000 seasonal nursing staff and paramedics with eight-month contracts to cover the needs of ICU, coronary and kidney dialysis units around Greece.
In an announcement on Monday, however, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) slammed the government's new system for hospitals on emergency duty, saying that it did not address the causes of the problems in the least.
It called for more investment in the health system, urging the government to hire all the necessary permanent staff, create adequate infrastructure and develop emergency resources, with full funding from the state budget.
 Benaki Museum director inaugurates new branch
Athens 30/11/2004 (ANA)Benaki Museum director Angelos Delivorias inaugurated the museum's new branch in Athens on Monday to welcome the dedication to its founder Antonis Benakis, 50 years after his death, in a series of events due to last until January 30.
"When Antonis Benakis looks at us from where he is, he should feel pleased by the way with which we are continuing his work," Delivorias said.
The building, located in Pireos street, will be officially inaugurated by Prime Minister and Culture Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday.
 Slovak President: Inconceivable for Ankara not to recognize the Cyprus Republic
BRATISLAVA 30/11/2004 (CNA/ANA)Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic has urged Turkey to respond to European Union calls with regard to its obligations towards the Union, adding that it is inconceivable for Ankara not to recognize the Republic of Cyprus.
Speaking after bilateral talks with visiting Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos here on Monday, he also said that his government would not recognize ''under any circumstances'' the creation of a Turkish Cypriot state in northern Turkish-occupied Cyprus and he advocated a political settlement on the basis of international law and UN resolutions.
In his remarks at the joint press conference, Papadopoulos said that he had outlined his positions on the issues under discussion and repeated his firm stance that Nicosia has no objections to the start of accession negotiations between Turkey and the EU, provided that Ankara conforms with the obligations it has towards the Union and Cyprus as well, as a member state.
The two leaders led their respective delegations to talks, which lasted about one hour, during which they discussed bilateral issues, European Union concerns, the question of Cyprus, the ratification and putting into effect the European Constitution as well as other international matters.
Asked if he considers Cyprus's demands with regard to the start of membership talks with Turkey an issue on which the EU will decide in next month's summit, Gasparovic replied ''on this our opinions coincide, it is not possible for Turkey, which for the past 30 years has been asking for accession negotiations, not to meet the conditions given to it, it is not possible for Turkey not to recognize the Republic of Cyprus.''
''I have said in a crystal clear manner that we do not support, under any circumstances, the creation of a so-called Turkish Cypriot state, we back a solution in the framework of UN resolutions and we respect the outcome of last April's referendum'' he said, referring to the rejection by the Greek Cypriots of a UN solution plan (the Annan plan).
He said that neither the EU nor Turkey are now ready for the latter's accession.
In his opening remarks, he said that ''Slovakia believes in the initiative of the Republic of Cyprus to find a solution and resume negotiations''.
On Turkey's accession course, he said Papadopoulos and himself had agreed that Europe cannot continue to play a waiting game, expecting to see what the future will bring and added ''the time must come when the EU will have to say a clear yes or no to the start of accession negotiations with Turkey.''
He also said that no timeframe for Turkey's entry into the EU should be given, explaining that this was his personal view.
On bilateral ties, he said these were very good, but there was room for improvement, especially in investment.
The Slovak President announced the reduction by about 100 soldiers now serving with the Slovak contingent of the UNFICYP.
In his remarks, President Papadopoulos said traditionally good bilateral ties could improve further if all possibilities are exhausted, adding that he had extended an invitation to his Slovak counterpart to visit Cyprus officially.
He thanked him for the contribution of Slovak soldiers to UNFICYP and the efforts of the Slovak embassy in Nicosia in bringing the island's two communities together.
''I am very pleased with the understanding shown by the delegation of Slovakia, the warm atmosphere and the reiteration of mutual support among EU countries,'' he said.
On Turkey's accession course, the Cyprus president had this to say: ''We outlined our positions, we do not object to Turkey beginning accession negotiations, provided it complies with its obligations to the EU and to Cyprus.''
Responding to questions about moves by the government to resume negotiations, Papadopoulos said the government seeks to unify the country and explained that the Annan plan was rejected because it would not bring about this unification but it highlighted divisive tendencies in society and in various institutions.
''Nicosia is seeking to do away with these provisions in the plan which prolongs division, we are seeking from the UN, Turkey and others to resume the dialogue soon,'' he added.
He also referred to the many practical measures the government is taking towards achieving this goal of unification and pointed out that in the past 18 months about 5 million people have crossed from and into the southern government controlled part of Cyprus to the northern Turkish occupied part and not a single incident has occurred.
Responding to questions, Gasparovic said if and when Ankara fulfills all the EU criteria for entry into the Union, there will be no problem in accepting the country but today, he pointed out, it was premature to talk about accession of Ankara.
In his reply to the same question, Papadopoulos agreed with Gasparovic and said the EU Council said that Turkey will be assessed on the basis of the same criteria that applied for all other candidate countries.
 Cyprus has right to veto Turkey's EU course, notes Spokesman
NICOSIA 30/11/2004 (CNA/ANA)The Republic of Cyprus has the right to veto Turkey's accession path but this will be determined after a complete evaluation of the results of all European visits, as well as the contents of the conclusions and conditions, which will prevail until 17 December, Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said on Monday.
He added that Cyprus does not wish to exercise veto or prevent Turkey's European course as long as Turkey acts in a European manner, adding that efforts continue and in a coordinated manner to achieve the best possible result by 17 December when the European Council will decide on Turkey's European bid.
To a remark that the first draft of the conclusions on Turkey to be arrived at by the European Council were expected on Monday and how informed the government was on the issue Chrysostomides said ''efforts continue, the President's visits overseas continue, there is coordinated activity to achieve the best possible result by 17 December''.
Invited to elaborate, the spokesman said ''we do not wish to exercise veto, we do not wish to prevent Turkey's accession course, but on the
other hand, Turkey must act in a European manner for a smoother development in our region and to create conditions of peace and safety and surely lift the illegality, within the framework of EU principles''.
 Cyprus' main interlocutor is Turkey, stresses Cyprus Spokesman
NICOSIA 30/11/2004 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus' main interlocutor is surely Turkey, said Monday Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides, commenting on statements made by leader of the Republican Turkish Party in the Turkish occupied north, Mehmet Ali Talat.
Invited to comment on Talat's remark that the Greek Cypriot side wants to negotiate directly with Turkey, disregarding the illegal regime in the occupied north, Chrysostomides replied that the ''Republic's main interlocutor is surely Turkey''.
The Cypriot spokesman said the European Court of Human Rights has described the self-styled Turkish Cypriot regime ''a local subordinate administration to Turkey'' which is not recognized by anyone. Does Mr. Talat expect us to recognize it? Surely Turkey has the upper hand in the illegal creation in the occupied area of Cyprus'', he said.
Commenting on statements by Talat that the Greek Cypriots are preventing the economic upgrading of the Turkish Cypriots, the spokesman said ''this is nowhere near the truth''.
Chrysostomides explained the economic disparity in the occupied areas is a result of the occupation, of the 30 years of prohibiting the Turkish Cypriots to cross to the free areas, and by preventing any contact whatsoever between the two communities.
He also said that the adoption of the Turkish lira by the regime has resulted with the import of all of Turkey's economic problems.
He also said the Cyprus government has given the go ahead for the financial regulations on direct trade and financial assistance to the Turkish Cypriots amounting to 259 million euro. ''The Turkish Cypriot side insisted on adopting the regulation for direct trade simultaneously with that of the financial assistance, always aiming for political results'', the spokesman noted.
Furthermore, he said, the Turkish Cypriot side has, in substance, refused to make use of the possibilities provided by the regulation on trade and movement of goods through the Green Line, which has already been adopted and is under effect.
''Therefore Mr. Talat should not blame our side for these issues'', Chrysostomides stressed.