|Thursday, 22 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-01-11
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>January 11, 2006
 Finance minister congratulated by Austrian counterpart for Greek fiscal policy
VIENNA, 11/1/2006 (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)Austrian Finance Minister and European Union Council of Finance Ministers President Karl-Heinz Grasser congratulated his Greek counterpart George Alogoskoufis for Greece's fiscal policy during their prolonged talks here on Tuesday night.
Speaking to the Athens News Agency (ANA) in the Austrian capital after the talks, Grasser said that he had the opportunity to congratulate Alogoskoufis because "he lived up to a truly difficult situation and he had to handle the many high deficits of past years".
Grasser said that his impression, as well as that of many of his foreign counterparts, is that Alogoskoufis was really capable to tackle this problem. He added that his Greek counterpart told him that Greece's deficit could be below 3 percent in 2006. If this is so then he will have solved the problem of deficits, a target for which the Austrian minister wishes Alogoskoufis every success.
On his part, Alogoskoufis told the ANA that that the climate at the Council and the European Commission is positive for Greece because, as he said, they acknowledge the great efforts that have been made.
Alogoskoufis reiterated that the government's target is to implement the budget strictly so that the deficit will be below 3 percent in 2006 and it remains firm on this target.
The Greek minister further said that in his talks with Grasser he outlined for him the initiatives undertaken by the Greek government for reforms and to decrease the deficit, while they also discussed ways of cooperation in the coming months to enable results to be achieved for Europe, Austria and Greece.
 FinMin Alogoskoufis terms program of Austrian EU presidency 'ambitious'
VIENNA, 11/1/2006 (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)In statements here on Tuesday to ANA-MPA, Greek National Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said that in his talks with his Austrian counterpart Karl-Heinz Grasser, they discussed the entire program of the Austrian EU presidency, which, as he stressed, "is really ambitious and very useful both for Europe and for all countries, because it focuses on the two big problems of Europe."
That is, Alogoskoufis said, "firstly on competitiveness and development through the Lisbon Process, and the initiatives which the Austrian presidency is undertaking are important.
"Secondly, in the implementation of the Stability and Development Pact , which is of great importance for Europe because as it is known, many countries have a problem with the process of the excessive deficit."
On his part, Grasser told the ANA-MPA that "the Austrian EU presidency will try to process the important issues of the previous Council, such as the increase of prosperity in Europe, the creation of new jobs and a clear message to be given to the citizens."
Grasser said that he believed that "the most important objective is for a reorientation to be made in priorities and for citizens to be given real relief to their needs and an effort is being made for the confrontation of their biggest problems, which is unemployment."
 Molyviatis meets Belgium's de Gucht, discusses Cyprus issue, European affairs
ATHENS, 11/1/2006 (ANA)Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis met his Belgian counterpart Karel de Gucht in Athens on Tuesday for talks that covered the Cyprus issue, the future of the European Union and developments in the Balkans.
De Gucht, who visited Cyprus on Monday, stressed that solving the Cyprus issue was important not just for the island but also for the European Union and the wider area.
Concerning the ratification of the Ankara Protocol by Turkey, the Belgian foreign minister pointed out that the Protocol was "included in the agreement for the start of the accession negotiations" and that Turkey was obliged to comply with it.
Molyviatis said that there were "clear time schedules" and repeated that Turkey had to fulfill its obligations, just like any other EU candidate-state.
With regard to the future of the European Union, the Greek foreign minister stressed that the "time for contemplation" must at some point give way to energetic action and called for a resumption of the process for ratifying the European Constitutional Treaty.
"Greece believes in a Europe that is united not just in its economy and currency but also politically and in defense," he stressed.
De Gucht said that the agreement reached by EU leaders on the EU's fiscal prospects in 2007-2013 was a "positive message" and that, even if not ideal, it had overcome the fiscal impasse and created conditions from which all member-states could benefit.
The ministers were also asked to comment on the handling of incidents of avian flu in neighboring Turkey.
De Gucht noted that Turkish authorities were cooperating fully with those of the EU, while Molyviatis said that both the European Union and Greece - as Turkey's neighbor - were fully apprised of the problem and had taken the necessary measures.
Molyviatis also answered questions concerning Greece's candidacy for the OSCE presidency in 2009 or 2010, saying that Athens considered this a particularly important issue that it was promoting on a bilateral level.
 Gov't on proposed constitutional revisions
ATHENS, 11/1/2006 (ANA)The government spokesman on Tuesday was queried by reporters over the prime minister's recent announcement that he will seek constitutional revisions by the Parliament elected in the next general elections.
"The prime minister outlined the framework of constitutional revision - the most significant institutional intervention attempted by this new government - in his address during the last day of debate in Parliament regarding the (2006 state) budget," spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said, adding that Premier Costas Karamanlis will detail several of the revisions the government wants in a speech to ruling New Democracy's Parliament group.
Interior Minister on revision of constitution: The separation of church and state and redefining the role of the president of the republic will not be touched upon within the context of the constitutional revision the government is seeking, Minister of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Prokopis Pavlopoulos reiterated in an interview on Sky radio on Tuesday.
One of the issues that will be touched upon is allowing establishment of private universities, which however, will be non-profit institutions.
"They will, for example, either be branches of existing foreign universities, which are also non-profit organizations, or they could be institutions that are being founded for the first time in Greece," he said, adding again that the latter will also be non-profit organizations.
Private universities, like state universities, will fall under the state's jurisdiction, Pavlopoulos explained.
Regarding illegal political funding, Pavlopoulos said that this will involve three key points, but did not elaborate, saying only that "it is a matter of dialogue and collective effort."
He added that safeguards regarding funding of political parties by individuals, candidates' election campaign expenses and means declarations must be put in place.
 Govt's initiative to revise constitution irrelevant to real problems, SYN says
ATHENS, 11/1/2006 (ANA)The government's initiative to revise the Constitution is 'outside' the real problems, needs and priorities of Greek society, the Political Secretariat of the Coalition of the Left, Movements, and Ecology (SYN) party said on Tuesday.
SYN's secretariat which convened to discuss the issue, also said that the government will most likely proceed with a 'conservative' revision in order to "bring the Greek constitution in line with prevailing neo-liberal options" in Europe.
SYN will be officially presenting its views on the matter during a press conference scheduled for next week when Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will have concluded his meetings with political leaders to discuss the revision.
 PM briefed by nat'l defense minister
ATHENS, 11/1/2006 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday received National Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos at his office.
No formal comments were made afterwards, except for statements by the minister in response to reporters' questions over a series of recent deaths involving servicemen in border regions.
Spiliotopoulos, a former fighter pilot, merely noted that the recent incidents are few in number and also under investigation by the independent military judiciary.
In a related development, the head of the Supreme Court prosecutor's office, Dimitris Linos, on Tuesday ordered the exhumation of a 21-year-old reserve officer found dead the last day of 2005 in a remote area of the Evros border prefecture.
The serviceman had disappeared on Dec. 29 in the Pythio district, an area on the Evros River, which marks the land border between Greece and Turkey.
Linos ordered another autopsy on the victim following a request by the man's relatives, as well as a new ballistic report.
A first autopsy and report ruled the death of reserve lieutenant D. Souras a suicide.
 Papandreou accuses gov't of 'petty politicking'
ATHENS, 11/1/2006 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Tuesday accused the government of "petty politicking" to avoid the major problems it could not solve, with prime minister Costas Karamanlis' initiative to set in motion procedures for revision of the country's Constitution.
Addressing a meeting of the PASOK parliamentary group's coordinating committee, Papandreou said that the government, unable to tackle the major problems, was "tossing the ball into another court" and attempting to "change the agenda" with the Constitutional revision issue.
However, he added, the government had shown that it was unable to play ball in the economy's court, nor in the Constitution's court.
He further accused the government's officials of contradictory statements and contradicting goals.
Papandreou warned that in 2006, "just as in 2005", major problems would arise in the economy, "which is not in good condition due to the government's choices which, instead of leading to growth were leading to regression".
On the upcoming local government elections, he said the municipal and prefectural polls were a "wager of renewal" for PASOK, and a "wager of new prospects" for the local governments themselves.
Reviewing the parliamentary group's activities in 2005, he said the group had had a very good presence in parliament, but also more generally in all areas of the country. "We forged cohesion, unity and a serious presence, which was also indicated at the end of the year during the debate on the budget," he said.
Papandreou said that another of PASOK's achievements in the preceding year had been bringing politics back to front-stage, adding that the people were demanding much from PASOK, whose responsibilities were consequently increasing "because the people are looking to us once again, and we must once again become the great force of change".
 PASOK party leader addresses Coordinating Body meeting
ATHENS, 11/1/2006 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou, addressing a meeting of the party's Coordinating Body on Tuesday, referred to the Pakistani immigrant issue and was categorical on whether or not secret agreements exist.
Papandreou said that PASOK did not sign such agreements and, on the contrary, it abolished many secret agreements dating back to the era of ERE (the National Radical Union party that existed until the time of the military coup in the country in 1967).
The PASOK leader stressed that terrorism exists but the country cannot be a foreign intelligence services' free-for-all.
On the question of the Pakistani immigrants, and in light of Wednesday's Parliamentary debate, Papandreou said that there must be a full investigation and responsibilities should be attributed wherever they exist, but there must also be a guarantee for individual rights.
It was decided during the meeting that the new Municipalities and Communities Code, which will be discussed in coming days, must be voted against, while regarding Wednesday's meeting of the relevant Parliamentary Committee on the Pakistani immigrants' issue, PASOK decided to request that it should not be carried out in camera.
 Gov't on measures against bird flu
ATHENS, 11/1/2006 (ANA)The government on Tuesday referred to a European Union action plan, adopted last autumn, in response to press questions over the measures Athens is taking to deal with the spread of bird flu, as the first human deaths from the virus outside China and SE Asia were reported recently in eastern Turkey.
Spokesman Evangelos Antonaros noted that the Union has ruled against implementing new measures for the moment, whereas coordination by all relevant ministries is continuing and that the prime minister is being briefed on the issue.
He added that trucks entering Greece from Turkey are being disinfected, while bans are in place for the import of poultry from affected countries.
Meanwhile, health authorities in the northeast prefecture of Evros continued to take samples from migratory birds in the area, with 240 samples taken so far all coming back negative for bird flu.
Prefectural authorities in Evros also noted that cooperation with their counterparts in the opposite Turkish prefecture of eastern Thrace -- the province on the European side -- is continuing on a daily basis.
No particular cause for concern, agriculture minister says about bird flu: Agricultural Development and Foodstuffs Minister Evangelos Basiakos, referring to the bird flu issue, said on Tuesday that there is no particular cause for concern since all necessary preventive measures have been taken and the "urgent intervention" action plan is being implemented.
Basiakos said that apart from the measures that have been taken, in cooperation with the European Union, additional national measures have been taken. They include poultry kept by private individuals restricted to closed spaces, a ban on the sale of live poultry in street markets and a ban on the itinerant live poultry trade.
The minister further said that over the past three months support has been provided for Prefectural Veterinary Services and the Agricultural Development and Foodstuffs ministry's veterinary laboratories with additional staff, equipment and materials.
Relevant EU services expressed their satisfaction during their recent visit to Greece on the strict implementation of the emergency plan and the functioning of accredited Greek veterinary laboratories.
PM to meet with ministers regarding bird flu on Wednesday: Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will be meeting with Minister of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis and Minister of Agricultural Development Evangelos Basiakos on Wednesday to be briefed on the preventive measures adopted thus far regarding the bird flu virus.
The meeting will take place at 12 noon.
 Greece delivers aid for Katrina victims during special ceremony
11/1/2006 (ANA)Greece turned over $85,000 in aid for the victims of Hurricane Katrina that swept through the southeast United States last year, during a special ceremony held in Atlanta on Monday.
Deputy Foreign Minister Panagiotis Skandalakis represented the Greek government at the ceremony, which was organized by the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA).
Others attending the ceremony were US Ambassador to Greece Charles Ries, Greek Ambassador in Washington Alexandros Mallias, Greek Consul in Atlanta Lambros Kakissis, AHEPA President Gus James and others.
Noni Demesticha Skandalaki, representative of the "Panathinaiki" organization and Vice President of UNESCO's Greek National Committee and Yvette Jarvis, Vice President of the Friends of "Habitat for Humanity" in Greece and Athens municipal councilor handed over the check to the US-based Habitat for Humanity.
The funds will be used for housing those whose homes were destroyed by the hurricane.
 Foreign ministry gives account of Greek aid to tsunami victims
ATHENS, 11/1/2006 (ANA)The total amount of aid provided by Greece for the handling of the humanitarian crisis in southeastern Asia is expected to exceed 3.5 euros per person, and ranks among the biggest contributions internationally in accordance with the population, according to data publicized by the foreign ministry.
The concise account provided by the foreign ministry shows that the total amount of aid is expected to exceed 37.5 million euros.
The contribution includes two phases of humanitarian aid given bilaterally (16 million euros) and multilaterally through international organizations (10 million euros), as well as the third phase with a commitment for development activities amounting to 11.5 million euros covering the 2005-2007 period. The phase is already under way.
The data was publicized on the occasion of the first anniversary of the "successful intervention by Hellenic Aid", the foreign ministry said in an announcement.
 Greece will preside UN Security Council in September
NEW YORK, 11/1/2006 (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)Since January 1, 2006, Greece has entered the second year of its term as non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, while for the second time (for the period 2005-2006) it will preside the Council in September.
Greece's presidency at the Security Council will coincide with the start of the sessions of the 61st General Assembly of the United Nations.
Greece continues to hold the presidency of the Sanctions Committee for the Ivory Coast and Sudan, as well as the vice-presidencies of the Anti-Terrorism Committee, of the Sanctions Committee against Al Qaeda and the Taliban and the Sanctions Committee against Rwanda.
 FYROM FM to attend SEECP conference in Athens
SKOPJE, 11/1/2006 (ANA/MPA/N.Frangopoulos)Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva will be attending the meeting of foreign ministers of member countries of the South East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) to be held in Athens on January 24.
According to a statement issued by the FYROM foreign ministry, the upcoming meeting will focus on issues of regional cooperation as well as the EU prospects of member countries.
Greece currently holds the SEECP chairmanship.
 Calka Greeks in Georgia dwindling fast, human rights report shows
TBILISI, 11/1/2006 (ANA)The ethnic Greek community in Calka, Georgia is fast disappearing according to the annual report presented to the Georgian Parliament on Tuesday by Public Defender Sozar Subari, the state ombudsman monitoring human rights violations.
He said the community's numbers had dropped from 32,000 in the days of the former Soviet Union to just 1,684 at present, of which 1,200 were elderly.
The report said that the problems of Calka Greeks peaked in the second half of 2005 but that the Georgian government had taken measures to stabilize the situation, stationing special forces troops at villages where the population was mainly Greek. Included in the report is a detailed description of eight crimes carried out against Calka Greeks, including arson, robberies, squatting and murders.
The presence of the troops had put an end to attacks and robberies against the Greek inhabitants, who considered the presence of the troops vital to their safety, Subari said.
The report also notes, however, that the presence of the troops has angered the nearby Armenian population and led to a restriction of the Georgian troops movements outside the Greek villages.
The ombudsman also noted that the attacks were not triggered by inter-racial conflicts so much but were due to the concentration of refugees from other regions in Georgia on the one hand and the desire of criminal elements to appropriate the property of Greeks that had left Calka to emigrate abroad.
 Cabinet discusses bill for restructuring National Printing Office
ATHENS, 11/1/2006 (ANA)The inner Cabinet on Tuesday held a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to discuss a draft bill for restructuring the National Printing Office, which prints the government gazette.
Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said that the bill aimed to improve services to the public and formed part of the policy for the refoundation of the state.
The bill will give the public free access to all copies of the government gazette via the Internet.
It will also create a museum and library for the National Printing Office that will be open to the public, while book-binders and skilled craftsmen at the Printing Office will be able to offer seminars to young people interested in learning their craft.
 Half of public sector enterprises were loss-making in 2004, report
ATHENS, 11/1/2006 (ANA)Total revenues of the 48 public enterprises and organizations included in the 2006 state budget accounted for 8.8 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product in 2005, a report by ICAP said on Tuesday.
The report, on public sector enterprises's performance in the period 2002-2004, showed total capital of 43 enterprises (according to published results in 2004) were 34.5 billion euros, up 11.3 percent from the previous year.
The largest part of capital increase in 2004 was attributed to net fixed assets and capital increases in Hellenic Railways Organization, Public Power Corporation and Athens Bus Organization (OASA). Funding was covered by 57.3 percent through own capital (PPC and OASA), resulting to a slight improvement in the foreign and own capital index from 1.13 to 1.08 pct in 2004.
Sales reported by 43 public sector enterprises rose 11.3 pct to 13.2 billion euros, or 9.1 pct of total turnover in the corporate sector. Hellenic Petroleum led the increase with a 21.3 pct rise to 4.5 billion euros, helped by rising oil prices, followed by Public Power Corporation (5.8 pct to 4.1 billion euros.
Gross profit growth was 3.9 pct to 1.2 billion euros. Out of a total 43 enterprises, 27 suffered a decline in their gross earnings, while the country's corporate sector recorded a 7.9 pct growth. Average gross profit margin remained very low compared with the wider corporate sector (9.2 pct, 20.8 pct, respectively).
Operating results showed a widening of losses to 304 million, while a pre-tax profit of 22 mln euros in 2003 turned into a loss of 352 mln euros in 2004. Almost half of public sector enterprises were loss making in 2004. PPC recorded the biggest profits (405 mln euros) followed by Hellenic Petroleum (184 mln euros), while Hellenic Railways recorded the biggest losses (576 mln euros).
Gov't calls on state firms to curb spending: Deputy Finance Minister Peter Doukas on Tuesday called on state-owned companies to contain spending under the 2006 budget as part of the government's fiscal revitalization drive.
In a circular to the firms, Doukas emphasized that key points of fiscal policy in 2006 were streamlined spending and a ban on extravagance in order to avoid deficits.
As a result, loans allowed under the budget should be kept to a minimum and saving encouraged, he added.
 Gov't: New shopping times have boosted jobs
ATHENS, 11/1/2006 (ANA)Employment in the retail trade rose by 2.4% in the third quarter of 2005 against the previous year, showing that longer shopping hour had helped to boosted jobs in the sector, Deputy Development Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou said on Tuesday.
In addition, turnover maintained a sharp rate of growth in the third quarter of last year to total 3.4% versus a eurozone increase of 0.8%, Papathanasiou said.
"The official data shows that the new opening schedule has created new jobs and turnover is unchanged," he noted, countering the findings of a survey by the Association of Supermarkets Greece (SESME) released earlier in the day.
Supermarket association opposes plan for Sunday opening of shops
The Association of Super Market Enterprises of Greece (SESME) on Tuesday expressed the opposition of small family supermarket chains to plan to extending shopping hours on Sundays.
In a letter sent to Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, SESME said the Sunday opening of shops would not only lead to any increase of turnover but to higher costs for medium and small enterprises in the retail sector. Such a move would only benefit large multinational enterprises, the association said in its letter. SESME also noted that the introduction of new extended shopping hours around the country have not yet resulted to any increase in employment, but only to higher operating expenses.
 Gov't hopes renewable energy bill will pass by end-February
ATHENS, 11/1/2006 (ANA)Deputy Development Ministry George Salagoudis said on Tuesday that he hoped a government bill on renewable energy sources would be voted through parliament by February 27 when Greece hosts a European wind power conference.
In addition, in the first half of the year a bill would be advanced for creation of a hydrocarbon concession, research and exploration company to work on the state's account, Salagoudis told reporters in the northern port city of Thessaloniki.
 Papastratos unveils 100-mln-euro investment project
ATHENS, 11/1/2006 (ANA)Papastratos tobacco company, a member of Philip Morris International Group, on Tuesday announced plans to build a new production facility and main offices in Aspropyrgos, western Attica, worth 100 million euros.
The new plant will have a production capacity of 20 billion cigarettes annually, while the new facilities will cover an area of more than 40,000 sq. meters. Construction works will begin in 2006 and is scheduled to be completed in 2008.
Laurent Boissart, Papastratos' chief executive, said the investment plan was an excellent opportunity for expanding business activity in Greece while it expressed a long-term commitment of the company in the Greek market and underlined its confidence in the Greek economy.
The plan by Papastratos is the biggest foreign direct investment in Greece since the introduction of a new Development Law in 2004. Papastratos aims to strengthen its position in the Greek market in the long-term. Mr Boissart stressed the positive and effective contribution of Development ministry and other agencies in supporting the investment project. Under the plan, the Greek state will subsidise the project with 20 million euros.
Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas congratulated the company for its investment plan and expressed the hope that Papastratos would continue to absorb large sums of Greek tobacco products.
Papastratos was founded in 1931 and was acquired by Philip Morris International in 2003. It is the largest tobacco product company in Greece, selling brands such as Marlboro, Next, Assos, President, Old Navy, Philip Morris, L&M, Chesterfield and Muratti. Its workforce exceeds 1,000 persons. The new plant will employ 800 workers as the company is currently implementing a voluntary pension plan.
 European Commission decides to refer Greece and Italy to European Court on accounting systems issue
BRUSSELS, 11/1/2006 (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)The European Commission decided on Tuesday to refer Greece and Italy to the European Court for failing to implement a directive on the modernization of accounting systems.
European Union member-states had been obliged to incorporate the directive in their national legislation by January 1, 2005.
The Commission also decided to refer Greece to the European Court for failing to implement a directive on the restructuring and liquidation of credit foundations. The directive stresses that in the event of the bankruptcy of a credit foundation having branches in various member-states, the liquidation process is subject to one procedure activated in the member-state in which the credit foundation is headquartered.
 Farmers ask gov't to oppose European GM ruling
ATHENS, 11/1/2006 (ANA)A farmers trade group on Tuesday asked the government to seek the withdrawal of a European Union ruling that allows unrestricted cultivation of 17 varieties of genetically modified corn in Greece produced by a company named Monsanto.
The General Confederation of Farmers Associations of Greece (GESASES) said in a letter to the farm and environment ministries that the government should ask the European Court of Justice to bar Tuesday's decision by the EU's executive Commission.
"Greek farmers will battle to have a decision overturned that maligns and shakes the confidence of consumers in European output, hurts farmers and strikes a blow at the competitiveness of Greek farming," GESASES said in the letter.
 Opposition wants clarification on shipping
ATHENS, 11/1/2006 (ANA)The main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) on Tuesday sought clarification from the government on a rumored deregulation of ferry fares and abolition of age limits for the vessels.
PASOK deputies who are members of parliament's production and trade committee stated in a letter that they wanted the body to investigate the government's intentions following media reports that the two changes would be made.
The deputies noted that Greek and European citizens, especially island dwellers, should enjoy equal rights to safe ships and reasonable fares.
 ERGOSE tenders railway projects worth 540 mln euros
ATHENS, 11/1/2006 (ANA)ERGOSE, a subsidiary of Hellenic Railways Organization, on Tuesday announced a tender for seven railway projects, worth 540 million euros.
The projects, included in a plan to build a new high-speed railway line linking Patras-Athens-Thessaloniki and Edomene, include tunnels, overpasses and underpasses and track layout.
From the total budget of 540 million euros, 365 million euros are earmarked for projects in the Athens-Thessaloniki line and 175 million euros in the Kiato-Patras line.
ERGOSE said all tenders should be completed by the end of February.
 Former commissioner Diamantopoulou says it is imperative for EU to proceed in necessary reforms
SOFIA, 11/1/2006 (ANA-MPA/B. Borisov)Greece's former European Union commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou, in an exclusive interview to ANA-MPA on Tuesday, on the sidelines on an international meeting on the theme of competitiveness, held here under the auspices of Bulgaria's European Affairs Minister Meglena Kouneva, said that "it is clear that if by the year 2010 Europe does not proceed in necessary reforms, it will have serious repercussions in its competitiveness on a world level."
To a question whether "the Lisbon Strategy" remains only on paper and which was approved by the European leaders five years ago in the capital of Portugal with the purpose of directing developments in Europe towards "the economy of knowledge", Diamantopoulou said that in some European countries the ambitious strategy has proceeded very much, while in others, a little, and in the remaining, not at all. She said the main reason was the lack of commitments and consequently, sanctions for the member-states.
 Former PM Mitsotakis calls for capital gains tax on speculative trading
ATHENS, 11/1/2006 (ANA)Former Prime Minister and honorary New Democracy party president Constantinos Mitsotakis on Tuesday called for an immediate introduction of a capital gains tax on speculative trading in the Athens Stock Exchange.
Speaking to reporters, after a meeting with Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, Mitsotakis said all those gaining significant sums in very short periods of time in the market should be taxed and added that this practice was necessary to prevent speculative games in the stock market.
Commenting on the Athens bourse positive trend, the former prime minister said citizens should very very careful. Mitsotakis said he agreed with Economy and Finance Minister over a rapid introduction of changes in the operation of public state enterprises and noted that a quick introduction of reforms created the preconditions for a positive 2006.
Alogoskoufis told reporters that the government's economic policy was moving towards the right direction. He stressed that more speed was needed and noted that "things are difficult" and that "the government's economic policy will be tested in 2006".
 Citigroup Private Bank Greece ranked top in domestic private banking market
ATHENS, 11/1/2006 (ANA)Citigroup Private Bank Greece ranked first in services offered to customers with a portfolio of more than 10 million US dollars, or more than 30 million US dollars available for investments, a report by Euromoney magazine on Greece's private banking sector said this week.
Euromoney's survey, conducted for the second consecutive year, ranked Citigroup Private Bank Greece first on secrecy, and transactions security. The survey values both quality and quantity criteria of private banking services.
Citigroup Private Bank ranked second in the world category for "Best Global Private Bank". The bank earned 112 first positions, both in categories and regions, up from 96 in the previous year.
 Athens Bourse Close: Stocks rise in late institutional buying
ATHENS, 11/1/2006 (ANA)The Athens share index closed at 3,844.79 points, showing a rise of 1.20% to post a new five-year high. Turnover was 500.0 million euros, including block trades.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 1.30% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.87% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.41% up.
Of stocks traded, declines matched advances at 141 with 46 remaining unchanged.
Bond Market Close: Buyers lag sellers
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.216
 4.3R quake off Cephalonia, a 'usual phenomenon'
11/1/2006 (ANA)An earthquake measuring 4.3 on the Richter scale was recorded in the sea region off Cephalonia island on Tuesday morning, and seismologists said it was a "usual phenomenon" for the region.
Seismographers in Athens, Thessaloniki and Patras recorded the trembler at 10:10 a.m. west of Cephalonia.
According to the Thessaloniki Aristotelion University's Geophysics Laboratory, no aftershocks were recorded.
It is noted that a 4.5R earthquake was recorded in the same region last Saturday.
Aristotelion University seismologist Manolis Skordilis told ANA that the area was highly seismic, and the trembler was most likely "a usual phenomenon", given that there were no indications of exacerbation of seismic activity.
Replying to questions, he said it was extremely unlikely that Tuesday's quake was related to Sunday's powerful 6.9R earthquake off Kythira island.
Skordilis explained that the Kythira quake had emanated from an intermediate epicentral depth and consequently could not activate neighboring seismic faults, while the distance between Kythira and Cephalonia was also large. Consequently, it was exceptionally unlikely that the two quakes were related, he said.
 Aftershocks of Kythira earthquake "minimal to non-existent"
ATHENS, 11/1/2006 (ANA)The post-quake activity following the powerful 6.9 earthquake that struck Sunday between the islands of Kythira and Crete and jolted the entire eastern Mediterranean region has been "minimal to non-existent", the Thessaloniki Aristotelion University's Geodynamics laboratory said on Tuesday.
The Laboratory said that between early Sunday afternoon and Tuesday morning, the aftershocks were few, indicating that the 6.9R trembler had not been a surface quake.
It said that the largest in magnitude aftershock registered 4.0 on the Richter scale, emanating from the same epicenter south of Kythira island, and was recorded at 7:04 a.m. Monday, while the Laboratory's seismograph's recorded three further smaller aftershocks of magnitudes smaller than 4R.
"The post-quake activity is minimal to non-existent, given that the earthquake had an intermediate epicentral depth. The seismograms are so clear that they give the impression that nothing happened in the region just three days ago," Aristotelion University seismologist Manolis Skordilis told ANA-MPA.
Skordilis also reiterated that the Kythira earthquake had not caused activation of neighboring seismic faults, "something which potentially could have occurred if the earthquake had been a surface quake", and explained that in August 1999, when the destructive 7.6R earthquake struck in Turkey, increased seismic activity was recorded over the next few days in the neighboring faults in the northern Aegean.
"No seismic activity has been recorded thus far in any other areas in the country, whereas if the Kythira earthquake had been a surface quake, it is very possible that some seismic activation would have commenced in other areas," Skordilis said.
 Government denies Papazahos sent letter to environment ministry
ATHENS, 11/1/2006 (ANA)The government on Tuesday again denied that seismologist Vassilis Papazahos had sent a letter to the environment ministry that warned of Sunday's 6.9 Richter earthquake.
"There is no letter from Professor Vassilis Papazahos to the political leadership of the environment ministry, as we were informed," alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros told reporters.
A later report by Papazahos analyzing predictions of earthquakes in two other regions of the country had also not been addressed to the environment ministry's leadership, he added.
Concerning the seismologist's complaint that he had been refused a meeting with the environment minister, Antonaros urged reporters not to "jump to conclusions", while noting that he was not in a position to express an opinion on the meetings of individual ministers.
"The issue of earthquakes must be approached with a great sense of responsibility. Scientific research is the work of specialist scientists. Earthquake prediction, however, has not been practiced anywhere in the world. The state takes - in due time - all the necessary measures to protect the public from earthquakes that may occur within Greek territory. Greece is a country with high seismic activity and the state fully carries out its obligations, protecting the citizens with the required measures so that in case of danger there are no losses," he said.
 Evros River subsides after flooding thousands of hectares
ATHENS, 11/1/2006 (ANA)Thousands of hectares of farmland along the banks of the Evros River have been flooded before its waters started to subside below alert levels on Tuesday morning.
Water levels dropped after the banks were artificially breached at Pythio on Monday and two sluice-gates were opened in the same region. Authorities are still on standby in case water levels start to rise again, however, while Evros Prefect Nikolaos Zabounidis has requested a meeting with his counterparts in Haskovo, Bulgaria and Edirne in Turkey to discuss the situation and civil protection measures.
Flooding has been reported in 5,740 hectares spread out between Lavara, Kissario, Amorio, Tichero, Thymaria, Psathades in Didymotichos, Pythio, Trigono and other locations along the river shore.
In Psathades, residents are also experiencing trouble with their supply of drinking water after a pumping station flooded. Water is now being brought in water tankers supplied by the municipality, fire brigade and the army.
Macedonia-Thrace Minister Nikos Tsiartsionis has been visiting the flood-hit areas on Tuesday, accompanied by Eastern Macedonia-Thrace Region General Secretary Mihalis Angelopoulos.
Later on Tuesday, Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Evangelos Basiakos pledged that farmers affected by the Evros floods will receive immediate compensation within the next three months, both from the farmers' compensation fund ELGA and from the Emergency Needs Policy Planning (PSEA) funds.
Government teams are continuing on-the-spot inspections of the problems caused, while the latest estimates are that some 5,000 hectares of cereals and other crops have been inundated.
 European drugs watchdog's report encouraging for Greece, Parliament told
ATHENS, 11/1/2006 (ANA)A report on drug use in 2000-2004 released by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) was encouraging for Greece, though not for Europe, National Coordinator for Drugs Prof. Constantinos Ballas told a cross-party committee in Parliament on Tuesday.
Greece ranked in the lowest positions for drug use in the report, with the smallest and decreasing use of cocaine - unlike the majority of European countries - and the lowest use of hashish and synthetic drugs such as LSD, amphetamines and ecstasy.
The figures for Europe as a whole, however, showed that the goal of reducing drug-related deaths had initially yielded results but present numbers remained high in terms of improving long-term prospects and there were signs that the improvement might not continue.
Contributing factors, according to the report, were the unhygienic living conditions of many drug users and other diseases, such as AIDS and hepatitis C.
Commenting on the accuracy of this data, however, Ballas noted that the Greek police had confiscated 20,000 ecstasy pills in 2004 and this number had increased to 120,000 by May 2005.
He also noted that new users could no longer be categorized as users of just one drug but tended to take whatever they could find, often in combination with alcohol and "legal" tranquillizers.
 Police raid targets int'l migrant smuggling ring
ATHENS, 11/1/2006 (ANA)Police on Tuesday referred to the eradication of an international migrant smuggling ring trafficking individuals mostly from SE Asia into Western Europe and Greece via Turkey, following the arrest of a 33-year-old man in Athens.
According to reports, 31 forged and genuine passports were confiscated in the unnamed suspect's residence. Additionally, three illegal immigrants were also arrested during the raid.
Police said the ring first smuggled the illegals into Greece before placing them aboard Italy-bound ferry boats at the port of Patra with forged passports.
 Greek football teams in fixed odds betting games as of March
ATHENS, 11/1/2006 (ANA)The economy ministry and the sports undersecretary's office on Tuesday jointly announced that Greek first division football teams will gradually be included in the state-run football pools organization's (OPAP) popular fixed odds betting games "Pame Stihima" (Let's Bet) beginning in March.
The exact date will be announced by OPAP's board of directors, a press release noted.
The joint ministerial decision opening the way for Greek teams in the local fixed odds wagers awaits publication in the government gazette, the press release added.
Regarding the closely watched "incompatibility clause", the decision prohibits a team owned by an individual holding more than a 1-percent share in the joint company managing the "Let's Bet" game from being included in it, a decision that directly affects Intracom group founder Socrates Kokkalis, the president of Olympiakos Piraeus, last season's champion and cup-winner.
OPAP had repeatedly aired its displeasure in recent years over the fact that it was prevented from including Greek matches in its fixed odds betting pools, a ban that resulted in many Greek punters wagering with foreign multinational odds-makers, mostly via the Internet.
 Cyprus government hands over to Britain positions as regards Straw's visit
NICOSIA, 11/1/2006 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said that Foreign Minister George Iacovou on Tuesday handed over to British High Commissioner to Cyprus Peter Millet the positions of the Government as regards the visit to Cyprus of British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, that is the visit to take place with respect to the practice followed until today and to the sensitivities of the Cyprus Republic.
As regards information that Straw might arrive at the British Bases, Chrysostomides said that this is not an official visit but a working visit and that it is not important if he arrives to the Bases or not.
Invited to say if there is anything new as regards Straw's forthcoming visit to Cyprus, given the fact that there was a meeting on Tuesday between Iacovou and Millet, Chrysostomides said there was nothing new.
The spokesman recalled his statements on Monday that the government expects from Straw to respect its sensitivities as regards contacts to the occupied areas and that what was agreed during the visit of Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott to Cyprus should be observed, noting that Prescott accepted the sensitivities of the Government and did not meet with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat under circumstances indicating an upgrading of the pseudostate.
He said Iacovou handed over the positions of the government to Millet.
Replying to questions, Chrysostomides made clear that no invitation was addressed to Straw, but Straw expressed the intention to visit Cyprus and the government noted its wish for respect of the practice followed until today and of the sensitivities of the Cyprus Republic.
Replying to another question, Chrysostomides said that dialogue with Britain as regards Straw's visit goes on.
 British High Commissioner: the time for dialogue has come
NICOSIA, 11/1/2006 (CNA/ANA)Britain does not and will not recognize the self-styled regime in Cyprus' Turkish occupied areas, British High Commissioner in Nicosia Peter Millett said here on Tuesday in a statement, ahead of a proposed visit to the island by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.
Millett also said that the time for dialogue has come but this dialogue has to be with all sides if a meaningful resumption of negotiations is to take place, noting that ''the international community is ready and willing to assist but can only do so if it is able to engage with all sides."
His comments come in the wake of government calls to respect the Republic of Cyprus during the Straw visit. The government believes that there should be no move on the part of Britain during the visit that could be exploited by the Turkish Cypriot regime or interpreted as adding diplomatic clout or any hint of international recognition to the regime, which no other state but Turkey recognizes.
The High Commissioner noted the Cyprus government concern "about the Foreign Secretary's intention to call on the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community in his office" and recalled that calling on him in his office "has been the practice of senior visitors from the international community, including UK ministers, for many years."
"Such a meeting would not represent any change to the UK's firm policy of non-recognition of the regime in the north. Quite the opposite'', said Millett stressing that Britain does not recognize and will not recognize the regime.
Speaking to journalists, he pointed out that "now is the time for dialogue and discussion of the way forward."
Dialogue with and between all sides is vital, if we are ever to see a meaningful resumption of the settlement process, he said, noting that the Cyprus government has been stressing the need for any new initiative to be well prepared.
Millett said the Foreign Secretary is keen to visit Cyprus towards the end of this month and as the first visit to the island for a decade it demonstrates "the UK government's strong desire to enforce our countries' bilateral relationship and help in the pursuit of a Cyprus settlement to which both communities can agree."
The visit would provide the opportunity for "important bilateral business to be done" and Straw's meetings with President Papadopoulos and Foreign Minister Iacovou would take forward UN/Cyprus cooperation on a wide range of issues under the structured dialogue, agreed between London and Nicosia last year.
"We want this positive step to happen during January. Naturally the Foreign Secretary also wishes to discuss the potential for progress towards a Cyprus settlement with the leaders of both communities, and to look for ways in which the UK might help to move the process forward," Millett told the press.
 Greek Cypriot side ready to look into all potentials for the resumption of new initiative
NICOSIA, 11/1/2006 (CNA/ANA)The Greek Cypriot side is ready with good will to look into all potentials for the right resumption of a well prepared initiative to solve the Cyprus question, that will have prospects of success, Cyprus Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides has said.
Invited to comment on a statement by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Turkey will not negotiate the Annan plan, but another plan, Chrysostomides said on Tuesday he has noted Erdogan's statement but he does not know exactly what the Turkish Premier means.
"What is expected by Erdogan and what I think the Secretary General himself expects is to say that he has the intention to discuss the concerns of the Greek Cypriot community and make concessions, so as to take these concerns into consideration, as the UN Secretary General says or at least Prendergast in his report to the Security Council, in order to create the right climate for the resumption of the initiative," he noted.
Invited to say if the government will reply negatively in case the Turkish side asks for talks to start from the beginning, without the Annan plan, Chrysostomides said "I don't want to preempt this because it has not yet been set out as an official position of Turkey. At least it has not been outlined as an official position to the UN or the UN have made such a position known to us."
Asked if the Greek Cypriot side is willing to discuss this possibility, Chrysostomides said "we are ready with good will to look into all potentials for the right resumption of a well prepared initiative that will have prospects of success."
Invited to say if there is the possibility that Turkey is trying through this dialogue to get away with its obligations towards the EU on the Cyprus issue, Chrysostomides said "this is possible."
As regards statements by Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul that until the settlement of the Cyprus problem difficulties will constantly raise and that a comprehensive settlement is not possible to find with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, Chrysostomides noted Gul said nothing different than what he says contemporarily.
He said Gul "shows lack of will for the right resumption of process for a final settlement of the Cyprus problem that will take into consideration the Greek Cypriots' concerns, to secure support of a settlement plan by the majority of both communities and respond to the requirements and the interests of the Cypriots only and not any other country, including Turkey."
 Spokesman: UNSG Special Representative's role upgraded
NICOSIA, 11/1/2006 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said on Tuesday that the role of the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Cyprus and Head of the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission Operation on the island (UNFICYP) Michael Moller is upgraded.
Invited to say if Moller conveyed to Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos any message of the UN Secretary General or if anything showed up as regards the resumption of negotiations, Chrysostomides replied negatively.
He added that "Moller has an upgraded role in Cyprus that will be shown."
 Czech parliamentarians hope G/Cs and T/Cs will solve the Cyprus question
NICOSIA, 11/1/2006 (CNA/ANA)Members of the Czech parliament expressed here on Tuesday hope that the Cyprus question will be solved by the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots, without foreign interventions, and on the basis of the international law.
The Czech delegation comprising Deputy Chairman of the Committee on EU Affairs of the Senate of the Czech Republic Ludek Sefzig and members of the Committee Eduard Matykiewicz, Miroslav Skaloud and Alena Venhodova, met on Tuesday with Cyprus House President Demetris Christofias, who briefed them on the Cyprus question, referring inter alias to the reasons that led the Greek Cypriot community to turn down the Annan plan at the April 24, 2004 referendum.
According to an official press release, Christofias underlined that the Annan plan served more the interests of the foreign forces in Cyprus and not those of the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
We want to believe, he said, that the EU, as a defender of human rights will help so that Turkey will understand that it cannot impose its will through occupation in a country member of the EU.
House President and the Czech's officials agreed on the need of further enhancing the relations between the parliaments of the two countries, especially in the EU framework.