|Saturday, 17 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-01-17
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>January 17, 2006
 PM, PASOK leader hold first discussion on planned revision of Constitution
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Monday had their first discussion on the revision of the country's Constitution proposed by Karamanlis' ruling New Democracy party (ND).
"The purpose is to find common targets," Karamanlis said while greeting Papandreou at the Maximos Mansion (government headquarters).
Papandreou added that it was important for common targets to be found, but also focused on everyday matters on which, he said, the present Constitution provided solutions.
Karamanlis replied that there was always room for improvement.
During their meeting, Karamanlis briefed the main opposition leader on the government's proposal for the Constitution's revision. The issue is also slated for discussion on Tuesday at a meeting of the ND parliamentary group to be chaired by the premier.
After the meeting, Papandreou voiced support for a "bold revision", noting that he had Karamanlis had "exchanged views" on the issue.
Papandreou reiterated that many of the problems existing today could be solved with the existing Constitution, noting that such problems were related to the economy, unemployment, healthcare, and bureaucracy.
"The present Constitution does not hinder any government from exercising correct policies," he said.
Papandreou said his PASOK party would submit its own proposals, following serious study and deliberations with the citizens, so that the revision would be a bold one.
"We are in favor of a corrective revision," Papandreou said, adding that his party did not want to become embroiled in a meaningless, disorienting discussion.
He also said he was against a "petty political revision with a short range".
The revision, he stressed, needed to be for the citizen, and not the opinion polls, if it were to meet the needs of the future generations, while "we have our eyes also on the present, difficult reality".
 Government's goal is broadest-possible consensus, Roussopoulos says
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)The government's goal was to achieve the broadest-possible consensus for the planned revision of the Constitution, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said after the meeting between the prime minister and Papandreou on Monday.
He said the meeting was held to seek and establish a common ground, he added, while noting that Karamanlis will present his own views at a meeting of New Democracy's Parliamentary Group on Tuesday.
Roussopoulos said that the premier had laid down a framework for the planned Constitutional revision and more detailed proposals would be made on Tuesday, while the political parties had not yet presented their own proposals because "we are still at the start of the process".
 Govt's constitutional revision aims to eliminate social state, SYN leader claims
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) President Alekos Alavanos criticized the government on Monday over its initiative to revise the Constitution saying that the key objective "is to do away with the social state in Greece and to sell out public property".
Referring to the possibility of private universities being founded in Greece, Alavanos said "we must all react to that" since allowing the operation of private universities "effectively means turning over higher education to profit-making entities".
Finally, Alavanos called on "all progressive forces, forces from the main opposition PASOK party - which unfortunately agrees on this crucial issue of constitutional revision - to jointly react, to not allow the country to follow this path."
 Municipality and Community Union leader comments on constitutional revision
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE) President Paris Koukoulopoulos sees an opportunity for the enactment of decentralization in the upcoming revision of the constitution.
The KEDKE president said in a statement on Monday that "local administration states its 'presence' in the constitution's revisory process under way. This paramount state issue constitutes the golden opportunity, an opportunity which must be lost by no one, for a change in the structure of the state to go ahead, at last, and the enactment of decentralization in the name of which, in any case, all take oaths."
Koukoulopoulos further said that the country's growth, the needs of citizens and convergence with the acquis communautaire necessitate the adoption of radical positions aimed at, among other things, the upgrading of the role of local administration, the constitutional consolidation of second stage local administration and the consolidation and enlargement of the role of local administration in protecting the environment.
KEDKE has assigned a scientific committee of the Local Administration Institute to process and substantiate scientifically local administration's analytical positions in light of the constitution's revision.
 Greece to pledge ¬ 600,000 to global fight against bird flu
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)Greece will pledge ¬ 600,000 to the global fight against bird flu during International Pledging Conference on Avian and Human Influenza, Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis announced on Monday in response to press questions.
He said the money would be given by the ministry's international developmental aid organization Hellenic Aid, via the Greek health ministry delegation that will attend the conference in Beijing on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Stylianidis made the statements after a meeting with Bulgarian Deputy Regional Development and Public Works Minister Dimcho Mihalevsky in Athens.
A Greek delegation headed by Deputy Health Minister George Constantopoulos had arrived in Beijing on Monday to attend the international conference on bird flu.
Constantopoulos was accompanied by senior foreign ministry and health service officials.
The aim of the conference is to assess the needs that exist and support programs for coordinated action against bird flu in countries affected or at risk through a funding framework with the contribution of all countries.
During his visit to China, Constantopoulos will also have talks with China's health minister.
 Greek delegation in China for bird flu conference
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)A Greek delegation headed by Deputy Health Minister George Constantopoulos was in China on Monday to attend the International Pledging Conference on Avian and Human Influenza, which will be held in Beijing on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Constantopoulos was accompanied by senior foreign ministry and health service officials.
The aim of the conference is to assess the needs that exist and support programs for coordinated action against bird flu in countries affected or at risk through a funding framework with the contribution of all countries.
During his visit to China, Constantopoulos will also have talks with China's health minister.
 Health minister urges Greeks to avoid travel to Turkey due to bird flu
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis on Monday urged Greek citizens to avoid traveling to Turkey when possible as a precautionary measure against bird flu.
If a visit to Turkey cannot be avoided, Kaklamanis urged those traveling to closely follow health instructions contained in pamphlets available at the country's entry and exit points.
Kaklamanis' recommendations come despite assurances from Zsuzsanna Jakab, Director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Asked for advice by the health ministry, Jakab said that Greece does not need to close its borders with Turkey as a measure against bird flu.
Finally, the health minister announced that anti-viral medication Simetrel and Tamiflu has been ordered and will be received next week.
 Coalition party official says 1.5 billion dollars requested by WHO for bird flu must be collected
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party Political Bureau member and International Relations chief Panos Trigazis said on Monday, on the occasion of Tuesday's international conference in Beijing on the bird flu issue, that "it is necessary that the 1.5 billion dollars requested by the World Health Organization (WHO) for immediate actions against bird flu must be collected, but there must also be commitments on multilateral support for the work and a generous increase in the budget of the WHO, whose role is proving to be irreplaceable."
Trigazis further said that it must be realized that lethal diseases such as SARS and now bird flu "are linked to the great inequalities and to poverty in the world which must be combated. The fact that a third of humanity does not have access to basic medicines is a disgrace for the 21st century."
The Coalition party official added that "in addition, what is necessary is the redetermination of the meaning of security and the subsequent transfer of resources from world military expenditures, which currently exceed one trillion dollars, to build modern health systems, particularly in poor countries."
 Army scientists contribute in prevention of bird flu
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)The Army General Staff said on Monday that it has at its immediate disposal military personnel of about 200 scientists (veterinarians-technologists of animal produce) in 27 of the country's Prefectural Local Governments so as to contribute in the prevention and confrontation of possible cases of bird flu (avian influenza).
At the same time, being created are three joint ten-member Immediate Confrontation Groups, comprised of specialized bird pathologists of the Agricultural, Development and Foods Ministry, veterinarians of the Prefectural Local Governments and of the Army, for dealing with possible cases of the illness.
These Groups are set up:
- in Athens for the immediate transfer of personnel for the confrontation of possible cases in Attica, the Peloponnese, the Aegean Islands, the Ionian islands and Crete,
- in Larissa for the confrontation of possible cases in Thessaly, Epirus and central mainland Greece and
- in Thessaloniki for the regions of central, western, eastern Macedonia and Thrace.
The decisions taken by National Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos and Agricultural, Development and Foods Minister Evangelos Basiakos are within the context of the precautionary measures which Greece is taking for the confrontation of avian influenza.
 Greece and Bulgaria discuss cooperation in cross-border projects
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianides held talks with Bulgarian Deputy Regional Development Minister Dimcho Mihalevski on Monday to discuss cooperation in projects on the common borders between Greece and Bulgaria.
Among these were three infrastructure projects funded by the Greek Program for the Reconstruction of the Balkans (ESOAB) and funding of a study by the Democritian University of Thessaloniki for a system to give advance warning of flood risk along the Evros River.
Stylianidis said the projects discussed included an agreement for a new border-crossing at Ivailovgrad-Kyprinos to boost local trade, the building of a road from Komotini-Nymphaios to Kurdjali and a road from Xanthi to Rudozem.
The Greek ministry also plans to encourage Greek construction companies to take part in a project to improve the Thessaloniki-Sofia road, he said.
The three projects to receive ESOAB funding will be for the renovation and equipping of three Bulgarian hospitals that are near the border with Greece.
Stylianidis said the funds had already been approved and came to ¬ 1.2 million for the first hospital, ¬ 1.050 million for the second and ¬ 200,000 for the third.
 Greece, Italy join forces for EU development funding for small islands
17/1/2006 (ANA)Greece and Italy on Monday decided to join forces and jointly submit a specific plan of actions to the European Union for the exploitation of their small islands, aimed at placing the islands in a developmental orbit with EU funding. The decision was taken during a meeting in Athens between Greece's Minister for the Aegean Aristotelis Pavlidis and Italy's Regional Development minister Enrico La Loggia.
The meeting was held in the framework of initiatives undertaken by the Greek side for the establishment of an "island" designation as an individual criterion in the planning of funding under the EU Actions in the bloc's regional development programs.
Under the new provisions of the European Constitution, Pavlidis said, the idea has ripened for the provision of services to island inhabitants, and thus it was considered important to draft specific positions determining the EU's obligations regarding the small islands.
It was decided to set up a joint ad hoc committee for this purpose, which as early as February would begin to look into the issue and begin preparing specific proposals to be submitted to the EU.
Pavlidis expressed hope other member states concerned would join this bilateral Greek-Italian cooperation in the immediate future.
La Loggia said after the meeting that he was very satisfied with the cooperation between Greece and Italy on this matter, which he noted was taking place for the first time.
He said the Italian side also considered it very important to achieve better utilization of EU funds by 2013, as this would contribute to the development of the small islands but also to the solution of fundamental matters such as healthcare, via tele-medicine, waste management, etc.
Also attending the meeting were Greek finance ministry secretary general K. Mousouroulis and Italian ambassador to Greece Gian Paolo Cavarai, and the president of the non-governmental organization INSULEUR, which comprises the island Chambers of Commerce in the EU (45 members), Romano Mambrini.
 Main opposition must focus on citizens' 'real problems,' Papandreou says
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)The main opposition PASOK party must focus on citizens' real problems, party President George Papandreou told PASOK's Political Council on Monday.
He also stressed the need for the party to intensify its opposition tactics.
During Monday's meeting, Council members discussed and presented their proposals regarding work that needs to be done within the party's various divisions.
Referring to the constitutional revision, currently being promoted by the government, Papandreou said that it needs to be bold and with a forward-looking perspective.
He said that the committee charged with this issue will be set up during the Council's two-day meeting to be held in early February.
Finally, the council also discussed the bank robbery that occurred earlier on Monday in downtown Athens and resulted in the injury of three people - among them one of the bank robbers - concluding that crime seems to be on the rise recently.
PASOK's Coordinators will meet on Tuesday to discuss current events and cultural issues.
 Interior minister outlines human rights achievements in 2005
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)Minister of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Prokopis Pavlopoulos outlined the achievements made by the ministry in regards to human rights in a letter he sent to the National Human Rights Committee President Aliki Yiotopoulou-Maragopoulou on Monday.
In his letter, Pavlopoulos referred to the new legislative framework which concerns immigrants' rights and their social integration which safeguards foreigners' rights in the workplace.
Another achievement according to Pavlopoulos is the continued implementation of the Comprehensive Action Plan (OPD) which concerns the social integration of the Roma group. The program's main objective is to help the Roma minority become socially integrated while preserving their cultural characteristics.
The program's key points are ensuring decent housing and provision of services in sectors such as education, health, labor, culture and sports.
 KKE leader on local gov't elections, bird flu virus
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)Communist Party of Greece Secretary General Aleka Papariga voiced her views on local government elections and the bird flu virus during her speech delivered in Ioannina, western Greece on Monday.
"Local government elections are just as important as parliamentary elections," she said, adding that "while the former do not lead to the election of a government (...) they do define the correlation of forces within an institution that is the right arm of the state and of anti-popular governments."
She accused ruling New Democracy, main opposition PASOK and the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) parties of methodically trying to break down the various problems facing the country until "they are devoid of political essence."
According to Papariga, regional elections are a great opportunity for the people to weaken ND and PASOK and to strengthen KKE which will support the popular movement.
The KKE secretary general also referred to the anti-communist memorandum making its way through the Council of Europe, saying that it is a document which strikes a blow to peoples in general, not just communists.
On the issue of the bird flu virus, Papariga said that KKE was promoting two sets of measures: one involved protecting poultry breeders, particularly cooperatives and small producers so that poultry does not end up being imported by large, multinational companies making inspection and control more difficult; the second concerns infrastructure in regards to public health and the ability to address not only obvious epidemic risks but any future hazards as well.
Papariga demanded the adoption of custom measures according to region, with particular emphasis in northern Greece and the Aegean in order to protect the country from possible bird flu cases.
KKE, she said, was not in a state of panic over this issue.
 Defense Minister Spiliotopoulos meets Russian Ambassador Vdovin
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)National Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos met on Monday with Russian Ambassador to Athens Andrey Vdovin.
According to a Defense Ministry announcement, the two men discussed bilateral issues, while the Russian envoy expressed the Russian side's satisfaction over the course of Greek-Russian defense cooperation.
Vdovin also introduced to the Greek defense minister Russia's new Defense Attache to Athens, Colonel Gennady Mozhaev.
 Athens Mayor Bakoyiannis on contribution of the Municipal Police
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyiannis, in a press conference on Monday, referred to the contribution of the Municipal Police to the citizens and city of Athens.
Bakoyiannis said that "in the almost three years of operation of the Municipal Police with its new form, it has shown enormous social usefulness for the city and constitutes a friendly institution towards the citizen."
The mayor of Athens noted that "gradually, the initial suspicion by the citizens has been converted to cooperation for the good of the city."
She said that the Municipal Police "also contributes decisively in the protection of the environment."
She underlined that on a daily basis, the Municipal Police conducts 154 patrols, both in the central streets of the city and in the capital's neighborhoods.
 Athens Bar Association opposes CoE memorandum
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)The Athens Bar Association (DSA) in an announcement on Monday noted that the memorandum of the Political Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe "foresees the prohibition of the operation of the communist parties".
In particular, the DSA in its announcement said:
"The basic ingredient of every Democracy is the existence and operation of parties in the framework which the Constitution with final judge the people who approve or disapprove, the hour of judgement. The self-declared judges and their efforts to shape history on the basis of their personal evaluations, condemning ideologies, constitutes a dangerous practice, which does not suit countries with a long history of gains through bloody struggles for Democracy and Freedom. Everybody in a democratic country is free to express his views."
 Key Sino-Greek business priorities before PM's China visit
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)Tourism, logistics and telecoms are viewed as key areas of interest for business cooperation between Greece and China ahead of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' visit to China starting on Wednesday.
According to a survey by the state Greek Investment Centre (ELKE) released on Monday, other fields of interest are industry, especially food and beverages, and education.
In tourism, the main aim would be to attract Chinese sector investment and tourists. Already, a company named Eastin may plough funds into a five-star hotel, the chain's first in Europe.
Concerning logistics, two major Chinese transit trade firms are eyeing Greek port facilities as a gateway to European markets. Cosco is negotiating with the Thessaloniki Port Authority, and China Shipping Line is believed to be seeking facilities in Crete.
Many Greek shipowners commission the construction of new ships in China, acting as a powerful negotiating tool to bring sector firms to Greece.
In telecoms and information technology, the operations of ZTE Corporation, which has invested about three million euros in Greece so far, could be strengthened both in Greece and the Balkans. It plans to set up a training and demonstration centre for the Balkans.
The company worked with Athens-quoted Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) during the Athens 2004 Olympics.
Other sector companies in the Greek market are Huawei (telecoms and infotech), and Lenovo, which operates in computers and has forged an alliance with IBM Hellas.
Among Greek companies with the longest presence in China are Kyriakidis Marble & Granite; ETMA; Folli-Follie; Cretan Plastics; S&B Minerals Industry; and Promota Hellas.
The firms' total investment in the Chinese market was 139.16 million euros on December 31, 2004 against 71.9 million euros at the end of 2003.
Greek commercial firms operating in China include Lavipharm through a subsidiary, Castalia Laboratoirs Dermatologiques, since 2004.
According to the survey, the most recent Greek operations to enter China are Iktinos Hellas, and Soumelidis.
ELKE says that it has worked with the following Chinese companies that have shown interest in Greece: Chongqing Zong Shen Motorcycle Group Corp; Jiangmen Jincheng Motorcycle Corp; Beijing Chargeking Energy Technology Co; and Wenhao Technology.
The investment centre noted in the report that it hopes to offer know-how to China for creation of a Business Club during the Beijing Olympics modeled on experience of the Athens Games.
A proposal is being drafted following a recent meeting to China by Deputy Foreign Minister Euripides Stylianidis and contacts with Beijing municipal officials, ELKE said.
 Gov't announces support package for poultry industry
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)The government on Monday announced a package of measures aimed to support the ailing domestic poultry industry, currently reeling from the threat of a bird flu epidemic in neighboring Turkey.
Labor Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos and Agriculture Deputy Minister Alexandros Kontos, signed the measures, which include:
- a temporary suspension of social insurance contributions for a period of 13 months (September 1, 2005 to September 30, 2006) and favorable payment procedures in the future,
- a rescheduling of past debts by the industry (including write-off of 50 percent of added fees),
- suspending all enforced measures (both administrative and legal) against firms and producers in the sector.
Speaking to reporters, Kontos again echoed health officials' statements, namely, that there was absolutely no danger from consuming Greek products.
 Greece expects more Austrian tourists in 2006 17/1/2006 (ANA)Greece expects a significant increase in tourist arrivals from Austria this year, National Tourist Organization said on Monday after completion of a four-day international tourism fair in Vienna.
GNTO said Austrian visitors to Greece were expected to surpass 600,000 in 2006. Greece participated in the tourism fair with the second largest pavilion and attracted the majority of the fair's 150,000 visitors.
Speaking to ANA-MPA, Greek tourism organization office head, Manolis Dialynas, said Austrian tourist arrivals to Greece were expected to rise by 5.0 percent this year compared with 2005. He said Greece would be the honored country in Vienna tourism fair in 2007.
Greece is one of the most attractive travel destinations for Austrians.
 Commission on Friday OKs purchase of Q-Telecom by rival TIM Hellas
BRUSSELS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)The European Commission on Friday approved of Q-Telecommunications' ("Q-Telecom") joint acquisition by TPG Advisors IV and Apax Partners Holdings, the private investors that currently jointly control the third largest Greek mobile telephony supplier, TIM Hellas.
Q-Telecom is the fourth and smallest mobile telephone operator in the country.
According to a press release issued on Friday on the Commission's website, "after a thorough investigation the Commission has concluded that the operation will not result in a significant impediment to effective competition in the European Economic Area or any substantial part of it."
The Commission noted that TPG IV is a US-based private equity investment fund which invests in a variety of sectors, whereas Apax is the parent of a number of private investment management and advisory companies dealing with private equity investments in Europe.
 Alpha Bank unveils ambitious 5-year strategy plan
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)Alpha Bank aims to "conquer" much of the Balkan banking sector by 2010 through autonomous growth as well as with mergers and acquisitions - if opportunities appear -- according to the Athens-based banking group's strategy plan, presented to institutional investors on Monday in the Greek capital.
Presenting the plan, Alpha Bank's chief executive Dimitrios Mantzounis said it aimed to raise its return over capital rate to 28 percent by the end of the decade and to maintain a 20 percent increase in earnings per share for the period 2006-2008.
Mantzounis noted that Alpha Bank aimed to become a benchmark bank in the wider Southeast European market, with a population of 60 million euros which was rapidly growing and offered significant opportunities. To achieve this goal, Alpha Bank would more than triple its branch network to 1,200 units by 2010 and to raise its market shares to more than 10 pct in Southeastern Europe and 15 percent in the wider area, including Greece.
Alpha Bank plans to raise its domestic branch network to 480 by 2010, from 383 currently, and to 720 throughout the Balkans from the 176 branches it operates today. Profitability is expected to reach 1.2 billion euros, from 500 million currently.
Mantzounis said the bank aimed to raise its share in the domestic credit market to 16 percent by 2008 and said the country's credit market was expected to grow by an average annual 29 pct (consumer), 24 pct (mortgage) and 11 pct (business loans) in the period 2006-08, while interest rate margins were expected to fall gradually.
Alpha Bank said its total workforce would reach 12,600 by 2008, an increase of 1,100 from current figures, or around 13 per branch unit.
Mantzounis said the Greek banking market won't be much different in three year's time and said Alpha Bank would closely examine the Emporiki Bank case when and if more details of the bank's privatization would be offered. He noted that a current opening hours regime was very restrictive and urged for a realistic solution through a consensus with bank employees.
 President meets deputy finance minister Folias
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Monday received Deputy Finance Minister Christos Folias to discuss the drive to attract investments.
The president expressed hope that bureaucratic obstacles to investments would soon be overcome and Folias underlined that the government's desire to promote investment, placing emphasis on simplifying procedures.
 Changes in public utilities will be ineffective, union leader says
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) President Christos Polyzogopoulos, commenting on Monday on changes being planned for public utilities, said they will be ineffective. He was speaking before the beginning of a Political Council meeting of the main opposition PASOK party.
"I believe that all these changes will be ineffective unless there are operational plans and business agreements with the employees which will support these plans," he said.
"Otherwise, we shall have the recycling of a function which will lead, unfortunately, to disdain for the public corporation," he added.
Replying to a question on the possible lifting of permanence for newly-hired employees in light of the revision of the constitution, Polyzogopoulos said "I believe that such an issue cannot be raised in light of the revision of the constitution."
 European Commission decides to refer Greece to European Court for two cases concerning cars
BRUSSELS, 17/1/2006 (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)The European Commission decided on Monday to refer Greece to the European Court for two cases concerning the car sector.
The first case concerns the imposition of Value Added Tax (VAT) on insurance policies for road safety and the second one assessment duties for second hand cars.
Following the country's failure to amend its legislation, after receiving a relevant notice, the Commission reached its decision to take the cases to the European Court.
 Drama prefect dismisses idea of wage freeze
17/1/2006 (ANA)A more-or-less radical proposal by the president of the industrialists' federation to freeze wages in a handful of northern Greece prefectures long plagued by high unemployment garnered a response on Monday by a prefect in one of the affected regions.
Drama Prefect Konstantinos Evmiridis called on Federation of Greek Industries' (SEB) president Odysseas Kyriakopoulos to table other proposals towards solving economic and business setbacks affecting the prefecture -- the eastern-most in the Macedonia province.
Among others, the prefect called for special investment incentives, such as subsidizing social security contributions.
However, he dismissed the notion that a wage freeze would help the situation or create more jobs.
 Banned insurer seeks return of license to operate
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)Insurer Astra and its shareholders said on Monday that they had appealed to the Council of State, the country's highest administrative court, to seek reversal of a government move to withdraw the firm's founding and operating license.
Withdrawal of the license was ordained by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas on January 4 for the firm's alleged inability to ensure timely payments to customers and staff, Astra said in a statement.
The company claims the minister's decision was unconstitutional.
 Cyclon Hellas to buy companies in Bulgaria, Romania
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)Cyclon Hellas SA on Monday announced a board decision to purchase two companies in Bulgaria and Romania, part of its expansion in the Balkan and East European markets.
Cyclon said it planned to purchase Bulgaria Automotive Products Ltd. and Kartex Trading Srl in Romania, both oil product distributors.
Moore Stephens has completed a due diligence inspection of both companies, while SOL SA is expected to complete an evaluation report to determine the value of the purchase.
Cyclon Hellas said the purchases would be financed with the proceeds of an asset liquidation of Avin Oil Trader, currently under liquidation.
Cyclon Hellas said a subsidiary company, under the name Arcelia Holdings Ltd., would buy the two companies in Bulgaria and Romania.
 Greek-owned banks account for 20% of Bulgarian market's assets
17/1/2006 (ANA)Greek and Austrian banks own 40 percent of the Bulgarian financial market's assets (each holding a 20 percent stake), with their banks reporting significant profitability rates in contrast with domestic owned banks' lower rates, a report by the central bank of Bulgaria BNB noted on Monday.
The report, covering the period of the first nine months of 2005, said Bulgarian-owned banks were struggling to improve their financial situations. Unionbank reported a return over asset rate (ROA) of 2.45 pct at the end of September 2005, significantly higher compared with a 0.78 percent average rate in Bulgaria. Several Bulgarian banks are expected to change hands this year, lowering the share of Bulgarian-owned institutions to 23.5 percent of the total market.
Greek-owned banks operating in Bulgaria accounted for 20 percent of the market with an average return over asset of 1.75 percent.
 Three bids in OPAP's IT supply tender
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)Three companies have submitted bids in a 200-million-euro international tender to supply, install and offer technical support of a new IT system for Greece's state-run and bourse-listed Soccer Pools Organization (OPAP), the organization announced on Monday.
The three bidders include Intralot SA, GTECH Corporation-GTECH Global Services Corp. Ltd. as well as Scientific Games International, INC-Scientific Games Worldwide Ltd.
All three bids will be assessed by an evaluation commission.
 No buyout for Hellenic Exchanges
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)Athens-quoted Hellenic Exchanges SA, which owns the Athens Stock Exchange, said on Monday that no private equity fund had made an acquisition approach.
The company was responding to an article in Investor's World of 14/1/2006 that claimed a large international fund was planning to acquire the Greek markets operator.
"Management of the Company, as part of its policy of regularly informing investors and shareholders, is actively participating in road shows and regularly gives presentations to foreign institutional investors, whose participation as shareholders has increased considerably and is now above 25%," Hellenic Exchanges said in a statement.
"Management reports that none of the meetings-presentations were to consider the possibility of a buyout of the Company by a private equity fund, or by any other interested party," the statement said.
 Athens Bourse Close: Stocks rise in across-the-board buying
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)The Athens share index closed at 3,941.12 points, showing a rise of 1.33%. Turnover was 346.6 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 1.43% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 1.90% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.90% up.
Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 205 to 81 with 41 remaining unchanged.
Derivatives Market Close: Intracom top in stock futures trade
Bond Market Close: Buyers match sellers
Foreign Exchange Rates: Tuesday
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.220
 Three injured in bank robbery shootout in central Athens
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)Three people, including one passer-by, were injured in a shootout after a bank robbery at a branch of the National Bank of Greece in the centre of Athens at 12:50.
A bank security guard and one of the four armed robbers were injured in the abdominal region and chest, respectively, while a passerby was shot in the leg by a ricocheted bullet. All three were taken to the Athens State General Hospital, where the security guard is currently undergoing surgery.
According to eye witnesses, four men in black entered the bank just before 13:00 and held staff and customers at gunpoint, forcing them to hand over a significant sum of money before leaving on foot. They were followed by the bank security guard, however, who caught up with one of the men in the Hatzichristou arcade just before Panepistimiou Street.
The security guard called on the robber to surrender but the latter attacked him and they exchanged fire, injuring each other and a passing lottery-ticket seller.
The other three men managed to escape onto busy Panepistimiou Street with the loot of the robbery, where they tried to hijack an environment ministry car by shooting at the glass to get the driver and passenger out. They found their way barred, however, by a Syntagma police station patrol car and other police cars that quickly arrived on the scene.
As police tried to get members of the public to safety, more shots were exchanged and the robbers managed to get away. Reports that one of the robbers was injured in the second shootout have not been confirmed by police, who have now launched a hunt for the other three robbers.
According to authorities, the man in custody is a 28-year-old that has been brought in for suspected participation in violent incidents before. Police are also investigating the possibility that the four men that took part in Monday's robbery are in fact members of the five-man "gang of in black" that have carried out six major bank robberies in the past two and half years, whose total loot is estimated to exceed ¬ 500,000.
 Primary trial-fixing suspect Yiossakis appears before examining magistrate
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)A defrocked and jailed Orthodox Archimandrite at the centre of an alleged trial-fixing ring finally appeared before a special appellate-level examining magistrate on Monday to provide a deposition in the case, following three extensions.
Iacovos Yiossakis submitted a 60-page memorandum in response to an indictment reading over 49 pages. According to reports, his deposition - a customary legal procedure preceding criminal trials -- is expected to last days.
Yiossakis is charged, among others, with money laundering of proceeds gained from illegal activity, fraud in Greece and abroad, attempted fraud, bribery, moral complicity in breach of duty and establishing a criminal racket.
The incarcerated cleric again jumped onto the local headlines last week by filing a lawsuit against a high-ranking judicial magistrate and after alleging to a "cover-up" in the ongoing investigation of the unprecedented trial-rigging furor. He claimed that at least three other individuals -- including Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis' wife, attorney Christina Valinaki-Haratsari -- should have been charged as well.
 Exhibition on Parthenon Marbles to be held in Frankfurt
FRANKFURT, 17/1/2006 (ANA-MPA)An exhibition by the Greek Culture Ministry and the Melina Mercouri Foundation on "The reunification of the Parthenon Marbles-Cultural mandate" will be presented at the Frankfurt Town Hall from January 19 until February 5.
Organizers hope to inform the citizens of Europe on the request of Greece, as well as of hundreds of distinguished and well-known people, also from Britain, for the return of the Marbles to the place where they were created.
The exhibition has a particular interest following the recent positive development on the Parthenon Marbles with the expressed positive intention of the Heidelberg University to return a piece of the Parthenon's frieze to Greece this year.
A similar exhibition has been held successfully in the past at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, the Athens Concert Hall, the European Parliament and UNESCO.
 EKO gas company teams up with School of Fine Arts
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)Fuel company EKO ABEE announced its partnership with the School of Fine Arts during a special ceremony held on Monday evening and attended by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and Deputy Ministers George Salagoudis and Yiannis Papathanassiou.
EKO has agreed to buy a certain number of artworks created by new artists selected by the school. The artwork will be featured in the corporate calendar.
In his speech, Sioufas referred to the importance of this cooperation by rewarding young artists and bringing the business community closer to society and particularly closer to young adults.
The 2006 calendar will feature the work of 13 artists.
 Opinion poll focuses on public's stance towards drug use, users
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)A latest opinion poll on the issue of illegal drug user and drug users shows increased concerns by the public over the use of heroin and cocaine, but reduced worries over the consumption of tobacco and alcohol.
Results of the poll, conducted by the VPRC firm for the Athens-based Addicted Persons Therapy Centre, were released on Monday.
According to results, 41 percent of respondents believe the family can help a drug user stop consuming illegal narcotics, whereas a 91 percent said they would offer a rehabilitated user a job.
Additionally, 63 percent would not be against the placement of detox centers in their neighborhoods.
 Deputy sports minister to give awards to seven athletes and three clubs for fair play
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)Deputy Sports Minister George Orfanos will give awards to seven athletes and three clubs on Wednesday for character, good sportsmanship and adherence to the principles of fair play. The awards will be given during the inauguration of the photography exhibition titled "Sports, tolerance and fair play" which will last until January 31.
Fifteen photographers from 19 countries will be providing a visual concept of fair play, while the exhibition has already been held in 13 countries and its next stop will be Turin, where the 20th Winter Olympic Games will be held.
The athletes to receive honors are Emilios Papathanasiou (sailing), Alexandros Nikolaidis (Tae Kwon Do), Popi Astropekaki (athletics), Constantine Skeparnakos (Pangratio), Angelos Zafirakis (soccer), Constantine Fykas (paralympic swimming) and Dimitris Konstantangas (Paralympic athletics), while the clubs are Ergotelis, Haidari and Aetos Alpochori Ilia.
 Greek soccer results
ATHENS, 17/1/2006 (ANA)Olympiakos Piraeus confirmed its league-leading championship pace on Sunday by downing Panathinaikos Athens 3-2 in the Greek first division's so-called "eternal derby" between the two bitter cross-town rivals.
Olympiakos' victory, aided by two goals from Brazilian superstar Rivaldo, gives it a 12-point lead over Panathinaikos and more-or-less ends the latter club's championship hopes for the current season.
AEK Athens, Greece's other major club, meanwhile, stayed close to Olympiakos with another last-minute win, overcoming a mediocre Atromitos Athens side 2-1 Saturday night at Athens' Olympic Stadium.
In other action:
PAOK Thessaloniki-Xanthi 1-0
Iraklis Thessaloniki-Akratitos Athens 1-0
OFI Crete-Apollon Kalamaria 1-2
Ionikos Piraeus-Levadiakos 2-0
Larissa-Panionios Athens 1-0
Egaleo Athens-Kallithea Athens
(to be played on January 22)
The standings after 16 games:
Egaleo 19 (15 games)
Apollon Kalamaria 19
Kallithea 9 (15 games)
 Straw's visit might be postponed, Cypriot FM says
NICOSIA, 17/1/2006 (CNA/ANA)Cypriot Foreign Minister George Iacovou believes that if no solution is found to the dispute which arose over the venue of British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, then his visit will be postponed.
Replying to questions on Monday, the minister said British High Commissioner Peter Millet has not asked for a meeting to discuss Straw's visit.
Asked if there is a possibility the visit may be postponed, Iacovou said ''the situation remains as it was last week, that is both sides have expressed their positions.''
Invited to comment on reports that Straw might postpone his visit, the Cypriot minister said Straw was the one who suggested the specific date. The proposed date was January 24 with departure on the 26.
''I presume if no solution is found, the visit will be postponed,'' he added.
Replying to questions, the minister expressed the view that the reaction on the island towards the whole issue is unnecessary.
The Cyprus government objects to Straw meeting Tatat at the so-called presidential palace in Turkish occupied Cyprus. Britain says there should be no problem for the meeting to take place there, as this is the office of the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community.
 FM Iacovou says there is contact with the occupied areas on bird flu
NICOSIA, 17/1/2006 (CNA/ANA)Cypriot Foreign Minister George Iacovou said he has assurances that all preventative measures to protect the public from a possible avian influenza (bird flu) outbreak have been taken.
In statements on Monday, the minister said that there is communication with the professional and scientific staff in the Turkish occupied areas and cooperation through the UN to handle such an eventuality.
Asked whether there is a possibility that the two cases in the occupied areas of persons hospitalized could prove to be due to avian influenza, Iacovou said the EU could intervene, like it does elsewhere, if the reports were justified.
''However, the competent ministers, directors, and officers are satisfied that through the exchange of contacts there is an exchange of information and we would know in time to provide all technical assistance necessary to handle such possibility,'' he said.
He added that these contacts have been held through the UN for the past 30 years.
 Cypriot FM says representations over UNDP fund will not be exhausted
NICOSIA, 17/1/2006 (CNA/ANA)The Cyprus government's reaction over the establishment of a Trust Fund by the UNDP program for the development of the Turkish occupied areas will not be exhausted in a single representation.
The statement was made here on Monday by Foreign Minister George Iacovou, who was replying to a question.
''It is only Monday, the representations were made, they will continue. We will not abandon the issue with a mere representation,'' the minister added.
The UN had said that development activities and specific donor contributions to the Trust Fund established by the UNDP for the Turkish Cypriots will be subject to consultations with the government of Cyprus.
The Cypriot government had said last week it will make representations on the highest level if the UNDP's decision to set up a fund for the development of the Turkish Cypriot community was taken without the government's consent.
 Ireland seeks to further enhance its good relations with Cyprus
NICOSIA, 17/1/2006 (CNA/ANA)Ireland is seeking to further strengthen its relations with the Republic of Cyprus and has expressed its sympathy towards the Cypriot people for the Cyprus issue, Chairman of the Irish Senate Rory Kiely has said, in statements after a meeting here on Monday with President of the House of Representatives Demetris Christofias.
The Cypriot House President thanked the Irish government and its people for the continuous support towards Cyprus.
''We have briefed the Irish delegation on the Cyprus problem and they expressed their support and understanding. We would like to thank Ireland for its solidarity. We have always been in favor of the unity of Ireland and the struggle of the Irish people to achieve this unity,'' Christofias said.
Kiely, on the island for an official visit, noted that every time they meet, they enhance their dialogue and their good relations, exchanging views on various issues.
''Both Cyprus and Ireland are divided. We have our problems in Ireland with the partition of our country. We have made some progress which hopefully might help the Cyprus situation. We are sympathetic to the Cyprus situation,'' Kiely stressed.
He also noted the very good relations between the Irish prime minister and the Cypriot president.
Christofias said that Ireland is a friendly country to Cyprus and that the relations between their parliaments are very close.
''The Republic of Ireland is a pioneer country in its modernization efforts. New EU member states can gain from the Irish experience and Cyprus is working on that,'' Christofias concluded.
 Justice Minister cautions Turkey over illegal immigrants
NICOSIA, 17/1/2006 (CNA/ANA)Figures which show that the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus continue to present a ''black hole'' for Cyprus as far as illegal immigrants are concerned were presented here on Monday by the Police Immigration Department.
The figures also indicate that Cyprus remains first on the list of EU states in applications for political asylum.
Speaking at a press conference in the presence of Police Chief Tasos Panagiotou on the Immigration Department's work, Minister of Justice and Public Order Doros Theodorou pointed out that the government will do everything possible so that Turkey, which does not require visas for those traveling to the occupied areas of the island, will undertake its responsibilities as an EU candidate country and fight illegal immigration networks.
According to figures presented during the press conference, in 2004 there were 5,287 illegal immigrants of whom only seven came to the island from the coasts in the government controlled areas of the Republic. The rest were from the occupied areas. From the 5,175 illegal immigrants in 2005, only 16 came from the coasts in the free areas while the remaining entered the island through the north.
Regarding political asylum seekers, in 2004 when Cyprus joined the EU, the number reached 9,655 while in 2005 the number went down to 7,551, marking a 21% decrease. The problem of political asylum seekers is being exacerbated by the illegal immigrants coming from the Turkish occupied areas since in 2004 a total of 2,728 persons who came to the island illegally from the north applied for asylum and a further 3,911 applied in 2005.
''Illegal immigration continues to be a phenomenon which is related to the occupied part of the Republic of Cyprus, and the numbers speak for themselves,'' Theodorou said.
 New Spokesman pledges to fulfill his new duties
NICOSIA, 17/1/2006 (CNA/ANA)New Government Spokesman George Lillikas said on Monday he will do everything possible to meet his new duties.
Lillikas, who is also Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, thanked President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos for trusting him with the post. He is taking over from Kypros Chrysostomides who resigned to run for parliament under leftwing AKEL party.
Chrysostomides said he was received on Monday morning by President Papadopoulos to whom he expressed his deep appreciation for their cooperation over the past three years. He also thanked his associates and the journalists for their ''invaluable assistance.''
Turning to his successor during a gathering at the press room of the Press and Information Office where Undersecretary to the President Christodoulos Pashiardis read the announcement of Lillikas' new duties, Chrysostomides described him as a friend, noting ''his whole work and presence in the cabinet is invaluable for the government'' and wished him every success.
The new Spokesman said this was a sensitive period since the island is entering a parliamentary election period and his ''baptism of fire'' will take place in not so smooth conditions.
Lillikas said he would seek a meeting with journalists to coordinate his double duties, adding there is no doubt that holding both posts will not be easy. ''However, I will do everything possible to respond, in the best possible way,'' he pledged.
He also said he believed his duties will end with the appointment of another Spokesman.