|Wednesday, 12 December 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-01-24
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>January 24 , 2006
 Karamanlis outlines ND strategy for local gov't elections, constitutional revision proposals
ATHENS, 24/1/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Monday unveiled ruling New Democracy (ND) party's strategy ahead of this autumn's municipal and prefectural elections, speaking in Athens to members of ND's political council.
In pointing to a substantive difference between the current ND government and the previous PASOK central governments, as he said, Karamanlis noted that funds owed to local government entities from past years are finally beginning to be allocated, while debts accumulated by municipal governments are also being resolved.
Additionally, the premier called the election of mayors and prefects in the first round of voting with 42 percent of the vote -- as opposed to a previous 50-percent ceiling in the first round -- a radical change.
He again said his party will aim for the "modern social centre", a political strategy he said means an opening by ND to all of society.
Furthermore, Karamanlis, fresh from his official state visit to China, reiterated that although the local government elections are definitely a political affair, they should not be plagued by petty partisan politics.
Along those lines, he announced that ND will not exclusively back only New Democracy cadres, a position he said is wholly in line with the government's overall policies.
Changing subjects, Karamanlis also briefed the council's members on his recent trip to China, calling his contacts productive and adding that preparations were meticulous. The prime minister added that Beijing is ready to for closer cooperation with Athens.
Constitution revision: Regarding constitutional revision, an idea that was transformed into a concrete set of proposals by the Greek premier last week during a high-profile appearance, Karamanlis said the goal is to meet a commitment to citizens for a "wide-ranging reform package".
"Citizens are asking us to change things, and that's what we will do," he stressed.
"Our obligation is for a wide-ranging and bold revision," he said, before again outlining the course that such a revision will take.
Karamanlis repeated his government's intention of rewriting the constitution to finally allow the operation and recognition of private, non-profit universities in the country.
Among others, he reiterated his proposals for greater safeguards to ensure an independent judiciary; creation of a constitutional court; greater scrutiny of political parties' finances and more detailed "statements of means" for MPs.
Other points he again cited included the partial lifting of a ban on deputies exercising a profession while in Parliament as well as modifications to the immunity clause for serving MPs.
Furthermore, the Greek PM stood by his ground-breaking proposal of instituting permanent work contracts for certain new hirings in the wider public sector in place of the current tenure status granted to all civil servants regardless.
Other references cited the elimination of retroactive court-ordered compensations that burden the state budget, as well as the urgent modification of the country's deficient and more-or-less outdated land use provisions.
The prime minister also referred to Church-state relations, stressing that both important institutions have distinct roles, whereas solutions to particular issues can come via the legislative route.
Bakoyannis' remarks: On her part, Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis referred to the upcoming local government elections, saying that the party must accelerate the process of candidate selection before time runs out.
On the issue of the constitutional revision, Bakoyannis said that inapplicable clauses must be deleted, citing the 'primary share-holder' as one such example.
She also called for a discussion regarding Church-State relations and such issues such as cremation, noting however, that the constitutional clause which defines these relations does not necessarily have to be amended.
Finally, she reiterated her view that the President of the Republic should be directly elected and agreed with the party president's proposals regarding MPs' conflicting interests and allowing the establishment of non-state universities.
 PM to meet British foreign secretary on Thursday
ATHENS, 24/1/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is due to meet Thursday afternoon with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who will be on a visit to Greece, it was announced on Monday.
Karamanlis is further scheduled to address a meeting of the SE Europe Cooperation pact, which will be meeting at the Zappeion Press Centre, on Tuesday morning.
Straw is also expected to meet with his Greek counterpart Petros Molyviatis.
 FM spokesman on Straw visit, latest Cyprus developments
ATHENS, 24/1/2005 (ANA)Bilateral relations, the Cyprus issue, European Union developments and cooperation at the UN Security Council level will be discussed during Straw's visit.
On his part, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos on Monday merely noted that cooperation and communication between Athens the Cypriot government is constant and a given, in reply to a press question citing the fact that Straw will not meet with Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos during his upcoming visit to Nicosia.
Asked to comment on the British foreign secretary's insistence on meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat in the so-called "presidential" office located in Turkish-occupied Nicosia, Koumoutsakos said:
"Straw's visit to Cyprus, according to the foreign office, primarily aims at promoting bilateral relations. We believe it should be held in a manner conducive to its stated -- primarily by the British side -- goal. It should clearly demonstrate that it is a visit that improves relations and does not create new problems where none existed in the past," the foreign ministry spokesman said.
Straw will travel to Cyprus this week. The island republic's internationally recognized government has reacted strongly to the idea of Straw meeting with the T/C leader at the specific office, arguing that such a meeting could imply indirect recognition of the Turkish military-occupied pseudo-state by London.
Koumoutsakos also referred to a statement by the British High Commission (embassy) in Nicosia, namely, that London's policy remains unchanged in favor of recognition of only one government on Cyprus, namely, the Republic of Cyprus.
Finally, Koumoutsakos commented on press reports out of Turkey - published in the mass daily "Miliyet" - claming that Ankara is planning to submit a proposal for a resumption of talks aimed at a Cyprus solution.
"The information we have and are scrutinizing is that the Turkish side will submit a series of thoughts tomorrow (Tuesday) over resumption in the process (towards a solution) for the Cyprus issue. This is, nevertheless, a unilateral action," he said, adding:
"Whatever thought, prospect or proposal for a solution to the Cyprus problem is not linked with the obligation that EU candidate-state Turkey has assumed - based on the European Union's official texts" to implement the customs union protocol with Cyprus, he concluded.
Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul was quoted by the same daily as noting that "I'll have a detailed announcement (over the initiative) very soon," according to an ANA dispatch from Ankara.
Gul reportedly made the statement after returning from an official visit to Brazil, while adding that the Turkish side wants a solution to the Cyprus problem under the auspices and leadership of the United Nations.
 UN welcomes British 'initiative' on Cyprus issue
NEW YORK, 24/1/2006 (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan welcomes the "initiative by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to undertake a mission to Cyprus, Greece and Turkey this week", UNSG Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Monday.
He noted that Annan remains dedicated to finding a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus issue and is certain that Straw's initiative will complement the UN's active involvement.
Turkey's UN representative, Ambassador Baki Ilkin submitted a proposal to Annan on Friday, according to which Turkey is willing to open up its ports and airports to Cypriot ships and airplanes if the "Greek-Cypriot government" agrees to end the "isolation" of the Turkish Cypriot side.
According to UN diplomatic sources, Turkey claims that the "isolation" could be lifted if the Greek Cypriot side agrees to allow the Turkish Cypriots to trade with other countries directly and to open the port of Famagusta and the airport at Tympou, located on the occupied part of the island.
Additionally, Turkey proposes that negotiations regarding the Cyprus issue be resumed and both sides remove any obstacles for the implementation of the proposal.
 Greece supports FYROM's EU aspirations, PM says
SKOPJE, 24/1/2006 (ANA-MPA/N. Frangopoulos)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis expressed support for the European Union aspirations of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in a letter sent to FYROM Prime Minister Vlado Buchkovski, according to a press release by Buchkovski's office on Monday.
Karamanlis' letter was in response to one sent by Buchkovski to all EU government leaders shortly before the EU Summit in mid-December 2005, requesting their support as FYROM strives for EU membership.
"Greece supports the European prospects of all neighboring countries as it strongly believes that their gradual integration into the European family will contribute to strengthening regional cooperation and good neighborly relations," Karamanlis wrote.
"At the same time, we believe that this prospect also serves as an additional incentive for reforms and policies that reinforce peace, stability and development," he added.
"It is in this spirit that we agreed with the European Commission's opinion (in November 2005) that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia be granted EU candidacy status. Of course this is a major step. Your country's European course is expected to help in finding a mutually-acceptable solution to the name issue, as is also foreseen by the European partnership relation," Karamanlis said.
FYROM was named an EU candidate following the decision taken by the EU Council on December 17 but an official start date for accession talks has yet to be set, since the EU believes that FYROM must first meet a series of criteria.
 SEECP Foreign Ministers to convene in Athens on Tuesday
ATHENS, 24/1/2005 (ANA)Foreign ministers of the South-East European Cooperation Process member states will be officially meeting for the first time under Greece's presidency in Athens on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Spokesman George Koumoutsakos announced.
The ministerial meeting will focus on strengthening political dialogue, regional cooperation, economic and energy infrastructure, regional ownership and current developments, particularly Kosovo.
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will make the opening address.
Participating countries in the SEECP and represented on Tuesday are, aside from Greece, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, FYROM, Romania, Serbia-Montenegro, Turkey and Moldova - which may become a member in May - as observer.
Additionally, EU President Austria has been invited to attend, and will be represented by its Deputy Foreign Minister Hans Winkler.
The US, also invited to attend, will be represented by US Ambassador to Greece Charles Ries, while Russian Ambassador to Greece Andrei Vdovin will be representing Russia.
Erhard Busek will be attending on behalf of the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe.
The aim of the Greek presidency - which ends in May - is to strengthen good neighborly relations.
 Spanish, Russian FMs in Athens next month
ATHENS, 24/1/2005 (ANA)Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to visit Athens in the first half of February for talks with his Greek counterpart Petros Molyviatis.
Meanwhile, Spanish FM Miguel Angel Moratinos will arrive in Athens on Feb. 6.
 Koumoutsakos sends condolences for the death of Kosovo president
ATHENS, 24/1/2005 (ANA)Foreign Ministry Spokesman George Koumoutsakos on Monday expressed his condolences for the death of Kosovo's president, Ibrahim Rugova.
Koumoutsakos expressed the hope that "this sad event does not have a negative impact to the cool-headedness and the moderation required for the in progress process for the determination of the future status of Kosovo."
Rugova died of lung cancer on Saturday aged 61, shortly before talks that Kosovo Albanians hoped would secure the independence championed by the late leader.
PASOK leader Papandreou extends condolences for the death of Kosovo president Rugova: Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou on Monday sent a telegram of condolences to Kosovo Parliament Speaker Nexhat Daci over the death of Kosovo's president, Ibrahim Rugova.
In his telegram, Papandreou said:"With particular sadness I was informed of the death of President Ibrahim Rugova. Ibrahim Rugova was a person deeply dedicated to the principles of non-use of violence and a voice of unity in moments of clashes, a person who continuously tried to promote his objectives through political dialogue. With President Rugova, Kosovo lost a historic leader. I convey my deepest condolences to his family and to the people of Kosovo."
Rugova died of lung cancer on Saturday at the age of 61.
 Constitutional revision a milestone for future reforms, Development Minister says
ATHENS, 24/1/2005 (ANA)The constitutional revision proposed by ruling New Democracy is a milestone among the reforms that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and this government have begun and that will continue over the next four-year legislative term, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said addressing the party's political council on Monday.
According to Sioufas, the said reforms fuel development and social prosperity throughout the country and for society as a whole.
"The constitutional revision which we are promoting, as Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said, concerns all citizens, not just politicians. It concerns citizens, their needs, their demands, their rights," he said.
"This is why we want social dialogue to be as broad as possible. Our initiatives to date have been well received, to a great extent, by citizens," he added.
Furthermore, Sioufas noted that the revision must provide guidelines for the state to take action compatible with the new era and that will guide the country's political and economic course in coming years.
Specifically, the revision must include "concepts and guidelines that concern quality, evaluation, development, entrepreneur-ship, competitiveness, energy, research and technology, excellence," he said.
Finally, the minister stressed that the constitutional revision places great emphasis on reinforcing transparency throughout public life.
 'Left Initiative - PASOK' grouping on constitutional revision
ATHENS, 24/1/2005 (ANA)A grouping within main opposition PASOK -- the "Left Initiative - PASOK" -- on Monday expressed a more critical position vis-à-vis the government's recent proposal for constitutional revision than the party's leadership.
According to a statement by the grouping, "the unreserved servicing of economic interests and the abolition of any idea of public territory and public civilization" is behind the constitutional revision.
The grouping also calls on PASOK's leadership to work towards a constitutional revision that "strengthens popular sovereignty as a foundation of democracy".
 Papandreou cites PASOK prospects for New Year
ATHENS, 24/1/2005 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Monday presided over a traditional New Year's pie-cutting ceremony at his party's central Athens headquarters, where he noted, among others, that the ongoing year "will be a year that we will be constantly next to the citizens, their problems; and we will not allow the government to distract from the problems that the Greek people face".
Additionally, he said the main opposition party recorded significant steps over the past year.
 KKE leader Aleka Papariga congratulates Portuguese counterpart Jeronimo de Sousa
ATHENS, 24/1/2005 (ANA)Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga on Monday sent a telegram of congratulations to Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) Secretary General Jeronimo de Sousa over the outcome of the presidential elections in Portugal on Sunday.
In her telegram, Papariga stressed that "the significant increase in votes and percentage both in relation to the previous presidential elections and in relation to the 2005 general elections, acquires particular importance, given that it was achieved in a more general negative political climate and with a strong anti-communist campaign in progress in Europe."
The KKE leader added that "this fact reflects the increased confidence and recognition of the PCP's role by hundreds of thousands of Portugal's working people, their decision to intensify the struggle for the safeguarding and broadening of social and democratic rights, for another course of their country."
 KKE and leftist movements rally in Thessaloniki against CoE's anti-communist memorandum
ATHENS, 24/1/2005 (ANA)The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and leftist movements held separate demonstrations in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, on Monday to protest against the anti-communist memorandum being advanced by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
The KKE initiative included a march to the U.S. Consulate and later to the European Union's Information Office where the demonstrators burnt a copy of the memorandum and posted a text with signatures of representatives of Thessaloniki's agencies.
Addressing a rally at Aristotelous Square, member of the Political Bureau of the KKE's Central Committee, Theodosis Konstantinidis, accused the promoters of the memorandum that "they are attempting to change and distort history."
 Alavanos heads Synaspismos delegation at Int'l Social Forum events in Venezuela
ATHENS, 24/1/2005 (ANA)Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) leader Alekos Alavanos was due to depart on Monday at the head of a party delegation for Caracas, Venezuela, where the party's cadres will participate in events organized by the International Social Forum between Jan. 24 and 29.
 Albania's Socialist Party on protests, MP's injury near Gjirokastr
TIRANA, 24/1/2005 (ANA)The main opposition Socialist Party here reacted immediately to the injury of one of its deputies, ethnic Greek MP Vangelis Tavo, during protests in the country's southwest against the building of a bottling plant on contested land.
The incident, involving local protesters and riot police, took place in the Nepradista community of Gjirokastr, an area with a large ethnic Greek population.
Tavo alleges that his hospitalization was due to blows delivered by riot police, an allegation denied by Albanian police authorities.
 Foreign diplomats honor Athens mayor
ATHENS, 24/1/2005 (ANA)Foreign diplomats in Athens honored the city's mayor Dora Bakoyannis for her work during a ceremony held in Kifissia on Monday.
Bakoyannis thanked diplomats' representatives for the honor bestowed upon her as well as for their support of Athens, particularly in the run up to the 2004 Olympic Games.
The event was organized by the head of foreign diplomats, Lebanese Ambassador in Greece, William Habib.
 Greek economic climate index improved in December
ATHENS, 24/1/2005 (ANA)Greece's economic climate index improved in December, rising to 92.1 points from 88.7 points in November, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said in a report on Monday.
IOBE said the Greek index recorded the biggest increase from all other Eurozone countries in December, although it remained lower compared with the EU-12 average index.
The improvement is attributed to a rise in the index of business expectations in the retail sector and an increase in the business expectations index in the manufacturing sector. The services' index dropped while the consumer sentiment index was unchanged in December.
The business expectations' index in the manufacturing sector rose to 98.4 points in December from 95.6 in November, the highest reading in 2005.
The business expectations' index in the construction sector fell to 78.8 points from 81.7 points, while the index in the retail sector jumped to 108.8 points from 103.6 over the same months, respectively.
The index of business expectations in the services sector, however, fell to 93.2 points in December from 96.8 in November.
The consumers' sentiment index was unchanged, although Greek consumers sounded more optimistic over developments in the unemployment sector and more cautious over economic developments in the country.
Greek households were less optimistic over their savings in the next 12 months, the report said.
 Greek minister reports on EU funds' absorption rates
ATHENS, 24/1/2005 (ANA)Thessaloniki will be the base for the management of all programs included in the "target 3" of a Fourth Community Support Framework, using a special management agency of Interreg III, Economy and Finance Deputy Minister Christos Folias said on Monday.
The Greek minister said that although the Interreg program was typically reaching the end of its services, the agency would maintain its significant role by managing around 192 million euros earmarked for "target 3" cross-border programs under a Fourth CSF project in the period 2007-2013.
The agency, relocated to Thessaloniki in March 2005, has managed to significantly improve absorption rates of Interreg funds, form 22 percent at the end of 2004 to 35 percent at the end of December 2005.
Folias said the goal was to fully absorb earmarked funds, totaling 777.13 million euros, by 2008 for all six cross-border programs included in Interreg III.
Dr Tassos Alexandridis, head of the special management agency, stressed that the agency aimed to improve its efficiency by absorbing 133 million euros more funds this year.
Folias said absorption rates in Interreg, Leader, Equal and three Urban programs jumped to 32 pct in December 2005 from 6.5 pct in March 2004.
"We are optimistic over the new year," the Greek minister said, adding that a cross-border program with Albania recorded absorption rates of 26 pct last year, from 16 pct in 2004, while a cross-border program with FYROM absorption rates of 27 pct from 25 pct, respectively.
A Greece-Cyprus program, aimed to strengthen joint security in borders and sea ways, reported absorption rates of 62 percent. A Greece-Bulgaria program recorded the highest absorption rates (92 pct) last year.
 Sioufas speaks in Parliament on priorities in planning 4th CSF
ATHENS, 24/1/2005 (ANA)Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, speaking in Parliament on Monday, referred to the four basic priorities in the planning of the 4th Community Support Framework (CSF).
"The increase and improvement of investments in research and technology, the advancement of innovation and entrepreneur-ship, the support of the society of information for all and the development of manpower, are the four basic prerequisites in the planning of the 4th CSF," Sioufas said in response to questions in Parliament by main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) deputies.
The minister noted that data show that Greece is proceeding forward on the issue of research and technology.
"The fact that Greece is in 6th place from the total of the 25 European countries, the United States and Russia in the number of experts participating in committees which evaluate the proposals of the EU's member-states on research structures and that it is in fourth place in the EU of the 15, regarding the rate of increase in the sector of services of high technology, are two elements of optimism," Development Minister Sioufas said.
 Farm minister attends Farm Council in Brussels
24/1/2005 (ANA)Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Evangelos Basiakos on Monday informed his EU counterparts over precautionary measures taken by Greek authorities against a threat of a bird flu outbreak.
Addressing an EU Farm Ministers Council in Brussels, the Greek minister stressed that Greek authorities were fully prepared to deal with such a threat and noted that thorough inspections were currently made at the country's entry gates. The Greek government recently hired more veterinaries and other staff, while it earmarked the necessary funds to improve its hygiene and veterinary inspection capability. Basiakos urged the council and the EU Commission to intensify efforts to protect the EU's area from any health danger, while he asked -along with his Italian counterpart G. Allemano- for the immediate financial support of the poultry sector to deal with any negative impact from recent developments with a bird flu outbreak.
The Greek minister also met with his German counterpart and discussed ways to eradicate any hurdles in Greek fruit and produce exports to Germany.
 Gov't meets on cutting red tape for new firms
ATHENS, 24/1/2005 (ANA)Government ministers and service officials on Monday reviewed progress by a committee set up to map the red tape required for creation of a new commercial company.
According to the committee set up by the development ministry, required for the establishment of an SA firm in a straightforward case are 20 administrative procedures and 101 pieces of documentation.
Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and Deputy Interior Minister Apostolos Andreoulakou agreed that the committee should report back within three months, submitting its recommendations on reducing bureaucracy, curbing corruption and lowering administrative costs for firms and the state.
 Northern industrialists oppose raise in advance tax
24/1/2005 (ANA)The Association of Northern Greek Industrialists said on Monday that it opposed a move by the government to raise the amount of tax paid in advance by companies.
"This is not something positive for the business world," the president of the trade group, George Mylonas, told reporters in the northern port city of Thessaloniki.
"I don't have the details yet, but a rise in the advance tax payment essentially eliminates the advantage of lowering the tax bracket," Mylonas said.
Earlier in the day, the finance ministry submitted an amendment to parliament raising the advance payment for SA and limited liability companies to 65% from 55% at present.
The move was to equalize the status of companies and wage earners, as management withholds tax immediately from staff on the entire amount, which in effect stands as an advance payment, the ministry said in an introduction to the amendment.
 Euro-Mediterranean Conference to be held in Nafplio on Wednesday
24/1/2005 (ANA)The European Central Bank (ECB) and the Bank of Greece are co-organizing the annual Euro-Mediterranean Conference in the city of Nafplio, in the Peloponnese, on Wednesday 25 January.
The previous two sessions were held in Naples and Cannes. The conference aims to promote cooperation between central banks in the Eurosystem and the Mediterranean region.
The Nafplio conference will be chaired by ECB's president Jean-Claude Trichet, Bank of Greece's governor Nikolaos Garganas, governors and officials from the Eurosystem and the governors of central banks of Egypt, Algeria, the Independent Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Israel, Cyprus, Lebanon, Libya, Malta, Morocco, Syria, Turkey, Tunisia.
The agenda includes recent economic and financial developments in the Mediterranean region, deregulating capital markets and reforming tools of monetary policy.
 Attica Natural Gas Supply Enterprise announces new general manager
ATHENS, 24/1/2005 (ANA)The Attica Natural Gas Supply Enterprise SA, the exclusive distributor of natural gas in Attica, on Monday announced that its general manager Dimitris Zisis had resigned from his post -citing personal reasons- and was replaced by Gerasimos Kontomihalos.
More than 100,000 households in the Attica region, 2,500 professional users and 200 commercial and industrial customers, are using the company's 2,000 km active distribution network, currently capable of servicing more than 350,000 households in the region.
New connection applications rose by 47 percent in 2005, while contracts signed jumped 71 percent to 11,890 last year. Attica Natural Gas Supply Enterprise said its turnover was expected to reach 50 million euros in 2005, while its pre-amortization earnings totaled 1.97 million euros.
Its main shareholders are Natural Gas Enterprise (DEPA) SA (51 pct), Cinergy Global Power Inc. and Shell GAS BV (49 pct).
 Athens Bourse Close: Stocks slump in pressure on blue chips
ATHENS, 24/1/2005 (ANA)The Athens share index closed at 3,955.67 points, showing a decline of 0.96%. Turnover was 357.9 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 1.10% down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.12% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.53% up.
Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 191 to 89 with 45 remaining unchanged.
Foreign Exchange Rates: Tuesday
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.237
Bond Market Close: Buyers outstrip sellers
 Opposition asks gov't to award heating allowance
ATHENS, 24/1/2005 (ANA)Two opposition parties on Monday asked the government to award a heating allowance, especially for people on low incomes, due to a round of cold, snowy weather and high fuel prices.
The main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) asked for an emergency debate in parliament this week on a proposal for a bill submitted in October that would allow the move.
"This adverse weather does not brook refusal by the New Democracy government," PASOK's consumer policy spokeswoman, Anna Diamantopoulou, said in a statement.
In a separate statement, the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology called on the government to issue a 400-euro heating allowance for people on low incomes, including pensioners and the unemployed, accompanied by a ceiling on heating fuel prices.
 Greek language projected in 'Expolangues' exhibition in Paris
PARIS, 24/1/2006 (ANA-MPA)Greece's Education and Religious Affairs Ministry and the Greek Embassy in France organized a lecture here last Saturday on the projection of the Greek language, in the context of the 24th exhibition "Expolangues, the languages of the world, the world of languages", which was held in Paris from January 19-21.
Speaking at the lecture, which had as its theme "The Greek language in modern Europe and the vocabulary of modern Greek", were the Education Ministry's Special Secretary for multi-cultural education, Ismini Kriari-Katrani, professor and director of the Modern Greek Institute of Paris IV University, Henri Tonnet, Thessaloniki University professor and vice-president of the Centre of Greek Language, Mr. Kazazis, and professor of Athens University Mrs. Xanthaki.
Present at the event were Greek Ambassador to France Dimitris Paraskevopoulos, Permanent Representative to UNESCO Ambassador George Anastasopoulos, Metropolitan of France Emmanuel, Defense Attache Vassilis Telidis, President of the Federation of Greek Communities in France, Vassilis Florakis, and a great number of French and Greek teachers from universities and schools.
 Campaign against human trafficking opens in Athens
ATHENS, 24/1/2005 (ANA)An international campaign titled "End Human Trafficking Now," kicked off in Athens on Monday bringing royalty, politicians and artists to the Greek capital.
Attendees included Sweden's Queen Sylvia, Queen of Bahrain Sabika, former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble, French composer Jean Michel Jarre and others.
The campaign, organized by the Suzanne Mubarak Women's International Peace Movement, aims to send the message that step by step, atrocious crimes committed in the name of corporate profits must be stopped.
UNESCO's Good Will Ambassador and board member of the Women's International Peace Movement organization Marianna Vardinoyannis described Monday's meeting as one of historical importance and an honor for the country, since it is from Greece that the message aimed at rallying the international business community in the fight against human trafficking is being sent.
On her part, Mubarak urged the business community to put an end to this horrific phenomenon, which according to her, is not only unethical but one of the greatest crimes against humanity.
 IFJ 2005 report: 'the tragedy of being a target'
ATHENS, 24/1/2005 (ANA)The report for 2005 by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) was presented on Monday at a joint press conference by IFJ, the Athens Journalists Union (ESHEA) and other Greek journalists unions.
The report is entitled "The tragedy of being a target", and refers to journalists and employees in the mass media who lost their lives while covering stories.
Presenting the report, IFJ Executive Committee member Nikos Megrelis underlined that 150 journalists and employees in the mass media lost there lives throughout the world in the line of duty.
Sixty-one were killed in accidents at the time they were going to cover a story, such as the 48 Iranians who were on board a C-130 of the Iranian army, and 89 journalists were killed by murderers' bullets: 35 in Iraq, five of whom were shot dead by American soldiers.
 Two arson attacks ruling ND office,ELTA post office during the night, claimed by group
ATHENS, 24/1/2005 (ANA)Two instances of arson attacks on a ruling New Democracy party (ND) office and an ELTA post office occurred early Monday, causing material damage but no injuries, and the attacks were later claimed by a group calling itself "Anti-State Justice".
The first instance occurred at 2:10 a.m. in the Galatsi suburb of Athens, where a home-made incendiary device comprising small propane canisters exploded on the sidewalk at the entrance of an ND local office, causing damage to the office and to two parked cars.
The second incident occurred at 2:45 a.m. in the suburb of Neo Psychico, when a similar device exploded at the entrance of the local ELTA post office, causing material damage.
Police said an anonymous caller later phoned the private ALPHA radio station and claimed responsibility for the arson attacks on behalf of a group calling itself "Anti-State Justice", in an act of solidarity with anarchists Panayiotis Aspiotis, George Kalaitzidis and Petros Karasaridis, who are serving time in prison for arson attacks and several felonies, and also in solidarity with the suspects being held in connection with the armed robbery of a National Bank of Greece branch in central Athens on January 16 that culiminated in two shootouts near busy Panepistimiou street in which a bank security guard and one of the robbers was seriously injured and an aged lottery-ticket seller sustained slight injuries from a ricocheted bullet
This was the second appearance by the Anti-State Justice group, which emerged for the first time on January 3 when it claimed responsibility for three similar arson attacks, within the space of an hour, in which a car bearing diplomatic license plates was torched in the Mets residential district of Athens, a parked car without license plates was torched in the suburb of Petroupolis, and another home-made incendiary device exploded outside the entrance of an ND office in the Kypseli residential district. All three incidents caused material damage but no injuries. An anonymous caller had called the private ALTER TV station after those incidents and claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of the group, in solidarity with the three imprisoned anarchists.
 Educational program for Greeks of Africa extended
ATHENS, 24/1/2005 (ANA)World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) Alternate President Stephanos P. Tamvakis has expressed his complete satisfaction on the course of the educational program which is taking place, in coordination with the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation and the Patriarchate of Alexandria, in Maputo, Mozambique.
Tamvakis made the statement within the framework of a meeting on the issue of the survival and the continuation of Hellenism in Mozambique, which was held under the chairmanship of Patriarch of Alexandria Theodoros B'.
As stated in an announcement in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, on Monday, Tamvakis renewed the economic support of the program.
 Russia pledges to continue playing important role in Cyprus
MOSCOW, 24/1/2006 (CNA/ANA)Russia has always played a significant role in Cyprus and will continue to play a role in the future, within the framework of institutions created within the framework of the UN, pledged here Monday President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin during the start of his meeting with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos.
On his part, the Cypriot President thanked Putin for Russia's support over the decades, because it has proved a firm supporter to the Cyprus cause at the UN, during bilateral relations and all international fora.
President Putin congratulated his Cypriot counterpart for presenting him the award of the International Fund for the Unity of Orthodox Christian Nations, during a ceremony by Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexiy II, noting the traditionally high level of relations between Russia and Cyprus.
Putin said that "we must think of ways to further mobilize the two countries' intergovernmental cooperation committee".
After Cyprus' accession to the EU, said Putin, "we have managed in a very short period of time, to create the conditions for making easier granting visas to Russians who visit Cyprus", noting that these visas mainly concern diplomats.
However, said Putin, this gives us the possibility and push to intensify our efforts so that these visas will be expanded and will cover a wider range of nationals. The Cypriot side, said Putin, is interested for this purpose, bearing in mind the big number of tourists from Russia to Cyprus.
On his part, President Papadopoulos thanked Putin for his congratulations, noting the award he was presented "reflects the Cypriot Hellenism efforts for understanding and cooperation with the peoples' of the region and with orthodox people".
"For this reason, I accept the award because, first of all, it comes from an excellent clergyman, Patriarch Alexiy II and second, because I understand the significance the Russian government attaches to the functioning of the church and the unity of orthodox churches", the president added.
President Papadopoulos said the difficulties in securing visas were not the product or desire of the Republic of Cyprus but because there were orders by the EU and surely Russian citizens feel that they undergo restrictions where there were none before.
President Papadopoulos said he was pleased with the agreement last week in abolishing visas for diplomats noting the Cyprus government has made every effort to simplify procedures.
The president concludes his working visit to Moscow on Tuesday.
 Russian President assures his Cypriot counterpart of Moscow's position on Cyprus
24/1/2005 (ANA)President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin has assured Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos that Russia's policy as regards the Cyprus problem, based on principles, will not change.
In statements to the press Monday night, Papadopoulos who met Putin earlier in the afternoon, said that the Russian president told him that Russia will continue to show great interest in the solution of the Cyprus question and will offer any help Cyprus will ask for.
Papadopoulos described his meeting with Putin as interesting and said that they discussed bilateral issues. He said Putin asked his aides to conclude some bilateral agreements with Cyprus still pending.
"We agreed," he added, "that the joint committee of financial coordination will look into various issues with a view to further enhance financial and trade relations".
Papadopoulos said that he informed Putin, at his request, about the general framework of the Cyprus issue.
Asked about the phone conversation Putin had with Turkish Premier Recep Tayip Erdogan, Papadopoulos said Putin briefed him on the conversation, "but nothing substantive came out of it".
He said that he noted no change in Moscow's position on Cyprus. He said that everyone stressed during his meetings in Moscow the need for Cyprus' reunification and to reach a settlement, providing for a single state.
He added that he also discussed with Putin the issue of the so called isolation of Turkish Cypriots and explained to him the positions of the Cypriot government, through facts and numbers, noting that there is no "financial isolation" and that to the extent there are such restrictions these are self-imposed by the Turkish Cypriots.
Papadopoulos said that Russia's position is that the Cyprus problem must remain under the UN umbrella.
 State Duma speaker says relations with Cyprus excellent
MOSCOW, 24/1/2007 (CNA/ANA)Speaker of the State Duma of the Russian Federation Boris Gryzlov said Monday that relations between the parliaments of Russia and Cyprus were excellent.
Welcoming Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos, Gryzlov congratulated him on his award for his contribution to the unity of Christian nations.
He expressed satisfaction that after Cyprus' accession to the EU, the Cypriot government has made efforts to overcome the difficulties caused by the visa issue.
Gryzlov noted that economic relations between Cyprus and Russia were developing rapidly and that Cyprus held the second or third place in investments in Russia.
Russian nationals now have to get a visa to visit Cyprus, whereas in the past this was not necessary.
 Spain to continue supporting Cyprus for viable solution
NICOSIA, 24/1/2006 (CNA/ANA)Spain will continue to support Cyprus in its struggle for a functional and viable solution to the Cyprus problem, pledged here Monday Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar, Spanish minister of justice.
He also said his country is ready to contribute towards this direction, both within the EU and other international fora.
Aguilar was speaking during a meeting Monday with Acting President of the Republic and President of the House of Representatives Demetris Christofias who informed him on the Cyprus course and the results of the referenda in April 2004 on a UN plan for a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem, an official statement said here.
Christofias thanked the government and people of Spain for their position of principle concerning the Cyprus problem and all relevant UN resolutions.
In statements after a meeting with his Cypriot counterpart Doros Theodorou, Aguilar said Spain's efforts on a European and international level are headed towards the direction of a peaceful and fair solution to the Cyprus problem.
He also said the illegal immigration issue from the Turkish occupied north of Cyprus will become a pan-European problem if it is not solved by 2008 when Cyprus will join the Schengen countries.
Theodorou said he explained to this Spanish counterpart that illegal immigration is immediately and solely related to Turkey and that in relation to its population, Cyprus has the highest number of illegal immigrants among the 25 EU states.
Theodorou said that Cyprus has asked for Spain and other EU countries' help in combating this "very serious problem".
Aguilar said he listened carefully and with understanding Theodorou's description of the situation, noting that it is directly related to the presence of Turkey on the island as an occupation force for more than 30 years.
"Our efforts in the EU and in the wider UN framework are headed towards the direction of finding a peaceful and just solution to the Cyprus problem".
He also said that Spain wants to establish stronger mechanisms to combat illegal immigration.
Aguilar said that from 2008 when Cyprus will be fully acceded in the Schengen Treaty, something which means freedom of movement for all persons without visas, the problem of illegal immigration from the occupied areas, will become a European problem if it is not solved by 2008".
 US: Press report of a naval base in Turkish occupied areas untrue
NICOSIA, 24/1/2006 (CNA/ANA)The US Embassy in Nicosia has described as untrue a report in the Turkish Cypriot press that the US intends to establish a naval base in the Turkish occupied north of Cyprus for its 6th fleet ships.
In a statement, the embassy said "there is simply no truth to this report", adding that "the US government has a long standing policy of opposing the militarization of Cyprus".
It also added that the US government "remains committed to the reunification of the island through a bizonal, bicommunal federation, established by a negotiated agreement supported by majorities on both sides".