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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-04-02

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

Wednesday, 2 April 2008 Issue No: 2858

CONTENTS

  • [01] Inner Cabinet, chaired by PM, takes final decisions ahead of NATO summit
  • [02] Main opposition leader stresses backing for PM on FYROM issue
  • [03] President, PM telephone contact
  • [04] Government on Karamanlis-Papandreou talks over name issue
  • [05] PM due in Bucharest on Wednesday
  • [06] PM sends letters to leaders of NATO member-states on FYROM
  • [07] FM details Greek positions on 'name issue' in press editorial
  • [08] Greek FM spokesman on time remaining for solution to 'name issue'
  • [09] Greek negotiator briefs foreign envoys over Greece's positions on FYROM
  • [10] KKE on FYROM, NATO summit
  • [11] Tsipras outlines Synaspismos policy on 'name issue'
  • [12] SAE Canada pushes for support of mutually acceptable solution to 'name issue'
  • [13] Parliament debates proposal for social security referendum
  • [14] Referendum on social security bill 'oxygen for democracy', Papandreou says
  • [15] New press spokespeople take over at PASOK
  • [16] Justice Ministry tables bill for speeding of administering of justice
  • [17] Civil partnerships not for same-sex couples, justice minister says
  • [18] Interview with State of Victoria Premier John Brumby
  • [19] Deputy FM Petros Doukas visiting Egypt
  • [20] SEB signs cooperation protocol with Egyptian Industries Federation
  • [21] Spiliotopoulos continues visit to China
  • [22] Greek Bank Union on energy projects
  • [23] Chambers of Commerce representatives hold talks with DEH board
  • [24] Serb deputy PM visits Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • [25] Transport minister presents airport refurbishment programme
  • [26] Greek products exhibition in Albania
  • [27] Alpha-Vita Vassilopoulos announces Plus Hellas buyout
  • [28] Euro Court opinion cites 'abusive practice' by pharmaceutical company
  • [29] Greek PMI up in March
  • [30] Significant rise for Greek stocks on Tues.
  • [31] ADEX closing report
  • [32] Greek bond market closing report
  • [33] Souflias on sustainable development
  • [34] Trikala to host Broadband Cities 2008 annual conference
  • [35] Pantios University event on quality in radio and television
  • [36] Ombudsman's annual report for 2007
  • [37] Papoulias received Athens Mayor Kaklamanis
  • [38] Government to begin implementing Attica waste management plans
  • [39] Fire-fighting aircraft forced to land at sea
  • [40] Drug dealer opted for payment in kind
  • [41] Cloudy, scattered showers on Wednesday Politics

  • [01] Inner Cabinet, chaired by PM, takes final decisions ahead of NATO summit

    Prime minister Costas Karamanlis chaired a meeting of the Inner Cabinet on Tuesday for discussion of developments in the FYROM name issue and a crucial NATO summit that opens in Bucharest on Wednesday.

    Speaking to reporters after the meeting, foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis said that the Inner Cabinet session was held in preparation of the NATO summit, adding that all the facts were analysed and the final decisions taken.

    Replying to questions on the Greek positions and prospect of Greece vetoing a NATO invitation for membership to FYROM, Bakoyannis said that Greece's positions were well-known and on record, and had also been stated in parliament and to all the political party leaders.

    She said that the Greek government "is commencing this difficult process, having the country's political forces, in their entirety, at its side, with the same goals and the same prerequisites".

    Meanwhile, replying to press questions earlier, environment, town planning and public works minister George Souflias said that the effort for finding a viable and mutually acceptable solution to the FYROM name issue "cannot be one-sided, in other words only by Greece".

    "Greece, I believe, has done everything possible for a mutually acceptable and viable solution to be found. But there are boundaries that cannot be exceeded," Souflias said, adding that "we have reached the 'red line', and from here on we cannot make any other efforts".

    In a separate statement, ruling New Democracy (ND) former leader Miltiades Evert stressed that "at the tiime when efforts are being made for finding a compromise solution to the Skopje name issue, the neighboring people of Skopje are provoking in the most unethical way, offending ournational symbol and our country's prime minister with montaged pictures, disregarding Greece's sacrifices and struggles against nazism".

    With this attitude, he warned, the people of FYROM "reveal that they are not mature (ready) to accede NATO and the European Union".

    [02] Main opposition leader stresses backing for PM on FYROM issue

    "This is not the time for criticism...it is the time to strengthen Greece's voice in this critical negotiation," main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou said on Tuesday, after a meeting with prime minister Costas Karamanlis, held at the former's initiative, ahead of a crucial NATO summit that opens Wednesday in Bucharest, adding that "Greece is being wronged" and facing pressure "even from allies and partners" over the FYROM issue.

    "Greece is in a crucial negotiation. There are pressures even from allies and partners, and I consider that Greece is being wronged," Papandreou told reporters after his meeting with the prime minister at the Maximos Mansion government headquarters.

    "This is not the time for criticism. We have made criticism, and will continue to do so wherever and whenever necessary. It is the time to strengthen Greece's voice ahead of this critical negotiation, and that is why I came to meet with the prime minister," Papandreou said, adding that PASOK's position was "crystal clear", and a position that was shared by the entire Greek people: "We want a solution composite name with a geographical determinant, for all uses, without exception".

    "We must say 'no' to all forms of a dual name, and of course 'no' to every effort at 'back-door' accession of the neighboring country to NATO without prior solution of the name problem," the main opposition leader stressed.

    The PASOK leader said that he had volunteered to the prime minister to visit Skopje "even at the last minute" in order to "strengthen our country's negotiating position and contribute to a just solution of this problem".

    Addressing himself to the people of FYROM, Papandreou warned that "actions of extreme symbolism, such as those that offend us all and our national symbols, are deplorable", adding his belief that "they do not express the entire people of the neighboring country, because we have a common future together, a common future for the Balkans, a common future of peace and stability in the region".

    [03] President, PM telephone contact

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias spoke by phone on Tuesday with prime minister Costas, with whom he discussed the FYROM name issue.

    [04] Government on Karamanlis-Papandreou talks over name issue

    Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Tuesday reported that a meeting between Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou regarding Greece's stance at the upcoming NATO summit with respect to the accession of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) had led to a "constructive discussion".

    Asked why the government had turned down Papandreou's proposal to visit Skopje in the run-up to the summit, Roussopoulos said that all moves designed to strengthen Greece's voice on an international plane were welcome but that moves on a political and international level had to take place at the right time, pointing out that Papandreou's proposal had been made just as the government was about to depart for Bucharest.

    The spokesman also stressed that Greece's "red line" position on the issue had not changed in any way as a result of pressures, even in the wake of a public statement by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had directly asked for Greece to agree to the admission of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) into NATO under the temporary name currently used at the United Nations and other international organisations.

    Asked to comment on various extreme reactions in FYROM, such as the appearance of a poster depicting the Greek flag with a swastika instead of a cross or an magazine article in which the Greek prime minister was portrayed wearing an SS uniform, Roussopoulos said the government did not intend to make any additional action apart from the statements already made by the foreign ministry in response to the provocations, while stressing that such phenomena in no way helped the process of finding a solution.

    He refused to comment, meanwhile, on a statement by a US State Department spokesman that decisions for accession to NATO would not be delayed on account of the name dispute between Greece and FYROM.

    "We have outlined our views publicly and, of course, we have contacted foreign leaders," he added, noting that both the prime minister and foreign minister had each communicated with several of their foreign counterparts to outline Greece's views on the issue.

    Roussopoulos was also questioned about Bakoyannis' recent reference to the precedent of Mexico and New Mexico, asking whether Greece intended to use this as an argument in support of its case.

    "Greek diplomacy uses all those arguments that can be drawn from history, geography and the international environment in order to persuade its allies and partners in this case," he replied.

    Replying to a query about whether Greece would ask for a temporary postponement of a decision at NATO until the issue was settled, Roussopoulos replied that the issue would in any case be postponed if there was no solution.

    [05] PM due in Bucharest on Wednesday

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is scheduled to depart from Athens for the NATO summit in Bucharest at 15:30 on Wednesday, the government announced on Tuesday.

    On his arrival in the Romanian capital, Karamanlis will head straight to the working dinner for NATO heads of state and government attending the summit, while a separate working dinner for the foreign and defence ministers at the summit will be held at the Parliament building.

    The talks will officially being on Thursday morning and will be followed by a special meeting between the North Atlantic Council with the countries that will be invited to join. During this meeting, there will be a speech by the NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, US President George Bush and the leaders of the countries being invited.

    This will be followed by the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) working lunch. The EAPC brings together 49 NATO and Partner countries for dialogue and consultation on political and security-related issues. It provides the overall political framework for NATO's cooperation with Partner countries and the bilateral relationships developed between NATO and individual Partner countries with the Partnership for Peace programme.

    During an afternoon session on Afghanistan, NATO Heads of State and Government and non-NATO nations contributing troops to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) will be joined by Afghan President Karzai, Secretary-General of the UN Ban Ki-Moon, and other major international organizations working in Afghanistan, including the European Union and the World Bank.

    On Thursday evening there will be a cultural event followed by a dinner for the officials attending the summit, while Friday morning will be taken up with the meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, followed by the NATO-Russia Council, which will include the participation of President Putin. The summit is expected to end at about 14:00 on Friday afternoon, after which Karamanlis will return to Athens.

    [06] PM sends letters to leaders of NATO member-states on FYROM

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday sent letters to the leaders of the member-states of NATO, in which he expounds on Greece's positions on the name issue of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), in view of the alliance's Bucharest summit.

    [07] FM details Greek positions on 'name issue' in press editorial

    NEW YORK (ANA-MPA)

    Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis once again detailed Athens' positions on the 'name dispute' with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), this time in a written editorial published in the "International Herald Tribune" on Tuesday, as a NATO summit this week in Bucharest and neighbouring FYROM's interest in joining the Alliance have resurrected an issue that was all but dormant on the international stage.

    "Members of NATO are set to meet Wednesday in Bucharest to consider measures to strengthen the alliance, which may include invitations to three Balkan countries -Albania, Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) - to join the trans-Atlantic family.

    As the region's oldest member of both NATO and the European Union, we feel a heightened sense of responsibility for our neighborhood, an obligation to be constructive, pragmatic and supportive. We will strongly back the inclusion of Albania and Croatia in NATO.

    We will not be able to do the same for FYROM, however, as long as its leaders refuse to settle the issue of its name, which they promised the United Nations to do more than 13 years ago. Since then, however, they have refused every compromise suggested by UN mediators - in sharp contrast to Greece, which found promise for a solution in several of the proposals.

    The leaders of this new land-locked country of 2 million insist on calling their homeland "Macedonia," even though that is a name that has been a part of Greek history and culture for 3,500 years and is the name of our largest northern province.

    Why can't this new country call itself whatever it wants?

    Let me explain the problem as Greeks see it. When Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia changed the name of his country's southern province in 1944 from Vardar Banovina to the Social Republic of Macedonia, he did it to stir up disorder in northern Greece in order to communize the area and to gain an outlet to the Aegean Sea for his country.

    This policy was also linked with the Greek civil war that at the time claimed more than 100,000 Greek lives, brought untold destruction to our country, and delayed our post-war reconstruction for a decade.

    The name "Republic of Macedonia," therefore, is not a phantom fear for us Greeks. It is linked with the deliberate plan to take over a part of Greek territory that has had a Greek identity for more than three millennia and is associated with immense pain and suffering by the Greek people.

    Greeks believed that when Yugoslavia dissolved and FYROM declared its independence in 1991, its leaders would recognize our sensitivity to its use of a name it adopted during the Communist era and change it, as the Soviet Union did, to make a clean break with its past.

    Not only did they fail to do that, but for 17 years now, the authorities in the country have continued to try to undermine Greek sovereignty over Greek Macedonia, which they call "Aegean Macedonia," and to portray it as "occupied" territory that will one day be "liberated."

    While government leaders declare that they have no designs on Greek territory, they refuse to remove such claims from textbooks, speeches, articles, maps and national documents. In fact, by insisting on the name Tito gave the area, they perpetuate the goal he pursued.

    Most distressing for Greeks is that the leaders of FYROM insist that their country use the designation "Macedonia" in their country's name without any qualification - in dramatic contrast to international practice and common sense.

    When parts of a historical region fall into two countries, the newer area uses an adjective to distinguish itself from the older one - New Mexico and Mexico are one such example. But the leaders of Skopje have so far rejected all possible designations to do that proposed by current UN mediator, Matthew Nimetz.

    Greece does not dispute that a part of historic Macedonia lies within FYROM and we are prepared to accept a compound name. But FYROM insists on being sole claimant to the name of a whole area, the largest part of which lies outside its borders.

    This intransigence comes in spite of Greece's efforts to maintain good relations with FYROM and to support it economically. In the past dozen years, Greece has made the biggest investments (more than $1 billion) and created the most jobs (20,000) in FYROM of any country in the world.

    Greece has also made great strides to try to resolve the name issue under UN auspices. It has sat at the negotiating table since 1995 and has shown willingness to consider a solution that the UN mediator advocates - a composite name that includes the geographical designation of Macedonia but attaches an adjective to it to distinguish it from the Greek province with the same name. That's sensible, reasonable and fair to both sides.

    FYROM leaders declare that this is a bilateral issue with Greece, and it should not affect their country's prospects for NATO membership. But alliances and partnership can only be fostered among countries if there is mutual trust and good will. The best way for FYROM to show both is to settle the name issue now.

    Greece has unilaterally gone more than halfway on the issue, closer to two thirds of the way, I would say, and we hoped FYROM would have started moving toward us by now. But they have not budged from their hard line. Not one inch.

    We cannot go any farther. As long as the problem persists we cannot and will not endorse FYROM joining NATO or the European Union. No Greek government will ever agree to it. No Greek parliament will ever approve it."

    [08] Greek FM spokesman on time remaining for solution to 'name issue'

    A foreign ministry spokesman on Tuesday referred to the very short period of time remaining until Wednesday's NATO summit in Bucharest when asked about the prospects for a solution to the FYROM 'name issue' still separating Athens and Skopje.

    "Dramatically marginal, but not non-existent," was spokesman George Koumoutsakos' laconic answer to press questions over the issue that has dominated the foreign affairs agenda over recent weeks, in light of the Alliance summit and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) application to join NATO.

    He nevertheless noted that time was only restricted as far as the summit was concerned.

    "If we are referring to a negotiations process under the UN's auspices, then there is no deadline, and we are ready to continue negotiations until a mutually acceptable solution is found," he said, adding that a new UNSC resolution will be necessary if such an agreement is achieved.

    Moreover, asked about the political climate in the two neighbouring countries (Greece and FYROM) vis-ŕ-vis the nagging dispute over the latter's constitutional name, Koumoutsakos said a string of provocations in neighbouring FYROM "are not limited to just the insulting defacing of the Greek flag, but to Greek history and the Greek people's sacrifices to defeat the Axis powers.

    "One could speak of sporadic incidents, but my feeling is that these incidents not only confirm, but are the product of a specific line of reasoning by (FYROM) government circles - I definitely exclude the neighbouring people - in the neighbouring country; they confirm and are the product of a nationalistic and irredentist reasoning and policy that is supported and exploited by the desire to monopolise the name (i.e. Macedonia) as indicative of an entire wider region".

    In emphasising the last point, the Greek foreign ministry spokesman said Athens sternly opposes a name that will allow a single country in the region to monopolise an entire geographical area.

    In touching on a related aspect that has generated widespread press speculation in the local press, namely, claims of US administration "pressure" on Athens to back down on the issue, Koumoutsakos merely noted that Greece was in complete agreement with Washington over NATO's expansion in the western Balkans, reminding that Greece has been a frontrunner in efforts to promote the Euro-Atlantic course of the area's countries.

    "We also back the 'open door' policy, and in this sense, there is no difference of opinion with the United States. The issue here, and it's at this point that some differences of opinion may arise, is the view that only technical criteria comprise the basis for approving an invitation for (NATO) membership

    "When there is a clear-cut problem, as you've seen in recent days, due to provocations and the accompanying atmosphere that has been created; when there is a problem in relations between a member-state and a prospective member, the member-state should not -- and this is quite reasonable -- consent to an invitation for membership. This is the situation; these are our principled and crystal clear positions, and all of these suggestions regarding 'pressures' or other expressions, I would term them 'intense encouragement', attempt to color an open and sincere discussion with the United States, a discussion between long-time allies," Koumoutsakos said.

    [09] Greek negotiator briefs foreign envoys over Greece's positions on FYROM

    Greek negotiator at the UN-sponsored talks on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) "name issue" Adamantions Vassilakis briefed on Tuesday the ambassadors of European Union and Nato countries in Athens, on Greece's positions regarding the issue, a foreign ministry announcement said.

    The announcement added that Vassilakis also briefed the ambassadors of Russia and China in separate meetings.

    [10] KKE on FYROM, NATO summit

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Tuesday expressed its strong opposition to the expansion of NATO in the Balkans.

    In an announcement, the KKE also accuses ruling New Democracy (ND) and main opposition PASOK of "not referring to other issues" scheduled for discussion at the NATO Bucharest summit, which begins on Wednesday.

    "Limiting, by the ND government and PASOK leadership, the discussion to the name issue of FYROM only, and making no reference to the other crucial issues that the NATO summit will decide, is a dangerous disorientation," the announcement said in reference to a meeting earlier in the day between Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and PASOK leader George Papandreou.

    "KKE warns the Greek people that NATO's expansion in the region, the US anti-missile shield in Europe, reinforcement of occupation troops in Kosovo and Afghanistan, the creation of a Euro-army -and with Greece's participation in all above actions - bear enormous threats for peoples' rights, peace and sovereign rights," the announcement added.

    [11] Tsipras outlines Synaspismos policy on 'name issue'

    Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) leader Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday expressed his pessimism over the possibility of a breakthrough this week on the nagging "name issue" with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), referring to an inability to solve the problem within the "framework of America's goals and NATO's expansion".

    Moreover, Tsipras called not only for a veto of FYROM's potential NATO admission, but opposition to expansion in the Ukraine and Georgia as well.

    Asked directly over his party's position on the FYROM 'name issue', Tsipras reiterated support for a composite name with a geographical determinant.

    [12] SAE Canada pushes for support of mutually acceptable solution to 'name issue'

    MONTREAL (ANA-MPA)

    Two Greek Parliament deputies, ruling ND's George Salagoudis and main opposition PASOK's Yiannis Skoulas, represented the country during this year's annual March 25 Greek Independence Day parade in the Canadian metropolis.

    This year's parade and celebrations by the ethnic Greek communities in Canada coincided with letter by the Canadian chapter of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, calling on the latter not to back NATO membership for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) at an upcoming Alliance summit unless a mutually acceptable solution to the "name issue" is found.

    [13] Parliament debates proposal for social security referendum

    A debate began in Parliament on Tuesday on the proposal submitted by the opposition for a referendum to be held on a law titled "Administrative and organisational reforming of the social security system and other social security arrangements."

    Ruling New Democracy (ND) party rapporteur Ioannis Bougas opposed the holding of a referendum saying "the lack of arguments has brought tension," adding that the government "is being given the opportunity to show that all the opposition parties, abusing rights emanating from the constitution, are continuing their peculiar competition, which is indifferent to the citizens but dangerous."

    Main opposition PASOK party rapporteur Andreas Loverdos said that the government "is denying a referendum on a law that binds the future of working people, adding that in essence the government is fearful since 70-80 percent of the people say no to the draft social security law and call for its withdrawal."

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) rapporteur Achilleas Kantartzis said that KKE "is not limiting itself to the request for the reversal of the government's anti-social security bill, but it is struggling for the abolition of the anti-social security Sioufas and Reppas laws as well."

    Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) rapporteur Fotis Kouvelis said that the party did not pursue "any impressive move or struggle with other opposition forces," stressing that it made use of the institutional possibility provided by the constitution.

    Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party rapporteur Adonis Georgiadis said that "the view that the people are not mature to judge the social security bill in a referendum is an oligarchic one," adding that "it is the majority's right to vote against the proposal for a referendum, but not to speak of Parliamentary activism since we are not moving outside Parliament. We demand respect for our view and for the exercising of our lawful right."

    [14] Referendum on social security bill 'oxygen for democracy', Papandreou says

    Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandrerou, speaking in Parliament on Tuesday during the debate on the opposition's proposal for a referendum on the government's social security bill, said it was a "democratic challenge" for the government and "oxygen for democracy."

    Papandreou said that the referendum was a reply "to the authoritarianism of a government which says that since it is in power it does what it likes," while adding that PASOK had proposed referendums in two other cases, for the European Union's Constitutional Treaty and for Education.

    "The referendum necessitates systematic consultations with society and the substantive teaching of public opinion on the different aspects of the dilemmas. It requires responsible and democratic information for the Greek citizen. It makes the people aware of their own option," he said.

    Responding to Papandreou, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said that the relevant provision in the consitution had been an initiative by the New Democracy (ND) party in 1975 and it had been strengthened with the institution of local referendums, again by ND.

    [15] New press spokespeople take over at PASOK

    The new press spokesman for main opposition PASOK George Papaconstantinou and deputy spokeswoman Maria Karaklioumi took over their duties on Tuesday and were introduced to the press by former party spokesman and current PASOK Secretary Yiannis Ragoussis.

    He also thanked reporters for their cooperation while he was party spokesman, saying that this would continue in his current position.

    Papaconstantinou and Karaklioumi also addressed reporters, the former stressing that it was an honour to express the party's policies and its opposition to the policies of New Democracy and the latter saying that she would her best in the framework of the political culture ushered in by PASOK leader George Papandreou.

    [16] Justice Ministry tables bill for speeding of administering of justice

    The Justice Ministry has tabled a bill for the speeding up of the administering of justice by the courts.

    Apart from the ruling New Democracy (ND) party deputies, the bill also meets the in principle consensus of the Orthodox Popular Rally (LA.OS).

    Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis told the House on Tuesday that the aim of the bill is the speeding up of the pace of justice, while it promises "a very significant upgrading of its building installations and infrastructures and the staffing of prisons."

    ND rapporteur Katerina Papakosta, said that the provisions of the so-called "model trial," restricts the contradictory decisions and rids courts of first instance from a great burden which are swamped by thousands of cases.

    Main opposition PASOK rapporteur George Nikitiadis clarified that his party agrees with many articles of the bill, however it disagrees with its general spirit and with part of the provisions, and this is makes his party unwilling to vote for it in principle.

    Achilleas Kantartzis (Communist Party of Greece) observed that the bill does not deal with the causes of the "increased cases of poor management, which were due to political options."

    On the part of the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA), Nikos Tsoukalis said that the restriction of postponements restricts the possibility of sufficient support in cases, and not only for the collection of documents. "Now the courts, unable to postpone a case, will issue by necessity prejudicial decisions. The weakness to prohibit a second suspension also clashes with the principle of a fair trial in this case," Tsoukalis said.

    The representative of LA.OS, Athanasios Plevris, agreed with the idea of the restriction of suspensions, "but in such a way so that the real reasons be examined, because suspensions are given very easily."

    [17] Civil partnerships not for same-sex couples, justice minister says

    The civil partnership or "free cohabitation" agreements being mulled by the government will not apply to same-sex couples, Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis clarified on Tuesday in response to questions.

    "I would like, first of all, to tell you that this bill is exclusively aimed at heterosexual couples," the minister told reporters when asked to explain aspects of the planned legislation.

    He emphasised the social role of the measures, saying they were designed to protect vulnerable groups like women, children and one-parent families, while stressing that couples joined by a civil partnership would not be given the right to adopt children.

    Hatzigakis also argued that the measures supported marriage, describing civil partnerships as an "antechamber" that prepared couples unable to marry straight away to perhaps marry at a later date.

    Pointing out that similar arrangements existed in almost all European countries, he said the government was thinking of tabling this as a draft bill in order to regulate all relations concerning unmarried but cohabiting couples.

    [18] Interview with State of Victoria Premier John Brumby

    MELBOURNE (ANA-MPA / S. Hatzimanolis)

    The Australian State of Victoria has set as a goal to at least double its trade relations with Greece over the next decade, Premier John Brumby told ANA-MPA, underlining that his government regards Greece as a "gate to the European Union".

    "Our relations with Greece are excellent due to the long presence of a large Greek community in Victoria and the common struggles in two World Wars," he said, adding that Information and Communication Technology Minister Theo Theophanous had recently visited Greece heading a business delegation following a visit to Australia by Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and a large Greek delegation.

    The Victoria State Premier said that he visited Greece in 1996 as head of the opposition and two years ago with his family, stressing that his personal ties with the Greeks in Victoria are long and strong.

    Referring to the plans for the rehabilitation of the "Greek neighborhood" at Lonsdale Street in downtown Melbourne, he said that he wants its Greek identity to be accentuated and be the host of events such as the Antipodes Festival in Melbourne, considered the largest celebration of Greek culture outside Greece.

    Financial News

    [19] Deputy FM Petros Doukas visiting Egypt

    CAIRO (ANA-MPA/N. Melissova)

    Deputy Foreign Minister Petros Doukas is heading a delegation composed of businessmen and representatives of the literary and artistic world and of state agencies currently visiting Egypt, responding to an invitation extended last December by President Hosni Mubarak during his visit to Athens.

    Over 300 meetings took place between Greek and Egyptian businessmen at a business forum held here on Tuesday morning, in the presence of Doukas and Egypt's Industry and Commerce Minister Mohammed Rashid, that concerned discussions on possibilities for new agreements, while sectors were pinpointed that are suitable for investments, as well as on strengthening the presence of Greek products, such as energy, banks, shipping, construction and building materials, telcommunications, farm products, textiles, medicines and cosmetics.

    The Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) signed a cooperation protocol with the Federation of Egyptian Industries at the end of the forum, aiming at providing its members with "specialised information and necessary contacts wth the important and dynamic Egyptian companies to enable them to enter the local market," as it said in an announcement.

    "We are promoting Greece of creation and of extroversion," was the massage sent by Doukas, while on the other side, Egypt is gradually opening to the outside world with reforms, privatisations and the restriction of bureaucracy.

    Doukas held bilateral meetings with the Egyptian investments minister, the oil minister and the civil aviation minister on Monday and Tuesday, raising issues of interest to Greek businessmen and securing a solution for some of them and favourable consideration by the Egyptian authorities for others.

    During his meeting with Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit , the deputy foreign minister conveyed an invitation to him from Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis to visit Athens and outlined Greek positions on major regional issues, the Balkans and the Middle East, as well as on th Mediterranean Union.

    [20] SEB signs cooperation protocol with Egyptian Industries Federation

    The Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) signed a new cooperation protocol with the Egyptian Federation of Industries on Tuesday, in the framework of Deputy Foreign Minister Petros Doukas's official visit to Cairo.

    According to an announcement, SEB aims with the signing of the protocol at providing specialised information for its members on existing business opportunities, bringing them into contact with important and dynamic Egyptian companies, as well as helping their entry into the local market. The Business Council of Greece and Egypt, that functions under the auspices of SEB, also contributes actively in this direction.

    Signing the cooperation protocol, SEB's secretary general and international activities chief Thanassis Lavidas said that the timing is suitable both for Greek companies to utilise the Egyptian government's will to provide incentives and support for Greek companies and for the advantages offered by Greece for Egyptian investors.

    Lavidas also said that the two countries can support each other in their business expansion towards the Middle East and Europe respectively, using each other as a springboard.

    [21] Spiliotopoulos continues visit to China

    Beijing (ANA-MPA / V. Tsekouras)

    Tourism Development Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos, on a visit to China heading a tourism ministry and a Greek National Tourism Organization, GNTO, delegation, inaugurated a Greek painting exhibition at the Greek House in Beijing featuring 31 paintings by Botsoglou, Testis, Moschos and Roris, among others.

    Important agreements were reached during the Greek delegation's visit to Shanghai. A memorandum of cooperation was signed by the GNTO and the municipality of Shanghai which was invited to participate in the Philoxenia 2008 tourism exhibition. Moreover, a GNTO office is expected to open in Shanghai in April.

    Meanwhile, the Chinese airline China Eastern, a competitor of Air China that has undertaken to service the Athens-Beijing route, has expressed interest in the Shanghai-Athens route and airline representatives have been invited to Athens to settle details in a future agreement.

    [22] Greek Bank Union on energy projects

    Development Minister Christos Folias, addressing a conference of the Energy Institute of Southeastern Europe (IENE) and of the Greek Bank Union (EET) on Tuesday on the theme of "Obstacles, counter-incentives and difficulties in implementing energy projects in Greece. Are there solutions?", said that the recent decision on the suspension of applications for investments subsidisation in photovoltaics occurred for the protection of the investing public, since applications have already exceeded 3,000 MW.

    Referring to renewable energy sources in general, Folias pointed out that the development ministry has already activated all the apparatuses that will contribute as much as possible to achieving the European goals set for the so-called "3 twenties", meaning a 20 percent decrease in emissions, a 20 percent infiltration of renewable energy sources and a 20 percent saving of energy by the year 2020.

    The development ministry, in direct cooperation with the environment, town planning and public works ministry, is coordinating all the energy agencies that are involved in renewable energy sources issues and, in addition, it will launch information and publicity activities immediately regarding renewable energy issues and the saving of energy, the minister added.

    Folias also said that "we have entered the final stretch for the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline that will secure considerable developent benefits for Greece."

    [23] Chambers of Commerce representatives hold talks with DEH board

    Chambers of Commerce representatives held talks with the board members of the Public Power Corporation (DEH) at a downtown Athens hotel on Tuesday.

    DEH's president and managing director Takis Athanasopoulos outlined the Corporation's strategic priorities for the representatives on the modernisation of its electricity production potential and of its networks.

    A discussion followed on all issues of interest to businesses in the energy sector, such as saving energy, electric power pricing, security for the country's energy supply, the development of renewable energy sources, more effective protection for the environment and the active participation of Greek businesses in DEH's procurements and projects.

    [24] Serb deputy PM visits Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry

    Serb Deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Djelic visited the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) on Tuesday, accompanied by members of the Serb government and Serb embassy officials in Athens. Djelic met with EBEA president Constantine Mihalos and with board members Mihalis Siamidis and Dimitris Dimitriou.

    Djelic referred at length to his country's economic an political state, placing emphasis on initiatives and activities concerning Serbia's economic growth. He stressed that legislative initiatives are being promoted to restrict bureaucracy regarding business activity and that efforts are taking place to bring about major privatisations.

    He also called on EBEA to contribute to the entry of Greek businesses into Serbia, saying that it is a speedily developing market that is currently providing opportunities for major investments.

    Mihalos referred on his part to the "longstanding and extremely good relations" existing between the two countries and underlined the great progress that has been achieved in the Greek economy in past years. He also made special reference to the great interest of Greek businesses that already exists in exanding into Serbia, the Balkans and eastern Europe in general.

    [25] Transport minister presents airport refurbishment programme

    Transport Minister Kostis Hatzidakis on Tuesday presented a government programme to refurbish Greek airports in view of the upcoming tourist season, in a press conference also attended by tourism ministry general secretary Spyros Efstathopoulos and representatives of the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE).

    The programme is projected to cost about one million euros and was drawn up after on-the-spot inspections by delegations from SETE and the Civil Aviation Authority (YPA) to the airports of Iraklio, Rhodes, Corfu, Hania, Zakynthos, Cephallonia, Samos, Kos and Skiathos.

    Work has already been completed at the airports of Rhodes, Samos, Iraklio, Hania and Corfu and will be completed at the airports of Zakynthos and Cephallonia by the end of April. The aim is to improve the level of service offered to Greek and foreign travellers in light of the tourism season.

    Hatzidakis noted that the tourism sector contributed 18 percent of the country's GDP and noted that this work will be repeated at regular intervals at the start of each tourism season, with non-stop monitoring of the state of Greece's airports to ensure they were always in top condition.

    Replying to questions about serious shortcomings in the infrastructure of certain major airports, such as that of Iraklio, Hatzidakis noted that funds were not unlimited and that the government had therefore sought to attract investors from the private sector.

    He said that infrastructure projects costing 500 million euros were being carried out at 12 airports in 2008, while works costing 900 million euros were planned at another 16 airports.

    Asked about the prospect of deregulating ground services at regional airports, Hatzidakis said that the current arrangement would end in October this year and that any decisions made about the future would have to be in line with Community law and also take into account developments regarding Olympic Airlines, adding that the government intended to provide a solution to the issue of OA by the end of the year.

    [26] Greek products exhibition in Albania

    A Greek products exhibition will take place in Tirana, Albania on June 4-8.

    The exhibition is organized by the Union of Hellenic Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UHCCI) with the participation of Chamber of Small and Medium Sized Industries of Thessaloniki (VETH).

    [27] Alpha-Vita Vassilopoulos announces Plus Hellas buyout

    The Alpha-Vita Vassilopoulos company announced on Tuesday the completion of the agreement on the buyout of the Plus Hellas food chain. The buyout includes 34 outlets and a modern distribution centre and it will strengthen the position of the Alpha-Vita Vassilopoulos company, particularly in northern Greece where its presence was not very strong until recently.

    The network of Plus Hellas is composed of 34 new outlets having an average sales surface of 795 square metres and of a distribution centre covering 36,000 square metres.

    The buyout price amounts to 69.5 million euros. The economic data of Plus Hellas will be incorporated in those of Alpha-Vita Vassilopoulos as of April 1, 2008. In addition, the Plus outlets will be upgraded and will bear the name of Alpha-Vita Vassilopoulos.

    The group's consolidated sales in 2007 amounted to 1.2 billion euros and the net profits after taxes totalled 37.0 million euros. It was also operating 159 outlets at the end of 2007.

    [28] Euro Court opinion cites 'abusive practice' by pharmaceutical company

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA)

    A European Court advocate general on Tuesday expressed a legal opinion that a pharmaceutical company holding a dominant position in a local market engages in "abusive practice" if it refuses to meet orders by wholesalers in order to "limit parallel trade".

    The opinion, by Dámaso Ruiz-Jarabo, stems from a case involving GlaxoSmithKline subsidiary in Greece GSK.

    According to a press release by the Euro Court, GSK "distributes in Greece certain pharmaceutical products for which it holds the patent (Imigran for migraine, Lamictal for epilepsy and Serevent for asthma). For a number of years, the applicants (intermediary wholesalers) have been buying those medicinal products in order to supply the market not only in Greece but also in other countries (Germany and the United Kingdom) where the amount reimbursed per medicinal product is higher than that obtained in Greece. In 2000, GSK changed its system of distribution in Greece, no longer meeting orders from wholesalers. It supplied hospitals and pharmacies through a company called Farmacenter AE. The dispute which then arose gave rise to a first reference to the Court of Justice of the European Communities for a preliminary ruling."

    The case had first wound its way through Greece's civil court system before reaching the Luxembourg-based Court.

    The full text of the Opinion may be found on the Court's internet site: http://curia.europa.eu/jurisp/cgi-bin/form.pl?lang=EN&Submit=rechercher&numaff=C-468/06

    [29] Greek PMI up in March

    Greece's seasonally adjusted Purchasing Managers' Index stood at 52.7 points in March, up from 52.4 in February, reflecting a continued increase in production in the manufacturing sector, although the hike was less than the previous month's increase.

    [30] Significant rise for Greek stocks on Tues.

    Greek stocks posted a bullish session at the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday with the composite index rising 1.95 pct to end at 4,063.89 points, while turnover reached a moderate 382.6 million euros, of which 20.2 million were block trades.

    Most sectors scored gains (with the exception of Utilities, down 2.79 pct), with Raw Materials (8.49 pct), Financial Services (4.67 pct), Industrials (4.41 pct), Construction (3.28 pct) and Banks (2.96 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day.

    The Big Cap index rose 2.57 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 2.85 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 0.94 pct. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 196 to 59 with another 35 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +0.63%

    Industrials: +4.41%

    Commercial: +0.44%

    Construction: +3.28%

    Media: +2.58%

    Oil & Gas: +1.42%

    Personal & Household: +1.54%

    Raw Materials: +8.49%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.35%

    Technology: +2.59%

    Telecoms: +2.78%

    Banks: +2.96%

    Food & Beverages: +1.55%

    Health: +1.39%

    Utilities: -2.79%

    Chemicals: +0.35%

    Financial Services: +4.67%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Marfin Popular Bank, Bank of Cyprus and OTE.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 21.48

    ATEbank: 2.94

    VIOHALCO: 7.00

    ELTEX: 7.86

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 26.70

    HBC Coca Cola: 29.98

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.38

    National Bank of Greece: 34.16

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 19.46

    Bank of Cyprus: 8.30

    Intralot: 11.92

    Hellenic Post Bank: 11.76

    OPAP: 22.38

    OTE: 18.48

    Piraeus Bank: 20.14

    Titan Cement Company: 27.90

    Marfin Popular Bank: 5.34

    Marfin Investment Group (MIG): 4.90%

    [31] ADEX closing report

    Greek futures contract prices ended with a discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover easing to 131.939 million euros. The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 2.92 pct while the April contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.55 pct.

    Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 9,733 contracts worth 98.783 million euros, with 27,224 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 296 contracts, worth 7.333 million euros with 301 open positions.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 19,522 contracts worth 17.555 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Marfin Popular Bank's contracts (8,840), followed by Marfin Investment Group (2,372), OTE (1,461), Mytilineos (1,058), Bank of Cyprus (782) and National Bank (595).

    [32] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market fell to 820 million euros on Tuesday, of which 605 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 215 million were sell orders. The five-year benchmark bond (August 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 450 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds stood at 0.46 pct with the Greek bond yielding 4.46 pct.

    In the domestic interbank market, interest rates slowed down. National Bank's overnight rate fell to 4.07 pct from 4.22 pct, the two-day rate fell to 4.10 pct from 4.12 pct on Thursday, the one-month rate was 4.37 pct and the 12-month rate 4.75 pct.

    General News

    [33] Souflias on sustainable development

    The environment is a priority "in action, and not just words" for the government, environment, town planning and public works minister George Souflias said on Tuesday, addressing the 2007-2013 'Environment and Sustainable Development' Operational Program's monitoring committee, highlighting the fact that, on a scale of 1-100, Greece had ranked 80.2 on a recent index of environmental performance of 133 countries developed by Yale and Columbia universities in the US and published earlier in the year in the International Herald Tribune.

    He added that the picture that some quarters were attemtping to create regarding the environment in Greece was "distorted and unfair for the country".

    "For us, the Environment is a priority in action, and not only in words, and not because it has become fashionable recently." Souflias said, adding that "the picture that some quarters are trying to create about the environment in our country is distorted and unfair for the country".

    Greece, he explained, "has specific problems, which are not of a large extent, which are being tackled through work and program. We are doing ourselves an injustice when we play communication games on the back of the environment and at the expense of our country itself".

    He said that on the environmental index by the two respected American universities, Greece had been ranked with a grade of 80.2 on a scale of 1-100, having a better performance than Germany, the US, Italy, Spain, Cyprus and other countries, and almost at the same level as France and Japan, adding that informing and sensitising the citizen was necessary, "but without exaggerations and populism, which lead, in the end, to indifference".

    Souflias noted that the combination of environmental protecvtion on the one hand and balanced development of the country on the other hand was the fundamental priority of his ministry. "Environment and Development are interconnecting meanings. There is no meaning to development if it is at the expense of the natural environment. In the long-term, or also in the medium-term, often, we all emerge as the losers. That is why we believe only in development with respect for the environment," he explained.

    In other words, he elucidated, "we aim at sustainable development, and this means that our work aims to serve three fundamental purposes: improvement of the quality of life of the citizens, protection of the environment, and the creation of the infrastructures that the country needs", adding that the ministry's program of projects for the 4th Programming Period served precisely those goals, with consistency.

    For the first time has such major emphasis been placed on projects and actions for a better environment, he added.

    [34] Trikala to host Broadband Cities 2008 annual conference

    The city of Trikala in Thessaly, central Greece, will organise the annual global conference of Broadband Cities 2008 in October, following its designation as the host city during the 9th INEC (International Network of e-Communities) conference held in Amsterdam and Almere, Netherlands, host of the Broadband Cities 2007 event.

    Trikala won the hotly contested designation of host city for the Broadband Cities 2008 event due to its speedy materialisation of broadband investments, culminating in the fiber optics network constructed and nearing completion by Trikala, the first Digital City in Greece.

    The current INEC network comprises Trikala, Almere (Netherlands), Amsterdam (Netherlands), Valletta (Malta), Stockholm (Sweden), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Utopia (Utah, USA), Seljtarnarnesbaer (Iceland), Sao Paolo (Brasil) and, more recently, Manchester (UK), while during the Trikala event an agreement will be signed, during a special ceremony, for expansion of the INEC network to include the cities of San Francisco (California, USA), Seattle (Washington, USA), Cologne (Germany), Barcelona (Spain), Vienna (Austria), Helsinki (Finland), Seoul (Korea), Taipei (Taiwan) and several cities in Australia and South Africa.

    [35] Pantios University event on quality in radio and television

    Academics and politicians focused on the timely issue of quality in radio and television addressing an event held Monday in Athens by the Pantios University aimed at launching a productive dialogue between the State and scientific community think tanks.

    Pantios University, following the example of the developed European countries, could play the role of a partner that presents the government and political parties with the latest conclusions of studies held in the area of radio and television, Pantios University dean Panagiotis Tsiris underlined.

    Deputy Education Minister Andreas Lykourentzos stressed that quality in radio and television is a social demand, emphasizing that freedom of speech and moral standards have to be protected. He also referred to the digital era changes in the radio and television scene after 2012.

    Communication and Mass Media secretary general Margarita Papada-Cheimona conveyed a message by Minister of State Theodoros Rousopoulos and congratulating the Pantios University for the initiative, pointed out that quality in radio and television is not easy to be precisely defined.

    Vagueness becomes more obvious because radio and television operate completely under market conditions, she said, and linked quality in television with the duration of the television viewers' interest and the credibility of a station, clarifying that quality in a TV station is linked with the broadness and variety of shows offered. Referring to the sector of information and digital television she stated that credibility, accuracy and respect to the viewer audience safeguards quality.

    [36] Ombudsman's annual report for 2007

    Greek Ombudsman George Kaminis presented the independent authority's annual report for 2007.

    Based on the available figures, it appears that more and more citizens understand its role better, considering that the number of cases shelved because the agency was deemed as unqualified to handle them dropped by 4.5 percent.

    Meanwhile, an assistant ombudsmen will be soon appointed to intensify the office's efforts.

    In 2007, the independent authority received 10,611 complaints by citizens, recording an increase of 15.82 percent compared to the previous year. Of the 5,839 investigated complaints, 98.61 percent concern poor administration and violation of the children's rights by private citizens, while 85.48 percent of the cases were settled in favor of the petitioners.

    Most of the problems were recorded in municipalities (16.94 percent), the Attica prefecture's immigration office (13.82 percent), social security funds (10.51 percent), prefectures (8.53 percent), the ministry of public order (5.62 percent) and the ministry of finance (4.42 percent).

    Kaminis also cited complaints by advocates for gay rights over the exclusion of homosexuals from the so-called "free cohabitation pact", he opined that the government should comply with European directives and eliminate discriminatory practices based on an individual's sexual orientation.

    [37] Papoulias received Athens Mayor Kaklamanis

    Greek President Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday received Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis, who briefed him on the establishment of a drug rehabilitation centre for young users to be housed near west Athens' Sotiria Hospital.

    Kaklamanis added that he briefed the president on the initiative and requested his support to fend off possible objections by two neighboring municipalities.

    He also referred to the "Green Paper" and the trash management problem in the greater Athens area, saying it was one of the most crucial problems Attica prefecture.

    [38] Government to begin implementing Attica waste management plans

    A government committee charged with designing an integrated solid waste management programme and monitoring its implementation on Tuesday decided that the waste management planning for the Attica Region would have to go into effect immediately. The plans call for the construction of three waste composting units in the districts of Fyli, Keratea and Grammatiko and two transhipment centres at Troizina and Elaionas.

    The meeting was chaired by Deputy Interior Minister Thanassis Nakos and attended by Deputy Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou and Deputy Development Minister Stavros Kalafatis.

    Also discussed at the meeting were the 31 unmonitored rubbish dumps in Attica, of which 10 are currently being reclaimed. A decision was made to assign the reclamation of all the rest to a contractor, chosen through a tender held by the Attica Regional authority.

    The ministerial committee is to meet with representatives of the European Commission on Wednesday.

    After the meeting, Nakos said that the government was "beginning a major effort to make up for lost time" and would seek to "soon raise Greece to the levels required of an EU member-state".

    [39] Fire-fighting aircraft forced to land at sea

    A Canadair CL-215 water-bombing aircraft used to fight fires had to make at forced landing at sea on Tuesday afternoon in Aliveri Bay, off the island of Evia, after developing engine trouble.

    According to the fire brigade, the aircraft was carrying out an water-collection exercise when it started to present mechanical problems and had to be ditched in the sea.

    The two-member crew on board was not in danger at any time, authorities said.

    A team of Air Force technicians is now heading for the crash site to carry out repairs and return the aircraft to its base.

    [40] Drug dealer opted for payment in kind

    A 32-year-old drug dealer arrested by Thessaloniki Police was being paid in kind by drug users, accepting stolen electronic appliances instead of cash.

    A search of his apartment unveiled a stash of appliances including video cameras and PCs among others, while police also found and seized 430 grams of heroin, 24 grams of hashish and 50 bullets.

    Weather Forecast

    [41] Cloudy, scattered showers on Wednesday

    Cloudy weather and scattered showers with southerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 5-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 5C and 18C. Cloudy with scattered showers in the afternoon in Athens, with variable 4-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 9C to 17C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 6C to 17C.

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