|Saturday, 10 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-04-03
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 3 April 2008 Issue No: 2859
 Greece vetoes an invitation to FYROM for NATO entryBUCHAREST (ANA-MPA/S.Goutzanis)
Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday night vetoed a NATO invitation to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to join, during an alliance crucial summit here.
Addressing the leaders' dinner, which signaled the opening of the summit, Karamanlis outlined Greece's positions on the issue, underlining that it cannot consent to a FYROM NATO entry invitation if the "name issue" of the former Yugoslav republic is not resolved first.
France, Italy, Spain, Iceland and Luxembourg expressed their support to Greece's positions, while Hungary, Slovakia, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany viewed with understanding the Greek arguments.
Opposing the Greek position and supporting an invitation without conditions to FYROM, were Turkey, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, and Lithuania.
Denmark, Bulgaria, and Norway, although moving in the same direction, were less enthusiastic. Canada, Great Britain and Portugal refrained from taking a stand.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy was the warmest supporter of the Greek positions, who said in his address that "We stand in solidarity with Greeks, we believe that a solution must be found. I have Hungarian roots, but I also have Greek roots and I fully assume them."
During a reception preceding the official dinner, Premier Karamanlis held a brief conversation with U.S. President George W. Bush.
In a related development, NATO spokesman James Appathurai told reporters in Brussels after the end of the Bucharest dinner, that Greece made clear that despite the fact that it wants to see FYROM joining NATO the soonest possible, it is not possible to give its consent as long as the neighboring republic's "name issue" remains unresolved.
According to an ANA-MPA dispatch from the Belgian capital, Appathurai added that, given Greece's position, efforts for resolving the "name issue" should continue, noting at the same time that all NATO member-states wish for a compromise solution as soon as possible, without this meaning that concrete timeframes have been set.
 DM Meimarakis attends NATO defence ministers dinner, comments on AfghanistanDefence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis, accompanying Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on his visit to Bucharest for the NATO summit, attended a dinner for the Alliance's defence ministers on Wednesday.
Talks held during the dinner focused on developments in Afghanistan, as well as issues concerning the transformation of the Atlantic Alliance, according to a defense ministry press release issued in Athens on Wednesday night.
Speaking during the dinner and referring to developments in Afghanistan, Meimarakis said that "our will to support the efforts of the International Community and of the Alliance in particular is a given fact. We are present in Afghanistan because we wish to contribute to the combating of terrorism and the reconstruction of the country."
The defense minister also pointed out that "our contribution is linked to our international commitments and to our operational potential."
On the question of efforts to transform the Alliance, Meimarakis said that "the Speedy Reaction Force (NRF) constitutes the most important tool that guarantees the upgrading of the Alliance's potential and constitutes the guide for NATO's transformation process. Greece, acknowledging the policy and the operational importance of the NRF contributes substantively and without fail to the effort to achieve and maintain its full operational readiness."
Greece steadfast on 'no FYROM name solution means no NATO invitation', just hours ahead of crucial Alliance summit
Greece on Wednesday reiterated its steadfast position that no mutually acceptable solution to the FYROM name issue would mean no NATO membership invitation to the neighboring country, just hours before a crucial North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit opened in Bucharest, with enlargement of the Alliance a top item on the agenda.
Foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis reiterated that "no solution of the name issue means no invitation", speaking to reporters after a final meeting with prime minister Costas Karamanlis and defense minister Evangelos Meimarakis at the government headquarters ahead of the Summit.
She noted that this had been the final preparatory meeting before the summit, as the prime minister and the Greek delegation would be leaving in the afternoon for the Romanian capital.
Asked whether a last-minute proposal on the name issue could be expected, Bakoyannis stressed that "I don't think the time margins exist", adding that "we are going (to the Summit) well-prepared, and our argumentation is well-known".
To another question on whether a "trilateral" meeting between US, Greek and FYROM officials would be held on the sidelines of the summit, Bakoyannis said that there was no information to that effect, adding that the Greek position was "crystal-clear", although it possibly did not coincide with the positions of other NATO member countries.
 Gov't responds to local press queries on presence at NATO summitThe alternate government spokesman on Wednesday answered a barrage of press questions related to the Greek delegation's itinerary at a NATO summit in Bucharest, set for Wednesday and Thursday, particularly to contacts and negotiations regarding the timely FYROM 'name issue'.
Spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said no meetings with representatives of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) have been finalized at present, clarifying that there is nothing new concerning any meeting between Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his counterpart from FYROM.
"If anyone asks for a bilateral meeting, we will correspondingly respond. We're ready to repeat our clear-cut position to whoever asks," he added.
Finally, asked about a report out of Skopje that a rally by nationalist circles will be held in the FYROM capital to "condemn" Greece, Antonaros noted that such events "do not contribute to mutual understanding and communication, or to the overcoming of whatever problems exist."
 Left-wing parties on NATO summit and FYROMGreece's smaller left-wing parties on Wednesday said that the government should stand firm on a number of crucial issues that would be discussed at the NATO summit in Bucharest and not offer "exchanges" to offset a hardline stance on whether NATO should extend an invitation to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga stressed, meanwhile, that her party's stance should not be interpreted as being "the same" as that of the government, even though they might agree on the issue of a name containing a geographic qualifier or determinant.
"Apart from that, the government cannot defend the interests of borders and peace in the region, because this is what this is about, when it places everything within the rationale of the NATO partnership alliance," she added.
She also noted that the NATO summit was not just about whether FYROM would join or not but would cover a series of very serious issues and make decisions with potentially tragic repercussions, including a more general enlargement linked to anti-missile defense and an increase of military forces in Afghanistan.
"We will disagree - and I say this in advance - if the prime minister presents a veto and at the same time offers trade-offs to imperialist policy," Papariga stressed.
This was echoed by the head of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party Alexis Tsipras, meanwhile.
"The government's determination and bravery will not be judged by its stance toward the neighbouring country at the NATO summit. It will be judged by its stance on the summit's overall agenda. An agenda that places peace and security on a global and regional level at serious risk," he said.
Earlier on Wednesday, the parliamentary spokesman for the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Alekos Alavanos expressed concern while speaking in Parliament that the negotiations between Greece and FYROM over the name issue might be transferred outside a NATO framework and be held within the framework of NATO and under the guidance of the United States.
"We want to express our deepest concern at the possibility that the government will move along a course of asymmetrical trade-offs. There are very many serious issues that cannot and do not even need to be considered as exchanges - and the government has mistakenly entered this new framework of negotiations," Alavanos said.
Among these issues he listed the possibility of Greece being pressured into recognition of independence for Kosovo and sending Greek special forces to combat zones in Afghanistan.
"These are serious issues. The Americans have unfortunately reached 4,000 coffins sent back from Iraq. We do not want even one coffin from Afghanistan and we want assurances that these negotiations for the name of FYROM will have their autonomy and will not be linked to Afghanistan, Iran or the base at Souda [on the island of Crete]," he added.
Alavanos additionally criticized a reference to the Souda base in relation to the negotiations over FYROM made on Tuesday by main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, describing this as "an unfortunate and mistaken link" given that the two sides would be having high-level talks on this issue in July.
 US Rep. Maloney points to FYROM irredentist policy, during House commentsWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA)
US Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) this week called for understanding of Greece's standing positions regarding the festering FYROM "name issue", speaking on the floor of the US House of Representatives.
The NYC-area veteran Congresswoman, the founder and co-chair of the Caucus on Hellenic issues, reiterated her positions on the same issue and her caustic criticism of the Bush administration's recognition of the land-locked republic with its constitutional name in 2004, while she pointed directly at the "imperialistic policy" begun by Yugoslav leader Tito in 1944 to take control of Greece's Macedonia province.
 EU Commissioner Olli Rehn on Greek flag disfigurationBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
European Union Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said on Wednesday that the recent incident concerning the disfiguration of the Greek flag in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) was a "terrible example of inciting feelings that could lead up to hatred for a neighboring country."
Replying to a relevant question by Bulgarian Eurodeputy Evgeni Kirilov in the framework of an exchange of views with the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee members, Rehn said that the act in question is not compatible with the principle of relations of good neighborliness.
He further said that the act is offensive for the Jewish community in Greece and pointed out that, as he was informed, the reaction of FYROM's government to this act was immediate.
 Bulgarian foreign minister to visit GreeceSOFIA (ANA-MPA - B. Borisov)
Bulgaria's Foreign Minister Ivaylo Kalfin is to carry out an official visit to Greece on April 8-10 at the invitation of his Greek counterpart Dora Bakoyannis, the Bulgarian foreign ministry announced on Wednesday.
During the visit, he is expected to hold talks on the Greek Plan for the Reconstruction of the Balkans (ESOAB), the ratification by the Greek Parliament on an agreement between the two governments that opens the Ivaylovgrad-Kiprinos border crossing and the course of talks for opening three smaller checkpoints on the Greek-Bulgarian border.
Bakoyannis and Kalfin will also exchange views on the European prospects of the western Balkans, the situation in Kosovo, European good neighbour policy and developing regional cooperation.
During his visit to Greece, Kalfin will also take part in the 12th roundtable meeting on issues concerning southeastern Europe organised by the "Economist" in Athens.
 Bulgarian foreign ministry on FYROM's NATO prospectsOn Wednesday, meanwhile, a spokesman for the Bulgarian foreign ministry expressed Sofia's support for the EuroAtlantic prospects of the three countries currently in the Adriatic Map (Albania, Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) but noted that this support could not be unconditional.
Referring directly to the name dispute between Greece and FYROM, the spokesman said that the progress of talks to find a solution did not currently engender confidence that FYROM would be invited to join the Alliance at the NATO summit beginning later on Wednesday.
While noting Bulgaria's support in principle to extending invitations to these countries to join NATO as "stabilizing factor that will have a positive influence of levels of security in the region," the spokesman also noted that each of the candidate countries must meet "a series of essential criteria set by NATO".
Regarding FYROM, in particular, he said that Sofia would continue to assist its accession course but would also emphasize the mandatory nature of fulfilling the criteria.
"In this spirit, the assistance cannot be unconditional. Along with the rest of the criteria for entry, the Alliance also sets the condition of resolving outstanding bilateral issues with neighboring countries, development and preserving good neighbor relations with them," he said.
The spokesman added that complications to extending an invitation to Skopje should not also block the invitation of the two other candidate-countries, Albania and Croatia, and also expressed Bulgaria's support for the candidacies of Georgia and Ukraine.
 Education minister presents draft bill for special educationEducation Minister Evripidis Stylianidis on Wednesday presented a draft bill regulating special education and training at an event at the Zappion building in Athens.
He stressed that the draft bill for the first time made special education mandatory, fully in line with laws governing general education, and thus met a demand made by the disabled community in Greece dating back decades.
"The new bill expresses the political will for the real social integration of people with disabilities. Special Education and Training to ensure equal opportunities to people with disabilities and special educational needs," he said.
Apart from outlining the measures foreseen under the bill, the minister also announced a programme underway to build new schools with access for the disabled around the country and to build 56 new special needs schools, of which 12 were already completed and 11 would be finished within the year.
 Health minister outlines National Action Plan on drugsHealth Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos outlined the main elements contained in the National Action Plan against drugs covering the 2008-2012 period at the Parliamentary Social Affairs Committee on Wednesday.
Avramopoulos said that the dominant principle of national policy on drugs is strengthening public infrastructures to confront addiction and the consolidation of the citizens' right to free and qualitative services.
The health minister committed himself that a special financial and technical report will be submitted until May concerning the funding of activities, adding that emphasis and priority will be placed on prevention and announced that the first national prevention campaign against addiction will begin on June 26, the International Day against Drugs.
Opposition parties, on their part, expressed reservations over the issue of funding and the timetable for the implementation of programmes.
 Doukas meets with Patriarch of All AfricaCAIRO (ANA-MPA/N. Melissova)
Visiting Deputy Foreign Minister Petros Doukas met with the Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa Theodoros II during a reception at the Greek ambassador's residence here on Tuesday evening.
Doukas is visiting Egypt at the head of a large business delegation comprising 150 Greek entrepreneurs.
The reception, hosted by Greek Amb. Ioannis Zepos, was attended by World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) President Stefanos Tamvakis and leaders of the ethnic Greek communities in Egypt.
 FinMin Alogoskoufis briefs Parliamentary committees on Eurogroup, EcofinFinance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis briefed the Parliamentary European and Economic Affairs Committees on the outcome of the recent Eurogroup and Ecofin Councils, focusing on reforms carried out in the country in the past years.
"Although the state of the world economy has worsened over the past months, the reforms that have been implemented in our country in the past years have strengthened the growth momentum and the endurance of the Greek economy," the minister said.
Alogoskoufis further said that "our country has a very strong growth momentum and endurance for the winds that are coming," while mentioning that he has called on the ministry's services to reassess macroeconomic predictions to enable speedy changes in the international economic environment and the factors of the new national collective labour agreement, which was signed last week, to be taken into consideration and the government's economic staff will soon be in a position to present them.
"Even, however, with a downward revision of growth predictions, Greece will have double the growth rate of the average of eurozone countries in 2008 as well," he stressed.
At the same time, the minister pointed out that in no way can he see a revision of goals set in the budget, adding that "certain repercussions from greater expenditures due to the increase in oil are offset due to VAT."
Alogoskoufis noted, however, that the goals set regarding inflation are revised somewhat more due, as he said, to the contract signed by the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) and the Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) and the increases will affect both inflation and the rate of the decrease in unemployment that will be slowed down.
 Parliament rejects proposals for referendum on social security reformsParliament on Wednesday evening rejected proposals by the opposition parties for a referendum to be held on the social security system reform. Voting against the holding of a referendum were 152 deputies, while 146 voted for it.
A three fifths majority, meaning 180 out of the 300-member House, was needed for the proposal to pass.
The vote ended a two-day Parliamentary debate on the matter.
 Parliament debates proposal for referendum on pension reformsMembers of the government were sharply critical of main opposition PASOK on Wednesday, during the debate in Parliament on a proposal for holding a national referendum to approve the social insurance reforms passed by the government.
According to Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis, PASOK and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), which backed the motion, were "playing a dangerous game with the institutions".
He also accused the main opposition of lacking political positions or an overall direction and said it was "unfortunate that it should be dragged in the wake of the smaller party".
The minister was extremely critical, meanwhile, of what he called attempts to involve President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, saying that this was a "grievous slip that would be tantamount to a constitutional deviation".
Commenting on whether or not the president has the powers to return a Bill to Parliament for reconsideration, Hatzigakis accused PASOK and Left of inconsistency and pointed out that PASOK had itself stripped the presidential office of those same powers it was now asking the president to exercise as far back as 1986.
He also made the point that the social insurance bill was a fiscal issue that should not be put to referendum, while stressing that the president's power to return legislation for reconsideration had never been used by a Greek head of state and was as though it had never existed.
Replying to Hatzigakis - particularly his argument that the constitutional article on holding a national referendum needed to be enacted through a bill passed by Parliament in order to go into force - PASOK MP Haris Kastanidis pointed out that other articles of the Constitution, such as that forbidding members of Parliament from any form of employment while they held office, was also in force without a law having being passed by Parliament.
If the government was certain that it was in harmony with the electoral body, then it had only to organise a referendum on the social insurance reforms, Kastanidis added.
 Gov't rejects reasoning for pension reform referendumA demand for a referendum to approve of the government's social security reform package was tabled for the "sake of merely creating impressions," Employment Minister Fanny Palli-Petralia emphasised during Parliament debate late Tuesday evening.
"Main opposition PASOK and the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) are engaged in a rivalry," Petralia said, criticizing the opposition for not presenting any proposals while the social security reform debate was underway in Parliament. She also accused the opposition blocking any solution to the problem.
"No proposal, no solution," she said characteristically.
"The proposal for a referendum was made in the name of society but in reality it turns against it ... we are here to defend and guarantee the rights of pensioners now and in the future."
 President receives professional groups objecting to pension reformsPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday received a visit from the heads of professional associations and journalists' unions, who presented their objections to the social insurance reforms recently passed by the government.
After the meeting, the head of the Bar Associations of Greece Dimitris Paxinos said they had outlined their views on the government reforms and their repercussions on both professional groups in the country but also on society as a whole.
He said that a team of legal experts was already considering the measures that professional intend to take in response to the draft reforms.
The president of the executive committee of the Technical Chamber of Greece (TEE) representing civil engineers, Yiannis Alavanos, stressed that civil engineers would fight both in Greece and European courts and on a political level "for laws that solve the problems of social insurance".
The head of the Panhellenic Federation of Journalists' Unions Dimitris Tsalapatis said he had informed the president that journalists were totally opposed to the measures, and that journalists' unions throughout Greece were determined to escalate their action, impose measures on a union level and take any kind of legal action in order to ensure that the law was not applied in practice.
"We expressed to [the president] are complete opposition to the expropriation of our funds' assets, while the main thing is that the way that the government is handling the issue concerning journalists' funds there is a danger of manipulating the media," he said.
 Gov't on Bank of Greece strikeAlternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Wednesday reiterated that the manner in which a strike by Bank of Greece (BoG) employees is being carried out is "unacceptable".
Asked if measures will be taken to deal with problems caused by the strike, he said that social security reform has been approved by Parliament, pointing out that pension rights of the specific employees are not affected in any way, therefore, "continuation of this industrial action is groundless."
 Public transport strikes on ThursdayCommuters will have problems in getting about on Thursday morning due to strike action by several Athens public transport networks.
Staff working on the Athens tram are planning a four-hour work stoppage from 8:00 in the morning until noon and but will begin withdrawing trams from circulation beginning at 6:30, while the system will not return to full capacity before 13:15.
Strike action has also been announced by Athens Metro staff between the hours of 10:00 and 12:00 in the morning.
 Development Minister, Gazprom vice-chairman discuss South Stream projectGreek Development Minister Christos Folias on Wednesday met with visiting Gazprom Export's vice-chairman and chief executive, Alexander Medvedev, and discussed progress of a natural gas pipeline plan called South Stream, carrying natural gas supplies from Russia to Greece.
The meeting was made ahead of a Greek-Russian joint technical commission meeting in Moscow, April 7. The two men also discussed a Greek demand to expand a bilateral agreement on natural gas supplies beyond 2016 and deregulation of natural gas market in Greece.
 Investment Bank tops list of securities firms in Q3Investment Bank topped the list of the most active securities firms in the Greek capital market in March and maintained its leading position in the first quarter of the year also, according to official figures released on Wednesday.
Investment Bank topped the market with a 20.52 pct share, followed by Eurobank Sec with 18.81 pct, National-P&K Securities (14.04 pct), Euroxx (8.32 pct), Piraeus Securities (6.56 pct), Alpha Finance (5.7 pct), Kappa Securities (5.35 pct), Eurocorp (3.46 pct), Proton (3.06 pct) and HSBC (2.24 pct). Investment Bank's share in the first quarter of the year was 20.34 pct.
The Greek market showed strong signs of consolidated with the top 10 securities firms accounting for 88.06 pct of total turnover in the market in March, slightly down from 88.3 pct in February but up from 87.3 pct in January.
 Commercial Value finalizes agreement to buy Proton InsuranceCommercial Value on Wednesday announced the finalization of an agreement with Proton Bank for the purchase of Proton Insurance and the cooperation between the two companies in the bank assurance business.
Under the agreement, Proton Insurance will be renamed into Commercial Sun and will operate separately from other companies in Aspis Group.
 Frigoglass buys Turkish company for 50 mln eurosFrigoglass on Wednesday announced an agreement for the purchase of a majority stake in SFA Sogutma Sanayi Ic ve Dis Ticaret AS, a Turkish company, for around 50 million euros.
Frigoglass will buy up to 86 pct of the Turkish company's equity capital. SFA expects this year's sales to reach 50 million euros.
 Greek stocks surge 2.42 pct on WednesdayGreek stocks surged in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday pushing the composite index of the market above the 4,100 level. The index jumped 2.42 pct to end at 4,162.31 points with turnover a heavy 804.3 million euros, of which 395.7 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors ended higher with the Banks (4.70 pct), Industrial Products (3.62 pct) and Food/Beverage (3.32 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Media (1.71 pct), Telecommunications (1.30 pct) and Utilities (1.29 pct) suffered losses.
The Big Cap index rose 3.20 percent, the Mid Cap index ended 0.54 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 0.23 percent. Hatzioannou (10.78 pct), AEGEK (10.0 pct) and Interinvest (10.0 pct) were top gainers, while United Textiles (15.38 pct), Tzirakian (11.49 pct) and Klonatex (10.0 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 153 to 91 with another 44 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.36%
Personal & Household: -0.14%
Raw Materials: +1.27%
Travel & Leisure: -0.89%
Food & Beverages: +3.32%
Financial Services: +0.13%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Marfin Investment Group (MIG), National Bank, Bank of Cyprus and Marfin Popular Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 22.30
Public Power Corp (PPC): 26.26
HBC Coca Cola: 31.00
Hellenic Petroleum: 8.40
National Bank of Greece: 36.20
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 20.38
Bank of Cyprus: 8.80
Hellenic Post Bank: 11.56
Piraeus Bank: 21.14
Titan Cement Company: 28.54
Marfin Popular Bank: 5.54
Marfin Investment Group (MIG): 5.00%
 ADEX closing reportGreek futures contract prices maintained their discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover rising to 203.013 million euros. The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 2.96 pct, while the April contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.13 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 16,517 contracts worth 171.373 million euros, with 26,325 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 199 contracts worth 5.011 million euros with 281 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 16,221 contracts worth 19.549 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Marfin Popular Bank's contracts (3,119), followed by OTE (968), Piraeus Bank (525), National Bank (1,455), Alpha Bank (771), Intracom (825), Mytilineos (994), Hellenic Postbank (1,915) and Hellenic Petroleum (1,398).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market rose to 1.212 billion euros on Wednesday, of which 685 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 527 million were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 512 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds fell to 0.46 pct with the Greek bond yielding 4.45 pct and the German Bund 3.99 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were mixed. National Bank's overnight rate was 4.07 pct, the two-day rate fell to 4.07 pct from 4.10 pct, the one-month rate was 4.37 pct and the 12-month rate 4.76 pct.
 Reactions to Ombudsman's report for 2007The improvement recorded by the Greek Ombudsman's report in terms of mismanagement on a local government level in 2007 were welcomed on Wednesday by the interior ministry and Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis, who is president of the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE).
"The year 2007 marks local government's best performance in terms of fighting mismanagement since 2003, especially with regard to municipalities and communities, which show an improvement of about 4 percent in a year," an interior ministry announcement said.
It also noted the slight improvement in the figures concerning prefecture-level authorities.
On the other hand, the ministry also pointed out that municipalities continue to occupy the top places in terms of mismanagement but said that this should be offset against the fact that they also had the largest volume of transactions with the public, with a 60 percent share of the total.
It stressed that the improvements had come about following cooperation between the ministry, KEDKE and the Union of Prefecture Authorities of Greece (ENAE), with measures taken both in terms of institutions and in terms of more frequent inspections and imposing the penalties foreseen.
According to Kaklamanis, meanwhile, a final solution to rooting out mismanagement on a local government level would be few and more powerful municipalities, able to operate as autonomous and functional administrative and policy units, with enhanced procedures for internal control and radical improvements for monitoring the decisions of municipal councils and municipal committees that generated financial results, as well as the foundation of an independent authority to monitor financial decisions by local government.
 Papoulias receives transport ministerPresident Karolos Papoulias received Transport Minister Costis Hatzidakis on Wednesday for a meeting regarding the issue of road safety in the country, as Greece sports one of the worst traffic fatalities figures in the EU.
Along those lines, Papoulias said he will attend and address an event on road safety, organized by the Athens Polytechnic in May.
Moreover, Hatzidakis announced the establishment of a coordinating body, with the cooperation of the interior and public works ministries, which will be in charge of coordination of all authorities involved with the road safety, in order to reduce traffic accidents.
Hatzidakis added that in the second half of 2007 traffic fatalities in the country declined by 13 percent.
 Jerusalem Patriarch Theophilos visits Ecumenical PatriarchateISTANBUL (ANA-MPA/A. Kourkoulas)
Jerusalem Patriarch Theophilos III made a short visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate's Fanar district seat on Wednesday, where he was received by Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos.
"We express our gratitude, love and respect for your undivided interest, both during our visit here today and during our past visits," Theophilos said after the meeting.
"These are visits through which our unity is expressed, and which provide us the opportunity to recognise the role and the importance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and its assistance to the Jerusalem Patriarchate," he added.
 Polliceman injured in cafeteria explosionA strong explosion, probably caused by a large quantity of dynamite placed outside a cafe in Elefsina, wider Athens region, caused extensive damage to nearby apartment buildings at dawn Wednesday.
According to police, a few years ago the same cafe was again the target of an explosion in gangland war raging in the western Attika region.
The cafe targeted belonged to a close relative of an incarcerated criminal found guilty of murder, extortion and other offenses.
A policeman was slightly injured in the explosion while on patrol outside the nearby apartment of woman under a witness protection programme, who had testified in 2002 against another criminal serving a prison sentence for extortion, involvement in manslaughter and a number of other illegal acts.
 Anti-racist, immigrant organisations to stage rallies in Greek citiesThe Panhellenic Network for Support for Anti-Racist and Immigrant Organisations will organize rallies in Athens and in other cities in Greece on Saturday, April 5, according to an announcement made on Wednesday.
The main theme of the rallies will differ from one city to another. The main slogan at the rally to be held in Omonia Square in Athens in the afternoon will be "Asylum and open borders for refugees."
In Thessaloniki, Macedonia, the demonstrators will be protesting for "The non-existence of rights for second generation immigrants."
 Grand Maitre in Rhodes to close for restorationThe palace of the Grand Maitre in the medieval quarter of the city of Rhodes, the capital of the eponymous Dodecanese island, will close on April 4 for extensive restoration and maintenance works, according to the local archaeological bureau.
No date was set, however, for a completion of the works.
The issue of the monument's restoration arose after a heavy rainfall caused a portion of the site's entrance to collapse. Experts also discovered extensive damage in other parts of the building.
 Film director Jules Dassin buried in AthensAmerican-born film director Jules Dassin, who died last Monday at the age of 97, was buried in Athens on Wednesday afternoon in the presence of relatives, friends, politicians, actors and intellectuals.
The burial service was held at the synagogue in the Israelite sector of the 3rd Athens cemetery in the afternoon. The service was attended by Culture Minister Mihalis Liapis, main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou, former prime minister Costas Simitis, party representatives and Parliamentary deputies, as well as his two daughters and three grandchildren.
At the end of the service, Dassin's body was taken to the 1st Athens cemetery where he was buried next to his beloved late actress and culture minuster Melina Mercouri, according to his wish.
 Directors' guild expresses condolences over death of Jules DassinThe Greek Directors Guild expressed its condolences on Wednesday over the death of noted director Jules Dassin, while unanimously deciding to establish a "Jules Dassin Award" for young Greek film directors.
 Traffic brought to standstill in Afidnes toll gateLong queues of vehicles formed at the Afidnes toll gate due to lack of small change by motorists and the employees of the new consortium operating the toll points.
As of Wednesday, a new consortium took over operation of the toll booths, while the new toll fees entering into effect the same day in Afidnes were raised from 2 to 2.75 euros, and the company officials had not prepared for the situation by stacking up coins, while motorists were not aware of the price hike.
The problem is expected to be settled on Thursday.
 Cloudy, scattered showers on ThursdayCloudy weather and scattered showers with westerly, southwesterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 4-5 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 5C and 19C. Cloudy with scattered showers in the afternoon in Athens, with westerly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 9C to 17C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 8C to 16C.
 UN senior official encouraged from meetings in CyprusNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
UN Under Secretary General Lynn Pascoe has said he is very encouraged from what he has heard during his visit to
Cyprus, noting that he will pass this on to the UN Secretary General and Security Council when he returns to New York.
"There is a positive tone here in Cyprus at the moment and a probable sense of momentum", Pascoe told a press conference Wednesday, concluding his visit here, noting "the two leaders have set their sight at achieving a fair and lasting solution and Cypriots are right to have high expectations".
"I am encouraged and I will pass this on to the SG when I talk to him," he added, noting that his "message will be positive and a hopeful one."
Pascoe described his visit as very good, noting that he has had extremely good conversations with Cypriot President Demetris Christofias, Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat "as well as with the political leaders and civil society representatives in both the north and the south."
He said that the came to he island to see primarily how the UN can be most helpful in the process reached by the leaders on 21 March, adding that "during the past two and a half days we are discussing this with many - many people."
"I wanted to get a sense of how people in Cyprus see their future together and I again I was very encouraged from what I've heard. When I go back to New York I will report to the SG as well as to the Security Council. My message will be positive and a hopeful one," Pascoe noted.
The UN official noted that the he wants to be "practical" and explained that there "will be hard work here for the first three months and continuing if the two sides are to come to an agreement, it is our sincere hope and expectation that the period in the next three months will take us to fully fledged negotiations and a settlement".
"We all know that achieving a solution will not be easy. There are many issues that have been around for many years there have been many discussions on, some have been productive, some have led nowhere but we will work on them", the UN USG said, adding this is something that must be achieved by the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot leadership supported by their people. "It requires hard work and compromise but I am confident at the end the two sides, with our help, can succeed", he said.
Responding to a question, Pascoe said the UN works very closely with the EU as well as with others interested in the situation in Cyprus.
Asked if he was able to define the parameters of a possible solution, he said that the many negotiations and past efforts have made clear what the main issues are out there "that we all need to work on", adding "there has been a lot of work done much had been agreed on various times but of course you don't have a final agreement until everything is agreed upon".
"So there is a lot to work with, there is a lot that we can do, and certainly the two leaders know what the basic parameters they are working under are, where we can go and what we can accomplish", Pascoe said and added: "The trick is always to close those gaps to find the appropriate trade offs to come up with a package that the people on both sides of the line can support. That's our goal we want to work and we will continue in that process".
As regards the appointment of the new UN envoy for Cyprus, he said the two parties have made it clear that they want to spend the first three months at the working group level to develop the appropriate areas and issues for the leaders to concentrate on for the heavy political negotiations.
He introduced Elizabeth Spehar the acting special representative for UNFICYP for the next month, noting that in this first period UNFICYP will support the committees and if the progress there is substantial "and it looks that we are headed in the right direction" then the SG will decide whether he is going to make an appointment as "we want to be there when the major talks begin and we are very hopeful that the process will move forward".
Responding to a question on conflicting reports on the opening of Ledra street checkpoint in Nicosia, the UN official said "we are moving forward in the Ledra street to be open".
He pointed out that the main object is not political although some people are trying to make it and that the main problem there is to have a safe crossing as many buildings are ready to collapse.
Shortly after the press conference, the Cyprus government announced that the crossing point at Ledra street, to and from the island's northern Turkish occupied areas, will open on Thursday.
Finally replying to a question on Turkey's stance, he said all interested countries are quite enthusiastic about the process moving forward and there is a lot of good will for a resolution of the Cyprus issue.
He concluded that he will be travelling around Athens, Ankara, Europe "and we will do what we can to promote a settlement. Right at this point everyone has been extraordinarily encouraging to move this process forward".
 FM: Two sides in Cyprus ready to solve Cyprus problemLARNACA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The two communities in Cyprus are ready to solve the Cyprus problem and now it is time to have the support of the international community, Cypriot Foreign Minister Marcos Kyprianou has said.
Kyprianou, who departed Wednesday for the US, said he would hold there a series of meetings with US government officials, including Chairman of the Senate Joe Biden and Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte due to Condoleezza Rice's participation in the NATO meeting in Romania.
Kyprianou was also invited to comment on statements made by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza who expressed the US readiness to contribute to efforts to solve the Cyprus issue provided that the two communities are ready.
He described Bryza's statements as positive, saying that he would discuss with Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and other US officials how Washington could contribute effectively to the process.
"I believe that the two communities in Cyprus are ready. We have the 21st of March 2008 decisions before us. Now it is the time to have the right support for this effort on principle issues which should be included in the solution of the Cyprus problem", he pointed out.
Referring to his contacts in the US he said he would exchange views with the US officials on the process which began aiming to reach a Cyprus solution.
"We will also discuss how the US government and in general the US political community could contribute to a positive outcome of this new procedure by avoiding the problems which arose in 2004", the Cypriot FM said.
Asked whether the political crisis in Turkey could affect efforts for a Cyprus solution he said "this could happen given that Turkey is a basic player and has a basic role to play in the procedure to reach a solution of the problem".
Regarding UN Under Secretary General Lynn Pascoe's visit to Cyprus, Kyprianou expressed conviction that the UN official will ascertain the willingness of the Greek Cypriot side for a Cyprus solution.
"I am sure that Pascoe will ascertain the willingness of our side, and hopefully the one of the Turkish Cypriot side as well, for an intensive and effective process which will lead to the solution of the Cyprus problem", he added.
Apart from his contacts with US officials the Cypriot FM will also represent Cyprus at the festivities organized by the Greek US community to commemorate the 25th of March 1821 Greek National Day.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
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