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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-04-11

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Friday, 11 April 2008 Issue No: 2866


  • [01] PM addresses off-the-agenda discussion on FYROM issue
  • [02] Bakoyannis, Bryza discuss energy issues, FYROM and Balkan developments
  • [03] FM meets with Russian Deputy FM Titov
  • [04] DM Meimarakis holds talks with French counterpart
  • [05] Deputy DM Plakiotakis visiting Belgium
  • [06] Justice Minister Hatzigakis visits the U.S.
  • [07] Education minister holds talks in D.C.
  • [08] KKE leader addresses rally in Thessaloniki
  • [09] ECHR finds in favour of MPs ousted in blank ballots case
  • [10] Greece evolves into financial center of Southeastern Europe, FinMin says
  • [11] Greek FinMin in official visit to Romania
  • [12] New public works code tabled in Parliament
  • [13] MIG promises libel suits against Tsipras, local TV station for remarks on OTE share sale
  • [14] Tsipras responds to MIG lawsuit
  • [15] PASOK spokesman on OTE
  • [16] Deputy Agriculture Minister Kiltidis inaugurates 'Images of Crete' exhibition in U.S.
  • [17] Salzburg Tourist Promotion Organisation on Euro 2008 soccer championship
  • [18] Sanyo Hellas to issue mortgage bond loans worth 16 mln euros
  • [19] Cerebral Palsy Hellas celebrates 35th anniversary
  • [20] Sfakianakis buys Ergotrak for 7.5 million euros
  • [21] Complaints over poor telephone, internet services rise
  • [22] Greek stocks end 1.67 pct lower
  • [23] ADEX closing report
  • [24] Greek bond market closing report
  • [25] Foreign Exchange Rates - Friday
  • [26] Greek and Bulgarian ministers discuss Evros River water levels
  • [27] Inspectors report dangerous departures from procedure at landfills
  • [28] Greater Hellenism Foundation event
  • [29] Bank employee shot in Hania robbery
  • [30] Photo biennale in Thessaloniki
  • [31] Series of overnight firebombings in Athens
  • [32] Partly cloudy on Friday
  • [33] President Christofias meets Turkish Cypriot trade union
  • [34] Spokesman: occupation the main source of problems in Cyprus
  • [35] Commission President calls on Turkey to open ports to Cyprus
  • [36] Commission proposes amendments to Green Line Regulation
  • [37] UN Chief intends to appoint Zerihoun as Special Representative in Cyprus Politics

  • [01] PM addresses off-the-agenda discussion on FYROM issue

    Greece wants relations of friendship and cooperation with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) but will not toy with the region's stability and security nor with national issues, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis stressed on Thursday in Parliament. He was speaking during an off-the-agenda discussion on the FYROM name issue at the initiative of Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis.

    "The opportunity is in Skopje's hands," Karamanlis said, after reiterating anew his public invitation to FYROM "to continue the discussion" in the framework of the UN.

    "We seek a solution that takes into consideration the sensitivities of all, and ensures relations of good neighborhood," the premier said, noting that "we are neighbors and will live in the same region, one next to the other".

    "We want a realistic, practical, workable solution that will benefit regional stability and bilateral relations between the two peoples," he added.

    The premier also underlined, in his reply to the other party leaders later the same session that Greece will not budge from its proclaimed position as long the name issue remains unsolved. "Only a solution will lead to an invitation to join NATO. Only a solution will lead to establishing a date for the start of accession negotiations into the EU," he stressed, urging the neighboring state to the north to "accurately assess the NATO announcement" and see that it provided the strongest incentives for abandoning intransigency.

    Karamanlis noted that the northern neighbors "have the opportunity to open wide their country's course to the Euro-Atlantic institutions".

    "They have the opportunity to evaluate the real facts, to formulate constructive positions, abandon the past, and win the future," he said, adding that Skopje should not allow this chance to go to waste.

    "This is our message to the people of the neighboring country. And this message, a message of friendship and cooperation, is a clear, steadfast and frank message," Karamanlis added.

    Referring to the backing given by the opposition parties to the stance adopted by the government at the recent NATO summit in Bucharest, Karamanlis warned that this unanimity must not turn into faint-heartedness on the morning after.

    "Political party competition must finally become a competition to contribute to the country," he said, adding that "sterile opposition has no place in modern Greece, let's keep sterile disagreement away, at least from the national issues".

    Turning to the 'hard battle' waged in Bucharest, Karamanlis praised the climate of unanimity at home, noting that "all the political forces -- each one from its own viewpoint - backed and continues to back the national effort for achieving the best possible result".

    "We waged a hard battle and achieved an important development...We are not over-estimating, but neither are we underestimating, the outcome. We know that we have a substantial road ahead of us in order to reach the ultimate national goal, the permanent resolution of the issue," he said.

    Regarding FYROM's expectations from the Bucharest summit, Karamanlis said that "delusions and mirages" had prevailed in the neighboring country, and the "rationale of intransigence".

    "Even when some timid indications, some isolated thoughts of moving away from intransigence, arise, newer official statements follow that undermine them and, in the end, neutralize them," he said.

    "Our neighbors disregarded the principle that demands, of all who wish to participate in international doings, absolute respect for international rules. They disregarded the principles of good neighborhood. Nationalist and historically ungrounded thinking prevailed. And that was -- and is -- the mistake of our neighbors that must be understood," Karamanlis said, adding that Greece was waiting for "perceptions that will lead FYROM to a European future" to prevail.

    As for the "scenarios" that Greece could have found itself 'isolated' at the Bucharest summit, Karamanlis stressed that, on the contrary, "we found many, and good, supporters", underlining the backing Greece received from large European countries.

    "This was not by chance, this happened because we put forward convincing arguments, and through hard work," he added.

    Evaluating the communiqué from the NATO summit, Karamanlis said that it adopted the Greek position. "Our position that 'no solution means no invitation' in essence became the position of the Alliance. And this is an important development in the 17-year impasse," the prime minister concluded.

    Replying to issues raised by the other party leaders, chiefly references to Greece's participation in NATO missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan, Karamanlis pointed out that membership of the Alliance gave both rights and obligations.

    He clarified, however, that Greece's contribution to the force in Afghanistant was "commensurate with the other obligations and duties of our Armed Forces in the framework of its main mission, which is the defense and security of our country."

    The prime minister disagreed with arguments against Greece's participation in the KFOR mission in Kosovo, repeating that Greece would make its decision on whether the recognize the new situation in the region "in due course, after considering all the parameters and facts related to the problem". He also underlined that any decision taken would put Greece's national interests above all.

    Lastly, he slammed what he called "oversimplifications" and "cheap rhetoric" on foreign policy issues and patriotism, warning that "big words often harm the country."

    He underlined that patriotism was about being prepared to take responsibility, accept the cost and rise to the occasion when circumstances demanded, adding that the present government has shown itself capable of defending Greece's just causes and interests.

    LAOS leader accuses government of backing down in Bucharest

    LAOS leader George Karatzaferis, speaking in turn, accused the government of backing down and adopting a passive stance in response to US pressures on the FYROM name issue. He rejected any composite name for the neighboring country, and reiterated his demand for a referendum on the issue.

    "You scored a goal in Bucharest. You did not bring back a victory. I insist on placing you on the penalty line," Karatzaferis said.

    The LAOS leader said that the government's stance in Bucharest had been the result of pressure put on it by the opposition parties.

    Karatzaferis rejected the idea of a composite name with some sort of qualifier, accusing the government of having already conceded the most important issue at stake, which was the use of the name 'Macedonia' by FYROM.

    "You vetoed what? The name 'Macedonia' that you have already conceded? Why did you concede it, Mr. Prime Minister? Now we are only talking about the added name, about whether we'll call it Upper or Lower or New 'Macedonia'," he stressed.

    He claimed that Karamanlis could have taken advantage of anti-American feeling to gain support for a tougher line at Bucharest, accusing him of missing a "golden opportunity" and of "playing the Americans' game".

    "The Americans and Skopje are in a hurry for a solution. Why are we? Let's wait for the 'interest' from the veto," he added.

    Karatzaferis further called on the Greek government to pledge that no Greek soldier would go to Afghanistan and that Greece would pull out of contributing to the NATO forces in Kosovo, adding that any force in Kosovo should be European.

    PASOK leader bashes government in parliamentary debate

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, speaking after Karamanlis, said that the government had "done its duty" at the recent NATO summit in Bucharest, "having secured the backing of PASOK, which forged the 'red line' on the Skopje issue".

    At the same time, he stressed that "the struggle has not ended, and the positive outcome of the Summit is not sufficient to hide the mistakes of New Democracy's governments."

    Papandreou warned the government against trying to exploit its success in Bucharest in order to cover up domestic problems.

    He accused the government of moving forward without a plan, without a clear, structured and long-term strategy of alliances that would enable it to avoid pressures or the risk of isolation. The result, he added, was that it was forced to canvass for support for its positions even by conceding armaments contracts.

    For example, he said, "in Lucerne we could have had a better result for the Cyprus issue. We had two historic opportunities to put forward the issue of the (Aegean) continental shelf, the infringements of the Athens FIR (Flight Information Region) and violations of Greek national airspace (by Turkish fighter planes), with Turkey's accession to the EU".

    "Why did you put forward a veto (on FYROM's accession to NATO) in Bucharest, while on the issue of Turkey you conceded early?" Papandreou asked.

    He further accused the government of sending out mixed messages on what constituted the 'red line' in the negotiations with FYROM, so that "every new proposal brought by Mr. Nimetz (UN special mediator on the FYROM name issue) to the table is worse than the preceding one".

    Papandreou added that the latest Nimetz proposal was "a clear example of a double name" and a "failure of the government's negotiations".

    He warned the government against accepting US involvement in the name issue talks that bypassed the UN, stressing that PASOK disagreed with "turning over the fate of our national issues to mediators such as Daniel Fried (US assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs), who spoke of a Macedonian 'language' and 'ethnicity' ".

    He further criticized the government for not taking a clear stance against unilateral recognition of Kosovo and mincing its words on the NATO anti-missile shield "which has so perturbed Russia," while claiming that Greece did not have a clear position on NATO's role and on a number of critical international issues, such as nuclear proliferation and Iran and others.

    "Greece can, and has the ability, to take initiatives. That's why we feel discouraged when Greece does not have the proper presence," Papandreou concluded.

    KKE leader addresses parliamentary debate

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga said her party agreed with setting in motion a resolution of the FYROM name issue based on the Bucharest outcome "as a thorn that must be gotten rid of", but at the same time disagreed with presentation of that issue as the sole topic of the NATO summit "in order to conceal the real problems in the Balkans".

    Papariga said that the real characteristics of the NATO summit had been concealed, which were "the strong intentions against peoples", adding that the position of significant powers to convert the EU into an integrated regional power with its own NATO force, into a "European NATO", had been projected at the summit.

    Europe, she charged, was in line with "American imperialism", citing the dissolution of Yugoslavia that Germany 'paved the way for' and everyone else joined in with, and the "war of the Balkans" conducted with the cooperation of Greece.

    Papariga warned that there could be no unanimity among the Greek people when the country's policy is founded on the EU.

    She put forward "another serious issue", that of the "EU's dangerous policy in the Balkans, particularly in central Europe, with impact on western Europe", which concerns "how the regime of self-determination of the peoples is used". She expressed her party's mistrust of Community policy and called for the masses to unite in fighting globalization, while urging the government to never recognise Kosovo's independence.

    SYRIZA repeats call for composite name

    Speaking behalf of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), MP Alekos Alavanos repeated the party's position in favor of solving the name issue through "one composite name with a geographic qualifier, to be used by all."

    At the same time, he expressed opposition to both the 'red line' emphasized by Papandreou and the way the government had handled the issue.

    Commenting on the result of the NATO Summit in Bucharest, he said that Greece had "dealt with a negative development" but the issue remained open and stressed SYRIZA would only start celebrating once a solution were found.

    In his criticism of the government, Alavanos accused it of permitting the involvement of the US in the name issue and keeping quiet about US diplomatic pressures on this issue, so that the field of negotiations was being shifted from the UN to the US and the issue was being linked with the presidential elections and the US base in Souda.

    He argued that US intervention had led to the situation concerning FYROM and the current state of the Balkans by following a policy of "divide and rule", with the support of Greek governments.

    Alavanos also stressed the issue of Kosovo's declaration of independence, questioning the lack of reaction by the political parties and suggesting that this was equally important to the issue of FYROM's name.

    "Can we accept unilateral recognition with the Balkans?" he asked.

    Bakoyannis addresses parliamentary debate on FYROM

    Én Bucharest, it was proved that when we are united we can achieve a lot. The national front formed was concrete. The government had the support of almost all political forces and it does honor to the country that everybody agreed to leave behind any petty party differences," Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis stated during the discussion in Parliament.

    Bakoyannis rejected criticism of alleged mixed messages being sent out by the government or of inaction, stressing that if this was true there would not be any positive results for Greece.

    The government had stated clearly from the start that the objective set was to reach an agreement on a composite name, she said. The support from the political parties liberated Greece's foreign policy and the FYROM name issue was pulled out of international oblivion, she added, rejecting accusations of alleged quid pro quo practices.

    "We did not surrender anything," she said "We were just persuasive. We gave a battle with self-confidence and arguments. It was the first time a NATO member-state used the veto right seriously and responsibly."

    Bakoyannis pointed out that "we are in the middle of the way" and "Greece will continue negotiations which will take place under different terms because the issue has now become an alliance issue."

    She stressed that the Bucharest decision stands out because Greece was formally given support by its allies, which was not the case up until the actual moment of the battle.

    "Both our allies and partners now rally together in support of Greece's goal, a mutually acceptable solution," she added.

    On Kosovo, Bakoyannis pointed out that Greece's position is that unilateral recognition creates political and economic problems.

    [02] Bakoyannis, Bryza discuss energy issues, FYROM and Balkan developments

    All-important energy issues in SE Europe as well as fluid political developments in the wake of last week's NATO summit in Bucharest, including the nagging FYROM "name issue", dominated talks here on Thursday between Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and visiting US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Mat Bryza.

    In brief comments to reporters after a meeting at the Greek foreign ministry, Bryza reiterated Washington's mantra of promoting diversified energy sources, particularly in natural gas supply, an indirect reference to Gazprom's dominance in the European natgas market.

    In later statements, Greek foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos emphasised that Athens believes in employing different forms of energy as well as in the diversification of sources and channels.

    Other topics of up discussion included developments in the Balkans, Cyprus, Washington's proposed anti-missile plan for Europe, Afghanistan, Georgia and the Ukraine.

    The US official also mentioned that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) desire to join NATO was discussed in the meeting.

    Regarding FYROM, Bryza said there was a consensus in talks over whether or not the neighbouring country had fulfilled technical specifications for NATO admission, while pointedly adding that a compromise solution to the "name issue" must be found before the accession (of FYROM) takes place.

    Following the Bakoyannis-Bryza meeting, Koumoutsakos announced that Washington's permanent representative to NATO, Victoria Nuland, will brief the Greek FM by phone over her recent official trip to Skopje this past week.

    Asked to comment over Nuland's more-or-less optimistic statements regarding a solution to the 17-year-old "name issue" in a matter of "days or weeks", Bryza merely said that a resolution of the dispute will eventually be achieved, as long as both sides (Athens and Skopje) constructively remain at the negotiating table.

    Earlier, in addressing an Economist conference in a seaside Athens suburb, Bryza said Washington does not consider Kosovo's independence as a "punishment" of Serbia, while adding that the latter country's future lies within the European Union.

    Additionally, he repeated that America's intent is not to clash with Russia over energy matters.

    Finally, in reference to Cyprus, the US official cited what he called a "window of opportunity" following a decision by the Cyprus government and the Turkish Cypriot side to convene technical committees followed by further talks, while terming the recent opening of Ledra Street as a significant step towards progress on the Cyprus issue.

    [03] FM meets with Russian Deputy FM Titov

    Russia will support a compromise solution to the FYROM "name issue" that will be reached by the two interested countries, Russian Federation Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov noted here on Thursday after meeting with Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis.

    Talks also included the Cyprus issue, Kosovo, energy policy and preparations for a pending visit to Moscow by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, most likely to take place in late April.

    "We hope that we will be able to finalize some of the agreements in the sector of energy, among them, the South Stream pipeline," Titov said.

    The Russian deputy foreign minister reiterated Moscow's interest in a "fair solution" for Cyprus, a solution that will have the support of the UN Security Council, while he welcomed a recent meeting between Cyprus Republic President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat. Titov is scheduled to meet with the two next week.

    As regards Kosovo, Titov stated that Russia is against its independence, which "violates International Law principles and UN Security Council resolutions."

    He backed a resumption of negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina in order to find a solution, and responding to a relative question, he pointed out that 50 countries have declared that they will never recognize Kosovo's independence, as opposed to 37 countries that have recognized it.

    Titov also spoke of different approaches adopted on the issue by the international community expressing, however, a certainty that the majority of countries are in favour of observing iinternational law.

    Referring to the likelihood of NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia, Titov said:

    "We have a different view on how security and peace can be achieved in the modern world and Russia cannot understand how it is possible for Ukraine and Georgia to receive an invitation to become NATO members. In the case of Ukraine, the majority of its people do not wish to join NATO while, as regards Georgia, part of it rejects such an option."

    Titov's next stop will be Ankara.

    [04] DM Meimarakis holds talks with French counterpart


    Defendce Minister Evangelos Meimarakis met with his French counterpart Herve Morin in Paris on Thursday, according to a defence ministry press release.

    Meimarakis and Morin discussed the priorities of the European Union Presidency, which France will be assuming as of July 1, issues of bilateral concern, as well as latest developments in the EU, NATO and southeastern Europe.

    The defence minister was then received by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, with whom he discussed issues of international and bilateral interest.

    Speaking after the meeting, Meimarakis said "I had the opportunity today of meeting, first of all the President of the French Republic, Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy and with a friend Defense Minister Herve Morin, who had the courtesy of briefing me on the priorities of the French Presidency as of July 1. I listened with special interest to the views of France and I am convinced that its efforts for the promotion of important issues that concern the future of the European Union will meet with absolute success."

    The defense minister further said that "as regards our bilateral relations, I believe that they are at a high level and we agreed on the need to maintain the dynamic deepening of our cooperation active. In any case, the joint declaration of 2005 and the meeting and the reassuring of this joint declaration between Mr. Karamanlis and Sarkozy gave a new impetus both to our cooperation at bilateral level and to the joint effort to strengthen Europe in the sector of security and defence."

    Referring to the situation prevailing in the wider region of southeastern Europe and the Western Balkans in particular, Meimarakis said that he had the opportunity of stressing once again that developments in the region constitute a top priority for Greece.

    Lastly, the defense minister said that "the level of mutual understanding and communication between Greece and France is very satisfactory, a fact that is being manifested, with increasing frequency, in support for converging positions and analyses."

    [05] Deputy DM Plakiotakis visiting Belgium


    Deputy Defense Minister Ioannis Plakiotakis, speaking here on Thursday, expressed his conviction that the positions of Greece on the issue of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) are identical with those of the Atlantic Alliance following Greek diplomacy's success in Bucharest.

    The deputy defense minister held meetings, during his three-day visit to Belgium, with officials at NATO's headquarters and the SHAPE military base in Mons, as well as with officials of the European Union and of Eurocontrol.

    Speaking to the press, Plakiotakis said that he ascertained during his visit to NATO and the EU that "the positions of Greece are the positions of the Alliance. Greece had a very important diplomatic success in Bucharest."

    The deputy minister stressed to the European officials that it is Greece's intention to encourage the continuation of talks for the finding of a mutually acceptable solution to the issue of FYROM's name, pointing out that "there are no winners or vanquished."

    He also underlined Greece's leading role in maintaining security and peace in the Balkans, participating in peace forces in Kosovo, both in the framework of the NATO KFOR force and the European EULEX political force.

    [06] Justice Minister Hatzigakis visits the U.S.

    Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis, who is paying a visit to the United States, on Thursday had talks with New York's FBI chief and also visited Rikers Island prison.

    According to a Justice Ministry press release, Hatzigakis and ministry staff visited New York's Rikers Island prison and were briefed on the American prison system, as well as on the modern prison policies which are implemented there, and particularly on matters concerning the medical care of the inmates and also on the social and professional rehabilitation of those who have been released from prison.

    [07] Education minister holds talks in D.C.


    Education Minister Evripidis Stylianidis, currently on a tour of the United States, had a number of contacts with US administration officials during his visit here.

    After meeting with US Deputy Secretary on Education Raymond Simon, he stated that they discussed bilateral education cooperation issues, the likelihood of a bilateral agreement, improving the living and working preconditions for educators transferred from Greece to the United States to teach at Greek-American community schools as well as the promotion of cooperation on tertiary education level.

    Stylianidis also stated that there are roughly 3,000 professors of Greek origin teaching in US universities who could form the strongest bridge of cooperation between the two countries if they were asked to.

    Following a meeting with US Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Goli Ameri, Stylianidis stressed that they examined the prospects for closer bilateral relations on education cooperation issues, adding that he referred to the request for a five-year work permit to teachers transferred from Greece.

    They also agreed to encourage university cooperation, promote scientific research and exchange know-how.

    "Building closer cooperation that will be mutually beneficial, and will allow the 3,000 Greek-Americans teaching in American universities to visit Greece and convey modern know-how to Greece's higher education institutions," he said.

    [08] KKE leader addresses rally in Thessaloniki

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga addressed a rally in Aristotelous Square in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, on Thursday, outlining the party's political proposal on power.

    Papariga said that KKE's proposal is "an alternative proposal for a daily multiform struggle having a plan and a strategy," adding that "the modern-day solution, the viable solution, necessitates confrontation and a rift with the policy of the European Union. Popular prosperity, security and peace, the pro-popular path of growth will become a reality with a change in power."

    The KKE leader further proposed the path of "disobedience" and "insubordination" and stressed that "the time has come for us to get a divorce from the terrorizing and misleading dilemmas that New Democracy and PASOK and the Coalition and SYRIZA are also raising but with leftist terminology on many issues."

    Also referring to the issue of the name of the neighboring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Papariga said that "there shall be no substantive and viable solution, even if the issue of the name is solved, if there is no resistance to the imperialists in the Balkans."

    [09] ECHR finds in favour of MPs ousted in blank ballots case

    The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday issued a judgment finding in favor of three MPs that were stripped of their seats in Parliament based on a judgment by Greece's Special Supreme Court in 2005. It also ordered Greece to pay each hefty compensation for damages.

    The court found that the right to free elections had been violated in the case of George Paschalidis, Efstathios Koutmeridis and Constantinos Zacharakis, who had each been elected to Parliament in the March 7, 2004 elections, the first two on a main opposition PASOK ticket and the third with ruling New Democracy.

    Its decision was based on the fact that Special Supreme Court had removed them from their seats based on a new interpretation of the legislation that called for blank ballot papers to be included in the total of valid ballot papers, and that this was the sole instance where blank ballot papers were taken into consideration.

    The judgment was made in a case brought by unsuccessful MP Parthena Fountoukidou, who said that the failure to include bank ballots had altered the electoral quotient and affected the distribution of seats in the Pella constituency.

    In 2006, the Greek Parliament passed a provision under which blank ballot papers were not taken into consideration during elections.

    The ECHR judgment noted that that situation was "liable to alter the will of the electorate as expressed by them in the ballot box" and that it had also created two categories of members of the Greek Parliament: those elected without the inclusion of blank ballot papers and those who held their seats because such ballot papers had been taken into consideration.

    The ECHR order Greece to pay, with the space of three months, a total of 352,443 euros to the three applicants in damages, of which 119,613 euros was awarded to Paschalides for pecuniary damage and 5,000 euros for costs and expenses, 78,298 euros to Koutmeridis for pecuniary damage and 5,000 euros for costs and expenses and, lastly, 142,532 euros to Zacharakis for pecuniary damage and 2,000 euros for costs and expenses.

    Commenting on the decision in Athens, Paschalides said that it was a "form of political, legal and moral vindication".

    "Three years after the political scandal of the blank ballot papers, vindication comes for the ECHR. I hope that the decision will act as an example for those responsible and as a deterrent for those who might in the future desire to use governmental power selfishly and abusively, imposing fake solutions, violating the rules of morality and logic that should mark a reliable Parliamentary democracy."

    Financial News

    [10] Greece evolves into financial center of Southeastern Europe, FinMin says

    Greece is evolving into the financial center of Southeastern Europe, a gateway to the rest of the world, with the help of the government's reform program, Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Thursday.

    Addressing an Economist conference in Athens, the Greek minister said Greek investments in the wider region exceeded 15 billion euros and noted that these investments contributed not only to the development of Greece but of the wider region as well. The Greek FinMin noted that a strong growth dynamism in the wider Southeast European region created large opportunities for the country and its citizens.

    Alogoskoufis said Greece still faced great challenges ahead despite the progress made so far, noting that the civil sector remained the biggest hurdle of the economy and added that public sector enterprises needed to be restructured to offer improved services to citizens.

    The Greek minister said reforms needed to be continued and underlined that the government has laid the foundations for a better course in the next decade.

    [11] Greek FinMin in official visit to Romania

    Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis leaves for an official two-day visit to Romania with the aim to further expand bilateral economic relations, in the framework of a Greek policy for development of Southeastern Europe.

    The Greek minister will meet with his Romanian counterpart Varoujan Vosganian and the governor of the country's central bank Mugur Isarescu, while he will address a business lunch organized by the Hellenic-Romanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

    Greek-Romanian trade relations grew significantly in the last few years. Greek exports to Romania grew by 45.7 pct in 2006 and by 30 pct in 2007, while they almost doubled in the 2006-2007 period to 774 million euros, from 408 million euros in 2005.

    Imports from Romania grew 23 pct to 535 million euros in the same period, leaving a trade surplus of 238 million euros, after a trade deficit of 25 million euros in 2005. Building material, oil products, aluminium products and fresh fruit are Greece's main exports to Romania, while the country mainly imports oil products, steel products, pipes and machinery from Romania.

    Greek investments to Romania total around 3.0 billion euros, the third largest foreign investor in the country after Holland and Austria. A total of 800 Greek enterprises have activities in Romania, mainly in the fields of banking, commerce, telecommunications, construction and manufacturing.

    Greek banks own around 15 pct of the Romanian market, with 300 branches. Hellenic Telecoms owns 54 pct in Romtelecom and 70 pct in Cosmorom.

    [12] New public works code tabled in Parliament

    Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias on Thursday tabled a draft bill outlining the new public works code in Parliament.

    This codifies all Greek and Community legislations concerning the construction of public works in a single document comprised of 183 articles. Souflias stressed that this was a very important act of legislation and a difficult legislative venture that was the culmination of three years work by an expert legislative committee.

    He said the new code would simplify and tidy up the implementation of all the existing legislation by both central and regional bodies involved in the construction of public works projects, as well as satisfying a long-standing demand of the European Commission dating back to 2002.

    According to the minister, the draft bill had been very well received and praised at a special presentation given to EU officials.

    [13] MIG promises libel suits against Tsipras, local TV station for remarks on OTE share sale

    The high-profile vice-president of the Marfin Investment Group (MIG), Andreas Vgenopoulos, on Thursday announced that the banking and real estate group will file libel suits against Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) leader Alexis Tsipras and a local Athens television station.

    Speaking at a press conference in the Greek capital, Vgenopoulos said the lawsuits stem from recent barbed criticism aired by Tsipras and the TV station, Star TV. Regarding the former, the MIG executive said MIG will demand one million euros in compensation for Tsipras' criticism of MIG's purchase and subsequent sale of shares in state-run Hellenic Telecoms (OTE).

    Tsipras, who is not a Parliament MP and lacks parliamentary immunity, reportedly referred to a "fraud" by MIG in its OTE stock dealings, especially its profitable sale of roughly 20 percent of OTE's shares to Deutsche Telekom (DT) last month. Vgenopoulos said that if successful, MIG will return any court-awarded compensation back to Synaspismos in the form of a "campaign contribution". He also said that Tsipras was signaled out because other Synaspismos cadres that railed against the MIG-DT deal enjoy parliamentary immunity.

    The opposition, including Synaspismos, as well as the union representing OTE's employees, vociferously opposes any prospects of Greece's largest telecoms and telephony utility passing from state to private control. Conversely, the New Democracy government welcomed the deal and German multinational's strategic interest in OTE.

    Additionally, the high-profile Greek executive said a lawsuit demanding a record 150 million euros will be filed against Athens-based Star TV for what he called "95 slanderous references" to MIG, including claims of fraud, money laundering, kick-backs, shady financial dealings and even investments funnelled by the "Albanian mafia".

    Commenting on MIG's investment in OTE and the sale of its 20 percent minority equity stake to Deutsche Telekom, Vgenopoulos said MIG was the largest Greek business group with an established presence in 40 countries, while the group attracted foreign investments totalling 7.2 billion euros, accounting for 80 pct of total foreign investments made in the country over the last few years.

    He added Deutsche Telekom will possible make a "spectacular investment" if it acquired Hellenic Telecom's management, while he did not exclude any future partnership with the German telecoms giant.

    He also clarified that MIG's decision to sell its investment in OTE was made without any prior consultation with the Greek government.

    Synaspismos reaction

    In a reply, hours later, a Synaspismos statement referred to a "very dangerous reasoning of (political) criminalisation and political speech", while calling on the government to take a stand on the issue.

    The party also said it will not be dissuaded from protecting the state's assets.

    [14] Tsipras responds to MIG lawsuit

    BERLIN (ANA-MPA/P. Stangos)

    Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party leader Alexis Tsipras, responding on Thursday to a lawsuit and a compensation suit filed against him by Marfin Investment Group (MIG) vice president Andreas Vgenopoulos, dismissed the move as an "attempt to penalize the political life" of the country.

    Tsipras was informed of the lawsuit during his visit to the German capital and the talks he held on Thursday with the president of the German party "The Left" (Die Linke) Lothar Bisky.

    "With the same audacity that profiteering stock exchange capital is attacking the Greek economy, trying to profiteer at the expense of public wealth, with the same audacity it is attacking the political life of the country. We have an unprecedented case of an attempt to penalize political life and political speech," he said.

    Tsipras concluded by saying that "all that I have to say is that no matter how much they try, they will not silence us, they will not scare us."

    [15] PASOK spokesman on OTE

    Main opposition PASOK party spokesman George Papaconstantinou, referring on Thursday to the press conference "by the businessman who functioned as a mediator of Mr. (Economy and Finance Minister George) Alogoskoufis in the sale of OTE (the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization) to Deutsche Telecom", spoke of unacceptable events, regarding a lawsuit and a compensation suit against mass media and Coalition party leader Alexis Tsipras.

    He further said that it "is audacious", the addition by the businessman that "he would also turn against other political parties and persons, if they were not covered by Parliamentary immunity."

    Papaconstantinou also said that as far as PASOK is concerned "it is clear that this practice has been encouraged by the government of New Democracy."

    Lastly, the spokesman pointed out that "let us make it clear that all that we have said regarding the sale of OTE and its procedures and the lack of transparency, all that PASOK has said and all that its president has also said in Parliament are valid in full."

    [16] Deputy Agriculture Minister Kiltidis inaugurates 'Images of Crete' exhibition in U.S.


    Greece's Deputy Agricultural and Foods Minister Costas Kiltidis inaugurated in Washington on Thursday the painting exhibition "Images of Crete", within the framework of the 17th International Exhibition of Foods and Beverages, Expo 2008.

    The painting exhibition is being held at the Greek Embassy's exhibition centre.

    Kiltidis congratulated all those who contributed to the presentation of this exhibition in the American capital, while he underlined that the restoration of the regions which were ravaged last summer in the Peloponnese by wildfires is a major priority of the Greek government.

    He also thanked the American citizens and the Greek-American community for the substantial aid they offered for the confrontation of the destructions. He noted that this solidarity constitutes more proof of the substantial friendship between the United States and Greece.

    Greek Ambassador Alexandros Mallias welcomed the public and noted that this exhibition praises the beauty and variety of the Greek landscape.

    [17] Salzburg Tourist Promotion Organisation on Euro 2008 soccer championship

    Members of the Tourist Promotion Organisation of Salzburg have extended an invitation to Greeks to visit the city, following a special event held at a downtown Athens hotel on Thursday, in cooperation with the Austrian embassy in Athens and in light of the holding of the Euro 2008 soccer championship this summer.

    The city of Salzburg, located on the edge of the northern Alps and in the heart of Austria is one of the most beautiful cultural cities in the world.

    In the framework of the Euro 2008 soccer championship, taking place between June 7-29, it will be holding three out of the total of 31 matches. The national teams of Russia, Greece, Spain and Sweden will be playing against each other in Salzburg.

    The city received its name from the "white gold", salt, that is abundant in the region. Salzburg, as was pointed out during the event, is a city having a rich tradition and has established itself as a modern cultural centre in the heart of Europe in the 21st century.

    As regards the programme for the Euro 2008 soccer matches, European champion Greece will be playing against Sweden on June 10, on June 14 Greece will be playing with Russia and on June 18 with Spain.

    [18] Sanyo Hellas to issue mortgage bond loans worth 16 mln euros

    Sanyo Hellas Holding on Thursday announced it has reached an agreement with a group of Greek banks for the issuing of two mortgage bond loans worth 16 million euros. Proceeds from the eight-year bond loans will be used to refinance an existing debt of 16 million euros from the issuing of syndicated loans in the past. The group of Greek banks include Piraeus Bank, EFG Eurobank Ergasias, National Bank and Geniki Bank.

    [19] Cerebral Palsy Hellas celebrates 35th anniversary

    Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos referred to those who care enough to dedicate their lives to help people with disabilities, addressing an event on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the Cerebral Palsy Hellas.

    "This day is dedicated to people offering selflessly their unreserved support to fellow human beings suffering from cerebral palsy while, at the same time, it is a day of awakening and activation of the State and society to further protect the rights of people with disabilities allowing them to develop their personality freely without prejudices and exclusions," he said.

    [20] Sfakianakis buys Ergotrak for 7.5 million euros

    Sfakianakis AEBE on Thursday announced the acquisition of Ergotrak SA, a subsidiary of S&B Industrial Minerals SA, for 7.5 million euros. Sfakianakis said the purchase signaled the company's entry into the machinery and industrial products market.

    Ergotrak SA is an exclusive dealer of Cummins, Case, Ausa, Linde, Compair and Hitachi in Greece. Its consolidated turnover totaled 25.8 million euros in 2007, while pre-tax profits totaled 450,000 euros. The company employs 105 workers.

    [21] Complaints over poor telephone, internet services rise

    The General Federation of Consumers (INKA) received a total of 2,404 complaints in 2007 regarding poor telephone and internet services, according to an announcement on Thursday.

    In pointing to the figure, INKA said it has called on the Consumer Ombudsman and the National Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT) -- the regulatory authority that supervises and regulates the telecoms sector and the postal services market -- to take specific measures for the protection of consumers.

    [22] Greek stocks end 1.67 pct lower

    Greek stocks lost substantial ground on Thursday, pushing the composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange below the 4,100 level once again. The index fell 1.67 pct to end at 4,068.32 points, with turnover rising to 370.7 million euros, of which 48.08 million euros were block trades.

    Most sectors moved lower, with Utilities (3.32 pct), Financial Services (1.09 pct) and Travel (0.03 pct) scoring gains, while Banks (3.50 pct), Technology (2.78 pct) and Insurance (2.11 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    The Big Cap index fell 2.10 pct, the Mid Cap index eased 1.01 pct and the Small Cap index ended 0.72 pct lower. ANEK (30 pct), Klonatex (9.52 pct) were top gainers, while Dromeas (18.37 pct), Boutaris (9.20 pct) and Forthnet (8.70 pct) were top losers.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 172 to 73 with another 46 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: -2.11%

    Industrials: -1.08%

    Commercial: -0.65%

    Construction: -0.65%

    Media: -1.91%

    Oil & Gas: -0.41%

    Personal & Household: -1.69%

    Raw Materials: -0.42%

    Travel & Leisure: +0.03%

    Technology: -2.78%

    Telecoms: -0.84%

    Banks: -3.50%

    Food & Beverages: -1.00%

    Health: -0.14%

    Utilities: +3.32%

    Chemicals: -0.74%

    Financial Services: +1.09%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OTE, EFG Eurobank Ergasias, and OPAP.

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

    Alpha Bank: 20.52

    ATEbank: 2.77

    VIOHALCO: 7.00

    ELTEX: 7.72

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 28.60

    HBC Coca Cola: 30.64

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.64

    National Bank of Greece: 33.84

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 19.34

    Bank of Cyprus: 8.26

    Intralot: 12.20

    Hellenic Post Bank: 11.58

    OPAP: 23.40

    OTE: 19.00

    Piraeus Bank: 19.84

    Titan Cement Company: 27.00

    Marfin Popular Bank: 5.24

    Marfin Investment Group (MIG): 5.06%

    [23] ADEX closing report

    Greek futures contract prices maintained their discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Thursday, with turnover rising to 111.55 million euros. The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 2.64 pct, while the April contract on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.82 pct.

    Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 8,286 contracts, worth 85.629 million euros, with 29,509 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 119 contracts worth 2.889 million euros, with 278 open positions.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 12,444 contracts worth 18.103 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Marfin Investment Group (2,993), followed by Eurobank (356), OTE (1,879), PPC (821), National Bank (1,234), Alpha Bank (904), Marfin Popular Bank (996), Mytilineos (742) and Hellenic Postbank (580).

    [24] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market jumped to 1.108 billion euros on Thursday, showing signs of dynamism after several weeks of subdued trading. Buy orders accounted for 550 million euros, while the remaining 558 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security of the day with a turnover of 495 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds rose to 0.52 pct, with the Greek bond yielding 4.48 pct and the German Bund 3.96 pct.

    In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were mixed. National Bank's overnight rate was 4.05 pct, the two-day rate rose to 4.07 pct from 4.05 pct on Wednesday, the one-month rate was 4.38 pct and the 12-month rate 4.76 pct.

    [25] Foreign Exchange Rates - Friday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.600

    Pound sterling 0.807

    Danish kroner 7.520

    Swedish kroner 9.461

    Japanese yen 160.45

    Swiss franc 1.586

    Norwegian kroner 7.990

    Canadian dollar 1.629

    Australian dollar 1.715

    General News

    [26] Greek and Bulgarian ministers discuss Evros River water levels


    Greece's Deputy Interior Minister Athanassios Nakos and Bulgaria's Deputy Minister of State Policy for Disaster Valeri Nikolov held talks in Sofia on Thursday focusing on the management of water levels on the Evros River in order to avoid flooding.

    The problem of floods, especially in spring and at other times of heavy rainfall, has become especially acute in recent years in regions of Greece that lie further down the river's length, especially in the Greek prefecture of Evros that last year suffered a major disaster that claimed crops, livestock and even some homes.

    In statements after the meeting, Nakos said that the Bulgarian side had provided assurances that the Bulgarian section of a joint early-warning system for flood risk would go into operation by next October.

    The Greek section of the system is now in the final phase of testing and will be ready to go into operation in May, he added.

    Nakos also expressed satisfaction with the Bulgarian side's readiness to activate - at the highest possible level - a mixed team of experts for the management of the Evros River wateres and those of other rivers that traverse the border between the two countries.

    The minister said that this committee will consider technical works that will allow an effective flood response, pointing out that flooding was not just a problem for Greece but also for neighboring Turkey.

    He announced that the prime ministers of Greece and Bulgaria are expected to sign a bilateral agreement dealing with these issues in the coming autumn.

    [27] Inspectors report dangerous departures from procedure at landfills

    Inspectors for the West Attica prefecture environmental department and an expert technical advisor on Thursday reported dangerous departures for recommended procedure at the landfill in Fyli, where they said that basic environmental rules were being systematically flouted.

    "As the inspection shows, the situation at the Fyli dump is getting worse year by year. What is happening at the Fyli landfill is an environmental crime," West Attica Prefect Aristidis Arkoudaris said in statements to reporters.

    He said the prefecture would go to the authorities and to the European Union seeking action on this issue and urged the government to take immediate measures. According to a prefecture employee, meanwhile, a European Commission delegation that was in Athens in the past few days had already been informed,

    An prefecture announcement noted the landfill had not only failed to incorporate recommendations made during a previous inspection but also allowed the situation at the landfill to deteriorate drastically.

    They painted a picture of dangerously stacked refuse with obvious signs of recent landslides, several self-ignited small fires, insufficient coverage and compression of refuse and the presence of people that had no business allowed onto the site.

    According to the inspectors, the conditions were absolutely intolerable for the largest refuse processing installation in the country and required urgent correction.

    In addition to the above, they also found that refuse was still being placed at the Ano Liossia landfill, even though this had formally closed in 2006, and that 300 tonnes of dangerous hospital waste had yet to be incinerated at the site.

    [28] Greater Hellenism Foundation event

    "I am what I eat" is the new educational programme of the "Greek World" Cultural Centre based on the theme of food, that was implemented by the Greater Hellenism Foundation in cooperation with the Ar. Daskalopoulos Foundation (IAD), a socially beneficial organisation that is specialised on food issues.

    The programme was presented during a press conference at the "Greek World" Cultural Centre on Thursday.

    "Our decision to plan an educational programme on food is an old one, a programme that would be based on the wealth of the Mediterranean food tradition and that would give young people the opportunity to ascertain the ease of implementing basic food rules in present-day conditions. We found an ideal associate in this effort of ours: the Ar. Daskalopoulos Foundation," said Dimitris Efremoglou, the managing director of the Greater Hellenism Foundation.

    Dimitris Daskalopoulos, a board member of the Ar. Daskalopoulos Foundation, referred to the Foundation's role and acitivities and to its new educational plan, since its target is to educate the public, and children in particular, on food and physical activity issues.

    [29] Bank employee shot in Hania robbery

    A bank employee was shot in the leg when he gave chase to a pair of armed robbers that had earlier attacked a branch of Piraeus Bank in Hania on the island of Crete on Thursday.

    The robbery occurred shortly before 14:00 when someone wearing a motorcycle helmet entered the bank and took an as yet unspecified quantity of money at gunpoint. His accomplice, also wearing a helmet and carrying a gun, was waiting for him outside the bank on a moped.

    Once outside the bank, in addition to hitting a man and a woman with the butt of their Kalashnikov rifles when they happened to get in the way, the two robbers later shot a bank employee in the leg when he tried to follow them and fired 12 shots at a police patrol car that gave chase.

    The two robbers were heading for another street in the centre of Hania, where they had left a larger motorbike.

    The injured bank employee was taken to Hania hospital and police have launched a manhunt to locate and arrest the bank robbers.

    Border guards seize more than 100 kilos cannabis

    Border guards patrolling the Delvinaki area in Ioannina in northwestern Greece on Thursday seized 101.6 kilos of unprocessed cannabis after giving chase to a group of unidentified individuals moving suspiciously in the area.

    The suspects became aware of the guards and managed to get away, taking advantage of the heavy cover in the area, but left behind four sacks containing the drugs.

    They are now being sought and the drugs have been confiscated by the Ioannina drugs squad, which is conducting an investigation.

    [30] Photo biennale in Thessaloniki

    The 20th annual photo-biennale opens its doors on Thursday in Thessaloniki. A total of 240 artists from 17 countries will present their works in 42 exhibitions throughout the event, organized by the Photography Museum under the auspices of Culture Ministry.

    Culture Minister Michalis Liapis presented the programme of the event, stressing that "Photography is an easily exported product" and added that next week he will announce the composition of an advisory committee that will draft the strategy of the photography art in early summer.

    The main theme of this year's Biennale is 'Time' .All works will be displayed in the central Thessaloniki exhibition halls and in 9 galleries.

    The minister also made special note of an exhibit titled "Time is not now", featuring the works of US photographer Duane Michals, which will be on display until May.

    [31] Series of overnight firebombings in Athens

    A total of 35 vehicles were destroyed or damaged in a series of early morning arson attacks on Thursday targeting four car dealerships, a repair shop specialising in Italian-made cars and a Greek-Italian school in Athens.

    No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks as yet, although the incidents point to self-styled anarchists and so-called "anti-state" activist youth active in central Athens.

    Weather forecast

    [32] Partly cloudy on Friday

    Partly cloudy weather with southerly, southwesterly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Friday, with wind velocity reaching 6-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 10C and 28C. Partly cloudy in Athens, with southerly, 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 13C to 28C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 10C to 24C.

    Cyprus Affairs

    [33] President Christofias meets Turkish Cypriot trade union


    Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots share a common language and that language is the common homeland of both communities, the President of the Republic Demetris Christofias has said.

    President Christofias received Thursday at the Presidential Palace a delegation of the Turkish Cypriot Federation of Trade Unions (DEV-IS) under its President Mehmet Sayis.

    In statements after the meeting, the president expressed hope the two communities will cooperate again in the framework of a reunited Cyprus, which has been divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion.

    "The Presidential Palace doors will always be opened for the Turkish Cypriots," in view of the cooperation towards a solution of the Cyprus problem, he said.

    Referring to the meeting with DEV-IS delegation, Christofias said that the outcome of such meetings with trade unions are always positive since, "I am an ally of the trade unions and the unions are my allies in politics as well as in other issues."

    "Irrespective of the language of trade unionists, we always have a common language and our common language is our homeland, Cyprus," President Christofias stressed.

    DEV-IS President Mehmet Seyis said that the only way ahead is the solution of the Cyprus problem and on behalf of the trade unions the Federation represents pledged to assume their responsibilities and respond to the duties that lie ahead.

    He thanked President Christofias for his immediate response to their request for a meeting, adding that Turkish Cypriots feel their hopes for a Cyprus settlement had been revived after Demetris Christofias election to the presidency of the Republic in February this year.

    "There is only one solution to the Cyprus problem and it is based on UN resolutions. It is the solution of a federal bizonal bicommunal federation," he said, underlining that both DEV-IS and the Greek Cypriot Pancyprian Federation of Labour (PEO) together with other organisations are conducting their own struggle aiming to a Cyprus settlement.

    PEO General Secretary Pambis Kiritsis who accompanied DEV-IS delegation to the Presidential Palace stated that trade unions have offered a great deal to the Cyprus cause and pointed out that there are is a lot that can be done.

    [34] Spokesman: occupation the main source of problems in Cyprus


    Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou has said that the presence of the Turkish army in Cyprus since 1974 and the continuing occupation of a significant part of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus constitute the main source of problems on the island and are the Cyprus question itself.

    Stephanou was commenting Thursday statements by Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, who described remarks by Cypriot President Demetris Christofias about the Turkish army as an involvement in the "domestic issues" of the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime in occupied Cyprus.

    Stephanou said the settlement of the Cyprus question must provide for an end to occupation and the withdrawal of the Turkish troops.

    Responding to questions about the technical committees and the working groups, to be set up following an agreement between Christofias and Talat, Stephanou said meetings between Presidential Commissioner George Iacovou and Ozdil Nami, Talat's aide, continue in the hope that on Friday the agenda of the committees and the working groups will be completed.

    On the composition of these groups, which will prepare the ground for substantive negotiations between the two community leaders, the spokesman said that their number will depend on the issues which every group and committee will look into. He added that Christofias wants to appoint individuals with experience and knowledge.

    On remarks by President Christofias that the Turkish army was responsible for problems encountered at the Ledra street crossing point, Stephanou said the president had been briefed and it was clear where the problems originated.

    He explained that self-styled Turkish Cypriot policemen had entered the buffer zone, between the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot check point at the Ledra crossing point, contrary to what had been agreed by the leaders.

    "What is important is the fact that the government has shown determination to address the problem, sending a clear message that it is consistent with its position about the implementation of the agreements," the spokesman stressed.

    The Ledra street crossing point opened last week to facilitate movement to and from the islandÔs northern Turkish occupied areas, following an agreement between Christofias, Talat and the UN.

    "We have to emphasise all the positive things that have occurred and focus on efforts to implement the process which has been decided at the meeting between the leaders of the two communities on March 21," Stefanou said after Thursday's Cabinet meeting.

    He said "we have to move forward and begin work at the technical committees and the working groups in order proceed with the negotiations on the basis of the evaluation of the results. This is the substance," the spokesman said.

    [35] Commission President calls on Turkey to open ports to Cyprus


    European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has called on Turkey to open its ports to the Republic of Cyprus and noted that he was in Ankara to encourage the Turkish government.

    He also announced that by July this year two more chapters would open in Turkey's European Union accession negotiations.

    Barroso was speaking Thursday at a press conference in Ankara with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who promised that his government would make further reforms in the framework of its EU accession course but did not specify what they would be.

    The European Commission President flew to Turkey on Thursday for a three-day visit, accompanied by Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn.

    Barroso noted that the Turkish government's new proposal to amend article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code was a step in the right direction.

    Referring to a proposal to ban the ruling Justice and Development Party, which is being examined by the Constitutional Court, Barroso said he expected the Court to reach a decision in line with the law, EU principles and decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, adding that he was surprised by developments on this issue.

    Speaking before the Turkish National Council, Barroso referred to developments in Cyprus. ''We have an historic opportunity in Cyprus. I know that the necessary steps will be taken in this issue. But during this process, Turkey must open its ports to the Greek Cypriots,'' he pointed out.

    Barroso referred to the opening of the crossing point to and from Cyprus' northern Turkish occupied areas, in Ledra Street in Nicosia, describing the event as ''positive'' and noting that such steps created a constructive climate between the two communities in Cyprus.

    In previous statements to the press, Rehn had indicated that the EU may interrupt its negotiations with Turkey due to the procedures taken against the ruling party. Furthermore, Barroso had pointed out that the EU could only accept a democratic Turkey.

    Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Babacan said on Wednesday that the visit of the two senior EU officials to Turkey was not linked to the case against the ruling party and that the invitation had been extended to them some months ago.

    Earlier on Thursday, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said in Istanbul during the 24th meeting of the EU-Turkey Joint Consultative Committee that there was poor communication and misunderstandings between Turkey and the EU, despite the ongoing accession negotiations.

    However, he pointed out that Turkey was making steady progress towards adopting and implementing European standards and values.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.

    [36] Commission proposes amendments to Green Line Regulation


    The European Commission adopted Thursday a proposal for a Council Regulation amending the ''Green Line Regulation'' to further facilitate trade on the island of Cyprus.

    According to a European Commission press release the proposal provides for a general lifting of duties on agricultural products originating in the "northern part" of Cyprus when being traded across the ''Green Line''. So far duties had to be paid for a variety of agricultural products causing financial and administrative burden for Turkish Cypriot traders.

    Furthermore, the Commission proposes to increase the total maximum value of goods contained in the personal luggage of persons crossing the line from 135Á to 260Á so as to encourage the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community. If the proposal is adopted goods up to this amount could be introduced free of customs, excise duties and taxes into the government-controlled areas when introduced across the ''Green Line''.

    ''This is expected to particularly stimulate the business of small Turkish Cypriot shop keepers,'' the press release noted, adding that this rule would not apply to cigarettes and alcohol. For these products the existing quantities remain unchanged (40 cigarettes and 1 litre of spirits for personal consumption).

    Finally, the proposed amendments aim at regulating in a transparent way the temporary introduction of goods (for up to six months) from the "northern part" of Cyprus into the areas of the Republic of Cyprus under the effective control of the Government.

    This allows, for instance, that Turkish Cypriot service providers can bring their equipment across the line when providing on a temporary basis a service in the government-controlled areas. It will also permit the repair of equipment there. Finally, it will encourage the participation of Turkish Cypriot companies in trade fairs in the government-controlled areas.

    The Commission proposal requires adoption by unanimity in the Council (Article 2 of Protocol 10 to the Act of Accession 2003).

    The original ''Green Line Regulation'' was adopted on 29 April 2004 to regulate the movement of persons and goods across the Green Line.

    It was amended once in 2005 by Council Regulation No 293/2005 to facilitate trade in certain agricultural products such as citrus fruit, fish and honey. The new amendment can be seen as a subsequent step.

    Cyprus, which joined the EU in May 2004, has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.

    [37] UN Chief intends to appoint Zerihoun as Special Representative in Cyprus


    UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has informed the Security Council of his intention to appoint Taye-Brook Zerihoun of Ethiopia as the UN Secretary General's Special Representative in Cyprus and Head of UNFICYP, in replacement of Michael Moller.

    Zerihoun is currently the Secretary General's Principal Deputy Special Representative in the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS). He has also been serving as Chief UN Mediator for the Darfur Peace Talks since October 2007, in support of the efforts of Special Envoy Jan Eliasson.

    ''We await the Security Council's response to the Secretary General's letters,'' the Secretary General's spokeswoman said.

    Diplomatic sources have said that by the end of May the UN and the United States will have made preparations in view of diplomatic developments in the Cyprus problem.

    A UN official said that the UN Secretary General has discussed developments in Moscow and asked for the support of President Vladimir Putin. Similar talks were held in Bucharest by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

    UNFICYP arrived in Cyprus in March 1964. It is still serving here, with a renewed mandate after the 1974 Turkish invasion.

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