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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-04-15

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Tuesday, 15 April 2008 Issue No: 2869


  • [01] Bakoyannis on Greek policy in the Balkans
  • [02] Conference on foreign policy, defence in Balkans
  • [03] Greek FM spokesman: 'Name issue' regional and int'l, not bilateral
  • [04] Gov't spokesman on FYROM issue
  • [05] Foreign minister meets UK PM's envoy for Cyprus issue
  • [06] PM briefed on administrative reforms
  • [07] PM confers with employment minister
  • [08] PM to meet FinMin Tuesday, chair Inner Cabinet meeting
  • [09] Sioufas addresses SEECP parliamentary assembly
  • [10] Papoulias in Ukraine this week
  • [11] Deputy FM Kassimis completes Albania tour
  • [12] Minister of State Roussopoulos on state advertising
  • [13] Synaspismos leader Tsipras addresses Athens rally
  • [14] Interior minister on action to promote gender equality
  • [15] Town planning minister denies building without proper permit
  • [16] FinMin Alogoskoufis addresses event on National Strategic Reference Framework
  • [17] FM Bakoyannis addresses event on economic diplomacy
  • [18] Govt aims to improve IKA services to citizens
  • [19] PASOK's Papandreou to visit OTE on Tuesday
  • [20] OTE labour union announces new 24-hour rolling strikes
  • [21] Agriculture Minister Kontos attends EU Council
  • [22] Greek unemployment fell to 8.0 pct in January
  • [23] Athens hotels report mixed occupancy rates in February
  • [24] Greek car market down 0.1 pct in Q1
  • [25] Greek stocks end 1.67 pct lower
  • [26] ADEX closing report
  • [27] Greek bond market closing report
  • [28] Foreign Exchange Rates - Tuesday
  • [29] Environment minister, municipalities discuss improved recycling
  • [30] Dust from Africa shrouds Greece in whitish haze
  • [31] France's Chereau wins top award at 12th Europe Theater Prize, hosted in Thessaloniki
  • [32] Rehabilitation works underway in the ancient Pelinna Wall
  • [33] President Papoulias congratulates National Research Foundation "Eleftherios K. Venizelos"
  • [34] Stergios Pilingos receives 'New Researcher Elite Award'
  • [35] Yale president to speak in Athens, Thessaloniki
  • [36] More steroid confiscations reported
  • [37] Conference on Children and the Mass Media
  • [38] Trikala Municipality e-card service
  • [39] Greek migrant smugglers arrested in Bulgaria
  • [40] Migrant smugglers arrested in Thessaloniki
  • [41] S. Arabia embassy car targeted by arsonists
  • [42] Operation clean sweep in Argolida
  • [43] Australian firemen in charity marathon race
  • [44] Partly cloudy on Tuesday
  • [45] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [46] Czech PM: Turkey must implement EU obligations towards Cyprus
  • [47] President calls on international community to show solidarity with Cyprus
  • [48] President Christofias anticipates technical committees to start work this week Politics

  • [01] Bakoyannis on Greek policy in the Balkans

    Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis outlined Athens' main goals and foreign policy priorities in its immediate neighbourhood of southeastern Europe during her address at a conference on "Foreign policy and defence in the 21st century Balkans" held on Monday at the Greek Air Force Academy.

    "We exercise a clearcut foreign policy, open to the people, without secret agendas and sealed rooms. For this reason, the people have rewarded us with their support," she said

    With special references to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Kosovo, Serbia and Turkey, the minister also pointed to the economic and energy diplomacy exercised by Athens in the surrounding region and the government's global-level initiatives on major problems for the whole planet, such as poverty.

    "Greece exercises a policy of principles. Sincere relations of cooperation cannot be contemplated without good neighbour relations. This is the unviolable principle on which stability in the Balkans in built. This is also the essence of the difference with FYROM. At the NATO summit in Bucharest we argued based on this principle and we won. Our positions became the Alliance positions. The aim is for the two countries to build relations for the future. Relations that lead forward without looking with fear at the past. Freed of phobic syndromes, we seek a solution to the issue of the name, on the basis of a geographic determinant that will apply for all parties," she said.

    With respect to Kosovo, Bakoyannis said that a new state of affairs had been created and that Greece was troubled by the issue of recognition. She stressed the need for Kosovo to focus on boosting democratic institutions and preserve its multicultural character. The minister additionally underlined the importance of the European mission to Kosovo, which would highlight the EU's leading role.

    She also noted that there was a "long road ahead" in resolving the issue of Kosovo's status and that Greece will continue to support stability in the region with all its powers, without overlooking the problems that arose.

    Bakoyannis repeated Greece's position that full compliance with EU criteria should culminate in full EU accession for neighbouring Turkey. Cooperation with Turkey in economic, energy and tourism issues was already taking place, she added, while Greece looked to extending the positive climate to major policy issues.

    At the same time, the minister stressed that this would only be possible to the extent that Turkey actively proved its respect for the European framework of cooperation and European laws and regulations.

    This would happen "when Turkey makes a final turn toward a peaceful settlement of any differences that exist between us, abandoning groundless claims in the Aegean and denouncing anachronistic practices using force. When it takes decisions that will allow the Ecumenical Patriarchate to carry out its work unobstructed and to re-open the School of Theology on Halki," she stressed.

    Greece has both the will and determination to proceed in this direction and hopes that the same applies for Turkey, Bakoyannis said, adding that a self-evident condition for full normalisation of relations between Greece and Turkey was to find a just and viable solution for the Cyprus issue.

    The minister expressed conviction that the recent flurry of activity surrounding the Cyprus issue could open a new window of opportunity for a solution that would lead to the reunification of the island, so that everyone might live in an environment of prosperity and "cash in on the dividend of peace and stability that history owes them".

    Bakoyannis further pointed to Greece's contribution in the global battle against poverty with developmental aid policies in 21 countries, as well as actions under the Greek Plan for the Reconstruction of the Balkans that would invest 550 million euros in infrastructure projects in the Balkan region by the 2011.

    "We are also offering 2.5 million euros in humanitarian aid to Lebanon and five million euros for the country's reconstruction, and through Hellenic Aid we are giving emergency relief for schools, hospitals, food and drinking water," she added.

    Other areas touched on in her address were economic diplomacy and the overtures to large developing economies like China, the Arab world, Russia and Turkey, the country's greatly upgraded energy profile on an international level through the construction of new oil and natural gas pipelines. "We are contributing to the security of energy sources for the EU and the avoidance of one-sided dependence," the foreign minister said.

    [02] Conference on foreign policy, defence in Balkans

    Russian foreign ministry 4th department director Alexeyev, addressing the conference on "Foreign policy and defence in the Balkans in the 21st century" at the Air Force Academy on Monday, called for "a return to international law and solutions by the UN Security Council as soon as possible to enable a firm solution to the issue of Kosovo."

    He further said that the "green light for military aid to Kosovo is dangerous," adding that Kosovo, as well as other regions in the Balkans are "drug smuggling centres" and "a European mission is no solution."

    He went on to say that all have responsibility in solving problems in southeastern Europe, but this should be based on Security Council resolutions, otherwise there will be negative repercussions for the UN system.

    The charge d'affaires of the U.S. embassy in Athens, Thomas Countryman, who participated in the same panel, said that, with regard to "the stereotype that developments in the Balkans constitute a part of the imperialist plan of the U.S.", his country "has been actively involved over the past 15 years in favour of the region's stabilisation, but not unilaterally."

    Regarding the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) "name issue" and efforts to solve it, Countryman said that his country was in close cooperation with "ally Greece and friend FYROM, which it wishes to see ally" in order for a solution to be found.

    [03] Greek FM spokesman: 'Name issue' regional and int'l, not bilateral

    A Greek foreign ministry spokesman on Monday was again drawn into the nagging "name dispute" still separating Athens and neighboring Skopje, this time, however, following comments by the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) top diplomat in the Greek capital.

    Envoy Blagoja Hatzinski opened his comments during a conference here by saying that he considered the fact he was invited as the "ambassador of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", instead of the ambassador of the "Republic of Macedonia", as insulting.

    In repeating the more recent diplomatic posturing enunciated by the ruling party in Skopje following a NATO summit earlier in this month, Hatzinski added that a resolution favored by Greece -- a mutually acceptable solution that includes a geographic determinant for application in all international uses -- is an abandonment of his country's "national identity".

    Foreign Ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, who participated as a panelist in the same event, used his second turn at the speaker's podium to reiterate that Athens wants EU and NATO candidate FYROM to join these institutions "without having outstanding and serious differences with an existing member-state (Greece, amongst others) already in the organisations".

    "...Because a great deal has been said about the issue of fulfillment of (NATO accession) criteria by FYROM, I would simply like to stress that beyond each specific technical criterion there is a political condition, namely, that a candidate-state should not have outstanding differences with a member-state of an organisation that it wants to join," Koumoutsakos said.

    He added that the FYROM "name issue" is not a matter left over or emanating from the past, but a political difference that exists in the present Let me just remind you that UN Security Council resolutions state that the issue must be resolved, because as long as it remains unresolved it affects regional cooperation and stability. Therefore, the issue not bilateral, it is regional and, by extension, international.

    "We want a mutually acceptable solution that does not justify the existence, in (FYROM's) military academies, of maps that feature the name 'Macedonia' over an area that includes territory beginning from the neighbouring country and extending to Thessaloniki and Halkidiki prefecture; that's the type of solution we want," the Greek spokesman said, touching on one of Athens' main points in the current debate, i.e. state-sanctioned irredentist materials and ideology in FYROM.

    The conference, entitled "Foreign Policy and Defence in the 21st Century", was sponsored by an Athens-based periodical.

    Bryza comments

    Meanwhile, speaking to local reporters here on Friday, visiting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Mat Bryza said he believes last week's statements in Skopje by the US envoy to NATO, Victoria Nuland, who referred to a solution in a matter of "days if not weeks rather than months", is a figure of speech that translates into "sooner rather than later".

    Bryza, who was in the Greek capital to address an Economist conference and who again detailed Washington's positions regarding regional and European energy issues, added that a snap election in the neighboring country (June 2008) could generate a government with a "mandate" to seek a compromise on the "name issue", or it could result in a government that "says our mandate is to stay tough".

    "We absolutely appreciate the historical sensitivities here in Greece we've been aware of the issue for a long, long time," he concluded in response to a relevant question on whether the US side has been fully briefed by Athens on the background linked with the "name issue" as well as Greece's long-standing concerns.

    [04] Gov't spokesman on FYROM issue

    Greece participates positively and constructively in the UN-sponsored process for a FYROM name solution, and has traveled its share of the route, and was awaiting the other side to follow suit, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said on Monday, replying to questions on whether the new initiative by UN mediator on the FYROM name issue Matthew Nimetz -- who was due to visit Skopje and Athens at the end of the week -- was leading up to a new round of negotiations.

    "The journey is a long one, and has many stages," Antonaros said, stressing that Greece held a crystal clear position, which has been stipulated with clarity, and "at any given moment we are ready to enter the next stage of the process".

    "Our goal is a mutually acceptable, viable and functional solution. We want a solution to be found. This is clear," Antonaros said.

    Asked whether the upcoming snap elections in FYROM would impact the name negotiations, Antonaros stressed that the domestic affairs of any country were not an issue for the Greek government, and no comment would be forthcoming on the domestic situation in any country whatsoever, in any instance.

    "We do not involve ourselves in the domestic affairs of other countries," he stressed, addng that Greece negotiates with the designated negotiators, the official representatives, of the neighboring country.

    Asked whether Nimetz would meet with prime minister Costas Karamanlis while in Athens, Antonaros replied that he had no details at this time on the UN envoy's itinerary.

    [05] Foreign minister meets UK PM's envoy for Cyprus issue

    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Monday met the British government's special envoy for the Cyprus issue, Labour MP for Enfield Mrs. Joan Ryan, who is currently visiting Athens.

    "Now is the best opportunity that Cyprus has for reunification based on a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation," Ryan said in statements after her meeting with Bakoyannis.

    The British premier's envoy said that activity surrounding the Cyprus issue and to bring the two sides closer together should encouraged, following the meeting between Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.

    "As guarantor powers we are making every effort in order to support and encourage progress," she added.

    [06] PM briefed on administrative reforms

    Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Monday briefed Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on the government's reforms to the country's administrative structure.

    After the meeting, Pavlopoulos said that he has been in talks with the national municipal and prefecture unions KEDKE and ENAE, respectively, and that "the issue of local government finances was finally being put on the right basis, which is the foundation on which it is possible to build the administrative reform".

    The focus on the financial aspects was the main difference between the present reform and previous attempts under PASOK governments, which had created new structures but then not provided them with any economic support, the minister said.

    "We are starting off by laying the foundations for financial support, so that the now more powerful local government organisations can carry out their duties, and then moving on to central reforms," he added.

    Pavlopoulos said that Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis had reached an agreement with KEDKE to boost the finances of municipalities, with 90 percent of road tax revenue and emergency funds transferred into municipal coffers. Talks were still underway with the prefecture union ENAE, he added.

    After studies carried out by the Local Government Institute for KEDKE and ENAE were completed, and based on this new economic basis, the prime minister will hold meetings with the governing boards of the two unions to agree on the structures and send the draft bill to Parliament, the minister concluded.

    [07] PM confers with employment minister

    Prime minister Costas Karamanlis met Monday with employment minister Fani Pali-Petralia, who told reporters afterwards that implementation has commenced of the new social security law, as have the procedures for the unification of the social security funds.

    She said she briefed the prime minister in depth on the detailed plan, and on the ministry's policy aimed at increasing employment and reducing unemployment in the country.

    Asked whether the government was planning to liberalise the dismissals ceiling and changes to labor relations, Petralia said that both the government's and her own positions were "specific and absolute", adding that the framework of the government's policy concerned one thing: the model of full-time and quality work.

    [08] PM to meet FinMin Tuesday, chair Inner Cabinet meeting

    Prime minister Costas Karamanlis will meet on Tuesday morning with economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis.

    Afterwards, Karamanlis will chair a meeting of the Inner Cabinet, which will discuss matters falling under the competency of the interior ministry, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros announced on Monday, during a regular press briefing.

    [09] Sioufas addresses SEECP parliamentary assembly

    SOFIA (ANA-MPA/S. Papadopoulou)

    Greek parliament president Dimitris Sioufas stressed the need for specific policies, actions and initiatives to render the region of southeastern Europe an "islet of stability, growth and creativity", iaddressing the 7th assembly of parliament presidents of the Southeastern Europe Cooperation Process (SEECP) which opened in Sofia on Monday with the theme "enhancing the role of parliaments in the Interparliamentary Regional Cooperation of the countries of the region".

    "The region of SE Europe can evolve from the weak link of Europe throughout the 20th century into an area of political stability, peace and cooperation among the peoples, today, a magnet for investments, and a region with high economic growth rates that ensure prospects of prosperity for our peoples," Sioufas said, adding that the "key" to achieving this goal was the region's European prospect.

    Reiterating Greece's support for EU accession for all the countries of the region, Sioufas noted that the benefits would be mutual: the SE Europe countries need the European Union and accession to its institutions, on the one hand, but on the other EU integration rlied on the incorporation of the entire neighborhood into a new European status quo, into the large European family.

    Sioufas called on his colleagues from the SE European countries to forge new road in that direction and, beginning with the Sofia meeting, to undertake new, specific initiatives to upgrade the SE Europe parliamentary assembly and to render the national parliaments the guarantors of policies that bring the countries and the peoples of the region closer together.

    He further proposed upgrading of the Regional Secretariat through representation ensuring trhe greatest possible representation of the member countries, more frequent meetings of the assembly, and its reinforcement as the guardian of bilateral and multilateral cooperation, encouraging the members' governments in that direction.

    In fact, the Hellenic Parliament, in support of the enhancement of the SEECP parliamentary assembly, intended to propose new initiatives in that direction in the near future, Sioufas announced, adding that he would issue invitations soon to his colleagues to meet in Athens for a special session on the topic "Advancement of common policies for enhancement of development and cooperation among the peoples of SE Europe".

    The parliament presidents also signed Memorandum of Understanding for Inter-parliamentary Cooperation in SE Europe, and adopted a Declaration on the importance of the regional parliamentary cooperation.

    [10] Papoulias in Ukraine this week

    Greek President Karolos Papoulias begins a three-day official visit to the Ukraine on Tuesday, beginning with Kiev, where he will be received by Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko.

    Other stops on his itinerary include the historic cities of Nizhyn and Mariupol, with several meetings and visits scheduled in the latter at the city's ethnic Greek institutions.

    [11] Deputy FM Kassimis completes Albania tour

    Deputy Foreign Minister responsible foroverseas Greeks issues, Theodoros Kassimis, has completed his four-day tour of Albania, sending the message to Greek minority representatives that unity and a repatriation strategy for young people are "the keys" for a better future for Hellenism in southern Albania.

    Kassimis made it clear that a cycle has finally closed and a new page must be turned with the contribution of all for the Greek minority in Albania.

    A rallying of forces, he added, with concensus and consistency, leaving aside the problems and conflicts of the past, must lay the foundations for new modernised structures in "Omonia", the organisation of the Greeks of Albania, and constitute a strong voice in the society they are living in.

    "We must have a strong force here and not fragmented groups," he said, calling for the contribution of all to enable this target to be achieved.

    The last stop in his tour of the Greek minority in Albania was Korce, where he had a meeting with the Greek minority's local representatives.

    [12] Minister of State Roussopoulos on state advertising

    Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos, speaking in Parliament on Monday, replied to a relevant question lodged by 18 deputies of the main opposition PASOK party, saying that the government's steadfast criterion on state advertising is its fairer distribution, its reciprocity and the absolute safeguarding of public interest.

    "We support the mass media, creating the preconditions for a healthy and free market," he said.

    The minister added that, contrary to what used to take place in the past with PASOK, with the governance of the New Democracy party the distribution of state advertising for big newspapers was reduced, while it was increased for smaller newspapers in Athens and for regional newspapers.

    Roussopoulos also provided data according to which the 12 newspapers coming first in advertising currently receive 61 percent compared to the 80 percent part of the advertising "pie" that they had over the 2002-2003 period.

    [13] Synaspismos leader Tsipras addresses Athens rally

    Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) leader Alexis Tsipras, addressing a rally at the Athens suburb of Egaleo on Monday, reiterated his accusations against Andreas Vgenopoulos, in view of the law suit filed by the vice-president of Marfin.

    "Henceforth, in our public gatherings, we must be careful of what we say. Especially when we comment on the manipulation of the public sector by the sympathetic productive class of profiteers. We must be careful, because it is not easy for us to pay every once in a while millions of euros in compensations," Tsipras said.

    "Of course, Mr. Vgenopoulos said that this time he will return them to us. But you never know. If tomorrow the annual increase of Marfin's profit is less than 283%, he may have to hold on to it," he added.

    Tsipras attributed Vgenopoulos's action on how he believes he is protecting his business integrity. "And of course to cut any future intention by political figures to comment and evaluate public actions such as the game with the shares of the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE). He was annoyed because we invited the personnel at OTE to reveal the fraud. And we referred to what the whole of society wonders about: That Deutsche Telecom bought from the government OTE's management, but the price was paid to Vgenopoulos," Tsipras said.

    Tsipras assured the party's supporters that: "We shall speak and disturb all the time. And let them file as many law suits as they like."

    Referring to the problem of unemployment, particularly among youth, Tsipras gave emphasis on the young graduates, underlining the deplorable salaries and the unpaid overtime as well as part-time employment.

    [14] Interior minister on action to promote gender equality

    Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Monday outlined the action taken by the government over the past three years to promote equality between the sexes, during a second session of the National Committee for Gender Equality.

    The session was devoted to the interior ministry's work in this area and on a briefing on gender equality policies during the 4th programme period of 2007-2013.

    The minister referred to measures like introducing a minimum one third quota of female candidates on the election tickets of parties and training seminars to facilitate the participation of women in local government, both during and after their election.

    He also pointed to a series of positive measures and initiatives designed to support the family as an institution and women trying to get back into the world of work, measures to increase employment among women, to counter domestic violence and human trafficking.

    The minister said that up to 9,018 women, most of the unemployed, had benefited from a 3rd CSF programme for action to support women with a total budget of 53 million euros and that employment among women had increased from 41.7 percent in 2001 to 47.7 percent in 2006, when the EU average was 57 percent.

    Pavlopoulos stressed, however, that the goal was to increase employment among women to 60 percent, the target set by the Lisbon Strategy in the framework of improving overall employment in the EU.

    [15] Town planning minister denies building without proper permit

    Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias on Monday stressed that he would be more than happy to answer questions in Parliament regarding his country house in Anavyssos, while denying rumours that this was built without a valid building permit. He had been asked whether he would be willing to answer questions raised in Parliament on this issue by main opposition PASOK MPs.

    "Of course I will go to Parliament and gladly provide answers. Enormous inaccuracies have been written and said. It has gone beyond all limits," the minister stressed.

    "I had a permit for two houses of 65 square metres and I am building one of 110 square metres," he added.

    Financial News

    [16] FinMin Alogoskoufis addresses event on National Strategic Reference Framework

    Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis addressed an event held in the city of Patra, western Greece, on Monday evening concerning the National Strategic Reference Framework (ESPA) for the 12007-2013 period and the 3rd Community Support Framework (CSF).

    "The ESPA constitutes a unique opportunity for us to take a big step forward as a country and as a community. And it has special importance, because it is probably the last time that our country will have such great resources at its disposal from the European Union," the minister said.

    Alogoskoufis added that systematic preparatory work has been carried out and expressed certainty that on completion of the ESPA Western Greece will have taken a great leap forward, stressing that "I am convinced that we shall succeed."

    The finance minister further stressed that with the ESPA Greece has at its disposal 39.4 billion euros from European and national, both public and private, resources.

    He noted that with these resources, 80 percent of which will be directed to the countryside, "we have the possibility of making our economy more competitive and more dynamic, of achieving a substantive convergence of the countryside and making our society fairer."

    Alogoskoufis also mentioned that the natural gas network will be extended to enable 43 percent of the population to have access to it, while 50,000 businesses will be supported with the aim of creating 20,000 jobs.

    [17] FM Bakoyannis addresses event on economic diplomacy

    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis addressed an event organised by the foreign ministry in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, on Monday, in cooperation with the Federations of Industries and Exporters of Northern Grecce, presenting the new philosophy with which the foreign ministry handles economic diplomacy, while making an account for the year 2007 and speaking about the targets set for 2008.

    The minister stressed that as soon as the government assumed its duties, following the elections held in 2004, it placed emphasis on the country's extroversion.

    She said that there are two main tools to achieve the goal of extroversion. Competitiveness and economic diplomacy. At the level of economic diplomacy, the ministry has an overall strategic plan and the importance placed by the government on this sector results from the fact that since the beginning of 2008 considerable business missions have been carried out to Turkey, Syria, Egypt and Algeria (for the first time).

    The government's aim is a turn to economic diplomacy and its extension to speedily developing countries, lying outside the Balkans and the European Union, such as China, the Arab world, Russia, etc, as well as the aspect of energy diplomacy.

    An amount was secured in the budget for new economic diplomacy activities as of 2007. Greece has 58 Economic and Commercial Affairs Offices in 87 countries and 148 embassies, general consulates, consulates and liaison offices.

    [18] Govt aims to improve IKA services to citizens

    Improving services offered by the Social Insurance Fund (IKA) to workers and pensioners is the next big challenge for the Greek government, Employment and Social Protection Minister Fani Palli-Petralia said on Monday.

    Speaking to reporters, after a meeting with the management of IKA, the minister said the meeting focused on promoting procedures to speed up the unification of pension funds according to a new law. IKA's governor, G. Mergos, speaking to reporters, said the Fund would complete the application of an integrated information system by next year, offering full electronic services.

    The Greek minister said that recent talk of higher deficits resulting from the unification of pension funds under IKA were irresponsible forecasts and underlined that it was the first year that IKA presented a balanced budget this year.

    She said that a policy priority for the government was promoting an agreement over a single payroll system in the civil sector.

    [19] PASOK's Papandreou to visit OTE on Tuesday

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou will visit the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) headquarters in Maroussi on Tuesday to meet with its staff union OME-OTE and talk with members of OTE's workforce, party spokesman George Papaconstantinou announced on Monday.

    He stressed that PASOK was opposed to the loss of state control over OTE through its sale to the German telecoms giant Deutsche Telekom, both as a matter of principle but also because of the manner and price at which DT acquired its share of OTE.

    "We consider that this major telecommunications organisation with an important position in the Balkans is being sold at a price that in no way corresponds to its current value," Papaconstantinou said.

    Referring to an off-the-agenda debate on the economy scheduled to be held in Parliament on Thursday, meanwhile, he said that the main opposition wanted to raise a whole range of issue concerning the Greek economy, including the recent slowdown in growth rates, slipping competitiveness, record foreign exchange deficits and "daily life" issues for citizens.

    He stressed that Greek families and households were finding it more and more difficult to make ends meet, even to the extent of going hungry, and that no policies were addressing this issue.

    In other statements, meanwhile, PASOK's 'shadow' employment minister Evi Christofilopoulou said the government was now targeting "a new set of victims" after ordinary salaried employees, ignoring the "reactions against the unfair Karamanlis social insurance laws that were escalating and becoming an avalanche".

    Freelance workers, those in heavy and hazardous jobs and civil servants were next in line, Christofilopoulou said and pledged PASOK's support for workers and insured, and to use all legal means to overturn the government measures.

    PASOK's Political Council will meet on Tuesday morning to discuss a number of proposals made by Papandreou concerning political, organisational and election planning fo the party.

    [20] OTE labour union announces new 24-hour rolling strikes

    The labour union of the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) employees (OME-OTE) announced a new round of strike action on Monday in the form of 24-hour rolling strikes, reacting to the possibility of OTE's management being awarded to the Deutsche Telekom company.

    The Federation's board decided during an extraordinary session to escalate the struggle with the rolling strikes, that will be activated immediately on the day that the issue is brought before the Interministerial Privatisations Committee.

    The announcement by OME-OTE added that the Federation is also struggling to safeguard the employees of the OTE Group.

    [21] Agriculture Minister Kontos attends EU Council

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)

    Agricultural Development and Food Minister Alexandros Kontos, attending the European Union's Council of Agriculture Ministers in Luxembourg on Monday, said that measures must be taken to crack down on illegal fishing.

    According to Kontos, illegal fishing is a real threat for the viability and the rational exploitation of fishing resources.

    The minister called for effective and immediate protection for Greece's market, as well for the European Union's, from fish product imports that have been obtained and circulated ilegally, with the aim of protecting the incomes of Greek fishermen and the safety of consumers.

    [22] Greek unemployment fell to 8.0 pct in January

    Greek unemployment rate fell to 8.0 percent of the workforce in January, from 8.6 pct in January 2007 and 9.6 pct in January 2006, the National Statistics Service said on Monday.

    The statistics service, in a monthly report, said the number of unemployed people totaled 390,210 in January, down from 421,130 in January 2007 and 461,640 in January 2007. Ionian islands (13.8 pct), western Macedonia (13.3 pct) and southern Aegean (12.1 pct) recorded the highest unemployment rates, while northern Aegean (4.1 pct) and Crete (5.6 pct) recorded the lowest unemployment rates in January. Unemployment continued hitting harder women (12.1 pct) than men (5.1 pct).

    The number of employed people totaled 4,511,585 in January 2008, up from 4,491,606 in January 2007 and 4,369,914 in January 2006.

    [23] Athens hotels report mixed occupancy rates in February

    Hotels located in Athens and the wider Attica region reported mixed occupancy rate figures in February, with 5-star and two-star hotels reporting declines of 2.5 pct and 4.4 pct, respectively, while four-star and three-star hotels reported increases of 9.3 pct and 7.2 pct, respectively.

    The Association of Attica Hoteliers, in a statement issued on Monday, said its members agreed to seek legal action to ensure improved police inspection around their hotels, especially those located in the center of Athens, during the night and early morning hours.

    [24] Greek car market down 0.1 pct in Q1

    The Greek car market remained almost unchanged at last year's levels in the first quarter of 2008, with sales totaling 79,271, down 0.1 pct from the corresponding period in 2007.

    Car registrations grew strongly in January and February, but a 19.4 drop in March brought the market to a standstill.

    Toyota (2,131) remained at the top of the Greek market, followed by VW (1,896) and Opel (1,646) sales in March, while Toyota maintained its leading position for the first quarter, followed by Opel and VW.

    [25] Greek stocks end 1.67 pct lower

    Greek stocks lost substantial ground on Monday, pushing the composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange below the 4,000 level. The index ended 1.67 pct lower to end at 3,937.79 points with turnover a moderate 314.2 million euros, of which 44.6 million euros were block trades.

    Most sectors ended lower, with the Technology (3.17 pct), Financial Services (2.81 pct), Food/Beverage (2.54 pct), Insurance (2.43 pct), Raw Materials (2.40 pct) and Banks (2.08 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Constructions (0.28 pct) and Oil (0.24 pct) were top gainers.

    The FTSE 20 index fell 1.89 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 1.28 pct lower and the FTSE 80 index eased 0.75 pct.

    ANEK (12.73 pct), United Textiles (10.0 pct) and Ideal (9.05 pct) were top gainers, while Pairis (9.78 pct) and Tsoukaridis (8.0 pct) were top losers. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 208 to 45 with another 31 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +2.43%

    Industrials: -1.41%

    Commercial: -0.41%

    Construction: +0.28%

    Media: -1.81%

    Oil & Gas: +0.24%

    Personal & Household: -0.44%

    Raw Materials: +2.40%

    Travel & Leisure: -1.65%

    Technology: -3.17%

    Telecoms: -2.02%

    Banks: -2.08%

    Food & Beverages: -2.54%

    Health: -0.49%

    Utilities: -0.06%

    Chemicals: -0.06%

    Financial Services: -2.81%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, Marfin Popular Bank, Alpha Bank and Piraeus Bank.

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

    Alpha Bank: 20.06

    ATEbank: 2.73

    VIOHALCO: 6.76

    ELTEX: 7.60

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 28.20

    HBC Coca Cola: 29.70

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.60

    National Bank of Greece: 32.16

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 18.10

    Bank of Cyprus: 7.50

    Intralot: 12.00

    Hellenic Post Bank: 11.76

    OPAP: 23.52

    OTE: 18.44

    Piraeus Bank: 18.96

    Titan Cement Company: 26.86

    Marfin Popular Bank: 4.88

    Marfin Investment Group (MIG): 4.88%

    [26] ADEX closing report

    Greek futures contract prices maintained their discount in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Monday, with turnover a low 128.338 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 0.38 pct.

    Volume in futures contracts on the Big Cap index totaled 9,912 contracts worth 97.884 million euros, with 28,861 open positions in the market, while on the Mid Cap index volume was 170 contracts worth 3,994 million euros, with 311 open positions.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 13,420 contracts worth 16.541 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (2,518), followed by Marfin Investment Group (874), OTE (644), Piraeus Bank (490), Alpha Bank (644), Intracom (650), Marfin Popular Bank (1,121), Mytilineos (926) and Hellenic Postbank (938).

    [27] Greek bond market closing report

    Turnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market shrank to 558 million euros on Monday, of which 141 million were buy orders and the remaining 417 million were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security of the day with a turnover of 265 million euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds rose to 0.53 pct, with the Greek bond yielding 4.46 pct and the German Bund 3.93 pct.

    In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were mixed. National Bank's overnight rate fell to 4.03 pct from 4.05 pct on Friday, the two-day rate also eased to 4.05 pct from 4.07 pct, the one-month rate was 4.39 pct and the 12-month rate 4.77 pct.

    [28] Foreign Exchange Rates - Tuesday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.599

    Pound sterling 0.804

    Danish kroner 7.518

    Swedish kroner 9.481

    Japanese yen 160.66

    Swiss franc 1.590

    Norwegian kroner 8.008

    Canadian dollar 1.635

    Australian dollar 1.729

    General News

    [29] Environment minister, municipalities discuss improved recycling

    Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias on Monday had a meeting with the leadership of Greece's nationwide municipality union KEDKE to discuss ways of further improving, extending and supporting recycling schemes throughout the country.

    The focus was on the "blue bin" system for recycling all forms of packaging that is currently used by roughly half of municipalities around the country but often does not work effectively because municipalities don't have enough money to collect with the required frequency and because the system has in many areas not been fully completed.

    In talks with KEDKE's president Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis and other members of KEDKE's board, Souflias explained that the ministry had asked the Greek recycling company that handles the blue bin system to give funds to municipalities to carry out collections more frequently, while central government would provide funds for extending and improving the system where needed.

    Souflias underlined that recycling was a priority for the government, which aimed to reach the EU average for recycling materials, or 33 percent, by the year 2012.

    The minister also agreed with a KEDKE request to deploy other recycling methods, such as specialised "recycling huts" to be operated by local authorities, and to organise a major campaign to promote recycling in autumn.

    [30] Dust from Africa shrouds Greece in whitish haze

    The northern Sahara Desert dust that covered the entire country over the past few days is starting to pull away, while the National Weather Service (EMY) has predicted rains and northerly winds, which are expected to clear the skies from the whitish haze. The phenomenon is not an unusual one and when the weather is rainy it is experienced as mud rain. According to meteorologists, the whitish color skies is the result of particles of dust from northern Africa that remain trapped in the humid atmosphere due to the unusually high temperatures for the season, coupled by southerly winds.

    This time its duration was longer due to the persistent southerly winds, which carried the dust as far north as Thessaloniki.

    The situation will improve on Tuesday but the phenomenon is expected to be repeated again at the end of the week, meteorologists said, adding that there is no hazard for the public, while only those with pulmonary diseases or asthma should be more careful.

    Meanwhile, a new cleaning method will be used in the Thermaikos Bay, Thessaloniki, for the removal of objects that have piled up on the sea bed, contributing to its pollution.

    A "side scan sonar" device, used by the local Frogmen Club to map the bottom of the sea, will locate objects weighing up to a ton in order to be removed following an initiative undertaken by the Ministry of Macedonia-Thrace.

    [31] France's Chereau wins top award at 12th Europe Theater Prize, hosted in Thessaloniki

    French director Patrice Chereau was the winner of the 12th Europe Theater Prize, receiving his award from Greek culture minister Michalis Liapis during an awards ceremony Sunday night in Thessaloniki, organiser of the 2008 event.

    "In my person, you honor not only an individual, but everyone I love and have worked with," Chereau said as he received his award.

    Former French culture minister Jack Lange said later that very few embodied the European Ideal as did Chereau, and also spoke of his "eternal friend Melina Mercouri", the late actress and former Greek culture minister, who spearheaded the campaign for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece from the British Museum, for which Lange reitereated his staunch support.

    The awards ceremony opened with a greeting by Liapis, who stressed that support of this top European institution, which encourages the consolidation of a "common theatrical language among the European peoples" did not simply meet fully the ministry's strategy but was also one of its fundamental components.

    The prize for New Theatrical Realities was shared by Polish director Krzysztof Warlikowski for "Cleansed", and by the Rimini Protokoll Theater group (Germany's entry) for their production of Stefan Kaegi's "Mnemopark".

    "The awards, I fell, add a gray strand to the recipient's hair...I've been searching my hair since yesterday as I was preparing to receive the award," joked the 45-year-old Warlikowski, who enthused the public with his avant-garde production of Sarah Kane's play.

    The event was organised and hosted by the National Theater of Northern Greece.

    The Europe Theatre Prize was created in 1986 as a pilot programme of the European Commission and it has been recognised by the European Parliament and Council as a "European cultural interest organisation". The Union of European Theatres and the European Theatre Convention are associate and supporting bodies; other associate bodies are the International Association of Theatre Critics, the Mediterranean Theatre Institute and the International Theatre Institute UNESCO.

    [32] Rehabilitation works underway in the ancient Pelinna Wall

    Rehabilitation works in the western section of the ancient Pelinna Wall, located in Thessaly, central Greece, got underway Tuesday following a culture ministry decision.

    The 180,000-euro project will include a number of interventions making the site more accessible to student field trips. The ancient Pelinna or Pelinneon was situated on the east bank of Pinios River in Trikala Prefecture, western Thessaly, between Trikki and Farkadona. Its walls were reinforced by King Philip II of Macedon who had also set a permanent Macedonian guard in the region.

    [33] President Papoulias congratulates National Research Foundation "Eleftherios K. Venizelos"

    Hellenic Republic President Karolos Papoulias on Monday addressed a handwritten congratulatory letter to the National Research Foundation "Eleftherios K. Venizelos" on the occasion of the publication of a volume containing the minutes of the conference on the Greek farm society and economy during the Venizelos era.

    In his letter President Papoulias stressed that the book is a tribute to Eleftherios Venizelos, Greece's great farm policy reformer.

    [34] Stergios Pilingos receives 'New Researcher Elite Award'


    Stergios Pilingos received from Denmark's Councils of Independent Research the "New Researcher Elite Award."

    The award comes to 200,000 Danish kroner and is destined for the further development of the research programme which is headed by Pilingos at the Chemistry faculty of Copenhagen University.

    The award is given within the framework of the programme "Elite Initiative for Research", by Denmark's Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.

    The aim of the Initiative is to reward and project excellent new researchers.

    [35] Yale president to speak in Athens, Thessaloniki

    The president of historic Yale University, Dr. Richard C. Levin, will visit Greece for the first time to speak at a pair of events in Athens and Thessaloniki early next month, part of the "Great Ideas" series being held on the occasion of its 60th anniversary of the Fulbright Foundation in Greece.

    On May 6, Levin will speak at Athens' Zappeion Hall on the topic of "The Internationalization of the University," while on May 7, he will speak in Thessaloniki on the same topic at the Anatolia College's Raphael Conference Hall.

    According to a press release on Monday, Levin is the longest serving Ivy League president and is recognised as a leader in America's unparalleled higher education sector.

    The goal of the "Great Ideas" series is to bring noted American experts and artists to

    Greece to perform and discuss current topics of interest to the Greek and American people.

    The major sponsor of the series is the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

    The series is organised with the support of the US embassy in Athens and the US consulate in Thessaloniki.

    [36] More steroid confiscations reported

    Authorities on Monday announced that they had intercepted a large parcel containing 91,200 anabolic steroid pills shipped from Thailand.

    The shipment of steroids - identified with the trade names Alazo Adrolic, Anabol, Stanzol and Cetabon - was originally detected at Paris' De Gaulle Airport by French customs officers. The name of a recipient in east Athens, additionally, proved to be fictitious, while no one showed up at a staked out post office box where the parcel was delivered.

    Meanwhile, another two ex-weightlifters and members of the national team testified on Monday before an investigating magistrate.

    One of the two, Christos Konstantinidis, had accused, in 1997, then national team coach Christos Iacovou of supplying athletes with banned substances, while the other individual, Nikos Kourtidis, is one of three athletes that emerged unscathed from the doping case involving 11 out of 14 members of the Greek national weightlifting team.

    [37] Conference on Children and the Mass Media

    The need to form a roadmap or code of ethics was underlined by Minister of State and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, addressing a one-day conference Monday on "Children and Mass Media: protection of minors in audiovisual and information services" hosted by the Secretariat General for Communication - Secretariat General for Information (SGC-SGI) in Athens.

    Roussopoulos stressed that all those responsible should manifest interest in the relation between minors and the media, underlining the need for a wide-ranging public debate that will be continued in an online forum. He also pointed out that all proposals approved should be implemented through appropriate regulations and mostly through self-regulation.

    He said that the existing legislation and European directives are adequate, but stressed, however, that the new technologies make the creation of a new culture imperative for ensuring the protection of children.

    Public television ERT SA President-CEO Christos Panagopoulos described television is the dominant information medium that creates social trends, pointing out that no new legislation can be compared with the power of television stations that divide television views into target groups focusing mainly on the 15-25 age-group.

    [38] Trikala Municipality e-card service

    An e-card service will be available to municipality of Trikala citizens, in central Greece, facilitating the online issuance of certificates even when they are in a foreign country. This is yet another benefit for local people resulting from the municipality's participation in the Information Society programme.

    An e-signature will be recognized as official for the issuance of certificates requested by citizens who are unable to receive them in person from the competent municipal authorities, while the most frequently requested certificates (birth, marriage etc) will be downloaded to an e-card to be available for use on request.

    [39] Greek migrant smugglers arrested in Bulgaria

    The Greek driver and co-driver of a truck with Greek license plates were arrested at the border crossing of Vidin, a town on the southern bank of the Danube in northwestern Bulgaria, accused of attempting to cross the Bulgarian-Romanian borders while transporting a total of 55 illegal migrants, 41 Afghans and 14 Iraqis.

    The illegal migrants were discovered on Friday, April 11, inside a metal cage built in the truck that was carrying snacks from Greece to Austria.

    The search that led to the discovery of the migrants was conducted by the Bulgarian border guards because the driver did not produce the necessary travel documents.

    The migrants had enough air to breath through an opening on the floor of the truck which was also used as a toilet hole. Two portable battery-operated ventilators were also found inside the truck and roughly 50 bottles of water.

    [40] Migrant smugglers arrested in Thessaloniki

    A 26-year-old Iraqi national, accused of being involved in a migrant smuggling ring, was arrested after a car chase in Thessaloniki during which a warning shot was fired.

    According to police, the suspect had fled when 3 Iraqis and a Syrian were arrested on migrant smuggling charges following a stake out.

    [41] S. Arabia embassy car targeted by arsonists

    Unidentified prersons set fire to a car belonging to the Saudi Arabian embassy as it was parked on a street in the suburb of Halandri in the first hours of Monday.

    The perpetrators placed a home-made incendiary device comprising small propane canisters beneath the car, and the fire that ensued from the explosion caused serious material damage to the vehicle.

    [42] Operation clean sweep in Argolida

    Police in Argolida Prefecture, southern Greece, launched a clean sweep operation involving house and store raids and car searches. Ten suspects were arrested -- 6 Greek and 4 foreign nationals -- while another 29 people were briefly detained.

    A total of 20.7 grams of hashish and 331 CDs were seized, while 125 violations were confirmed after running checks on roughly 200 people.

    [43] Australian firemen in charity marathon race

    Australian firemen will participate in the Charity Marathon Race from Gallipoli to London in honor of the troops from Australia and New Zealand (ANZAC) who fought on the Asia Minor coasts during WWI.

    The race will start from Gallipoli, run through the Greek mainland and Crete, and then on to Italy.

    The northeastern Aegean island of Limnos had played an instrumental role in the preparations of the Australian troops ahead of the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915 at the Peninsula of Gallipoli less than 100 km away on the Asia Minor coasts.

    Weather forecast

    [44] Partly cloudy on Tuesday

    Partly cloudy weather with westerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Tuesday, with wind velocity reaching 6-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 5C and 24C. Partly cloudy in Athens, with westerly, 4-6 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 12C to 22C. Scattered showers in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 11C to 17C.

    [45] The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The new round of talks on the FYROM name issue to begin in the next few days, under UN special mediator Matthew Nimetz, and the new reforms the New Democracy (ND) government of prime minister Costas Karamanlis is planning, were the main front-page items in Monday's dailies.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Public sector: Promotions process begins for civil servants, department heads".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Karamanlis' popularity skyrockets, from 50.5 percent in February to 61.1 percent in April".

    AVRIANI: "Karamanlis planning expansion to the Center, and benefits - The strategy for double elections in Spring 2009".

    CHORA: "Ring around the...MIG (Marfin Investment Group) - The entire behind-the-scenes", opining that "road corridors, casinos, marinas, energy, real estate, 'choice' pieces of the public sector, coastal shipping, procurements, banks and infrastructures are formulating new alliances in the country's business scenery, setting in motion developments in the field of mass media, and are harbingers of developments in the effort of major business groups for control of the political authority".

    ELEFTHERI ORA: "The US determined to close the Skopje name issue quickly, and incorporate the 'concoction' state in NATO as soon as possible".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The uprising of the enclaved - The citizens attempted a 're-takeover' of the city on the weekend, with baby buggies on central Academias street and basketball baskets along the main street in Pangrati", adding that "Athens, albeit for just a little while, became a human city, during a small basketball fest".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Mr. Siemens Hellas (Volker Jung, Siemens former board member) an agent - New turn in the case, with revelations by Der Spiegel", adding that Jung's name was well-known to Eleftherotypia's readers since January 2008 for his decisive role in the case of the German colossal's 'black funds', and now Der Spiegel reveals that Jung, closely networked for decades with the German intelligence service BND, was its 'contact' in the central board of the Siemens group.

    ESTIA: "Political timidity by the government - Populism making difficult the taking of measures".

    ETHNOS: "Blind date on the FYROM issue - The Americans imposed new round of negotiations".

    TA NEA: "The terror of the '150' hits Karamanlis - ND froze from Tatoulis' (ND deputy) attack" on the government.

    VRADYNI: "Social security reforms: The plan for the changes in the public sector - The issue will open after the Easter break".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [46] Czech PM: Turkey must implement EU obligations towards Cyprus


    Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Mirek Topolanek said Monday his country insists on the implementation of Turkey's European obligations towards the Republic of Cyprus.

    Speaking at a press conference, through an interpreter, after a meeting with the Cypriot President Demetris Christofias, Topolanek who is on an official visit to Cyprus, said that his country will hold the EU Presidency the first six months of 2009 and will assist in any possible way the Cyprus efforts.

    In his statements President Christofias noted the traditionally friendly bilateral relations, adding that they discussed the Cyprus issue and steps the Czech Republic could take to assist these efforts.

    He thanked the Czech Premier for his assistance and for his readiness in 2009 to "organise something very specific and helpful in efforts to promote a Cyprus solution".

    Topolanek referred to the EU Czech Presidency priorities and President Christofias said that Cyprus, being a divided country since the 1974 Turkish invasion, is facing problems on several aspects relating to the implementation of EU decisions. Cyprus, he added, will contribute to the success of the EU Czech Presidency.

    The Cypriot President noted that May 2009 marks 20 years since the first meeting in Prague between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot politicians, which opened the way for more contact.

    Noting that he has lived in Cyprus, the Czech Premier said that only a few EU leaders know the Cyprus problem to such a depth and welcomed recent initiatives to open the way for progress.

    Responding to questions, he said his government insists that Turkey, a candidate country engaged in membership talks with the EU, must implement the additional Protocol of the Ankara Agreement, relating to its obligations towards Cyprus.

    He concluded by saying that Cyprus problem will be solved before Turkey's EU accession.

    [47] President calls on international community to show solidarity with Cyprus


    President Demetris Christofias has pointed out the need for the European Union and the international community to show their solidarity with Cyprus and encourage Turkey to adopt a more constructive stance which would lead to a political settlement that will reunite Cyprus, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion.

    Speaking during a luncheon hosted in honour of Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Mirek Topolanek, President Christofias said he had begun an effort with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat to prepare direct talks properly, adding that although there are difficulties and messages that call for a cautious approach, the Greek Cypriot side is never pessimistic.

    President Christofias said his talks with Topolanek earlier Monday ''reaffirmed the high level of our bilateral relations'' and ''underlined the common wish for further expanding them.''

    He also referred to the upcoming Czech presidency of the EU and said he had no doubt that the country would be successful in promoting and implementing its priorities.

    ''I assure you that Cyprus will support your efforts, will be willing every moment to listen and cooperate in order to support the Czech presidency,'' in the first half of 2009, President Christofias said.

    He added that ''more and more Cypriots choose Prague for their holidays, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations, while many young people prefer your country for higher education.''

    He said he was pleased to see ''a noticeable Czech presence in Cyprus as well'' enjoying their holidays.

    ''Before we proceed with our luncheon, allow me to say that the point in time you chose to visit us is very important for the Cypriots, since it marks a change which naturally creates expectations and mobility. Expectations for the people, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, who for over 33 years are struggling for justice, to reunite their country. I have taken the commitment towards the Cypriots that I will make every effort to solve the Cyprus problem, with a policy of initiatives and good will,'' he said.

    President Christofias added that ''with Turkish Cypriot leader Mr. Talat we have begun an effort for the proper preparation of direct talks'' and that ''there are difficulties and unfortunately sometimes the messages we receive make us cautious but never pessimistic.''

    ''The solution of the Cyprus problem is urgent. Discouragement and pessimism are not permitted. But it is an absolute necessity, at this time, for the whole international community and of course our partners in the EU to show in practice their solidarity, utilising their relations and access for a more constructive stance on behalf of Turkey, which will allow the implementation of what we have been seeking for years now, a single state, a bicommunal and bizonal federation, which will be a common homeland of security and prosperity for all, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots,'' he concluded.

    [48] President Christofias anticipates technical committees to start work this week


    President of the Republic Demetris Christofias said here Sunday that he is expecting the technical committees to start operating this week, in order to produce results, which will make possible the commencement of negotiations around the end of June.

    Speaking on the sidelines of a memorial service, at the People's Associations Building in the Nicosia district village of Dali, for the martyrs for Greco-Turkish friendship Costas Misiaoulis (Greek Cypriot) and Dervis Ali Kavazoglou (Turkish Cypriot), assassinated in 1965 by Turkish Cypriot terrorist organization TMT, the president did not rule out the possibility of meeting again Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat before Easter.

    Christofias also said that there should not be over optimism in regard developments on the Cyprus problem.

    Referring to a second meeting with Talat before the Orthodox Easter, 27 April, President Christofias said "there is a possibility; we did not rule that out during our first meeting, we will see".

    President Christofias and Talat met on 21 March for the first time since the former took over the presidency of the Republic. The two agreed to ask their respective advisers, George Iacovou and Ozdil Nami, to meet with a view to set up a number of working groups and technical committees to prepare the ground for substantive negotiations.

    Referring to the start of the technical committees, while the composition of the committee for security and guarantees is pending, President Christofias said the work of the committees would start, irrespective of the fact that there is no full identity of views on one or two committees.

    Commenting on a statement by Talat that the technical committees will start their work on 16 April with the aim to call for direct negotiations at the end of June, the President of the Republic said that Talat has his own agenda over the direct negotiations. "I hope Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, the committees can start their work, after both sides prepare well, and to produce work which will enable us to begin a direct dialogue", the President added.

    In any case, he noted, "there should be a meeting before the end of June or early July to examine the work of the committees. We have to have something substantial before us and speak the same language to be able to get into the bottom of the situation", the president said.

    He remarked that it is not easy for Turkey, which has set out its red lines for the continuation of guarantees and alliances, to accept stipulations, which will question these red lines.

    "We are there, we know our views, we know theirs and the issue will be ultimately discussed at a committee", the president said, and advised the journalists to be patient.

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