|Friday, 18 January 2019|
Macedonian Press Agency: News in English, 06-01-27
From: The Macedonian Press Agency at http://www.mpa.gr and http://www.hri.org/MPA.
 SEECP TRANSPORT MINISTERS SIGN RAIL COOPERATION MEMORANDUMAthens, 27 January 2006 (15:59 UTC+2)
Transport ministers of the SE Europe Cooperation Process (SEECP) signed a landmark memorandum of cooperation for the establishment of a new high-specifications rail network linking the major hubs of SE Europe, during a meeting in Athens on Thursday chaired by current SEECP chairman Greece's transport and communications minister Michalis Liapis.
SE Europe may be situated in the periphery of the European Union, but it should not find itself in the periphery of development, Liapis told the meeting, adding that the goal of the current Greek presidency of the group (for the period 2005-2006) was to boost the competitiveness of the region's rail transports, which in turn would attract more passengers and cargoes.
He welcomed the agreement as a "bold venture for upgrading the transport infrastructures in SE Europe, the promotion of the railway as an environment-friendly means of transport, the promotion of tourism, and also the sustainable economic development of the region, as well as rendering Greece a protagnist in developments in the region.
The in-principle agreement, which was signed by the transportation ministers of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, FYROM, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Serbia-Montenegro and Turkey, ushers in a new era in rail communication among the countries of the region, with the goal being to boost the competitiveness of rail transports in SE Europe, improve the quality of services offered, and substantially reduce travel time along the strategic sections of the region's rail network.
The first stage of the ambitiou scheme, which covers a network of 14 rail axes, is slated for completion in 2013, while the second stage is envisaged to be completed in 2020.
According to the memorandum, "mild" interventions will be made in the first stage aimed at increasing the speed of passenger trains to 130 kilometers per hour, with the prospect of speed reaching 160 and even 220 kilometers per hour along certain stretches of the network, while the speeds of the cargo trains will also be accordingly adjusted.
The memorandum further foresees the limitation or elimination of obstaces at cross-border crossings, and the simplification procedures, coordination of the timetable of the projects currently underway or being planned at bilateral and multilateral level, and seeking new funding vehicles (EU, international financial institutions), etc.
Greece was selected during the conference to chair the Steering Committee that will promote the implementation of the agreement, and also the Technical Secretariat that will undertake the technical support of the project.
Addressing the meeting earlier, Liapis and deputy foreign minister Evripides Stylianidis said that SE Europe was situated in the periphery of the EU, but it must not find itself in the "periphery of development".
The goal of the Greek presidency (of the SEECP) was to boost the competitiveness of rail transports in SE Europe, which would attract more passengers and goods, Liapis said.
To achieve that goal, it is necessary to increase the speed of rain transports (from 60 kilometers per hour today to 160 kilomters per hour in the intermediate term), reduce delays, particularly at the cross-border crossings, and upgrade the quality of services provided to passengers, Liapis said, adding that all these elements were contained in the memorandum that would be signed at the end of the conference.
Regarding the financing of the networks, the memorandum provided for investigating the prospects of national and international, public and private resources.
Addressing the conference in turn, Stylianidis said that the modernisation of the region's road and rail axes was expected to contribute substantially to improving the economies of SE Europe, and he cited recent activities aiming at opening up new corss-border axes and crossings with neighbouring countries and the materialisation of major road projects of European-wide interest.
He noted the recent inauguration of the Greek-Bulgarian Friendship Tunnel, and the plans for two additional border crossings with Bulgaria, progress in works on the new Komotini-Nymfaia-GrecoBulgarian border highway, and the plans for a new highway linking Xanthi with Bulgaria.
Greek prime minister Karolos Papoulias and his Bulgarian counterpart Georgi Purvanov in early December inaugurated a tunnel constructed to facilitate the opening of the new border crossing between the two countries at Exochi, in Drama. The new Ilinden-Exochi border crossing links Drama with the neigbouring Bulgarian city of Goce Delcev. The initial agreement for the opening of the new border crossing was signed in 1995. It is the first of three new border checkpoints between Greece and Bulgaria provided for in the bilateral agreement, aimed at alleviating congestion at the other busy border posts between the two countries. The other two future border crossings will connect Komotini with Kurdzhali, and Xanthi with Rudozem.
He also said that upgrading was being dvanced of the Trans-European Corridor 4 (Thessaloniki-Sofia).
Regarding Turkey, Stylianidis said that at the latest meeting of the joint interministerial economic cooperation committee, it had been decided to proceed with the establishment of a second bridge in the Kipi-Ipsala region, with Greek funding, aimed at decongesting the existing crossing, while a new coastal link was being examined in the northern part of the Aegean.
On the Trans-European Corridors, he said the Greek government's priority was the upgrading of Corridor 10 into a high-specifications highway, which would ensure the speedy and safe link of Thessaloniki, Skopje and Belgrade, and from there to the European markets. The project, he added, would be funded by Greek resources and by international financial institutions (i.e. the European Investment Bank).
Stylianidis noted that Greek premier Costas Karamanlis was running a strong "economic diplomacy" campaign, adding that during his recent visits to the US, China and Japan, the Greek effort had focussed on the Balkan region, with the aim of encouraging investments in the region and assisting the development of entrepreneurship through the projection of Greece as a part of the whole called SE Europe.
"Our proposal is the establishment of headquarters of international business groups in Greece, with production units in the Balkans, thus encouraging cooperation among our countries and growth," Stylianidis concluded.
 ALOGOSKOUFIS: GREECE NEEDS TO REFORM ITS PENSION SYSTEMAthens, 27 January 2006 (15:36 UTC+2)
The pension system is a time bomb ready to be exploded unless reforms were made, Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Friday.
Addressing a seminar organised by the non-governmental organisation "Citizens for the Future", Alogoskoufis said that in 10, 15 or 20 years from now "no one knows right now, there will be a problem unless we take the iniatives needed to defuse this time bomb and to transform the pension system into an opportunity for the country".
The Greek minister noted that a dialogue over the pension system should proceed this year and referred to the three pylons of the government's economic policy, tax reform, a new investment law on growth and regional convergence, and joint ventures between public and private sectors.
Alogoskoufis said the government was promoting a series of legislative initiatives aimed to improve economic performance and solve past problems.
These initiatives are:
-setting up an agency of fiscal auditors to ensure public spending and better management of existing funds,
-making a better use of public sector's real estate assets,
-reforming a law on Community Support Framework and promoting a National Support Framework and,
-supporting the role of a National Council of Exports.
Alogoskoufis said the government was poised to proceed with its reform programme this year and stressed that the public sector was gradually limiting its participation in the country's economy.
 N17 APPEALS TRIAL CONTINUESAthens, 27 January 2006 (18:54 UTC+2)
The appellate-level trial of nearly two dozen ?November 17? convicted terrorists continued on Friday after a three-day delay due to adverse weather conditions.
The five-judge tribunal heard more defence motions and defendants statements requesting that numerous pre-trial confessions and statements be thrown out because they were allegedly obtained under duress.
 GREEK PRODUCER INDEX JUMPED 8.3 PCT IN DECEMBER, YR/YRAthens, 27 January 2006 (15:33 UTC+2)
Greece's Producer Price Composite index (measuring both the domestic and foreign markets) jumped 8.3 pct in December 2005, compared with the same month in 2004, the National Statistics Service said on Friday.
NSS, in its regular report, said the country's PPI rose 0.3 pct in December from November 2005.
The average index of the 12-month period January 2005-December 2005 rose 5.3 pct, compared with the corresponding period in 2004, surpassing increases of 3.9 pct and 1.6 pct in the previous two 12-month periods.
 PASOK LEADER BRIEFS JACK STRAW ON REJECTION OF TURKEY'S CYPRUS PROPOSALAthens, 27 January 2006 (15:24 UTC+2)
Greece's main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Friday briefed visiting British foreign secretary Jack Straw on his party's negative position on the recent Turkish proposal on the Cyprus issue, while he also expressed disagreement with visits such as that by Straw in Cyprus. He was referring to Straw's meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat at the so-called 'presidential mansion' in the Turkish-occupied section of the Cypriot capital, Nicosia, which the Cyprus government has strongly objected.
Straw arrived in Athens on Thursday afternoon on the final leg of a brief visit to new EU member Cyprus, Turkey and Greece.
In statements to the press after the 45-minute meeting, Papandreou stressed that Turkey must fulfill its obligations to the European Union and to the EU member states without exception or divergence.
"This is the main reason for the rejection of the Turkish initiative, given that we cannot accept that exchanges be given to Turkey in return for (fulfillment of) its obligations, and especially when the exchanges concern, in essence, recognition of the (self-styled Turkish Cypriot pseudo-state, which is recognised only by Ankara, in the) occupied sector," Papandreou explained.
The Turkish proposals, unveiled earlier this week by Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul, have been rejected by the Greek and Cyprus governments as a rehashing of inconclusive proposals that had been tabled in May.
Papandreou further stressed that there must be great caution in visitis made to Cyprus, particularly to the Turkish-occupied sector, so as to avoid polarisation. He said the way in which Straw's visit had been organised "did not help" in a climate of cooperatin and understanding between the two sides on Cyprus.
Papandreou cast blame on prime minister Costas Karamanlis personally, for the fact that "we have reached the position where Greece is on the defence and Turkey has the initiative". This, he continued, resulted from "the government having missed two huge opportunities", while "its policy is characterised by timidity and lack of initiatives".
Questioned on the outcome of the Palestinian elections, which he also discussed with Straw, Papandreou said he does not consider it a negative development.
"The international community must acknowlege, first of all, that the elections were democratic ones," the PASOK leader said, adding that "Hamas must be given the opportunity to show its true intentions on the peace process, democratic operation, and the non use of violence".
He opined that if the international community moved in that direction, "perhaps there will be positive developments".
Also attending the Papandreou-Straw meeting were PASOK officer for foeign affairs and defence Christos Papoutsis, the corresponding coordinator of the party's parliamentary group Michalis Chryssohoidis, the head of Papandreou's diplomatic office Dimitris Droutsas, and Papandreou's press spokesman Nikos Ziogas.
 PM, MINISTER DISCUSS ALL-IMPORTANT TOURISM POLICYAthens, 27 January 2006 (15:21 UTC+2)
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday met here with Tourism Development Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, with various timely issues surrounding the crucial sector discussed, especially an ongoing international ad campaign promoting Greece as a holiday destination.
In brief statements afterwards, Avramopoulos, the former mayor of Athens, simply noted that the ministry's communications and promotions strategy is designed to be implemented over a 10-year period.