|Wednesday, 22 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 00-05-25
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Religious affiliation will not be included in new ID cards, Simitis says
Athens, 25/05/2000 (ANA)Authorities will not collect data that surpass the aim of a state identification card, which is none other than the facilitation of the communication of citizens with the state, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said on Wednesday, in response to a question tabled in Parliament.
The Authority for the Protection of Personal Data issued its decision noting that the state identification cards should not include the religious affiliation, as well as other personal data included in the police identification cards used to date.
The philosophical stand, the religious beliefs, and the sensitive data reflect parts of the personality of citizens, which regard their internal world and are not necessary in fulfilling the aim of the identification card, Simitis said.
We should, at last, accept that it is a conquest of our civilization the fact that the state is not interested today for such data, as did happen in other times, which we know of, the premier added.
The new identification card is a public document to facilitate the communication of citizens with the state and not to record their beliefs or their internal world and for this reason it contains data of the external personality of citizens, which are necessary for the communication of the citizens with the state, Simitis said.
He added that the ministry of public order, which is responsible for issuing identification cards, should respond to the decision of the Authority for the Protection of Personal Data within a reasonable amount of time by issuing the necessary circulars. The decision refers to the issuing of the new identification cards and the regular replacement process and not the replacement of all existing ones, he added.
The premier, however, noted that "the decision of the Authority (for the Protection of Personal Data) could be challenged at the Council of State, and may be challenged there by anyone who has interest to do so, regarding to what extent the decision (of the Authority for the Protection of Personal Data) was well founded or responds to our judicial system".
Simitis also addressed the form the new identification cards will have, noting discussion on the issue at the European Union level has not yet concluded, adding that this discussion regards the minimum requirements for the security of travel documents. The premier noted that discussions in the Union focused on "the form and not the content of the new identification cards, stressing that there is no need to create a new identification card type until the Union arrives at a final decision".
He added that the replacement of the old identification cards with the new ones would take place when the new form is final, adding that the old cards would continue to be valid and would be replaced in case of loss or other cause calling for its replacement.
Church, political figures and parties react to Simitis ID card policy: Greek Orthodox Church circles reacted to the decision to abolish the mandatory or voluntary reporting of citizens' religious affiliation on the identification cards to be issued throughout the European Union.
Peristeri, Attica prefecture Metropolitan Chrysostomos said there would be reactions by the "faithful", Metropolitan of Philippi Prokopios claimed that there would be "social upheaval", while Metropolitan of Thebes Ieronimos said he was against demonstrations, adding that the government should have made its opinions public before the April 9 elections.
At press time there were no reactions from Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos, who was on a visit in Romania.
Former Prime Minister and main opposition New Democracy (ND) honorary president Constantine Mitsotakis called the decision of Prime Minister Costas Simitis a "grave error, the results of which we will all see very soon".
He added that the policies of Simitis were "erratic", adding that "following this policy he (Simitis) disregarded and even worse offended the Greek Orthodox Church refusing to conduct a minimal dialogue with it".
Commenting on the decision in Parliament, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) deputy Antonis Skyllakos said that the decision not to include the religious affiliation in the data provided in the new ID cards was a minimal acceptable level of protection of citizens' privacy and was accomplished only under the pressure of the European Union and not in satisfaction of the democratic sensitivities for individual rights.
 Papandreou reports progress in Greek-Turkish relations
FLORENCE, 25/05/2000 (ANA - A. Podimata)Foreign Minister George Papandreou on Wednesday appeared satisfied with the prospects for a reduction of tension between Greece and Turkey.
"Both sides are ready to promote measures for good neighborly relations and reducing tension. Greece has presented certain proposals in this direction ... We began with divergent views, but it is now clear that we are headed for convergence and I hope we shall soon find common ground," he said after a meeting with counterpart Ismail Cem on the sidelines of the conference of NATO foreign ministers.
Papandreou said he was confident both sides possessed the "will to forge ahead and establish a commonly acceptable procedure for consolidating existing confidence building measures (CBMs) and the promotion of new ones".
Papandreou also announced they had agreed to promote as CBMs tripartite cooperation with Bulgaria through the setting up of a joint committee of the three countries' Foreign Ministries, which would pursue proposals for economic development in the region where their borders meet.
He noted that there was also a sizeable number of initiatives from NGOs which aimed at developing relations between Greece and Turkey and which they had agreed to examine further.
Sources said that despite the progress achieved, no definitive decisions were adopted, as the two Foreign Ministers would have to consult with their governments before proceeding any further. They added that the Greek side considered as especially encouraging the fact that Cem had accepted the Greek approach for an enlarged framework of CBMs which would not only concern military issues or the Aegean region.
 Former Turkish navy chief reacts to abolition of "Aegean Army"
ISTANBUL, 25/05/2000 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)The abolition of Turkey's "Aegean Army Corps" would be untimely and inappropriate, former Turkish Navy Chief retired Admiral Salim Dervisoglu said in statements on Wednesday's edition of Zaman daily newspaper here.
"The abolition of the Army Corps (of the Aegean) is untimely and inappropriate," he said, adding "there is no room for sentimentalism, as would be with the abolition of the Army of the Aegean, just so we can make a gesture".
The statements were made following a recommendation by former navy chief retired Admiral Guven Erkaya, now a chief adviser of Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, calling for the abolition of the Turkish Aegean Army and the adoption of a policy of mutual concessions on Greek-Turkish issues.
The Turkish admiral, who served under Erkaya, said that the "first step must be taken by Greece, since Greece fortifies the islands of the Aegean in violation of the Treaty of Lausanne".
According to reports by the same newspaper, the gradual decrease of the Turkish Armed Forces will begin with the abolition of the Army of the Aegean and its downgrading to an "army corps" subordinate to the First Army Corps of Turkey headquartered in Istanbul, a process to be completed by the year 2020.
 Papandreou calls for lifting of Yugoslavia sanctions
Athens, 25/05/2000 (ANA)Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou on Wednesday reiterated that NATO sanctions against Yugoslavia are ineffective and called for their lifting.
Setting out the Greek position at the two-day spring session of foreign ministers of NATO's 19 countries plus Russia in Florence, he also stressed the need for supporting the democratic forces of Serbia and for implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 regarding Kosovo.
"The international community must send a clear message in all directions on the need to safeguard the inviolability of borders and territorial integrity of the countries in the area," he said.
The 20 foreign ministers, who met to discuss the situation in the ex-Yugoslav republics and ways of improving the alliance's common defense strategy, issued a joint communique confirming their support to the provisions of Resolution 1244 and calling on all ethnic communities of Kosovo to participate in the new institutions of the province.
 UN meeting in Athens, aimed in support of the Palestinian peoples rights, concludes
Athens, 25/05/2000 (ANA)The United Nations International Meeting in support of a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine and the establishment of peace in the Middle East concluded on Wednesday with the presentation of its results by Deputy Foreign Minister Angeliki Laiou.
The meeting, which that took place in Athens was attended by experts, analysts, representatives of institutes and research centers from all over the world, as well as by representatives of political and social organizations and journalists.
Laiou noted that the purpose of the meeting was to strengthen the political actions of governments, as well as of inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations, in support of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, in accordance with the mandates of the UN General Assembly.
On his part, Abdullaziz Abugos, Assistant Secretary General of the Islamic Conference Organization and director of the "Coordination with Palestine" sector, said the time has come for the Palestinians to have their own state, which will be accepted in the ranks of the UN, adding that only in this way will peace, coexistence and prosperity for all the peoples in the region be achieved.
He also referred to the "Athens Dialogue" which got underway in July 1997 at the initiative of the late Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis, which provided the opportunity for an exchange of views and an improvement in climate between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Athens News Agency managing director Nicholas Voulelis referred to the "historical advantage of Greece", which had the opportunity to express its solidarity both to the Jewish and Palestinian people during the past decades. He also underlined the country's special sensitivity on issues concerning the persecution of peoples since it maintains fresh the memories of history from Asia Minor and Cyprus.
A statement issued at the end of the meeting noted that "we, the NGOs participating in the UN International Meeting, affirm our support for the rights of the Palestinian people. We affirm our support for the establishment of a Palestinian State on Palestinian territories with Jerusalem as its capital.
"We affirm the rights of Palestine refugees of return to their homes from which they have been displaced. Securing the rights of Palestinians has to be in accordance with and on the basis of international law and UN resolutions 242, 181 and 194. We also call on Israel to free all Palestinian prisoners.
"We call upon the international community to put pressure on the Government of Israel for the full implementation of the relevant Security Council Resolutions that determine that all Israeli settlements built in Palestinian Territories are illegal and should be dismantled.
"We also call upon the international community and the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention in particular to fulfil their legal obligations in accordance with the said Convention and to insure respect of the Convention by the Government of Israel.
"We, the NGOs, remain committed to the goal of achieving just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East region and the full exercise by the Palestinian people of its inalienable rights."
 Next Euro-̀editerranean Parliament presidents' conference to be held in Athens
Athens, 25/05/2000 (ANA)The conference of Euro-Mediterranean Parliament presidents concluded in Alexandria, Egypt on Wednesday, unanimously accepting a proposal by Greek Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis for the 3rd conference to be held in Greece in the second half of 2001.
"We should continue this work with every way and give the conference of Euro-Mediterranean Parliament presidents a more permanent nature, as well as support the corresponding efforts being made by our governments for cooperation since 1995 with the Barcelona Proclamation," Kaklamanis said.
"My proposal is part of this framework and, provided it is accepted, the Greek Parliament will have the opportunity of contributing in every way to enable us to give an institutional character to our cooperation and promoting it to an important effort for the balanced building of our societies and the consolidation of peace and stability in the Mediterranean region," he added.
 Simitis, Tsohatzopoulos discuss nat'l security policy
Athens, 25/05/2000 (ANA)Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos on Wednesday discussed priorities for national security and defense policy, in view of a Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA) meeting next month.
Asked to comment on a recent press report out of Ankara that quotes a retired Turkish admiral and current adviser for Turk PM Bulent Ecevit as favoring the abolition of the neighboring country's so-called "Aegean Army", the Greek defense minister simply noted that Turkey's EU vocation will lead to better relations.
"Turkey's only chance is to make use of its prospects of entry into the European Union, and the new environment created through this process will act as the basis for rapprochement between the two countries," he said.
With regard to Cyprus, Tsohatzopoulos said all parties involved had an obligation to support the island republic's prospects of EU accession, especially Turkey, the EU, the United States and Greece. Finally, referring to the ongoing NATO exercise "Dynamic Mix", he said it was being carried out as planned, in accordance with all the dictates of international law and respect for sovereign rights. Cooperation between the Greek and Turkish armed forces in the context of the exercise has been flawless, he added.
 Operational activities of NATO Dynamic Mix exercise completed according to plan
Athens, 25/05/2000 (ANA)Operational activities of the NATO Dynamic Mix exercise, including aeronautical surface exercises, regular air support exercises for naval operations and firing and submarine warfare exercises have been completed smoothly and according to plan.
The areas where the specific exercises were carried out were the central and southern Aegean and the Ionian Sea, while aircraft from Greek, Italian and Turkish airports participated.
Participating in the exercises were one frigate from France, four frigates, four missile boats and one submarine from Greece, one cruiser, one frigate and one submarine from the US, two frigates from Spain and two frigates and one tanker from Turkey. The Permanent Mediterranean Naval Force (STANAVFORMED) also participated.
Aircraft from France, Germany, Greece, the United States, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Turkey participated in aeronautical exercises, air defense operations, bombing runs, electronic warfare and regular reconnaissance in regions of continental Greece and in committed regions in the central and southern Aegean and the Ionian Sea.
The aircraft carried out a total of 160 sorties, 83 by Greek and 77 by allied aircraft. A total of 145 aircraft are active in Greece, 66 are from Greece, 21 from the US, 12 from Spain, 12 from Turkey, 8 from Portugal and 7 from France, as well as 3 AWACS.
National Defense General Staff Chief general Manousos Paragioudakis visited NATO's Subregional Headquarters for South-Central Europe in Tyrnavos and the 7th Joint Air Operations Center in Larissa on Wednesday for briefings on the exercise.
 PM says social state to remain intact after euro-zone entry
Athens, 25/05/2000 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis pledged on Wednesday that the government's vision of a social state would remain intact following Greece's anticipated entry into the euro-zone on January 1, 2001.
"The social state is the cornerstone of the government's policy," Simitis told the Federation of Greek Industry's annual general meeting.
At the same time, the government, workers and enterprises needed to take "a giant leap" after joining the 11-member euro zone due to increased competition, he said.
The Prime Minister called on companies to refrain from being totally driven by the profit motive, in order to aid the government's effort to build a social state without social exclusion and prejudice that can protect the needy.
Finally, he said the government had set special priority on carrying out its wide-ranging privatization program, also describing reduction of the public debt and reform of the social insurance system as a major challenge.
 Main opposition's leadership meets to discuss internal problems
Athens, 25/05/2000 (ANA)A meeting of New Democracy's Executive Committee, chaired by party leader Constantine Karamanlis, took place at the main opposition's headquarters in Athens on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the internal crisis that has blown up within the party.
Statements by senior party officials leaving the meeting were restrained and attempted to play down the extent of the problems.
 Archbishop counter-attacks over identity card issue, Reppas rejects anti-European argument
Athens, 25/05/2000 (ANA)Greece's entry into EMU is a "one-way street" but this does not mean abolishing national borders, loss of rights and interests nor that outside powers can interfere with the way Greek citizens live, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said on Wednesday, in response to a speech by Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos.
The Archbishop's speech slamming Greece's European orientation followed a highly public spat between the Church and state over a decision to remove indication of citizens' religious beliefs from identity cards, in accordance with EU practice. Under the impression that a compromise had been reached, namely that the record of one's religion would be voluntary, Christodoulos was taken by surprise by a government decision that "the law must be upheld" and that religion would no longer figure on the new identity cards.
Describing the euro-phobic picture as "inconceivable", Reppas avoided more specific comment.
Asked whether channels of communication between the Church and government were still open, Reppas said that "dialogue between the government and the Church is still in progress" and that it would continue over the next period.
He refused to supply details of a telephone conversation between the archbishop and Prime Minister Costas Simitis, however, saying only that the two talked for 20 minutes and had outlined their views on the identity card issue.
 Premier and education minister meet to discuss Education Ministry issues
Athens, 25/05/2000 (ANA)Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas confirmed on Wednesday that a meeting had taken place earlier in the day between Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Education Minister Petros Efthimiou and legal advisor George Papadimitriou. Reppas said they discussed matters related to the education ministry.
 Gov't policy shifting to era after euro-zone entry
Athens, 25/05/2000 (ANA)National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said on Wednesday that the government's economic policy was shifting to the era following Greece's anticipated entry into the euro-zone on January 1, 2001, and would span the coming decade.
A key priority of the policy was slashing the public debt to around 60 percent of gross domestic product by the end of the decade after achieving successive surplus budgets beginning in 2001, Papantoniou told an annual general meeting of the Federation of Greek Industry.
Another target was to achieve and maintain a roughly 5.0 percent growth rate in order to achieve real convergence with the European Union, again at the end of the decade, that would bring Greek wages and living standards fully in line with EU levels, the minister said.
Also essential to the government's policy was implementation of the government's wide-ranging privatization plan, he added.
 Karamanlis says gov't lagging in economic reform plan
Athens, 25/05/2000 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis said on Wednesday that the government was severely behind in implementing privatization, the deregulation of markets and structural economic changes.
Karamanlis made the comment to reporters on the sidelines of an annual general meeting of the Federation of Greek Industry addressed by Prime Minister Costas Simitis and National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou.
 Greek stocks end sharply lower on ASE
Athens, 25/05/2000 (ANA)Equity prices came under heavy pressure to end sharply lower on the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, remaining on a downward course for the third consecutive session.
Dealers attributed the decline to a rush of small investors to close open positions in the market and said that Wednesday's fall was an overreaction to Tuesday's sharp drop in the NASDAQ market.
Analysts said that Thursday's session would be extremely critical for the market as it could offer more proof of a change in market sentiment.
Shares in the investment and the parallel sectors were particularly hit. The general index ended at 4,551.12 points, off 2.59 percent, but off the day's lows of 4,532.58 points. Turnover was a moderate 197 billion drachmas.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks ended 1.79 percent lower at 2,527.29 points and the FTSE/ASE 40 index dropped 3.81 percent to 659.11 points.
Sector indices ended as follows: Banks: 8,578.22
-1.81% Leasing: 964.87 -2.09% Insurance: 2,843.22
-2.64% Investment: 1,832.58 -7.47% Construction:
2,528.46 -5.70% Industrials: 2,771.71 -2.53% Miscellaneous: 4,780.81 -3.79% Holding: 5,305.84
The parallel market index for smaller capitalization stocks ended at 907.11 points, off 7.38 percent.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 317 to 22 with another three issues unchanged.
Lambrakis Press, Hellenic Telecoms, Klonatex and Informer were the most heavily traded stocks.
Leading shares' closing prices (in Drs): National Bank: 16,620 Alpha Bank: 21,740 Commercial Bank: 18,970 Ergobank: 7,160 Eurobank: 10,300 Heracles Cement: 8,760 Titan Cement (c): 15,100 Hellenic Telecoms: 9,245 Panafon: 4,200 Hellenic Petroleum:
4,370 Intracom: 14,500 Minoan Lines: 6,150 Hellenic Bottling: 6,000
Derivatives prices change direction, end lower: Derivatives prices ended lower on Wednesday hit by losses in the two benchmark indices FTSE/ASE 20 and FTSE/ASE 40, reversing a several-session rally on the Athens Derivatives Exchange.
Turnover was a moderate 12.4 billion drachmas in volume of 3,765 contracts.
A total of 1,149 futures contracts were traded on the FTSE/ASE 20 index, with a turnover of 5.8 billion drachmas. The June contract ended at 2,529 points and the July contract at 2,521.50.
A total of 2,616 futures contracts were traded on the FTSE/ASE 40 index, worth 6.6 billion drachmas. The June contract ended at 649 points, the July at 635.50 and the August contract at 630.25 points.
Bonds end flat in scant trade: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market ended mostly flat in thin trade on Wednesday with players across Europe awaiting a European Central Bank meeting in the next session that may order a rate hike to aid the slumping euro.
The Greek benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 6.22 percent from 6.24 percent in the previous session; and the yield on the equivalent German bund was 5.32 percent.
The Greek paper's yield spread over German bunds was 90 basis points from 90.6 basis points a session earlier.
Turnover through the central bank's electronic system totalled 32 billion drachmas from 54 billion drachmas in the previous session.
Sell orders accounted for 16 billion drachmas of trade and buy orders the remainder.
Drachma down vs. euro, dollar: The drachma on Wednesday fell against the euro and the US dollar in the domestic foreign exchange market.
At the central bank's daily fixing, the euro was set at 336.980 drachmas from 336.960 drachmas in the previous session.
Also at the fixing, the US dollar was set at 370.400 drachmas from 370.260 drachmas a day earlier.
The central bank intervened at the fix, selling around 45 million euros.
 Christodoulakis says world fuel price hike is circumstantial
Athens, 25/05/2000 (ANA)Fuel prices will increase from Wednesday at midnight due to a rise in international fuel prices.
The increase, in place for a week under indicative prices set by the development ministry, will be for super gasoline 8.60 drachmas per litre, unleaded 8.80, diesel 2.80 and heating oil 4.10.
The increase would have been 4.3 drachmas per litre higher but following a gentlemen's agreement reached between Development Minister Nikos Christodoulakis and refinery and petroleum company representatives it was agreed that they will absorb the part of the international increase in fuel prices corresponding to the above amount.
Christodoulakis said on Wednesday: "We all recognized that a problem exists with price increases. However, this problem is probably, also according to international assessments, circumstantial and does not signal a more permanent trend in burdening the price of fuel. The dollar has already decreased somewhat as of today. It is now 370 drachmas and so the situation is more relaxed."
"I would like to stress that we should handle this circumstantial phenomenon with responsibility and this goes for producers, suppliers, merchants and consumers. We should not allow this circumstantial increase in the price of fuel to trigger a new wave of inflationary expectations," he added.
 65 percent increase in funds from 3rd CSP for Eastern Macedonia and Thrace
Athens, 25/05/2000 (ANA)Macedonia -Thrace Minister Yiannis Paschalidis on Wednesday said that "funds to be provided for the region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace over the 2000-2006 period will be 65 percent higher, since the Regional Program will increase to 340 billion drachmas from 206 billion drachmas over the 1994-1999 period."
Paschalidis made his statement while inaugurating the commercial exhibition "Thrace 2000" which is being hosted at the Komotini Exhibition Center and will operate until May 28.
He underlined the exhibition's great importance for the sensitive region of eastern Macedonia and Thrace and added that prospects exist for the enlargement of such events.
"The government, and the Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace in particular, will intensify their efforts for the development of Thrace and, in cooperation with local agencies, will study proposals and promote actions which are necessary for the implementation of the new prospects," Paschalidis said.
 Greek employers' union elect new board
Athens, 25/05/2000 (ANA)The Federation of Greek Industries (SEB), the country's employers' union, on Wednesday elected its new board signaling a changing of the guard at Greece's largest business union.
Odysseus Kyriakopoulos - chief executive at Silver & Varyte - was elected new chairman of the board, while Lefteris Antonakopoulos - a former Shell executive - was elected chairman of the executive committee.
Nikolaos Analytis, Elias Valavanis, Anastasios Gemelos, Andreas Kouniniotis and Vassilios Takas were elected vice-chairmen and Christos Fyrogenis was elected secretary-general.
Bank of Greece's governor, Lucas Papademos, addressing SEB's meeting said that "a new economic environment of opportunities and challenges for the Greek industry lies ahead following the adoption of the euro currency and a restructuring of financial markets and the business sector in the European Union".
The Greek central banker said that the only way to deal with these challenges was to improve economic and business competitiveness.
The state must and will contribute in efforts to improving the economy's international competitiveness and for a more efficient function of markets. To achieve these aims it would need a series of structural reforms, including measures for speedier liberalization of markets, completion of a privatization program-me and limiting the state's role in the economy, Papademos said.
The central bank's governor said that the cost of money for businesses has fallen in recent years, with short-term interest rates around 8.5 percent and long-term rates around 12 percent.
Papademos predicted that short-term rates would fall by around 4-4.5 percentage points by the end of the year.
Referring to the euro exchange rate, Papademos said "it is clearly undervalued against the US dollar" based on economic fundamentals between the EU and the US and predicted "a recovery of the euro's external value, although the timing was unknown".
SEB's new board chairman, Odysseus Kyriakopoulos, addressing the meeting said that the country could face unpleasant surprises if its EMU entry did not combined measures to support economic competitiveness, rapid completion of infrastructure projects and liberalization of the energy market.
 New OTE board formally appointed
Athens, 25/05/2000 (ANA)A new board for state-run Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) was formally appointed on Wednesday by National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and Transport and Communications Minister Christos Verelis.
The choice of Nikolaos Manasis as president had already been announced.
Appointed as the remaining regular members of the board were: Giorgos Skarpelis (OTE executive), Stavros Panas (university professor), Panagiotis Alexakis (president of the Athens Derivatives Exchange), Nikolaos Papadodimas (national economy ministry official), and Constantinos Hayer (transport ministry official).
 Merchant Marine Minister to unveil support measures for shipping
Athens, 25/05/2000 (ANA)The privatization of Piraeus Port Organization and the port authority of Thessaloniki will move ahead, Merchant Marine Minister Christos Papoutsis said on Wednesday.
"I have to examine all dossiers and then take the necessary actions in cooperation with National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou," he added.
The two ministers are expected to meet Thursday morning to discuss a demand by the Union of Coastal Shipping Owners for a 10 percent increase in shipping rates to deal with a sharp rise in fuel prices.
Papoutsis also unveiled proposals aimed to better servicing passengers during the summer period. This envisage: increased coastal shipping schedules, better links between islands, tighter security inspections for ship safety and the quality of services, operation of a single search and rescue coordination center and increased monitoring to protect the marine environment and coasts.
 Gov't announces new drivers' insurance system
Athens, 25/05/2000 (ANA)The Immediate Payment System (IPS) will go into effect on June 1 and will constitute a big step towards ending wrangles between insurance companies and vehicle owners during the compensation process following an accident.
Development Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, Deputy Development Minister Milena Apostolaki and the President of the Union of Insurance Companies of Greece, Dimitris Kontominas, presented the new system on Wednesday and underlined its significance in improving service for the citizen and in the development course of the insurance branch.
The speakers said that the system will be applied by 35 companies which represent 94 percent of the auto insurance market, implementation of the new system will considerably reduce the time currently required for the payment of compensation and the insured will be in a position to choose which company will compensate them in the event of a traffic accident, while uninsured cars are estimated at 400,000 at present which create losses amounting to 20 billion drachmas for insurance companies.
 Strong earthquake jolts Peloponnese, but seismologists say 'no cause for alarm'
Athens, 25/05/2000 (ANA)A strong earthquake shook the southern Greek region of the Peloponnese on Wednesday, causing some panic, but there were no immediate reports of damage.
The trembler, measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale, was recorded at 8:40 a.m., with its epicenter below the seabed in the open sea, at a distance of 120 kilometers south of the port city of Kalamata, in Messinia prefecture, and was felt throughout the Peloponnese peninsula and on the islands of Kythira and Crete.
The earthquake caused some panic, as Kalamata residents recalled a devastating quake in 1986 that killed 20 people and left hundreds homeless.
The Athens Observatory's Geodynamic Institute put the magnitude at 6.0 Richter, but seismology professor Akis Tselentis later told the ANA he calculated the intensity at 5.8 Richter.
"There is no cause for alarm since the epicenter is far out in the open sea and at a large distance from Kalamata," Tselentis said, adding that the region regularly produced seismic activity.
Messinia prefect F. Drakos told the ANA that no damage or injuries had been reported, while police and the fire brigade made similar assessments.
Seismologists at Aristotelion University's Geophysics Laboratory in Thessaloniki were monitoring the post-quake activity.
Aristotleion University seismology professor Cissy Kyratzi told ANA that it was as yet unclear whether the trembler was the main quake or a preliminary tremor.
She said an earthquake of such a magnitude was considered normal for the region, as its epicenter was located on the western side of the Greek seismic fault extending from west of Zakynthos island to the sea region southeast of the island of Rhodes, "one of the areas in the Aegean that produces large quakes".
In the past century, Kyratzi said, this fault had produced several strong earthquakes, including one of a 7.4 Richter magnitude, while in antiquity it had produced tremblers of up to 8.0 Richter magnitude".
Seismologists agreed that the large majority of strong earth-quakes produced by this fault had their epicenters beneath the seabed, and thus did not cause widespread damage.
 Expert casts doubt on legality of removal of Parthenon friezes
Athens, 25/05/2000 (ANA)A legal expert on Wednesday cast doubt on the legality of the removal of the friezes from the Parthenon of Athens in 1806.
David Rudenstine, of New York University's Law School, said the Ottoman document which then British Ambassador to Constantinople Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, used to gain access to the sculptures in no way empowered him to cause the destruction that he did.
"An empire, such as the British, should have sent a ship to Istanbul or Athens at the time to obtain the original copy of this document, or sent someone to Brentford, where Elgin lived, to obtain a translation of it. They did not do it because they did not want it," he said.
Apart from the estimated 250 pieces from the Parthenon friezes, created by Phidias, Elgin also removed a Caryatid and a column from the Erechtheum.
Film director Jules Dassin, the widower of the late Greek culture minister Melina Merkouri who initiated the demand for the return of the treasures from the British Museum, said it was highly likely that Elgin had bribed the Ottoman military governor of Athens at the time to gain the permit for the removal of the friezes. He referred to a sum of 5,000 piastres (a laborers weekly wage was then 18 piastres).
Other participants called for the opening of consultations between the Greek and British governments on the issue through the mediation of UNESCO and other international organizations.
 Nearly half a million residents of Greek origin in Australia, Greek studies center reports
MELBOURNE, 25/05/2000 (ANA - S. Hatzimanolis)There are no more than 435,000 Australian residents of Greek descent, according to a report commissioned from the National Center for Greek Studies and Surveys at Melbourne's La Trobe University by the Australian government, which was based on a 1996 census.
According to the head of the Greek studies center Anastasios Tamis, in 1996 the number of Australian residents born in Greece was 126,621. According to estimates and cross-references, the number of Greeks born in Cyprus, Europe and the Middle East is 28,000.
Australians of Greek descent born in Australia number 285,000, bringing the total number of Greek-Australians to 435,000.
The report also found that 40 per cent (215,000) of people of Greek descent live in Melbourne, while 60 per cent of those born in Greece are aged between 45 and 64 and 18 per cent are over 65. It also reveals that up to 300,000 Australians use Greek as a language for communication and identity, even though 69 per cent of those born in Greece consider they have an adequate knowledge of English.
Up to 32 per cent of Greek community marriages are mixed, according to official records, while 93 per cent of Australians born in Greece belong to the Orthodox Church.
Greeks in Australia also tend to own more property than average, with 75 per cent owning real estate against 42 per cent for the population as a whole. There is an average of two houses for every Greek-Australian, compared with 0.7 for Australians generally.
 Admission to Acropolis raised to roughly US$10
Athens, 25/05/2000 (ANA)The influential agency that oversees the country's archaeological sites on Wednesday announced a hefty increase in the price of admittance to the Acropolis, Greece's best-known monument and by far its most frequently visited tourist attraction.
Included in the new price, however - set at 4,000 drachmas, or about US$10.5 - is the entrance into most of the Acropolis' adjacent archaeological sites, such as the ancient Agora, the Roman Agora, the Kerameikos site, the Hill of Philopappou and Hadrian's Library, among others.
Free admittance is foreseen for individuals under 18 as well as reduced rates for senior citizens (over 65).
For other museums and archaeological sites around Greece, the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) unveiled the following prices: 1,000 drachmas for major sites; 1,500 for museums; 2,000 for the top attractions and 3,000 for Athens' Archaeological Museum.
 Gov't unveils bill reorganizing 2004 board, more leverage to Angelopoulou-Daskalaki
Athens, 25/05/2000 (ANA)The government on Wednesday unveiled a bill revamping the organizing committee assigned preparations for the 2004 Olympics, with the organizations 15-member board expanded to 17 individuals.
Additionally, the bill foresees expanded responsibilities for new 2004 President Gianna Angelopoulou-Daskalaki, while settling operational issues in hopes of better streamlining preparations, issues dealing with the Games' security and the "Cultural Olympiad".
Meanwhile, according to sources, three new members will be appointed to the all-important five-member executive committee directly coordinating and supervising the 2004 preparations.
Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who chaired Wednesday's meeting, is expected to appoint the three new members following the bill's tabling, while two of the members will reportedly be two of Angelopoulou-Daskalaki's close associates during her efforts to win the IOC's nod for Athens to host the Games in the first place. Angelopoulou-Daskalaki and managing director Costas Bakouris are already members on the executive board.
Reports of the expanded executive committee come after this week's resignation of the 2004 organizing committee's vice-president Niki Tzavella, who cited personal reasons for her departure. Press reports this week in Athens referred to a serious health problem in Tzavella's family as leading to her decision.
The entire package of measures will be tabled in Parliament in the next few days. The bill was presented by Culture Minister Theodoros Pangalos to an inter-ministerial committee set-up specifically for the 2004 Olympic.
Other topics discussed during the meeting included broadcasting rights, with May 29 announced as the date when bids will be made public by the state-run investment bank, ETEVA, hired to evaluate the offers.
Stinging criticism by IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch late last month aimed at Greek organizers' preparations for the 2004 Olympics signaled a beginning of accelerated efforts in Athens.
The powerful IOC chief tersely said that the Athens 2004 summer games would be in "danger" unless Greek organizers made "drastic" changes by the end of the year. However, he later qualified his warning by saying: "I cannot imagine the games will not be held in Athens... We hope after this warning all things will be in the right way."
 Cyprus journalists condemn arrest of Turkish Cypriot colleagues
NICOSIA, 25/05/2000 (CNA/ANA)The Union of Cyprus Journalists (UCJ) has strongly condemned the illegal arrest and detention for several hours on Tuesday of editor-in-chief of Turkish Cypriot "Avrupa" newspaper Shener Levent and four other journalists by the regime in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus.
In an announcement issued Wednesday, the UCJ says the incident occurred while the union of media employees, Basin-Sen, attempted to carry out a collection to raise funds for the daily, facing closure after its premises were raided and its equipment confiscated last week.