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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 02-02-11

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

February 11, 2002


  • [01] PM stresses energy policy during Revythousa gas works visit
  • [02] FM meets with Powell, UN Chief
  • [03] EU FMs say Ankara obliged to meet Copenhagen political criteria
  • [04] FM to have working dinner with Dutch counterpart Jozias van Aartsen
  • [05] Conjuncture 'good' for seeking solutions on Greek-Turkish issues
  • [06] ND leader voices reservations on basis of Greek-Turkish dialogue
  • [07] Attempted smear attack boosts president's popularity, poll shows
  • [08] Interior minister says electoral law to be changed
  • [09] Meeting of Balkan police agencies focuses on cross-border crime
  • [10] US ambassador in Komotini on 2nd day of Thrace tour
  • [11] PASOK deputy Pangalos says 'country is ungoverned'
  • [12] PASOK youth congress continues in climate of consensus
  • [13] Farmers to suspend protests and regroup for Athens rally
  • [14] Three new natural gas companies announced
  • [15] Culture minister visits Salt Lake City Olympics security center
  • [16] Suspected case of Creutzfeldt-Jakob reported in Thessaloniki
  • [17] Cyprus says Denktash statement on refugees is outrageous
  • [18] Foreign Minister to attend EU and OIC joint forum

  • [01] PM stresses energy policy during Revythousa gas works visit

    Athens, 11/02/2002 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis stressed the crucial role of energy, particularly natural gas, for the future of Greece during a visit on Saturday to the new, state-of-the-art gas works on the island of Revythousa.

    After a tour of the facility, accompanied by Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, Simitis said the Revythousa station was the "technological crown" of the entire Greek natural gas grid, and that energy policy was a pivotal element of the government's strategy for a stronger Greece within Europe.

    The prime minister stressed that Greece, as an enclave of peace, stability and cooperation in the Balkans and eastern Mediterranean, could become a major energy junction for the region and ensure steady and high growth over the next decade.

    He also pointed to recent initiatives that could help transform the country into a regional transit center for energy in Europe, such as an agreement between the Greek Public Gas Company (DEPA) and the Italian firm ENI for an undersea gas pipeline, or a memorandum signed with Turkey for two-way natural gas pipeline linking the Caspian Sea, the Middle East and Iran with Europe via Greece and Turkey.

    The premier stressed that natural gas was the key to the country's energy policy, while he pointed to the heavy investment (123 billion drachmas) by foreign investors in the three natural gas providers in Attica, Thessaloniki and Thessaly, which was the largest investment by the private sector in recent years.

    Tsohatzopoulos, on his part, stressed that the Revythousa plant would be the base of Greece's new developmental performance in Europe, while he particularly stressed the station's expanded potential once upgraded with the addition of an extension.

    The new station has been in operation since 2000 and converts liquefied natural gas imported from Algeria into its gaseous form. It can also act as a fallback for the entire Greek natural gas grid since it has the capacity to quadruple its production and is thus able to maintain supply rates when the rest of the network is experiencing problems or at times of peak consumption.

    The station's current production capacity is four million cubic meters a day, which will increase to 14 million once an upgrade of the station has been completed.

    Costing 95 billion drachmas, the new station was co-funded by the European Union as part of a drive for cleaner energy sources and employs a staff of 70. It is considered among the most advanced of its kind, with very strict safety specifications, including anti-seismic design.

    [02] FM meets with Powell, UN Chief

    WASHINGTON, 11/02/2002 (ANA - T. Ellis)

    Greece's foreign minister George Papandreou had a brief meeting Saturday with US Secretary of State Colin Powell on the sidelines of the 2002 Winter Olympics taking place in Salt Lake City, Utah.

    During the discussion, the two men examined developments in the Middle East and the role Greece could play in the framework of the initiatives being undertaken by the EU.

    Papandreou further brought up the Greek idea of an Olympic Truce, an issue he also discussed during a telephone conversation with IOC chief Jacques Rogge.

    While in Salt Lake City, Papandreou also met with UN secretary general Kofi Annan, with whom he discussed Greece's efforts to promote the Olympic Truce idea, which the UN supports, as well as the latest developments in the Cyprus issue as evolving given the current round of negotiations between Cyprus president Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash taking place in Nicosia.

    [03] EU FMs say Ankara obliged to meet Copenhagen political criteria

    CACERES, Spain 11/02/2002 (ANA - M. Savva)

    Ankara is obliged to make greater progress with regard the Copenhagen political criteria, the European Union foreign ministers said during an informal meeting here on Friday.

    They emphasized that steps have not yet been taken in the direction of the democratization and reforms, which are necessary for the country's European rapprochement and course.

    Alternate Foreign Minister Tasos Giannitsis told journalists late on Friday night that "the accession course of the ten countries are continuing within the time-frame set with the aim of concluding the procedures within 2002. With regard in particular to Turkey's accession course there are doubts as to the extent of substantial progress made and in the direction of the political criteria of Copenhagen which constitute a priority for the Union."

    The matter of Europe-Turkey relations was raised for discussion by EU enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen who also referred to the letter sent by Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem to his EU counterparts on the Cyprus problem. According to sources, in his letter Cem repeated the known Turkish positions for a Cyprus settlement on the basis of two independent entities, as, the minister said, history shows that the two communities do not have the possibility to co-exist.

    The letter was sent a few days ago by Ankara to the EU foreign ministers, the EU commissioners, as well as to the representatives of the permanent members of the UN Security Council.

    Regarding Cyprus' EU accession course, as stated by diplomatic sources in Caceres, the European officials in their discussion stressed that there was no doubt as to its accession.

    [04] FM to have working dinner with Dutch counterpart Jozias van Aartsen

    Athens, 11/02/2002 (ANA)

    Foreign minister George Papandreou will host a working dinner on Monday evening for his Dutch counterpart Jozias van Aartsen, the foreign ministry said in a press release on Sunday.

    During the meeting, the two foreign ministers will examine developments in the Balkans and the Cyprus issue, EU-Turkey relations, EU enlargement, and EU policy on combatting terrorism, the press release said.

    [05] Conjuncture 'good' for seeking solutions on Greek-Turkish issues

    Athens, 11/02/2002 (ANA)

    Deputy foreign minister Yannis Magriotis on Sunday said the current conjuncture was "good" for seeking solutions on the Greek-Turkish issues.

    Addressing a political gathering in Thessaloniki, Magriotis said that the Greek-Turkish dialogue, given the EU decisions at the Helsinki summit, "will put us on a good path to a new era".

    "Greece is open to a dialogue in the Helsinki spirit, and always on the basis of international law and the bilateral and multilateral treaties and agreements," Magriotis said.

    Noting that this was a good conjuncture to find solutions, Magriotis said that "we shall find these solutions, we shall continue without backing down in the effort for security and stability in the region".

    Turning to the upcoming municipal and prefectural elections, Magriotis expressed certainty that the ruling PASOK party, "with a smart and creative strategy together with all the progressive forces", will achieve "a victory for local government and the local societies for the future of the cities and the everyday life of the citizens".

    [06] ND leader voices reservations on basis of Greek-Turkish dialogue

    Athens, 11/02/2002 (ANA)

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Costas Karamanlis in an interview with the Sunday edition of "Typos" newspaper, held reservations as to the basis of the impending Greek-Turkish dialogue.

    Karamanlis also called for the specification of certain of the Copenhagen criteria for the accession of the new countries to the European Union and expressed the need for the government to strive for Cyprus' EU accession during Greece's EU rotating presidency the first half of 2003.

    He appeared reserved as to the improvement of the climate on Greek-Turkish relations, at least as the basis of the new dialogue between the countries.

    Regarding that the Turkish threat "is not a figment of the imagination," but a clear reality, Karamanlis commented that "maybe at this moment the atmosphere is regarded better, because the diplomacy of the earthquakes is valid, but these are mere words."

    Karamanlis said the Greek-Turkish dialogue needs foremost a framework. "I do not mean a framework of marginalizing the dialogue, but a framework of its objectivity. Respect of territorial integrity and of sovereign rights, respect of international law and international treaties."

    "I do not know what is going to happen in this dialogue but it is very probable that a series of issues will be raised by Turkey," he said.

    He noted that the Copenhagen criteria should extend to the foreign behavior of countries. A country, he noted, cannot be a candidate member and later join the European Union if its foreign behavior is not compatible with the acquis communautaire. "A country cannot threaten with the use of force and be regarded as a country with European prospects."

    Karamanlis called anew on the government to state that "in the event that a problem is created, or certain individuals attempt to create a problem in the smooth accession course of Cyprus, there will be no enlargement. It's simple."

    [07] Attempted smear attack boosts president's popularity, poll shows

    Athens, 11/02/2002 (ANA)

    Far from damaging his image, an attempt to implicate President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos in an illegal gambling scandal has actually boosted his popularity by 10 percentage points, according to a Metron Analysis poll published in the newspaper 'Imerisia' on Saturday.

    Up to 88.1 per cent of those responding to the poll, which was carried out over the phone during the crucial first week of February, had a positive impression of the president and only 5.6 per cent had a negative impression.

    A similar poll in September had shown only 77 per cent to have a positive opinion of the president, while 13.6 per cent had a negative opinion.

    Regarding Greek-Turkish rapprochement in recent years, about one in two Greeks (49.7 per cent) viewed this as a good thing, while 31.7 per cent were opposed. Replies were mostly divided along party lines, with positive replies highest among PASOK voters (60.6 per cent), followed by supporters of smaller left-wing parties (50.6 per cent) and dropping to 43.5 per cent among main opposition New Democracy voters.

    Up 38.2 per cent of those asked said the International Court of Justice at The Hague was the best way to solve difference with Turkey, 32.2 per cent were in favor of direct negotiations and 14.4 per cent favored mediation by the European Union, the United States and the United Nations.

    Regarding the talks taking place on the Cyprus problem between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, 43.4 per cent said these were a positive development and 25.8 per cent said it was negative.

    An overwhelming majority (89 percent) supported Cyprus' ac-cession to the EU, while there was a very low percentage (4.6 per cent) that did not believe this would happen.

    Only one in three said they felt adequately informed about EU issues, while 50.1 per cent felt they were not well informed. Up to 62.6 per cent were in favor of the Community's political unification.

    The poll also gauged support among Greeks for a common EU policy in specific areas, with a common policy supported by 78.2 per cent for agriculture, 76.7 per cent for defense, 61.9 per cent for the European army, 79.8 per cent for pension systems and 88.7 per cent for the environment. Some 66.8 per cent of those responding, meanwhile, believed that EU member-states should not give up their right to veto, even if political unification progressed further.

    [08] Interior minister says electoral law to be changed

    Athens, 11/02/2002 (ANA)

    Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis in an interview with the Sunday edition of "To Vima" newspaper announced that radical changes are underway in the political system and that "the electoral law will be changed within the current four-year term."

    He said "we are not processing at this moment of time any electoral law, but I hasten to add that the electoral law must change and it will within the current four-year term for reasons of quality and democracy."

    Skandalidis said that he was preparing a law on "political money" and on proof of the sources of income of politicians that will oblige them to justify each year changes in their wealth and bank accounts.

    The interior minister rejected the forecast that PASOK will lose next October's municipal elections and expressed support for the candidacy of Christos Papoutsis for the Athens mayorship.

    He noted that radical changes will also be made in local government and that 1,000 on line services will be created to serve the citizens and that future hirings will be concluded in one month's time.

    [09] Meeting of Balkan police agencies focuses on cross-border crime

    Athens, 11/02/2002 (ANA)

    Up to 80 per cent of the heroin that reaches Europe is smuggled in from Turkey and transported westward via Balkan routes, according to figures presented on Saturday at a meeting of Balkan police forces in Thessaloniki on dealing with cross-border crime. Thessaloniki drugs squad chief Ioannis Tsolakis said that important trade routes for heroin were Bulgaria, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Romania and especially Albania, whose strategic position had turned into a heroin supply center for the entire European continent.

    He told his Balkan counterparts that reports by western European police showed Albania had become the point of entry and storage of cocaine from South America that was then transported to Greece and other European countries.

    Bulgaria and Romania were used as transit and storage areas by heroin traffickers using the so-called Balkan axis, he added, though authorities in those countries has confiscated significant quantities of drugs.

    Tsolakis told the meeting that Greece was also used as an alternative transit country following the Yugoslav crisis, with loads of drugs brought over the border in trucks from the borders with Turkey and Bulgaria and taken to Italy by sea.

    The meeting was also addressed by the Romanian head of security, who spoke about the well-organized multinational crime rings involved in the trafficking of humans, especially women forced to become prostitutes, and outlined a new campaign against the phenomenon.

    A representative of the Bulgarian police, meanwhile, referred to the emergence of financial crimes involving the new technologies, for which there was no provision or penalty under the law. As examples he mentioned illegal electronic payments, exchange of information related to credit cards, the transfer of funds from credit cards to the their accounts. On a larger scale, he added, there was evidence of banks and financial institutions that illegal exported large sums of money to banks abroad.

    Ioannina police chief Anastasios Katsaros, meanwhile, referred to the illegal arms trade and reported that more than 5,000 firearms had been confiscated in Greece in the last five years.

    He identified Albania as the main source for the illegal weapons, where some 350,000 weapons out of 700,000 stolen in a 1997 uprising were still in circulation.

    SE Europe police officials to compile criminals list to tackle cross border crime: Police officials from the countries of SE Europe decided to compile a list of criminals who have committed felonies, in a bid to tackle cross-border crime, during a meeting in Thessaloniki organized by the local police directorate.

    The list will contain information on and photographs of individuals involved in felonies, and will be distributed to all the police corps in the countries of the region.

    The list will be in the form of an electronic data bank, and is expected to substantially assist in the combatting of well organized crime rings, while it will also boost cooperation among the police departments in the region.

    The meeting's sessions focused mainly on cooperation in and an exchange of views on tackling cross-border crime particularly in the areas of human and arms trafficking, smuggling, and drug trafficking.

    Although collaboration among the police agencies in the region is still at an embryonic stage, organized crime has grown rapidly and has spilled over country borders into neighboring states.

    During the meeting, police officials and officers exchanged telephone numbers with their counterparts in bordering countries for a more direct collaboration, and it was agreed that such gatherings should take place more frequently.

    [10] US ambassador in Komotini on 2nd day of Thrace tour

    Athens, 11/02/2002 (ANA)

    US Ambassador to Greece Thomas Miller held a press conference in the northern Greek city of Komotini on Saturday, the second day of his two-day tour of Thrace at the head of a business delegation.

    Stressing the shifting perspectives of the time, Miller said that Thrace had once been considered strategically important because it was in the heart of a region perceived as a threat, whereas now it was strategically important because of its proximity to a region of opportunities.

    Had he been conducting this tour as ambassador 20 years ago, he pointed out, he would have been accompanied by a military or political attache instead of members of the Greek-American Chamber of Commerce.

    While stressing that his role was not to direct investments to a specific region, he said that his visit was the start of the lengthy process of bringing business people into contact with one another.

    In response to questions on anti-American feelings in Greece, Miller conceded that these still existed but to a much lesser degree than in 1985, when he first arrived in the country.

    While in Komotini, Miller met local government officials and then attended a dinner with business people. In the evening he visited the region of Sapes in Rodopi.

    [11] PASOK deputy Pangalos says 'country is ungoverned'

    Athens, 11/02/2002 (ANA)

    Ruling PASOK deputy and former foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos, in an interview with the Sunday edition of "Eleftherotypia", launched a stinging attack against the government, claiming that "the country is ungoverned."

    At the same time, Pangalos attributed responsibilities to Prime Minister Costas Simitis on the phenomenon of corruption and on the situation in the radio and television sector. He also expressed his pessimism on the prospects of the Greek-Turkish dialogue.

    According to Pangalos, the internal problems in PASOK were not solved at the party's Congress last October but on the contrary worsened.

    On the matter of corruption which is preoccupying the government, Pangalos said "I remember that the prime minister gets disturbed very much every time that someone refers to this issue. Not because it exists, but because we referred to it. I now see that he has declared war against corruption. It is late, but at last it is something. I congratulate him for having decided to deal with corruption."

    The PASOK deputy however supported that the ruling party is in a position to win the elections again, given that the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party "does not seem to have learnt from its mistakes."

    [12] PASOK youth congress continues in climate of consensus

    Athens, 11/02/2002 (ANA)

    The PASOK youth group congress continued for a second day on Saturday in a low-key atmosphere, with little of the controversy that had accompanied such meetings on earlier occasions.

    It is due to end on Sunday with the election of a new central council, while analysts have tipped Pantelis Kamas as the front-runner for president.

    Among speakers to address the meeting on Saturday was Greek European Commissioner for employment Anna Diamantopoulou, who clarified her earlier remarks on making English a second language in Greece.

    "It goes without saying that the official language would be Greek," Diamantopoulou stressed, "and nothing could be further from the truth than that Greek would be abolished as an official language in Europe."

    She said her statements had merely referred to the significant comparative advantage enjoyed by those with a good working knowledge of English, which was the main language used on the Internet, in commerce, in the wider area of the Middle East and in the Balkans.

    The issue was also a class one, she added, since all the better private schools offered a good standard of English.

    The congress was then addressed by Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou, who referred to the upcoming local elections and also the phenomenon of corruption, pledging to stamp it out.

    [13] Farmers to suspend protests and regroup for Athens rally

    Athens, 11/02/2002 (ANA)

    A nationwide meeting of farmers' unions at Tempi opted on Saturday to call an end to the current cycle of protests by the sector but warned that they had not given up the struggle and planned to come back in force in just a few days time for a rally in Athens.

    Tractors will officially depart picket lines and rally points at 11:00 am on Sunday, though several have left already.

    Mired in disagreement, the union representatives opted to end the protests but have arranged for another meeting on Wednesday by the Larissa agricultural cooperatives to discuss the details of the planned rally in Athens and how farmers make their way down to the capital.

    Farmers at Tempi had staged no roadblocks on Saturday, though police decided to limit traffic to one lane during the course of the Tempi meeting as a precaution.

    [14] Three new natural gas companies announced

    Athens, 11/02/2002 (ANA)

    Development minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos announced the imminent establishment of three new natural gas companies for Central Macedonia, Thrace and Thessaly, as he inaugurated a natural gas network in Sykies municipality in Thessaloniki on Saturday.

    Tsohatzopoulos said that the target was to accelerate the availability of natural gas to an increasingly growing area in Greece, which he added would comprise a necessary condition as the natural gas market was turning into the basic source of energy supply at European level.

    He further said that a series of private investments in electricity production from natural gas was also being prepared.

    Tsohatzopoulos said that in addition to the Siberian pipeline, there was also the ability to take advantage of alternative natural gas sources from Asia, via Turkey and Iran, so as to create, in SE Europe, a new dynamic natural gas and electricity market that would supplement or be incorporated into the European market.

    This, he added, would create new jobs, collaborations with foreign companies, and was indicative of the developmental character of energy investments.

    [15] Culture minister visits Salt Lake City Olympics security center

    WASHINGTON, 11/02/2002 (ANA - T. Ellis)

    Greece's culture minister, in Salt Lake City for the 2002 Winter Olympics, on Saturday visited the Winger Olympics security center where he was briefed on the centerís operation and the security measures in place for the Games.

    "We discussed the legal framework and the way in which the security plan was developed and applied, particularly the measures taken after the September 11" hijacked airplane terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Venizelos said.

    "I had the opportunity to watch the coordination among all the agencies in a country that has developed strong reflexes after the September 11" attack, said Venizelos, referring to the collaboration among some 50 local, state and federal agencies working together for the security at the Salt Lake Games.

    A senior Greek officer has for some time also been monitoring the efforts at the security center, while experts from Greece have also visited the center on occasion to be briefed on know-how and experience.

    [16] Suspected case of Creutzfeldt-Jakob reported in Thessaloniki

    Athens, 11/02/2002 (ANA)

    Doctors in Thessaloniki reported a suspected case of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) on Saturday, saying that a 70-year-old woman from Pieria had been admitted to the city's G. Papanikolaou hospital with symptoms characteristic of the disease.

    They said the patient was currently undergoing further tests to confirm their initial suspicions, while they stressed that the cause was unlikely to have been the consumption of meat.

    The woman was admitted to hospital a week ago suffering acute motor and psychiatric problems, while a brain scan further corroborated the likelihood of CJD.

    "It may well be spongiform encephalopathy but it does not appear to be due to the consumption of meat," the head of the hospital's neurological clinic Aristidis Kazis said.

    A low rate of CJD is known to occur naturally in Greece, with some experts claiming that the rare incidents are the result of chance mutations and unrelated to BSE, the form of the disease afflicting cows.

    [17] Cyprus says Denktash statement on refugees is outrageous

    NICOSIA, 11/02/2002 (CNA/ANA)

    Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou on Saturday dismissed as "outrageous" statements by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who was quoted by Turkish Cypriot media as saying that after 28 years it was not possible that refugees still existed.

    In remarks to CNA, Papapetrou said "Denktash is well aware of the fact that it is the Turkish army weapons that prevent the refugees from returning to their homes".

    Denktash was quoted as saying that after so many years, "every-one has settled down" and "without stirring their peace, we must defend their rights in property and compensation".

    Asked to comment on this statement, Papapetrou said "it is not time that terminates displacement and erases the reasons for which all these years these people are kept away from their homes and property".

    [18] Foreign Minister to attend EU and OIC joint forum

    NICOSIA, 11/02/2002 (CNA/ANA)

    Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides left for Turkey on Sunday via Athens to represent the Republic of Cyprus at a joint forum of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the European Union (EU), taking place in Istanbul on February 12 and 13.

    Speaking to CNA on the significance of his presence in Turkey, which does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus and continues to occupy the country's northern third since 1974, the minister said "Cyprus, an EU candidate country, could not be absent from such a meeting, jointly organized by the EU and the OIC, whose theme is "Civilization and Harmony: The political dimension".|

    He said Cyprus is a "living example of the coexistence of civilizations over the centuries where we see two religions and two civilizations", adding that the island acts as a "link among civilizations where tolerance exists".

    Referring to his contacts in Istanbul, Kasoulides said at present there are no scheduled official meetings but he would be "ex-changing views" with his counterparts and is expected to meet with Greek FM George Papandreou.

    Replying to questions, the minister said he did not believe it would be "appropriate" to raise the Cyprus question in his address before this meeting, adding that Cyprus' culture and civilization is something that can be projected on such an occasion.

    Kasoulides will address the two-day meeting on Tuesday morning after the opening of the forum, during which Spain's Foreign Minister and current EU president Josep Pique and the OIC President, Foreign Minister of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabour Al Thani, will give their welcoming addresses.

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