|Sunday, 16 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 02-12-18
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>December 18, 2002
 PM presents Athens' priorities for the Greek EU presidency
Athens, 18/12/2002 (ANA)The shared enjoyment of rights, security, democracy and quality of life by all Europeans would be the pivotal aim of the Greek presidency of the European Union over the next six months, Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis said on Tuesday in statements to reporters.
The presidency's catchphrase was ''Our Europe: sharing the future in a Community of values'' and reflected the desire of the EU that there be no discrimination, no exclusion and no exceptions, Simitis said.
The Greek premier, who had earlier chaired a meeting of the cabinet to discuss the priorities of the Greek presidency, also presented five main areas that the Greek presidency intended to focus on:
One of the key issues would be European enlargement and the effort to adhere to the timeframe, so that everything was ready for the signing of accession acts with each of the 10 candidate-states in Athens on April 16 and also for signing pre-accession strategies with Bulgaria and Romania and a new EU-Turkey association agreement.
The Lisbon strategy for policies to promote development, competitiveness, social cohesion and sustainable development, were a second major issue. Simitis said that this would be assessed and reviewed in order to accelerate the policies at the informal EU summit in Brussels in March 2003.
A third major issue was migration and ways to handle the problems that this created, while Greece would also have to initiate procedures for wrapping up the future of Europe process.
A fifth important issue that would be tackled by the Greek presidency would be a common EU policy for foreign affairs and defense in order to upgrade Europe's role in international developments.
Here the Greek presidency would be particularly cautious and careful over cooperation and stability in the Balkans and would continue efforts against terrorism and efforts to combat poverty and protect the environment, Simitis said.
The prime minister underlined that Greece wanted to bring new ideas and better proposals forward during its presidency in order to create a stronger economy and bring the EU closer to the common citizen.
Greece will continue efforts for resolution of Cyprus problem, FM says: Greece is still continuing its efforts for the resolution of the Cyprus issue and for a European course for Turkey, Foreign Minister George Papandreou said on Tuesday, during a presentation of the priorities of the Greek EU presidency due to begin on January 1st.
Papandreou said that the resolution of the Cyprus problem is a strategic target for Greece ''and our motive is real and honest'', adding that Greece follows and supports the moves of Cyprus' leadership and will continue to do so.
He congratulated Cyprus' President Glafcos Clerides and all political persons and parties of the island republic including the negotiations team in light of Cyprus' accession.
Speaking of Turkey he said that the message of Copenhagen to our neighboring country should not be construed as negative, since it gives Turkey a great chance concerning the Copenhagen criteria.
The minister also spoke of the Greek EU presidency's priorities, which include the completion of the enlargement process; the Lisbon process for competitiveness and development; immigration and asylum comprehensive policies; the future of Europe based on the results of the Conference for the Future of Europe; and the Union's foreign affairs.
Papandreou also placed the handling of the crisis in Iraq as a priority for the Greek EU presidency calling it a challenge for the cohesiveness of the European Union's defense and foreign affairs policy.
He closed his remarks by noting the importance of the cooperation between the Union and the United States.
Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis also addressed the event speaking in detail of the Greek EU presidency's issues.
Alternate FM Yiannitsis outlines priorities of Greece's EU presidency: Speaking during a press conference on Tuesday, Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis said that among of the main priorities of Greece's EU presidency is the completion of the procedures for the EU's enlargement and preparation of the relevant conditions for the signing ceremony in Athens on April 16 of the accession of the 10 new candidate countries.
Specifically, the management of the enlargement constitutes a basic element of Greece's EU presidency, he said.
Another issue which will preoccupy the Greek presidency is the matter of institutional changes in the Union. The Convention for the Future of Europe is being discussed during this period and the Greek presidency's aim is for the conclusions of the Convention's discussions to be submitted before the EU summit in Thessaloniki in order for decisions to be reached at the summit on how this major issue will proceed from then on.
The minister noted that the first in-depth discussion on the future of Europe will take place in Thessaloniki, on the basis of the proposals which will be made by the Convention. The inter-governmental conference is expected to be held during the Italian EU presidency, which succeeds the Greek presidency.
Yiannitsis said the president of the Convention for the Future of Europe, Giscard d'Estaing will visit Athens where he will give a speech on this great issue which concerns the whole of Europe. His visit is expected to take place in February.
Another matter which the Greek EU presidency will deal with is employment, competitiveness and growth and in all the matters of the European Social Model and viable development with emphasis on the environment as well as aspects of the coordination of economic policy between the EU member-countries, Yiannitsis said.
These issues will be dealt with at the EU spring summit.
In the sector of foreign relations, the Greek presidency will centre its efforts on the broader region, without overlooking its obligations towards other regions of the world.
The Balkans, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Russia and the Black Sea countries ''require our continuous attention for the safeguarding of peace and democracy while at the same time they offer significant opportunities for cooperation with mutual benefit in the economic sector,'' Yiannitsis said.
He said particular emphasis will be given to the Balkans. He further said that the developments in Iraq on the part of public opinion is expected to dominate.
Another priority will be the issue of immigration and illegal immigration and of asylum, Yiannitsis said, noting that the mass wave of illegal immigrants must be confronted.
 Greek ambassador in US outlines Athens' EU priorities
WASHINGTON 18/12/2002 (ANA – T. Ellis)Greece’s ambassador in the United States this week outlined Athens’ priorities for its upcoming European Union six-month presidency, which covers the first half of 2003.
Speaking to a “Voice of America” radio program, Amb. George Savvaidis said the signing of Accession Acts by 10 EU candidate-states, officially invited to join the Union last week, next April in Athens will dominate a good portion of the Greek presidency’s attention. Additionally, he said a June Summit in Thessaloniki will focus on the future of Europe, while employment and the Union’s social policy will be on EU leaders’ agenda at a March Summit in Brussels.
Beyond EU issues, the Greek ambassador also touched on the holding of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, as well as developments in the Balkans and the Middle East, EU-US relations and even the course of Greek-US relations.
Savvaidis noted that Greek-US relations are excellent, with all outstanding issues between Athens and Washington resolved, whereas Greece’s role as a reliable US ally with “a stable democracy, economy and open society” is universally recognized, as he said.
Finally, he disagreed with the notion claiming a current chill in EU-US relations, stressing that misunderstandings and differences of opinion from time to time “can be overcome with constructive dialogue”.
 Cyprus EU accession a catalytic step for problem's resolution, Simitis says
Athens, 18/12/2002 (ANA)Cyprus' accession to the European Union is a catalytic step toward the resolution of the protracted Cyprus problem, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said in an address to Parliament on Tuesday.
''The accession of Cyprus to the European Union is a catalytic step toward the resolution of the Cyprus problem since it guarantees the security and the rights of all Cypriots, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, and it formulates a new framework that never existed,'' Simitis said in an off-the-agenda discussion called by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on the ''Copenhagen Summit in correlation with the plan to resolve the Cyprus issue''.
''This new framework of coexistence is seeking a solution. Conditions have matured now to overcome the last sorrowful outstanding issue in Europe since the fall of the Berlin wall,'' Simitis said.
Speaking in the presence of Cyprus' House of Representatives President Demetris Christofias, Simitis also said that the accession of Cyprus constitutes ''a new page for Hellenism, Cyprus is now with us in the European Union and this has crucial effects on its (Cyprus') present and future''.
''The solution will not be coming in ten or twenty years, when it was late in coming 30 years already, while the coming years will also have a negative note, since history is not waiting forever,'' he said, adding ''we owe it to the younger generations to resolve the Cyprus problem, otherwise there is the danger of a new confrontation and the history of Greece should not be a conveyer belt of mistakes''.
Speaking on the Annan plan, the premier said that the plan adopts a significant part of 1989 Cyprus' National Council decisions and accepts the standing position concerning the continuity of the state of Cyprus, the single sovereignty and the single state.
The Greek strategy on the issue, he said, was twofold, on the one hand it sought to disentangle the EU accession from the political problem and on the other it sought the accession to the EU which inaugurates a new era for the island republic.
Concerning Turkey, Simitis underlined that Greece followed a new strategy in its relations with Turkey based on the neighboring country's European orientation and expressed the hope that Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots would contribute constructively to the resolution of the Cyprus problem, particularly if Turkey wants to promote its own candidacy to the EU.
Speaking of the accession itself, he said that it was clear-cut, without terms or conditions, and an accession among equals, while the implementation of the acquis communautaire was suspended for the northern occupied part of the island republic, adding that the European Council expressed the hope that by Feb. 28 there will be a resolution of the island's political problem, an event that will contribute to the implantation of the acquis communautaire in the northern part of the island.
''Greece can stand up and it will meet the circumstances,'' Simitis concluded.
Communist party leader says Cyprus' partition officialized: Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga said on Tuesday Cyprus' accession to the European Union constitutes the officialization of the island's partition, adding that the consequences and results of the invasion and occupation have been legalized and it has been placed under international guardianship with the establishment of a supreme judicial authority in which non-Cypriots participate.
Papariga was speaking in Parliament during an off-the-agenda debate called by her party on ''The Copenhagen summit combined with the draft plan for a solution to the Cyprus problem.''
She said the Cyprus issue is going through a complex phase and underlined that KKE will stand by the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots and criticized the interest of the U.S. and Britain to have Cyprus under their guardianship.
Referring to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's Cyprus plan, Papariga said ''it remains fully applicable after Copenhagen as well, while a new ultimatum for its acceptance is set until February 28, 2003.''
Papariga also wondered why the government was rejoicing when it says no asterisks were necessary.
''No special asterisk or precondition was necessary since their incorporation had been made in the text of conclusions itself,'' she said.
Papariga doubted that the EU provides security for Cyprus and referred, as an example, ''to the decisions taken in Brussels in October 2002 when the EU, with the participation and support of Greece, accepted the demands contained in the Ankara agreement and the U.S. controls all European action in regions bordering with Turkey.''
Commenting on the new international scene, Papariga said that what has changed is the correlation of forces at the expense of the forces of socialism and the expansion of imperialism all over the earth and predicted that the aims of the U.S. include the partitioning of Iraq.
Papariga also said the Annan plan will harm both peoples the same and called for everything to be done ''to enable us to prevent divisive efforts from strengthening prejudices.''
ND leader calls Copenhagen decision on Cyprus ''significant'' & ''positive'': The Copenhagen summit's decision on Cyprus' accession to the European Union was a significant and positive action, main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Costas Karamanlis said on Tuesday while speaking in Parliament in an off-the-agenda discussion called by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on the ''Copenhagen Summit in correlation with the plan to resolve the Cyprus issue''.
He said that the decision was of major importance for the tumultuous history of Cyprus and Hellenism, while expressing hope for a political solution to the problem in a short time-span, ''so as to tear down the last remaining wall of shame''.
Karamanlis congratulated the people of Cyprus and the leadership of the island republic and stressed that everyone worked very hard, the Greek government, the foreign ministry, former foreign ministers, Greek Eurodeputies and Greek diplomats.
''Both you and us contributed to this'' success, Karamanlis said, noting that the strategy of accession was delineated during the Konstantinos Karamanlis government and was adopted by all governments after it.
The ND leader called at that point once again for the establishment of a national council for foreign policy based on the example of the one existing in Cyprus.
He spoke of Cyprus' accession saying that it was a national goal, aiming at the island's improved security and at unlocking the impasse concerning the negotiations for the resolution of the island's political problem, while increasing the strength of the Greek Cypriot side.
He expressed his reservations concerning the accessions' connection to the resolution of the political problem, stating, however, that ''there is no commitment of a legal character''.
He spoke of the Copenhagen conclusions and the commitment to continue negotiations for a total settlement of the political problem by Feb. 28, 2003 based on the Annan plan, stressing that the Copenhagen conclusions excluded Cyprus from the Euroforce procedures because of the Annan plan, which man-dates for the gradual demilitarization of Cyprus.
Karamanlis underlined that the Annan plan does not propose a just solution as it legalizes conditions that were created by the invasion and efforts should at least be made to improve it in the direction of workability and viability.
Coalition leader says EU summit decisions 'create a more positive framework': Speaking in Parliament, Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos said the decisions of the EU summit in Copenhagen ''create a more positive frame-work in all the spectrum of relations between Greece, Cyprus and Turkey,'' assessing that the decisive elements of these decisions is Cyprus' accession to the European Union and the confirmation of an in principle time specification for Turkey's European orientation.
These two elements, he said, create the prerequisites for a settlement of the political problem of Cyprus, the domestic democratization of Turkey and a peaceful settlement of Greek-Turkish differences.
The Coalition leader also said that the debate in Parliament should have been held before the Copenhagen summit and at the initiative of the government. He called on the prime minister to ask for a discussion in January on the issues which the Greek EU presidency will deal with.
Constantopoulos gave particular attention to the ''Turkey'' chapter, that is, to Ankara's desire to join the EU but to the EU's decision to oblige Turkey to make changes. He also hailed the EU's resistance to Washington's pressure regarding Turkey.
As for the stance of Greece, he said that it has every interest on the one hand to encourage Turkey's European prospects, and on the other for Turkey to be continuously pressured to proceed in adjusting to the Copenhagen criteria.
Referring to his experience from his recent visit to Turkey, he said that the neighboring country was becoming aware that ''the course towards Europe passes from the settlement of the Cyprus issue.''
 Greece must still strive for Cyprus solution, PM tells cabinet
Athens, 18/12/2002 (ANA)Greece had to continue to strive for a solution to the Cyprus issue and could not afford to either relax its efforts or blow things out of proportion, Prime Minister Costas Simitis told a meeting of the cabinet on Tuesday.
Greece and the Greek-Cypriot side should avoid taking advantage of the fact that Cyprus had been admitted to the European Union without terms and should remain open to proposals for a solution of the Cyprus problem, showing goodwill and flexibility, he added.
''We must create certainty in the international community that we are working in good faith, because this is our most effective argument against Turkey. We must try to find a solution to the Cyprus problem if we want peace and stability in the region,'' the premier stressed.
Simitis also noted a tendency to doubt elements that had been accepted in previous draft agreements for a Cyprus solution, such as those for a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, and stressed that the basis for negotiation would be the existing agreements and the new state of affairs.
Welcoming the presence of Cyprus Parliament President Dimitris Christofias, who would attend an off-the-agenda debate in Parliament on Tuesday evening, Simitis said he would meet with Christofias himself on Wednesday morning.
Outlining the goals and priorities of the Greek EU presidency in the first six months of 2003, meanwhile, Simitis said these would need a broad consensus and support and that he would present the planned Greek priorities to the leadership of the European Parliament on Friday and to the European Commission on January 10.
He instructed cabinet ministers to be present at sessions of the European Parliament where the presidency ministers were called to answer questions and to check in with Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis on when their presence was required.
The cabinet meeting also discussed the vote on the budget, which Simitis said would be "a vote of confidence in government policy". The prime minister said that main opposition New Democracy was trying to paint a negative picture and he urged ministers handling sensitive issues to speak at the debate in order to weaken ND's arguments.
 U.S. hails Cyprus' EU accession, date for Turkey's EU talks
WASHINGTON 18/12/2002 (ANA - T. Ellis)The United States on Tuesday hailed Cyprus' accession to the European Union and the setting of a date on which the possibility of accession negotiations beginning with Turkey will be assessed.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher reiterated that Washington ''supports the efforts of the UN secretary general. We believe that the opportunity which existed continues to exist and we look forward to the continuation of the tough effort with the sides, the neighboring countries and the UN for a solution to be found," to the Cyprus problem.
Boucher said the U.S. welcomes the decision on Cyprus' accession, as it does for all the remaining countries which were accepted in the EU, while on the decision concerning Turkey, he reiterated a relative statement by the White House's spokesman last Friday, speaking of a ''decision with a vision.''
In parallel, it encouraged ''our friends and allies to work actively'' in the direction of Turkey's accession, which he termed ''important'' for the United States.
Boucher added that the U.S. also strongly supports Turkey's efforts to promote necessary economic and political reforms to enable it to achieve the target of accession.
 Gov't on Yakis comment referring to 'invader force' on Cyprus
Athens, 18/12/2002 (ANA)The Greek government on Tuesday noted that recent comments by Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis were the first-ever by a Turkish government official referring to “an occupation army on Cyprus.”
Government spokesman Christos Protopapas said such a reference demonstrates that a “favorable climate” exists for solving the long-standing Cyprus problem. In response to a relevant press question, he also said the Greek side will act with “discretion, responsibility and attention” vis-a-vis the ongoing deliberations in Turkey regarding the Cyprus issue.
Turkish Foreign Minister Yakis was quoted this week as saying the West will attempt to call the Turkish army in occupied Cyprus an "invader force" if the “Greek Cypriot side joined the European Union (EU) as the representative of the entire island”, adding that he has drawn attention to existence of such a danger.
According to a dispatch by the semi-official Anadolu agency, Yakis answered press questions at the Turkish assembly on Tuesday about his statement, noting: "the Turkish armed forces on the island would be considered an invader army if a solution can't be found to the Cyprus issue until Feb. 28 ... there is such a danger and possibility. I said that this should not be allowed."
The internationally recognized government of Cyprus was extended an official invitation by the 15-member European Union last Friday to join the Union -- a historic milestone for the east Mediterranean country.
 FM says Cyprus solution opens great prospects for Cyprus and Turkey
Athens, 18/12/2002 (ANA)Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Cyprus House of Representatives Speaker Demetris Christofias discussed the Cyprus issue on Tuesday in the wake of the European Union's historic Copenhagen summit last week which endorsed Cyprus' entry into the European Union.
Christofias is in Athens following an invitation by Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis to watch an off-the-agenda debate on the Cyprus issue in Parliament on Tuesday night.
Speaking after the meeting, Papandreou said the moment is historic, following the decisions taken in Copenhagen, and placed emphasis on the decision to include Cyprus in EU enlargement, while stressing that ''we now have the major problem of solving the Cyprus problem before us.''
He further said a solution to the Cyprus issue opens great prospects not only for Cyprus but for Turkey as well, provided the latter shows the relative will, and for peace and stability in the region in general.
Referring to the process of finding a solution to the Cyprus issue, Papandreou said the conjuncture is favorable and there is an impetus since Cyprus will be a full EU member shortly.
Papandreou also commented on constructive statements by Turkey's political leadership and the Greek Cypriot side's desire for a solution, stressing that Greece, being a country involved, will back this impetus in every way.
Christofias thanked Papandreou for cooperation achieved and underlined that ''Cyprus would not be a member of the EU today without the support of Greece.''
He added that the finding of a just and viable solution and the island's reunification remains the main strategic target, noting that the Turkish side and the Turkish Cypriot leadership should change philosophy.
Christofias said ''forces refusing to continue to live under the regime of Denktash should be strengthened'', adding that ''we shall try to make this wish a reality in every way.''
He further rejected certain views that ''now that the Greek Cypriots have achieved accession they have no reason to care about a solution to the Cyprus issue'' and pointed out that ''the continuation of occupation and partition is not our fate.''
Christofias avoided making predictions on the fate of the Turkish Cypriot leader, but stressed that two power centers are struggling in Turkey. The one supports the demands of the Turkish Cypriot community for a solution and the second supports Rauf Denktash and the establishment forces agreeing with his positions.
He also said ''the solution will come through negotiations based on the Annan plan. The Greek Cypriot side is ready to negotiate seriously and to conclude an agreement. The other side is not ready.''
However, Christofias predicted that ''it will be very difficult for us to reach a solution with Rauf Denktash'', saying that he has grown up with the vision of Cyprus' partition and expressing the conviction that when a compromise solution will be near the Turkish Cypriot leader ''will extort an extension in a thousand and two ways.''
 Greek, Cypriot Parliament presidents probe Cyprus accession
Athens, 18/12/2002 (ANA)Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis and Cyprus House of Representatives Speaker Demetris Christofias on Tuesday night discussed the two Parliaments' contribution to the successful conclusion of Cyprus' bid to join the European Union.
Christofias arrived in Athens at Kaklamanis' invitation and will be meeting Prime Minister Costas Simitis and party leaders.
Kaklamanis said the EU's Copenhagen summit was a historic moment for Hellenism, and Cyprus in particular, but there are more steps which must be taken by Cyprus and Greece to safeguard national interests and for a solution to the Cyprus issue.
Christofias said a solution depends more on developments in Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot community and on whether they will show the same response and goodwill as the Greek side.
 Cyprus' FM conference room named after late Yiannos Kranidiotis
NICOSIA 18/12/2002 (ANA)The conference room of Cyprus' foreign ministry was named after the late Yiannos Kranidiotis, a native of Cyprus who served as Greece's alternate foreign minister and contributed greatly to the accession of the island republic to the European Union.
Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides made the relevant announcement during a ceremony at the ministry in the wake of the Copenhagen EU summit's decision on EU enlargement.
Kasoulides spoke of Kranidiotis' work and that of his predecessors, noting that a bust of the late minister will soon adorn the entrance to the ministry.
The Cypriot minister called the EU's decision on Cyprus' accession the successful conclusion of the efforts and struggles of all the relevant Cypriot agencies, while he expressed his thanks to his Greek counterpart George Papandreou and Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis, as well as to Papandreou's predecessors in the ministry.
 Turkish warplanes infringe Athens FIR, violate national air space
Athens, 18/12/2002 (ANA)Twenty formations of Turkish warplanes on Tuesday made an equal number of infringements of the Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) and 50 violations of national air space in the northern and central Aegean and east of the island of Rhodes, according to press reports.
In all the incidents, the 54 Turkish warplanes were intercepted by Greek fighter jets and in 15 cases their interception resulted in an engagement.
Air Force General Staff sources commented that the increased activity of the Turkish Air Force was not unexpected as an exercise by the neighboring country is currently in progress.
 Greece-Turkey exploratory contacts to be held in Athens on Thursday
Athens, 18/12/2002 (ANA)The 8th round of Greece-Turkey exploratory contacts will be held in Athens on Thursday between Foreign Ministry Secretary General Ambassador Anastasios Skopelitis and his Turkish counterpart Ambassador Ugur Ziyal
 AHEPA president hails Cyprus' EU accession, lauds Greek gov't's stance
WASHINGTON 18/12/2002 (ANA - T. Ellis)American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) President James Dimitriou on Tuesday issued a press release hailing the accession of Cyprus to the European Union and lauding the efforts of both the Cypriot and Greek governments toward that goal.
He hailed ''the historic decision of the European Union to call on the Republic of Cyprus to become one of its members without terms,'' and congratulated the people of Cyprus and the government of the island republic for this success.
He also lauded the Greek government for its support to Cyprus throughout this process.
The AHEPA president expressed, however, his sorrow for the inability to achieve a solution of the long standing political problem of the island republic, ''due to the unwillingness of the Turkish Cypriot side."
However, he expressed the hope that the accession to the Union will act as a catalyst toward the resolution of the problem, since it seems that this is the will of the majority of Turkish Cypriots.
AHEPA is by far the oldest and largest Greek-American expatriate organization, active in almost all areas of Greek interests.
 Greek organization praises U.S. role in Cyprus' EU accession
WASHINGTON 18/12/2002 (ANA - T. Ellis)The role played by the U.S. in Cyprus' accession course to the European Union was decisive, according to an announcement by the ''National Coordinating Effort of Greeks'' organization on Tuesday.
The announcement further said President George W. Bush helped to achieve the only considerable development in the 28-year history of the division of Cyprus.
''But we should not forget the decisive role played in the whole development by former UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and Undersecretary for Political Affairs Marc Grossman, with support by Senator Paul Sarbanes,'' it added.
Also stressed is the role played by the former special coordinator for the Cyprus issue and current Ambassador to Athens Tom Miller, while emphasis is also placed on the unshaken support and pressures exerted over the past 28 years in favor of Cyprus by Greek American Senator and Foreign Affairs Committee member Paul Sarbanes.
 Gov't on bill establishing foreign policy council
Athens, 18/12/2002 (ANA)The government announced on Tuesday that a bill allowing for the establishment of a foreign policy council, one envisioning the participation of the country’s major political party leaders, will be tabled in the next few days.
Government spokesman Christos Protopapas made the statement at his regular press briefing. In response to press question, he also said the government does not consider would-be protesters at the scheduled June EU Summit in Thessaloniki as “opponents”.
“... (the government) wants dialogue with social groups, whose requests it considers as an expression of citizens’ concerns and social groups’ demands. We also want a socially (conscious) Europe,” Protopapas said.
 Karamanlis again takes aim at gov't fiscal policy; cites Eurostat report
Athens, 18/12/2002 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy (ND) President Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday received Bank of Greece Gov. Nikos Garganas at his Parliament office, with discussion reportedly focusing on the 2003 state budget, as debate in Parliament begins on Wednesday.
“So-called fiscal reform proved to be a myth, as the Eurostat reports showed. Additionally, it was proven that state budgets over the past years were factitious. That is something that I must say ranks as a major political sham,” Karamanlis said after the meeting.
While again stating that Greece remains the poorest member of the ‘euro zone’, Karamanlis reiterated that growth rates recorded under the PASOK government will prove insufficient to attain real and economic convergence with other EU member-states.
Finally, he said ND firmly backs rapid reforms, market deregulation, increasing competitiveness as well as better exploitation of community funds as the policies leading to real convergence.
 Interior minister calls for dialogue on local government reform
Athens, 18/12/2002 (ANA)Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis on Tuesday proposed the start of dialogue between local government agencies and the interior ministry on nationwide administrative reforms.
Speaking at a seminar on "Local government - citizens - central government" organized by the interior ministry and the union of municipalities and communities (KEDKE), Skandalidis presented his ideas for a new administrative system for local government. He made it clear that the planned reform must support the implementation of central government decisions for local communities, overriding local interests and weaknesses, such as those that had delayed the construction of hygienic landfill sites for waste on Crete and power plant stations on Rhodes.
He ruled out a new 'Kapodistrias' plan for unifying municipalities but called for 'voluntary' unification on the level of provinces for joint plans on environmental or town planning issues, or projects such as setting up municipal police forces.
Municipalities that did not enter into such cooperative ventures would simply not receive funds, though special allowances would be made for islands and municipal authorities in remote or mountainous areas.
The minister also announced plans to fully deregulate the hiring of new staff by local authorities.
 Cyprus president receives outgoing Athens mayor Avramopoulos
NICOSIA 18/12/2002 (ANA - G. Leonidas)Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides received outgoing Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos in Nicosia on Tuesday morning.
In statements after the meeting, Avramopoulos said that Cyprus' accession to the European Union marked the start of a new period that would lead to a solution of the Cyprus problem.
He called for unity and solidarity, saying that the need for this had been proved by Cyprus' success in Europe.
 Commissioner Diamantopoulou to receive Legion of Honor medal
BRUSSELS 18/12/2002 (ANA/A. Simatos)Greek EU Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs Anna Diamantopoulou will receive the Legion of Honor medal on Wednesday by France's European Affairs Minister Noelle Lenoir.
The ceremony will take place at the French foreign ministry.
 EU calls for drastic measures to make Greek pensions system viable
BRUSSELS 18/12/2002 (ANA/M.Spinthourakis)The European Union's executive Commission on Tuesday called for ''draconian measures'' to stabilize a rise in spending and ensure the viability of pension systems in Greece.
In the first report of its kind on pensions in the 15-nation bloc, the Commission said in a report that most members, including Greece, should make greater efforts to secure adequate pensions for an ageing population.
Looking at the country's main pension funds - IKA, OGA (farmers) and the smaller TEBE arrangement for the self employed - the Commission noted that pensions from the three accounted for 84 percent of the total in Greece, which was equivalent to 10.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
Supplementary pensions represented about 1.8 percent of GDP, the report said.
Taking into account an ageing population, spending on pensions would rise to 17.3 percent of GDP in 2030 and 22.6 percent in 2050 against 12.4 percent of GDP at present, marking the sharpest rise in the EU, the Commission warned.
In order to fund the growth, the government would have to raise revenue from taxation as a proportion of GDP to 8.7 percent in 2030 and 15.5 percent in 2050 against a percentage of 4.8 percent of GDP at present.
Although pensioners in Greece appeared on the surface to be the most vulnerable social group in terms of poverty, the contrary was true as many lived with their families, or owned their own homes, which was not representative of the rest of Europe.
Moves by the government in 2002 to overhaul pensions were steps in the right direction, but not effective enough, the report said.
The Commission recommended boosting employment, especially among women, and curbing early retirement.
 Current account deficit widens
Athens, 18/12/2002 (ANA)The current account deficit widened by 272 million euros in October 2002 against the same period a year earlier to 1.0 billion euros, the central bank said on Tuesday.
The increase in the current account deficit was mainly due to a rise in the trade deficit, and also to a reduction in the transfers surplus, the Bank of Greece said in a statement.
At the same time, the services surplus widened, while the revenue deficit grew slightly, the statement said.
The increase in the trade deficit chiefly stemmed from a rise in net payments for fuel imports, it added.
 Greece gets EIB loan for Athens 2004 Olympics
Athens, 18/12/2002 (ANA)The European Investment Bank (EIB) has approved a package totalling 1,500 million euros to help finance projects for the Athens 2004 Olympics, Deputy Finance Minister Christos Pachtas said on Tuesday.
The government is implementing a series of investments aimed at the games that will also improve the urban environment through infrastructure projects.
Pachtas on Friday signed a contract for 500 million euros, which is a third of the package.
The low-interest loan has a 25-year repayment deadline and a grace period of five years.
Government officials said that the loan was part of the government's annual borrowing program, and not an extra loan.
The EIB is the European Union's long-term financing arm.
 Greek, Turkish travel bureaus to set up joint committees
Athens, 18/12/2002 (ANA)The HATTA travel operators trade group in Greece and its Turkish counterpart TURSAB are to set up four committees to promote cooperation, they said in a statement on Tuesday.
Among the two groups' objectives is to encourage tourism from third countries, including the creation of joint package holidays for US and Chinese tourists, the statement said.
 Athens Bourse Close: Stocks pick up steam, fuelled by blue chips
Athens, 18/12/2002 (ANA)The Athens bourse finished higher on Tuesday with players showing interest in high capitalization paper, especially banks, from mid-session onwards.
The general share index gained 0.47 percent to end at 1,825.89 points. Turnover was 96.4 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for blue chip and heavily traded stocks ended 0.92 percent up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium capitalization paper 0.52 percent lower; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap equities finished 1.35 percent down.
Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 222 to 85 with 47 issues remaining unchanged.
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 72.6 mln euros Tuesday
Equity Index Futures:
Day's Market Turnover: 72.6 mln euros
Bond Market Close: Buyers match sellers on Tuesday
Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond
 Athens mayor inaugurates Maria Callas museum
Athens, 18/12/2002 (ANA)Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos on Tuesday inaugurated the Maria Callas Museum at the Athens Technopolis, located in the Gazi neighborhood.
Politicians, artists and academics were present for the event that became possible by a donation of Callas' personal effects and other paraphernalia by Alexandra Kanellopoulou and Thekla Marinidi.
A large portion of the exhibits were purchased in Paris in 2000 following a proposal made by Avramopoulos and approved by the municipal council and with the support of Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos.
 Modern-technology rocket found near Nea Makri beach
Athens, 18/12/2002 (ANA)A modern-technology rocket about 60cm long was found by an amateur fisherman off Nea Makri beach last week, the Rafina coast guard announced on Tuesday.
They said the rocket was lying very close to the shore at a depth of one meter and did not belong to the types used in World War II.
The announcement said that coast guard and Greek Navy divers were immediately sent in to verify the sighting and had confirmed the existence of the rocket, which was now being guarded by coast guard officers until a specialist Greek Navy team arrived to defuse it.
The Rafina coast guard had been the target of a terrorist attack in 1987.
 Canadian senator to promote motion for return of Parthenon Marbles
OTTAWA 18/12/2002 (ANA)The chairperson of the Canadian Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles, Canadian Senator Shirley Maheu, announced on Monday that she will move a motion at the Senate’s next sitting urging the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece before the 2004 Olympic Games.
According to a press release issued by Maheu’s political office, the motion calls on the Canadian government to encourage the British government “to cause the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece in time for the Opening Ceremony of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens”.
“The Parthenon Marbles belong to Greece, and should be returned to the world’s cultural patrimony – to stand again as designed centuries ago by their ancient Greek creators,” Maheu said.
 UN Security Council to discuss Cyprus on Wednesday
UNITED NATIONS 18/12/2002 (CNA/ANA)The UN Security Council will be informed on Wednesday instead of Tuesday by the UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto on the latest developments on Cyprus.
The UN diplomat was expected to inform Kofi Annan on Tuesday on developments in Copenhagen on Cyprus, review the situation and plan the next steps.
The UN Security Council will be informed on Wednesday on the latest developments.
At the end of the session, the President of the Security Council,
Colombia's Permanent Representative at the UN, Alfonso Valdivieso, will read a statement expressing support to the mission of good offices of the UN Secretary General and de Soto, expressing regret for not finding an agreement in Copenhagen and calling on the parties to continue negotiations to sign an agreement by the end of February.
Meanwhile, Russian newspaper ''Pravda'', in its Monday edition, said Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Ivanov and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, in a telephone conversation, reaffirmed the importance of continuing international efforts towards the effective and lasting settlement of the situation on Cyprus in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions and the recent recommendations on this issue proposed by the UN Secretary General.
European Union leaders, in the conclusions of the Copenhagen European Council, said that as accession negotiations have been completed with Cyprus, the island would be admitted as a new EU member state.
The UN has called on the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides to negotiate a UN proposal for a comprehensive settlement and reach an agreement by the end of February. Cyprus is set to sign the EU Treaty of Accession in mid April.
Annan said on Tuesday he expects the two sides in Cyprus to continue talks to reach a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem, based on his proposals.
However, he told CNA he could not indicate at this stage what his next move would be.
Invited by CNA on entering UN headquarters to say whether he has any commitment from the parties in Cyprus that they will continue talks and whether he has already planned his next move, Annan replied: ''I invited them to continu