|Sunday, 16 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-02-06
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>February 6, 2003
 There is still time for 'diplomacy' in Iraq crisis, but time runs short, FM says
NEW YORK 06/02/2003 (ANA - P. Panagiotou)Foreign Minister George Papandreou on Wednesday had a brief meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, right after the conclusion of the United Nations Security Council session on the Iraq crisis, where the U.S. submitted evidence of Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction.
Papandreou, speaking after the meeting with Powell, said that ''it was a positive and significant fact, that this briefing and the submittal of the evidence to the Security Council, strengthened anew the role of the UN. Of course, it concurred, as Blix did, that no full cooperation was extended by Saddam Hussein to the inspectors''.
''It is therefore, a very strong message, which we have to give to Iraq as the time goes by, time runs short and there must be full cooperation. We should have answers to all the questions that have been submitted,'' Papandreou noted.
''If we have those answers to the questions, and I believe - as well as the Arabs I have met will contribute toward that direction - we can avoid a war and have a diplomatic success,'' the Greek minister, who also presides over the European Union's foreign ministers' council, said.
He also stressed that the deadline for the end to the ''diplomatic'' means has not been reached, reiterating that the EU demands coalescence of Iraq with the resolution 1441.
Speaking, during his press conference, about his contacts with the two UN arms inspectors in Iraq, Hans Blix and Mohammed ElBaradei, he said ''we had a very useful discussion and they have the goodwill to keep us informed, as the EU presidency, aiming, of course, to be successful in having knowledge, an overseer-ship for what is happening with the weapons of mass destruction''.
''We support them, we stressed that and we want them to complete their work,'' he added.
During his one-day visit here, Papandreou began his round of contacts with the two UN arms inspectors in Iraq, Hans Blix and Mohammed ElBaradei, and immediately afterwards had separate meetings with his Bulgarian and Romanian counterparts, Solomon Passy and Mircea Geoana, respectively.
Following the Council's session, Papandreou sat at a dinner held by German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who presided over the UN Security Council's session, for the members of the Council.
Papandreou also met with his French, British, German and Spanish counterparts, whose countries are UN Security Council members as well as EU member states, and also with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, with whom he was expected to discuss the Iraq issue, the Cyprus issue and the situation in the Middle East.
The Greek foreign minister gave an interview to CNN immediately after his meeting with Powell, and before his series of meetings.
EU demarche calls on Iraq to fully comply with UNSCR 1441: The EU Presidency on Wednesday carried out a demarche to Iraqi missions in Athens, Brussels and New York, a relevant press release stressed.
“The European Union is deeply concerned about the Iraqi crisis. Time is running out. UNSCR 1441 gave Iraq a final opportunity to disarm peacefully. If it (Iraq) does not take this chance it will carry the responsibility for all the consequences,” the statement read, before adding:
“Iraq must completely disarm itself of WMD (weapons of mass destruction). We want to achieve this in a peaceful way. This is only possible if Iraq fully, unconditionally and immediately complies with all relevant resolutions of the Security Council, in particular with UNSCR 1441 of 8 November 2002. Iraq must therefore come into such full and immediate compliance with its disarmament obligations.
“We fully support Dr. (Hans) Blix and Dr. (Mohamed) El Baradei in their mission in accordance with UNSCR 1441. The Iraqi authorities must, as an imperative, provide inspectors, immediately, with all additional and complete information on questions raised by the International Community, including the issues raised by the Inspectors themselves in their report to the Security Council on 27 January and co-operate proactively.”
In addition, the statement notes that “further to the GAERC (the Union’s General Affairs & External Relations Council) conclusions of Jan. 27, EU acceding countries – Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia – as well as three EU associated countries – Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey – also “align themselves with the demarche carried out on 4 February by the EU Presidency”.
Four EU leaders contact Greek PM, gov't says: Four European Union leaders, including three whose countries co-signed a recent letter supporting the United States' stance on Iraq, had contacted Greek Prime Costas Simitis to discuss the latest developments in the region and the EU stance on the Iraq crisis, government spokesman Christos Protopapas revealed on Tuesday.
The spokesman said Simitis held talks over the phone on Monday night with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, three of the signatories of the 8-leader letter published recently in several European and US newspapers.
Simitis further spoke on the phone with Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson, and Protopapas noted that the four European premiers had initiated the contact.
The eight European countries that signed the letter/statement calling for Europe to back the US in enforcing UN resolutions on Iraq were EU members Britain, Denmark, Spain, Portugal and Italy, and candidate states Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, which are slated to accede the EU in April.
Protopapas also pointed out that Simitis had last week ordered his aide Theodoros Sotiropoulos to come into contact with his counterparts in all European governments over the letter.
Representatives of the five EU member-states that had signed the controversial letter -- Britain, Denmark, Spain, Portugal and Italy -- had told Sotiropoulos that the initiative was an expression of solidarity with the US and had stressed the need for a common EU stance on the Iraq issue.
The spokesman also pointed to a recent statement by Blair, who said that if the US side submitted new evidence to the UN Security Council, a second Security Council resolution on Iraq might be required.
The Greek EU presidency was greatly displeased at last week's initiative by the ''Eight'', which came just three days after the EU General Affairs Council had expressed a common position on the Iraq crisis, complaining that it received no advance warning of their intentions and that the initiative damaged EU unity and weakened the European Union's voice in world affairs.
 FM addresses letter to European Parliament president on EU commissioners
BRUSSELS 06/02/2003 (ANA - V. Demiris)Foreign Minister and Council President George Papandreou, in a letter to European Parliament President Pat Cox, stressed the need for a special European Parliament plenum being convened on May 1, 2004, when the accession treaty for the EU's 10 new member states will take effect, on the appointment of EU commissioners from the ''10.''
The list of candidate commissioners from the new member-states will become known on March 1, 2004, to enable necessary hearings from the European Parliament to start.
The holding of a special European Parliament plenum meeting on May 1, 2004, is expected to draw reaction from the parliamentary groups of the European Socialist Party and the United Left which do not want this event linked to May Day.
 ND leader discusses Iraq and Greek economy with EU economic affairs commissioner
BRUSSELS 06/02/2003 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)Main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis and European Commissioner Pedro Solbes on Wednesday discussed economic repercussions stemming from a possible war in Iraq and the state of the Greek economy. Karamanlis, who is in the Belgian capital to attend a meeting of the European Peoples Party's directorate, also met EPP President Wilfried Martens in the morning and his party's Eurodeputies in the evening.
Speaking to the press, Karamanlis said his meeting with Solbes was useful, adding that it focused on economic repercussions a war in Iraq could have for European economies, as well as economic problems arising in light of the European Union's enlargement.
He also said the target of unified Europe should be real economic and social convergence between all of its member-states, decreasing unemployment, increasing productivity and implementing specific policies for economic growth.
During his meeting with the EPP's president, Karamanlis briefed Martens on his impressions of meeting with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan some time ago.
Martens intends to visit Turkey in the near future, where he will be meeting Erdogan and the Patriarch of Istanbul Vartholomeos.
Also discussed was the recent letter by the eight prime ministers of Europe on the issue of Iraq, as well as the possibility of the party headed by Vojislav Kostunica joining the EPP.
 U.S. ambassador says United States pursuing peaceful solution to Iraq crisis
Athens, 06/02/2003 (ANA)United States Ambassador to Athens Thomas Miller said on Wednesday his country is pursuing a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis, adding that war is the last solution.
Miller was speaking at a conference on ''The American presence in southeastern Europe during the post-Cold war era'' in the Museum of Ancient, Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Instruments' auditorium in Thessaloniki, northern Greece.
He said the United States does not want wars and is pursuing a peaceful solution and added that consultations with partners have not stopped for a moment since U.S. President George W. Bush addressed the UN about six months ago.
Minister of Macedonia and Thrace George Paschalidis said it would be a mistake if the interest of Euroatlantic cooperation on the Balkans is limited due to tensions existing in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Iraq.
He further said flashpoints still exist in the Balkans which require systematic efforts for normalization and reconciliation.
 NATO ambassadors’ meeting to look into Iraq crisis
BRUSSELS 06/02/2003 (ANA)The ambassadors of NATO’s 19 member states are to hold an extraordinary meeting here on Thursday, to discuss the Iraq crisis and a US request for support in case of military action on Iraq, a spokesman for the Atlantic Alliance was quoted as saying by the French news agency AFP on Wednesday.
The meeting was originally scheduled for Wednesday, however as the spokesman said, the ambassadors had to take into account deliberations in other forums, such as Wednesday’s address by US Secretary of State Colin Powel to the United Nations Security Council, in which Powel is expected to present new evidence against Iraq which.
 Havel and the initiative of '8' on Iraq
Athens, 06/02/2003 (ANA)Vaclav Havel retired with honors from the presidency of the Czech Republic on Jan. 30; nevertheless, only a few days before the end of his almost 13-year-long tenure, he split his country's public opinion.
The signature of the Czech president on the controversial ''article-support'' for US plans on Iraq, next to the signatures of another seven European leaders, fell like a ''smart bomb'' on Prague and mainly on Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla's social-democratic government.
The Czech prime minister has every reason to feel annoyed by Havel's move. The letter was first brought up to him, but he refused. Then it reached President Havel, who agreed to add his name next to the names of the prime ministers of Britain, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Denmark, Hungary and Poland, which made him the only president among the ''8''.
According to sources, Havel was the last one to sign the letter late Thursday night (Jan. 30), which explains why the ''8'' were mentioned as ''7'' by a number of European newspapers that ''closed'' their editions earlier that night. The signature of the Czech president was still missing.
''A country's stance is the product of decisions and agreements, not of articles in newspapers,” Spidla noted.
Political analysts feel the Czech prime minister in that way kept his distance from a clearly pro-American stance on the issue, something that the exiting Czech President did not hesitate to do.
The main opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS) focused its criticism on Spidla, saying he should have signed the article for the sake of ''symmetry'', as ODS vice-chairman Petr Necas put it.
''Seven prime ministers and one president among them. Our prime minister should have been in place of our president''.
Czech public opinion kept neutral, nevertheless, as criticism focused on the fact that Havel chose to sign the text just three days before the end of his residency at the presidential mansion.
''He would not have signed so effortlessly had he not been near the end of his tenure'', diplomatic sources remarked.
Havel was reportedly attending a theatrical performance during his official visit in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava when he agreed to add his name to the ''article''.
Spokesman for the president Ladislav Spacek made a “laconic” statement: ''The president saw the text and he was in full agreement, since it was fully in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1441''.
Nevertheless, it was Czech foreign minister Alexandr Vondra that negotiated Havel's consent and signature, as he himself admitted.
''I encouraged him to sign the text, since it was in full agreement with our long-term foreign policy … It is a good thing that the supreme leader of our country was within a group of eight illustrious political personages''.
However, the Czech foreign ministry in general has kept its distance from Vondra's initiative and the contents of the letter.
The Czech parliament has already voted in principle to dispatch military aid to the Gulf in the event of war, however, only if there is a new second UN resolution on launching military action against Saddam Hussein's regime.
Havel's presidential tenure ended on Jan. 30 after almost 12 and half years. The Czech parliament has not yet elected his successor.
 EU Commission - call for proposals - Asia-Link program
Athens, 06/02/2003 (ANA)The European Commission has issued a call for proposals for the Asia-Link program.
The program comprises the following three components for which grant support totaling 10 million Euro may be offered: - human resources development - curriculum development - institutional and systems development
The Asia-Link, which is designed to foster cooperation in the field of higher education between the European Union and South and South-East Asia and China, will provide grants to enhance the skills and mobility of post-graduate students, teaching staff and administrators of higher education institution through the provision of in-country (European Union) and overseas (South and South-East Asia and China) training.
Moreover, the program will provide grants to promote the exchange of experience and encourage mutual knowledge and recognition of study programs and reciprocal access to higher education.
The program covers the geographical area of all EU member states, as well as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, East Timor, India, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, People's Republic of China (excluding Hong Kong and Macao), Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.
More information is provided at http://europa.eu.int/comm/europeaid/tender/index_en.htm. Questions can be faxed to (32-2) 2991062 or e-mailed to address firstname.lastname@example.org.
 EU accession treaty reviewed in Brussels
BRUSSELS 06/02/2003 (ANA-G.Zitouniati)The council of representatives for the EU’s 15 member states completed here on Wednesday the legal review of the text of the accession treaty for the 10 candidate countries, scheduled to accede the Union in 2004.
According to sources, the council approved some unilateral demands and declarations by candidate countries, to the extent that their implementation does not interfere with EU legislation. The text of the accession treaty will be delivered to the 10 countries next Monday for final approval within a set date. It would then be tabled in the European Parliament and will be officially endorsed by the enlarged 25-member EU, in Athens on April 16.
 Deputy FM Loverdos meets Senator Sarbanes, State Department official Bogue
WASHINGTON 06/02/2003 (ANA)Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos, during his visit here within the framework of events marking ''National Prayer Breakfast'', on Wednesday met with Maryland Senator Paul Sarbanes with whom he discussed current political developments.
The minister also met Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Eurasian Affairs Janet Bogue who he briefed on Greece's plan for the economic reconstruction of the Balkans.
 Parliament committee unanimously approves bill on ministers' liability
Athens, 06/02/2003 (ANA)Members of Parliament’s public administration, public order and justice committee have unanimously approved, in principle, a bill referring to the issue of “ministers’ criminal liability”.
In subsequent statements, Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos said the ministry’s obligations have concluded in regards to amending the Constitution’s executive branch articles.
One of the noteworthy provisions in the draft legislation shifts the investigatory phase from Parliament to a special judicial council within the framework of the special court regime. Another provision does away with the institution of appointing a Parliament deputy as the public prosecutor in such cases.
 PM meets PASOK Secretary; focus of talks not revealed
Athens, 06/02/2003 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis received PASOK Central Committee Secretary Costas Laliotis on Wednesday for a meeting that lasted 90 minutes, though Laliotis refused to make any statement regarding their discussion afterwards.
According to sources, there was no fixed agenda for the meeting and there had been a free discussion that covered issues such as the prospects of war in Iraq and the participation by PASOK in anti-war demonstrations planned for February 15, the progress of the government's program, yesterday's debate in Parliament and the reconstruction of the movement.
 ELA terrorist group suspects given stay for testimonies until Thursday
Athens, 06/02/2003 (ANA)Three persons arrested over the weekend on charges of participation in the Revolutionary Popular Struggle (ELA) terrorist group, in the first of four ELA-related arrests, on Wednesday asked for and received an extension for preparing their testimonies by Examining Magistrate Leonidas Zervobeakos.
Irini Athanasaki, 49, a private employee who is believed to be the ELA member codenamed ''Myrto'' and was the first of the three detainees to appear before Zervobeakos on Wednesday morning, asked for an extension to prepare her testimony. It was as yet unclear whether her testimony had been rescheduled for Thursday or Friday.
Another suspect, Aggeletos Kanas, 52, an electrician by trade and currently community president of the remote Western Aegean island of Kimolos, was given a stay to Thursday noon by Zervobeakos to prepare his testimony, while the third suspect, 56-year-old civil engineer Constantine Agapiou, had his testimony rescheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Thursday.
Counter-terrorism police on Saturday in Athens detained Kanas on a train station platform in Athens in the first ELA-related arrest in an ongoing swoop on terrorism.
Aggeletos is believed to be the group member known by the codename ''George'', while Agapiou is believed to be the member known as ''Philippe''.
All three who were slated to appear before Zervobeakos on Wednesday have initially denied the charges.
A fourth ELA-related arrest was made early Tuesday morning, when counter-terrorism police detained another civil engineer, 64-year-old Christos Tsigaridas, who is believed to be 'Andrew', the organization’s theoretician and its contact with international terrorist 'Carlos the Jackal'.
Tsigaridas, who was arrested at his home in the upscale Athens suburb of Paleo Psychico, initially denied involvement during questioning by counter-terrorism police, but according to reliable sources later confessed to having been an ELA member and assumed ''political responsibility'' for the group throughout the years of his involvement, but declined to speak about other group members or activities.
Tsigaridas was also scheduled to appear before Zervobeakos on Thursday.
Meanwhile, sources said that Kanas' ex-wife, Sophia Kyriakidou, testified before Zervobeakos on Tuesday that Kanas was a member of ELA, and that Athanasaki was a member of the terrorist group's 'Revolutionary Council'.
Kyriakidou further testified that Kanas' present wife, Eleni Ventouri, was aware of Kanas' activities, claiming she had seen Ventouri in an Athens apartment believed to have been used by ELA as a safe house.
Preliminary inquiry into leaks of ELA suspects' names to the press: Primary Court Public Prosecutor Sotiris Bagias on Wednesday ordered a preliminary inquiry into how the names of suspects involved in the ELA terrorism case had been leaked to the press prior to their arrest.
The inquiry will also cover leaks of material from the preliminary interrogation of the suspects.
The case has been assigned to primary court public prosecutor Maria Malouhou.
''Islam-phobia'' round-table discussion organized by EU Commission BRUSSELS
06/02/2003 (ANA - A. Diamantopoulou)The European Commission on Monday announced the organizing of a round table discussion on the issue of "Islam-phobia" here in Brussels on Tuesday, at the instigation of Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou.
Experts on Islam, sociology and commentators in the mass media will participate in the discussion that will focus on phenomena of what came to be called "Islam-phobia", emphasizing the phenomena of violence and changes in attitudes that were observed in Europe following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack in New York.
 Venizelos meets with UNESCO's General Director in Paris
PARIS 06/02/2003 (ANA - O. Tsipira)Greek Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Tuesday met with UNESCO General Director Koichiro Matsuura at UNESCO's headquarters here in Paris.
Venizelos, on a three-day visit in the French capital to participate in Wednesday's conference of the International Network for Cultural Policy (RIPC), told reporters after the meeting that Matsuura was a ''friend of Greece'' with whom he had close cooperation.
The Greek minister, currently president of the EU culture ministers council, briefed the UNESCO general director on the priorities of the Greek EU presidency, as well as on issues of common interest, including the Cultural Olympiad and the issue of the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.
''Our contacts with the British side are direct, but the process within the framework of UNESCO under the aegis of General Director Koichiro Matsuura is always very important to us'', the Greek minister said, adding that ''it is indicative that a photo exhibition will be inaugurated in April on UNESCO premises in Paris for the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles.''
The 5th century B.C. Marbles were removed from the Parthenon by British diplomat Lord Elgin in the early 19th century with tacit permission of local Ottoman administrators then ruling in the area. Elgin removed the friezes and other parts of the impressive Parthenon temple, dedicated to the ancient goddess Athena, and sold them to the British Museum in 1816, where they have been housed since.
Greece has repeatedly requested the return of the Marbles to Greece from the British Museum in London.
 Greek Environment Minister Papandreou addresses UNEP summit in Nairobi
Athens, 06/02/2003 (ANA)Greek Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou said on Wednesday that the European Union recognized the important contribution of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and understands the complicated environmental challenges and their link to viable development, mainly to the connection of poverty with environmental downgrading, an issue particularly important for Africa.
Speaking at the 22nd summit of the ministerial council of UNEP and of the UN World Environment Ministerial Forum in Nairobi, Kenya on Wednesday, Papandreou said the EU supports initiatives which support regional and inter-regional cooperation within a strong framework of international environmental governance.
The Greek minister noted that the EU will remain a reliable partner on an international level, with the aim of promoting viable development worldwide and in enlarged Europe, with a vision of peace and stability.
Papandreou further underlined the EU's particular interest in two initiatives which concern water and energy, stressing that the initiative for water is centered in Africa and it is expected that it will strengthen its recognition of water as an important factor for a reduction in poverty and viable development. The EU's energy initiative concerns an increase in access to qualitative, cheap and clean energy, taking into account the importance of energy in reducing poverty, the minister concluded.
 Jerusalem Patriarch sends condolences for tragic 'Columbia' accident
Athens, 06/02/2003 (ANA)Jerusalem Patriarch Irineos has sent condolence telegrams to United States President George Bush and Israeli President Moshe Katzav expressing his deep sorrow over the unexpected and tragic destruction of the space shuttle ''Columbia'' and the deaths of the seven astronauts on board, it was announced on Wednesday.
 Main opposition leader due in Thessaloniki on Friday
Athens, 06/02/2003 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis is due to visit Thessaloniki on Friday at the invitation of the party's Thessaloniki youth group ONNED, who have asked him to cut their New Year cake at a Thessaloniki club.
 Aegean ministry to digitally monitor island geography
Athens, 06/02/2003 (ANA)The Aegean ministry is to introduce a new digital system for processing geographical data in order to track changes in the morphology and topography of islands, it was announced on Wednesday.
The new system will make detailed records of the islands and create complete, up-to-date digital topographical maps that will give a clear image of any changes, such as erosion of coastlines, changes in biodiversity, the precise acreage of burnt forest and other data.
It will also be useful for accurately determining land use and island infrastructure, with records of new roads that are not recorded on existing maps, including minor agricultural or forest tracks, water networks and the borders of municipalities and communities.
The program will be named "Geographic System of the Aegean Islands" was created by a scientific team at Thessaloniki University specializing in remote monitoring of forests and the natural environment.
The system uses the US satellite Ladsat and the Indian IRS produce a composite picture combining information from both.
As part of the program, which was funded by the Aegean ministry and the European Union, 750 islands and islets between Samothrace and Kastellorizo have been recorded on new digital maps, while more detailed records have been compiled for Lesvos.
 Gov’t concludes review of Third Community Support Framework programs
Athens, 06/02/2003 (ANA)The Greek government on Wednesday concluded a round of talks aimed to examine progress in implementing a Third Community Support Framework program.
Prime Minister Costas Simitis met with Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis and Deputy Minister Christos Pahtas, Agriculture Minister George Drys, Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister Kostas Skandalidis and Health and Welfare Minister Costas Stephanis.
Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, Mr Christodoulakis said that a Third Community Support Framework program was the main growth engine of the Greek economy. ''Our aim is to accelerate, simplify and implement these programs around the country, particularly those program covering many small enterprises and wider social groups such as farmers,'' Christodoulakis said.
The Greek minister stressed that the government has given solutions to existing problems and said he believed that the program would drastically accelerate in the next few months.
 National Bank's report on Greek exports, bond yields
Athens, 06/02/2003 (ANA)The prospects of Greek exports depend crucially upon the ability of the Greek exporting industry to improve its competitiveness, National Bank of Greece said on Wednesday.
In its monthly bulletin "Economic & Market Analysis", the bank stressed that the Greek export product and services needed to improve their quality to compete efficiently in international markets and stave off competition from competitors that threatened the country's comparative advantage in sectors like tourism and manufacturing.
"The Greek economy is still relatively closed in comparison with the euro area average and with other southern European countries. The respective shares of exports and imports and goods and services to GDP were: Spain 31 percent exports, 33 percent imports, Portugal 35 percent and 44 percent respective and the euro area 38 percent and 35 percent respectively, compared with 24 percent and 62 percent in Greece".
To low exports to GDP ratio can be attributed, inter alia, to the longer distance between Greece and the "core" euro area countries that are the major markets for its exports. Transportation costs are positively correlated with distance, with the relations especially pronounced for services such as tourism, perishable agricultural products.
Greece, however, has succeeded in increasing its market share of goods and services during the past seven years, from 5.8 percent in 1995 to 6.5 percent in 2001. This increase in market share is prima facie evidence that the competitiveness of Greek exports has increased despite a 7 percent increase in the real exchange rate over the same period. Other important factors are the structure of domestic demand in the Balkan economies and Central Eastern European countries.
The bank, however, estimates that the price elasticity of Greek exports is relatively low, suggesting that it will be difficult to compete on price. To increase the market share of Greek exports further, an export strategy should aim to increase the income elasticity of Greek exports though an increase in the quality of exports and, of course, raising their value added as well.
The narrowing of yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German state bonds, by 12 basis points in the period December 2001-January 2003, was the fifth highest in the euro area and reflected the underperformance of German Bunds, driven by Germany's economic weakness.
Improving Greek fundamentals supported the spread tightening.
The bank expects the Greek bond spread for the next several months to remain at its current low levels (around 25 bps), mainly supported by continuing fiscal imbalances in Germany and adverse global macroeconomic conditions that increase demand for fixed income securities and keep global interest rates at their current low levels.
 PM to have successive meetings with agriculture minister
Athens, 06/02/2003 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis will have two more meetings with Agriculture Minister George Drys before next Tuesday, in addition to a meeting on Wednesday and one earlier in the week, the government announced.
The meeting between Simitis and Drys on Friday will discuss preparations for a government meeting on developing the countryside, which is to convene at the prime minister's office next Tuesday.
Drys said that Wednesday's meeting had also focused on the absorption of funds from the 3rd Community Support Frame-work's program for fishing.
According to the figures given, absorption of EU funds currently stands at 5.34 per cent and is expected to reach 7.8 per cent in March. The aim is to bring absorption rates to 15 per cent by the end of June, Drys added.
The government meeting on Tuesday would discuss the training and education of Greek farmers, he said.
 Labor unions discuss joint functions and events program
Athens, 06/02/2003 (ANA)The national coordinating council of the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) and the Civil Servants Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY) on Wednesday discussed convergence between the two labor unions with the prospect of their unification.
A program agreed between them includes the creation of work groups to prepare proposals within the year on joint infrastructures and functions on issues concerning international relations, equality, culture and sport.
Joint action is also anticipated in the sectors of unemployment, immigration, social security, health, education, the 35-hour work week and national problems.
The coordinating council will convene again after six months.
In another development, a meeting between Greek, Turkish and Cypriot labor unions began at an Athens hotel on Wednesday, at the initiative of GSEE and ADEDY.
Issues to be examined are necessary interventions to safeguard peace in the region, support for Turkey's European prospect and backing for negotiations for a just solution to the Cyprus issue.
 Greece, Turkey sign tourism protocol
Athens, 06/02/2003 (ANA)Greece and Turkey signed a tourism protocol in Athens on Wednesday during a visit by the neighboring country's tourism minister.
Signed by Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and Turkish Tourism Minister G. Aksit, the protocol focuses on the promotion in Europe of the two countries as tourism venues.
In addition, joint tourism plans will be evolved to destinations including the US, China and Russia, Tsohatzopoulos told re-porters after the meeting.
In addition, attempts will also be made to achieve the free movement of tourists between the two countries through a flexible application of the Schengen Treaty, he added.
Also to be discussed by a newly created bilateral tourism committee are the creation of a ferry route that would link the Turkish port of Izmir to the Aegean islands, Thessaloniki and Piraeus; and another to connect Imvros and Limnos.
''The protocol will create an interesting market,'' Aksit said.
 Gov't holds meeting on 'Information Society' program
Athens, 06/02/2003 (ANA)Speeding up the implementation of ''Information Society'' program projects by government ministries was the focus of a ministers' meeting called on Wednesday by Prime Minister Costas Simitis.
The meeting gave the go-ahead to 162 projects that were ready to be immediately implemented within 2003, with the first batch due to be announced in spring.
Present at the meeting were Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, Deputy Finance Minister in charge of the 3rd Community Support Framework Christos Pahtas, Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis, Health Minister Costas Stefanis and Agriculture Minister George Drys.
It was ascertained that efforts to get the program off the ground were now being intensified, with moves to promote projects and to exert pressure on agencies that were seen to delay.
The first phase was to compile a list of projects to be immediately promoted in the first and second half of 2003, which would be given priority treatment in terms of procedure.
Also targeted were projects by ministries that showed a low rate of implementation of programs, such as the health ministry, the agriculture ministry and others.
 Merchant Marine Minister reports on shipping sector's deregulation
Athens, 06/02/2003 (ANA)A second phase of deregulation in the domestic shipping sector is progressing smoothly with shipping companies submitting around 350 shipping lines with 288 vessels, Merchant Marine Minister George Anomeritis said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, during a news conference, Mr Anomeritis said that from applications submitted so far there were not foreign shipping companies included.
The Greek minister stressed that the ministry would formally announce the new shipping lines by February 20.
''Through procedures of constantly improving an existing regulatory framework, our country will implement those rules that would enhance competition and benefit consumer, while also balancing a relation between business activity and offering public utility services. The merchant marine ministry's priorities are to promote regional growth, social cohesion, and to better service Greek islands and their inhabitants,'' Mr Anomeritis said.
 Greek stocks plunge to five-year lows
Athens, 06/02/2003 (ANA)Greek stocks plunged to new five-year lows on Wednesday hit by worries over domestic economic developments and fears of a possible war in Iraq.
The general index ended 0.59 percent lower at 1,657.43 points, with turnover a low 69.7 million euros.
The Telecommunications sector was the only one to score gains (0.14 percent), while all other sectors suffered losses.
Bond Market Close: Sellers outstrip buyers on Wednesday
Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 37.3 mln euros Wednesday
Equity Index Futures:
Day's Market Turnover: 37.3 mln euros
Solution appears for Olympic preparations' funding 'gap'
A highly anticipated meeting between Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, the head of the Athens 2004 Olympics organizing committee (ATHOC), was concluded here on Wednesday morning, following a one-day postponement and amid widespread media speculation in the wake of Monday's deliberations over who will cover a 750-million-euro “difference” in various 2004-related budgets.
According to government sources shortly after the meeting, there is absolutely no issue of high-profile Angelopoulos-Daskalaki resigning –one of the purported scenarios reported by some local media outlets over the past few days– whereas the same sources said a compromise has been worked out for the 750 million euros needed to ensure that all projects and Olympic preparations, including overlays, are completed on time.
 Society for "Nikos Kazantzakis" announces int'l schedule of events for 2003
Athens, 06/02/2003 (ANA)The International Society of Friends of Nikos Kazantzakis scheduled events in countries of Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia for 2003, according to a press release issued by the coordinating committee of the society that has members in some 77 countries around the world.
The society was established in 1988 in Geneva, as a non-profit organization aiming to promote the work and school of thought of Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957), one of Greece's most prolific writers.
Organized chapters of the society can be found in Chile, Morocco, Luxembourg, Jordan Finland and Turkey, to name just a few of the 77 countries listed in the long list of friends of the modern Greek writer and poet who's work was translated in more languages than any other.
''The work and thought of Nikos Kazantzakis continues to be of interest for many researchers and academics and everyday citizens in all five continents,'' the press release stated, adding ''for 2003 the society has scheduled, in cooperation with Greek and foreign agencies, events, in Africa, Middle East and Central Asia''.
The Congo, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Senegal, the Sudan, Gabon, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Syria, Oman, Kazakhstan, Kirghistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are included in the list of countries were events will take place in 2003.
Also in 2003 the society, in cooperation with the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) is organizing a writing contest on Kazantzakis' monograph ''The life of Alexis Zorbas''.
 Clerides and Denktash meet at negotiating table
NICOSIA 06/02/2003 (CNA/ANA)President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash met here on Wednesday for about two hours, in the context of the UN-led peace talks to solve the Cyprus problem but no discussion on the contentious issue of territory took place.
''Today Denktash refused to discuss this issue, he was accompanied by a map expert but there was no talk on territory. The Turkish Cypriot leader said he would have to get instructions from the so-called parliament in Turkish occupied Cyprus tomorrow,'' Alecos Markides, Clerides' top legal aide said after the meeting.
He said Denktash was ''more negative at today's meeting than in the past and so were the members of his negotiating team.''
Asked if a second revised UN plan may be submitted after this month's presidential elections, to be put at a referendum on the basis of take it or leave it, Markides said there is information to this effect, which is particularly alarming.
President Clerides and the Greek government are especially concerned about this prospect and this is why the UN is being encouraged not to act in this direction, he said.
''If the UN puts forward a plan on a take it or leave it basis, personally I would consider it a grave political error on their part,'' he said.
Wednesday meeting took place in the presence of the UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto and the aides of the leaders of the two communities.
Negotiations are on the basis of a UN peace plan, which Secretary General Kofi Annan put forward to the two sides in December. Annan may present a second revised plan in the not too distant future in a bid to clinch an agreement before the February 28 deadline he set out in the original proposal.
 UN envoy to brief Annan in New York on Cyprus
NICOSIA 06/02/2003 (CNA/ANA)The UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto will travel to New York next week to inform UN chief Kofi Annan on the latest developments on Cyprus.
Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash will meet again on February 7 and 10 within the framework of the UN-led direct talks on Cyprus.
CNA has learned that after the meeting on February 10, de Soto will leave for New York to brief Annan. Next Wednesday there will not be a meeting within the framework of the direct talks because of the Muslim Feast of Sacrifices. The next meeting will take place on February 14 in de Soto's presence.