|Friday, 28 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-02-15
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>February 15, 2003
 FM Papandreou says window of opportunity still exists in Iraq crisis
NEW YORK 15/02/2003 (ANA/P. Panagiotou)Foreign Minister George Papandreou, speaking to reporters after the UN Security Council's session on the disarmament of Iraq on Friday, said ''there is still a window of opportunity.''
Papandreou said that ''we are calling for the implementation of resolution 1441'', adding that at the same time ''we are sending a strong message to Saddam Hussein.''
The foreign minister, who will arrive in Cairo, Egypt, on Sunday to meet his counterparts from Arab countries, also expressed hope for a single voice on behalf of the Arab world.
'Being the EU, we support the Arab world and we are seeking a peaceful solution to the crisis of Iraq,'' he said.
''The two inspectors gave us a full picture of how the situation is today,'' he said, adding that ''a great deal has yet to be done.''
Referring to Monday's EU special summit, Papandreou said ''we do not fear the discussion and our purpose is to exit with a single voice. We invited Kofi Annan to be there and he accepted our invitation.''
Papandreou held talks on the sidelines of the Security Council's session with the two weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Mohamed El Baradei, his U.S. and Russian counterparts Colin Powell and Igor Ivanov, the four foreign ministers of the Security Council's EU member-states (France, Britain, Germany and Spain), the Chinese foreign minister and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan with whom he also discussed the issue of Cyprus.
''We discussed Mr. Annan's trip to Ankara, Athens and Nicosia and once again we reiterated our desire for a solution to the problem of Cyprus,'' Papandreou said.
Issues related to the Brussels summit were discussed with the four EU foreign ministers.
''We analyzed Monday's procedure. We are a democratic Union. It will not be a summit to agree among ourselves. A substantive discussion will take place. We shall try to bring the different voices together to exit with a single voice. The Greek presidency will make every effort to have a single voice achieved,'' he added.
 PM and UN high commissioner for Refugees discuss Iraq crisis
Athens, 15/02/2003 (ANA)Up to 600,000 Iraqis were expected to flee their country in the event of a war in Iraq and neighboring countries would have to make preparations to receive them, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers stressed on Friday after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis.
Lubbers said the U.N. had started contacting countries around Iraq, such as Iran, Turkey, Syria and Jordan, and also Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, so they would be ready to meet the needs that would arise and would be sending staff to these countries to organize the situation in collaboration with the Red Cross.
Iran is expected to receive some 40 per cent of Iraqi refugees and Turkey some 30-40 per cent, with about 20-30 per cent opting for Jordan and Syria.
The U.N. High Commissioner congratulated Simitis for calling a European Council over Iraq and stressed the need for a common EU policy on refugees and immigration generally. He also expressed hope that the European Commission would issue a directive for cooperation with the U.N. High Commission for Refugees.
Lubbers stressed that preparations must be made so that refugees from Iraq were not forced to flee as far as Europe, while warning that EU countries might have to accept a number of refugees while they awaited repatriation.
He also noted the international community would have to provide funds for handling the refugees, with initial costs estimated at around 60 million dollars. So far, the United States has pledged to give 15 million dollars.
He asked the Greek premier, who currently heads the European Council, to raise the issue within the EU.
 Greek EU presidency continues efforts to coordinate the ''15'' vis-a-vis Iraq
BRUSSELS 15/02/2003 (ANA - G. Zitouniati)The Greek Presidency is making all efforts possible toward a common EU stance vis-a-vis the specter of war in Iraq, in light of an informal EU Summit to be held Monday in Brussels.
A presidency spokesman on Friday said relevant preparations would take place on a foreign ministry political directors level a day before the summit, where every effort would be made to consolidate the views of the ''15'' regarding Iraq. However, he refrained from specifying whether this would take the form of a statement, while not ruling out even the adoption of a text, if possible, despite the informal nature of the Summit.
With regard to a letter sent on Thursday to Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, currently the president of the European Council, from British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the spokesman said it constituted a contribution to the process for consolidating views.
Replying to press questions regarding the non-participation of Associate-Members in either Monday morning's foreign ministers Council or the Summit on Monday evening, he pointed out that there was no institutional framework for their participation, although he added that as far as the Greek Presidency was concerned, they were considered guests and that they would be briefed by the Greek prime minister and foreign minister on Tuesday morning.
The Presidency's spokesman also made a special note with regard to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's participation at Monday's informal Summit, as well as the briefing of the European Parliament by Simitis on Tuesday morning.
 PM's letter to EU counterparts on Monday's informal Summit
Athens, 15/02/2003 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis, currently European Union Council President, on Thursday addressed a letter to his EU counterparts outlining the reasons for which he decided to convene an informal EU summit to be held in Brussels on Monday, and also provided the itinerary for the summit.
The full text of the letter is as follows: ''As you are aware, the (Greek EU) Presidency has placed top priority on the effort to ensure a common stance of the '15' on the Iraq issue. The conclusions of the General Affairs Council of 27 January, as well as the demarche by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union on 4 February, were met with everyone's agreement (including the Associate members) on a broad spectrum of points, and they were welcomed by the other key players of the international community.
''Nevertheless, it is now apparent that the current crisis will soon reach a new, perhaps decisive, turning point. Therefore, I deem it important that we get together and discuss the recent developments, especially in light of the report that the UN (weapons) inspectors will deliver to the UN Security Council on 14 February 2003.
''I also feel that we should not forget the implications of the Iraq issue on the Middle East Peace Process, which, in my opinion, requires, more than ever, to be reinvigorated, as well as on the broader issue of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
''Accordingly, taking under consideration the seriousness of the situation, and further to consultations with all partners, I decided to convene an emergency informal meeting of the European Council on 17 February 2003, in Brussels.
''The meeting will start at 6.00 p.m., to be followed by a working dinner at 7.30 p.m. and a press conference by the Presidency. European Parliament President Pat Cox will make brief opening remarks at the meeting, and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will be with us, at the latest by 7.30 p.m.
''Our meeting will be preceded by a preparatory meeting of the Foreign Ministers in the morning of the same day. That meeting will start at 11.00 a.m., followed by a working lunch.
''The Associate member countries will be briefed by the Presidency, at the level of Head of State or Government, on Tuesday, 18 February 2003.''
 Greek EU presidency confirms receiving letter from UK PM
Athens, 15/02/2003 (ANA)Government spokesman Christos Protopapas on Friday confirmed that Prime Minister Costas Simitis, current head of the European Council, had received a letter from his British counterpart Tony Blair but refused to reveal the letter's contents.
Protopapas said the Greek presidency of the European Union respected the views of its EU partners and stressed that it could not make the letter public.
''That depends on Mr. Blair,'' he added.
Regarding the emergency summit called by the Greek presidency on Monday to discuss the Iraq crisis, Protopapas reiterated that the goal of the meeting was ''an open and clean discussion'' on the issue.
The spokesman said the Greek presidency would present its proposals during the course of the discussion but pointed out that difficulties remained because of divergent views on the issue within the Union.
In a letter sent to 14 EU leaders on Thursday outlining the goals of the emergency meeting, Simitis noted that the ''current crisis will soon reach a new, possibly critical turning point'' and invited them to examine the Iraq issue ''and its repercussions on the Middle East peace process.''
 KKE presents resolution on Iraq war to Parliament
Athens, 15/02/2003 (ANA)Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga on Friday presented a resolution on the prospects of a war in Iraq voted by a recent meeting of communist parties and movements to Parliament Speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis.
The resolution will be read out in the Greek Parliament.
 Greek ambassador briefs US House of Reps subcommittee on EU presidency goals
WASHINGTON 15/02/2003 (ANA - T. Ellis)Greek Ambassador to Washington George Savvaides and Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation to Washington Gerard Depayer on Thursday briefed in closed session the US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Europe about the Greek EU presidency's priorities and the EU position on a variety of trade and economic issues.
The US representatives raised issues including the crisis in transatlantic relations due to recent disagreement between the US and some European allies vis-a-vis the Iraq issue, also expressing the hope that these problems will be soon dissolved; the future of Europe and the development of the new European Constitution; the development of a common EU external relations policy; the prospects of a European rapid reaction force contingent in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; anti-Semitism phenomena in Europe; developments in the Middle East; and the prospects for a solution to the Cyprus issue.
They also expressed complaints over the EU not opposing the selection of Libya to the presidency of the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva.
The Greek ambassador told the US representatives that transatlantic relations and EU member-states unity were presently being tested not only on a US-EU level, but also outside NATO and the UN Security Council, and emphasized the importance of the two legislative bodies, Europarliament and US Congress, tightening transatlantic relations, and not only during periods of crises.
Savvaides explained the role of the EU in reinvigorating the peace process in the Middle East and also in condemning any anti-Semitism manifestations in Europe.
He also briefed the representatives on the current status of the Cyprus issue, with the EU accession of the island republic on the way and given the will of both Greek and Cypriot governments to seek a solution on the political problem even after 16 April, the date on which the EU Accession Treaty will be signed for ten candidate countries, including Cyprus.
The president of the Subcommittee expressed appreciation for the work of the Greek EU presidency and lauded Athens for its stance both in NATO and the EU.
 Gov't flatly denies rumors that Cyprus EU accession at risk
Athens, 15/02/2003 (ANA)Government spokesman Christos Protopapas on Friday flatly denied rumors that Cyprus' accession to the European Union might be at risk.
Protopapas described the rumors as "nonsense" and said that no such issue had been raised within the EU at any time.
"It is known that Cyprus' accession is separate from a solution to the Cyprus problem," he said.
 Deputy FM meets separately with Lebanese, Syrian envoys
Athens, 15/02/2003 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Andreas Loverdos on Friday received the Lebanese and Syrian ambassadors here in separate meetings, with bilateral economic relations on the agenda in both contacts.
Loverdos’ meeting with Lebanese ambassador to Athens William Farid Habib comes in light of the former’s official visit Lebanon at the end of the month for the convening of a joint Greece-Lebanon ministerial committee meeting.
During Friday’s contacts, the Greek deputy FM briefed Habib over Athens’ intention to continue and expand development aid to the Mideast country via the funding of various NGOs. He also cited a need for further expanding business ties between the two countries.
On his part, the Lebanese ambassador also emphasized the need for greater business ties, noting the traditional ties of friendship between the two peoples.
During Loverdos’ later meeting with Syrian ambassador Souad M. Al-Ayoubi, both officials also discussed bilateral economic relations and Athens’ developmental aid in light of a similar bilateral inter-ministerial committee meeting in Damascus (Feb. 22-23).
Another area of discussion centered on a meeting between Greek foreign ministry officials and the NGO “Fardos”, which focuses on women’s issues in Syria and is headed by the wife of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
Finally, the Syrian ambassador expressed her concerns over the situation in the Gulf, particularly for the region’s civilians, while Loverdos outlined Greece’s actions to date, both on the national level and as the current EU president.
 Simitis-Laliotis meeting on PASOK planning
Athens, 15/02/2003 (ANA)Prime Minister and ruling PASOK leader Costas Simitis receiving party Secretary Costas Laliotis on Friday, with the latter announcing afterwards that there was “never any issue of” toeing the party line in Thursday’s vote on a controversial law banning deputies from engaging in other professional activities during their term of office
The government saw its first defeat within Parliament on Thursday when a majority of MPs rejected the bill. Out of 289 deputies in attendance, 149 voted against, 140 votes in favor and three abstained. The bill was opposed by all three opposition parties, three independent MPs as well as eight ruling PASOK MPs, including former ministers.
The bill aimed at preventing deputies’ conflicts of interest.
On Friday, Laliotis referred to sharp criticism by the main opposition New Democracy party and particularly its leader, Costas Karamanlis, saying that ND should request a vote of confidence by Parliament if it believes Thursday’s vote was a major defeat for the government.
Following the one-and-a-half-hour meeting, Laliotis added that ruling PASOK's political planning extends to the spring of 2004.
 ND leader lashes out at gov't over problems in public works
Athens, 15/02/2003 (ANA)Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis on Friday lashed out at the government over problems that appeared on the Athens-Tripoli-Kalamata national highway following recent heavy rains, where the road had in some places subsided so badly that it might have to be rebuilt from scratch.
Karamanlis launched into a tirade against the government after a meeting with local bodies in Messinia, after visiting problem sections of the highway during a tour of the eastern Peloponnese.
One of his first stops was the Sterna junction, where the road surface had literally collapsed and yawning rifts measuring tens of meters deep had opened up.
The main opposition leader was told that the problems on the road had first appeared in 1998 and that the process to carry out proper repairs had been initiated but had finally fallen through because the government failed to release the necessary funds. As a result, the road was inadequately ''patched-up'' and had collapsed and would take at least two to three years to be repaired.
Even worse were the problems along a new section of the highway at Tsakona, which had been inaugurated in March 2000. According to the president of the Greek Civil Engineers Association Dimitris Papagiannidis, terrain stability studies for that section of the roadway were either inadequate or non-existent and the road should never have been opened for use at all.
He said the cost of repairs would be several times that at Sterna, while it might even prove necessary to build a tunnel costing up to 12 billion drachmas.
After the meeting in Messinia, Karamanlis stressed that his party had for years maintained that the system for awarding public works was corrupt but had been accused of ''grey denial'' and of refusing to the government credit for its successes.
''Now that the Peloponnese has been cut into two, what does the government have to say,'' he asked.
He also stressed that someone was at fault and would have to pay and pledged that his party would exhaust all the means available through Parliament to ensure that this happened.
 Gov't challenges ND to act on claims of 'political instability'
Athens, 15/02/2003 (ANA)Government spokesman Christos Protopapas on Friday challenged main opposition New Democracy to ''put its money where its mouth was'' and act on its claims of political instability within ruling PASOK following the defeat of a government bill that banned MPs from holding other jobs.
The defeated bill executed an article passed by Parliament in the last revision of the Constitution that established absolute 'professional incompatibility for MPs'.
''If ND believes there is political instability, we challenge them: Let them try it. Let them propose a vote of confidence,'' he said.
Protopapas also underlined that the defeat of one bill did not raise doubts about the government's parliamentary majority (a necessary prerequisite for forming a government under the Greek system), while stressing that the issue of MP professional incompatibility was finally closed as far as the government was concerned.
''An account is given at the end and PASOK led by (Prime Minister) Costas Simitis will seek the electorate's vote and victory at the next elections,'' he added.
The spokesman also accused ND's deputies of being unreliable, opportunistic and of changing their stance on the incompatibility issue.
''Where are the 48 ND deputies that had signed in favor of absolute incompatibility,'' Protopapas asked.
 EU, Greek Presidency agree on UN proposal for Donors' Conference on Cyprus
Athens, 15/02/2003 (ANA)Greece’s Foreign Ministry issued an announcement on Friday, in which it expressed the EU’s support for an International Donors' Conference to look into ways to raise funds to cover the costs of a political settlement of the Cyprus problem.
The full text of the declaration is as follows:
“The European Union has noted that the issue of the substantial economic funds required for the implementation of the comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem, on the basis of the UN Secretary General's proposals and the deadlines for agreement making part of that plan, is of great significance to all Cypriots, thus deserving strong political and material support from the International Community. For this reason, the EU supports the UN proposal for an International Donors' Conference to be held soon after the signature of the political agreement and the reunification of Cyprus. The European Commission has already announced its readiness to organize the conference in question, after the signature of the Political Agreement.
“The objective of this conference would be to examine ways for the International Community to support the costs linked to the political settlement and the reconciliation of the two communities in Cyprus.
“The European Union has noted the wider support expressed for this proposal and calls on the international community and all international financial organizations to back this project and contribute to its goals, which will be to the benefit of all Cypriots and will help bring peace, security and stability to Cyprus and in the region as a whole.
“The Acceding Countries Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia, the Associated Countries Bulgaria, Romania, and the EFTA countries, members of the European Economic Area align themselves with this declaration”.
 Alpha Bank's decision to raise lending rates an isolated move, Finmin says
Athens, 15/02/2003 (ANA)A decision by Alpha Bank to raise its lending interest rates was an isolated policy and was in full contrast with an international trend of lower interest rates, in an effort to boost global economy and to leave unharmed a current climate of uncertainty and recession, Greek Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said on Friday.
Speaking to reporters, after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis to discuss economic developments, Mr Christodoulakis dismissed talk that higher bank lending interest rates were the reaction to a government's decision to issue so-called ''popular'' state securities offering increased returns to small investors.
''This has nothing to do with it. This is a ludicrous,'' he noted.
The Greek minister stressed that the Greek banking system was not dictated by government choices and that banks have offered a lot to the country's development.
He added, however, that the banking system in order to play his role should constantly seek improvement of its competitiveness and to offer new attractive investment and savings products, so that it would set off economic growth in Greece.
Commenting on his meeting with the prime minister, Mr Christodoulakis said they discussed developments in the Greek economy and the global situation in view of a possible war in Iraq.
The Greek minister stressed that the government's main economic policy goal was to give the necessary boost to the economy to defend itself in a current climate of uncertainty and the impact from a possible conflict.
Mr Christodoulakis said that a fall in the inflation rate in January to 3.1 percent from 3.4 percent in December, would allow the government to better deal with increased inflationary pressures in February.
Finmin says Alpha Bank rate rise bucks global trend: Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said on Friday that a steep hike in mortgage and lending rates announced by Alpha Bank bucked the global trend.
"This is an isolated policy, which runs contrary to an observable world reduction and de-escalation in interest rates that is happening to tone up a global effort to keep economies steady, allowing them to emerge as painlessly as possible from a current climate of uncertainty and recession," Christodoulakis told reporters.
Banks seen unlikely to follow Alpha in lending rate rise: Commercial banks are unlikely to follow Alpha Bank, which has announced steep increases in it mortgage and consumer loan rates, Deputy Finance Minister Christos Pahtas said on Friday.
''I do not think that remaining credit institutions will follow Alpha Bank's example,'' Pahtas told reporters in the northern town of Alexandroupoli.
''Banks cannot profiteer. They must work as helpers, show solidarity, and stand by efforts of Greece's business world, Greece's consumers, the Greek public to attain a better mortgage, a better consumer loan. I think nobody should deviate from this central aim of creating a more powerful economy,'' he added.
Monti sees "fire" behind Greek banks' lending interest rates hikes: "Where there's smoke, there's fire," EU Competition Commissioner Mario Monti said on Friday commenting on a decision by Alpha Bank to rise its lending interest rates and the possibility of other commercial banks following this move.
Speaking to reporters in Athens, on the sidelines of a seminar organized by the Greek Competition Commission, Mr Monti said that role of a Competition Commission was not price control and in particular individual moves, although he stressed that when parallel changes were happening in the same time without necessary meaning the existence of cartel (in this case Greek banks), "where there's smoke, there's fire".
Competition Commission's chairman, Dimitris Tzouganatos, told reporters that the agency did not know yet if the move by Alpha Bank would be followed, but stressed that the Commission would monitor developments ahead of a regular European Central Bank meeting on monetary policy early next month.
Mr Tzouganatos said that the Commission has asked Alpha Bank to submit all cost figures justifying a decision to raise lending rates. "The Commission reserves the right to examine the case if the move (by Alpha Bank) evolves into a chain reaction".
In his speech, EU Commissioner said that European Competition Authorities were currently under heavy pressure by the industry and politicians and noted that national government should guarantee the independence of such agencies.
Mr Monti implied that a rising euro currency was not responsible for price rises in the eurozone, saying that prices rise where competition did not work.
Mr Tzouganatos urged the Greek government to re-examine measures of state intervention in domestic markets hindering the free functioning of competition.
The EU Commission also referred to the positive contribution of the Internet in pressuring down prices and the accession of new EU member-states that would prevent suppliers from maintaining high prices around Europe.
He admitted, however, that there were high prices in the EU "as a result of devious agreements between companies" and said that the auto industry was such an example. Mr Monti said that new regulation on car sales in the EU would benefit consumer, and in particular Greek consumers as pre-tax price of new cars in Greece were lower compared with the EU average.
The Commissioner said that a company could not benefit from a systematic state subsidy policy, because, under EU rules, a company could be saved only once. "Subsidized airline companies rarely offered low prices to consumers", Mr Monti said and added that there were other ways for a company to survive, like alliances."
Mr Monti said that the Athens 2004 Olympic Games would significantly boost new economy and stressed the possibilities presented to Intracom Group following a Commission approval of a purchase of a 41 percent equity stake in Siemens Tel.
The EU Commission expressed his confidence in the ability of the Greek EU Presidency to promote an EU Commission's proposal to abolish tax competition within the EU, by adopting discipline in national corporate taxation.
 Greek current accounts deficit widens to 9.12 bln euros in 2002
Athens, 15/02/2003 (ANA)Greece's current account balance recorded a 1.556 billion deficit in December, 447 million higher than in December 2001, the Bank of Greece said on Friday.
The central bank, in its monthly report, said that the increase resulted from the widening of the trade deficit and the narrowing in the services surplus. The income account deficit also increased, same as the transfers surplus.
The widening of the trade deficit was mainly accounted for by the significant rise in the net oil import bill during December. At the same time, the non-oil trade deficit grew slightly. The decrease in the services surplus mainly resulted from the apparent drop in net travel receipts.
The income account deficit increased in December 2002, mainly because of the rise in net payments for interest, dividends and profits. Finally, the increase in the transfer’s surplus reflects the rise in net receipts of general government (mainly net receipts from the EU) in that month.
In 2002, the current account deficit grew by 951 million euros, compared with that in 2001, and came to 9.120 billion euros. This development reflects mainly the narrowing of the transfers surplus and the widening of the trade deficit, the latter being connected to a rise in both the non-oil trade deficit and the net oil import bill. A small increase was also recorded in the income account deficit.
The non-oil trade deficit grew by 589 million euros in 2002, as a result of the considerable reduction (of 584 million euros) in export receipts, with the import bill remaining unchanged and net oil imports rising by 508 million euros.
In 2002, the services surplus increased, as the fall in net transport receipts was more than offset by the apparent considerable rise in net receipts from travel services.
The income account deficit rose in 2002, because of the fall in net receipts from fees and wages and the slight rise in net payments for interest, dividends and profits. Finally, the decrease in the transfers surplus is attributable to the drop both in the net receipts of ''other'' (non-general government) sectors and in net EU transfers.
Financial account balance: In December 2002, residents' direct investment abroad totalled 150 million euros, of which 101 million euros concerned the acquisition of BP Cyprus by Hellenic Petroleum. Under portfolio investment, a small net outflow of 46 million euros was recorded, mainly reflecting the large outflow of residents' funds for the purchase of foreign bonds, which, however, was offset to a large extent by the inflow of non-residents' funds for the purchase of Greek bonds and shares. As regards ''other investment'', a net inflow of 2.030 billion euros was recorded, connected mainly to the increase in deposits and repo holdings by non-residents.
In 2002, direct investment recorded net outflows of 643 million euros, mainly attributable to residents’ investment abroad. During the year, there was a substantial net inflow (of 10.938 billion euros) for portfolio investment, connected with the considerable inflow of foreign investors’ funds, mainly for the purchase of Greek bonds and, to a lesser extent, for the purchase of shares.
Finally, ''other investment'' recorded a net inflow of 1.999 billion euros. This development is connected to the considerable rise in deposits and repos holdings by non-residents in Greece and by residents abroad. It should also be noted, as far as liabilities are concerned, that repayment of general government loans was quite substantial (4.510 billion euros).
Greece’s reserve assets totalled 9 billion euros last year, compared with 7 billion euros at the end of 2001.
 Greek agriculture minister says Harbinson text not balanced
Athens, 15/02/2003 (ANA)The Greek ministry of agriculture on Friday issued an announcement presenting the statement of Agriculture Minister George Drys, currently presiding the EU Council of Ministers of Agriculture and Fishing, in response to proposals for agricultural reforms published by WTO chief of staff Stuart Harbinson, who chairs the WTO's agricultural committee.
The full text of the announcement follows below:
''The President of the EU Council of Ministers of Agriculture and Fishing, following the publication of the text of the WTO Agricultural Committee Chairman Stuart Harbinson regarding the negotiating modalities for a new Agricultural Agreement, stated the following:
The Harbinson text is not balanced and it deviates from Doha's agreed goals.
The European Union has already delivered a realistic offer to WTO, which it supports.
At the initiative of the Presidency, the issue will be tabled for discussion within the context of the upcoming Council of Ministers of Agriculture and Fishing on 20 February 2003''.
 EU Commission calls for refunds of farming subsidies
BRUSSELS 15/02/2003 (ANA - B. Demiris)The European Commission on Thursday announced that Greece and another eleven member-states will have to refund a total of 92.9 million euros they received in farming subsidies, as the funds were not dispensed in accordance with the EU standards.
Specifically, Greece will have to refund a total of 9.9 million euros, following controls by the Commission on the closing of accounts of the Common Agricultural Policy.
Commissioner Franz Fischler said hat the "European tax payers should receive assurances that their money is spent correctly".
Greece was called to refund a total 142.2 million euros, of a total of 295.9 million euros all 15 member-states refunded, while in 2001 the 15 refunded 807 million of which Greece refunded 107.4 million and in 2000 624.4 million of which Greece refunded 98.6 million.
 Development minister chairs informal ministerial conference on competitiveness
Athens, 15/02/2003 (ANA)The European Union must achieve three main targets to cover the entrepreneurship deficit it is presenting in comparison with the United States, which are more funds for research, the greater utilization of new technologies by businesses and the incorporation of entrepreneurship in the educational programs of EU member-states.
These targets were adopted during Friday's informal ministerial conference in Thessaloniki, northern Greece. The meeting was chaired by Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, in his capacity as president of the EU's Competitiveness Council, and attended by the relevant Commissioner Erkki Liikanen.
The achievement of these targets is also dictated by reports on the entrepreneurship deficit included in the ''Green Paper on entrepreneurship'' which Liikanen officially presented for the first time during Thursday's conference in Thessaloniki on ''The entrepreneurial future of Europe.''
Outlining the results of the ministerial conference, Tsohatzopoulos and Liikanen conveyed the joint assessment of EU member-states that small and medium-size businesses, which account for 95 per cent of businesses in Europe, form the backbone of the European economy and must be supported.
This is also necessitated by the great target set in Lisbon last year, according to which the European economy must be the most competitive and flexible economy internationally in 2010.
 EBEA urges government to adopt IMF's recommendations
Athens, 15/02/2003 (ANA)The Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) on Friday urged the government to adopt the recommendation of an IMF's report on the Greek economy and warned that the government "will make a grave mistake to ignore these recommendations and to add to the uncertainty of a possible war in Iraq the cost of postponing taking the necessary policy measures".
EBEA's president, Drakoulis Fountoukakos, commenting on the IMF's report, said that "following the EU's comments on the Greek economy, the IMF's report made it necessary to take new policy measures, to strictly adhere to budget provisions, to reduce public debt and to boost economic competitiveness".
"The government will either take new policy measures and wins market confidence or it will postpone them and move towards general elections burdened with negative reports by major international and domestic organizations," Mr Fountoukakos said.
EBEA urged the Greek government to set goals in restructuring the public sector, with smaller size and lower costs, deregulating domestic markets (education and labor), reducing corporate and income taxes, creating strong financial services and deciding a bold restructuring of the social security system.
 Greek shipowners meet with merchant marine ministry officials
Athens, 15/02/2003 (ANA)The Greek Shipowners' Association presidium met with merchant marine ministry officials on Friday for talks on repercussions from a possible war in Iraq concerning measures announced by the European Union for tankers and the transport of heavy petrol products.
The officials briefed the shipowners on developments in the EU work group concerning maritime transport, as well as on the general climate on the issue.
The shipowners detailed possible problems the new EU measures may have on shipping in connection with the possible war in Iraq.
 ASE ends week 0.31 percent higher
Athens, 15/02/2003 (ANA)Greek stocks rose slightly in the last trading session of a volatile week in the Athens Stock Exchange, reflecting investors' worries over geopolitical developments.
The general index rose 0.20 percent to end at 1,679.43 points, with turnover a low 50.8 million euros.
The Retail, Food-Beverage and Construction sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day (1.30 percent, 0.74 percent and 0.68 percent, respectively), while the IT Solutions, Textile and Insurance sectors suffered the heaviest losses (0.81 percent, 0.76 percent and 0.68 percent).
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks rose 0.34 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index ended 0.38 percent off, the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index eased 0.28 percent and the wider FTSE/ASE 140 index rose 0.16 percent.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 148 to 139 with another 70 issues unchanged. The general index ended the week with a net gain of 0.31 percent.
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 47.8 mln euros Friday
Equity Index Futures:
Day's Market Turnover: 47.8 mln euros
Bond Market Close: Sellers out match buyers on Friday
Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond
 Olympic organizers unveil humane stray animal initiative
Athens, 15/02/2003 (ANA)The Athens 2004 Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (ATHOC) has unveiled an unprecedented initiative to increase social and environmental awareness of the stray animal problem in Greece -- especially in the greater Athens area – with the allocation of 10 hectares of land in the Erythres district of northern Attica prefecture for a dog sanctuary.
It is estimated that there are approximately 20,000 stray animals in Attica alone, a problem that definitely has a negative influence on the city’s image, but one that can hopefully change for good in light of the coming Games.
According to ATHOC, the staging of the Olympic Games in Athens brings an opportunity for the development of a long-term policy to deal with the problem of strays in Athens but also in Greece as a whole.
With a year and a half to go before the upcoming Summer Games, Athens 2004 organizers have proposed an action plan in cooperation with the agriculture ministry, while local government authorities and animal protection societies are expected to lend their support.
The basic principle behind the initiative is not to have animals put down unless public health is threatened, organizers stressed. Instead, what is being proposed is an extensive program to collect and care for stray animals in the prefecture, with the emphasis being on medical treatment, including vaccinations and sterilization.
The success of the program will primarily depend on local government bodies, of course, which retain the primary responsibility in this sector.
The land at the Erythres site was turned over to ATHOC by the national defense ministry for use during the Olympic Games. The area is well suited to the creation of a dog sanctuary with modern facilities, as organizers said it is able to host up to 1,000 animals. In addition, ATHOC has also taken steps to secure funding for a program with important post-Olympics potential.
Finally, another important aspect of the program will be to better inform the public and increase awareness on the problem, with an animal adoption program envisioned as well.
 Woman in witness protection program giving testimony in 17N investigation
Athens, 15/02/2003 (ANA)A woman who has reportedly entered the witness protection program was said to be giving evidence to authorities on Friday on a 'November 17' terrorist group member alleged to have been a member of the police force and was currently abroad, sources said.
The sources said that the woman, who was giving testimony to examining magistrate Leonidas Zervobeakos, had a ''close friendship'' with a mystery woman linked with 17N victims Michalis Vranopoulos and Costis Peraticos and said to have had a relationship with the terrorist group's suspected leader Alexandros Giotopoulos in the past.
National Bank of Greece former governor Michalis Vranopoulos was killed and his driver injured in a 17N attack on January 24, 1994, while shipowner Costis Peraticos, a former shareholder and director of the Elefsis Shipyards, was assassinated by the group on May 28, 1997.
According to the sources, new arrests could be forthcoming after assessment of the information from the woman's deposition.
 Former bank governor gives evidence in N17-linked blackmail case
Athens, 15/02/2003 (ANA)Former National Bank of Greece governor Dimitris Germidis on Friday gave evidence to primary court prosecutor Dimitris Papaggelopoulos regarding the ongoing investigation into a blackmail case in which the terror group ''November 17'' was used to threaten extortion victims.
Germidis was also a witness in an investigation into the murder of Mihalis Vranopoulos, his predecessor at National Bank, by the same terrorist group.
Earlier on Friday, the prosecutor examined journalist Eleni Zamaria, who had been employed by newspaper publisher Grigoris Mihalopoulos and was also a witness in the Vranopoulos murder investigation.
Mihalopoulos has been implicated as a suspect in the blackmail case.
 Greek justice minister briefs Italian counterpart in Rome
ROME 15/02/2003 (ANA)Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos on Friday briefed his Italian counterpart Roberto Castelli on the current Greek EU presidency’s priorities in the sector, in light of Italy’s assumption of the Union’s presidency in the second half of 2003 and the convening of an unofficial justice and interior ministers’ council in Greece late next month.
Petsalnikos noted that the Greek presidency wants to table two items to the agenda of a March 28-29 ministers’ council in the northern Greek town of Veria, namely, a proposal ensuring a minimum of rights for defendants and suspects throughout the bloc as well as the course of talks over the future of Europe within the framework of the ongoing European Convention.
On his part, Castelli said the Italian side was pleased that former Ireland prime minister John Bruton, the current vice-president of the Convention of the Future of Europe, will attend the March meeting and brief the Union’s justice ministers on the body’s work.
 UN top envoy says things will change after April 16
NICOSIA 15/02/2003 (CNA/ANA)Alvaro de Soto, the UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus, has warned that failure to reach a negotiated settlement by the end of February means that things will change after April 16, when Cyprus is to sign its Accession Treaty with the European Union.
De Soto also said that Kofi Annan's visit to Ankara, Athens and Nicosia at the end of the month is not a coincidence and stressed that the Secretary General wants to press on with the need to complete an agreement and to make every effort to help the two sides in Cyprus to achieve this objective.
Speaking on arrival from New York on Friday, de Soto referred to the announcement by the Secretary General of ''his intention of coming to Cyprus in the last week of the month'' and his plans to visit Turkey and Greece before that.
''It is not a coincidence, there are two main reasons,'' he said.
He explained that ''the first is the deadline, the need to complete an agreement by the end of the month is a very real one and it is not a deadline that has been imposed by the Secretary General.''
''The second is that he believes that a settlement by then is a real possibility and he wants to make every effort at his disposal and within his reach to help the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots to bring about this goal,'' he added.
Asked if he brought a new UN peace plan, he said he was not going to say anything about a plan.
Invited to say whether it is possible to find a solution after February 28, he said that ''if you do not complete a settlement by that date, it would not be possible for a united Cyprus to sign the Treaty of Accession on the April 16.''
''That is the importance of the deadline because everything changes after April 16, and the opportunity that has existed until now disappears until something happens and that is totally uncertain'', he added.
 UN-led talks on Cyprus to continue Monday
NICOSIA 15/02/2003 (CNA/ANA)Another meeting took place Friday evening between President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, in the context of the ongoing UN-led talks to solve the Cyprus problem.
Friday's encounter, in the presence of the UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto, was rather brief, compared with previous meetings, which take place in the UN protected area within Nicosia Airport.
There was a slight delay to the start of the meeting, which was also attended by the aides of the two leaders.
The next meeting will take place on Monday morning.