|Friday, 24 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-06-19
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>June 19, 2003
 ND leader outlines party positions on European Constitution at EPP Summit
Athens, 19/06/2003 (ANA)The European Peoples' Party (EPP) on Wednesday began its enlarged Summit in the Halkidiki, northern Greece Sunny Convention Center with the participation of 10 prime ministers and 15 party leaders of the European Union's EPP parties.
Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis, who is hosting the Summit, presented his positions on the European Union draft Constitution, expressing reservations on the proposals of the constitutional assembly and criticizing the stance of the large counties of the Union.
''The proposals of the assembly tabled to date do not reflect fully the will of the majority of the Europeans on substantial changes, safeguarding the equitability on the Union's functions,'' Karamanlis said, adding ''we aim and hope that a way will be found, in light of the Intergovernmental Conference to arrive at and sign a text that will mean more to more people, a balanced text, not only between the opinions of the big ones, but between the hopes of all the states and all the peoples''.
He underlined that differences and amendments always constitute part of the democratic process, adding that of course in the end there will be an agreement, which ''will solve the problems and not create new ones''.
Karamanlis noted that his party supported the government in its obligations toward the EU presidency and stressed that ND supported the maintaining of the rotational presidency.
He added that ND supported the inclusion of an article in the constitution for the solidarity and mutual assistance, as well as the institution of a strengthened cooperation in defense.
''Despite the 22 years of our participation in the European family our citizens do not yet have the feeling of complete security, that is the feeling that a war is fully unthinkable at our borders, which are also the borders of the European Union. The European Constitution should secure the capability for autonomous action of the Union, when an agreement on a transatlantic framework can not be achieved,'' Karamanlis noted.
He also referred to the "necessity of strengthening the role of the European Commission and the Europarliament" and to the future enlargement of the Union, stressing that after Romania and Bulgaria the turn of the Western Balkans will be up.
Speaking of Turkey he said that its European prospects depend on its own speed toward the acquis communautaire of the Union.
EPP President Wilfried Martens also addressed this first day of the two day affair, saying that the result of the EU's constitutional assembly was positive and close to the opinions of the Christian-Democrat parties for the new Europe.
''If the big countries understand that the constitution is beneficial, then we will maintain a logical balance between the states and the institutions,'' he said.
 Simitis arrives at EU Thessaloniki Council venue
Athens, 19/06/2003 (ANA)Prime Minister and EU Council President in-office Costas Simitis arrived on Wednesday afternoon in Halkidiki’s Porto Carras resort for the EU Thessaloniki Council, opening here on Thursday.
According to the meeting’s schedule, Simitis' first meetings he-re on Thursday afternoon would include Convention on the Future of Europe President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, EU Com-mission President Romano Prodi and Javier Solana, High Representative for EU Common Foreign and Security Policy.
The Council will officially open Thursday afternoon with the first topic on the agenda being immigration and ways to fight illegal immigration.
Earlier on Wednesday, upon his arrival at Thessaloniki’s Macedonia Airport, Simitis said in a short statement that the two central matters to be examined by the Council are the draft EU Constitution, prepared by the Convention on the Future of Europe, and the effective fight against illegal immigration.
He stressed that it would be the first time that European heads are to talk about the new EU Constitution, adding that EU policy on the Balkans would also be extensively debated.
“We are to talk about how the EU would better cooperate with the Balkans; how we can get more funds for the development of Balkan nations; how we are to prepare their accession into the Union. I hope that in spite of differences and conflicts, the unifying process would go ahead, and I believe that we all wish to have a strong European Union,” Simitis said.
 FM supports European constitution ratification with referendum by Greek people
Athens, 19/06/2003 (ANA)Foreign Minister George Papandreou, appearing before Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed support on Wednesday for the ratification of the first European constitution by the Greek people with a referendum.
''We have here the re-establishment of the Union on the basis of a constitution and this constitutes a unique development. In essence, we are creating a 'supranational confederacy'... We must examine the ratification of the constitution with a referendum,'' he said.
On the question of mutual assistance, Papandreou said ''let us not downgrade even this step for mutual assistance. Not all countries want the EU to speak of mutual assistance. There are countries which dispute this and say that only NATO exists for our defense.''
He also hailed Thursday's presentation of the European Union's first defense doctrine by EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Defense Policy Javier Solana.
Referring to other issues, Papandreou said Greece benefits a-gain from the overall aspect of European convergence promotion.
Another interesting point in Wednesday's discussion was the issue of the Christian religion not being mentioned in the European constitution as an element of European civilization.
''Many member-states have the absolute separation of the state and the Church and they could not accept such a reference. However, Christian values such as solidarity and tolerance are basic values in the Charter of fundamental rights and in our constitution and there is also a special consolidation of the role of Churches,'' Papandreou said.
He also added that ''reference to Christianity was supported by 30 of the 110 legislators.''
Papandreou also referred to the death penalty, saying that ''the EU disagrees with the death penalty and safeguards the non-extradition of someone to the United States in the event that, for example, he is faced with the death penalty. However, we must, in parallel, handle the real cases of criminals whom we do not want to move freely on the international scene. We must consolidate human rights, as well as justice.''
 Commission Pres. Prodi views EU Thessaloniki Council as highly important
BRUSSELS 19/06/2003 (ANA - A. Simatos)European Commission President Romano Prodi gave a press conference on Wednesday here on the occasion of the EU Thessaloniki Council, opening on Thursday. The full text of Prodi speech is set out below.
“The European Council in Thessaloniki that begins tomorrow will tackle various matters of great urgency and importance to Europe today. The Greek Presidency of the Council has helped us to prepare for the summit with remarkable skill. I am sure that it will be a success for all.
First, let me say a few words on migration, borders and asylum. The European Union must develop a common policy in this area.
This is a high political priority endorsed by the Convention, and in the Member States the public's expectations on this issue are high.
According to the latest Eurobarometer results released yester-day, seven out of ten Europeans want the EU to have a common asylum and migration policy.
The Council has called for a comprehensive approach on several occasions.
This approach is shared by the Commission and it has followed it by presenting three Communications to the European Council, together with a proposal for special cooperation with non-member countries.
The Commission is convinced that, in the light of progress ma-de in the last few years, the time has now come to take further steps to consolidate the basis for our common policy.
I will quote three examples:
Community financing must gradually rise to a level compatible with the existing margins and with the declared political aim. We have made provision for a package comprising 140 million euro to manage the external borders and 250 million euro for cooperation with non-member countries.
Legislation must be supplemented by enhanced administrative cooperation and the introduction of the necessary infrastructure.
The directives on family reunification and long-term residents are a clear success for the Greek Presidency. The time has now come to continue along these lines with a positive approach to immigration that highlights its benefits. The integration of legal immigrants must be a shared priority.
We must show the same political determination in the area of asylum.
We have done good work and the first phase of the common system sought at Tampere is gradually being put in place.
I am truly sorry that, after months of intense negotiations, no agreement has yet been reached on a directive defining the concept of refugees and harmonizing forms of subsidiary protection.
Such an instrument, together with the directive on procedures, forms the core of this common system.
It is vital for the Italian Presidency to give priority to ensuring those two texts are adopted in December at the latest. This will allow the Seville deadline to be met.
In addition, as regards the readmission policy, further effort is needed on the basis of full cooperation with the countries of origin and transit.
The second major topic at the Thessaloniki Summit will be the Convention.
I hope that the European Council will conclude that the draft Constitution presented by the Convention should form the basis for the Intergovernmental Conference starting in October.
The Convention's draft goes in the right direction and meets certain important objectives.
The challenge for the IGC is to improve the draft on two key points: - the extension of majority voting, and - the institutional architecture.
The Convention has shown it could work effectively. I would like to thank Mr Giscard d' Estaing for the skilful way in which he led the Convention to a final compromise.
The most important and positive results I see are: - The European Union of the future will be better equipped to provide security and justice for its citizens. - The Charter of Fundamental Rights will be legally binding. This means basic rights will be more visible and more explicit for all citizens. - The Commission will represent the EU in the international arena, except for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the euro. Our capacity to influence world events and globalization will grow as a result. - As regards CFSP, I welcome the introduction of a Minister of Foreign Affairs with the rank of Vice-President of the Commission. The post of Foreign Minister is a major institutional innovation and I am fully in favor of it. - The Convention's text simplifies the existing Treaties and clarifies the powers of the Union and the Member States.
However, there are some areas where the Convention did not reach a satisfactory outcome: - Unfortunately the right of veto still applies for a large number of decisions. - Here I must be very clear: accepting unanimity as a rule for decision-making means no decisions will be taken. The right of veto spells deadlock for the Union. - I have repeatedly warned against creating competing centers of power when it comes to implementing the Union's policies. - I am not sure the job description of the European Council Chair rules out any risk of duplication of the executive function. - If a more permanent Chair is needed for the European Council to function better, more safeguards need to be introduced to avoid that risk. - Lastly, the practical innovations proposed for the Commission after 2009 raise fears regarding the effectiveness of this institution. And the Commission will be essential for sound action in the enlarged Union.
Lastly, a few words on the Union's policy towards the Western Balkans.
The Thessaloniki Summit will mark a decisive stage in this strategy.
It will reaffirm our responsibility towards this region and our determination to help the countries there to become members of the Union.
I have often said -- and I will say it again -- that the unification of Europe will not be complete until our friends in the Balkans are part of the family.
Croatia's application for membership is an encouraging sign and I welcome it warmly.
I cannot conceal the fact that implementing this common project calls for a lot of work.
That is why we have drawn up an Agenda for the Western Balkans based on our Communication of last May. The Agenda was agreed by our Foreign Ministers in Luxembourg on Monday.
It is a broad and ambitious agenda, a common agenda for a joint project.
We are confident that all the countries in the region are determined to do their bit and speed up their reform process.
To implement the Agenda, we clearly need financial resources that match our ambitions. From this viewpoint, our total finance for the region will rise by 210 million euro over the next three years.
Maybe this was not exactly what we -- and the countries in the region -- hoped. But we also have a commitment from the Council to provide substantial financial support to match the efforts made by the Western Balkan countries to meet the Union's standards.
So my appeal to the region is: Go ahead and work hard so we are ''obliged'' to give you more money.
A final comment on the regional dimension. This is far from empty rhetoric, but an absolute necessity. Thank you”.
 Greek government has final meeting ahead of the EU Summit in Thessaloniki
Athens, 19/06/2003 (ANA)The European Union strategic dogma, the Union's draft Constitution, transatlantic relations, EU-Western Balkan relations and developments in the Middle East were the focus of the final meeting on Wednesday between Greek foreign ministry leadership and Prime Minister Costas Simitis ahead of the upcoming EU Council on 19-21 June in Thessaloniki.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said that all significant issues that are expected to become part of the Council's conclusions had been discussed, and he expressed optimism that the Council would approve all the objectives that have been set.
Papandreou referred to the ''counter Summit'', a euphemism for the demonstrations to be staged in Thessaloniki for the duration of the Summit, and stressed that the Greek government had extended an open invitation to non-governmental organizations and it was prepared to listen to the views of the protesters, whom he urged to respect Greek hospitality.
 Greek FM: Turkey's EU course and Cyprus on the agenda of upcoming US-EU summit
WASHINGTON 19/06/2003 (ANA - T. Ellis)Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, whose country currently holds the rotating European Union presidency, from Athens on Tuesday said he believed Turkey's European course and the Cyprus issue will be on the agenda - although not high on the agenda - of the upcoming US-EU Summit to be held on 25 June in Washington.
Papandreou was speaking at an hour-long teleconference between Washington, Brussels and Athens with questions posed by Washington-based US and European reporters to the Greek foreign minister in Athens, and European Commissioners Chris Patten (External Affairs) and Pascal Lamy (Trade), both in Brussels.
The Greek foreign minister, who is currently heading the EU's Council of Ministers, reminded a recently-reiterated US commitment for a solution of the Cyprus issue, and noted that the free movement of citizens between the two communities on the island republic proved that the dividing ''green line'' was collapsing.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 percent of the island's territory, its northern sector recognized as a ''state'' only by Turkey.
The north lifted travel restrictions at the checkpoints for two-way movement just before Orthodox Easter in April. A nine-nation U.N. peacekeeping force guards the 180-kilometre-long Green Line.
Answering reporters' questions during the teleconference, Papandreou placed emphasis on the meeting between the EU and the heads of Western Balkan states to be held on 22 June, after the conclusion of the upcoming EU Summit meetings on 20 and 21 June in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, and said that Western Balkan countries were increasingly becoming part of the European family, but he nevertheless insisted on the continuation of US interest and presence in the region.
With regard to the signing of an agreement between the EU and US for judicial cooperation in criminal matters, including a clause on the issue of extradition, Papandreou said the text of the agreement did not restrict, but on the contrary strengthened, the rights of citizens, and he pointed to a stipulation in the text saying that extradition of the requested persons to the US would not take place if such persons run the risk of receiving the death penalty.
European Union justice ministers in Luxembourg on 6 June unanimously ratified the text regarding the extradition agreement between the EU and the United States and gave authorization for its signing in Washington on June 25 during the summit between U.S. President George W. Bush, Greek Prime Minister and EU Council President in-office Costas Simitis, and European Com-mission President Romano Prodi.
At the teleconference, Patten moved along the same lines saying that the parties on both sides of the Atlantic wanted to cooperate in the fight against international terrorism, and he pointed to what he called close cooperation between ''Europol'' with the FBI and other US security agencies.
About the forthcoming Bush-Simitis-Prodi meeting in Washington, Papandreou said it would focus on repairing transatlantic relations, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the reconstruction of Iraq, and he pointed to the experience of EU states such as Greece, Spain and Portugal, and of course the former Soviet republics, to support his point that the Union could prove very instrumental in Iraq's democratization process.
''Europe wants to be treated as an equal partner of the US and it is willing to make all efforts to achieve that'', he stressed.
Other issues raised during the teleconference included recent violations of human rights in Cuba, which the Greek foreign minister condemned, and also trading issues between the two transatlantic economic superpowers.
Patten noted that good US-EU cooperation was to the benefit of humanity, while Lamy, during his repeated interventions on economic and trade relations, attempted to sketch out a positive environment, saying that despite problems and differences, at the end of the day what mattered was to ''see the forest, not just some of the trees''.
 EU commits a total of 2.25 bln euro for Afghanistan up to 2006
NEW YORK 19/06/2003 (ANA-P. Panikos)The European Union on Tuesday told the assembly of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) its total contribution in 2002 for the reconstruction of Afghanistan amounted to 850 million euro and made a commitment to contribute a total of 2.25 billion euro for the period up to 2006.
Greece's ambassador to the UN Adamantios Vassilakis, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, told the UNSC ''the EU would continue to contribute toward the reconstruction of the Afghan state that would be based on democracy, adherence to the rules for women's rights and the Constitution'', and vowed the Union's support to UN role in the preparations for elections in that country.
Referring to the problem with the production and trade of illicit drugs in Afghanistan, which was the focus of the SC meeting, Vassilakis said the EU would work toward the elimination of production and the eradication of the illicit drug trade.
''The EU cites the need for closer cooperation with Kabul for the implementation of the national strategy to control illicit drugs and independence of the Afghan economy from any type of narcotic substance'', Vassilakis concluded.
 Deputy FM holds talks with leadership of Azerbaijan, ends Caucasus tour
BAKU 19/06/2003 (ANA - N. Melissova)Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Magriotis said on Wednesday the Greek presidency brought the southern Caucasus closer to the wider Europe of the ''25'' with a series of political initiatives and gave a new dimension to energy cooperation between the two regions, being the first to pave the way for natural gas to reach Europe from the Caucasus.
Magriotis was summing up the initiatives of the Greek presidency in meetings he had on Wednesday with the leadership of Azerbaijan, the last stop in his tour of the Caucasus.
The most important meeting was between the Greek deputy foreign minister and President of Azerbaijan Haidar Aliev, who received Magriotis despite the state of his health.
The Greek delegation also met with Foreign Minister Araz Azimov, the government's Deputy President Abid Sarifov and Economic Development Minister Sarhad Aliev.
The Greek deputy minister's presence in the region at the end of the Greek EU presidency, was considered by local governments as being a ''consistent'' and ''dignified'' position by Greece to-wards promises it had given at the beginning of the presidency that ''the southern Caucasus constitutes one of its priorities.''
Referring to the economic aspect, Magriotis reminded that the visit to Baku by Development Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos paved the way for natural gas to reach Europe.
 EU Council in Thessaloniki - protection from the sea
Athens, 19/06/2003 (ANA)Greek port authority vessels and over 1,000 personnel will control all sea transportation in and out of the northern Greek port-city of Thessaloniki during the upcoming European Council to be held there from 19 to 21 June.
The Greek merchant marine ministry, in cooperation with the other ministries involved, already has active participation in the extensive security measures launched for the protection of participants at the Council.
 State Min. Manikas, PASOK exec. bur, member Neonakis resign over ASE furor
Athens, 19/06/2003 (ANA)Minister of State Stephanos Manikas and ruling PASOK executive bureau member Michalis Neonakis resigned on Wednesday for ''reasons of sensitivity'' following the disclosure in parliament that they had carried out stock transactions valued at more than 22 billion drachma on the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) during the period 1998-2000.
Even though the report cleared both men of any wrongdoing, such as insider trading or other irregularities, the pair were lambasted and by the press on Wednesday.
Reliable sources said that the two officials, who have been dubbed by the press as the ''two captains'', tendered their resignations on Wednesday morning following Tuesday's debate in parliament of a motion tabled by the main opposition New Democracy party (ND) calling for the setting up of a parliamentary fact-finding commission to investigate alleged scandals on the ASE, which was defeated by the House with 143 votes against, 132 votes for, and 25 MPs absent.
During the debate, a document by the Capital Market Commission was tabled revealing that Manikas and Neonakis had engaged in stock transactions valued at more than 22 billion dr. during the period 1998-2000, and the issue dominated the front pages of several Athens newspapers on Wednesday, although the Commission document did not find the transactions to have indicated violations of the legislation and rules governing the ASE.
Finance minister Nikos Christodoulakis tabled a letter, during the debate, from Capital Market Commission president Stavros Thomadakis saying that Manikas had carried out transactions of 1.5 million euro (45 percent of which in sales of stock and 55 percent in stock purchases) in the years 1998-2000, most of which involving listed stock of the ALTEC Group.
The letter also said that Neonakis carried out transactions of approximately 64 million euro (about half in stock sales and half in stock purchases) during the same years, most of which also involved listed stock of the ALTEC Group.
In both cases, however, the letter said that ''from the size, frequency, distribution in many titles, and time distribution of the transactions...no systematic indications arise of violations or participation in an effort to abuse the market, based on the existing legislation and regulatory framework''.
Resignation letters: In his letter of resignation from the post of Minister of State to prime minister and PASOK leader Costas Simitis, Manikas, who is also an MP for the Athens A' district, said that the transparency and legality of his actions had been proven, but ''nothing prevents the detractors of your government of using me as a pretext to detract and downgrade the important and substantive work of the government and of yourself, as prime minister''.
Noting that his resignation had been at Simitis' disposal since the first ''malicious and slanderous articles'' had appeared in the press, Manikas continued that he had never allowed, and would not allow, himself to be ''used''. ''My aspiration is PASOK's victorious course and prospect'', he said, adding that he would seek his ''moral vindication'' without holding any ministerial post, and thanking the premier for his confidence.
In his own resignation letter to the premier, Neonakis said he had been waging a personal battle for the past two months to defend his honor and reputation, adding that he had been vindicated in the Capital Market Commission document tabled in parliament on Tuesday that ''proves without a doubt that all my transactions on the ASE were completely legal and transparent'' and that no indications arise of ''violations'' or involvement in any form of abuse of the market.
Apart from the battle on the substance of the issue, there was also the ''battle of impressions'', Neonakis said, adding that the reference to the sum of 64 million euro created ''misinterpretations, which are unjust'' since, he explained, the sum cited did not refer to the capital of the investment but was an ''accounting total of all buy and sell activities that took place in a legal, open and transparent way over a period of three years''.
Neonakis said that he was resigning from the PASOK executive bureau so as not to implicate the premier, PASOK and the executive bureau in the battle of impressions.
''But I will not resign my right to defend myself against the conspirators whose one and only target is to hurt PASOK and invalidate the government's historic achievements. I will not resign from the democratic party's effort for a new, victorious course,'' Neonakis said.
Government spokesman: Confirming that Neonakis and Manikas had resigned and the prime minister had accepted their resignations later on Wednesday, government spokesman Christos Protopapas said they had chosen to resign to avoid "more general problems" and in order to better defend themselves.
He reiterated that Prime Minister Costas Simitis would be taking steps to deal with the repeated allegations against members of his government and high-ranking members of the ruling party, at the time and in the way that he considered best.
Protopapas also noted that the judicial part of the investigation had finally and irrevocably ended through the revelations made in the Capital Markets Commission's report, which cleared both of any irregular dealings on the stock market.
The spokesman said Simitis had been informed about the con-tents of the report on his return from Italy late on Tuesday night, after it had been tabled in Parliament.
"Mr. Christodoulakis had in his possession a report by an in-dependent authority and, as was his duty, he handed this over to the House," he said.
 Parliament defeats ND motion for fact-finding commission on ASE scandal
Athens, 19/06/2003 (ANA)Parliament early Wednesday defeated a motion by main opposition New Democracy party (ND) for setting up a parliamentary fact-finding commission to investigate alleged scandals on the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE), with 143 votes against, 132 votes for, and 25 MPs absent.
Following a debate on Tuesday that ran about an hour past midnight, the motion was defeated by 143 votes, comprising all 142 PASOK MPs who were present at the session and independent MP Alecos Chrysanthakopoulos.
Voting in favor of the motion were 132 MPs, comprising ND's entire 122-strong parliamentary group, four Communist Party of Greece (KKE) MPs present at the session, five Coalition of Left and Progress (SYN) MPs present, and independent MP Vassilis Kedikoglou.
Absent from the vote were 14 PASOK deputies, including former public order minister Stelios Papathemelis who had ad-dressed the House earlier and urged that a fact-finding com-mission be set up on the government's initiative; 7 KKE deputies, one SYN deputy, and independent MPs Stephanos Manos, George Psacharopoulos and George Karatzaferis.
 Personalities from 24 countries to take part in ' Summit of European Diasporas'
Athens, 19/06/2003 (ANA)Leading figures from every field will gather together for the first time in a ''Summit of European Diasporas'' in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, from June 19-21, a foreign ministry announcement said on Wednesday. The summit is being held under the auspices of Greece's EU Presidency and in parallel with the Thessaloniki European Council during the three-day period.
The summit will gather together 60 personalities from current and future member states who live outside their country of origin as citizens of a wider European Diaspora and are active in the worlds of politics, media, business, civil society, academia, the arts, sport, science and others.
Summit participants, nominated by the Union's foreign ministers, will explore Europe's emerging identity; offer insights into how Europe's institutions might interact more effectively with Europe's global citizens; and draw on their experiences to help guide policy on such issues as transatlantic relations and the integration of immigrants - one of the Greek Presidency's highest priorities.
''Those Europeans who have pursued lives and careers outside their countries of birth are uniquely valuable in helping us forge Europe's emerging identity,'' says Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who is convening their summit. ''What they have done on an individual level - bridging cultures while rethinking and maintaining their own - is what an expanding Europe is seeking to do on a collective level.''
Summit participants will also have the opportunity to meet with EU leaders participating in the Thessaloniki Summit in Porto Carras.
 Gov't: No issue of Greek citizens being extradited to US
Athens, 19/06/2003 (ANA)The government on Wednesday denied that there was any issue of Greek citizens being extradited to the United States, in light of an EU-US judicial pact that will be signed next week.
Government spokesman Christos Protopapas made the comment in answer to a question during his regular press briefing.
"We must focus our attention on the real dimension of the pact ... all foreseen procedures will be followed to the letter..." he said.
 Interior minister head meeting on forest fire prevention
Athens, 19/06/2003 (ANA)Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis on Wednesday headed a meeting of the Civil Defense committee for the prevention of forest fires and discussed concerns over the statistics showing increased numbers of forest fires since 2001.
Specifically, during 2003 there were 76 fires in Attica, compared to 37 in 2001 and 43 in 2002.
The officials at the meeting decided to establish a body that will follow up the data that facilitate the ignition of forest fires. The body will include representatives from the Civil Defense general secretariat, the regional administration of Attica, the chief of the fire department and the four prefects of Attica.
The activities of the body will be funded by the state to the tune of 6.5 billion drachmas, of which some 1.5 billion will be funneled to the municipalities of Attica. Activities will include the cleaning up of forest areas and impromptu landfills.
 EU ministers seen taking key decisions on farm policy reform
LUXEMBOURG 19/06/2003 (ANA/M. Kourmousis)The European Union’s Council of Agriculture Ministers, pre-sided over by Greece’s Agriculture Minister George Drys, resumed its session here on Wednesday afternoon for what is being described as a night of major decisions for European farmers.
The Council will negotiate the third compromise text by the Greek EU Presidency on Common Agricultural Policy reform, which also includes the constantly revised recommendations-positions by the European Commission.
The key points in the agreement reached by EU farming ministers so far, include the following: - new arrangements will go into effect as of January 1, 2005 to allow for better adjustment of new measures. - gradual implementation of cuts in prices and subsidies. - protection is offered for Mediterranean products.
During the morning session, it was found that there is probably a Franco-Italian alliance regarding hard wheat and decoupling, which poses certain problems as Italy is raising fresh demands that are not possible to be met. One such demand by Italy is an annual 200-million prim for ox slaughtering.
The new compromise text was prepared by the Greek Presidency following a session that lasted all night.
Opening the session, Drys said that the third compromise text retained the original points of the initial compromise proposal, which means that the efforts to achieve agreement did not set specific negotiation targets, but instead formed a serious and frank effort to achieve the best possible outcome.
 Shipping exchange inflows up 9.4 percent in 2002
Athens, 19/06/2003 (ANA)Shipping exchange inflows to Greece totalled 1.337 billion US dollars in 2002 from 1.221 billion dollars in the previous year, an increase of 9.4 percent, Merchant Marine Minister George Anomeritis said on Wednesday.
The Greek minister, speaking to reporters, announced that a total of 1,055 shipping companies, employing 10,922 seamen of which 9,644 were Greeks and 1,278 foreigners, reported foreign exchange inflows, down from 1,084 companies in 2001.
Mr Anomeritis said that shipping management companies in Greece totalled 640 in 2002 with 3,212 vessels under management, while shipping brokerage firms totalled 440.
The Greek minister also said that 96.7 percent of the country's shipping capacity and 94.3 percent of vessels were distributed under nine national flags (Greece, Malta, Cyprus, Panama, Bahamas, Liberia, Marshall Islands, St Vincent and Cayman Islands).
 Greek candidate to head IMO for first time ever
Athens, 19/06/2003 (ANA)Efthymios Mitropoulos will head the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the first time that Greece was represented in this significant position, after winning a vote held on Wednesday morning.
The Greek candidacy raised 32 votes, ahead of the Nigerian candidate Monica Bafano (eight votes) and Iceland's Magnus Johansson who received no votes.
Wednesday's edition of Lloyds' List was discounting Mr Mitropoulos' victory and was making very positive comments for the Greek candidate.
IMO is a United Nations' agency, fully responsible to impose regulations on the shipping industry and protecting the sea environment.
An IMO's general assembly in six months is expected to approve Mr Mitropoulos' election victory. IMO has 167 member-states with Greece being a member since 1958.
PM congratulates Mitropoulos for his posting as IMO head: Prime Minister Costas Simitis congratulated Efthymios Mitropoulos for his appointment as head of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the first time a Greek heads the organization.
The premier called the appointment a "dynamic presence of our country" internationally and wished him success "in executing his difficult mission".
"The election of one more Greek at the helm of an international organization reflects the dynamic presence of Greece beyond the tight margins of the country, as well as its substantial contribution to the further widening and deepening of institutions, authorities and organizations of European wide and international stature," Simitis said.
New Greek IMO chief says his election victory due to hard work: The newly elected head of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Efthymios Mitropoulos, said on Wednesday that his election victory in the United Nations shipping agency was the outcome of 18 months of campaigning.
''This Greek success was the result of a highly coordinated drive lasting 18 months by all relevant bodies and individuals including the president of the republic and the prime minister, who made use of opportunities arising from meetings with counter-parts abroad to back the Greek bid,'' Mitropoulos told reporters.
He also thanked Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Merchant Marine Minister George Anomeritis for their efforts.
 Greek stocks fall on profit taking
Athens, 19/06/2003 (ANA)Greek stocks ended Wednesday's session slightly lower as investors preferred to take profits after several days of advance in the Athens Stock Exchange.
The general index ended 0.23 percent lower at 1,950.44 points, after moving in tight ranges throughout the session (1,944-1,965). Turnover was a heavy 199.2 million euros.
The Insurance, Retail and IT Solution sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day (3.92 percent, 2.01 percent and 1.99 percent lower), while the Wholesale, Textile and Food-Beverage sectors scored the biggest percentage gains (2.03 percent, 1.75 percent and 1.36 percent respectively).
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks fell 0.49 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index rose 0.14 percent and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index ended 0.59 percent higher.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 178 to 150 with another 37 issues unchanged.
Bond Market Close: Sellers outstrip buyers on Thursday
Greek Benchmark 10-Year Bond
Derivatives Market Close: Turnover at 87.4 mln euros Wednesday
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 'Sacred Music' events to be held in Greece from July 4-13
Athens, 19/06/2003 (ANA)Under the title ''Sacred Music'', The Cultural Olympiad will pre-sent events in Athens, Thessaloniki, Kalamata and in 30 holy places throughout Greece from July 4-13, the aim of which is to show the converge and interaction of cultures, over and above national and religious differences.
Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos said on Wednesday ''religious rituals express the deeper need of mankind to invoke good, repulse evil, communicate with God and be connected with the deeper essence of nature and the mystery of life.''
Major international personalities, such as gospel singer Barbara Hendrix and guitarist Paco Pena will come to Greece on the occasion of the event which the minister described as ''the most important event of the Cultural Olympiad.''
 CD ROM of late PM Andreas Papandreou officially unveiled
Athens, 19/06/2003 (ANA)A historical documentary with the speeches of late prime minister Andreas Papandreou in multi-media CD ROM form was presented on Wednesday in the Athens Concert Hall, in light of the CD ROM's publication along with the ''TA NEA'' daily newspaper on Saturday.
The CD ROM includes speeches from the 1960's ''Unyielding Struggle'' to the post-dictatorship era and was published along with the newspaper in cooperation with the Andreas Papandreou Foundation.
 Moderate earthquake in Evia, no damage but situation being monitored
Athens, 19/06/2003 (ANA)A moderate earthquake measuring 4.9 on the Richter scale jolted Evia on Wednesday, and seismologists were reassuring but reserved on the seismic activity as two tremblers of up to 4.6 Richter were recorded in the same region last Friday. No damage was immediately reported.
The Athens Observatory's Geodynamic Institute and the Thessaloniki Aristotelion University's Geophysics Laboratory said that the earthquake was recorded at 8:25 a.m. at a distance of 70 kilometers north of Athens, with its epicenter in the Psachna area of Evia.
''The region is active, and we are monitoring the phenomenon,'' Athens University seismology professor Constantine Makropoulos told ANA, but added that, historically and statistically, the specific area has not produced larger quakes.
The same epicenter had produced two earthquakes of approximately 4.6 and 4.4 Richter on Friday afternoon.
Meanwhile, the environment, town planning and public works ministry and OASP seismic protection organization were sending engineers to Psachna to inspect local buildings, while OASP said it would install a mobile seismograph to monitor the post-quake activity.
 Resistance icon Glezos a defense witness for Yiannis Serifis in N17 trial
Athens, 19/06/2003 (ANA)World War II resistance hero Manolis Glezos was among the witnesses testifying in defense of the defendant Yiannis Serifis during the ongoing trial of 19 suspected members of the terrorist group November 17 on Wednesday.
Addressing the Three-Member Criminal Appeals Court, down one justice after one of the reserve judges withdrew for health reasons, Glezos said that the defendant's ideology and beliefs were completely alien to the terror band and that he had been wrongly accused.
Another witness for Serifis said the defendant wanted the system overturned but openly, not in ways compatible with N17's actions.
The court also heard testimony of defense witnesses for Savvas Xiros, the first alleged member of the group to fall into police hands after he was injured in an abortive bomb blast, and two witnesses for his brother Christodoulos Xiros.
According to journalist Maria Geroyianni, Savvas Xiros was an 'honest and sensitive person...who loved people and respected life" and that his decision to join N17 was a political life choice.
She also claimed that his behavior while in Evangelismos hospital had been completely different.
"In Evangelismos, Savvas was not the man I knew. He acted like a small child. His thoughts were scattered and he was incoherent," she told the court.
Former economics professor Panagiotis Fotopoulos, who appeared as a defense witness for all the accused, said that the group's choice of victims showed that its members' motives were political.
 Denktash accepts financial package, but not trade, says Verheugen
NICOSIA 19/06/2003 (CNA/ANA)Enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen said here Wednesday that Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has accepted the financial part of the package of measures which the Commission announced in support of Turkish Cypriots but rejected the trade measures.
Verheugen, who wrapped up a three-day visit to the island and left for Brussels, also said that the EU prefers a united Cyprus to enter the European Union in May 2004 and there is a window of opportunity for this to happen, but whatever happens, the island will join the EU.
On his impressions from his visit, Verheugen said, ''there is a clear commitment'' by the Cyprus government ''to re-launch the talks and reach a settlement within the parameters of the Annan Plan.'' He said the Cyprus ''government shares the objective of the accession of a united Cyprus and we share the opinion that the window of opportunity is still open and should be used before the 1st May 2004.''
Regarding his meeting here Wednesday with Denktash, Verheugen said he had a ''very lively, very open, a very frank discussion, very civilized,'' where Denktash ''repeated his well known plans on the Annan Plan'' noting ''he (Denktash) does not see it as remaining on the table.''
On his meeting with the Turkish Cypriot ''opposition'' political parties, he said it was ''very constructive and very interesting meeting,'' adding ''these people are pragmatists'' and ''down to earth politicians'' who strongly support the Annan Plan.
Verheugen said his conclusion is that ''there is now a need to take advantage of the political momentum following the accession Treaty and the recent confidence building measures.''
The European Commissioner said he explained in his meetings the Commission's goodwill package, noting ''in order to contribute to a settlement, we have presented a package to help the Turkish Cypriot community to raise their living standards and to catch up economically.''
The EU Commissioner said ''there is an agreement from the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community on the financial part of the package, but I regret that our proposed trade measures could not be accepted.''
On the trade measures, Verheugen talked about the need to change a protocol of the Association Agreement that the EU has with Cyprus so that the EU can ''authorize the Turkish Cypriot chamber of commerce and industry to issue the movement certificate.''
Verheugen said it is not possible for the EU ''to cooperate with the 'customs authorities' in the port of Famagusta. We are not allowed to do that. Therefore the only possibility we have is Turkish Cypriot producers to get movement certificate from the chamber of commerce and then go to a port in south, where the customs authorities deliver the papers.
That's what I proposed and is not acceptable for Denktash.''
He added the measures would be implemented and ''we will see whether there is a possible development or not.''
In a message as regards to the Cyprus problem, Verheugen said ''the responsibilities are now with the communities on the island.
We are ready to assist, but it is for them to move forward, because after all, it is their country.''
''I want to make it again, very clear. It is still our preferred option that Cyprus will join as a united Cyprus,'' only to add that ''what-ever happens, Cyprus will join.''
Regarding Turkey's accession process, Verheugen said he told Denktash that the present Turkish government ''is serious on political reform and we are encouraged.'' He also told the Turkish Cypriot politicians that they should not believe that it would be a better solution to wait until the EU-Turkey process is over. ''I also made it very clear there would be no trade offs of course, it is out of the question,'' Verheugen added.
 Weston rests hopes on Turkey
LARNACA 19/06/2003 (CNA/ANA)US State Department special coordinator for Cyprus Ambassador Thomas Weston has placed his hopes on Turkey to help resume the stalled peace talks. He left for Ankara where he was due to begin meetings on Wednesday night and concludes them Thurs-day.
''I consider my meetings in Ankara very important in terms of trying to find a way forward, acknowledging the difficulty right now in finding a way forward is the Turkish side,'' Weston said on departure.
Replying to questions, he said Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has told him that he does not accept the ''Annan plan'' nor does he accept that there is no other option but this specific UN peace proposal on a comprehensive settlement.
''We continue to believe that the Annan plan offers the only realistic way forward, so we will continue to discuss it with Denktash and other interested parties and put forward our views,'' he said.
Asked about the possibility of peace negotiations resuming in New York in September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Weston explained that there are two different issues at hand, one is the effort to resume the UN talks and the opportunity for addressing the issue taking advantage of interested parties, with Kofi Annan, in September in New York.
''We would like to see the recommencement of talks as soon as possible, we do not believe that it is necessary to wait until September to do that, there is plenty of work to do before that,'' he added.
He noted that there will be contacts among interested parties in New York, with each other and the Secretary General.
Replying to questions about changes to the Annan plan, he reiterated previous remarks that technical changes are required, large aspects have to be finalized and said that changes can be made by mutual agreement in the context of negotiations.
''On the question of actual changes, what most people are referring to is the possibility of addressing concerns which have been raised by both sides in the context of negotiations and by mutual agreement and there could be such changes,'' he added, repeating that substantial changes to the plan would be very difficult to achieve.
Weston told a press conference on Tuesday that Denktash has hardened his position on the resumption of peace talks.