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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 03-12-12

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

December 12, 2003


  • [01] FM addresses global Information Society summit on e-democracy
  • [02] FM criticizes US decision on Iraq after meeting Annan in Geneva
  • [03] Gov't again responds to latest negative poll results
  • [04] Greek leadership addresses expatriates' conferences in Thessaloniki
  • [05] Main opposition questions tardiness in updating EU lists on Greek cabinet
  • [06] Ecologists-Greens call extraordinary congress to discuss upcoming elections
  • [07] EU seen revising Mediterranean products policy by mid-2004
  • [08] Pensions to rise by 4.0-8.8pct in 2004
  • [09] National Bank of Greece says it's the biggest banking group in Balkans
  • [10] Conference held in Brussels on 'Investments in the Balkans'
  • [11] Finance ministry adamant on installation of cash registers for taxis
  • [12] Olympic Airlines spreads its wings on Friday
  • [13] ATHOC to mail the first 2,000 letters to candidate 2004 Games' volunteers
  • [14] Manhattan event for 2004 Games next August
  • [15] Firebomb placed outside home of leading judge
  • [16] Court denies Koskotas petition for more lenient terms of parole
  • [17] Gov't cites compromise for new AEK sports complex
  • [18] EU summit conclusions on Turkey to include Cyprus reference

  • [01] FM addresses global Information Society summit on e-democracy

    GENEVA, 12/12/03 (ANA - F. Karaviti)

    Foreign Minister George Papandreou was the central speaker during an open debate on e-democracy held during the World Summit on the Information Society on Thursday, which was organized by the Greek delegation and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).

    Papandreou referred to the need to secure access and opportunity for as many people as possible to participate in the creation of the new international state of affairs.

    ''Despite the fact that globalization is a source of significant financial, social and cultural wealth, it is simultaneously the cause of new problems for the less developed societies,'' Papandreou said.

    One of the biggest challenges now facing democratic leaderships was how to create fairer and more representative democracies, he added.

    The Greek minister used the example of the initiatives undertaken by Greece during its European Union presidency, where over 175,000 people had an opportunity to express their opinion on a range of issues - such as immigration, narcotics, enlargement and the future of Europe - through an e-vote.

    At the same time, he noted that only 20 per cent of Greeks used the Internet, a percentage that was below the EU average.

    On the problem of ensuring equal participation in the information society by all people on the planet, Papandreou made specific proposals for infrastructure that would be available and user-friendly for everyone, such as telephony or education.

    He also called for guaranteed access to information concerning the government and the state and ensuring the neutrality of those mediating in differences concerning access to communication and information.

    The ultimate aim was to bridge the gap between developed and less-developed countries in order to create an ''e-demos'' where all citizens had equal participation, Papandreou concluded.

    On the panel for the Greek event were MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte, Cisco visiting professor for e-democracy issues at Oxford Dr. Stephen Coleman, Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, head of the Internet Rights Forum, and others.

    [02] FM criticizes US decision on Iraq after meeting Annan in Geneva

    GENEVA, 12/12/03 (ANA - F. Karaviti)

    Foreign Minister George Papandreou on Thursday said it would be ''useful'' if the United States were to review its decision to exclude countries that had opposed the war in Iraq from bidding for contracts to rebuild the country.

    Papandreou made the statement after emerging from a meeting here with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, on the sidelines of the World Summit for an Information Society (WSIS), during which they discussed the Cyprus issue, the situation in Iraq and Greek initiatives to promote a global information society.

    The Greek minister said he agreed with Annan on the need for unity in the international effort for Iraq's reconstruction.

    ''Given that we already have the approval of the United Nations with a resolution that was unanimously approved, and we all of us wish that the problems and confrontation of the past will become a lesson in how to handle these issues in a more united fashion, there should also be unity in the efforts for cooperation by all sides,'' Papandreou said.

    He stressed that this particularly important, given that many countries that had absolutely nothing to do with the armed conflict were now being asked - by the United States, among others - to make a substantial financial contribution to this effort.

    The Greek minister said the meeting had also given an opportunity for him to convey the desire of the Greek and Cypriot governments to continue negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus problem based on Annan's peace plan for Cyprus, which were abruptly ended a year earlier.

    At the same time, he stressed that such a solution will have to take into account the fact that Cyprus was now a member of the European Union and that any such changes would have to allow the island to fully participate in European structures.

    Finally, Papandreou said the meeting had covered initiatives that Greece intended to undertake jointly with the UN for the development of dialogue on the Information Society with non-governmental organizations.

    ''We had an opportunity to discuss Greece's initiative on the issue of electronic democracy and also specific proposals that we can undertake with the UN...especially for the reforms being promoted by Mr. Annan himself at the UN,'' Papandreou said.

    The minister said this was a vitally important area and a very significant activity for Greece, which would greatly assist democratic institutions on a global level.

    [03] Gov't again responds to latest negative poll results

    Athens, 12/12/03 (ANA)

    The government spokesman on Thursday was again asked about results of a latest opinion poll on voters’ preference, which apparently shows the ruling PASOK party trailing main opposition New Democracy by more than eight percentage points.

    “The best thing we can do is to continue our work, our initiatives and our policy,” spokesman Christos Protopapas said when asked about the opinion poll conducted by the MRB firm.

    He again criticized ND, claiming the main opposition was fielding a “hidden agenda” and “double talk”.

    Speaking from Geneva, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou stressed that opinion polls are a useful tool, "a useful tool, however, which is not an official result ... but I am sure PASOK will give its battle, and indeed, victorious, for the next elections."

    [04] Greek leadership addresses expatriates' conferences in Thessaloniki

    Athens, 12/12/03 (ANA)

    Greece’s top political leadership addressed Thursday’s session of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) fifth international conference, which is taking place in the northern city of Thessaloniki.

    President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos told the ethnic Greek delegates from around the world that overseas Hellenism’s primary goal should be to promote the opportunities and abilities offered by modern Greece, whereas Prime Minister Costas Simitis asked delegates to promote the country as much as possible.

    “Thirty years since a summer of national disaster, the summer of 1974, Greece reaches the point of successfully hosting the Olympic Games, in the summer of 2004, along with the prospect of solving major national issues, such as the Cyprus problem and the Aegean’s continental shelf by December 2004,” Simitis said.

    On his part, Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis referred to a heightened promotion of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, while main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis echoed the former’s statements, saying the “metropolitan center” needs expatriate Greeks as its “strong voice” in order to convey the message of perfectly organized and secure Olympics throughout the world.

    Earlier, messages were read out by the Orthodox Church’s supreme ecclesiastical leaders, with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos defending Orthodoxy’s universality, as he said, while warning against a provincial spirit “attempting to overdevelop certain centers over others … a cancer,” as he noted.

    In his message, the influential head of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece, Archbishop Christodoulos, referred to expatriate Greeks as the “dynamic cell of Hellenism around the world”.

    The Greek president, meanwhile, called for support of the Ecumenical Patriarchate as well as those in Jerusalem and Alexandria, warning that they face serious problems of viability.

    [05] Main opposition questions tardiness in updating EU lists on Greek cabinet

    Athens, 12/12/03 (ANA)

    In a question to Foreign Minister George Papandreou in Parliament on Thursday, main opposition New Democracy MPs Dimitris Sioufas and Prokopis Pavlopoulos asked whether he was aware that government services had not yet updated European Union lists with the latest composition of the Greek government.

    They asked the minister whether he was satisfied with the performance of foreign ministry services in this case and whether ''the bureaucrats at the foreign ministry were trying to get into the Guinness Book of Records''.

    Sioufas and Pavlopoulos said the European Union list for the Greek government in December 2003 still listed among its members resigned ministers Stefanos Manikas and Evangelos Malesios and ministers that were removed in the last reshuffle, such as Eleni Kourkoula, George Anomeritis, Loukas Apostolidis and Stavros Benos. It did not include new ministers like Haris Kastanidis, Alexandros Akrivakis, Kimon Koulouris, Nikos Bistis and others or record changes to ministers' portfolios, such as for George Paschalides.

    They also noted that the Greek government was the largest in Europe with 49 members, compared to 12 cabinet ministers in Britain, 14 in Germany and 17 in Belgium.

    [06] Ecologists-Greens call extraordinary congress to discuss upcoming elections

    Athens, 12/12/03 (ANA)

    The newly established party of the Ecologists-Greens will discuss, during an extraordinary congress in Thessaloniki on Friday, their political program for the 2004 Euroelections, the Joint Declaration of the European Greens and their positions for the national elections.

    The party, which was formed about a year ago and is one of the founding members of the European Green party, is also a member of the European Federation of Green Parties.

    The European Green Party will officially announce its establishment in February 2004.

    [07] EU seen revising Mediterranean products policy by mid-2004

    Athens, 12/12/03 (ANA)

    The European Union is due to complete revision of its agricultural policy for Mediterranean products by the end of the bloc's Irish rotating presidency in the middle of 2004.

    The EU's executive Commission aims to boost the competitiveness of the products, which include olive oil, cotton and tobacco, Tassos Haniotis, deputy director of the EU agriculture commissioner's office, told a news conference.

    In addition, the revision would stabilize producers' income and protect the environment, Haniotis said.

    The European Parliament is expected to make a recommendation on the issue in March, he added.

    [08] Pensions to rise by 4.0-8.8pct in 2004

    Athens, 12/12/03 (ANA)

    State pensions are to rise by 4.0-8.8 per cent in 2004 under the government's incomes policy, averaging out at 5.7 per cent.

    In a finance ministry bill released on Thursday, the minimum pension is set at 295 euros per month from January 1, 2004, up about 48 per cent from 199 euros.

    [09] National Bank of Greece says it's the biggest banking group in Balkans

    BUCHAREST, 12/12/03 (ANA/A.Lidorikis)

    Athens-quoted National Bank of Greece is the largest banking group in the Balkans and southeastern Europe, its governor, Theodoros Karatzas, said on Thursday.

    The bank's invested capital in the region totals 400 million euros with assets of 2.0 billion euros, 230 branches and 4,700 staff, Karatzas told a news conference in the Romanian capital.

    National plans to create at least another 15 branches for Banca Romaneasca, which it owns, to bring the total to 40, executives said.

    [10] Conference held in Brussels on 'Investments in the Balkans'

    BRUSSELS, 12/12/03 (ANA/A. Simatos)

    A conference titled ''Investments in the Balkans: political choices and opportunities for businesses in south-east Europe'', was held in Brussels on Thursday by ''The Friends of Europe'', the ''Konrad Adenauer Foundation'' and the ''Institute for Democracy Constantine Karamanlis''.

    During the conference, attended by politicians, diplomats, financial officials and business representatives, the current situation was examined regarding European policies for the Balkans as well as developments concerning regional economic cooperation.

    Among the speakers at the conference, on behalf of the ''Institute for Democracy Constantine Karamanlis'', was Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Taking part in the conference was also the head of the international activities department of the ''Hellenic Petroleum'' company, Anastasia Kalkavoura.

    In his speech, Mitsotakis stressed the particular role played by Greece regarding investment activity in the region of the Balkans. He noted that the advantages that Greece had included its geographic proximity, the network of the Greek Diaspora in the Balkans but also the tolerance with which the Greeks had dealt with the ''chaotic'' situation, which had existed in the Balkans, which operated as a restraining force for other investors.

    Finally, Mitsotakis referred to the Greek government's policy regarding the strengthening of investments in the Balkans and specifically to the Geek Plan for the Economic Reconstruction of the Balkans about which he stated that ''there are delays but efforts are being made for its advancement.''

    [11] Finance ministry adamant on installation of cash registers for taxis

    Athens, 12/12/03 (ANA)

    The finance ministry refused to budge on the issue of installing electronic cash registers in taxis during a meeting on Thursday with striking taxi cab owners.

    The ministry decision requires all cabs to be fitted with an electronic cash register that issues receipts by January 1, 2004.

    After the meeting, Deputy Finance Minister Apostolos Fotiadis said the "demand of the specific group to be exempt from the application of laws and control comes up against our self-evident refusal."

    [12] Olympic Airlines spreads its wings on Friday

    Athens, 12/12/03 (ANA)

    Olympic Airlines, successor to Olympic Airways, is to spread its wings on Friday three months after the state-owned enterprise's new identity was encapsulated in parliamentary law.

    The new airline spans routes covered by Olympic Aviation, Macedonian Airlines and the former Olympic Airways.

    Flight attendants are continuing their 14-day strike until Saturday to protest against OA's new status.


    Closing rates of December 10 2003

    Parities in euro


    Foreign Exchange Buying Selling

    US Dollar 1,228 1,200

    [13] ATHOC to mail the first 2,000 letters to candidate 2004 Games' volunteers

    Athens, 12/12/03 (ANA)

    The first 2,000 letters of acceptance will be sent to the candidate Athens 2004 Olympic Games volunteers over the next few days, ATHOC Managing Director Yiannis Spanoudakis said on Thursday.

    Speaking at the 5th International Conference of Expatriate Greeks in Thessaloniki, he also said that volunteers will have to answer, once they receive the letter, whether they accept the position they were assigned and then they will be called to sign a contract.

    He added that volunteers from abroad will not have to go through a personal interview, due to logistical reasons, but they will have to answer a questioner and return it by mail, this special arrangement was made since some 40,000 applicants do not reside in Greece.

    [14] Manhattan event for 2004 Games next August

    NEW YORK, 12/12/03 (ANA)

    The city of New York announced here this week that it will organize a special event next August at the city’s Battery Park in lower Manhattan on the occasion of the 2004 Athens Olympics.

    According to organizers, the event will serve a twin purpose, namely, to promote the 2004 Athens Games as well as New York City’s bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympics.

    Among the performers expected to appear at the event is veteran rocker Bruce Springsteen.

    [15] Firebomb placed outside home of leading judge

    Athens, 12/12/03 (ANA)

    Unknown assailants detonated a makeshift firebomb outside the home of the president of Greece’s first instance courts just after midnight on Thursday, the second time in four years Judge Venizelos Mouratoglu’s one-storey home in the Maroussi residence has been targeted.

    According to reports, the device was comprised of three gas canisters, similar to the ones used by campers, and a container filled with gasoline.

    The attack follows this week’s high-profile convictions of 15 “November 17” terrorist suspects.

    Similar attacks were reported over the past two days in the northern city of Thessaloniki, incidents usually blamed on youthful self-styled anarchists.

    [16] Court denies Koskotas petition for more lenient terms of parole

    Athens, 12/12/03 (ANA)

    The Piraeus Appeals Council on Thursday denied the petition of convicted former banker George Koskotas asking it to lift a ban on his traveling outside Greece under his current terms of parole.

    Koskotas was convicted of embezzling 33 billion drachmas from the Bank of Crete in 1992 after a major political scandal involving the government of that time.

    Though it refused to allow the former banker and media tycoon to leave the country, the appeals council decided to reduce the number of times Koskotas has to report to his local police station from twice to once a month.

    Koskotas was seeking permission to travel to the United States to visit his family, which is now permanently resident there.

    The one-time immigrant to the US, who once worked as a house painter in the New York City area, was released on parole in March 2001 after serving 12 years of a 25-year sentence for embezzlement, forgery and obstruction of justice.

    [17] Gov't cites compromise for new AEK sports complex

    Athens, 12/12/03 (ANA)

    The government on Thursday announced that it was ready to table an amendment in Parliament next week essentially opening the way for the continuation of construction by the popular AEK Athens club to build a new state-of-the-art sports complex in the Nea Philadelphia district.

    Deputy Sports Minister George Lianis made the statement during an event organized by the team’s amateur body at the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, months after work on a new facility in the northwest Athens district was temporarily ordered stopped by the Council of State, Greece’s highest administrative court. The amateur club owns the property on which the old stadium stood and where the new one is envisioned.

    The municipality of Nea Philadelphia, especially its mayor, along with 131 local residents and merchants, have attempted to block the initial design for a new stadium and sports complex by citing various environmental and zoning concerns. AEK’s management had secured financial backing for the project based largely on the commercial exploitation of some 24,000 square meters of space in the new sports complex – centered around a new football stadium, indoor arena and assorted other athletic and non-athletic facilities.

    Lianis said the amendment will include the entire project within the framework of other significant 2004 Olympic venues, something he said will allow AEK to proceed with construction.

    The deputy minister nevertheless listed several modifications to the original design, namely, lower building co-efficient, 4,000 square meters less of commercial space and AEK’s written commitments to maintain and increase green spaces around the new complex – the site lies adjacent to Nea Philadelphia's urban park.

    The club, divided into professional football and basketball divisions in the 1980s and 1990s, was founded by Greek expatriates from Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) in 1924 in the newly formed Nea Philadelphia district, northwest of downtown Athens and close to the under-construction “Olympic Village”. In the following decades, the club’s national appeal favorably reflected on the municipality.

    [18] EU summit conclusions on Turkey to include Cyprus reference

    BRUSSELS, 12/12/03 (CNA/ANA)

    The conclusions of the European Council taking place in Brussels are expected to include a reference on Cyprus in relation with the European expectations of Turkey.

    CNA has learned that the Council will proceed with the adoption of the conclusions on Friday, having first wrapped up most of the work on the Permanent Representative and Minister of Foreign Affairs levels, so that the EU leaders can deal with issues concerning the Intergovernmental Conference.

    The agenda of the European Council of the 15 full members with the 10 observers from the acceding countries includes EU enlargement, economic growth, competitiveness, labor, European defense and security policy, EU common borders policy and controlling waves of immigrants, relations with Turkey, and the Cyprus problem.

    On enlargement, the European Council will express satisfaction over the fact that this will take place on May 1, 2004 and that the acceding countries are on track regarding full harmonization with the acquis communautaire.

    Regarding Turkey, the Council is expected to encourage continuing reforms, to express satisfaction for progress so far, and to note the need for further serious progress in the sectors of justice, human rights and the role of the army in the country's politics.

    On the Cyprus problem, the Council will note the importance of Turkey expressing political will to settle the question, adding that this settlement, which must be based on UN resolutions, will greatly facilitate Turkey's European course.

    The Council will also express its preference for a reunited Cyprus joining the bloc in May and will call on all parties involved to work towards this goal, so that all Cypriots can benefit from accession.

    Regarding Bulgaria and Romania, the Council is expected to commit itself to the accession of these countries in 2007 and note that the negotiations underway should be wrapped up by the end of 2004.

    On the Union's external relations, the Council will make reference to the Balkans, the Middle East, Iraq and relations with Russia.

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