|Friday, 28 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-04-22
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>April 22, 2005
 Deputy FM attends informal NATO FMs conference in Lithuania
Vilnius, 22/4/2005 (ANA - N. Melissova)The two-day informal conference of NATO foreign ministers, attended by Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valynakis, came to an end here on Thursday following an examination of major international issues.
The ministers discussed NATO's role in Kosovo, Afghanistan, the Middle East, cooperation between the alliance and the European Union and national issues raised by each delegation, as well as a number of internal operational issues concerning NATO.
On the sidelines of the conference, the NATO-Russia Council signed a partnership for peace agreement on the status governing the presence and passage of allied and partnership forces on Russian soil (SOFA).
Another agreement was also signed between the NATO-Ukraine Committee on the participation of Ukraine in NATO's Active Endeavor operation against terrorism.
It was further decided that NATO funds will be made available for the Ukrainian authorities to enable the strengthening of democratic institutions in the country and a series of measures aimed at warming up political dialogue with the Organization.
Greek diplomatic sources said Kosovo, for which no political discussion was held on its future during the conference, continues to be among the top priorities of the alliance.
"The region of the Balkans has strategic importance for Europe and for this reason the Balkans must also have a place in European institutions. Also of great importance is the development of regional dialogue and resolving problems with mutually acceptable solutions," Valynakis said.
The deputy foreign minister noted during the examination of the situation in Afghanistan that "our country will strengthen its contribution with a full medical team in the region of Kabul."
The 26 foreign ministers also held a preliminary discussion on the role the UN, EU and NATO can play in a range of activities.
The general assessment made on relations between NATO and the EU is that autonomy in the taking of decisions must be maintained. This view is shared by many EU countries, including Greece.
"All the issues discussed were of interest to Greece, since Greece will be assuming the presidency of Inter-Balkan Cooperation soon. We are a member of the [UN] Security Council and we will also be assuming the presidency there as well in July," Valynakis added.
 Foreign ministry underlines Greece's unmitigated desire to improve relations with Turkey
Athens, 22/4/2005 (ANA)Greece's desire to improve bilateral relations with Turkey remained unmitigated, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos stressed on Thursday. At the same time, he noted that the good climate and improvement in relations should be reflected by military activity in the Aegean, which was a source of friction between the two countries.
The spokesman was responding to Greek press questions referring to an escalation of tensions in the Aegean by Turkey.
He said that Greece's desire for improved Greek-Turkish ties was a strategic choice reflecting Athens' views on how stability in the surrounding region might be achieved and one that found expression in specific actions and practical policies. He also pointed out that bilateral relations with Turkey did not follow a "linear progression" and that the obstacles were "there to be overcome".
Asked why Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul had cancelled a visit to Komotini, where he was due to take part in a meeting of Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) pact ministers, Koumoutsakos said this was in response to the cancellation of a visit by Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, who is recovering from minor surgery.
Answering questions on Turkish press reports concerning alleged violations of an agreement concerning the Imia islets, Koumoutsakos said he was unaware of any such agreement.
Gov't declines comment on Turkish military chief's views vis-a-vis Ankara's foreign policy
The government on Thursday was asked to comment on statements this week by Turkish military chief Hilmi Ozkiok, especially provocative views expressed by the latter over the Cyprus problem and Ankara's standing refusal to recognize the EU member-state Republic of Cyprus.
"Views on foreign policy are expressed by (a country's) political leadership. The specific references were made by the Turkish chief of the (armed forces) general staff, and I do not want to comment on them," government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said.
 PM Karamanlis meets with former Russian PM Primakov
Athens, 22/4/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday met with former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, who currently chairs the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
During the meeting, which was also attended by deputy foreign minister Evripides Stylianidis, bilateral economic cooperation and the recently signed political agreement between Greece, Bulgaria and Russia for the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline were discussed.
 Balkans, Middle East and terrorism focus of talks between DM and US Secretary of Defense
Athens, 22/4/2005 (ANA)Developments in the Balkans and the Middle East, the fight against terrorism and Greece's participation in peacekeeping forces in the Balkans and Afghanistan are the issues that will dominate talks between the Minister of Defense and US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on Wednesday.
Issues related to bilateral military cooperation will also be discussed with the aim of strengthening relations.
The defense minister and a Greek delegation will be departing for Washington on Sunday.
Also on the DM's agenda is a meeting with J.D. Crouch, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy.
The minister will also be meeting with members of the Greek-American community and will be delivering a series of speeches at various institutes.
 Joint position ahead of EU-Turkey Association Council meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday
Brussels, 22/4/2005 (ANA/V. Demiris)Greek and Greek Cypriot diplomatic sources expressed satisfaction here on Thursday on the text of the joint position of the "25" which was reached by the Council of Permanent Representatives in view of the EU-Turkey Association Council which will take place in Luxembourg on Tuesday.
On issues of Greek-Turkish interest, satisfaction was expressed on the fact that the text stressed the need for Turkey to make further efforts to secure full control of politics against the military power in accordance with the practices implemented in the EU-member states. The joint position further underlines that the political power in Turkey should play a supervisory role, particularly with regard to the shaping of national strategy and its implementation, including relations with other countries.
With regard to the chapter of the joint position of the "25" on Turkey's relations with its neighbors, reference was made to the confidence-building measures between Greece and Turkey in efforts to solve differences on the basis of the UN Charter.
The text also calls for the need for Turkey to have smooth bilateral relations with all the EU-member-states, including Cyprus.
 Greek minister Skandalakis and Christofias discuss expatriates' role in Cyprus issue
Nicosia, 22/4/2005 (ANA - G. Leonidas)Meeting the president of the Cyprus House of Representatives Demetris Christofias during a visit to Nicosia on Thursday, Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Panagiotis Skandalakis discussed the role of expatriate Greeks in promoting Greek positions on the Cyprus issue and how this might be better utilized and upgraded.
After the meeting, Christofias said they had discussed the latest developments in the Cyprus problem and the next steps that Greece and Cyprus might take in order to achieve a just, viable and functional solution. He said the talks had also covered cooperation between the Greek and Cypriot parliaments and efforts currently being made to upgrade this.
He stressed that Nicosia and Athens must continue their unstinting cooperation to achieve their common goals.
Skandalakis noted that expatriate Greeks were a great power that should be better utilized, both for the Cyprus issue and in other major foreign policy goals. Greeks and Cypriots living abroad had come to occupy important positions and were willing to assist in matters that concerned Greeks, provided there was better coordination, he added.
He also reiterated that Greece remained steadily at Cyprus side with respect to the Cyprus problem.
 Questions on 'primary shareholder' law continue to dominate daily press briefings
Athens, 22/4/2005 (ANA)A torrent of press questions on the "primary shareholder" law, along with a top Commission official's threat this week to freeze certain EU funding because of the bill's incompatibility with EU law, again dominated the government spokesman's briefing on Thursday.
The government's stated intent, before and after the March 2004 elections, to prevent mass media owners from winning public tenders and state contracts continues to generate a firestorm of criticism by a portion of the local press, with numerous questions on the subject tabled during the government spokesmen's daily briefings -- Thursday being no exception.
Government spokesman and Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos fielded a handful of questions on the status of Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, amongst the "architects" of the current government's "primary shareholder" law.
Roussopoulos emphasized that "no member of the government, sans the prime minister, can equate himself with the government".
Moreover, he repeated that national interest necessitates both the safeguarding of EU structural funding and defense of the constitution -- a reference to Article 14.9 that refers directly to transparency in the press sector.
Additionally, the government spokesman said main opposition PASOK -- amongst the most vocal critics of the 'primary shareholder' law -- has merely tabled "general and vague" proposals to tackle the issue of media transparency and vested interests.
Furthermore, he clarified that the government has not referred to a "postponement" of the law, but only to finding "common ground".
On Wednesday, Roussopoulos stressed that a letter received from the European Commission a day earlier, which found the government's 'primary shareholder' law to be incompatible with the laws of the European Union, was not a reply to the letter sent 15 days earlier by Pavlopoulos, which the government has not received, he said.
According to the spokesman, the memorandum sent by European Commission Regional Policy Directorate-General Graham Meadows ruled out payments from EU Structural and Cohesion Funds for projects affected by the new law, creating the risk that EU funding may be withheld.
The new bill was originally scheduled to come into force on June 14, 2005. Currently, a similar bill passed by the previous PASOK government in 2002 is in force
Meanwhile, in statements during a television news program Wednesday evening, Roussopoulos said the government has two options: achieving consensus and the judicial avenue.
However, he clarified that the options were definitely not an "either/or" proposition.
"We may arrive at a consensus to end this matter and not need to do anything else. We may not find consensual procedures that we can agree on, (thus) forcing this case to the court. But in the meantime we will find a compromise so that we don't lose funding. What I am therefore saying is that we are not going to lose funding, and that is an important goal; we are not going to allow any vested interest to take satisfaction over this," Roussopoulos said.
Coalition (SYN) leader slams gov't policy on 'primary shareholder' bill issue as 'amateur': The leader of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party Alekos Alavanos on Thursday slammed the government's policy on the 'primary shareholder' bill as "amateur".
He said that a "comprehensive" legislation covering all matters related to graft, over-concentration and quality in the mass media was needed.
Alavanos was also highly critical of main opposition PASOK, calling the party "crusaders of Berlusconism" and of the intertwining of financial, TV and political power in Greece.
 Gov't dismisses opposition criticism over penalty interest rates measures as 'distortion'
Athens, 22/4/2005 (ANA)The government on Thursday dismissed main opposition PASOK's criticism of measures designed to resolved farmers' problems with "penalty" interest rates as an attempt to distort the figures.
Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos was asked to comment on a press report citing PASOK officials, who said the measures had had minimal effect. Specifically, they said that there were 38,000 loans subject to penalty interest, for which 2,500 applications for a settlement had been submitted, of which 1650 had been accepted, representing a percentage of 4.3 percent.
Roussopoulos said this was a distortion, since the percentage should have been calculated on the basis of the applications made. Had it been calculated in this way, the percentage of resolving the problem would have been above 40 per cent, he said.
While noting that certain individuals affected by the measures might have complaints, the spokesman claimed that the government's overall picture was that these were a minority.
 Anniversary of Greek dictatorship a reminder of 'our duty to Democracy', New Democracy says
Athens, 22/4/2005 (ANA)The 38th anniversary of the Greek dictatorship of April 21, 1967 is a reminder of citizens' and governments' duties towards democracy, the ruling New Democracy party said in a statement issued on Thursday.
"Today we enjoy the benefits of Democracy, those we achieved over time. However, as circumstances shift we must keep constant the democratic ideal. We have a duty to protect democracy, civil liberties and civil rights, and to upgrade the quality of Democracy," the statement read.
"Our obligation towards the future generations of Greeks is tremendous. By honoring the sacrifices of past generations we are building the New Greece. We are strengthening Democracy, we are reinforcing freedom, we respect the right to individual expression and we are fighting for transparency. Our struggle for the upgrading of democracy is constant, continuous," the message continued.
On April 21, 1967, a group of army colonels imposed a dictatorship in Greece. They remained in power until 1974.
 Public order minister and Spanish ambassador discuss cooperation in security issues
Athens, 22/4/2005 (ANA)Close cooperation that has developed between Greece and Spain in security issues, particularly in the sector of border control, as well as willingness for further cooperation in the future, were issues discussed on Thursday by Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis and Spanish Ambassador to Athens Juan Salazar.
The ambassador visited Voulgarakis at his office for talks on issues of bilateral interest.
Salazar showed a strong interest in the establishment of the "Inter-Balkan and Mediterranean Security and Training Studies Centre" and promised to support the initiative, believing that such a centre is an important step for securing stability and combatting organized crime in the Mediterranean region.
The Spanish ambassador also presented the Spanish candidacy for the management of the European Union's border control service to Voulgarakis. Also present at the meeting was Public Order Ministry Secretary General Leonidas Evangelidis.
 Prosecutor shelves probe into Attica tollway construction; calls contract 'one-sided'
Athens, 22/4/2005 (ANA)A first instance court prosecutor investigating charges -- mostly aired in the local press -- of massive cost-overruns in relation to the construction of the Attica tollway (Attiki Odos) on Thursday shelved the case.
According to prosecutor Eleni Touloupaki, provisions cited in a relevant contract, which was approved in 1996, were fully met.
However, in her report the prosecutor refers to an extremely "one-sided" contract in favor of the construction consortium and against the state's interests, while noting that it will be up to the state's regulatory authorities to make sure that all of the provisions in the contract are implemented.
 Prosecutor's probe into May 2000 artillery purchase headed to Parliament
Athens, 22/4/2005 (ANA)A first instance prosecutor's investigation of a 60-million euro weapons deal dating back to May 2000 for the purchase of 12 Slovakian-made self-propelled artillery pieces (code-named "Zuzana") was forwarded to the Supreme Court chief prosecutor's office on Thursday so it can be conveyed to Parliament.
According to reports, the prosecutor's report refers to possible felonious misconduct by political persons.
The investigation was ordered after relevant press articles charged that the purchase was disadvantageous for the state.
 Athens aware of violent incidents against Calka Greeks in Georgia, foreign ministry says
Athens, 22/4/2005 (ANA)Greek foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos on Thursday said that Athens was aware of recent violent incidents in Georgia targeting ethnic Greeks in Calka, one of whom was killed, and taking appropriate action.
He said the matter had been raised with the Georgian ambassador in Athens and with Georgian officials by World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) president Andrew Athens, in the presence of the Greek ambassador in Tbilisi.
According to Koumoutsakos, the situation in Calka had improved but was not fully resolved, while the Georgian interior ministry had sent 100 officers to the region to protect the inhabitants earmarked one million dollars as compensation for those whose property was damaged or who desired to leave.
He announced that Deputy Foreign Minister Panagiotis Skandalakis, in charge of expatriate affairs, will be visiting Georgia soon.
SAE president meets with Georgia's PM, discusses treatment of Greek community members: The President of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE), Andrew A. Athens, expressed his satisfaction on the outcome of his meeting in Tbilisi with the Prime Minister of Georgia, Zourab Nogaideli, on issues related to the safety and the violation of human rights of Greeks living in Tsalka, Georgia.
According to an SAE press release, Nogaideli promised to personally look into the matter, admitting that he was unaware of the extent of the problem.
Athens, who visited the region on Monday, said that Greeks were the targets of attacks - muggings and burglaries - and stressed that he personally, SAE and the Greek government will contribute to any efforts for a solution to the problem.
The SAE president has already informed Washington, international humanitarian organizations, the United Nations and the European Union of the situation.
 PM briefed over absorption rates of EU funds
Athens, 22/4/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday met with Economy Deputy Minister Christos Folias to discuss progress in absorbing EU funds.
Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, Folias said the government's policy was not to lose even one euro from EU funds and added that negotiations with EU authorities aimed to overcome problems with past contracts and mismanagement of funds was under way.
The Greek minister said a primary shareholder legislation was temporarily suspended until June.
 Economy minister Alogoskoufis confers with OECD sec-gen Johnston
Athens, 22/4/2005 (ANA)National economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis on Thursday conferred with visiting Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) secretary general Donald J. Johnston on ways of improving the tax-collecting mechanisms and containing expenditures.
Johnston is on a three-day visit to Greece at Alogoskoufis' invitation, ahead of the OECD annual report on world economies expected next month.
Alogoskoufis told reporters after the meeting that a very analytical discussion had taken place, in order that the OECD's immense wealth of information could be utilized.
Johnston, in turn, noted that the demographic problem in Greece, and in many other OECD member countries, was acute and, according to studies, it was necessary to extend the work years.
He also said that the OECD had an immense wealth of knowledge, comprising data on the 30 developed countries that were OECD member countries, as well as on many other non-OECD countries.
 Development Minister meets with OECD Secretary General
Athens, 22/4/2005 (ANA)Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and Secretary General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Donald J. Johnston discussed issues of cooperation between Greece and the OECD during their meeting on Thursday.
The two officials also discussed the conference Greece will be organizing in the Fall of 2006, which will deal with making international markets more accessible to small- and medium-sized enterprises.
Also present at the meeting was Greece's permanent representative at the OECD, Antonis Kourakis, who was accompanying Johnston.
 Greece initiates 'tourism diplomacy', Tourism Minister says
Istanbul, 22/4/2005 (ANA/A.Kourkoulas)Greece does not consider neighboring countries as competitors in the tourism sector, rather it plans to initiate 'tourism diplomacy' in order to ensure stability and safety in the region, Tourism Development Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said, addressing attendees of the international tourism exhibit MTE in Istanbul on Thursday.
"We all know that tourists do not go to places where there is tension, conflict and unstable situations," he said.
Avramopoulos also met with Turkish Minister of Culture and Tourism Attila Koc, as well as the tourism ministers of other countries attending the inauguration.
The exhibit is being organized by the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TURSAB).
 Bulgarian drivers demands ransom from Kavala businessman for hijacked truck - Interpol alerted
Athens, 22/4/2005 (ANA)Two Bulgarian nationals have demanded 3,400 euros in ransom from a Kavala businessman to return an international transports truck after delivering the truck's merchandise at its Italian destination, Kavala police said on Thursday.
According to the local police, the businessman informed them on Tuesday that two Bulgarian nationals aged 31 and 34, approached him on April 11 and sought work as drivers at the international transports business run by his wife. The two men were hired after a check was made on their papers, and the following day the Bulgarians drove off with an international transports truck loaded with merchandise destined for Padua, which they delivered on April 14. The two Bulgarians were paid in advance, receiving 450 euros and 400 euros respectively.
Police, citing the businessman, said that the 31-year-old Bulgarian called him on Monday (April 18) and threatened to burn the truck if he did not wire 3,400 euros to the Bulgarian via Western Union.
Once the money was received by the two Bulgarians, they would then inform the businessmen where they had hidden the truck, the Bulgarian told his employer.
The Kavala police immediately launched a preliminary investigation into the case, issued an all-points-bulletin for the missing truck, and alerted INTERPOL.
 Greece welcomes EU compromise on trucking tax
Brussels, 22/4/2005 (ANA/M Spinthourakis)Greece on Thursday welcomed a compromise on taxing trucks using the European Union's road network.
"The compromise agreement is satisfactory as the directive on taxing heavy vehicles sets a figure for payment at toll posts," Transport Minister Mihalis Liapis told reporters after a meeting with his EU counterparts to debate the issue.
"At the same time, the directive facilitates concession arrangements (involving private and public sectors) employed in financing infrastructure projects that allow discounts for vehicles often using the European road network," Liapis said.
He told EU ministers that transport costs for goods should be kept at reasonable levels so that companies from countries classed as regional could take part on equal terms; and that frequent road users should receive higher discounts.
 Gov't says no to firms rolling market fines into retail prices
Athens, 22/4/2005 (ANA)The government said on Thursday that companies punished by the competition commission for breaches of market legislation would not be allowed to factor fines into retail prices.
"This doesn't happen in any part of the world, in any part of Europe, and it's inconceivable that it could happen in Greece - and it won't," Deputy Development Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou told parliament.
He was responding to a question from an opposition deputy following stiff fines slapped on the SESME supermarket trade group and seven of its members, all high-street chain stores, for setting up a price-rigging cartel in 2001.
"Fines are a form of punishment on the perpetrator for a mistaken business practice, and in no event can that punishment be borne by another party," Papathanasiou added.
The offending supermarkets were two Athens-quoted retailers, Atlantik and AB Vassilopoulos, Veropoulos, Masoutis, Metro, Sklavenitis and Trofino. SESME has vowed to seek an administrative appeals court ruling to reverse the ruling.
 Budgetary spending shows decline
Athens, 22/4/2005 (ANA)Budgetary spending declined sharply in January-March 2005, improving on the government's target, the finance ministry said on Thursday.
Expenditure fell by 5.0% to 11.147 billion euros against the same period of 2004, falling below a targeted 4.6% increase, the ministry said in a statement.
Primary spending fell by 1.6%, against a goal of a 4.9% annual increase. Contributing heavily to the decline was interest, which fell by 15.7% against a targeted annual rise of 3.5%, the statement said.
Net budgetary revenue increased by 4.5%, lagging a target of 11.4% growth.
The state budget deficit in the first three months of the year dropped by 41.0% to total 2.439 billion euros against the same period a year earlier, the statement added.
 Greek laws concerning opticians clash with Community Law, European Court findsBrussels, 22/4/2005, (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)
The European Court of Justice on Thursday ruled that Greek laws on practicing opticians and shops dispensing optical goods were incompatible with European Community Law.
Greek laws prevent a qualified optician from running more than one optical goods store and set other conditions for issuing a license to open an optical goods store.
The court rejected Greek arguments that the measures were designed to protect public health by ensuring that the owner was personally responsible in the event of a mistake, finding that this could be achieved with measures that were less restrictive of the rights to set up a business.
It also refused to take into account changes to Greek laws on opticians that harmonized Greek legislation with that of the EU on the grounds that they were made after the deadline set in the reasoned opinion sent by the European Commission.
 Attiko Metro hosts "Equal Employment Opportunities" event
Athens, 22/4/2005 (ANA)Attiko Metro S.A. will be hosting a two-day event, titled "Equal Employment Opportunities," at the Syntagma metro station beginning on Friday.
Attiko Metro's initiative coincides with the conclusion of the EU program Equal-Andromeda, which aims to promote best practices in the workplace in terms of gender equality.
Event visitors can look forward to speeches, analyses and the presentation of results from the EU pilot program, as well as a book and photo exhibit, short films and other cultural activities.
 Education and labor ministries to partner on continuing education
Athens, 22/4/2005 (ANA)Education Minister Marietta Giannakou and Labor and Social Protection Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos signed a memorandum of cooperation on Thursday, whereby the two ministries will work together on continuing education and vocational training.
"Issues related to continuing education and vocational training are issues which call for close cooperation between the two ministries; something which, apparently, did not exist in the past," Giannakou said.
According to the education minister, the two ministries will be collaborating on a series of activities aimed at linking education and training with employment.
"There are some areas in which Greece, unfortunately, has remained behind," Panayiotopoulos stressed.
"We believe that with the efforts we are making and the hard work we're putting in, we are in a position to soon make up for lost time," he concluded.
Stocks nose up in bid to consolidate
Stocks finished higher in a bid to consolidate, following an early decline, traders said.
The Athens general share index closed at 2,898.34 points, marking a rise of 0.07%. Turnover was 154.0 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.03% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.32% lower; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.33% down.
Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 145 to 105 with 78 remaining unchanged.
Foreign Exchange Rates: Friday
U.S. dollar 1.316
Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos among 7 recipients of UNEP 'Champions of the Earth' award
Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos was among seven recipients -- including monarchs, government and religious leaders, and indigenous and youth group representatives -- of the inaugural UNEP "Champions of the Earth" awards, presented at a ceremony at the UN Headquarters in New York on Wednesday evening. The award was accepted on the Patriarch's behalf by Archbishop Demetrios of America.
In presenting the awards to this unique group of seven environmental leaders, representing each region of the world, Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), hailed them for their efforts to "fight for, defend and protect the natural riches that we have for too long taken for granted".
"UNEP is honored to recognize the achievements of those who have, to a large extent, set the environmental agenda and laid the foundations for the many areas of progress we are able to see and celebrate today", he noted.
The Champions of the Earth award was created by UNEP in 2004 to honor individuals or groups who have made a significant and recognized contribution, regionally or beyond, to the protection and sustainable management of the Earth's environment and natural resources. Laureates have been rewarded for their creativity, vision and leadership, and for the potential that their work and ideas can be replicated across the globe.
The award is a sculpture, made of recyclable metal, representing the four elements of nature.
According to a UNEP press release:
For North America, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, who was on hand to receive the honor in person, was recognized for her energies in speaking out on behalf of the 155,000 Inuit of the Arctic. As Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, she has been a highly effective spokesperson on the international stage on a wide range of Arctic and indigenous issues. These range from the devastating effects of climate change and its relentless assault on the Inuit's traditional way of life to global efforts to eliminate persistent organic pollutants, which pose a particular threat to Arctic peoples and ecosystems.
His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (Vartholomeos), spiritual leader of the over 300 million Orthodox Christians, and known as the Green Patriarch, was honored with the Champions of the Earth award for mobilizing moral and spiritual forces, not just in Europe, but globally, towards achieving harmony between humankind and nature. As leader of the Orthodox Church, he has worked energetically to promote mediation between East and West, and to challenge people and leaders of all faiths to vigorously pursue peaceful and innovative solutions to the challenges of the new millennium. His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America accepted the award on behalf of the Patriarch. Among his many environmental achievements is a series of symposia on the conservation of the seas, as part of 'Religion, Science and the Environment', with the latest being 'The Caspian Sea -- Linking People and Traditions'. The symposium also aims to encourage understanding and a dialogue between the Christian and Islamic Faiths.
Also present was Julia Carabias Lillo, representing the Latin American and Caribbean region, who was honored for her efforts in coordinating research and rural development programs in extremely impoverished peasant communities throughout her native Mexico. She was also recognized for her outstanding service to her Government as its Environment Minister in the 1990s and, internationally more recently, as Chair of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel of the Global Environment Facility.
President Thabo Mbeki and the people of South Africa received the Champions of the Earth award for their commitment to cultural and environmental diversity. They were also honored for their efforts towards achieving the goals and targets encapsulated in the 2000 Millennium Declaration and the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) Plan of Implementation, particularly in the area of clean water and sanitation. Their world leadership in conservation practices, including spearheading of the groundbreaking sponsorship of the Peace Parks concept to support cross-border conservation of critically important wild habitats, has also been exemplary. Mr. Marthinus van Schalkwyk, South Africa's Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, was on hand to accept the award.
The next honor went to a leader in the West Asia region, the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, for his lifetime work to protect his country's environment, and for his widely acclaimed contributions to agriculture, afforestation and species protection. The presentation of the award recognizing the late Sheikh's environmental achievements was made Tuesday in Dubai to his eldest son Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, during an official visit by Mr. Toepfer.
From Asia and the Pacific, the King and the People of Bhutan were presented the award in recognition of their commitment to placing the environment at the centre of the country's constitution and all its development plans. Bhutan's track record is quite impressive, with more than 74 per cent of its land under forest cover, and 26 per cent of this cover designated as protected areas. Also notable are the country's long-standing legislation and policies that ensure the sustainable use of resources, promote community involvement in environmental activities, improve land use planning, and integrate traditional with modern natural resource use practices. Mr. Daw Penjo Bhutan's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, accepted the award on behalf of the King and the people of Bhutan.
A special award was given to Mr. Zhou Qiang and the All-China Youth Federation in recognition of Mr. Zhou's outstanding achievements as honorary chairman of the Federation and leader of the China Mother River Protection Operation, which mobilized 300 million Chinese youth to protect the environment. The Federation, the national umbrella organization for youth associations in China, has undertaken almost 900 afforestation projects covering nearly 200,000 hectares. Mr. Zhou was in attendance to accept the award.
 President Papoulias receives Athens Press Association board
Athens, 22/4/2005 (ANA)President Karolos Papoulias received the board members of the Athens Press Association (ESHEA) on Thursday, headed by President Manolis Mathioudakis who briefed him on the current claims of the journalistic sector, such as the social security and pensioning issues and labor matters.
Mathioudakis said the dominant issue for ESHEA is the right of citizens to multifaceted and full information and to an improvement in its quality.
President Papoulias showed great interest in the sector's problems and in the issues raised, while expressing the desire for more frequent contact with ESHEA's board.
 Boat carrying 46 refugees spotted between Chios and Turkish coast
Athens, 22/4/2005 (ANA)A wooden boat carrying 46 refugees (including women and children) was spotted between the island of Chios and the Turkish coast on Wednesday night, while harbor corps vessels are not allowing them to reach Greek soil, believing that they will return to Turkey from where they had initially sailed.
Refugees staying at the temporary residence centre in Chios, in the region of Mersinidi, reacted strongly to this development after communicating with mobile phones with people in the boat and ascertaining that it contains relatives of theirs.
Consequently, they abstained from lunch at noon on Thursday, while in the afternoon they set fire to a tent which was extinguished by firemen.
 Cyprus FM Iacovou: Turkish military chief's comments on Cyprus are unacceptableNicosia, 22/4/2005,(CNA/ANA)
Cypriot Foreign Minister George Iacovou on Thursday described comments made by Turkish armed forces chief Hilmi Ozkok on Cyprus as unacceptable.
Speaking after a meeting with Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Panayiotis Skandalakis, Iacovou said what is important is that Cyprus' partners in the European Union also consider such statements as unacceptable.
General Hilmi Ozkok said that Turkey would not withdraw its troops that occupy since 1974 the northern part of Cyprus.
''These statements are really unacceptable and our partners in Europe believe that these statements are entirely unacceptable and that is what is important,'' Iacovou added.
 Cyprus FM criticizes Talat's policy on missing persons issueNicosia, 22/4/2005,(CNA/ANA)
Mehmet Ali Talat, new leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, seeks with various excuses to obstruct the effective investigation of the fate of missing persons, Cyprus
Foreign Minister George Iacovou said on Thursday.
Talat has sent a third letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, asking for equal Turkish and Greek Cypriot representation at the Institute of Genetics and Neurology, which carries out work in a variety of spheres, not just with regard to the issue of missing persons.
Iacovou recalled that the Institute had ''offered posts to Turkish Cypriots,'' adding however that ''former Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash forced them to leave.''
''Talat wants a mixed board of Directors, equal number of scientists, equal numbers of administrative employees, something which basically will destroy the Institute's functionality,'' Iacovou added.
He also added that all these moves by Talat are merely excuses so that Turkey does not abide by its obligations in the framework of a European Court of Human Rights judgment which ordered Ankara to carry out effective investigation into the fate of these people, missing since the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus.
''Because the issue is being discussed the Council of Europe's Permanent Representatives Committee ''they (Turkey and Talat) want to show that they made proposals for the solution of the problem but Greek Cypriots do not accept these proposals,'' Iacovou added.
 Cyprus government says new crossing points cannot open immediatelyNicosia, 22/4/2005,(CNA/ANA)
The Cyprus government confirmed on Thursday that the list of crossing points where persons and goods may cross the ceasefire line on the island has been extended, noting however that the two new crossing points cannot open immediately due to technical difficulties.
On Wednesday, the European Commission had announced that the list of crossing points where persons and goods may cross the ceasefire line on the island has been extended and it is now up to the two communities to agree on their actual opening. The two crossing points are Zodia, in the Nicosia District, and Ledra Street in the town of Nicosia.
Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou said ''this had been agreed (the opening of the new crossing points).''
He also noted that there are some technical problems concerning the opening of these crossing points.
Government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said he does not know when the new crossing points will open, noting that due to the technical difficulties the two crossing points will not open immediately.
He explained that the technical difficulties have to do with the supplying of electricity and other services as well as with the widening of the roads leading to the new crossing points.
He added that as far as the Greek Cypriot side is concerned the de-mining process has been concluded, adding that he is not aware whether this applies for the Turkish Cypriot side as well.
 EU Commission appoints first Cypriot high-ranking officialNicosia, 22/4/2005,(CNA/ANA)
The European Commission has decided to appoint Antonis Constantinou as the Director and Head of the Agricultural Development Programs, in the Commission's Directorate-General on Agriculture.
A Commission press release said ''Constantinou is the first Cypriot citizen to be appointed in such a high administrative position in the European Commission since Cyprus' accession to the EU last May.''
Constantinou has served in the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment as the Director of the Agriculture Department.