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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-04-27

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

April 27, 2005


  • [01] Valinakis expresses Greek satisfaction with common EU positions vis-a-vis Turkey
  • [02] Finance and employment ministers discuss social security dialogue
  • [03] Greece prepares position for talks on Fourth Community Support Framework
  • [04] Cabinet meeting discuss prevention of forest fires during wildfire season
  • [05] National defense minister meets AHI leadership during U.S. visit
  • [06] Defense minister says 'war against terrorism will not be short'
  • [07] PM's meeting with U.S. President reflects excellent level of Greek-U.S. ties, Molyviatis says
  • [08] U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for European affairs to visit Ankara, Athens and Nicosia
  • [09] Transport minister hails Bulgarians as Greece's 'new partners in EU'
  • [10] National Radio and TV Council member comments on main shareholder law discussion with European Commission
  • [11] ND party secretary and Australian ruling party president discuss issues concerning the two countries
  • [12] FM receives ambassadors of 10 countries for talks on UN reforms
  • [13] Protagonist of 1996 Imia crisis warns Erdogan gov't against 'altering' isles' status quo
  • [14] Book of condolences opened at Israeli embassy for Weizman
  • [15] Govt presents draft bill to combat money laundering
  • [16] Finmin declines comments on central banker's report, trade union stance
  • [17] Economist Michalos named new General Secretary of Economy and Finance Ministry
  • [18] Greece seeks EU help for disadvantaged areas
  • [19] Greek trade deficit fell 0.2 pct in Jan-Feb, yr/yr
  • [20] Athens Mayor Bakoyiannis visits Varvakio meat market ahead of Easter
  • [21] Gov't welcomes natgas link for industrial zone
  • [22] Stocks drop in mild profit-taking
  • [23] Holy Flame to be brought to Athens from Jerusalem on Saturday
  • [24] Greek deputies visit "Alexander The Great" exhibition in New York
  • [25] Border guards intercept truck carrying 92 illegal immigrants
  • [26] Cyprus President Papadopoulos: success comes when EU principles are at stake
  • [27] Illegal construction in occupied north tackled with various means

  • [01] Valinakis expresses Greek satisfaction with common EU positions vis-a-vis Turkey

    LUXEMBOURG 27/4/2005 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)

    Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis on Tuesday expressed his satisfaction with a crucial document agreed upon by the Union's "25" and submitted to Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul during a same-day European Union-Turkey association council meeting here.

    Speaking to reporters afterwards, Valinakis reiterated Greece's strategic decision as far as EU-Turkey relations are concerned, namely, Athens' standing support for the neighboring country's European prospects.

    Conversely, he said this support is directly related to Turkey's harmonization with standing EU principles and values.

    The Greek deputy FM said the positions laid out on Tuesday by the European Union clearly outline the framework in which Turkey should maneuver, both on the domestic front and internationally, a reference to its behavior vis-a-vis EU member-states Greece and the Republic of Cyprus. Valinakis also referred to a coordinated and constant effort by Greek diplomacy in the lead-up to the meeting.

    Among others, Turkey was urged to extend a customs union protocol with the EU's 10 member-states as soon as possible as well as to subsequently implement the pact. The Union said this move would be a step towards normalizing Ankara's relations with the island republic of Cyprus.

    The EU also underlined that it expects Turkey to continue support for efforts at solving the Cyprus problem, adding that a solution must be based on UN resolutions and be in accord with EU principles.

    Moreover, the 25-nation bloc called on Turkey to change in policy and cease attempts at blocking Cyprus' participation in various international fora and organizations where the former retains a power of veto. Additionally, Turkey is requested to allow the transit and trade of Cypriot goods.

    Furthermore, Ankara is called on to increase civilian control of that country's dominant military establishment, noting that the formulation of Turkey's national strategy and its relations with neighboring states must be determined via political decisions and not by decisions taken by its military leadership.

    Turkey is also urged to avoid any act that could negatively affect the peaceful resolution of differences with other countries, the first time any such reference was listed in an official Community document.

    The reopening of the Orthodox Seminary of Halki was also cited, whereas the Ankara government is called upon to stop creating problems for non-Muslim communities in the country, a first-ever official reference to the now tiny ethnic Greek communities on the northeast Aegean islands of Imvros and Tenedos.

    Finally, Turkey is urged to immediately begin negotiations with the EU towards signing an illegal migrant repatriation agreement, while fully implementing an existing protocol it signed with Greece in late 2001.

    Turkish FM Gul: Speaking after the same meeting, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul emphasized the significance of a European course for his country, while promising that legislative changes to boost democratization will be accelerated.

    Regarding Greek-Turkish relations, Gul cited what he called an improvement, although he again conjured up "grey zones" by citing a problem of sovereignty (in the Aegean) as far as international law is concerned.

    Asked about the problem of Turkish violations of Greek airspace, the top Turkish diplomat said rejected the notion that his country was the instigator of problems, saying "we have completed 2,500 flights in the Aegean and Greece 25,000 flights".

    However, Gul said he believes some quarters are bothered by the distinct improvement in Greek-Turkish relations, pointing to a recent incident near the Imia islets on the day that the Greek foreign ministry was on a working visit to Ankara.

    Along those lines, he called on the media to play a "productive role" in the ongoing rapprochement.

    As far as the Cyprus problem is concerned, Gul said the EU has still not approved of two trade regulations for the Turkish Cypriot community. He added that Ankara continues to want a solution to the Cyprus problem and the re-activation of the UN in the peace process.

    Finally, he said the extension of a customs protocol by Turkey is a commitment that it will meet.

    [02] Finance and employment ministers discuss social security dialogue

    Athens, 27/4/2005 (ANA)

    Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis and Employment and Social Protection Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos held their first meeting on Tuesday with the Economic and Social Committee's (OKE) Executive Committee on the question of dialogue on the social security issue.

    Speaking after the meeting, Alogoskoufis said OKE was called on to carry out this dialogue because it is the relevant agency enacted by the constitution. He added that the dialogue on the social security issue will have a long duration to enable this major issue to be addressed.

    The minister further said that separate meetings will take place later with labor unions, while the next meeting with OKE will take place at its offices.

    Alogoskoufis stressed that the government is not in a hurry to legislate and that a solution to the social security problem will be given beyond the four-year tenure and without tension.

    Panayiotopoulos said on his part that no working person and no insured person has anything to fear, adding that the government guarantees the smooth payment of pensions. He also said that pensioning age limits will not change, nor will the payable lump sum.

    OKE President Nikos Analytis said the Committee considers it an obligation to have the issue discussed and that there is special sensitivity on the social security issue.

    The next meeting with OKE will take place after Easter and the dialogue will take place without government interventions, as Alogoskoufis said.

    During the meeting between the ministers and OKE at the economy ministry, representatives of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) affiliated labor group PAME held a protest gathering outside.

    Social security dialogue must take place on national, social and political level, labor confederation says: The General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) said in an announcement on Tuesday that it does not refuse dialogue, but added that such a dialogue must take place on a national, social and political level to facilitate a national and social agreement on the future of the social security system.

    GSEE sets as a precondition for such a prospect that the government makes a commitment that no change will be brought about throughout the duration of such a dialogue and that the duration must have a depth exceeding the government's tenure.

    The labor confederation added that if there is a response to the preconditions it sets, it is prepared to contribute to a constructive dialogue on the social security system together with all agencies.

    PASOK party spokesman calls on government to announce positions on social security and employment issues: Main opposition PASOK party spokesman Nikos Athanassakis on Tuesday accused the government of a belated discovery of social dialogue and called on it to announce its positions and proposals on the social security and employment issues.

    PASOK's spokesman also accused the government of trying to create a climate of generalized insecurity and of trying to place its responsibilities on others.

    Coalition party leader expresses complete opposition to cutting back social state: Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology Alekos Alavanos on Tuesday said he was completely opposed to efforts to cut back the social state, during a press conference to discuss the start of dialogue on pension system and labor law reforms.

    "In the past 15 years, the state social-insurance system in our country has received successive and combined blows from the governments of [ruling] New Democracy and [main opposition] PASOK," he said.

    He stressed that pensions had effectively 'collapsed' and that over 70 per cent of pensioners were receiving pensions less than 500 euros a month, while the age of retirement had risen.

    "It is clear that we are no longer talking about pensions but about welfare benefits. The insurance funds are becoming charitable institutions for the needy," Alavanos noted.

    This was combined with ever-worsening healthcare services and increasing costs for employees, who were asked to pay both their insurance contributions but also higher sums for medicine, primary and hospital care.

    The Coalition believed the "chief enemy" of social insurance to be unemployment and low employment levels in Greece, soon to be made worse by lower growth rates, followed by the "one-sided austerity" of low wages and the evasion of contributions, particularly the illegal uninsured work of immigrants, he said.

    He also stressed the role of past governments, their high debts to social insurance funds and the systematic looting of social fund reserves.

    [03] Greece prepares position for talks on Fourth Community Support Framework

    Athens, 27/4/2005 (ANA)

    A commission, formed to prepare Greece's development program ahead of drafting of a Fourth Community Support Framework in the EU, held its regular meeting on Tuesday.

    The meeting, chaired by Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, included Deputy FinMin Christos Folias, the head of the government's council of economic experts Ploutarchos Sakellaris, the director of the Prime Minister's economic office Mrs Eleni Louri and other ministries' officials.

    The commission will meet again in May as the EU is expected to reach its final decisions on a Fourth CSF program in June.

    The fiscal framework for the period 2007-2013 is designed to meet political priorities of an expanded EU, such as promoting sustainable growth, strengthening the role of the EU as a global partner, sustainable management and protecting natural resources.

    The European Commission is recommending that these goals could be achieved only if the ceiling of the EU budget's sources reached 1.24 percent of the EU's Gross National Income. The Greek government agrees with the EU executive's recommendation, although six EU member-states (Germany, Austria, Holland, France, the UK and Sweden) -net contributors to the EU budget- are rejecting these plans.

    The Commission proposed that cohesion funds for the period 2007-2013 would total 336.1 billion euros along with a series of measures aimed to restructuring procedures. Under the plan, the Cohesion Fund will be integrated with Structural Funds and operate under the same rules, while business programs will be financed by a single fund.

    The aim of the program is to promote convergence by offering financial support to regions which per capita GDP less than 75 percent of the average expanded EU during the last three years, while cohesion fund interventions will continue offering financial support to EU member-states with per capita GDP less than 90 percent of the EU average.

    Greece, along with other EU states, will probably lose money from cohesion funds since certain regions of the country are reporting per capita GDP exceeding 75 percent of the EU average. The Commission and member-states are currently seeking a gradual phase out period. Central Greece and South Aegean will be excluded from the convergence program, while three more regions (Central Macedonia, Western Macedonia and Attica) risk losing financial support from EU funds.

    Greece's Economy and Finance ministry expects the country to receive between 12-22 billion euros from EU funds over the next years.

    [04] Cabinet meeting discuss prevention of forest fires during wildfire season

    Athens, 27/4/2005 (ANA)

    The cabinet on Tuesday discussed civil protection and the prevention of forest fires during the hot summer months, in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

    Afterwards, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said that the cabinet had unanimously approved his recommendations for fire prevention, while stressing that there had to be protection for forests that have suffered extensive damage from fires in the past.

    The minister said that his plan would not encroach on the duties of the public order ministry and the fire department but sought to coordinate all the ministries involved in helping prevent fires.

    Specifically, he said the interior ministry will be responsible for civil protection and local government will be in charge of policing illegal and unmonitored dumps, which are a key cause of forest and wild fires.

    In addition, the defense ministry will be in charge of clearing fire hazards in army camps, the development ministry will be responsible for clearance along the Public Power Corporation (DEH) high voltage power grid, the agricultural development ministry will be responsible for opening and clearing forest roads, the culture ministry for archaeological sites and the transport ministry for the rail network.

    Finally, the education ministry will be asked to educate children on fire prevention.

    Pavlopoulos said that there will be constant communication between the Civil Protection Agency and the Communications Secretariat so that the public is informed at all times, while noting that the government's target was to take all necessary measures before the summer begins in order to limit fires by taking precautionary measures.

    [05] National defense minister meets AHI leadership during U.S. visit

    WASHINGTON 27/4/2005 (ANA - A. Ellis)

    National Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos, who is currently visiting the United States, on Tuesday had a meeting with the leadership of the American-Hellenic Institute (AHI) to discuss ways of promoting Greek positions on foreign policy issues, particularly in relations with Turkey.

    Members of the AHI also briefed the minister on action and activity the AHI has initiated in Washington to support Greek foreign policy positions.

    Earlier, the minister had watched a presentation made by representatives of the aircraft manufacturers Lockheed Martin.

    The Greek minister also attended a reception held in his honor at the Greek Embassy in Washington, where he stressed the significance of an upcoming U.S. visit by Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, saying that it confirmed the very good level of U.S.-Greek bilateral relations and the "important role that Greece plays in the surrounding region".

    Later in the day, he is also scheduled to meet Deputy National Security Advisor Jack Crouch at the White House.

    In a statement to Greek state TV, the minister said he had carried out the visit to the U.S. at the invitation of his U.S. counterpart Donald Rumsfeld in order to discuss issues of bilateral interest and broader cooperation, as well as to confirm cooperation between the U.S. and Greek governments in issues of stability, peace-keeping and security in the surrounding regions.

    He said the meeting with Crouch will cover political issues concerning both governments, in addition to the situation in the area around Greece, in view of events currently unfolding in the Balkans and the Middle East.

    "Greece is a member of NATO and the EU, it is a powerful democracy and economy in the Balkans and can play the role that befits it," the minister said.

    [06] Defense minister says 'war against terrorism will not be short'

    WASHINGTON 27/4/2005 (ANA/T. Ellis)

    Greece's National Defense Minister, addressing the "National Defense University" of the United States on Tuesday, thanked the international community for supporting Greece during the preparations for the hosting of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.

    The minister noted that it was the first time, after the tragic events of September 11, 2001 and March 11, 2004, that a small country undertook the enormous responsibility of hosting the Olympic Games and their safeguarding from any type of threat. He also referred to the conditions of security and the manner and methods which Greece used to confront threats and challenges, including international support.

    The Greek minister noted that "the war against terrorism will not be short and requires the taking of coordinated security measures, including military means."

    He added:" One of the main challenges is the reform of the defense and security sector and its adjustment to new approaches, strategic and tactical, especially for anti-terrorist acts. This radical need for reform in the sector of defense and security has developed into a high priority issue for all the modern countries. For example, the confrontation of international terrorism, as well as the effort to restrict the spread of weapons of mass destruction requires increased possibility for the undertaking of military action, in remote areas and at a faster rate than in the past."

    [07] PM's meeting with U.S. President reflects excellent level of Greek-U.S. ties, Molyviatis says

    Athens, 27/4/2005 (ANA)

    An upcoming trip to the United States and a meeting with U.S. President George Bush by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis reflected the excellent level of Greek-U.S. relations and the very close cooperation between the two countries, Greek foreign minister Petros Molyviatis said on Tuesday as he emerged from a cabinet meeting.

    [08] U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for European affairs to visit Ankara, Athens and Nicosia

    WASHINGTON 27/4/2005 (ANA - T. Ellis)

    Alternate U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli announced on Tuesday that Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Laura Kennedy will be visiting Ankara, Athens and Nicosia, as well as other capitals affecting the issue of Cyprus.

    The spokesman avoided characterizing Kennedy's tour as a new initiative, but described it as a "continuation of existing efforts."

    Replying to a relevant question, Ereli said that Kennedy, who is responsible for the Cyprus issue, "will leave on May 1 to travel to Ankara, Athens, Nicosia, Brussels and London," adding that the purpose of her tour is to "consult with the sides on the way with which we shall proceed with regard to a solution to the issue of Cyprus, as well as on bilateral issues."

    Ereli reiterated the position of the U.S. that "the Annan plan provides the best method for a solution to the issue of Cyprus" and pointed out that the U.S. continues to encourage both sides to support the plan.

    [09] Transport minister hails Bulgarians as Greece's 'new partners in EU'

    SOFIA 27/4/2005 (ANA - B. Borisov)

    Transport Minister Mihalis Liapis hailed Bulgarians as Greece's "new partners in the European Union" as he addressed a rally in Varna's central square, alongside his Bulgarian counterpart Nikolai Vasilev.

    The rally was held on Monday evening to celebrate the signature in Luxembourg of a historic treaty that set the seal on Bulgaria's accession to the EU in 2007 and Liapis was the first foreign minister to personally address Bulgarians after their historic achievement.

    "Dear friends, congratulations to Bulgaria, which is a member of the European Union. Congratulations to the Bulgarian people, who tried hard and achieved the great wager. You deserved it and you succeeded!"

    Liapis also stressed Greece's support for Bulgaria's efforts to join the EU over the past years.

    "We will travel alongside in the European Union also, in order to play a leading role in the Balkans for peace and stability in the region," he said.

    "I am certain that Greece and Bulgaria will together play a leading role in the EU, to secure the prosperity of our people and the region's prosperity and progress. Congratulations again and I wish all the best for Bulgaria," Liapis concluded, amid rousing applause.

    [10] National Radio and TV Council member comments on main shareholder law discussion with European Commission

    Athens, 27/4/2005 (ANA)

    National Radio and Television Council (ESR) member Rodolfos Moronis, commenting on Tuesday on the discussion process with the European Commission, concerning laws 3021 and 3310 on the "main shareholder" issue, said "whether there will be a problem for the Council depends on the dialogue framework to be decided by the two sides."

    Moronis added that "I consider it an absolutely positive fact that, according to press reports, the incompatibility of the Greek constitution and EU legislation are not linked with each other."

    He further said that a series of discussions will take place with the European Commission on the constitution's executive legislation, which will require some time although, theoretically, the Greek side will have to reply by May 31 and stressed that "this will not be solved suddenly on June 1."

    [11] ND party secretary and Australian ruling party president discuss issues concerning the two countries

    Athens, 27/4/2005 (ANA)

    Ruling New Democracy party secretary Vangelis Meimarakis and the president of Australia's ruling party Sean Stone held talks at ND's offices in Athens on Tuesday on issues concerning the two countries.

    Stone, who is in Greece in the framework of an International Democratic Union (IDU) meeting, and Meimarakis also discussed matters concerning centre-right parties.

    The prime minister will hold a meeting with Australian Prime Minister and Union leader John Howard on Wednesday morning, in the framework of the IDU's meeting, while the Union's Executive Committee will be convening in the afternoon.

    [12] FM receives ambassadors of 10 countries for talks on UN reforms

    Athens, 27/4/2005 (ANA)

    Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis received the ambassadors of Italy, Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Pakistan, South Korea, Turkey, Algeria, Morocco and Angola on Tuesday at their request.

    Issues discussed during the meeting concerned reforms at the United Nations Organization and the composition of the Security Council.

    [13] Protagonist of 1996 Imia crisis warns Erdogan gov't against 'altering' isles' status quo

    ISTANBUL 27/4/2005 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)

    One of the "architects" of the serious January 1996 crisis between Greece and Turkey over a couple of uninhabited islets in the Aegean this week again disputed Athens' sovereignty in the specific sea region, while warning the current Erdogan government "not to alter the status quo".

    Onur Oymen, the current deputy chairman of the Republican People's Party (CHP) who served as the deputy foreign minister during the Imia crisis, warned that "if the (Turkish) government attempts to allow changes in the status quo (of the islets) we will not allow it."

    His warning came, interestingly enough, during an address at a conference in the resort town of Bodrum (ancient Halicarnassus) entitled "EU and Turkey".

    Oymen, who was one of Turkey's top diplomats in the 1990s and a close adviser to ex-Turkish premier Tansu Ciller, came under heavy criticism in the neighboring country after the Imia incident because he allegedly held back key information supplied by the Turkish embassy in Rome, namely, official documentation proving Greek sovereignty of the islets based on the Dodecanese islands' transfer from Italy to Greece in 1947.

    The opposition politician's comments came in the wake of a high-profile statement by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan this week, who referred to "powers undermining Greek-Turkish relations" when citing the "sudden activity revolving around the islets of late".

    "Those (parties) that want to ruin the (Greek-Turkish) friendship and efforts for developing our relations cannot be allowed to succeed," Erdogan said during a visit to the northeastern Aegean island of Imvros.

    [14] Book of condolences opened at Israeli embassy for Weizman

    Athens, 27/4/2005 (ANA)

    The Israeli embassy in Athens (Marathonodromon 1, Paleo Psychiko) has opened a book of condolences for Ezer Weizman, the former president of the country between 1993 and 2000.

    Weizman, Israel's seventh president, passed away last Sunday at the age of 81 following a prolonged illness.

    The embassy will be open on Wednesday, from 10 to noon, and on Thursday, from 10 to noon, for individuals wishing to sign the book of condolences.

    [15] Govt presents draft bill to combat money laundering

    Athens, 27/4/2005 (ANA)

    The Greek government on Tuesday unveiled draft legislation aimed to combat money laundering through the country's financial system.

    The new legislation, presented by Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and Justice Minister Anastasis Papaligouras, envisages two major innovations: first, expanding a criminal base for money laundering and expanding the definition of persons obliged to report suspicious money transactions.

    Speaking to reporters, Alogoskoufis said the draft bill offered to a commission, set up under a Greek law, access to public and private records overlapping taxation secrecy.

    The commission will have expanded responsibilities over evaluating information and reports and freezing assets of persons related with funding of terrorist groups. The Greek minister stressed that another important crime was market abuse and noted that the country's Capital Markets' Commission was responsible for revealing such cases and imposing heavy fines.

    The Economy and Finance ministry will act as a central coordinating authority in this effort.

    Papaligouras said the draft bill harmonized Greek law with EU directives and noted that combating corruption and financial crime was a priority of the government.

    [16] Finmin declines comments on central banker's report, trade union stance

    Athens, 27/4/2005 (ANA)

    Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Tuesday declined to comment on a report released by the Bank of Greece the previous day, calling for far-reaching reforms to labor rules and the Greek pension system.

    He said that the government had invited the Economic and Social Commission (OKE) to attend a meeting at the finance ministry on Tuesday, during which Labor Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos and himself would ask the OKE executive to start preparing a report on the social insurance system and the problems that exist, so that both the government and the public might have a clear picture of the options that exist.

    "There is nothing more than that," Alogoskoufis told reporters. The minister made the statements as he emerged from Tuesday's meeting of the cabinet.

    He also declined to comment on the refusal of Greece's two largest trade union organizations, the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) and the civil servants' union ADEDY, to attend the dialogue on pension system reform.

    "The Economic and Social Commission operates with the contribution of all the social partners and there is no reason for the government to comment on whether one or another representative will attend," he said.

    Main opposition blasts central bank report on economy: The main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) on Tuesday sharply criticized the content of a central bank report on the economy released a day earlier.

    "The answer to the economy's problems is not further pressure on wages, a tougher and more socially unjust economic policy," PASOK spokesman Nikos Athanasakis said in a statement.

    "In addition, the containment of labor costs is not the solution to the problem of competitiveness in the economy," Athanasakis said.

    He implied that the government was in agreement with the Bank of Greece's view of the economy.

    [17] Economist Michalos named new General Secretary of Economy and Finance Ministry

    Athens, 27/4/2005 (ANA)

    Economist Constantine Michalos was elected as new General Secretary of the Economy and Finance Ministry, replacing Vassilios Stavrinos who had resigned, the ministry announced on Tuesday.

    Michalos was born in 1960 and studied Economic and Political Sciences at Essex University in the U.K, while he completed post-graduate studies at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences.

    [18] Greece seeks EU help for disadvantaged areas

    BRUSSELS 27/4/2005 (ANA/M Spinthourakis)

    Greece has asked the European Union for assistance to the country's disadvantaged areas, Agricultural Development Minister Evangelos Basiakos said on Tuesday.

    Addressing a meeting of EU farm and fisheries ministers in Luxembourg, Basiakos also sought action over unfair competition existed in the honey sector due to products of dubious quality in the market imported from third countries.

    [19] Greek trade deficit fell 0.2 pct in Jan-Feb, yr/yr

    Athens, 27/4/2005 (ANA)

    Greece's trade deficit shrank by 0.2 percent in the first two months of the year, to 4.306 billion euros from 4.313 billion euros in the same period in 2004, the National Statistics Service said on Tuesday.

    NSS, in its monthly report on the country's trade balance, said the total value of import-arrivals totaled 6.178 billion euros in the January-February period, from 6.043 billion euros last year, for an increase of 2.2 percent, while excluding oil products the value of import-arrivals fell 4.1 percent or 218.5 million euros.

    The value of export-deliveries totaled 1.872 billion euros in the January-February period, from 1.730 billion euros last year, for an increase of 8.2 percent, while excluding oil products the value of export-deliveries rose 90.7 million euros or 5.5 percent.

    [20] Athens Mayor Bakoyiannis visits Varvakio meat market ahead of Easter

    Athens, 27/4/2005 (ANA)

    Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyiannis on Tuesday visited the Varvakio meat market in central Athens, ahead of Easter.

    In statements, she underlined that "it is a renovated market, clean, reconstructed with new modern fridges with the best prices in the Greek market today."

    Replying to reporters' questions, Bakoyiannis noted:"I believe that the Greek consumer is a consumer with awareness. He looks carefully and chooses the product on the basis of its quality and price. Today, you can find everything in the Geek market. There are expensive products, there are also however very good prices. Let us try to find these good prices and support the good merchants, thus confronting any profiteering."

    [21] Gov't welcomes natgas link for industrial zone

    Athens, 27/4/2005 (ANA)

    Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said on Tuesday that he welcomed a newly created natural gas supply link for an industrial zone in Larissa.

    "This will create a new model for growth, strengthen business, and improve the competitiveness of companies, products, services and the economy," Sioufas told a news conference.

    The project was completed in three months, the minister added.

    [22] Stocks drop in mild profit-taking

    Athens, 27/4/2005 (ANA)

    Stocks finished lower in mild profit-taking, traders said.

    The Athens general share index closed at 2,898.75 points, marking a decline of 0.24%. Turnover was 122.7 million euros.

    The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.39% down; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.32% lower; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.56% down.

    Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 172 to 92 with 67 remaining unchanged.

    [23] Holy Flame to be brought to Athens from Jerusalem on Saturday

    Athens, 27/4/2005 (ANA)

    The Holy Flame will be brought to Athens from Jerusalem, via Tel Aviv, on Saturday afternoon with a special Olympic Airlines flight.

    The aircraft is expected to land at Athens airport at 18.35 and the official welcoming ceremony will follow. The faithful will gather outside gate 9 and a few minutes before the plane lands they will be allowed to enter a special enclosed area from where they will be able to watch the ceremony.

    [24] Greek deputies visit "Alexander The Great" exhibition in New York

    NEW YORK 27/4/2005 (ANA/P. Panagiotou)

    Greece's ruling New Democracy (ND) party deputy Vassilis Manginas and main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) deputy and former national defense minister Yiannos Papantoniou attended a reception given in their honor on Monday night at the "Alexander Onassis Foundation" in New York.

    The guests were welcomed by the foundation's director, Loukas Tsilas, who gave them a tour of the exhibition "Alexander The Great: Treasures of an epic era of Hellenism". The exhibition will last until May 28.

    In brief greetings, the two deputies noted that the Greek political leadership is handling the national issues in accordance with "the interest of our country" and hailed "the patriotic action" of the Greek-American community.

    Manginas noted that the proposal by UN mediator Matthew Nimetz on the name issue of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) "does not satisfy us and does not fulfill our expectations but nevertheless constitutes a good basis for negotiations."

    [25] Border guards intercept truck carrying 92 illegal immigrants

    Athens, 27/4/2005 (ANA)

    Border guards at the Moschohori toll gate intercepted a truck on Tuesday afternoon and discovered that 92 illegal immigrants had been packed inside.

    Investigations revealed that the truck had been driven from the northern Evros prefecture by a Turkish national and carried 39 illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, 23 from Iraq, 12 from Pakistan, 5 from Iran, 4 from Burma, 4 from Palestine, 3 from India and 2 from Syria.

    The illegal immigrants and the driver have been arrested and are being kept at various police stations in the region, while investigations are being carried out to ascertain details on how they were brought into the country by groups of organized immigrant smugglers.

    [26] Cyprus President Papadopoulos: success comes when EU principles are at stake

    NICOSIA 27/4/2005 (CNA/ANA)

    Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos on Tuesday welcomed the European Union position on its relations with Turkey, saying that Cyprus can achieve a lot when European values and fundamental principles are at stake.

    The common position was presented on Tuesday at the EU-Turkey Association Council, which provided an opportunity to review progress in EU-Turkey relations in view of the expected opening of the accession negotiations in October this year.

    Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, whose country holds the EU rotating presidency, and Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn welcomed recent reforms in Turkey towards alignment with the acquis communautaire but warned that implementation of adopted legislation is a must. They also said Turkey has to sign and put into force the protocol to its customs union agreement with the EU, thus adapting the Ankara Agreement to extend it to all ten new members, including Cyprus.

    ''This is a good decision. It also serves as a response to those who say that we cannot achieve anything within the EU. When European values and fundamental positions are at stake, I believe we can succeed,'' the Cypriot president said.

    He noted that working hard, away from the limelight and within the rights and privileges EU members have, can yield results.

    Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, after the EU-Turkey Association Council, Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said they discussed reforms in Turkey and the need for Ankara to sign the protocol to its customs union agreement, extending the accord to all ten new members to include Cyprus, which Turkey does not recognize.

    He said Ankara has to sign it in good time and added that the common EU position makes clear the approach of the ''25'' members vis a vis Cyprus and notes that the Turkish government must continue its efforts towards a political settlement in Cyprus.

    Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said Brussels is pleased with the initialing by Ankara of the protocol to its customs union and now expects Turkey to sign it and put it into force.

    He said the common EU position Ankara that was presented with at Tuesday's meeting was an ''important step'' towards normalizing relations among all EU members and Turkey.

    Asselborn said the EU presidency is ready to support a new effort to settle the Cyprus problem, under UN auspices.

    On EU regulations for financial aid to the Turkish Cypriots and direct trade between the EU and Cyprus' northern Turkish occupied areas, he said the presidency will work to see them adopted.

    He welcomed reforms in Turkey but said these must now be put into effect.

    He referred to problematic areas such as religious freedom, protection of the minorities, safeguarding cultural and social rights, the role of the military and invited the Turkish government to intensify its efforts towards full implementation.

    The EU common position says that ''the signature of the Protocol, its ratification and its subsequent implementation would constitute important steps forward towards normalization of the relations between Turkey and all EU member states, including the Republic of Cyprus.''

    The Union, it notes, ''looks forward to Turkey's continued support to efforts for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem within the UN framework - and in line with the principles on which the Union is founded.''

    ''Turkey continues to apply restrictions to trade and transport vis a vis Cyprus, in particular restrictions for Cypriot vessels and vessels having landed in Cypriot ports. The EU urges Turkey to remove all restrictions to trade and transport with EU member states,'' it adds.

    The EU said ''further efforts are needed to ensure full civilian control over the military'' and expressed ''serious concerns regarding the cases of torture and ill treatment that still continue

    to occur'' and about ''the limited progress in the area of freedom of religion'', noting that ''the situation of women remains unsatisfactory''.

    With regard to the adoption of the acquis, the EU said ''Turkey's alignment has progressed in many areas but remains at an early stage for most chapters.''

    Meanwhile a Commission spokeswoman said at a press conference in Luxembourg, where the Association Council met, that Rehn's services are preparing the text of the protocol, to be presented by May 15 to the EU Council of Ministers, which will be signed by Luxembourg and Turkey.

    She said the Turkish government had not made any unilateral statement on the recognition of the Republic of Cyprus. Ankara had warned it would make a unilateral declaration, at the time of the signing, to the effect that its signature does not signify recognition of the Republic of Cyprus.

    Turkey's Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said Ankara and new Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat are ready to work for a solution in Cyprus and pledged to cooperate with Athens and Nicosia within Europe so that the Eastern Mediterranean can become ''a basin of peace.''

    [27] Illegal construction in occupied north tackled with various means

    NICOSIA 27/4/2005 (CNA/ANA)

    The Cyprus government has been working very diligently in the recent past to tackle problems that arise from the continuing illegal construction boom in the Turkish occupied areas, Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos said on Tuesday.

    He noted the matter has been brought to the attention of the European Union, adding that recently there has been an increase in illegal building.

    ''We have been dealing with this issue for some time now, applying legal, diplomatic and political means,'' Papadopoulos said.

    He stressed that the construction boom is not a consequence of the rejection by the Greek Cypriots of a UN-proposed solution plan.

    ''On the contrary, I believe that the Turkish side and the new Turkish Cypriot leadership have intensified these illegal and unacceptable moves precisely because they believe that they have the

    right to do so, on the basis of the UN plan (the Annan plan),'' he pointed out.

    Responding to questions, he said there are a lot of reports about increased building activity in occupied Cyprus and that this is an issue the EU is aware of.

    Asked if the Turkish side has Greek Cypriots cooperating with it on such activity, he said there is no concrete proof of that yet.

    Papadopoulos was speaking as media reports indicated that there is a massive construction boom on land and property owned by Greek Cypriots, who fled the northern part of the country in the summer of 1974 as the Turkish invading troops were advancing.

    The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in property cases brought against Turkey by Greek Cypriots that they remain the legal owners of their land in occupied Cyprus. In one specific case, Ankara has paid compensation amounting to nearly one million US dollars to Greek Cypriot Titina Loizidou and was ordered to allow her access to her property.

    Turkey maintains that the property issue must be settled through compensation alone and rejects any notion of giving Greek Cypriots the right to return.

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