|Saturday, 18 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-03-07
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 7 , 2006
 Turkey should extend EU customs union pact to new members
VIENNA 7/3/2006 (ANA-MPA/F Karaviti)Turkey should move to extend a customs union agreement to the European Union's 10 new member states, which include Cyprus, Austrian foreign minister Ursula Plassnik said on Saturday.
"We shall all be closely watching developments in this issue," Plassnik, who is also president of the EU's general affairs council, told a joint news conference after a meeting in the Austrian capital with her visiting Greek counterpart, Dora Bakoyannis.
The two ministers' agenda for talks covered the situation in the Balkans in the wake of Bakoyannis' tour of the region last week, the outlook for the EU's constitution treaty, and the bloc's relations with the Muslim world after publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed.
Both foreign ministers underlined the need to strengthen the western Balkans' European perspective.
"Despite difficult changes that need to occur internally, the Balkan countries must know that at the end of road lies their incorporation into the European family," Bakoyannis said.
According to Plassnik, the EU itself and each individual member state should work to strengthen countries in the region in order to achieve stability and prosperity.
Turning to the European constitution, the Austrian minister noted that a dynamic policy of transparency and communication was needed so that Europeans could regain confidence in the continent's structure; and coming moves would be "choreographed" by the end of Austria's rotating presidency of the bloc in June.
On the cartoons depicting Mohammed, Bakoyannis said that freedom of the press was a fundamental principle of democracy in the EU, along with respect for the religions.
Asked by a reporter to comment on Iran's nuclear program, Plassnik stated that Teheran should return to a confidence-building process with the international community.
Earlier, Bakoyannis met the UN's special envoy for Kosovo and a former Finnish president, Marti Ahtisaari, whom she briefed on the outcome of her visits to Pristina and Belgrade.
 Greece conditionally backs Turkey's move towards EU
VIENNA 7/3/2006 (ANA-MPA/D Dimitrakoudis)Greece backs Turkey's move towards the European Union, but the neighboring country has to meet certain conditions before achieving entry into the 25-nation bloc, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said in an interview published on Monday.
Turkey had accepted the conditions, including implementation of the Ankara protocol, and Greece was working for a normalization of bilateral ties, although the presence of the other side was also needed, Bakoyannis told Austria's Die Presse newspaper.
Turning to the threat of war, or casus belli, contained in Turkey's military dogma, the minister said: "I'm speaking openly. This is not a friendly stance compatible with neighbors. Such a rationale has no place in a common Europe. Turkey will come to realize that, if it wants to become part of Europe."
Asked whether Turkey was European enough to become a member, Bakoyannis noted that the point was how European the country would be before possible membership, rather than its current status.
"This opportunity must be given (to Turkey), and of course it has quite a few changes to make in its domestic and foreign policy," she added.
On Cyprus, the minister stated that the Annan plan belonged to the past and that a new situation had emerged. Athens supported efforts by the UN secretary general, whose meeting, last week in Paris, with the Cypriot president was good.
It was important to prepare well for the next effort, which must not fail. The new plan should be based on UN resolutions and the reality in Europe.
 Foreign minister vows to help reclaim Greek church in Hungary
VIENNA 7/3/2006 (ANA-MPA/D Dimitrakoudis)Greece's foreign minister, Dora Bakoyannis, has pledged to help in a bid to reclaim a Greek church in Hungary, a senior cleric said on Saturday.
The minister made the offer of assistance to reclaim the church in Budapest for ethnic Greeks in Hungary and the Ecumenical Patriarchate at a meeting in the Austrian capital earlier in the day with Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Michael of Austria, also Exarch of Hungary and Middle Europe.
Michael told the ANA-MPA that he briefed Bakoyannis on the fact that the church, which has lain under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate since the end of World War II, is a rightful legacy.
"I believe that within the framework of Greek-Hungarian friendship, the Greek government could state this claim of Hellenism and support it as primarily a matter of national significance, and, by extension, of religious significance," the cleric said.
He added that the Hungarian exarchate, a part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, is recognized by Budapest.
 New polls gauge political situation as 2-year anniversary of ND election win nears
Athens 7/3/2006 (ANA)The first week of spring continued to witness the blossoming of several new opinion polls gauging the political situation in Greece, as the period also coincides with the two-year anniversary of New Democracy party's landslide election victory in March 2004.
Results of three polls were released in a same number of Athens papers on Sunday, with the most important parameter - respondents' voting preference for political parties - showing a marginal lead for ruling ND over main opposition PASOK.
Specifically, 33.9 percent of respondents in the first poll - published in the Sunday edition of the newspaper "Vima" -- said they would vote for ND, 0.5 percent more than the figure for PASOK, 33.4 percent. In terms of other parties, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) garnered 7 percent; the Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) 3.2 percent and the out-of-Parliament Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) party 4.6 percent. The undetermined/undecided vote reaches 10.7 percent.
Amongst political party leaders, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is judged as "best suited" for the premiership by 40.3 percent of respondents in the opinion poll, as opposed to 33.1 percent for PASOK leader George Papandreou. Sixteen percent of respondents did not pick any of the party leaders.
In the head-to-head comparison, Karamanlis is viewed as most capable by 45.4 percent of respondents to Papandreou's 37 percent.
The poll commissioned by "Vima" was conducted by the firm Kapa Research between Feb. 28 and March 2 on a sample of 2,039 households via telephone interviews.
Meanwhile, another cache of opinion poll results were published in the Sunday edition of the newspaper "Eleftherotypia", this time giving ND a 0.2-lead over PASOK, 34.4 percent to 34.2 percent. KKE was picked by 6.5 percent of respondents; Synaspismos garnered 3.7 percent and LA.OS 4.1 percent.
Asked which party they believed would win the next elections, 47.1 percent picked ND; 33.4 said PASOK, while a "don't know/won't answer" response garnered 19.1 percent.
In terms of political leaders' popularity, Karamanlis edges Papandreou by 59.3 percent to 58.6 percent. KKE leader Aleka Papariga garnered 38.1; Synaspismos president Alekos Alavanos 34.9 percent and LA.OS leader George Karatzaferis 33.9 percent.
The opinion poll was conducted by the firm Metron Analysis between Feb. 28 and March 2 on a sample of 1,001 people via telephone interviews.
Finally, the weekly Sunday-only newspaper "Paron" also published results of an opinion poll it commissioned, with ND edging PASOK by 0.3 percentage points, 31.1 percent to 30.8 percent. KKE garners 6.1 percent; Synaspismos 3.7 and LA.OS 5.4 percent. The undetermined vote reaches 15.8 percent.
Amongst political party leaders, Karamanlis is judged as "best suited" for the premiership by 45 percent of respondents in the opinion poll, as opposed to 28.2 percent for PASOK leader George Papandreou. Conversely, 17.7 percent of respondents did not pick any of the party leaders.
The poll was conducted by the Rass firm between Feb. 27 and March 2 on a sample of 1,402 people via telephone interviews.
 Defense minister reports on EU meeting
Athens 7/3/2006 (ANA)Defense Minister Evangelos Meimerakis on Monday reported on the first day of an informal European Union meeting of his counterparts in Insbruck, Austria.
The bloc's defense ministers discussed the outlook for further development of Europe's common security and defense policy, debating how the repercussions of major natural disasters across the globe, including tsunamis or earthquakes, may be handed promptly in cooperation with other international parties, Meimarakis said in a statement.
"The policy has already shown many successes in crisis management, but it needs to improve its performance in publicizing those successes, of which the European and world public are unaware," the minister noted.
Also examined were EU missions with emphasis on the bloc's involvement in the western Balkans, where operations have been conducted in Bosnia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; and in the future in Kosovo.
"We believe that the EU's presence there has made a maximum contribution to reinforcing peace, stability and a European orientation in a region that is of direct interest to Greece, and, as a result, our contribution to the stability of Kosovo must be similar," the minister said.
On the sidelines of the session Meimarakis met the high representative for the EU's common security and defense policy, Javier Solana; NATO secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer; the defense minister of Cyprus, Kyriakos Mavronikolas; and UK secretary of state for defense, John Reid.
On Tuesday, Meimarakis is due to meet France's defense minister, Michelle Alliot-Marie.
Gov't denies favoritism in military appointments
Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis on Saturday rejected criticism by the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) that the government had appointed party favorites and family members to posts in the armed forces.
"Men and women in the armed forces do not have a political identity," Meimarakis said in a statement.
He challenged PASOK's defense spokesman, Christos Papoutsis, to back up his criticism and divulge any instances of favoritism that he found.
 Papandreou to meet SI's Ayala on Tuesday
Athens 7/3/2006 (ANA)Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader and Socialist International (SI) President George Papandreou will meet on Tuesday afternoon with SI Secretary General Luis Ayala, at the movement's headquarters in Athens, a PASOK press release said on Monday.
 Public order minister vows to crack down on drugs trade
Athens 7/3/2006 (ANA)Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras has pledged to crack down on the drugs trade as a priority move.
Among preventive measures were special protection for schools, the minister said in an interview to the Apogevmatini daily newspaper published on Saturday.
"No drugs should enter school buildings or school yards," he underlined.
In addition, ways were being sought of treating drug users as victims, which could entail cooperation with voluntary and non-government organizations, and with the ministries of education and health.
On bank robberies, the minister urged credit institutions to take measures that would help to deter attacks.
Finally, Polydoras noted that cooperation with Turkey could avert waves of migrants entering Greece.
 President of the Republic in Kos for anniversary
Athens 7/3/2006 (ANA)The president of the Republic, Karolos Papoulias, arrived in Kos on Ìonday to take part in celebrations marking the 58th anniversary of incorporation of the Dodecanese islands on March 7.
Accompanying the president was Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valynakis.
 Minister listens to island's problems
Athens 7/3/2006 (ANA)Macedonia-Thrace Minister George Kalantzis on Monday listened to grievances posed by residents of the northeastern island of Thassos.
The minister held a meeting with local authorities in a bid to swiftly resolve outstanding issues.
 Finmin repeats pledge to reduce income tax
Athens 7/3/2006 (ANA)Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis has repeated his pledge to reduce tax by raising the exemption ceiling and lowering brackets from 2007 in a move to help people with less income.
Tax-exempt income is to rise to 12,000 euros per annum from 11,000 euros, and the two main tax brackets will fall from next year, Alogoskoufis said in an interview to the Ta Nea daily newspaper published on Saturday.
The two key brackets currently at 30% and 40% will drop to 29% and 39% in 2007, to reach 25% and 35% in 2009 under a phased decline, the minister said.
He also reported a plan to widen the tax scale in which the main bracket, which currently groups incomes of 13,000 euros to 23,000 euros, will have a floor of 30,000 euros or more that will gradually rise to 50,000 euros in either a single move or in phases, depending on fiscal finances.
Turning to tax evasion, Alogoskoufis said the government's campaign was a process that would take time.
Aiding the drive were the use of sophisticated technology, which increased the scope of cross-checks.
Turning to reform of the country's social insurance system, the minister noted that preparatory discussions had been held, and concrete initiatives were needed.
The overhaul had two angles: on the macroeconomic side were future shortfalls in pension funds, bringing debt; and on the social side, injustice in the current arrangement.
Finally, Alogoskoufis denied that the government's economic policy was neo-liberal, instead terming it moderate under present circumstances, including tight fiscal margins and commitments to the European Union.
 Tourism minister to Berlin trade fair
Athens 7/3/2006 (ANA)Tourism Minister Fani Palli-Petralia leaves for Berlin on Tuesday to launch Greece's pavillion at the ITB trade fair, one of the largest travel events in the world, where Greece is the featured country.
Also inaugurating the pavillion on Wednesday will be federal finance and technology minister, Michael Glos, and the mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, the tourism ministry said in a statement on Monday.
 Transport minister to meet Romanian counterpart
Athens 7/3/2006 (ANA)Transport and Communications Minister Mihalis Liapis is to meet his visiting Romanian counterpart, Zsolt Nagy, for talks expected to focus on Greek investment in the Balkan country's information and communications technology sector.
Greek firms led by OTE telecom and it mobile phone subsidiary Cosmote have invested heavily in Romania. Both firms are quoted on the Athens bourse, the ministry said in a statement on Monday.
The two ministers are also expected to discuss Romania's planned adaptation to European Union law on electronic communications, the statement said.
 Airport security staff back down over strike
Athens 7/3/2006 (ANA)Airport security personnel announced that they had called off a 24-hour strike scheduled for Tuesday.
The backdown came shortly after the union announced a new walkout would be called at 07:00 hours following a court ruling declaring an earlier stoppage illegal.
The strike was originally due to begin at 2300 hours on Monday but a court ordered staff to return to work.
The union, which is to meet on Tuesday over further action probably starting on March 15, later announced the new date, apparently to bypass the court order, but quickly withdrew the call to strike.
The Civil Aviation Authority had sought a court ruling to declare the stoppage illegal.
Foreign Exchange Rates:
U.S. dollar 1.211
 Lent begins after spectacular Patras carnival
Athens 7/3/2006 (ANA)Greeks nationwide marked the first day of Lent on Monday with children flying their kites in windy weather and enjoying the traditional fare of seafood and pickled vegetables ahead of Easter next month.
The mayor of Athens, Thodoros Behrakis, led celebrations in Athens arranged by the municipality on Philopappou, Skouze and Strefi hills.
The city of Patras has hosted the country's traditionally largest and most flamboyant carnival festivity, which climaxed with a four-hour closing parade on Sunday on the theme of political satire.
Crowds applauded as the carnival king passed by, dressed as a sea captain steering the ship for the port city of Patras, this year's European Capital for Culture.
 Greek women have fewer children than EU average
BRUSSELS 7/3/2006 (ANA-MPA/M Aroni)Greek women have fewer children than the average in the 25-member European Union, Eurostat, the bloc's statistical office, said in a report released on Monday.
Timed to coincide with Women's Day on March 8, the statistical data provides information on women in the EU, showing differences and similarities with men.
According to Eurostat, the fertility rate for women in Greece is 1.29 children, lower than the bloc's average of 1.5 offspring. Greek women rank fifth from the bottom in the index.
In 2004, the average age of Greek women at the birth of their first child was 28 years, older than 26.4 in 1994. The EU average is 28.2 years of age.
In the EU, women live on average 6 years longer than men. In Greece, life expectancy for women is 81.4 years and 76.6 for men versus an EU average of 81.2 for females and 75.1 for males.
Women have a higher life expectancy than men in all member states. In the EU25, there was a difference of around 6 years in 2004.
One result of this higher life expectancy is that women made up 59% of those aged 65 years or more in the EU25 in 2004. Greece and Cyprus had the lowest share of women in this age group at 55% each.
In addition, about one in four management positions are held by women in Greece, while women's wages are about 10% lower than men's.
The unemployment rate for women in Greece is 15.5%, sharply higher than 9.6% for their counterparts in Europe, partly explained by a 32.6% rate of part-time workers in Europe and only 9.1% in Greece.
In Greece, 88.7% of women aged 20-24 have completed secondary education, higher than 79.4% for men and 80% for women in Europe; but female university graduates make up 51% of the total versus 54.6% in Europe.
 Queen Sofia of Spain on private visit to Crete
Athens 7/3/2006 (ANA)Queen Sofía of Spain on Sunday began a private two-day visit to Hania on the island of Crete.
She wandered through the old quarter of the town with her entourage, combining a guided tour on Hania's history and monuments with shopping in local stores.
 Turkey's stance against Cypriot ships contrary to European lawNICOSIA 7/3/2006 (ANA) (CNA/ANA)
Turkey's refusal to permit ships flying the Cyprus flag to enter its ports is contrary to international and European rules, Germany's Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee has said, adding that his country will back efforts to lift the restrictive measures applied by Ankara against Cypriot ships.
According to an official press release, Tiefensee, whose country assumes the EU Presidency in January 2007, met with Cypriot Communication and Works Minister Haris Thrasou on the sidelines of the Informal Meeting of EU Transport Ministers in Bregenz, Austria, last week.
During the meeting, Thrasou referred to Turkey's refusal to allow Cyprus-flagged ships enter its ports and to refuse permission to Cypriot aircraft to use its air space. The minister referred in particular to a recent incident when the Turkish ports authorities denied access to a Cyprus-flagged cargo ship, ''Able F'', to dock at the port of Mersin, in southern Turkey.
The Cypriot minister asked Germany to intervene in the direction of Turkey in order to lift this ban which, he pointed out, violates Ankara's obligations to the European Union.
Tiefensee noted that Turkey's stance is violating both European and international rules, adding that the Cypriot government can count on Germany's support in the efforts to terminate the restrictive measures applied by Turkey against Cypriot ships and aircraft.
Turkey, whose troops occupy Cyprus' northern part, does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus and refuses to apply EU regulations extending them to include Cyprus, an EU member since May 2004.