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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-03-08

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

March 8, 2006


  • [01] PM: Government will stick to pre-election pledges, reforms
  • [02] Interior, education and health ministers outline accomplishments to date
  • [03] Meimarakis reviews central pillars of defense ministry's policy
  • [04] PASOK issues 'Government Book of Unreliability'
  • [05] ND secretary retaliates against PASOK 'black book'
  • [06] KKE criticizes government policy
  • [07] Greece promoting stability, peace, development and cooperation, FM tells ministerial council
  • [08] DM begins official visit to Czech Republic
  • [09] EU FMs to hold informal meeting on the Balkans in Salzburg
  • [10] Greek, Turkish FMs to meet in Salzburg on Friday
  • [11] Latest opinion poll gives ND 1.1-point edge over PASOK
  • [12] PM meets with Parliament president
  • [13] Dep. Foreign minister inaugurates new consular office in FYROM
  • [14] 'War against drug dealers top priority for police', Public Order minister says
  • [15] Main opposition leader meets with SI Sec't General
  • [16] Mass media reform 'almost complete', minister of state says
  • [17] Gov't outlines progress after two years in power
  • [18] Public works, merchant marine ministries make account of two-year work
  • [19] Gov't again to raise pensions in 2007-8 budgets
  • [20] Bank of Greece governor proposes redistributing policy through budget
  • [21] Employment minister visits Manpower Employment Organization
  • [22] Greece is theme country at 40th ITB exhibition in Germany
  • [23] Greece strongly interested in investing in Romania's telecoms sector
  • [24] Black Sea Bank expands trade finance in Georgia
  • [25] Tax assistance available to US citizens in Greece in April
  • [26] Messages marking World Women's Day
  • [27] Parliament to celebrate Int'l Women's Day
  • [28] Archbishop Christodoulos on Women's Day
  • [29] President attends anniversary events on Kos
  • [30] Snowfall in central and western Macedonia
  • [31] Bourboulia opts against appeal of extradition
  • [32] Proposals by ombudsman on family support draft law accepted
  • [33] Queen Sophia of Spain visits Samaria gorge in Crete
  • [34] President hopes Cyprus talks to begin the soonest
  • [35] Serbia supports peaceful compromise for Kosovo, says Tadic
  • [36] EP Contact Group with T/Cs welcomes signals from Annan-Papadopoulos meeting
  • [37] Russia deems 'positive' Paris meeting

  • [01] PM: Government will stick to pre-election pledges, reforms

    ATHENS, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday underlined the government's determination to carry out reforms and implement New Democracy's pre-election pledges over the course of its four-year term, in statements after a cabinet meeting marking the 2nd anniversary since ND won the general elections.

    "Our word to the citizens, especially those who are financially weaker, still fully applies," he stressed.

    The prime minister noted that the electorate chose New Democracy two years ago and asked for political change in order to deal with the many and serious problems that had accumulated, and stressed that this mandate defined the government's goals.

    Referring to the work and priorities of his government, Karamanlis said that a pivotal point was the reform of state-owned utilities in order to avoid wasting taxpayers' money and allowing private- and public-sector joint ventures.

    He noted that the last measure would allow development throughout the country and channel more funds into health and education.

    The premier also stressed measures like a national land planning scheme now on the drawing board, major public works, the land registry and privatizations, as well as simplifying the process for issuing business licenses.

    Karamanlis underlined, meanwhile, that the government's policies were already yielding results, bringing about a reduction in the public deficit and growth rates that were higher than the EU average, while pointing to an upcoming tax reform to reduce taxation rates for individuals and efforts underway to reduce unemployment and boost competitiveness.

    "The government does not hide the problems in order to construct a virtual reality," Karamanlis said, renewing his pledge to clash head-on with the "pathogeneses of the past".

    During the cabinet meeting, the ministers reviewed the work of their ministries in the past two years and described the priorities each would set for the remainder of the government's term, while each ministry will issue a detailed announcement of its actions and future goals.

    [02] Interior, education and health ministers outline accomplishments to date

    ATHENS, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    The ministers of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization, Education and Health provided an overview of their respective ministries' accomplishments to date on Tuesday on occasion of the two years since ruling New Democracy took office.

    Minister of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Prokopis Pavlopoulos said that one of the government's key priorities is to re-establish the state both in terms of public administration and local government.

    In an effort to combat bureaucracy, the ministry has simplified and sped up processes, reduced areas wherein ministries share responsibility and jurisdiction, has established deadlines within which citizens' matters must be addressed, converted Citizens' Service Centers (KEP) into comprehensive transaction centers, as well as other initiatives.

    On her part, Education Minister Marietta-Giannakou stressed the poor status of the educational system when New Democracy took over, which made upgrading the quality of all levels of education in the Greek system a priority for the government.

    The aim is to do so through broader social consensus, through the National Dialogue, and through a series of legislative initiatives.

    To date, 12 laws have been passed while two bills are currently in the pipeline, regarding ensuring quality in higher education, standardizing continuing education, reorganizing the system of accreditation for degrees earned abroad, the ability to provide joint graduate and post-graduate programmes in cooperation with foreign universities, and other issues.

    Regarding health care, Health and Social Solidarity Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos referred to the accomplishments made by former health minister Nikitas Kaklamanis, saying that "many and significant steps were made."

    "A large part of New Democracy's pre-election pledges was realized and another part is in the process of being realized," he said.

    "Until the end of the four-year term, a lot of hard work is required for all goals and promises related to our health and welfare policies to be fulfilled so that all citizens will have access to speedy and substantive health care in an environment that is civilized and respects them," Avramopoulos said.

    According to Avramopoulos, the legislative framework regarding the National Health System (ESY) has been completed, while the basic principles for the Health and Social Solidarity Ombudsman have been laid down.

    Bills that are in the pipeline and due to be tabled in parliament soon concern primary care, pharmaceutical coverage and procurements.

    Avramopoulos also referred to the success achieved in reducing the phenomenon of overcrowding in Athens and Thessaloniki hospitals with a new system regarding emergency admissions.

    Other issues the minister referred to include the bird flu virus and the implementation of relevant preventive measures, mental health care, drug detoxification programmes and facilities, as well as measures adopted to help minority groups, abused women and women who are victims of human trafficking.

    [03] Meimarakis reviews central pillars of defense ministry's policy

    ATHENS, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    National Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis presented to the Cabinet on Tuesday a review of the central pillars of the defense ministry's policy.

    He primarily referred to the National Defense Policy which was ratified and approved by the Foreign Affairs and Defense Government Council (KYSEA).

    At the same time, he said that the New Armed Forces Structure and Administration Structure is being implemented.

    Furthermore, Meimarakis said that the reorganization of the ministry's services is proceeding legislatively, with the abolition of the General Secretariat of Economic Planning and Defense Investments and of the Minister Staff, while the ministry's personnel has been reduced by 50 per cent.

    A reorganization has been made of the Armed Forces, the European Headquarters has been activated and the Inter-Branch Operational Immediate Reaction Headquarters and the Rapid Reaction Force "D" have been set up.

    Also being implemented is the institution of Reservists of High Alert.

    Meimarakis noted that the Defense Ministry and the Armed Forces participated decisively in the preparation and hosting of the Olympic Games.

    The Armed Forces, he added, exercising defense diplomacy, participate in multinational peace missions and exercises as well as in programmes of advanced technology and possess the infrastructures for administrative care and the training of personnel, while the ministry's leadership organizes international meetings.

    [04] PASOK issues 'Government Book of Unreliability'

    ATHENS, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    Main opposition PASOK on Tuesday issued a "Government Book of Unreliability" to mark the 2nd anniversary since the elections that brought the present government to power, with PASOK officials stressing that the "countdown for New Democracy's government has begun".

    PASOK National Council Secretary Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou said that the political climate has changed and that this is the result of a deep process in society, through the revelation of ND's policies and the positive action of PASOK and its president.

    She said the book's 156 pages listed the "ND's pre-election lies and populism" and said that the past two years were "wasted" for the country, a time in which it had gone backward instead of forward both at home and abroad.

    Noting that the incomes of working people, farmers and small business owners has "shrunk for the first time in 12 years," Xenoyiannakopoulou claimed that the past two years had "revealed the face of a right-wing, one-sided and autocratic policy that strikes at the many and benefits a few, big interests and winks an eye at the powerful, slowing the country's development."

    PASOK Parliamentary group secretary Dimitris Reppas, on his part, stressed that the party had not contented itself with listing the government's inadequacy but moved forward in a positively, suggesting an "alternative way".

    He accused the government of dividing citizens along party lines, dissolving social cohesion and having "establishment" policies, in which it identified itself with the institutions and the state, as in the case of the phone-tap affair or the Kapodistrias law.

    He also slammed what he called the government's "absence" from events abroad at a time when all the countries in the region were vying for a greater role in the region.

    PASOK officials said that the "Unreliability Book" will be presented on March 10 in the capitals of all Greek prefectures, during press conferences that will be attended by members of PASOK's Political Council, while the party was also considering a major political press conference by its leader George Papandreou in the next few days.

    [05] ND secretary retaliates against PASOK 'black book'

    ATHENS, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    PASOK should try exercising self-criticism for the problems it bequeathed the country instead of issuing 'black books', ND Central Committee Secretary Lefteris Zagoritis said on Tuesday in response to the main opposition's attacks.

    Speaking after a meeting with ND MPs and party members in Thessaloniki, Zagoritis said that the latest opinion polls gave the ruling party a comfortable lead over PASOK, and the prime minister a good lead over Papandreou.

    He appeared confident that the electorate would renew the government's mandate when the elections came round again.

    "We will proceed more efficiently with implementing our pledges," he told reporters and said his talks with local party officials, during whom they had reviewed the achievements of the past two years and discussed prospects for the last half of the government's term, had been useful.

    Gov't spokesman, interior minister on PASOK's 'Government Book of Unreliability'

    Government Spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos and Minister of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Prokopis Pavlopoulos slammed the main opposition PASOK party after the latter issued a "Government Book of Unreliability" on Tuesday, on occasion of the second anniversary since New Democracy took office.

    Specifically, Roussopoulos noted that after leaving behind "huge problems" after 20 years in office, PASOK is criticizing the government for not solving those problems within two years.

    "PASOK distinguished itself and continues to distinguish itself in what the public terms 'black propaganda.' The New Democracy government continues to (...) address problems, to provide solutions through lots of work, a strategic plan and at the side of Greek citizens, who know the truth," Roussopoulos said.

    On his part, Pavlopoulos termed PASOK's book "a book of black propaganda", saying that it is PASOK's attempt to shift the blame on to the government for its own mistakes and omissions.

    "The government is moving forward responsibly and decisively in fulfilling all the promises it made to the Greek public," Pavlopoulos said.

    [06] KKE criticizes government policy

    ATHENS, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    The Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), in an announcement on Tuesday, criticized the government for, what it said, was a new wave of anti-popular measures it is ready to unleash.

    The announcement "appeals to the working class, women, young people, the labor classes of the city and the countryside and calls on them to move timely, decisively and in a coordinated fashion in organizing their unified struggle to confront the new wave of anti-popular measures the government is ready to unleash to implement its commitments towards capital and the European Union."

    According to the Political Bureau, the government "is preparing to promote a series of measures that will harm the rights of working people and will make their position more difficult."

    It further said that "the government wants to increase pensioning limits even more, to restrict and abolish heavy duty and unhealthy professions, to increase the contributions of working people and to privatize and decrease pensions even further."

    Lastly, the Political Bureau stressed that "it is an imperative need that the deadlocked transfer of popular dissatisfaction from the New Democracy party to PASOK and vice versa must stop", adding that "anti-popular policy is not corrected it is reversed."

    [07] Greece promoting stability, peace, development and cooperation, FM tells ministerial council

    ATHENS, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, addressing a ministerial council meeting on Tuesday, said that "Greece, with consistency and continuity in its foreign policy, is promoting stability, peace, development and cooperation between peoples and countries."

    She added that "with the policy the government has been applying over the past two years, it has succeeded in strengthening its position in European developments and in having a respectable role and say in the international environment."

    Bakoyannis stressed that the foreign policy of the country and the government has clear priorities and pursuits, which are defending and promoting the political and economic interests of the country and its international position in an environment of stability and peace in our region, as well as farther away.

    She said that the foundations of policy are substantive and active participation in the European Union which, in any case, constitutes the nucleus of the activities of Greek foreign policy.

    The foreign minister said that the future course of the EU, which might be appearing to be uncertain today, is one of the major challenges of the coming period for all.

    "Our participation with substantive initiatives in the shaping of the new common European prospect, the promotion of political deepening, the strengthening of the political organization of unified Europe is a priority of our policy. The future of Europe is not a case of bureaucratic arrangements and balances. It is a case of the peoples of the European Union," she said.

    Bakoyannis also referred to the issue of Cyprus, saying that "we are providing support and contribution to efforts aimed at the well-prepared, without tight timetables and arbitration, resumption of the process to solve the issue of Cyprus, always with mutual understanding and cooperation with the government of Cyprus."

    [08] DM begins official visit to Czech Republic

    VIENNA, 08/03/2006 (ANA-MPA/ D. Dimitrakoudis)

    Defence Minister Vangelis Meimarakis, coming from Innsbruck in Austria where he participated in the European Union's informal two-day Council of Defense Ministers, began an official two-day visit to the Czech Republic on Tuesday afternoon, returning the visit made to Athens by his Czech counterpart last year.

    Meimarakis was due to hold talks later in the evening with Czech Defense Minister Karel Kuhnl, who will be giving an official dinner for his Greek counterpart, while on Wednesday the defense minister will be received by Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek.

    According to the Czech side, talks between the two defense ministers will focus on issues concerning NATO, bilateral relations and cooperation between the two ministries, while issues discussed at the Innsbruck Council will also be reviewed.

    In the framework of the Innsbruck Council and in relation to the deployment of EU military forces, the defense minister briefed his counterparts on the preparation of the Regular Combat Formation in which Greece, as a framework nation, Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus are participating, which will be provided for the EU in the second half of 2007.

    Meimarakis underlined for his counterparts the importance attached by Greece to the EU's Naval Dimension and support for efforts concerning its promotion in the framework of the European Rapid Reaction Force.

    The defense minister had a meeting on the sidelines of the Council on Tuesday with his French counterpart Michelle Alliot-Marie, who invited him to make an official visit to France.

    [09] EU FMs to hold informal meeting on the Balkans in Salzburg

    SALZBURG, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    The European prospects of the western Balkan countries and the developments in Kosovo and Montenegro will be at the epicenter of the informal meeting of the European Union's Foreign Ministers Council which will be held in Salzburg from March 10-11.

    Taking part in the discussion concerning the Balkans will be the foreign ministers of the region's countries, United Nations Special Mediator for Kosovo Martti Ahtisaari and his deputy Albert Rohan, representative of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), and Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu.

    In the context of the Council, a discussion will be held on the theme "Dialogue between Cultures", with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul as main rapporteur.

    Asked to comment on the EU Presidency's choice of Gul as main rapporteur, Foreign Ministry Spokesman George Koumoutsakos on Tuesday reiterated that "we all agree that the European Union is not a closed, political, economic or religious club, but has specific principles, values and rules which it implements, and within this context the Turkish minister has been given the opportunity to make the first introductory intervention" for the discussion concerning the Dialogue between Cultures.

    The Council's agenda includes developments in Iran, the Middle East, Belarus and Ukraine.

    [10] Greek, Turkish FMs to meet in Salzburg on Friday

    ATHENS, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    Athens on Tuesday announced that Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will meet her Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul on the sidelines of a Council of EU foreign ministers' meeting on March 10 and March 11 in Salzburg.

    According to foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, the course of Greek-Turkish relations, Turkey's EU orientation and the Cyprus issue are expected to be on the table of discussions, with the meeting probably set for Friday afternoon.

    Asked about the possibility of a visit to Athens by Gul, the spokesman merely noted that it was the Turkish foreign minister's turn to visit Greece based on standard diplomatic protocol.

    Finally, asked if the Greek government wants Ankara to also ratify the extension of a customs union protocol with the European Union in tandem with its absolute implementation, Koumoutsakos said that "for Athens, as well as the other (EU) partners, signing means implementation as well."

    [11] Latest opinion poll gives ND 1.1-point edge over PASOK

    ATHENS, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    The latest opinion poll published by a large Athens daily gives ruling New Democracy (ND) party a 1.1-percentile lead over main opposition PASOK, as the two-year anniversary of ND's electoral victory continues to generate a barrage of opinion poll results.

    Specifically, ND is preferred by 36 percent of respondents in the poll unveiled on Tuesday by the daily "Eleftheros Typos", over 34.9 percent who chose PASOK.

    In terms of other parties, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) garnered 7.2 percent; the Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) 3.3 percent and the out-of-Parliament Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) party 4.8 percent. The undecided figure stands at 12.6 percent.

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis continues to comfortably lead rival PASOK leader George Papandreou in the "most capable" question, as he was preferred by 48.6 percent of respondents to the former foreign minister's 34.1 percent.

    On the down side, 56.6 percent of respondents judged the ND government's course so far as very negative or probably negative; 42.4 percent said the government's course was very positive or probably positive.

    The poll was conducted by the Athens-based firm MRB.

    Commenting on the recent batch of opinion polls, new ND party secretary Lefteris Zagoritis commented from Thessaloniki on the matter, where he said the significant factors remained both the ruling party's lead over PASOK and the trust shown by citizens towards PM Karamanlis.

    "...This trust does not make us complacent, it makes us work harder, more decisively and more effectively in order to deal with the major problems that PASOK dumped on the country ... problems that it (PASOK) heaped on Thessaloniki, because the gridlock over the previous years has caused us to rush ahead in order to do what wasn't done over the past 20 years..." he said.

    [12] PM meets with Parliament president

    ATHENS, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday received Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki at his office for talks focusing on the upcoming legislative agenda.

    Additionally, the two leaders discussed a ceremony on Wednesday in Parliament honoring women's suffrage and women parliamentarians.

    Asked about the two-year anniversary since New Democracy party's assumption of power following its election victory in March 2004, the Parliament president said the government began a series of promised reforms, whereas it was reasonable for a certain degree of dissatisfaction and criticism to surface midway through its four-year term.

    [13] Dep. Foreign minister inaugurates new consular office in FYROM

    SKOPJE, 08/03/2006 (ANA - N. Melissova)

    Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis on Tuesday inaugurated a new Greek Consular Office for Economic and Trade Matters in Bitola, in the southwestern corner of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

    The inauguration was also attended by Stylianidis' FYROM counterpart Fuad Hasanovic, the Greek Consul Dimitris Papandreou and local officials.

    "Overcoming the difficulties of the past years, we come here to build a new bridge, a bridge between nations, markets but also people," Stylianidis said, noting that the consular office would facilitate communication and enhance Greece's strategic position, as well as supporting the European prospects of western Balkan countries.

    Stylianidis noted that Greek investments in FYROM totaled ¨ 850 million and had created 20,000 jobs, while traffic at the Greek-FYROM border totaled 45,000 transits each month.

    Hasanovic said the Greek consular office would help both sides further their interests and was an element that indicated Greece's desire to assist FYROM's accession to the EU.

    The new consular office has been in operation for the past three months and has issued 5,500 visas in that time.

    [14] 'War against drug dealers top priority for police', Public Order minister says

    ATHENS, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    A continuous and no-holds barred war against drug dealers is the top priority for the Greek police force, Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras told the ministerial council on Tuesday.

    Next on the list of priorities is combating 'hooliganism', violence against vulnerable groups and 'semi-terrorist acts', such as attacks using detonating devices made of gas canisters, he said.

    From a legislative standpoint, short-term objectives include the re-establishment of the Agricultural Police, placing the National Intelligence Agency (EYP) under parliamentary control, and improving supervision and safety on highways, among others.

    Long-term objectives, according to Polydoras, include the fight against drugs, protecting citizens, fighting organized crime, reducing traffic accidents and upgrading and highlighting police work.

    Referring to the ministry's accomplishments since New Democracy took office two years ago; Polydoras spoke about the safe staging of the 2004 Olympic Games.

    In concluding, he also praised the fire brigade.

    [15] Main opposition leader meets with SI Sec't General

    ATHENS, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    Main opposition PASOK President and President of Socialist International (SI) George Papandreou discussed matters related to SI's organization and activities during his meeting with SI Secretary General Luis Ayala in Athens on Tuesday.

    [16] Mass media reform 'almost complete', minister of state says

    ATHENS, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    Legislation regarding mass media reform is nearly complete, Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos said on Tuesday while presenting his ministry's accomplishments to date to the ministerial council.

    "The action we have taken on is not fragmented, it does not involve isolated actions but rather it falls within the context of broader strategic planning regarding communications, a field which for many years operated without rules, encouraging unfair arrangements and petty political motives, anything but serving the interests of citizens," Roussopoulos said.

    According to the minister, the dialogue among all involved parties regarding concentration of mass media ownership and licensing is almost at a close, so that electronic mass media can finally be regulated. He said that the relevant bill will be ready by the end of March.

    Regarding the regional press, a relevant bill will soon be tabled in parliament defining many parameters regarding the regional press, issues that had been pending for years, according to Roussopoulos.

    Roussopoulos also referred to other issues, such as the creation of an Audiovisual Archive, the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT), the permanent hiring of 1,500 contract employees, the digital era, the merger of the Athens News Agency (ANA) with the Macedonian Press Agency (MPA) and advertising.

    [17] Gov't outlines progress after two years in power

    ATHENS, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    Key ministries on Tuesday reported on progress after two years in power for the country's New Democracy government, elected on March 7, 2004.

    Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis cited a decline in the budget deficit, robust growth, and a drop in unemployment as the main achievements.

    "This has been a two-year period of reform across the spectrum of the economy. The basis has been set for transformation of the economy," the minister told a cabinet meeting to review the government's term in office.

    Despite forecasts to the contrary, a policy of mild fiscal adjustment had contained the fiscal deficit by 2.3 percentage points of gross domestic product to total 6.6% in 2004 from 4.3% in 2005.

    "This is noteworthy for Europe, to lower the deficit to such a great degree and to keep growth powerful," Alogoskoufis noted.

    The minister for tourism, Fani Palli-Petralia, reported that spending on publicity for Greece had doubled over the past two years. After the Athens 2004 Olympics, tourism in 2005 rose in absolute numbers, quality and revenue.

    According to Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, measures had been taken to attract new investment, support businesses, improve competitiveness, and deregulate markets employing transparency.

    Employment and Social Protection Minister Savvas Tsitouridis reported that emphasis had been laid on making the labor market more flexible and providing greater security for employees. Measures had been taken to boost productivity accompanied by job creation and retention.

    Unemployment had fallen to 9.7% in the third quarter of 2005, sharply down on 11.2% in the first quarter of 2004, Tsitouridis said.

    Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Evangelos Basiakos noted that payments of subsidies and compensation to farmers had been accelerated, public investment in the sector had doubled in 2004-5, and exports had risen.

    According to Transport and Communications Minister Mihalis Liapis, major urban public projects had been accomplished, leading to a rise in daily passenger movement to 41% from 33% two years ago, targeted to increase to 50% at the end of the government's four-year term in office.

    Projects included new routes and economy tickets, extension of the tram, renewal of the Athens bus fleet, and metro expansion projects.

    [18] Public works, merchant marine ministries make account of two-year work

    ATHENS, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    The environment, town planning and public works and merchant marine ministries on Tuesday made accounts of their work over the two-year period that the present government has been in power.

    Environment, Town Planning and Public Works minister George Souflias said that in 2005 alone tendering for projects worth 5 billion euros was carried out, meaning half of the amount of tendering for the whole of the 1994-2003 decade, adding that construction has already begun for most of these projects.

    The minister further said that all the Olympic Games projects were completed in time and that tenders are opened in the presence of all and projects are undertaken by whoever has made the best offer. "Consequently the orgy of dealing and corruption existing when the PASOK party was in power is abolished," Souflias said.

    The activities of the merchant marine ministry from March 2004 to March 2005 concern measures taken for Greek seamen and the competitiveness of Greek shipping, upgrading coastal communication, sea planes, national port policy, investments and legislative work, the ministry said.

    "Regarding Greek seamen in particular, the release of all who were in custody abroad for years was achieved. Moreover, thanks to the government's strong position at the European Council of Transport Ministers, Internal Affairs and Justice, and with the threat of a veto, the penalization of shipping work was prevented," the ministry added..

    [19] Gov't again to raise pensions in 2007-8 budgets

    ATHENS, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Tuesday that a low-pension bonus and farmers' pensions would rise further in the budgets for 2007 and 2008, meeting the government's pledges.

    "All Greeks must pay lower taxes, and they will," Alogoskoufis also told a meeting to mark the ruling New Democracy party's two years in power.

    [20] Bank of Greece governor proposes redistributing policy through budget

    ATHENS, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    Bank of Greece governor Nikos Garganas, briefing the Parliamentary Economic Committee on Tuesday on the Economic and Monetary Report for 2005-2006, stressed the need for a redistributing policy through the budget.

    "The percentage of poverty ranges between 20-22 percent over the past decade and the largest part are pensioners and elderly people who do not participate in the labor market. The only way to increase their income is for a redistributing policy to take place through the budget. It is necessary for fiscal policy to move ahead with big steps and for a social policy framework to be created," he said.

    In parallel, he attributed the big percentage of poverty among pensioners and elderly people to the ineffective and unequal insurance system and to the non-existent social policy system.

    Garganas also expressed concern over the issue of overloading. He referred to a relevant report prepared by ICAP which will be announced, as he said, over the next few days and according to which 88 percent of households must pay monthly installments that exceed 40 percent of their income, while 12 percent, not at all a negligible percentage, as he said, are unable to fulfill their obligations.

    As regards the social insurance issue, Garganas expressed the view that the way must be paved for dialogue, but added that it is not up to him to indicate in which way and said he hopes that its solution will be the result of a consensual process.

    [21] Employment minister visits Manpower Employment Organization

    ATHENS, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    Employment and Social Protection Minister Savvas Tsitouridis, speaking to reporters during his visit to the central administration of the Manpower Employment Organization (OAED) on Tuesday, where he met the Organization's governor George Vernardakis, said that no social security issue will be opening this week.

    He added that the government will be making announcements when there are developments.

    Tsitouridis said that unemployment is on the decline in the country. He said that 11.3 percent has become 9.7 and the trend is following a downward course. In parallel, OAED's work is improving, while 117,000 jobs were created for the unemployed over the two-year 2004-2005 period.

    Asked on a possible increase in unemployment benefits in relation to business subsidization, Tsitouridis said that the government is examining the issue in the most rational way so as to be able to do the best possible.

    [22] Greece is theme country at 40th ITB exhibition in Germany

    ATHENS, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    Tourism Development Minister Fani Palli-Petralia departed on Tuesday for Berlin where on Wednesday, along with Federal Economy and Technology Minister Michael Glos and Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, will inaugurate the Greek pavilion at the ITB exhibition, one of the biggest tourism industry exhibitions in the world.

    In this year's 40th ITB exhibition, Greece for the first time is the theme country. Under the auspices of the Tourism Development Ministry and the Greek National Tourism Organization (EOT), the inauguration and the reception for the exhibition's inaugurations will be organized with a rich artistic programme, in the presence of 5,000 guests.

    The Greek participation will be the biggest ever held to date and at the Greek pavilion, which will be of an expanse of 2,255 square meters, 70 co-exhibitors, representatives of all the sectors of the tourism industry, will be hosted.

    The ITB exhibition is hosting in a total expanse of 150,000 square meters, more than 10,000 exhibitors from 180 countries.

    In the context of the exhibition, Palli-Petralia will meet with presidents and managing directors of the biggest international tourism agencies (Thomas Cook, Accor, WTTC, Rewe, TUI).

    [23] Greece strongly interested in investing in Romania's telecoms sector

    ATHENS, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    Greece is strongly interested in investments in the telecommunications as well as other sectors of Romania, Transport and Communications Minister Mihalis Liapis told his Romanian counterpart Zsolt Nagy, currently on an official visit to Athens, on Tuesday.

    Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, the Greek minister said talks were very useful and constructive and stressed that Hellenic Telecommunications Organization has invested around one billion euros in Romania, while it planned to invest another 500 million euros for modernizing Romtelecom. Liapis said Cosmote was also expected to invest around 400 million euros in its subsidiary in Romania, Cosmorom. The Greek minister also informed his Romanian counterpart over OTE's plans to list Romtelecom's shares in international stock markets.

    Liapis asked for the Romanian government's assistance to facilitate OTE and Cosmote's investment programmes.

    The two ministers also discussed the situation in the electronic communications sectors of both Greece and Romania, in the context of a new regulatory framework in the EU and ahead of Romania's entry in the European Union.

    The Greek minister also briefed the Romanian delegation over preparatory work and its contacts with the UN's secretary-general ahead of organizing a first Forum on Internet Governance to be held in Athens.

    Liapis accepted an invitation by Zsolt Nagy to visit Romania.

    [24] Black Sea Bank expands trade finance in Georgia

    THESSALONIKI, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    The Thessaloniki-based Black Sea Trade & Development Bank (BSTDB) will make available a USD 3 million revolving credit line to the United Georgian Bank in short-term export and import financing for Georgian companies.

    The facility will be used to finance sub-loans extended by the United Georgian Bank to exporting and importing companies in Georgia for up to 360 days, the Black Sea Bank said in a statement.

    "The operation strengthens the BSTDB effort to improve the availability of funds for short-term trade financing in Georgia, following earlier BSTDB credit lines for trade financing in the amount of USD 8 million, as well as Micro and SME financing in the amount of USD 11 million extended to other Georgian banks selected by BSTDB as financial intermediaries," the statement said.

    BSTDB is an international financial institution established by Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine.

    The bank, which is rated Long Term Baa2 and Short Term P2 by Moody's, supports economic development and regional cooperation by providing financing, guarantees, and equity for projects in the public and private sectors in its member countries.

    [25] Tax assistance available to US citizens in Greece in April

    ATHENS, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    An American tax assistor from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will be in Athens from April 5 - April 10, 2006, to answer tax questions for US citizens at the US Embassy in Athens, according to an embassy statement issued on Tuesday.

    The assistor will see the public on an appointment-only basis from 8:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. and from 1:45 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. in the American Citizen Services Section.

    Most individual forms will be available at the embassy, but those interested can also download tax forms and instructions from the following websites: or

    US citizens residing in Greece can call the embassy at 210 720 2421 or 720 2423 for appointments and general tax information.

    Athens Bourse Close: Stocks slump in heavy selling

    [26] Messages marking World Women's Day

    ATHENS, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, on the occasion of World Women's Day on March 8, in a message on Tuesday said that "equality for a democratic society is not a given fact," noting that "it requires a struggle, reforms and changes mainly in mentality."

    The president said "the matter of equality between the genders has become a worldwide issue of major priority and the progress which has been achieved these past few years is significant, given that the differences between the two genders and the discriminations against women have markedly been reduced."

    Papoulias observed however that "the rift remains, as the institutional changes in which we have proceeded are not enough by themselves."

    On its part, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) in a message said that "March 8 is a day of action for women, for their rights, a day of solidarity in the united struggle of the working class and of the oppressed throughout the world."

    The KKE announcement added:" The working class women are also subjected to greater exploitation and oppression in Greece. The cause is found in the capitalistic class society, in the prevalence of the anti-popular policy."

    The Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party in its message said that "March 8, 2006 finds women, the women's and feminist movement in a competitive position for the defense and the securing of equality in practice." The party also noted that unemployment mainly affected women, given that "they constitute 70 per cent of the unemployed."

    The General Secretary for the Equality of the Genders, Evgenia Tsoumani, in her message said that "the equality between men and women does not only constitute a social and democratic demand, but is an urgent need for millions of women."

    Tsoumani noted:" World Day for the Rights of Women is not a day of celebration. It constitutes a day of concern and reflection regarding the value of the equality between women and men and the multiple role of women in all walks of life."

    The General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) in its announcement said that "despite the struggles for institutional interventions for the equal vocational development of women and the protection of the working mother, the discriminations and inequalities, the increased percentages of unemployment and low wages continue to survive at the expense of women."

    [27] Parliament to celebrate Int'l Women's Day

    ATHENS, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    Parliament will be celebrating International Women's Day with a special event on Wednesday marking the 50th anniversary since women in Greece won the right to vote.

    The event will include speeches by Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki and party leaders, followed by a book presentation on Greek women's suffrage and a related documentary.

    Benaki-Psarouda: Path to politics still tougher for women

    Though legal obstacles to women's equal participation in politics did not formally exist, in reality women continued to face greater challenges than men in their path to politics, Parliament President Anna Benaki-Psarouda said on Tuesday.

    She was speaking in view of an event at the Greek Parliament on Wednesday to mark the 50th anniversary since Greek women acquired the right to vote and be elected, held to coincide with International Woman's Day.

    The Parliament president underlined that in many areas the participation of women continues to be unequal and particularly difficult. As examples, she cited low employment among women and the fact that they were more adversely affected by poverty and social exclusion.

    "While women's progress in educational levels has been impressive, this improvement has not been reflected in their professional development," she noted.

    She stressed that Women's Day was not just an anniversary but a strong challenge to coordinate policies on a global, European and national level, so that men and women with the same starting point will progress equitably and with the same prospects to fulfil their goals, which they should be able to choose freely.

    [28] Archbishop Christodoulos on Women's Day

    ATHENS, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    In a message to mark International Woman's Day on March 8, Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece on Tuesday said that the Church was glad of women's rights and always wished for women to be raised spiritually in all nations on the earth.

    The head of the Orthodox Church of Greece said that March 8 was justly dedicated to women:

    "For woman is not 'res' (thing in Latin), a vessel of wickedness and a form to be enslaved. She is a divine creation, the crown of man and a support of civilization."

    [29] President attends anniversary events on Kos

    ATHENS, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday attended celebrations on the island of Kos to mark the 58th anniversary since the Dodecanese islands became part of Greece.

    The events were also attended by Aegean Minister Aristotelis Pavlidis, Deputy Foreign Minister Yannis Valinakis, PASOK MP Costas Skandalidis, the prefect of the Dodecanese and local officials from the island.

    In statements during the events, Papoulias noted that March 7 was a day to commemorate the struggles for freedom and democracy.

    [30] Snowfall in central and western Macedonia

    ATHENS, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    Snowfall is being reported in most regions in central and western Macedonia on Tuesday. Vehicles driving along the Florina-Kastoria national motorway through Vigla, along the regional Florina-Kastoria road through Vitsi and along the regional Kastoria-Ioannina road through Kotyli must be equipped with snow chains.

    It has also been snowing in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, since noon but no problems have been reported. However, the traffic police have stopped traffic on the regional Hortiatis-Agios Vasilios road as a preventive measure.

    [31] Bourboulia opts against appeal of extradition

    PARIS, 08/03/2006 (ANA - O. Tsipira)

    Attorneys for fugitive former judicial investigating magistrate Constantina Bourboulia have reportedly not filed an appeal with France's Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation) as part of a last-ditch effort to block her extradition to Greece.

    The lack of any appeal means that a 10-day extension to overturn a lower court's extradition order has lapsed. Bourboulia had previously filed a motion for release on bail, which will be reviewed by a French appellate court on Wednesday, although her lead attorney said the procedure was now merely a legal formality.

    Bourboulia's lawyer, Olivier Besson, told reporters he would withdraw his client's request for bail in front of the court on Wednesday.

    The cashiered judicial official faces multiple counts of trial-fixing, bribery and money laundering in Greece.

    [32] Proposals by ombudsman on family support draft law accepted

    ATHENS, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    Remarks and proposals made by the ombudsman, in the framework of the Cycle of Social Protection, regarding the draft law concerning "Family support and other terms", were accepted to a great degree, according to the Independent Authority.

    The ombudsman's Social Protection Cycle, in the annual report for 2004, chose to highlight problems concerning the protection of large families, problems it has also underlined in the past, both in the annual report for 1999 and in various reports.

    The remarks and proposals by the ombudsman sent to the deputy health minister and accepted include recognition of large family status for recognized political refugees, recognition of large family status for the foreign parents of children having Greek nationality, recognition of large family status for a single parent responsible for the upkeeping of three children (with emphasis being placed on a mother estranged from her husband) and life-long duration for the large family status of parents.

    [33] Queen Sophia of Spain visits Samaria gorge in Crete

    HANIA, 08/03/2006 (ANA)

    The region of Omalos, where the Samaria gorge is located, was the last stop on Tuesday in the visit made to the prefecture of Hania on the island of Crete, by Queen Sophia of Spain.

    The queen arrived at Omalos shortly before 10.30 a.m. and was briefed by regional officials on the exhibits of the local museum, for which she showed great interest.

    She arrived at Xyloskalo later on and walked for about 15 minutes at the entrance of the gorge and was briefed again on the annual movement in the forest and talked briefly with people working there.

    The Queen of Spain also visited the tourist pavillion at Omalos, where she was given a luncheon, while her programme included a visit to the Kallergis shelter before leaving for Rethimno and Iraklio.

    Despite the fact that Queen Sophia was on a private visit, tough security measures were taken.

    In another development, the regional governor of Crete Serapheim Tsokas, who arrived in Omalos, expressed optimism that the National Forest (located at the Samaria gorge) will operate normally as it does every year since existing accessibility problems will be handled.

    He said that funding for the Hania forestry service has already been achieved to enable projects to get under way immediately, while the municipalities of Mousouroi and Sfakia have undertaken to solve problems concerning the hiring of staff.

    [34] President hopes Cyprus talks to begin the soonest

    NICOSIA, 08/03/2006 (CNA/ANA)

    Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos on Tuesday expressed the hope that talks on the Cyprus problem will start the soonest possible.

    He was speaking before departing to Athens for meetings with President Karolos Papoulias, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyiannis and political party leaders.

    He said his visit was part "of the regular briefings and exchange of views".

    Invited to comment on an interview in an Austrian newspaper by Greek FM Bakoyiannis that the Annan Plan is "history", President Papadopoulos said the FM merely repeated "what has been said a long time now, that it is not possible to bring the Annan Plan back".

    To a remark about the reaction of the international community on the result of his meeting in Paris with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, President Papadopoulos said that "it is being appreciated that it is a new initiative and a new effort to properly prepare negotiations so that the Cyprus problem will be examined in a constructive and useful manner".

    He said his meeting with Kofi Annan "mainly concentrated on this stage, and as I explained to Mr. Annan, there are two parallel procedures, one is the preparation of talks on substantial aspects of the Cyprus problem, and the other to create a better climate".

    President Papadopoulos pointed out that "one course depends on the progress of the other, and it is neither proper, nor right to say that what agreed were merely measures which will make easier the operation of the Turkish Cypriot concoction".

    Asked if there was an official statement or reaction on the part of Turkey concerning his meeting with Annan, President Papadopoulos replied "we are anticipating the positions of the UN Secretariat and look forward to the start, the soonest, of the preparatory work which we hope will lead to an effort for a substantial discussion on Cyprus".

    To a question if a deadline has been set for the start of the technical committee negotiations, President Papadopoulos said that "we hope that negotiations will begin the soonest possible. There is no deadline for their expiration".

    In the Greek capital, the Cypriot President will meet on Wednesday his counterpart Karolos Papoulias and then Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. He will also meet newly appointed Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyiannis and political party leaders.

    Greek Foreign Minister Spokesman George Koumoutsakos said discussions will concentrate on the latest developments on Cyprus and prospects.

    [35] Serbia supports peaceful compromise for Kosovo, says Tadic

    NICOSIA, 08/03/2006 (CNA/ANA)

    Serbian President Boris Tadic warned here Wednesday that possible independence of Kosovo could destabilize the Balkan states, adding that only an imposed solution could lead to Kosovo's independence.

    Tandic, in Cyprus for an official visit, had separate meetings with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, House President Demetris Christofias and Foreign Minister George Iacovou with whom he had official talks.

    Iacovou and Tadic discussed issues like the Cyprus problem, Serbia's European perspective, the referendum in Montenegro regarding its position in the union with Serbia, as well as the negotiations under way for the future status of Kosovo.

    In a joint press conference with Tandic, Iacovou recalled the 2003 European Council conclusions in Thessaloniki that the countries of the eastern Balkans have a European future, noting that Cyprus ''firmly supports this policy.''

    On the future of Kosovo, as well as the referendum in Montenegro, the Cypriot foreign minister noted that Cyprus is very close to Serbia's positions.

    Speaking through an interpreter, Tandic noted that Cyprus experience as a European Union member-state is very important for Serbia and Montenegro, which aspire to join the EU in the future, stating that he is impressed over Cyprus' economic and social progress in the past decades and Cyprus' accession to the EU.

    Referring to the issue of Kosovo, Tandic said that the province is part of Serbia and Montenegro according to UN resolution 1244 and the international law, adding that Serbia recognizes the lawful rights of the Albanians of Kosovo, but at the same time supports the rights of the Serbians living in the province.

    ''Serbia supports a solution which will work for everybody living in Kosovo and a peaceful compromise and by supporting this right, Serbia supports the stability of the whole region,'' he added, noting that ''possible independence of Kosovo could as well destabilize all the Balkans states.''

    On the referendum in Montenegro scheduled for the coming May, Tandic noted that the outcome will be respected and added: ''As Serbian President I state that I am for the union of Serbia and Montenegro''. Furthermore, according to an official press release during the meeting with Christofias, the two officials reconfirmed the traditionally friendly relations between the two countries and both sides expressed their willingness for the further enhancement of their relations in all fields.

    Christofias ''responded positively in Tandic's call for Cyprus' support to Serbia and Montenegro's European course as a contribution in progress, peace and stability in the whole Western Balkan region,'' the press release notes.

    [36] EP Contact Group with T/Cs welcomes signals from Annan-Papadopoulos meeting

    NICOSIA, 08/03/2006 (CNA/ANA)

    European Parliament High Level Contact Group with the Turkish Cypriot community in Cyprus Turkish occupied areas has welcomed "the positive signals received from the meeting of UN Secretary General Annan and President Papadopoulos regarding the resumption of inter-communal talks."

    A press statement issued here in the framework of a press conference given by the seven members of the Contact Group holding meetings in Cyprus March 6 and 7, said "the Group noted the wish expressed by Turkish Cypriot party leaders to urgently resume the contacts within the UN framework which should in time lead to a full resumption of talks to find a negotiated settlement."

    "The Cypriot community in the northern part of the island is part of the European family. The Group intends to continue to listen to their concerns in a spirit of openness, transparency and tolerance," the statement noted.

    It said the aim of the work of the Group is to contribute to an end of the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community and to facilitate the reunification of Cyprus, whereby the meetings in the north of the island do not signify any recognition of the partition of the island.

    "In this context the Group finds it highly regrettable that there were several incidents regarding crossings into the northern part of the island which ran counter to the mutual agreements. The Group expects mutual agreements to be honored in the future," it added.

    Furthermore it noted that in its meetings with all interlocutors the Group has stressed that it welcomes the decision taken by the Council of Ministers of the European Union to adopt the Financial Aid package of 139 Million Euros as strongly supported and called for by the European Parliament.

    "As an initial step, the Group calls to identify as soon as possible the most efficient and practical way to use these funds in order to help the citizens and to restore confidence. The Group believes that such an approach will support the reconciliation process on the island," the statement said.

    It noted that the seven members of the Contact Group held talks with the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias, with the acting leader of the Turkish Cypriot community Fatma Ekenogou, with Mr. Ferdi Soyer, Mr. Mustafa Akinci and Mr Hasan Tacoy and with a wide range of Turkish Cypriot community NGOs.

    The visiting delegation of the Contact Group consists of Francoise Grossetete, Coordinator (French), Mechthild Rothe, Deputy Coordinator(German), Karin Resetarits (Austrian), Cem Ozdemir (German of Turkish origin), Francis Wurtz (French), Sean O‘Neachtain (Irish) and Ryszard Czarnecki (Polish).

    [37] Russia deems 'positive' Paris meeting

    MOSCOU, 08/03/2006 (CNA/ANA)

    Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has described as "positive" the result of last week's meeting in Paris between Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

    A Russian foreign ministry statement said the outcome of the meeting confirms the decisive role of the UN in finding ways to solve the Cyprus problem and the significance of the Secretary General's good offices mission.

    It said Papadopoulos' and Annan's intention to continue working with the clear aim to speed up efforts for a comprehensive and viable solution to the Cyprus problem deserves every support.

    In addition, the statement said the acceptance by the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus to proceed with bicommunal discussions on a technical level, on a series of issues, could prepare the ground for a quick and full resumption of talks on the substance of the problem, contributing at the same time in restoring trust between the two communities.

    The statement was issued after Papadopoulos had briefed Lavrov, during a telephone conversation, on the contents of his Paris meeting with Annan on February 28.

    The Russian foreign ministry said the sides expressed support for coordinating the efforts of the international community on Cyprus with the participation of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

    During the telephone conversation and within the framework of the issues agreed during President Papadopoulos' January visit to Moscow and his discussions with President Vladimir Putin, Russia reaffirmed its readiness to contribute in a number of ways in the future for a just, viable and complete solution to the Cyprus problem, under the auspices of the UN, on the basis of a voluntary agreement between the two sides and in relation with Security Council resolutions.

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