|Sunday, 23 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-03-11
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 11, 2006
 Bakoyannis, Gul meet on sidelines of informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Salzburg
SALZBURG, 11/3/2006 (ANA-MPA- F. Karaviti)Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said here on Friday that "Greece believes in Turkey's European prospects, with the preconditions and prerequisites which it must fulfill on the road for Europe".
Bakoyannis made the statement after her first official meeting with her Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul, on the sidelines of the informal meeting of the European Union's Foreign Ministers Council.
"We believe that our two peoples wish for us to have a very good and friendly relation. We also believe that the Turkish people have a European future and during the course we will have a lot of work," said the Greek foreign minister who noted that during her meeting with Gul she had the opportunity to raise to her interlocutor the various issues of mutual interest.
The two foreign ministers termed their meeting as "constructive and useful" and stressed that many meetings will follow in the future.
Bakoyannis announced that she invited Gul to visit Athens soon.
"We will have many opportunities to meet. If not, we will create them," said the Turkish minister, noting that with his Greek counterpart "there is a relation of mutual trust which will also give a new impetus in the relations between the two countries."
The twenty-minute meeting between the ministers preceded a meeting between the two delegations and was held in an exceptionally good climate.
According to diplomatic sources, the two sides confirmed their willingness for closer cooperation in the future, without going into details.
Bakoyannis was due to take part on Friday night in a discussion organized by the Austrian Television with the participation of five foreign ministers, including Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, on the topic of developments and prospects in the Balkans.
Saturday's agenda will focus on developments in the western Balkans, especially Kosovo's regime and a referendum for the independence in Montenegro.
Sessions will conclude on Saturday with discussion on an "Alliance of Civilizations" plan, which will be introduced by Gul.
 Papandreou meets with Euro-socialist leaders in Prague
PRAGUE, 11/3/2006 (ANA - V. Mourtis)Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou met with several European socialist leaders here on the sidelines of a Party of European Socialists (PES) conference in the Czech capital.
Specifically, Papandreou, who is also the president of the Socialist International (SI), met with British PM Tony Blair, Bulgarian PM Sergey Stanichev, former EU president and Italian premiership hopeful Romano Prodi, new German Social Democrat leader Matthias Platzeck and the PES president Poul Nyrup Rasmussen.
In his meeting with Rasmussen, Papandreou reportedly called for greater cooperation between the PES and SI.
The western Balkans' and Turkey's European prospects, the Cyprus issue as well as cooperation between the PES and SI dominated Papandreou's agenda, while he also wished Prodi success in the upcoming elections in Italy.
The PASOK leader was expected to meet with Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek in the afternoon.
 Commission VP asks Greece to undertake initiatives on EU migration policy in Balkans, Med region
ATHENS, 11/3/2006 (ANA)The European Commission on Friday asked Greece to under-take initiatives on EU migration policy in the Balkans and the Mediterranean region, during a meeting between visiting Commission vice-president Franco Frattini, who holds the justice, freedom and security portfolio and interior, public administration and decentralization minister Prokopis Palvopoulos, which was also attended by deputy minister Athanasios Nakos and president of the Migration Policy Institute Alexandros Zavos.
Pavlopoulos told reporters after the meeting, which focused on migration policy issues that the two sides' cooperation extended to two levels. The first level concerned the efficient implementation of Greek legislation on migration issues, while the second level concerned Greece's participation in the legislation being gradually formulated in the EU for the establishment of future regulations pertaining to migration.
"As you know, the European Union was late in formulating common regulations on migration. The problem is a big one and, naturally, the Community bodies are moving forward at a faster pace at this time. Greece is already participating, and will be participating, actively in this effort," Pavlopoulos said.
The minister thanked Frattini for his proposal that Greece undertake a more substantial and coordinating role on behalf of the EU -- regarding migration matters -- in the region of the Balkans and the Mediterranean.
"The migration issue is a common issue for all the EU countries, on the two bases we have put forward. In other words, on the basis that Greece and the other EU member countries must receive immigrants with conditions of legality and ensure for them all the rights provided under the law -- EU legislation as well as the individual (member states') legislations. We must not forget that Europe has a unique culture and a very big positive tradition on human rights issues. We must adhere to this for the immigrants as well. And, particularly, for the immigrants who live among us and work with us, and must also have the treatment they deserve. And chiefly, they must fully enjoy the rights due to them," Pavlopoulos said.
Frattini said his discussion with the interior minister had been "very positive and productive", and that he asked the Greek government to undertake initiatives aimed at supporting the European Strategy with respect to migration policy in the Mediterranean region "which is important for Europe, and where Greece can play a very crucial role".
"I encouraged the interior minister to undertake initiatives so that Greece will be even more 'present' in the Mediterranean region, with respect to prevention of and the fight against illegal immigration, in (EU) relations with Turkey, which is a crucial partner and not only a candidate for accession. And also in the region of the Western Balkans, which is another important region for Europe and where, again, Greece can play a very important role. For example, by establishing 'Liaisons' (liaison officers) in countries such as Serbia-Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and, naturally, Albania," the Commissioner said.
"In this way Greece will back up the European Strategy. And I believe that our cooperation -- the EU's with Greece -- is becoming increasingly stronger," Frattini added.
 Greece, Germany to intensify cooperation in education, technology, culture
ATHENS, 11/3/2006 (ANA)Greece and Germany agreed on Friday to intensify their bilateral relations in the fields of education, technology and culture, during a meeting in Athens between deputy foreign minister Evripides Stylianidis and visiting German deputy education and research minister Thomas Rachel, which was also attended by German ambassador to Greece Dr. Wolfgang Schultheiss.
The two deputy ministers agreed on closer cooperation in the sector of energy, and focused on know-how in the field of alternative forms of energy.
Rachel, who is also a member of the German Bundestag's (parliament) Greek-German Friendship Group, also pledged to work for the strengthening of the relations between the two countries.
One initiative agreed, in the framework of strengthening the historic bonds between the two countries, is a joint visit by the two deputy ministers to Goettingen University, where renowned Greek mathematician Constantine Karatheodoris completed his graduate studies and held a lecturing position, and also the transfer of copies or originals of his work to the Karatheodoris Museum established in his honor by the Greek authorities in his Thrace, where his family originated from.
Karatheodoris (1873-1950) is known for his significant contributions to the theory of functions of a real variable, the calculus of variations, and measure theory, while his work also includes important results in conformal representations and in the theory of boundary correspondence. He is also credited with the theories of outer measure and prime ends, while he further gave a strict and general proof that no system of lenses and mirrors can avoid aberration, except for the trivial case of plane mirrors. Scholars have also acknowledged that the mathematical side of Einstein's physics theory was partially substantiated through Karatheodoris' work.
 Valinakis in Istanbul over the weekend
ATHENS, 11/3/2006 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis will travel to Istanbul over the weekend to observe a church service at the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the occasion of Orthodox Sunday, a major ecclesiastical rite on the Orthodox calendar.
Ecumenical Patriarchate Vartholomeos will officiate at the service.
Macedonia-Thrace Minister George Kalantzis will also be on hand in Istanbul.
 Gov't dismisses issue involving PASOK sec't
ATHENS, 11/3/2006 (ANA)The government on Friday dismissed criticism from a day earlier, when television crews accompanying main opposition PASOK's secretary on a tour of the state-run Hellenic Aerospace Industry S.A. (EAB) were barred from entering the premises.
"There are areas where filming is allowed and areas where it isn't," alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros told reporters, while adding that PASOK secretary Mariliza Xenogiannakopoulou can change the specific regulation if she becomes defense minister.
"The government does not forbid visits by party officials who are accompanied by reporters covering these visits, but the entrance of broadcast crews in military facilities is rightly prohibited when security precautions are in place," he stressed.
Xenogiannakopoulou declined to enter EAB's premises on Friday without the presence of television crews, instead addressing a crowd of employees outside the facility by using a blow horn.
 Defense minister meets PM, comments on Eurostat decision
ATHENS, 11/3/2006 (ANA)Following a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday, Defense Minister Vangelis Meimarakis said he fully concurred with the finance ministry's announcement regarding Eurostat's decisions for the recording of defense spending.
Main opposition PASOK should be apologizing for having fully concealed defense spending and failing to record it either on ordering or on delivery, he added.
Eurostat on Thursday issued clarifications on how "borderline" cases of defense spending involving leases, long-term contracts or complex defense procurement agreements should be recorded in member-state budgets. Essentially, Eurostat said this expenditure should be recorded on delivery of the defense equipment, rather than when ordering or on completion of the order.
Meimarakis also pointed to a statement by Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, who said that the way of recording defense spending would have a minimal effect on the size of the deficit and insisted that the government's fiscal audit of the economy was correct.
To questions concerning the ongoing investigation into illegal phone-taps on the mobile phones of highly-placed state officials - including the premier - Meimarakis underlined that the government had done its duty from the start, referring the case to independent justice for an in-depth investigation.
"The government wants full light to be shed so that there are no unanswered questions," he said, noting that the public had no desire to see parties wrangling over an affair that involved a conflict between companies and various interests.
"The parties should reach an understanding so that measures can be taken that will protect the public from such situations," he added.
Finally, in comments on a VPRC poll published on Friday that once again gave ruling New Democracy a slim lead over main opposition PASOK, Meimarakis said that this was an indication that the government had to continue to implement its program with the same consistency but perhaps a slighter faster rate than before.
The fact that ND was once again in the lead indicated that it has the trust of the electorate, which is asking for more work, he added.
He also noted that support for parties mid-term wavered in all European countries, as citizens had higher expectations from the government's work.
 ND ahead by 2.5 points in latest opinion poll
ATHENS, 11/3/2006 (ANA)The latest in a series of opinion polls timed to coincide with the two-year anniversary of ruling New Democracy (ND) party's election win in March 2004 shows a 2.5 percentage-point lead for ND over rival main opposition PASOK, 42 percent to 39.5 percent.
In terms of other parties, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) garnered 8 percent of respondents' preferences; 3.5 percent for the Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) party and 4.5 percent for the out-of-Parliament Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) party.
Moreover, 58 percent of respondents expressed a positive opinion of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis; 47 percent for PASOK leader George Papandreou.
In response to an issue virtually always at the centre of local press speculation, namely, if and when early elections will be called, 81 percent of respondents said an early return to the ballot box would not be in the country's best interests, including 70 percent of respondents that identified themselves as PASOK voters.
Regarding another timely issue, the Vodafone mobile phone tapping affair, 49 percent of respondents criticized the government's handling of the case, as opposed to 32 percent that approved. Some 75 percent of respondents said they believed the coming period will witness increased industrial actions on the labor front, whereas 49 percent said they do not believe an ongoing anti-corruption campaign in the justice system has succeeded; 44 percent believe it is succeeding.
In the "most capable" for premier category traditionally asked by poll surveyors in Greece, Karamanlis earned 48 percent of respondents' approval, followed by Papandreou with 27 percent.
Finally, 42 percent of respondents believe ND's assumption of power has benefited the country, with 41 percent expressing the opposite view -- figures that more-or-less mirror the election results the two parties posted during the March 2004 elections.
The opinion poll, commissioned by the radio station SKAI, was conducted by the Athens firm VPRC on March 7 and March 8 on a nationwide sample of 963 people.
In reaction to the latest opinion poll results, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros merely noted that such polls continue to serve as useful tools to measure public opinion at a given moment.
I am nevertheless particularly pleased that Greek citizens back the government's efforts midway through the ongoing four-year term," he added.
Conversely, main opposition PASOK spokesman Nikos Athanassakis noted that "in evaluating electoral influence, as measured by the company and which is not exactly voting preference, as well as not comparable to (figures of) other firms, I saw that it (opinion poll) gives ND a one-point increase during this period." He added that his observation also has to do with the fact that other qualitative parameters in the opinion poll recorded negative trends for the government.
Interior minister views VRPC poll as 'positive message for the government'
Interior, Public Administration and Decenetralisation Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said on Friday evening that the VRPC poll which showed that the ruling New Democracy (ND) party was 2.5 per cent ahead of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), "is an optimistic message for the government."
"Despite the fact that opinion polls are useful tools," Pavlopoulos said, "the government must do better and act faster." The interior minister added:" Society trusts the government, but expects many things from it. It does not show that it particularly trusts other political forces and particularly the main opposition party because it has not shown us anything as yet, neither on a level of serious criticism or on a level of proposals."
The latest in a series of opinion polls timed to coincide with the two-year anniversary of ND's election win in March 2004 shows a 2.5 percentage-point lead for ND over rival PASOK, 42 percent to 39.5 percent.
In terms of other parties, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) garnered 8 percent of respondents' preferences; 3.5 percent for the Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) party and 4.5 percent for the out-of-Parliament Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) party.
The opinion poll, commissioned by the radio station SKAI, was conducted by the Athens firm VPRC on March 7 and March 8 on a nationwide sample of 963 people.
 Vodafone CEO continues testimony in Parliament for 2nd day
ATHENS, 11/3/2006 (ANA)Continuing his testimony in Parliament for the second day, Vodafone Greece CEO George Koronias told Parliament's Institutions and Transparency Committee on Friday that a mobile phone given to Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis by Parliament had been among those under surveillance, as well as a mobile number issued by the company ATEKE to the premier's family.
Testifying in a parliamentary probe into the illegal phone-tapping software installed in Vodafone's systems, Koronias said that the company had discovered the premier's involvement after cross-checking a list of telephone numbers under surveillance provided by Ericsson - which supplied the system used by the mobile-phone provider - against its customer list.
Vodafone then gave this list - which included a subscription in the name of Costas Karamanlis - to the government and to justice, Koronias said.
Asked to clarify an earlier statement that the government had "processed" this list, Vodafone's CEO said that many of the numbers were owned by state services rather than individuals and the government had then announced the names of the people to which those phones had been issued.
Koronias was also asked about an additional number under surveillance that belonged to Vodafone, whose existence was revealed by the independent Authority for Protecting Communications Privacy (ADAE) in its report on the phone-tapping affair.
The company CEO said the particular phone was not used for making calls but for tests, while promising to provide more detailed answers upon receiving a technical report from his staff.
Koronias was particularly hard pressed by New Democracy MP for Larisa Christos Zois regarding his testimony on Thursday, in which he claimed that Vodafone's management was completely unaware that the legal "low phone interception" software was embedded in its system by the supplier Ericsson.
Zois said he was unconvinced that Ericsson had supplied Vodafone with upgraded software without having informed the company, or that Vodafone had not found out from other sources.
Koronias insisted that the company's leadership - himself and the technical director - had been unaware of the surveillance software's existence and promised to search in company files for the assurances of Vodafone's legal service that the company operated in accordance with the Constitution and the laws concerning phone-tapping.
He was not also able to definitely say whether system supplier Ericsson had thoroughly checked both centers where the 'rogue' software was found, nor whether Ericsson was able to remotely detect phone-taps.
Asked if there might be other lists of names and phones under surveillance, Koronias stressed that he had not personally hidden any evidence. At a later point, he said that Ericsson was in a position to say if more numbers had been found after sifting through the evidence in the software of the two centers.
Concerning his decision to disable the rogue software - in light of ADAE's assessment that this could have safely remained in operation until the culprits were detected without posing a threat to national security - Koronias insisted that the authority had not drawn "safe conclusions".
"It was not possible to keep an illegal software in operation, especially when there have been attacks in Spain and Britain through the use of mobile phones," he stressed.
Vodafone's chief was also closely questioned about the company's ownership - with Vodafone Group holding 99.8 percent of its shares - and a visit by the company's Systems Security Manager to the house of the late Costas Tsalikidis, a Vodafone employee who was found hanged just one day before the government was alerted to the phone-tapping affair.
MPs on the committee asked that a representative of the Ericsson parent company be called on the same day as the CEO of Ericsson Greece testified, while others requested the presence of Vodafone and Ericsson technicians to answer questions regarding the software.
PASOK MP Evangelos Venizelos also asked that former public order minister George Voulgarakis and Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras be recalled to cross-check the day when Koronias first contacted the government regarding the affair.
The Committee decided to call the director of the premier's political office Yiannis Angelou to testify, since he was the person that Koronias first contacted when seeking to inform the government about the phone-tapping and arranged a meeting between Koronias and Vougarakis.
The phone-tapping plot was revealed by the government in February, after a nearly year-long covert investigation by the authorities had failed to find those responsible. It said the roughly 100 phones that were tapped included those of ministers, high-ranking police and armed forces personnel, activists, journalists, business people and even one U.S. Embassy employee.
PASOK party spokesman comments
Main opposition PASOK party spokesman Nikos Athanassakis, commenting on Friday on the phone-tapping issue, said that "every day that passes the ND government is exposed even more and we still have a long way ahead of us."
Athanassakis said that PASOK has asked various questions which remain, while answers must be provided for everything by the investigation and the government.
Asked whether PASOK leader George Papandreou will be summoned to the Institutions and Transparency Committee, the PASOK party spokesman said that no such decision has been taken yet, but recalled reference made by Papandreou in an off-the-agenda discussion in Parliament, according to which "Mr. Karamanlis, in his favorite method, is transferring responsibilities to the opposition and is telling us that if you have evidence submit it. Mr. Karamanlis, it is not us who will submit evidence, but it is you who will submit evidence, you and the director of your office."
 European Commission vice president Franco Frattini gives press conference
ATHENS, 11/3/2006 (ANA)European Commission Vice President Franco Frattini, who is responsible for justice, freedom and security, told a press conference on Friday that Greece will be participating in sea patrols in the eastern Mediterranean in the framework of a relevant European Union program to confront illegal immigration.
Frattini said he understood that Greece desires to become more involved under the coordination of the European office for handling illegal immigration, adding that it is an issue that concerns the entire EU and the protection of its external borders.
Financing of this program is expected to take place by the relevant European immigration fund with 400 million euros. A relevant decision was taken on this fund at the European Council in December.
Recognizing the problem of illegal immigration for the EU and Greece, Frattini said the Commission is watching the issue closely and is undertaking a series of initiatives.
He said the issue of repatriation agreements on illegal immigrants has moved ahead with Albania, Russia and Ukraine. Albania has signed the relevant document and its Parliament ratified it a few weeks ago. In May, the vice president will also be presenting a proposal on illegal immigration in the EU.
Frattini said that illegal immigration issues create problems at competition level, as well as the exploitation of people. Illegal immigration causes problems regarding social services and education for the illegal immigrants and their families and a series of other very serious problems.
He went on to say that the issue of human trafficking must be handled. The Commission is proceeding with taking measures on this issue and the undertaking of initiatives.
Frattini said he is not satisfied with data concerning statistics on the illegal movement of people in the EU, adding that new statistical data and factors that are more recent and more reliable must be processed.
According to a rough assessment, 100,000 people are brought to the EU illegally every year and 150,000 children are likewise included in human trafficking.
Lastly, replying to a question on whether the EU will pressure Turkey to control the issue of illegal immigrants as well, Frattini stressed that the European Commission is promoting an agreement, similar to that with Russia and Ukraine, with this country as well.
 Public order minister and European Commission VP discuss illegal immigration, human trafficking
ATHENS, 11/3/2006 (ANA)Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras discussed illegal immigration and human trafficking with visiting European Commission Vice President Franco Frattini on Friday.
The meeting was attended by public order ministry secretary general Leonidas Evangelidis, Greek Police chief Anastasios Dimoschakis and other officials.
Emphasis was also placed during the talks on cooperation and the European repatriation of foreigners, with the dominant factor being finding a balance between maintaining European principles and an effective handling of new challenges concerning security.
 Brit MP presents resolution on UK visit by Gianna Angelopoulos
LONDON, 11/3/2006 (ANA/MPA - L. Tsirigotakis)Labor MP for Hendon Andrew Dismore presented a resolution in the House of Commons on Friday in which he hails a visit to London by the head of the Athens Olympics Organising Committee Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, which MPs of all parties have already started to sign.
The resolution hails her visit to the United Kingdom "to share her experiences after having organized particularly successful Olympic Games in Athens and express her views concerning the 2012 London Olympics".
It also underlines the huge success of the Athens Olympics, noting that the city was transformed on account of the Games and the heritage they left to Athens and Greece, and that these were largely a result of the efforts of Angelopoulos-Daskalaki.
The resolution ends by stating the British Parliament belief that the organizing committee for the London Olympics in 2012 will benefit from the experiences of Angelopoulos-Daskalaki and the Athens Olympic Games.
Angelopoulos-Daskalaki is in London to attend an event organized by London 2012 Olympic Committee organizers, who will honor ATHOC's chief on Monday in the well-known private Reform Club.
Angelopoulos-Daskalaki is scheduled to address guests at a reception on the issue of "The Experience from Hosting the Athens Olympics and thoughts about the 2012 Olympics of London".
 Alex Spanos to be honored in Washington
WASHINGTON, 11/3/2006(ANA-MPA)One of America's most prominent citizens who has played an important role in bilateral relations with Greece, Alex Spanos, will be honored at the Fifth Annual Business Conference on U.S.-Greece Relations in Washington, D.C. March 29-30, the Hellenic-American Heritage Council (HAHC) announced her on Thursday.
"Spanos is a friend and major supporter of President George W. Bush, founder and Chairman of our America's largest family-owned construction and property management company, and owner (for over 20 years) of the San Diego Chargers professional football team...Spanos is also nationally known as having been the closest friend of one of this era's most highly respected entertainers, Bob Hope," the announcement said.
"Others who will be honored on March 30 along with Spanos include: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Member and Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member, Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), and U.S. Ambassador to Greece Charles Ries," it concluded.
 Former PM Simitis visits Iraklio
IRAKLIO, 11/3/2006 (ANA)Former Prime Minister Costas Simitis visited Iraklio on Friday for meeting with local PASOK party officials, for talks on current political developments.
The meeting was followed by a tour of the Iraklio Historical Museum.
 PASOK party officials meet on health policy
ATHENS, 11/3/2006 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK party officials held a meeting on the issue of health policy on Friday, which is being organized by the party's Employment, Social Affairs and Health sector in Athens and criticized the government for its policy in this sector.
PASOK Deputy and sector secretary Manolis Skoulakis said that for PASOK social expenditures are a part of national wealth and a top priority.
"Following two years of tough austerity implemented by the government", he said, conditions have matured for PASOK to raise once again the health issue to the front line of its political initiatives and make health and the social state its flag.
PASOK's National Council secretary Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou accused the government of exercising a one-sided and authoritarian policy which is harming working people, pensioners and farmers and leading the National Health System to disdain.
The PASOK dialogue process for the health sector will be completed on Sunday with a meeting to be held in Thessaloniki, Macedonia.
 KKE secretary general meets union federation for disabled people
ATHENS, 11/3/2006 (ANA)Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga held a meeting on Friday with the Panhellenic Federation of Parent and Guardian Unions for Disabled People.
Speaking after the meeting, Papariga said that despite the fact that continuous announcements have been made for many years on helping disabled people, particularly families having disabled children, the situation is very backward.
"What concerns us is that whatever measures are taken from now on will be part of the privatization of the social policy sector, which also includes disabled people and their families," she said.
Replying to a question on the phone-tapping issue, Papariga said that "the process is not over. However, everything shows that the light to be shed on this issue will be very pale."
She added that "the masterminds will hide, despite the fact that we all know very well that today a leading role in organizing phone-tapping on an international scale is played by the United States and other leading powers of imperialism and I am very afraid that all is well that ends well for them."
 Economy ministry defends policy on fiscal audit of the economy
ATHENS, 11/3/2006 (ANA)Economy and Finance ministry on Friday defended its policy on performing a fiscal audit of the economy and strongly criticized past governments led by the main opposition PASOK party for deliberately hiding defense spending from the previous years' budgets, which in 2003 alone came to more than ¬ 2.0 billion.
In an announcement to the press, the ministry said that a decision on Thursday by Eurostat to clarify the way of recording defense spending on state budgets "was not justifying PASOK's government policies but was another blow to practices followed in the past. The decision calls for defense spending to be recorded on delivery, something that PASOK governments failed to do".
A Eurostat report on the government's efforts to restore transparency in Greek fiscal figures, published in November 2004, clearly stated that most sums for defense spending funded with borrowing "were not recorded in state budgets in the last seven years". Eurostat's head Guenter Hanreich, responding to an article written by former Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis in December 2004, also clearly said that Greek authorities failed to fully record defense spending in state budgets, regardless of the accounting method used.
The ministry announced underlined that PASOK governments failed to record defense spending worth more than 8.0 billion euros in the period 1997-2003. "The government sought and managed to restore Greece's credibility with European agencies," it added.
Government spokesman attacks PASOK stance
Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, meanwhile, slammed PASOK's stance on the issue, following scathing main opposition criticism of the government's decision for an audit of the economy.
He accused PASOK of being "architects of number fiddling that had deceived Greek citizens and their European partners," and said that they were "returning to the scene of the crime like classic criminals," without a world of "remorse or apology".
The spokesman also stressed that PASOK had concealed that the audit of the economy was not just for defense spending, which were only a small part of the audit that targeted the "creative accounting and alchemy" used by the same people that were now accusing the government.
 PASOK party spokesman criticizes government economic policy
ATHENS, 11/3/2006 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK party spokesman Nikos Athanassakis on Friday criticized the government on its economic policy, particularly on the issue of the fiscal audit.
"Because the alternate government spokesman reached the point of speaking about PASOK today, using the characterization 'classical criminals do return to the scene of the crime', I must say that indeed the fiscal audit, as it was carried out by the ND government, was a great political crime against the economy, the country, society and the citizen," Athanassakis said.
"This political crime took place with the exclusive responsibility of the ND government, Mr. Alogoskoufis and Mr. Karamanlis which the country and Greek citizens are paying for and will be paying for a long time," he added.
Asked whether the change in the way of registering defense expenditures in the budget will bring about a serious decrease in the deficit in the near future, Athanassakis reminded that the position of PASOK was "an inventory should take place, but objectively, without interventions and party expediencies on the part of the government."
 PASOK, SYN on issue of recording military expenditures
ATHENS, 11/3/2006 (ANA)The Economy Sector of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), with regard the recording of defense expenditures, said in an announcement on Friday that "the Economy and Finance Minister (George Alogoskoufis) should go into hiding after the disclosure of the enormous lie with the so-called fiscal audit, but instead of this, he appears to be rejoicing."
The PASOK announcement added that "this is yet another example on how dangerous this government is."
Coalition of the Left, Movement and Ecology (Synasmismos) deputy Yiannis Dragasakis on his part said on Friday that "Eurostat's decision on the manner of the recording of military expenditures again raises the issue of the proper depiction of the fiscal magnitude and of transparency of fiscal management." The Synaspismos deputy added:" It yet again shows the pretentious character of the so-called 'fiscal audit' and confirms the need of a system, stable, transparent and mutually acceptable and an office for the budget in Parliament, a demand to which the government of the New Democracy party 'turns a deaf ear'."
 Europe needs social protection system to promote growth, Greek minister says
BRUSSELS, 11/3/2006 (ANA-MPA/M.Aroni)Social protection and social inclusion must remain a main part of a new Lisbon Strategy, Greek Labor and Social Protection Minister Savvas Tsitouridis told an EU Labor Ministers' Council in Brussels on Friday.
Addressing the council, the Greek minister stressed that the right planning of social protection systems contributed to economic growth by creating a favorable environment for economic growth. "To achieve these goals we need reforms in national and European level," Tsitouridis said, adding the determining role of social partners in such a quest. On national level, the Greek minister said, a precondition was to forger dynamic partnership relations with the participation of social agencies in local or sector level. By ensuring the promotion of competitiveness and safeguarding workers' rights "we can change gear," he noted.
Commenting on a need for a more flexible labor market, the Greek minister said it was a matter that needed careful handling and consensus to strengthen the safety of workers.
Tsitouridis also said that equality in work between men and women, equal representation in decision-making centers and combating all forms of violence against women were the main policy issues for the equality of the two genders in Europe.
 Merkel welcomes recent talks with PM
BERLIN, 11/3/2006 (ANA/P Stangos)Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday welcomed talks she held recently with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis as she toured Greece's pavilion at a global trade fair in the German capital.
"A few days ago I had a very cordial conversation with Premier Karamanlis on Greco-German ties, and it appears that political relations become simpler when people meet each other," Merkel told Tourism Minister Fani Palli-Petralia at the ITB exhibition.
Greece is the partner country at this year's event, attracting favorable publicity with its slogan "Live your myth in Greece", featured at the ITB and in Berlin streets.
Welcoming Merkel, Palli-Petralia noted that Greece was the second favorite holiday destination for Germans, and the government would work hard to make it their top venue.
"Greece is a country with a high level of hospitality, and people who travel there know that," the chancellor said.
Inviting Greeks to visit Germany, from the Baltic to Bavaria, she congratulated Greece on its pavilion and publicity campaign.
 PM confers with Macedonia-Thrace minister over regional policy
ATHENS, 11/3/2006 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday met with Macedonia-Thrace Minister George Kalantzis and was briefed over projects aimed to support regional development in the country.
Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, Kalantzis said regional development was also economic growth for the country as a whole and noted that the meeting with the PM discussed ways to accelerate projects currently underway.
The Greek minister said the project must be completed while he said there were no delays and criticized the policy of previous governments on regional growth.
 Northern power plant to make money within two years
ATHENS, 11/3/2006 (ANA)A 390-MW electricity output plant in Thessaloniki that belongs to Athens-quoted Hellenic Petroleum will begin to make money in two years, Chairman Efthymios Christodoulou said on Friday.
"In 1-5-2 years the Thessaloniki plant will make money and whoever did not help to finance it will be sorry," Christodoulou told a news conference in the northern port city.
According to management, the natural gas-fired plant has begun to help stabilize the electricity system, although it is not yet competitive especially compared to a unit owned by Athens-quoted Public Power Corporation.
Christodoulou said that Hellenic's plant had "saved the system" earlier this year when heavy snowfall led to record demand in power consumption.
The output plant, which represents an investment of 260 million euros, belongs to a subsidiary of Hellenic Petroleum, Eneryiaki Thessalonikis SA.
 Gov't to stay out of bank pay talks
ATHENS, 11/3/2006 (ANA)Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Friday that the government did not involve itself in talks between bank management and workers on collective labor agreements.
"We would all express opposition to this, and justifiably, if we had the least involvement," Alogoskoufis told parliament.
"We all wish for industrial calm, but it is clear that there is no possibility of government intervention, as the banking system is no longer under the control of the state," he noted.
The minister was replying to a question tabled by the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement, which accused the government of complicity in permitting a concerted move by bank managements to forge bank-by-bank arrangements with staff, bypassing the national OTOE trade union.
"I cannot comment on whether bank managements acting concertedly or not. Nevertheless, in collective negotiations in 2001-5, bank representatives signed as 'acting jointly'. They had this right, they exercised it, and they forged a contract with OTOE," Alogoskoufis said.
"In the current case, the representatives of banks have again acted jointly, but decided that they do not wish to come to talks with OTOE, but rather operate independently and negotiate with staff associations at each bank," he added.
The staff associations are members of OTOE.
 Govt, agencies, discuss competitiveness
ATHENS, 11/3/2006 (ANA)A meeting of the National Council for Competitiveness and Development on Friday, chaired by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, discussed ways to further improve Greece's economic competitiveness and the country's positions in a competitiveness ministers' council, to be held in Brussels on Monday.
In his address, Sioufas referred to efforts in promoting cooperation with a similar council from the United States, Russia, Croatia, Ireland and Turkey, while he underlined the ministry's top priorities to boost competitiveness. He also noted that progress was made in surveys, funded by the ministry, for the scientific institutes of the commerce and services sectors and for manufacturing enterprises.
Sioufas said the ministry was expected to complete the drafting of a Competitiveness Report for 2005 in the coming period.
Commenting on the pension system, the president of the National Confederation of Greek Commerce, Dimitris Armenakis, said the issue must always be open to discussion.
"Greek citizens are paying their contributions to the system but they system may not be able to pay their pensions in the future," he said.
Armenakis said Greek markets were witnessing steadily increasing prices and he stressed that the "cure" to this phenomenon was competitiveness and a further deregulation of markets.
 GSEE leadership, PASOK delegation meet
ATHENS, 11/3/2006 (ANA)The presidium of Greece's largest trade umbrella union, GSEE, on Friday met with a delegation of top main opposition PASOK cadres, with initial talks focusing on proposals by the latter for better consumer protection.
On his part, GSEE president Christos Polyzogopoulos charged that price hikes slapped on a series of basic consumer goods is the primary reason for a nationwide strike called for March 15.
 4th open forum on employment, entrepreneurship next week
ATHENS, 11/3/2006 (ANA)New Athens Mayor Theodoros Behrakis will hold a press conference on Monday at city hall concerning the 4th "Open Forum on Employment and Entrepreneurship", which will be held on March 17-18 at the Technopolis hall, located within the Gazi site.
This year marks the forum's fourth consecutive year and is again being held under the auspices of the Athens municipality and the French embassy.
Companies active in Greece will be represented at the forum.
 Public administration prospects auspicious, interior minister says
ATHENS, 11/3/2006 (ANA)Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Friday addressed an event organized by the Society of Greek-European Studies on the issue of "Present state and prospects of public administration."
"Strengthening entrepreneurship and boosting competitiveness, development and productivity constitute basic priorities of the government, for the success of which a series of structural changes are being promoted which will enable the country to develop at a more rapid rate and handle the considerable economic and social challenges of the European, as well as the international business environment," he said.
Pavlopoulos added that for the above target to be achieved the contribution of public administration is extremely important, since it must facilitate private individuals and, in general, agencies which do not belong to the public sector, strengthening entrepreneurship substantively, particularly through safeguarding free and healthy competition.
 Former investigating magistrate Bourboulia on way to Athens on board airliner
ATHENS, 11/3/2006 (ANA)Former investigating magistrate Konstantina Bourboulia, whose extradition to Greece was recently ordered by a French court, is on board an "Air France" airliner expected to land at Eleftherios Venizelos airport in Athens shortly before midnight on Friday, after being handed over to Greek police by the French authorities.
Bourboulia will be taken from the airport to the Attica General Police Headquarters in Alexandras avenue in downtown Athens where she will be kept in custody.
She has had criminal and misdemeanor charges filed against her for participation in illegal judicial activities.
In another development, the Swiss authorities have given Greek justice information concerning accounts Bourboulia kept with the UBS bank. According to evidence examined by investigating magistrates so far, it appears that amounts totaling about 540,000 euros have been transferred in her controversial accounts.
 Archbishop of America speaks at presentation of a book on Cyprus
NEW YORK, 11/3/2006 (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)Archbishop of America Demetrios said on Friday that "I could not imagine that since the decade of the 1950s, when we were demonstrating in the streets of Athens for Cyprus' freedom, we would reach the present point."
Archbishop Demetrios made the statement during the presentation in New York of the book "Annan Plan: The Secret Bargaining - the 129 days that shook Hellenism", written by journalists Costas Venizelos, Michalis Ignatiou and Nikos Meletis.
Archbishop of America Demetrios said that he was impressed by the content of the book because it concerns "an historic testimony" with the presentation of "important data" on Cyprus' recent history.
He noted that "the book is not a novel, neither a fairy tale, but a document."
The Archbishop of America referred to his recent visit to Cyprus, noting that "Cyprus should be an internationally protected country, because it is what it is, historically and geographically."
He further said that "the people of Cyprus live and create, know what they want and I am certain that there will definitely be a solution to the problem."
 'Doctors of the World' to distribute food and blankets to Athens' homeless
ATHENS, 11/3/2006 (ANA)The 'Doctors of the World' are inaugurating on Saturday the "Neighborhoods of Athens" program in aid of homeless people.
The organization said in an announcement on Friday that a team of its scientists will distribute food and blankets to the homeless and at the same time, if deemed necessary, offer medical and pharmaceutical care.
The "Doctors of the World" noted that the number of homeless "is increasing every year" and emphasized that "the homeless are an indisputably a vulnerable group which does not always receive the required attention."
The specific program will be implemented twice a week.
 UN SG's Spokesman Dujarric: Joint communiqué in Paris, describes all agreed
NEW YORK, 11/3/2006 (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou/CNA)UN Secretary General's Spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said on Friday that the joint communiqué issued after the meeting in Paris between Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos and UN Chief Kofi Annan, describes all that has been agreed during the meeting.
Invited to say what exactly has been agreed between President Papadopoulos and Kofi Annan, Dujarric said that "the joint communiqué describes everything."
Meanwhile, commenting on the Paris agreement, a spokesperson of the European Bureau of the Department of State said that the United States "believe that technical talks on the basis agreed to by both sides can help build real cooperation between the parties."
"However, settlement issues should not be discussed in this forum, but rather under UN auspices that includes all parties," he said.
The spokesperson noted that the US "fully supports the UN role in achieving a just and lasting settlement," adding that the US "encourages all the parties to continue to put forward their ideas on ways to move the process forward, and be creative, flexible in their approach."
 State Department's report should refer to Turkish invasion, minister says
NICOSIA, 11/3/2006(CNA/ANA)Minister of Justice and Public Order Doros Thedorou on Friday said that the US State Departments report on Human
Rights in Cyprus are not credible, since it does not refer to the mass violations caused due to the Turkish invasion and occupation of the northern part of Cyprus.
"The report does not even mention the mass violation of human rights in Cyprus, caused by the Turkish invasion of 1974, the occupation of the island's northern part as well as the displacement of thousands of refugees", the minister stressed.
Commenting on the State Department's report, Theodorou said that there is an effort "to equate the violations in the government controlled areas with the ones in the Turkish occupied part of Cyprus", adding that "the report does not always give a documentation regarding some allegations".
The credibility of the report, he stated, is very low, since the State Department does not even refer to the violation of human rights in the US.
"Such reports would have been more persuasive, if they also dealt with the violations of human rights in the US, on which we have no information," Theodorou concluded.
 Government: International Crisis Group's report not credible
NICOSIA, 11/3/2006 (CNA/ANA)Undersecretary to the President Christodoulos Pashiardis expressed Friday doubts concerning the credibility of the recommendations suggested by the 'International Crisis Group' regarding the "Cyprus stalemate".
In its executive summary and recommendation regarding the Cyprus issue, the 'International Crisis Group' expresses the view that President of the Republic of Cyprus, Tassos Papadopoulos, is "the most substantial blockage" for solving the Cyprus issue, and adds that "the island will slip by default toward permanent partition" unless Greek Cypriots make steps towards solving the problem.
''If this Crisis Group has any credibility, this is judged by its positions and recommendations. But the credibility of this Group is negligible", Pashiardis pointed out.
Commenting on the Group's statement that President Papadopoulos is "an obstacle for the solution", Pashiardis said that the Cypriot president is indeed an obstacle for a bisecting and wrong solution.
"Even if this distresses some people, inside, or outside Cyprus, it is accountable to the enormous majority of the population of Cyprus, that agrees with President Papadopoulos' positions regarding the Cyprus problem", he added.
According to the site of the "International Crisis Group", the Group is "an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization, with over 110 staff members on five continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict".
Answering to questions, Pashiardis said that he is not aware of the people behind the Group, pointing out that they must not be objective.
"The only thing I know is that it is an unreliable team, which is neither serious nor objective", he concluded.