|Wednesday, 19 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-03-13
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 13, 2006
 Greek FM Bakoyannis says clear message given to Western Balkans for European prospects
SALZBURG, 13/3/2006 (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti)Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Saturday appeared satisfied with the content of the final communique for the European prospects of the Western Balkans, which was issued at the informal meeting of the European Union's Foreign Ministers Council in Salzburg.
"The communique sends a clear message to all the Western Balkans for their European prospects, a stable position of Greek foreign policy, despite any reservations that may exist," said Bakoyannis.
The Greek foreign minister added:"The Council of Ministers sent a message of prospects to the peoples of the Western Balkans, which is particularly important. This was the first time, at the initiative of the Austrian (EU) presidency, that the foreign ministers of the region also came and expressed their views and concerns. The essence of the matter, which was also recorded by the communique, is that the course from the European Council of Thessaloniki until the Council of Ministers in Salzburg, was successful. On the principles of Thessaloniki, the European Union continues the effort for the support of democratisation, of stable and good neighbourly relations, of the prospects of the Balkans in a large European family."
Bakoyannis further said that the Balkan countries ask of Athens to support their European prospects in the framework of the European Union, as some partners express reservations. "Greece on this issue is extremely clear in its positions. For stability in the broader region of Europe, the Balkans must not be confronted as a further obligatory tool for enlargement, but as a prospect which will be to the benefit of Europe itself," she noted, and stood in support of the facilitation of contact between the peoples of the Balkans and the rest of Europe.
Referring to the issue of Kosovo, Bakoyannis said it was a sensitive moment for the broader region and stressed that the will of all is for the implementation of the criteria to be supported, so as to also safeguard the rights of the Serbs and at some moment to proceed in further discussion. "I do not have the feeling that at this moment there is complete unanimity on the speed of the procedure," she clarified.
Regarding the recommendation which the Austrian EU presidency asked Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul to submit to the Council on Dialogue of Cultures, following the crisis caused by the publication of cartoons about Prophet Mohammed, Bakoyannis clarified that it does not concern mediation by Turkey. "The European Union was clear. Turkey's mediation is not asked for, neither is Turkey called on as a mediator, but as a country which has to submit an opinion, which in any case, it submits in various fora," she said.
On the sidelines of the sessions of the Council, Bakoyannis briefed her Cypriot counterpart George Iacovou on the meeting she had with Gul on Friday night. She also met her Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) counterpart Dr. Ilinka Mitreva whom she thanked for the letter of congratulations she sent her on the occasion of her new duties as foreign minister, while with Albanian Foreign Minister Besnik Mustafaj, Bakoyannis discussed the possibility of her visiting Tirana.
 Foreign Minister Bakoyannis honoured by AHEPA women's section
WASHINGTON, 13/3/2006 (ANA-MPA/T.Ellis)The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) women's section on Sunday honoured Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis during an event held at the Greek embassy here.
The section, named 'Daughters of Penelope', awarded Bakoyannis with the "Salute to Women 2006" prize.
Greek Ambassador Alexandros Mallias thanked the 200 members of the organisation from all over the U.S. that were present at the event, noting that Greek-U.S. relations "are today supported by the capable hands of two splendid women, Dora Bakoyannis and Condoleezza Rice."
In her videotaped message, Bakoyannis thanked the 'Daughters of Penelope' for the honour bestowed on her and the organisation for its philanthropic, social and educational action, adding that present-day Greece was an example of progress and stability in the broader region.
 Deputy FM reiterates support for Turkey's EU prospects, provided all conditions are fulfilled
ISTANBUL, 13/3/2006 (ANA-MPA/A. Kourkoulas)Greece's deputy foreign minister Yannis Valynakis on Saturday reiterated the Athens government's support for Turkey's European prospect, but stressed that Ankara was required to meet all the conditions set out by the EU for the neighbouring country's accession to the 25-nation bloc.
"We desire, with Turkey's accession, that our neighbourhood bcomes a European neighbourhood," Valynakis said, after a meeting with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos at Phanar, but adcded that "Turkey must fulfill all the conditions that have been set out by the EU for its accession".
Valynakis discussed a variety of issues with the Ecumenical Patriarch.
On Sunday, Valynakis, together with Macedonia-Thrace minister George Kalantzis, attended a panegyric liturty celebrating the Sunday of Orthodoxy.
 PM Karamanlis, Interior Minister Pavlopoulos discuss procedure for revision of the Constitution
ATHENS, 13/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met with Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos at the Maximos Mansion in Athens on Saturday morning and discussed the procedure for the revision of the Constitution.
Pavlopoulos told reporters that he discussed with the premier matters concerning the completion of the procedure and the shaping of the proposal regarding the revision of the Constitution and all the matters that concern the manner with which the proposal will be presented before Parliament.
The interior minister underlined that "it is an important initiative, for parliamentary procedure which requires dialogue and consensus, as is also imposed by the Constitution."
Regarding the dates when the procedure will start and the proposal submitted, Pavlopoulos said that "it is foreseen by Article 110 of the Constitution."
 PASOK leader launches scathing attack on gov't, prompts cutting reply from FinMin
ATHENS, 13/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Sunday launched a scathing attack on the government and on prime minister Costas Karamanlis, and charged that the fiscal audit had been a "big fraud" on the part of the government, which boomeranged against the country, prompting a retort from national economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis that the PASOK leader remained "glued to the past of the fiscal deficits and debts, virtual reality, the Stockmarket crime, the 50 new taxes, the increase in unemployment, and the exacerbation of high prices after the introduction of the euro".
Addressing an event on "Active consumers at the centre of developments" organised by the PASOK development, competitiveness and consumer policy division, Papandreou described the fiscal audit as a "big fraud" that "worked at the country's expense".
"There was no need for Greece to come under the supervision of the European Union, but the ND government, with its arrogant attitude, conveyed its opposition fury to Brussels, and defrauded the citizens," Papandreou said, adding that Karamanlis bore the exclusive responsibility for the fiscal audit. he further called on the prime minister "to come to parliament himself and give account for the harm he did to Greece and the Greek citizens", adding that what the prime minister succeeded with the fiscal audit was in the European Union calling the Greeks swindlers.
"This accusation is for Karamanlis, and not the Greeks," Papandreou said, at the same time accusing the government of disdaining the accomplishments of the preceding PASOK government for petty political reasons, with the aim of not fulfilling his pre-electoral pledges.
"You wasted the money and the prestige of the Greek people, the country's prospects. You defrauded the citizens, and even refused to give the heating subsidy," the PASOK leader said, addressing himself to the government.
Papandreou continued that the Greek people would give their reply to the government in the next elections, stressing that "soon, the Greek people will put an end to this neo-right period and they (the government) will return to the opposition desks".
The PASOK leader outlined his party's policies on combatting high prices and excessive borrowing, agricultural policy, policy on youth and consumers. "We will not promise everything to everyone and then not do anything the following day," he said, adding that PASOK would proceed, through deliverations, to more initiatives, and called on the government to contain the DEKO (public utilities) rates and not introduce new taxes.
Commenting later on Papandreou's address, Alogoskoufis said that the PASOK leader "remains glued to the past of the fiscal deficits and debts, virtual reality, the Stockmarket crime, the 50 new taxes, the increase in unemployment, and the exacerbation of high prices after the introduction of the euro".
"Once again, Mr. Papandreou is attempting to turn white to black. In order to cover up his political impasses, he is attemtping to create confusion, by using black propaganda.The problem for the economy was the immense fiscal deficits and debts that the PASOK governments left in their wake. It was not the fiscal audit that revealed them," he said, adding that "the problem for the European Union is that the PASOK governments lied to the European services, to our European partners, and to the Greek people. The problem was not the New Democracy government, which spoke the truth".
The economy minister said that the fiscal deficits were now being contained without new taxes being imposed, while the growth rate of the Greek economy was among the highest in the eurozone, and unemployment was declining. "With the policy of reforms, we are consolidating a new prospect for all the Greeks. Mr. Papandreou's PASOK is identified with the PASOK of Mr. Simitis. It remains stuck to the past, to the policy that was condemned by the Greek people and that the people will condemn anew at the first opportunity," Alogoskoufis said.
Also commening on Papandreou's speech, government spokesman and state minister Theodoros Roussopoulos said that the terror of the decline PASOK was on, two years after the last general elections, "has also taken hold of its leader, and is leading him to the infamous populistic PASOK".
He said that Papandreou has never given account for the consecutive frauds of the plasmatic budgets, the hidden debts, thehidden deficits, the hidden unemployment, the stockmarket scandal, the systematic defrauding of the people and the irresponsible waste of their toil, "although he bears a heavy personal responsibility, as a member of all the PASOK governments for years".
Roussopoulos said that Papandreou had exceeded every limit of audacity in casting blame "on those who revealed the reality, bringing to light the irregularities of the PASOK system, on those who, shouldering the burdens of the past, are today building strong foundations for a better prospect for all, and on those whose non-negotiable principle is to speak only the truth and the entire truth to the Greek people".
He said that Papandreou, as a genuine representative of PASOK's policy, has opted to invest in "bubbles" of the past: in lies, black propaganda, exacerbation and polarisation.
 Papandreou addresses secretaries of PASOK-affiliated students' union PASP
ATHENS, 13/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou on Saturday met with the secretaries of the PASOK-affiliated students' union (PASP) from all over Greece.
Arriving for the meeting, Papandreou told reporters, in reference to the phone-tapping issue, that "every day the real face of the government of the New Democracy, of Mr. (Prime Minister Costas) Karamanlis, is being revealed." He added:"Every day truths are being revealed, we will have the time to confront all these things in the coming days."
Addressing, the student secretaries, Papandreou said:"We are here for PASP, for the student movement, to give emphasis to a new course for our country's education. For us, education is the future and we want with the student faction of PASP to open new roads, because we believe in a Greece which will give value to people, which will invest in this and not in cheap labour."
Papandreou added:"We believe that PASP can be a protagonist, this is why we have an open dialogue with the student faction for us to have these student elections with a large section in the student movement, because we want a creative student movement which will dispute creatively, but will also submit progressive proposals."
 Foreign ministry says 'History will be the strict judge' of Milosevic
ATHENS, 13/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Greek Foreign Ministry in an announcement on Sunday evening, regarding the death the previous day of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, said that "the death of Slobodan Milosevic sealed a tragic era of tensions, crises and wars which plagued the Balkans for almost a decade," noting that "during this era, Milosevic held a central position and responsibility."
The annoucement added:"The Court (of Justice at the Hague) will not finally judge him. History, as a strict judge, will judge him."
The foreign ministry announcement went on to say:"The major matter today in the Balkans is not sticking to assessments of the past. It is capitalising on every possibility for the building of a European future of peaceful co-existence, stability and development for all."
 KKE calls Milosevic death 'cold, calculated murder'
ATHENS, 13/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Saturday called the death of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic a "cold, calculated murder", adding that it was "another work of the US and the EU, which are responsible both for the break-up of, and war on, Yugoslavia".
"The masterminds and executioners of the abduction, imprisonment and trial of Milosevic at The hage, instead of leading the parody trial to an end, opted to lead Milosevic himself to death. they refused to take measures to protect his life, despite the large wave of protext against his incarceration, and despite the fact that the deterioration of his health was serious".
The KKE, in an announcement, said that regardless of one's opinion on Milosevic's policy, "our people must condemn the imperialistic forces that led a president to prison and annihilation, only because he resisted their plans, which were at his country's expense".
"No one should forget that the real criminals at the expense of the people of Yugoslavia were Clinton, Blair, Schroeder and other centre-Leftists", the KKE said, adding that "the big responsibilities in the Milosevic case are born both by the (preceding) government of PASOK and that of ND, either because they served the imperialistic plans, or because they tolerated them".
The KKE expressed its condolences to Milosevic's family and the socialist party of Serbia.
 Draskovic comments on Milosevic's death during EU FMs informal meeting in Salzburg
SALZBURG, 13/3/2006 (ANA-MPA/F. Karaviti)Serbia-Montenegro Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic, commenting on Saturday on the death of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, said "I very much regret that he was not finally judged by the Court of Justice at The Hague."
He made the comment during the informal meeting in Salzburg of the European Union's Foreign Ministers Council.
Draskovic further referred to Milosevic's repeated orders for assassination attempts against him, but refused to link the death with the development of his country's European course.
 ND Central Committee Secretary Zagoritis meets party's presidents of prefectural organizations
ATHENS, 13/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Ruling New Democracy (ND) party Central Committee Secretary Lefteris Zagoritis held a meeting with the party's Council of Presidents of Prefectural Administrative Committees (NODE) at ND's headquarters in central Athens on Saturday.
During the meeting, a dialogue was held on political developments and the party's action. Directing himself to the presidents of the prefectural organisations, Zagoritis said that they all know each other from way back and that "the key-words in political functioning is consensus, cooperation, coordination and continuity."
The ND Secretary will begin tours throughout the country's prefectures, starting with Ioannina.
Finally, a nationwide meeting on Local Government will be held on April 7.
 SYN leader Alavanos remarks about the gov't and PASOK
ATHENS, 13/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) leader Alekos Alavanos, speaking from Thessaloniki, Macedonia on Saturday, said that "the government must give all the data which it possesses both on the phone-tapping issue and on the case of the Pakistanis, regarding the participation of secret services of the big powers in our country."
Alavanos also called on the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) "to... learn the word USA and to condemn the interventions in our country's internal political life."
He said "Greece has become a place of action of the international para-state, where the three protagonist 'sisters' participate, that is, the secret services of the United States of America, of Great Britain and of Israel."
 ND Eurodeputy Yiannis Varvitsiotis addresses event in Cairo
CAIRO, 13/3/2006 (ANA-MPA/N. Katsikas)Greek-Egyptian relations were discussed at an event which started on Saturday morning at the Cairo Diplomatic Club, organised jointly by the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs and the Constantine Karamanlis Foundation.
The main speaker at the event was the head of the ruling New Democracy (ND) party's Eurodeputies, Yiannis Varvitsiotis.
Varvitsiotis referred to the policy of good neighbourliness which the European Union has developed and proposed that all those countries which have already made "Good Neighbourliness Agreements" with the EU (including those which border Europe and those which belong to the "Euro-Mediterranean Coope-ration) to constitute a Commonwealth which will have its own parliament, will convene twice a year and will develop and make proposals which will have an advisory nature. In this way, the Greek Eurodeputy said that "a society will develop further regarding Europe, security and progress."
On Greek-Egyptian relations, Varvitsiotis said that "they are developing in a particularly satisfactory manner," at the same time expressing hope "for the relations between the two countries to develop further."
Referring to the Greek community in Cairo, he said that "it is now proceeding at a progressive rate" and wished "even better steps."
 Former investigating magistrate Bourboulia held in temporary custody at Athens' Korydallos prison
ATHENS, 13/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Former investigating magistrate Konstantina Bourboulia, whose extradition to Greece was recently ordered by a French court, arrived at Athens International Airport "Eleftherios Venizelos" on board an "Air France" airliner shortly after 11 p.m. on Friday after being handed over to Greek police by the French authorities at 8.05 p.m.
Bourboulia was then taken from the airport to the Attica General Police Headquarters in Alexandras Avenue in downtown Athens where she arrived shortly after mdinight and was kept in custody there.
On Saturday evening Bourboulia was held in temporary custody at Athens' Korydallos prison after giving testimony to Court of Appeal investigating magistrate I. Sideris. She gave a one-and-a-half-hour testimomy on charges against her regarding her involvement in a trial-fixing network. She was ruled in temporary custody with the agreed opinion of Court of Appeal public prosecutor Kyriakos Karoutsos.
From the time she stayed at the investigation office, it is believed that Bourboulia finally chose to give a formal testimony, denying the charges against her. It is expected that in the coming days she will submit to the investigating magistrate a memorandum.
She was transferred to Korydallos prison as agreement was reached for her to be sent to the women's wing so as not to remain at the Attica General Police Headquarters until Monday. A cell has already been prepared in the wing where inmate mothers are held.
Bourboulia, the one-time Athens judicial magistrate, is one of several cashiered justices at the centre of a wide-ranging trial-fixing investigation.
In Bourboulia's case, special appellate-level prosecutors accuse her of taking bribes to shelve probes into manipulation of the Athens Stock Exchange in the period up until roughly 1999.
The cashiered judicial official faces multiple counts of trial-fixing, bribery and money laundering in Greeece.
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 totalling about 540,000 euros have been transferred in her controversial accounts.
Bourboulia was arrested last month in Paris on an international warrant issued by Greek authorities.
 President Papoulias, on occasion of Sunday of Orthodoxy, hosts luncheon for Holy Synod
ATHENS, 13/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, in observance of Sunday of Orthodoxy, hosted the traditional luncheon in honourt of the Holy Synod, headed by Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos, at the Presidental Mansion in Athens on Sunday.
The president, addressing the archbishop and the senior clerics, referred to the symbolism of the day. He also commented that "these past few days, observing the Greek and international mass media, we were witness to a worrying event of the so-called 'Clash of Cultures'."
What is sought, therefeore, the president added:"Is a balance between fundamental freedoms, such as the freedom of expression and of religious sensitivitiies. Sensitivities, which when they are insulted and there is pent up indignation, can take on explosive dimensions."
Present at the reception were Parliament President Anna Benaki-Psarouda, National Education and Religious Affairs Minister Marietta Yiannakou and Deputy Education Minister George Kalos.
 AHEPA honours senator Sarbanes and congressman Bilirakis
WASHINGTON, 13/3/2006 (ANA-MPA/T.Ellis)Two prominent Greek-American politicians, among the most important supporters of Greek issues in Washington, who at the end of 2006 will withdraw from active political life after serving for many years in Congress, have been honoured by the American Hellenic Educational Prrogressive Association (AHEPA).
It was the 37th event of its kind which AHEPA organises in Washington every two years. AHEPA hounoured Democratic Senator Paul Sarbanes and House of Representatives Republican congressman Michael Bilirakis. About 800 people attended the event, including Archbishop of America Demetrios, US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, Greek Ambassador Alexandros Mallias, Cypriot Ambassador Evripides Evriviades and AHEPA Supreme President Gus. J. James.
 Greece wins first European pavilion prize at ITB exhibition
BERLIN, 13/3/2006 (ANA-MPA)The Greek pavilion won first prize among the European pavilions which took part in the international tourism exhibition ITB which ended in Berlin on Sunday evening.
Greece was for the first time the theme country at the 40th ITB exhibition which attracted a record participation of exhibitors from 183 countries.
The awarding of the pavilions -according to geographic regions- of companies and tourism agencies with the awards "Best Exhibitor Awards ITB" has been insitutionalised since 2001.
 Development ministry on inflation statistics - PASOK criticized
ATHENS, 13/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Development minister Dimitris Sioufas and deputy minister Yannis Papathanasiou, in a joint statement on Sunday, asked the PASOK leadership whether it disputed the Eurostat figures, at the same time listing data on inflation in Greece.
"On the 'Black Propaganda Books', 'Hypocrisy Fiestas', 'Inaccuracy Events', and 'Misleading the Greek People Shows' it organises, and also on the 'Ghost Surveys' presented by PASOK, only the New Statistical Service of Harilaou Trikoupi street (PASOK headquarters) can pride itself. And the question for the PASOK leadership is 'whether it disputes even Eurostat'," the statement said.
It added tht the official data of Greece's National Statistics Service (ESYE), the Bank of Greece and Eurostat are "merciless on those who made 'creative accounting' a national pasttime in order to mislead the Greek people and the European Union over a supposed 'strong economy', and on those who just now discovered inflation, whereas while they were n power they neither admitted the truth, nor advanced solutions".
The statement said that the official data reveal that inflation in Greece, in the two years that New Democracy has been in government, is at lower levels than in 2003 (when PASOK was in government), and that the overwhelming majority of the products and services comprising the 'household basket' showed price increases below the inflation rate, whereas in the preceding years the exact opposite occurred.
Presenting analytical charts on the development pf inflation and product prices, Sioufas and Papathanasiou listed the following conclusions: - Annual inflation, despite the imact of the 1.13 percentage points increase in international fuel prices, stood at 3.2 percent in February and was clearly lower than the corresponding rate in 2003 (4.3 percent). If the effect of the international fuel prices had been the same as in February 2004 (-0.51 percentage points), inflation would have stood at 1.6 percent. - In January 2006 (for which Eurostat figures exist), the difference between Greece's inflation and Eurozone inflation shrank to the lowest levels of the past four years (1.1 percentage points against 1.1 percentage points, 1.2 percentage points, 1.2 percentage points and 2.2 percentage points in the corresponding month of 2005, 2004, 2003 and 2002 respectively). - In February 2006, the prices of 32 of the 52 goods and services with the highest weighted coefficient on cost of living, and which consequently significantly influenced the 'household basket', were lower than the corresponding inflation rate, while in February of 2005, 2004 and 2003, the corresponding goods and services were fewer in number, namely 20, 20 and 12, respectively. In 2003, the prices of 40 of the 52 goods and services comprising the 'basket' had increases above the inflation rate. - In the same month, the price increases in 19 of the 30 goods were below the corresponding inflation rate, against only 14, 15, and 3 in February of 2005, 2004 and 2003, respectively. - In February 2006, in 18 of the 31 services, the increases were smaller than the corresponding inflation rate, against only 9, 5, and 2 in Feburary of 2005, 2004 and 2003 respectively. In other words, in February 2006, of the 61 goods and services, the price increases in 37 of those were below the inflation rate, whereas in February of 2005, 2004 and 2003 the increases were below the inflation rate in only 23, 20 and 5, respectively. - The average annual increase in the prices of fresh vegetables, according to ESYE, Eurostat and Bank of Greece figures, was 8.4 percent in the period 1996-2003, while in the period 2004-2005 the prices fell by 8 percent. - The average annual increase in prices of fresh fruit, again according to ESYE, Eurostat and Bank of Greece figures, was 9.5 percent for the period 1996-2003, whereas in the period 2004-2005 they declined by 11 percent.
 Development minister Sioufas briefs Greek MEPs on reforms, energy infrastructures
ATHENS, 13/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Development minister George Sioufas met with Greece's European Parliament deputies from all the political parties, to brief them on the reforms and major energy infrastructures advanced by the ministry in the past two years, as well as the priorities with respect to boosting the competitiveness of Greek enterprises and the economy, a ministry announcement said on Sunday.
The announcement said that the briefing was made during a luncheon on Snday, which was attended by ruling New Democracy (ND) MEPs George Dimitrakopoulos, Constantine Hatzidakis, Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou, Antonis Samaras, George Papastamkos and Nikos Vakalis, main opposition PASOK MEPs Panos Beglitis and Stavros Arnaoutakis, LAOS leader and MEP George Karatzaferis, and special secretary for competitiveness Spyros Efstathopoulos.
During the meeting, a broad exchange of views took place on Greece's and the EU's energy pollicy, research and innovation, planning and the funds earmarked for the country under the next Community Support Framework (CSF), and developments in the various branches of the economy.
 Five largest Greek banks have invested more than 2 billion euros in SE Europe
ATHENS, 13/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The five largest Greek banks have made overall investments of more than two billion euros in SE Europe, establishing a network of approximately 950 branches that employ 16,000 people, and commanding more than 16 percent of the banking market share in the region, according to figures released on Sunday by the Union of Greek Banks (EET).
Alpha Bank managing director Dimitris Mantzounis, in an article in the latest EET informational bulletin, said that although these investments have not yet yielded the anticipated results, the profits of the Greek banks from activities in the region nearly doubled to 130 million euros in 2004 from 70 million euros in the preceding year (2003), marking an 86 percent increase.
The operational plans of the major Greek banks predict even greater expansion over the next few years, aimed at profits from activities in the wider region of SE Europe accounting, by 2007, for up to 20 percent of their overall profits, from below 10 percent currently.
Foreign banks control two-thirds of the assets of the banking system in the countries of SE Europe, with Austria controlling 25 percent, followed by Greece and Italy with 13 percent each. The highest percentages of penetration of foreign banks are recorded in Albania and Bulgaria (above 90 percent), followed by Romania (60 percent) in which privatisations are continuing.
The growth margins of the banking sector in the Balkan countries is comparatively high, given that the overall assets of all the banks barely exceeds 36 billion euros, while in Greece the overall assets of the banking system exceed 260 billion euros, according to the EET bulletin. Financing in the Balkan countries, as a proportion of GDP, is just 25 percent, compared with 77 percent in Greece and 114 percent in the eurozone.
In the coming years, financing to private entities and business concerns in the 5 Balkan countries is estimated to continue to increase at an annual average rate of more than 25 percent. Financing to private entitites shows even greater margins for growth, given that it barely exceeds 12 percentage points of GDO, compared with 33 percent in Greece and 56 percent in the eurozone, resulting in large growth margins for banking activities in the region.
 Employment Minister Tsitouridis speaks on social insurance system
ATHENS, 13/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Employment and Social Protection Minister Savvas Tsitouridis on Sunday referred to the issue of the reform of the social insurance system during a speech he gave at a political gathering organised by his office at the indoor stadium of Kilkis, Macedonia, on the occasion of the completion of two years since the New Democracy (ND) party came to power.
"Our government's aim is for a socially just and economically effective reform of lengthy duration. We are intensifying our effort, initially, to implement the existing legislation. To put in order the social insurance funds. At the same time, we call on the parties and social partners to proceed together to a diagnosis of the problem," Employment Minister Tsitouridis said.
The minister added:"We are not taking anyone by surprise. We do not dictate solutions. We do not impose solutions. We are not discussing for solutions now. The solutions will be sought and implemented by the next governments, through consultations, mutual understanding and composition of views. In this crucial issue, there is no room for petty political or othjer expediencies."
Opinion poll on social insurance reforms: The Greek people believe that the social insurance system is not viable, according to an opinion poll conducted by ALCO appearing in the Sunday edition of Ethnos newspaper.
According to a phone poll on a sampling of 800 individuals in Athens and Thessaloniki, 76.5 percent of the respondents consider that the social insurance system as it stands today is not viable, against 18.1 percent who believe it is viable. Of interest is the fact that the largest proportion of those who believe the system is not viable declared themselves to be PASOK voters, 78.7 percent of which said the system is not viable, against 55.2 percent of New Democracy voters who said the system is not viable.
Despite acknowledgement of the problem, only 47.8 percent felt that the issue should be opened at this time, while 42.1 percent felt the issue should not be opened up, and 10.1 percent did not state an opinion.
To a question on whether they had confidence in the government for the handling of the social insurance issue, 71.7 percent of the respondents said no -- 32.7 percent said the had no confidence at all, while 39 percent said they had "little" confidence -- whereas 22.7 percent said they did have confidence -- 19 percent said they had sufficient confidence, while 3.7 percent said they had 'much' confidence -- and 5.6 percent did not express an opinion.
The majority of the respondents also opposed any change to the retirement levels, and on any changes made affecting all the working people. More specifically, 57.1 percent stated opposition to an increase in the retirement ages, while 37.9 percent agreed to changing the age and 5 percent took no position. Also 53.7 percent felt that any changes should affect only newcomers on the job market, while 36.4 percent said the changes should affect all workers, and 9.9 percent did not take a position.
 Papathanassiou speaks on obligation of public utilities and services towards consumers
ATHENS, 13/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Deputy Development Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou, speaking from Patra, Peloponnese on Saturday during a meeting of the National Consumers Council, said that "the government raises as a central theme for national dialogue the Map of the Rights and Obligations of Public Utilities and Services (DEKO) towards the consumer."
He added that "every DEKO is henceforth obliged to set up an operational plan, which among other things, includes its obligation towards the consumers and the forecast of compensation."
He added that "this Map has as a termination date June 30, 2006 for its setting up and determines the obligations and terms with which the public company offers its products or services to the consumers, as well as the procedure of compensation towards them in the event of non-maintenance on its part of what is foreseen."
 British couple murdered in Crete; strangled
ATHENS, 13/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)A British couple, 53-year-old Roger Johnson and his wife Josephine, 52, were found murdered in the region of Almyrida, Chania, in Crete, on Sunday afternoon.
The couple's son, Ryan, 32, found his parents dead in the family's home and informed the authorities.
A strong police force and Crete coroner Manolis Michalodimitrakis, in the presence of a judicial functionary, made an on the spot autopsy.
The coroner said the British couple had been strangled. Their bodies had been found on the ground floor of the two-storey house where they moved to on Friday. The woman was on top of the bed, while her husband was gagged and his hands and legs tied and he had blood on his head. There was a great mess on the ground floor of the house, while the second floor was untouched.
Police are investigating the motives of the culprit or culprits.
The British couple had recently opened a tourism souvenirs shop in the region of Almyrida.
 Police on trail of child-selling racket after arrest of Bulgarian national in Lamia
ATHENS, 13/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Police were on the trail of a child-selling racket following the arrest of a 35-year-old Bulgarian national in Lamia, while his brother and a woman were wanted, it was announced on Sunday.
Lamia security police raided a dilapidated apartment on Friday where the two brothers, both Bulgarian nationals, and the woman who was wanted had locked up four women in the final stages of pregnancies, and where the women were to remain until they gave birth. One of the two Bulgarians was arrested during the raid, while his brother and a woman were wanted by police.
According to information released by the Lamia police, the ring members would locate poor young women in Bulgaria, and supply them with credit cards or loans, which they could not pay off, thus forcing them to get pregnant, after which they would be transported Greece, where the ring had set up a mechanism to sell the infants to Greek families.
The four women found in the apartment, aged between 20 and 28, were between five and seven months pregnant, and had arrived in Lamia last month with legal travel documents.
Two of the pregnant women entered Greece through the border at Promahona, while the other two travelled by road from Austria and Italy, on to the western port city of Patras, and from there to Lamia.
Police had information in the past about the racket, but several alleged hideouts raided in the recent past failed to turn up anything. Police, however, managed on Friday to pinpoint the four pregnant women and one of the racket leaders, who held the women's passports and did not allow them to circulate in the town.
According to information acquired during questining, the pregnant women were due to give birth at the Lamia hospital and turn over their babies to the racket for 3,000 euros each, while the ring had undertaken the expenses for limited health care and their food for the duration of their stay in the apartment.
Police believe the racket's activities extend beyond Lamia into other Greek citities such as Athens and Thessaloniki. The Lamia security police are in constant contact with corresponding services throughout the country to pinpoint other collaborators.
"It is not possible that 2-3 Bulgarians have set up such a child-selling mechanism. The ring is larger", Lamia security police chief Christos Petropoulos told ANA.
According to information arising to date, the four women were brought to Greece by the arrestee's brother in a blue van, and is also believed to have rented the apartment since May 2005. Local residents had not noticed any other comings and goings except for one of the pregnant women entering the apartment.
Since the raid on Friday, police have been investigating all the births recorded at Lamia hospital in the past 2-3 years.
The four women are now being accomodated in special quarters at the police building, given that they are legally in Greece, and were due to be taken to Lamia hospital for medical care, where they will remain until completion of the preliminary investigation, at which time they would be able to return to their home-land if they so desired.
Members of the Hellenic Red Cross are in constant contact with the women for psychological support as well as the provision of food, clothing and other supplies, as their situation was described as "tragic".
 Supreme Court rules co-passenger equally guilty with drunken driver
ATHENS, 13/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Supreme Court has ruled that a passenger who knows that a car's driver is drunk and causes a traffic accident, is equally guilty.
Consequently, the relatives of the co-passenger, in the event of his death from the traffic accident, are entitled to reduced compensation.
In July 1995 two people were enjoying themselves at a night club until the early hours of the morning and consumed quantities of alcohol. Afterwards, they entered a car and went to the national road Chrysoupolis-Keramoti of Kavala prefecture, Macedonia, in the direction of Nea Karya village where the traffic accident occurred and which consequently resulted in the death of the co-passenger.
Compensation is being sought by the wife and child of the deceased, but the Supreme Court ruled that the co-passenger is equally guilty when he knows that the driver is drunk and therefore the compensation demanded must be reduced.
The Court of First Instance had ruled that the deceased was equally guilty by 20 per cent. However, the Supreme Court overuled the decision of the Court of Appeal which had ruled against the decision of the Court of First Instance and referred the case again to the Court of Appeal to determine the degree of co-responsibility of the deceased.
 Gang of cocaine traffickers arrested in Patra
13/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)A six-member gang which trafficked large quantities of cocaine, mainly in the Attica region, were arrested by police in Patra, Peloponnese on Saturday.
Police arrested five foreign men and a Greek woman, all resi-dents of Attica.
Found in possession of the traffickers were 307 grams of heroin, seven mobile phones and 900 euros, while the two cars they used were also seized.
Police managed to arrest all six after having gathered informa-tion about their activities.
A police officer posed as a potential buyer to one of the members of the gang and agreed to purchase 300 grams of cocaine. When the rest of the gang followed, other police colleagues intervened and arrested all six of them.
 Three arrested for contraband cigarettes, expired pickles
ATHENS, 13/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Thessaloniki security police's economic crimes division confiscated 115,000 cartons of contraband cigarettes,and 375 metal containers of pickles with an expiry date of August 30, 2005, and arrested three people, it was announced on Sunday.
A team of the economic crimes division arrested three people, aged 46, 75 and 60, senior executives of a Nea Pella-based agricultural products packaging and exporting company, after a company truck destined for Germany was found loaded with the products.
The cargo was declared as being pickled peppers, packaged in 28 packages of 45 metal containers each, but 30 of the metal containers contained contraband cigarettes of unknown origin.
The cigarettes were turned over to the Thessaloniki customs house for calculation of the evaded taxes, tentatively estimated at 330,000 euros.
 Revolutionary organisation claims responsibility for setting 26 French cars on fire in Athens
ATHENS, 13/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The "Revolutionary Solidarity Cells" organisation, in a telephone call to the private television station MEGA, assumed responsibility for setting on fire 26 French brand cars at various points of Athens at dawn on Saturday.
The caller said that the arson was committed as a show of solidarity to the French ACTION DIRECTE organisation.
In an unrelated incident, the offices of the ruling New Democracy (ND) party's youth organisation in the Athens suburb of Ampelokipi were a target of arson on Sunday. According to police, unidentified persons placed gas canisters at the entrance of the offices, while material damage was caused by the blast.
 Greek proposal for common EU communications strategy on bird flu
ATHENS, 13/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)State minister and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos has sent a letter to European Commission vice-president Margot Wallstrom, who holds the portfolio for Institutional Relations and Communications Strategy, regarding the briefing of the European citizens on avian influenza (bird flu), it was made known on Sunday.
The letter refers to the need for the undertaking of a common communications strategy that would not suffice only in prevention guidelines and the protection of public health, but should also extend to the dynamic support -- through specialised informational campaigns for the producer classes and the related industries immediately affected, with adverse consequences on the economy of each member state and also the European economy as a whole.
Agricultural development minister Evangelos Bassiakos will also speak about the proposal for a common communications strategy aimed at seeking common actions, at a meeting of the EU farm ministers in Brussels on March 20.
Bird flu: Four wild swans test positive to H5N1 virus: Four samples of suspected bird flu, which were found in four wild swans in northern Greece, tested positive to the H5N1 virus, it was announced on Saturday.
According to an Agricultural Development and Foods Ministry announcement, the Community Reference Laboratory (CRL) in Weybridge, United Kingdom, confirmed the presence of the H5N1 virus in two samples of swans in the region of Aghios Georgios in the Imathia prefecture, one in Pithio Didymotiho of Evros prefecture and one in the region of Evros River.
All the necessary veterinary and hygiene measures have already been taken in these regions, while no additional measures need to be taken.
Bird flu: Two wild swans test positive to H5N1 virus: Two samples of suspected bird flu, which were found in two wild swans in Macedonia, tested positive to the H5N1 virus, it was announced on Sunday.
According to an Agricultural Development and Foods Ministry announcement, the Community Reference Laboratory (CRL) in Weybridge, United Kingdom, confirmed on Sunday the presence of the H5N1 virus in one sample of a wild swan in the region of Alykes Epanomi of Thessaloniki prefecture and in one sample of a wild swan in the region of Iraklitsa in the Kavala prefecture, which were sent to Weybridge on March 7.
The ministry announcement said all the compulsory veterinary and hygiene measures have already been taken in these regions, while no additional measures need to be taken.
 Pontian Greeks honoured at event in Thessaloniki
13/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Friends of the European Idea Association (SFEI) on Thursday presented awards to Greek Olympics gold medalist Voula Patoulidou, comedian Harry Klynn, and photoreporter Yannis Kyriakidis, in a special event honouring the Pontian Greeks (Greeks of the Black Sea), organised in cooperation with the ministry of Culture (deputy ministry for sports), the Macedonia-Thrace ministry, and the Prefecture and Municipality of Thessaloniki.
SFEI president Agis Kynigopoulos presented the awards to the three Pontian Greeks, during the event which was held at the Vellidis conference centre in the TIF complex.
 'Kozani saffron: The gold of Greek earth'
ATHENS, 13/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The therapeutic qualities of saffron from Kozani, Macedonia, its use in cooking, but also its contribution to the Greek economy, was stressed at an event held in Athens on Saturday, organised by the Region of Western Macedonia, on the theme "Kozani saffron: The gold of Greek earth".
The scientist rapporteurs at the event noted the pharmaceutical potential of saffron, stressing its anti-toxin and anti-cancer qualities. They further said that saffron has a positive effect on the nervous system, combats anxiety and improves memory.
The event was attended, among others, by Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Evangelos Basiakos and Deputy National Economy and Finance Minister Christos Folias.
Greek soccer results
Matches played over the weekend for the Greek first division soccer championship had the following results:
PAOK Thessaloniki - Panathinaikos Athens 0-1
Egaleo Athens - Atromitos Athens 0-1
Levadiakos - Iraklis Thessaloniki 0-1
Akratitos Athens - Kallithea Athens 1-0
OFI Crete - Ionikos Piraeus 3-0
AEK Athens - Panionios Athens 2-0
Olympiakos Piraeus - Apollon Kalamaria 2-1
Larissa - Xanthi (Match to be played on Monday, March 13)
The standings after 23 weeks of play:
Xanthi 35 (22 matches played)
Larissa 30 (22 matches played)
Apollon Kalamaria 28
 Cypriot spokesman: Dujarric's statement restores the truth
NICOSIA, 13/3/2006 (CNA/ANA)UN Secretary General's Spokesman Stephan Dujarric's state-ment, Friday, on the agreement reached in Paris between UN SG Kofi Annan and Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos restores the truth around the meeting's outcome, Cyprus Government Spokesman George Lillikas said over the weekend.
Dujarric had said that the joint communique issued after the meeting in Paris ''describes everything'' agreed at the meeting.
''This was the government's position from the very beginning and we insisted on that and I am glad that even with a delay of some days the truth has been restored,'' Lillikas said.
Pointing out that both the Cypriot government and the UN Secretariat have started to brief the Security Council's five permanent members on the
Paris agreement, Lillikas noted that ''now is the time for all those interested on a new road leading to Cyprus reunification to work towards Turkey to accept and implement those agreed in Paris.''
Replying to a question whether Turkey has responded to the Paris agreement, Lillikas said ''so far we have no official positive response.''
Noting that he is aware of efforts made by the UN and by other sides on diplomatic level, Lillikas added that ''we will not play a game of impressions and at this point we are not interested in attributing responsibilities to Turkey for its negative and intransigent stance.''
''What we are interested in is to give this effort an opportunity to lead to a procedure which could bring about a Cyprus settlement. This is what we are interested in and towards that end we will continue to work,'' he concluded.