|Thursday, 22 October 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-03-14
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 14, 2006
 Premier confers with Public Works Minister
ATHENS, 14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Monday met with Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias and was briefed over ministry issues.
Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, Souflias said a draft bill to create a land register in the country would be submitted to parliament by the end of the week or early next week at the latest. The Greek minister also announced that the ministry would submit to parliament a draft legislation on building permits.
Souflias underlined that there were irregularities and breach of law cases that justified a legal case against the former chief executive of the Land Register and reminded that Greece was forced to return all the money taken from the EU for the project.
Souflias defended the government's work so far saying "many things have been made, there is enough work but more has to be done". The minister said the government would proceed with a constitutional review effort while he rejected PASOK leader, George Papandreou's criticism to the Prime Minister saying the main opposition party's policy was "returning the country many years back" while it did not contribute to the creation of a positive political climate in the country.
 President Papoulias begins state visit to Libya
TRIPOLI, Libya 14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias expressed Greece's desire to further invest in Libya's oil industry during his meeting with Libyan Prime Minister Baghdadi Mahmudi in Tripoli on Monday.
"A new chapter regarding Greek-Libyan relations has begun with a new momentum that is based on mutual political volition to promote relations for the benefit of both peoples," Papoulias said during the signing of two bilateral agreements in the tourism and cultural exchanges sectors.
"Greece and Libya can also cooperate in the Balkan and Black Sea regions," Papoulias noted.
Mahmudi, who signed the agreements with Greek Culture Minister George Voulgarakis and Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis, said he was pleased with Papoulias' visit, whom he called "a beloved friend of the leader of the revolution."
Mahmudi also referred to a new period of economic cooperation between the two countries and called on the Greek business community to invest in Libya.
Papoulias arrived in Libya on Monday morning on a two-day state visit and talks with the Libyan leadership.
Papoulias, accompanied by culture minister George Voulgarakis, deputy foreign ministers Yannis Valinakis and Evripides Stylianidis, and economy deputy minister Petros Doukas, arrived at Libya's military airport at 11:00 a.m. local time, where he was greeted with military honors by a delegation of the Libyan government, headed by historic Revolution member Mustafa al Kharoubi.
 President Papoulias holds cordial meeting with Libyan leader Qaddafi in Tripoli
TRIPOLI, Libya, 14/3/2006 (ANA-MPA)The meeting here late on Monday night between Greek President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi was held in a cordial atmosphere.
The Libyan leader received the Greek president and his entourage in the known Tent where he hosts foreign senior officials who visit Libya.
The two men talked for about an hour, both at the meeting that took place in the presence of Culture Minister George Voulgarakis, Deputy Foreign Ministers Evripides Stylianidis and Yannis Valinakis and Deputy National Economy and Finance Minister Petros Doukas, as well as at the dinner which Qaddafi hosted in honor of the Greek delegation.
The two leaders did not make any statements.
Papoulias' visit concludes at noon on Tuesday.
 PM to meet ministers before chairing cabinet meeting on Tuesday
ATHENS, 14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will have a succession of meetings with government ministers before chairing a meeting of the cabinet at 11:00 on Tuesday, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos announced.
He will begin by meeting Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyannis in the morning, followed by meetings with Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and Defence Minister Vangelis Meimarakis.
The cabinet meeting will focus on improving managerial ability in public administration.
On Tuesday evening at 19:00, Karamanlis will meet Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos.
 PASOK leader "sliding into populism", gov't spokesman claims
ATHENS, 14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Monday criticized main opposition leader George Papandreou, accusing PASOK's leader of "sliding into populism". Roussopoulos was reacting to statements made by Papandreou on Sunday regarding the government's decision to carry out a "fiscal audit" of the economy.
He said the main opposition leader had resorted to these tactics to boost his political profile but noted that "this behavior shows anything but seriousness".
Regarding the substance of PASOK's criticism, Roussopoulos clarified that Eurostat's decision for recording defense spending concerned the methods to be used from this time onward. He also stressed that, even after removing the 2 percentage points accounted for by defense spending from the public deficit, the final amount was way above the 1.5 percent public deficit claimed by PASOK governments of the time and did not meet the 3 percent ceiling required by the stability pact.
Roussopoulos also responded to questions a decision to make two Land Registry Company executives stand trial for breach of faith, reached by an appellate court on Monday.
He noted that the land registry project had been advertised by PASOK as the biggest of its major public works. In 2001, however, the European Commission had asked for all EU funds given to finance the planning of the land registry project to be returned due to mismanagement, forcing Greece to give back 100 million euros.
According to the spokesman, the environment ministry had since pulled off a major feat in that it managed to continue with drafting a land registry bill.
 Gov't calls on Papandreou to comment on Schulz letter
ATHENS, 14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The government on Monday called on main opposition leader George Papandreou to take a position on a letter by the president of the Socialist group in the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, urging Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis not to participate in a European People's Party (EPP) summit in Italy days before elections there.
"Mr. George Papandreou, as president of the Socialist International, should tell us if he agrees with such undemocratic methods, ones that create antagonism and are reminiscent of past eras," spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said.
According to the spokesman, Schulz's EPP counterpart in the Euro-Parliament, Wilfried Martens, has already responded to the German MEP.
PASOK Spokesman responds: Schulz' letter does not contain "any threat" against party leaders comprising the European People's Party, main opposition PASOK Spokesman Nikos Athanassakis said in response.
According to Athanassakis, Schulz' letter is a request towards EPP party leaders to not take part in a conference that will be held in Italy to support Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Gov't not satisfied with opposition's response: "Mr. Athanassakis either did not read Mr. Schulz' letter or 'is playing dumb' regarding the strange way in which the EPP's President is sending out recommendations and instructions to democratically-elected prime ministers, blatantly intervening in the operation of European democratic parties," Government Spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said following Athanassakis' explanation.
"It seems that Mr. Athanassakis ignores the fact that Schulz' letter is a personal initiative from which his own party has distanced itself," Roussopoulos continued.
"We must remind Mr. Athanassakis that the European People's Party historically has been -and continues to be - the driving political force for the construction of the European idea and in promoting European integration. EPP enjoys the confidence of a great majority of European citizens, which has made it the leading political force not only in European Parliament but also on a European government level," Roussopoulos continued.
In closing, he reiterated whether George Papandreou, PASOK President and President of Socialist International, approves of such anti-democratic interventions in the inner workings of European democratic parties or not.
 Gov't on phone-tapping affair, list of phones
ATHENS, 14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Monday clarified that a list of mobile phones that had been tapped released by the government last month included a number used by the prime minister and one owned by a company belonging to the premier's father, which was used by the prime minister and his family.
He also slammed main opposition PASOK members for asserting that the list did not include a number belonging to the premier and asked them to apologize for the "inaccuracy".
The spokesman also displayed a detailed statement for the specific phone and said that it had been given to Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis personally via Parliament.
To related questions, he said that the list made public by the government had been "processed" in that the users of phones listed as belonging to state services had been identified.
Roussopoulos also underlined that the government was unaware of the existence of a third "phone-tapping centre" revealed in a report by the independent telecoms privacy authority.
ADAE on phone-tap affair: The Hellenic Authority for Information and Communication Security and Privacy (ADAE) issued a statement on Monday, in response to press reports, clarifying that its official position regarding the recent phone-tap affair is stated solely in its press releases.
Any other statements or reports do not reflect its official position, it said.
It also stated that ADAE's President has promised to submit an initial report on the phone-tapping affair within 15 days after testifying before the parliamentary Institutions and Transparency Committee and provided that sufficient data is available.
An Ericsson representative is due to appear before the committee on Wednesday.
Yiorgos Koronias, the CEO of Vodafone Greece, appeared before the committee last week.
The phone-tap affair, which came to light recently, involved mobile phone operator Vodafone and Ericsson and targeted high-ranking government officials.
 Interior Minister Pavlopoulos dismisses rumors of early general elections
ATHENS, 14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Monday dismissed rumors and press reports that early general elections would be held.
The minister categorically stated:"Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has clarified that this party (ruling New Democracy) has not played and does not intend to ever play with the institutions. It has a mandate by the Greek people to govern and to bring to pass a program, to complete the implementation of the commitments towards the Greek people."
The interior minister, who was speaking to a private radio station, added:"Consequently, the elections will be held at their time, at the end of the four-year term."
Concluding, Pavlopoulos said that "those who are afraid of the elections, and of course I am speaking about PASOK, are spreading these rumors."
 Parliament question on Eurostat decision regarding defense spending in budget
ATHENS, 14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The former president of the small Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) party, Nikos Constantopoulos, on Monday tabled a Parliament question towards Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, and specifically, on whether the government will adopt a recent Eurostat decision on the manner in which "euro zone" states books defense expenditures.
Constantopoulos asks whether the Karamanlis government will implement Eurostat's methodology or if it will continue recording defense expenditures, particularly weapons contacts, on special accounts.
PASOK deputy asks 'why gov't changed manner of recording defense expenditures': Main opposition Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) deputy Vasso Papandreou on Monday tabled a Parliament question towards Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on the reasons "why the government unilaterally changed the manner of recording defense expenditures, resulting in the increase of the deficits and our country's subordination to a status of supervision."
"The decision of the European Statistics Service in the manner of recording defense expenditures revealed the enormous deceit of the New Democracy government," she said.
 EU Military Committee President Moschini says "terrorism is much worse now'
14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The President of the European Union's Military Committee, General Ronaldo Mosca Moschini, on Monday expressed his personal opinion that matters concerning terrorism "are much worse now than they were four-and-a-half years ago."
Addressing the members of the relevant Greek parliamentary committees on European Security and Defense Policy, the Italian general assessed that "Al Qaeda is more active now and has spread in many countries of the world."
The EU Military Committee president added:"I would say that things are probably worse now than what they were four-and-a-half years ago," referring to the period that elapsed since the "great tragedy" which struck the United States of America on September 11, 2001.
The general, who clarified that he was expressing his own personal opinion, questioned "whether we have proceeded properly regarding the confrontation of the threat of terrorism," noting that "Islamic terrorism can be confronted in 10-15 years" and that "there is no question of it being eliminated in a few months time."
Finally, General Moschini said that "Greece plays a very important role regarding stability in the Balkans," noting that "the Balkans must constitute the top priority for the EU because the region is a part of Europe."
 ECDC director Jakab hails Greece on measures against bird flu
14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The General Director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), Zsuzsanna Jakab, on Monday hailed the National Action Plan which the health authorities of Greece implemented since the appearance of the first case of bird flu (avian influenza) in neighboring Turkey.
Greece was one of the first countries which implemented the ECDC's directives, while the action plan is improving continuously and soon Greece will be one of the best prepared countries against the H5N1 virus.
 FM Bakoyannis to meet PASOK's Papoutsis
ATHENS, 14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Christos Papoutsis, responsible for main opposition PASOK's foreign policy sector will meet on Tuesday with Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, it was announced on Monday.
 FinMin Alogoskoufis optimistic on Eurogroup's discussion on Greece's economy
BRUSSELS, 14/3/2006 (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)Arriving for the meeting of the Eurogroup, Greek National Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis appeared optimistic about the discussion on the stability program of the Greek economy which will be conducted late on Monday at the meeting of the member-countries of the Eurozone and on Tuesday at the EU Council of Finance Ministers.
In statements, Alogoskoufis said that the relevant recommendation of the European Commission to the Council, on the basis of which the discussion will be held, is generally positive both for the progress which was marked in 2005 and for the prospects for 2006.
The Greek finance minister noted that "we must be on alert so that the budget be implemented as it was ratified by Parliament." He assessed that "with the implementation of this budget and of the very positive indications we have up to the present, the Greek economy will be able in spring 2007, when the progress of 2006 will be assessed, to come out of the state of excessive deficit."
Asked by reporters to comment to what degree last week's decision of Eurostat regarding the recording of the defense expenditures in the national accounts can lead to a revision of the fiscal deficit, Alogoskoufis, having said that it concerns a change of regulations which is made during a procedure of excessive deficit, assessed that this change does not have important repercussions for the deficits of the coming years. Regarding the deficits of previous years, the finance minister noted that Eurostat has already decided with its report of November 2004 in which it is completely clear that these deficits will not change.
Earlier in the day in Athens, Alogoskoufis, referring to the issue created regarding Eurostat's decision on defense expenditures, said that "the governments of PASOK misled the European Commission, Eurostat and the Greek people."
He added that Eurostat revealed the "big trick" of the PASOK governments and that Eurostat has also replied to former Prime Minister Costas Simitis.
 Finance ministry bill on reform of banking system tabled in Parliament
14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The National Economy and Finance Ministry's bill on the "Reform" of the banking system was tabled in Parliament on Monday.
As noted in the report, the aim of the bill is the incorporation to national law, of the relevant directive of the European Council and of the Council of April 14, 2001.
The adjustment concerns all the banks which have their headquarters in Greece as well as their branches which have been set up in another EU member-state, while excluded are the Bank of Greece, the Post Office Savings Bank and the Loans Fund.
 Greek ministers at EU session on competitiveness
BRUSSELS, 14/3/2006 (ANA/ MPA)A controversial draft law aimed at opening up Europe's services sector to competition and a revision of the Lisbon Agenda were the main points of discussion here on Monday during an EU competition ministers' meeting.
Greece was represented by Deputy Economy Minister Christos Folias and Deputy Development Minister Anastasios Nerantzis.
On his part, Folias said a compromise proposal by the European Parliament serves as a good basis for negotiations to achieve a mutually acceptable agreement, while adding that Athens agrees with the four priorities set forth by the Commission.
The bill aims to create a single European services market, making it easier for service providers from one EU state to operate in another.
Nerantzis expressed Greece's support for a Commission proposal to increase funding for mass media, via the de minimis regulation.
 PASOK's Diamantopoulou meets with Competition Committee
ATHENS, 14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Anna Diamantopoulou, head of main opposition PASOK's Development, Competitiveness and Consumer Policy Division, commented on a range of issues during her meeting with the Competition Committee on Monday.
"Mr. [Finance Minister George] Alogoskoufis, as the person responsible for dragging the country through the mud and creating all the problems shouldered by the Greek working people should humbly apologize rather than attack once again PASOK and Europe," she said, responding to Alogoskoufis' earlier comments regarding Eurostat.
Referring to rumors that PASOK President George Papandreou may be called before the Institutions and Transparency Committee regarding the phone-tap affair, Diamantopoulou said: "We see an orchestrated attempt to place responsibility in places where even science-fiction scenarios couldn't place them. Neither public opinion nor the political system can accept such 'cheap' type of maneuverings."
As for the role of the Competition Committee, Diamantopoulou said it plays a very important role regarding the economy and consumer protection.
She said many problems exist which involve the concentration of ownership, the improper operation of companies and inspections which do not meet market demands neither in terms of quantity or quality.
On his part, Spyros Zisimopoulos, head of the committee, said "At present, we have all the requirements as a Committee to operate properly. From that point on it's a matter of management and my personal responsibility to do so. The future will judge the work of the Committee and mainly, my work."
 Main opposition spokesman responds to gov't spokesman on fiscal audit, land registry
ATHENS, 14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Main opposition PASOK Spokesman Nikos Athanassakis on Monday criticized the government over the way it conducted the fiscal audit and for its stance towards Ktimatologio SA, the company charged with drawing up the country's land registry.
The fiscal audit, as carried out by ruling New Democracy, was "a phony audit" that "struck a blow to the country's economy and to its citizens," Athanassakis said, commenting on related comments made by Government Spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos earlier on Monday.
He also accused the government of "lies" and "inaccuracies" regarding Eurostat's decision, adding that the ND government could have continued recording military expenditures in the same way as previous PASOK governments had done.
Regarding Ktimatologio, Athanassakis said that for years New Democracy, as the main opposition party, had slandered the 21 members of the company's old executive board, which a recent prosecutor's proposal has relieved of all charges. Only two company executives will have a court hearing, and will be judged by the court system, Athanassakis said.
Finally, Athanassakis criticized the Minister of the Environment, Town Planning and Public Works George Souflias for having done nothing during his two years at the ministry regarding the land registry.
 Papariga calls for united front against pensions reform
ATHENS, 14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga called on all employees and pensioners to form a united front against changes to the social insurance system planned by the government, during a press conference on the issue held on Monday.
She warned that ruling New Democracy planned to pass measures that would be against the interests of the insured and would benefit private insurance firms and the private health sector.
Papariga called on people to "turn their backs on the cock-fight" between the two main parties over the social insurance system, since both parties served and implemented policies dictated by the European Union.
She also blamed the largest trade unions, the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) and the civil servants union ADEDY, of misleading workers into thinking that the war had been won with the withdrawal of the Yiannitsis bill for pension reform, allowing PASOK's government to pass the subsequent Reppas law.
"Today, with a firm footing on the pedestal of PASOK's anti-insurance laws, ND comes to deal a powerful, almost final blow against all age groups, all workers," she added.
Papariga claimed that workers should refuse any part in the so-called "relaxed social dialogue" that was now beginning and should completely reject all arguments and "terrorist dilemmas" that were presented to them.
She said that KKE's goals were a public social insurance system, retirement for women at 55 and retirement for men at 60, abolition of private business activity in the health sector and full coverage of health needs with funds from the state budget.
 Journalists will participate in nationwide rallies and strikes organized by GSEE and ADEDY on Wednesday
ATHENS, 14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The board of the Pan-Hellenic Federation of Journalists' Unions (POESY) in an announcement on Monday called on member-unions to participate in the nationwide rallies and strikes which will be organized by the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) and the Civil Servants' Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY) on Wednesday.
In its announcement, POESY said "the general overturning which is being attempted at the expense of labor relations and of the social insurance rights constitutes an unprecedented provocation which is becoming more intense with the attempted downgrading of the institution of the Collective Labor Agreements."
The coordinating committee of journalists' unions in the Press and Mass Media on Monday decided to declare a four-hour work stoppage from 8 a.m. to noon on Wednesday.
Taking part in the work stoppage will be the electronic mass media, Greek Radio and Television (ERT) and the Athens News Agency-Macedonian Press Agency (ANA-MPA).
 TIF focuses on Balkans
ATHENS, 14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The International Thessaloniki Trade Fair (TIF) will be focusing on the Balkans with a series of exhibits scheduled throughout the region, according to Nikos Kassimatis, TIF's counselor, who presented the agenda at the Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce on Monday.
ITF's international exhibits will begin in May with two exhibits - Foodtech, a foods exhibit and Mebeltech, construction materials exhibit - scheduled to take place in Bulgaria.
Later in May, Greece will be participating in the Construct Expo in Bucharest and then will go to Poland in September for Polagra-Food.
Finally, in October Greece is set to participate in Tehnoma, a metallurgical and construction materials exhibit, in Skopje, followed by a food, agricultural machinery and packaging exhibit, Indagra-Expodrink-All Pack, in Bucharest in November.
 PASOK continues consumer campaign for 15 March
ATHENS, 14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)A delegation from the main opposition PASOK party led by its sector chief for development, competitiveness and consumer policy Anna Diamantopoulou on Monday continued a campaign for more active consumers begun in view of International Consumer Day on March 15, visiting the Greek food inspection agency EFET.
During the visit, Diamantopoulou noted that the agency was experiencing funding problems.
"We call on the government, where there are funding issues, to look to Mr. Alogoskoufis and the inspiration he had for a 'fiscal audit'," Diamantopoulou said.
She also pointed to high prices that were "whittling away incomes and were the greatest failure for New Democracy with regard to the life of Greek citizens," while calling on consumers to find ways to react through good information and specific action.
At noon, the PASOK delegation also had a meeting with the Competition Commission.
 Supreme Court prosecutor wants DEKA trial reopened
ATHENS, 14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Supreme Court deputy prosecutor Fotis Makris on Monday filed for the reversal of an appeals court decision that allowed seven former board members of the Public Securities Company (DEKA) to walk away from charges of breach of faith.
He said the Three-Member Criminal Appeals Court had misinterpreted and wrongly applied statutes concerning embezzlement of state assets, since DEKA's property was simultaneously the property of the Greek State, regardless of the "legal cloaks" imparted by laws making it a societe anonyme company.
The motion will be examined and ruled on by the Supreme Court criminal section.
The seven former board-members appeared before an appellate court on charges of breach of faith connected to loss-making transactions on the Athens Stock Exchange in the run-up to the 2000 elections. They were acquitted after the charges against them were converted to misdemeanors, for which the statute of limitations had expired.
Justifying the decision to convert the charges, the court ruled that the state had transferred assets to DEKA, which as a public sector societe anonyme firm enjoyed legal autonomy, thereby eliminating the element of embezzlement or misappropriation of state funds.
The initial indictment referred to losses of millions of euros in DEKA assets from transactions -- mostly the buying of large chunks of shares of bourse-listed state-run enterprises -- ahead of the April 2000 elections, ostensibly to boost the stock market's general index.
PASOK narrowly defeated New Democracy in that election, forming another government under Costas Simitis until the March 2004 election.
 Mobile phone charges high in Greece, European Commissioner says
ATHENS, 14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The cost of phone calls from a fixed-line phone to a mobile phone or between mobiles of different companies is inexcusably high in Greece, European Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services Charlie McCreevy said on Monday responding to a related question by New Democracy Eurodeputy Costas Hatzidakis.
Additionally, a Greek mobile phone user pays double in roaming charges compared with the EU average.
According to McCreevy, both fixed-line and mobile telephony companies in Greece transfer the burden of the wholesale cost onto their clients.
Charges, however, are not as high for mobile phone users within the same network or for calls placed from a mobile phone to a fixed-line phone.
As for international calls, again McCreevy noted, that phone companies in Greece follow unfair practices thus charging consumers more than they should.
He added that the European Commission had called on the Hellenic Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT) in 2004 to look into the matter and to work towards reducing prices.
In April 2005, EETT submitted a draft proposal to the Commission which would ask Greek phone companies to reduce their rates within an 18-month period.
 Report: Construction sector in search of new balance
ATHENS, 14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Greek construction sector grew strongly over the last decade, boosted by the inflow of EU funds, Olympic projects and favorable developments in the housing market, a report by Hellastat stated on Monday.
The report, however, stressed that the market was steadily declining in the period after the Olympic Games due to the completion of a large portion of infrastructure projects, changes in the regulatory framework for tendering projects, a 40-percent cut in a Public Investments Program in 2005, significant delays in payments of delivered projects and significant discounts (up to 49 pct) offered in public works project tenders.
Hellastat said total turnover of the largest enterprises in the construction sector fell significantly, since the biggest part of their revenues involves public works. Henceforth, the sector's largest enterprises were forced to cut their workforce and to seek bank loans to cover the past debt.
The report said 19 out of a total 25 enterprises in the sector reported a decline in revenues in the first nine months of 2005. Consolidated revenues reported by the 25 firms in the construction sector were down 12.1 pct in the January-September period in 2005 to 3.78 billion euros. Operating earnings fell 12.5 pct, while pre-tax profits were down 10.3 pct over the same period.
Hellastat said the key to the development of the sector was private building activity, which grew strongly in the second half of 2005 ahead of the introduction of new tax legislation in the country. A total of 69,088 building permits were issued in the first 10 months of 2005, of which around 21,000 are the Attica (greater Athens) region.
The report added that a government plan to promote joint ventures between public and private sector companies could give new impetus to the construction sector.
 Greek merchandise trade deficit widened in January
ATHENS, 14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece's merchandise trade deficit widened to 2.557 billion euros in January from 2.317 billion euros in the same month last year, the National Statistics Service said on Monday.
NSS, in its monthly report, said the total value of import-arrivals in January was 3.566 billion euros, from 3.192 billion in January 2005, for an increase of 11.4 pct, while the total value of export-deliveries jumped 15.4 pct to 1.009 billion euros from 875 million euros over the same period respectively.
 Greek industrial production up 1.5 pct in Jan, yr/yr
ATHENS, 14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece's industrial production composite index rose 1.5 percent in January compared with the same month last year, the National Statistics Service said on Monday.
NSS, in its monthly report, said the January increase reflected a 2.1 percent rise in the manufacturing production index (higher production in the food and beverage, base metals and publications sectors), an 1.6 pct increase in the electricity-natural gas-water production index and a 6.9 pct drop in the mining production index.
The statistics service the import price index jumped 8.8 percent in January from the same month in 2005, reflecting a 2.0 pct increase in intermediate good prices, a 42.2 pct jump in energy prices and a 3.3 pct increase in durable good prices. The import price index was up 0.6 pct in January from December.
 Car registrations up 3.5 pct in February, yr/yr
ATHENS, 14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)New car registrations rose 3.5 pct in February from the same month last year, to 21,198 units compared with 20,480 in January 2005.
New car registrations in the two first months of the year totaled 50,990 units, down 1,332 units from the corresponding period last year, with February recording a 28 percent drop from January.
Toyota maintained its leading position in the Greek car market with sales of 2,179 units and a market share of 10.3 pct, followed by Hyundai (1,655 and 7.8 pct), and VW (1,509 and 7.1 pct).
 Greek stocks jumped 1.55 pct on Monday
ATHENS, 14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greek stocks surged on Monday as investors continued bargain-hunting activity, pushing the composite index up 1.55 pct to 4,076.55 points in the Athens Stock Exchange.
Turnover, however, was a moderate 257.6 million euros.
Most sector indices ended higher, with the financial services (3.73 pct), oil and gas (2.87 pc), construction (2.81 pct) and healthcare (1.93 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while the raw material (3.16 pct), technology (1.95 pct) and personal and home products (0.36 pct) sectors suffered losses.
The Blue Chip index rose 1.48 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 1.46 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 0.88 pct.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 154 to 106 with another 53 issues unchanged.
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank of Greece, OPAP, OTE, Piraeus Bank, and Goody's.
Derivatives Market Close: Intracom top in stock futures trade
Equity Index Futures:
Bond Market Close: Buyers lag sellers
Foreign Exchange Rates: Tuesday
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.201
 Bank robber killed, one person injured in hold-up
ATHENS, 14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)A bank robber was killed and one person was injured during a bank hold-up in the residential district of Patissia on Monday, while a second bank robber was arrested by police.
The two gunmen entered an Alpha Bank branch on Acharnon street at noon, grabbed an unknown sum of money, but opened fire, resulting in the injury of one person.
The gunmen ran into a policeman, who was in the vicinity, as they fled the bank. The police officer chased the two bank robbers, calling for them to surrender. The bank robbers opened fire on the officer during the chase, and the policeman returned the fire, resulting in the fatal injury of one of the two gunmen, while the second gunman was apprehended.
A preliminary investigation was underway.
 State of emergency declared in Evros prefecture due to floodwaters
ATHENS, 14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)A state of emergency has been declared in northeast Evros prefecture due to flooding from the overflowing Evros River and its tributaries, with 2,800 hectares reported under water so far.
According to reports early on Monday, the water level on the Evros reached the 6.15-metre mark, easily exceeding the 5.7-metre emergency level following days of rainfall in the region and neighboring Bulgaria.
Authorities estimate that the water level will continue to rise over the coming 48 hours due to increased volumes of water from the Arda tributary and because of overflows in several levees located in southeastern Bulgaria.
Local residents have also been warned to stay away from the river banks and to move farm equipment and livestock to higher ground.
 Briton arrested on charges of murdering his parents in Crete
14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Briton Ryan Johnson, aged 32, was arrested in Chania, Crete, on Monday on charges of murdering his father Roger, 53, and mother Josephine, 52, on Saturday night in the home where the family lived in Chania's district of Almyrida.
The 32-year-old Briton, who denies involvement in the double murder, is expected to appear before the public prosecutor on Tuesday to testify.
However, more light in the case is expected to be shed by the regular interrogation, given that the file on the double murder is open and police do not exclude the possibility that other persons were also involved.
 Event focuses on women in political decision-making
ATHENS, 14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The General Secretariat for Equality and the Research Center for Gender Equality (KEThI) organized an event on Monday focusing on women in political decision-making positions.
"Strengthening women's participation in decision-making centers is one of the main prerequisites necessary to achieve substantial equality between the two sexes," the General Secretary for Equality Evgenia Tsoumani said.
"It is a recorded fact worldwide that unless women actively participate and their opinions are integrated in all levels of decision making, achieving the goals of equality, development and peace throughout the world is not possible," she noted.
While the importance of gender equality has been recognized on an international level, with the adoption of a related UN resolution, progress has been slow and uneven among UN member states.
The reasons why progress has not been more impressive are complicated, according to Tsoumani, such as social stereotypes, lack of information, inability to combine professional with family life, lack of support from political parties and other entities.
Tsoumani then referred to actions the government has adopted in order to promote gender equality by creating new mechanisms and establishing new institutions in order to broaden the concept of equality and to promote social dialogue.
KEThI President Meropi Kaldi also spoke at the event, referring to a recent UN report and also presenting a manual titled "Communication Skills for Women in Politics."
The manual, written by British journalist Lesley Abdela, is an innovation considering the lack of women's participation in political decision making, Kaldi said.
The manual is a valuable tool for women interested in becoming involved in politics or who work for non-government organizations and wish to influence decision making, she said.
 Mandela attorney Bizos honored by Athens prefecture on Monday
ATHENS, 14/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)South African statesman Nelson Mandela's long-time defense attorney, lawyer George Bizos, will be honored by the Athens prefecture on Monday evening as an "Ambassador of Hellenism".
The honor is one of many for the noted Greek-South African attorney, as in 2001 he was awarded the International Trial Lawyer Prize of the Year by the Academy of Trial Lawyers.
Greek soccer results
Matches played over the weekend and Monday
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 3-1
The standings after 23 weeks of play:
Apollon Kalamaria 28
 British Olympic Association honors former Athens 2004 president
LONDON, 14/3/2006 (ANA-MPA/L. Tsirigotakis)The British Olympic Association honored Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, former President of the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee for her efforts in staging a successful Athens Games, during a special event held here on Monday.
BOA Chairman Lord Moynihan presented Angelopoulos-Daskalaki with a symbolic gift at the historic Reform Club, where the event was held.
On her part, Angelopoulos-Daskalaki expressed her feelings for both London and Athens, saying that she is always happy to return to the former, but the latter is her only home.
As for the Olympics, Angelopoulos-Daskalaki noted that each Games is different as is each Olympic city depending on what it wants to achieve and highlight.
Olympic medalists, politicians, diplomats and members of the international press were among those present at Monday's event.
 Cyprus President renews commitment to Commonwealth
NICOSIA, 14/3/2006 (CNA/ANA)Cypriot President Tassos has reaffirmed the Republic's commitment to the Commonwealth and his desire to further uphold its principles and "strengthen bonds of friendship and co-operation for the well-being of our community of nations".
In his message on the occasion of the Commonwealth Day, President Papadopoulos noted that "we renew the common commitments and values
of solidarity, peace, democracy and human rights we all share".
"Cyprus has always joined its voice with the voice of the 52 other Commonwealth nations in promoting multilateralism, international understanding and consensus and appreciates the role of Commonwealth as a forum and a trusted partner to advance these goals", he said.
Referring to this year's theme, "Health Vitality: the Commonwealth Challenge" the president said: "By paying special attention to the virtues of health and vitality we recognize the importance of adequate nutrition, clean water and healthy living conditions for the prosperity of the citizens of our countries and of the member states of the Commonwealth".
"Health is not only a right but it is also closely related to development and has immense importance for the promotion of equality and peace. Ill-health is one of the causes and a major consequence of poverty and it is our duty to provide the highest possible standards by ensuring the access to good food, clean water and adequate medical care to all Commonwealth peoples", he added.
He reminded that Commonwealth countries were urged in the Malta CHOGM last November to recommit themselves to human development and to meeting the Millennium Development Goals, which are related to poverty reduction, health, education and gender equality.
Furthermore, he noted, they also reaffirmed their commitment to combating diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, which all threaten sustainable development, and assist countries with prevention measures and strengthening health systems.
As regards the Cyprus issue, he expressed gratitude to all Commonwealth member states for their consistent support to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and unity of the Republic of Cyprus and to its efforts for a lasting, just and functional settlement based on the principles of the United Nations Charter, the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the principles of the Commonwealth.
He further expressed the hope "that a negotiated functional and lasting solution is found to the longstanding Cyprus problem on the basis of the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions and the principles and values of the European Union, a solution which abrogates the consequences of the Turkish invasion and the continuing occupation of the northern part of the Republic of Cyprus and realizes the reunification of the island".
"In this spirit of solidarity among our Commonwealth family members, let us celebrate this year's Commonwealth Day with the hope for a better future in peace and prosperity, the Cyprus President concluded.
 Senator Snowe applauds steps by Cyprus government to encourage solution
NICOSIA, 14/3/2006 (CNA/ANA)US Senator Olympia Snowe has applauded "the steps that the Government of Cyprus and President Papadopoulos have taken to encourage a just and lasting solution to the Cyprus division".
In a statement before the plenary of the US Senate March 9, Snowe referred to the meeting between Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, February 28, in Paris, noting that Papadopoulos and Annan issued a joint statement agreeing on the resumption of bicommunal discussions on the technical aspects necessary to prepare the ground for full negotiations.
Snowe said that nearly two years ago, Cyprus joined the European Union and in that time, the Government of Cyprus has promoted the opening up of several crossing points through the UN patrolled cease-fire line.
She noted that since the opening of crossing points, there have been more than 9 million incident-free crossings.
Every day, more than 10.000 Turkish Cypriots cross from the occupied territory to the government-controlled area to work. This increased economic activity and trade across the dividing line has contributed in more than doubling the per-capita income of the Turkish Cypriots in the past two years.
She said that as confidence building measures, President Papadopoulos has proposed to take additional steps to build on the gains of the past two years and the Government of Cyprus has already proposed the reopening of the occupied port of Famagusta and the return of the adjacent city of Varosha to its original inhabitants.
Furthermore she noted that President Papadopoulos has also proposed to open additional crossing points to make travel and trade between the two communities easier.
As regards the EU economic aid to the Turkish Cypriots, Snowe said the Government of Cyprus had pushed strongly for this aid, "despite unfortunate attempts by others to attach preconditions and political stipulations to its release."
"I applaud the steps that the Government of Cyprus and President Papadopoulos have taken to encourage a just and lasting solution to the Cyprus division. His meeting with Secretary General Annan is a positive first step toward the resumption of reunification negotiations," Snowe said and added that on Cyprus today the two communities are closer together than at any time since the invasion.
"Although prior reunification efforts have failed, the developments of the past two years offer the greatest prospect for a peaceful and lasting solution to the division," she added.
Cyprus' Ambassador to the US Evripides Evriviades has said that Cyprus greatly appreciates Snowe's continued support for the island's reunification.