|Wednesday, 19 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-03-15
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 15 , 2006
 Karamanlis says Ecofin's opinion confirms credibility of Greek economic program
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The opinion issued by the Ecofin Council confirms the credibility of Greece's economic program whose results are already becoming apparent, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said on Tuesday.
The feedback received from the European Union Finance Ministers, who convened earlier on Tuesday in Brussels, on the country's stability and growth program for the 2005-2008 period, shows that the reforms the government has been implementing will be sufficient without additional measures being necessary, Karamanlis said.
He said that the government's fiscal adjustments are being vindicated and that the government followed a strategy that is bearing fruit.
"These results are not just numbers to appear on the next budget, it is the justification of the efforts of all those who believed that public finances could be 'cleaned up' because it is the only way that the Greek economy can grow competitively and we will create the steady foundations needed for an environment that is socially just and prosperous for all," he said.
"Citizens for the first time can, after many years, be optimistic that serious efforts ensure a secure and better tomorrow for everyone," he added.
He noted that the government came into office inheriting a deficit in 2004 of 6.6% of GDP - or ¬ 11 billion - twice as much the maximum Eurozone limit and five times as high as the amount the previous government had forecast in the 2004 budget.
Karamanlis stressed that the government reduced the deficit to 4.3% in 2005, while the forecast for the end of 2006 is for the deficit to fall below 3%.
 FinMin: ECOFIN decision justifies govt's economic policies
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)"The evaluation and recommendation by the EU's Council of Economy Ministers regarding Greece's updated stability and growth program for the period 2005-2008 are positive and fully justify the government's choices in economic policy," Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters after an ECOFIN meeting in Brussels, Alogoskoufis said the Council, with its decision, stressed that the Greek program was reliable and that the government strictly adhered to its 2005 budget provisions, fulfilling its commitments with the aim to reduce its fiscal deficit below 3.0 percent GDP by the end of 2006.
He added that total adjustment in the period 2005-06 was four percentage points of GDP compared with 2004. "This is a very significant adjustment," Alogoskoufis said, adding that 3.5 percentage points were attributed to the introduction of structural measures by the government.
"2005 was a difficult year for the Greek economy, since it followed the Olympic Games and we have had to avoid the danger of economic recession," Alogoskoufis said. "With the right mixture policy and structural reforms, Greece achieved a 3.7 pct growth rate in 2005, among the highest in Eurozone, it reduced unemployment and achieved a very significant fiscal adjustment."
"The Greek government's effort was even harder since revenues were down compared with forecasts early last year. The government, however, acted swiftly to combat tax-evasion and its moves already bring results". Alogoskoufis said, adding that budget revenues were up 6.4 pct last year, exceeding a 5.0 percent budget target for the year.
Alogoskoufis also said that country's fiscal deficit fell to 4.3 pct of GDP last year, while public revenues jumped 17.7 pct in January, with VAT proceeds up 18.1 pct in the same month.
Moreover, he said the government aimed to continue efforts for economic restructuring in 2007 and 2008 with the aim to bring its deficit to 1.7 pct of GDP in 2008, strictly through permanent measures.
The EU acknowledges that the structural adjustment, included in the Greek state budget, was exceeding 0.6 pct of GDP as required by the Council and that the country's public debt was adequately reduced. Alogoskoufis said the Council's recommendations urged Greece to fully implement structural initiatives aimed to cut its fiscal deficit with the need of additional measures.
Alogoskoufis said the government and Eurostat would continue technical consultations for at least two months to agree on fiscal data on insurance funds and municipal authorities, although he stressed that the significance of any decisions resulting from these consultations would be only fractional.
Finally, the minister said that "patriotic economic protection" instances (in France, Luxembourg, Italy, etc) to prevent the sale of state enterprises to foreign investors, was not in the benefit of a country like Greece.
 EU finance ministers' council welcomes Greek government's efforts to reduce deficit
BRUSSELS, 15/3/2006 (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)The opinion issued by the Council of European Union Finance Ministers concerning Greece's updated stability program for the 2005-2008 period, ratified in Brussels on Tuesday, stressed that the Council welcomes efforts made until now and the priority given by the Greek government for the permanent decrease in the deficit.
The Council's opinion notes that, generally speaking, the program is compatible with the correcting of the excessive deficit by 2006, on condition that the program is fully implemented and that fiscal data are not revised.
It requests from Greece to apply necessary measures of a permanent nature that will lead to the correcting of the excessive deficit by 2006 at the latest and to further decrease the structural deficit towards the medium-term target set by the program, capitalizing on the favorable economic conjuncture so as to reduce first-stage expenditures.
In addition, it requests backing for efforts to determine and control other factors, apart from loaning, that affect the amount of the debt, to check expenditures for pensions and to implement with determination reforms already agreed on the pensioning system to secure the long-term viability of public finances.
Lastly, it must further improve the gathering and processing of general governance statistical data, primarily by upgrading apparatuses securing the immediate and appropriate provision of budget data, particularly in the social insurance sector.
 Greece's economic effort over past 2 years earns Almunia praise
BRUSSELS, 15/3/2006 (ANA-MPA)EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia late Monday evening cited important progress on the part of Greece over the past two years on the fiscal front, comments expected to boost the Karamanlis government's standing midway through its four-year term and amid escalating grumbling by labor unions the opposition over the state of the economy.
Speaking at the end of a meeting here of economy ministers representing "euro zone" countries, Almunia said progress was clear and was not simply due to the conclusion of Olympics-related expenditure but due to a greater effort.
He also said that Greek Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis, who represented Athens, briefed him on Monday over the "extremely positive course" of state revenues in the first two-months of 2006, a development he said causes he to believe that Greece will meet its goal this year of reducing the budget deficit to under 3 percent of GDP.
He added that he would publish a forecast for the Greek economy on May 8 after Athens submits final budget figures for 2005, while he warned that this year's figures could be altered if the country does not obtain Eurostat's approval to use various methods to trim its budget deficit.
"We have to consider whether the budgetary objectives are realistic or not … At first sight, my impression is positive. The first couple of months' revenue figures are very good."
PASOK spokesman comments on PM's statement on ECOFIN's assessment: Main opposition Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) Spokesman Nikos Athanassakis on Tuesday night commented on a statement made earlier in the evening by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on ECOFIN's assessment of Greece's stability and economic growth program.
"Prime Minister (Costas) Mr. Karamanlis decided to appear this evening on a national network, to repeat what the finance minister said earlier and to what he himself repeatedly and monotonously says in every statement and speech he makes, in yet another desperate effort to sell hope and optimism for the future."
The PASOK spokesman added:" The New Democracy government, (National Economy and Finance Minister George) Mr. Alogoskoufis, artificially raised and with their own exclusive responsibility the deficit and now the prime minister is rejoicing that it reduced it, because they did not have Olympic Games expenditures and dramatically cut the Public Investments Program at the expense of the regions, at the expense of growth, at the expense of the citizens."
Retaliating to Athanassakis' comments, Minister of State and Government Spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said "Mr. Athanassakis would do well to admit, even now, the responsibilities of the PASOK governments on the enormous deficits which they created and the state of the economy they left behind." Roussopoulos added:" Until he does so, for himself and his party, what is valid is 'it's better to remain silent'."
 President Papoulias terms his visit to Libya a success
TRIPOLI, Libya, 15/3/2006 (ANA-MPA)President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday termed his two-day official visit to Libya a success.
Summing up the results of his visit to Libya, he told reporters during his flight back to Athens where he arrived early afternoon, that indicative of the good climate which prevailed during the talks he had with Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi, was the fact that Qaddafi will receive the Greek ambassador to Libya on Wednesday so as to discuss in further detail the issues which the Greek president and Qaddafi had talked about during their meeting on Monday night.
"I will also soon do the same with the Libyan ambassador in Athens," Papoulias told the reporters who accompanied him, while he disclosed that he directed an official invitation to Muammar al-Qaddafi to visit Athens.
As for the practical results of the visit, the president noted that Culture Minister George Voulgarakis and Deputy Foreign Minister Evripides Stylianidis on Monday signed agreements-framework with Libya in the education and tourism sectors.
On Tuesday morning, Papoulias, accompanied by the members of the Greek delegation, visited the house of Muammar al-Qaddafi, which was bombed on April 14, 1986 by American aircraft. Many people were killed during the bombardment, among them one of the daughters of Qaddafi who managed to escape.
The Greek president later laid a wreath at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier and was given a tour of the archaeological museum in the Libyan capital.
 Inner Cabinet approves operational plan for 4th CSF
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Inner Cabinet on Tuesday approved a recommendation by Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos for implementation of a special operational plan linked with the 4th Community Support Framework (CSF).
The session was chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
On his part, Pavlopoulos reiterated that such a plan did not exist for the 3rd CSF, which resulted in delays in the education sector. Additionally, he said the plan now takes into account the EU directives and the "particularities" of the public administration in Greece.
On their part, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou briefed the Inner Cabinet on the final implementation of a program, "Diodos", allowing free Internet broadband access for college students and university staff.
Before the Inner Cabinet meeting, Karamanlis met jointly with Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and Defense Minister Vangelis Meimarakis.
Pavlopoulos: The inner cabinet convened under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday and ratified the strategic plan on upgrading public administration and local administration, in the framework of the 4th Community Support Framework, covering the 2007-2013 period which was presented by Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos.
The issue concerns the transformation of the organization and functioning of public administration with the purpose of maximizing its performance and effectiveness with the preparation of an Operational Program whose management responsibility will be in the hands of a private law agency of the broad public sector (in the form of an SA company) which will be completed by the end of May.
This agency will develop the necessary know-how and will follow activities to enable the complete and effective absorption of European Union funds that concern public administration.
"They are the sectors on which we must place particular emphasis for serving the citizen and for the country's development course. This plan was shaped also on the basis of EU requirements, such as the Lisbon strategy and the rest of the EU's parameters, in accordance with factors regarding the particularities of Greek public administration. The primary target is serving the citizen and transparency in public administration," the minister said.
 PM to meet Belgian counterpart in Athens
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is to meet Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt on Wednesday over a working dinner. Verhoftstadt is due in Greece for a working visit.
At 9:30 on Wednesday, the premier is scheduled to meet foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis.
 PM holds talks with health minister
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis held an across-the-board discussion with Health and Social Solidarity Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos at the Maximos Mansion on Tuesday evening.
Avramopoulos briefed the prime minister on bills remaining to be ratified concerning the health sector. On leaving the Maximos Mansion, he told reporters that his priority at the health ministry is to make the citizen feel close to the state and to treatment services.
The health minister's priorities also include solving all of the ministry's current issues, as well as handling bills regarding medicine and first-stage health care.
 Foreign minister briefs main opposition sector chief Papoutsis
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis on Tuesday received PASOK Political Council member Christos Papoutsis, in charge of the main opposition's foreign policy, security and defense sector, for a briefing on foreign policy issues affecting Greece.
The meeting covered the situation in the western Balkans, the broader southeast European area and its EU prospects, as well as Turkey's EU prospects and the Cyprus issue. Bakoyannis also briefed Papoutsis on her recent meeting with Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul.
After the meeting Papoutsis stressed that striving for consensus on major strategic areas and promoting foreign policy issues was a "political choice" made by PASOK and its leader George Papandreou.
At the same time, he underlined that consensus required full and substantial briefing of Parliament and the political parties, as well as "good and sincere cooperation".
PASOK's sector chief noted, also, that consensus was not a carte blanche and that the main opposition would continue to exercise criticism where it felt the government was not following the best strategy for national interests.
"By consensus we do not mean compliance over the country's demands, inertia and abandoning the gains made by the Greek foreign policy during the period of PASOK governments," he added.
 Gov't sharply attacks Papandreou, PASOK over recent comments
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The government on Tuesday sharply counter-attacked main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, following a recently stepped up campaign by the latter targeting the government and the prime minister.
"The howls and insults by PASOK belie helplessness; an inability to express a positive, creative and responsible political message; an inability to express specific and realistic political proposals," alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said, in reply to earlier statements by the one-time foreign minister.
"As long as Mr. Papandreou invests in past delusions, in irresponsible populism, in bitterness and divisiveness, he's simply admitting that his vision for the future is nothing but an anachronism," the spokesman added during his regular press briefing.
 Mitsotakis accuses PASOK leader of 'irresponsibility', PASOK retaliates
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Former prime minister and current ruling New Democracy (ND) Honorary President Constantine Mitsotakis on Tuesday gave an interview to state-run NET television station during which he criticized main opposition Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou, accusing him of "exercising an extreme opposition and of irresponsibility," adding that "if he continues like this, he will never become a prime minister."
Referring to the phone-tapping issue, Mitsotakis said the government's handling was wrong, saying that it should have announced it publicly from the first moment, that is, from March last year and to call the political leaders to brief them. Nevertheless, he added, the ND government was a victim in this affair and that it was determined to find the truth with the means at its disposal.
The former prime minister also referred at length to the issue of the social insurance system, stating that he was in favor of the opening of a dialogue, noting that the age limit for retirement will increase and pensions will decrease if this arises from the real data.
Commenting on Mitsotakis' statements, main opposition Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) Spokesman Nikos Athanassakis said "we would have been particularly concerned if Mitsotakis said a good word about PASOK and its president."
He also commented on Mitsotakis' positions on economic and social policy.
Athanassakis said "these positions to a certain degree serve the government because Mr. Mitsotakis operates as an alibi for the government's present policy."
 ND eurodeputies on Schulz letter
STRASBOURG, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The New Democracy's Europarliamentary Group chose to respond to European People's Party (EPP) Martin Schulz' initiative with a press release on Tuesday, stating that it is up to the Italian people to decide who will be the next Italian Prime Minister, no one else.
The Greek eurodeputies' statement came in response to a letter Schulz sent to various prime ministers, including Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, urging them not to participate in an upcoming EPP summit in order to avoid showing support for Italian incumbent for the premiership Silvio Berlusconi.
"Every party in the European Parliament respects the activities of all other parties and avoids intervening in their inner workings. Respect on everyone's part is an essential prerequisite for parliamentary democracy. Mr. Schulz has probably not understood this," the ND eurodeputies said.
They acknowledged that Schulz has every right to disagree with whomever he chooses but he does not have the right to intervene.
In closing, they stated: "We can ignore Schulz' intervention. We can't however, forget it, since it shows excessive provacativeness and a lack of parliamentary ethos."
 Gov't on phone-tap affair
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, in comments concerning the illegal phone-tapping affair, on Tuesday reiterated that the government's only goal was that "full light be shed on the case, given that the government was a victim".
The spokesman was also asked to comment on remarks apparently made to reporters by Culture Minister George Voulgarakis while en route to Libya with President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, in which the minister was allegedly dismissive of PASOK president George Papandreou, former New Democracy president Miltiades Evert and public prosecutor Ioannis Diotis, which were run in news reports on Tuesday.
Antonaros said that Voulgarakis had had a "relaxed, off-the-record conversation with journalists that was some media reported partially and in a distorted way," and accused the specific media of acting in an unethical way.
 European Parliament ratifies creation of new emergency funding
STRASBOURG, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The European Parliament plenum on Tuesday ratified the creation of a new rapid reaction and readiness funding means for serious emergencies, amounting to 278 million euros.
The relevant proposal was made by the Environment Committee with a report introduced by Greek Coalition of the Left party Eurodeputy Dimitris Papadimoulis. The plenum ratified the Papadimoulis report with 606 votes to 27 and 15 abstentions.
The new funding means concerns the 2007-2013 period and constitutes, in a way, the continuation of the EU political protection apparatus created in October 2001 and expiring at the end of 2006.
The Papadimoulis report pointed out that recent natural disasters, such as the tsounami in Asia, the strong tropical cyclone in Luisiana and Mississippi, disastrous floods, the drought and wildfires in Europe rendered the need for more effective and integrated reaction by the EU clear.
 Education minister meets presidium of teachers' federation
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)National Education and Religious Affairs Minister Marietta Yiannakou had a two-hour-long meeting on Tuesday with the presidium of the Teachers' Federation of Greece.
At the end of the meeting, both sides noted the good climate that prevailed during the discussion.
The education minister stressed that there are certain problems faced by teachers which can be solved but others which cannot be solved for the time being.
The teachers stressed that their main problem was economic, has not been solved.
The teachers, who will take part, along with professors, in Wednesday's nationwide strike declared by the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) and the Civil Servants' Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY), said that they will convene to assess all the answers given by the minister on all matters and later decide whether they will proceed on not in further strike action.
 SYN leader meets with Athens Mayor
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Greek capital faces serious problems that have yet to be solved, Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) President Alekos Alavanos said after meeting with Athens Mayor Theodoros Bechrakis on Tuesday.
Issues such as free open spaces, shop hours and garbage were discussed during the meeting, which Alavanos described as 'interesting.'
On his part, Bechrakis assured Alavanos that all the candidates in the upcoming mayoral election will have equal opportunities.
He said that he is in the process of briefing the country's political leaders of all the problems facing Athens and will request their help during the time he holds office.
SYN's candidate for mayor, Alexis Tsipras, was also present at the meeting.
Tsipras noted that Bechrakis is very familiar with Athens' problems, since he has served as municipal councillor for several years as well as president of the municipal council.
 EU transport, energy ministers meet in Brussels
BRUSSELS, 15/3/206 (ANA/MPA)The European Union's Council of Transport, Communications and Energy Ministers convened on Tuesday and examined the issue of "safe, competitive and sustainable energy for Europe."
Greece was represented by Deputy Development Minister Anastasios Nerantzis, who stated in Brussels that Greece agrees with the priorities set by the European Commission on energy.
Addressing the Council meeting, Nerantzis said that the present strategy on Europe's energy policy must be based on the balance between the security of energy supply, competitive-ness and sustainable development.
According to the deputy development minister, existing institutional measures linked to the creation of an integrated European market are suitable and adequate, adding that what is lacking today is an "effective plan of coordination between member-states."
 Trade unions call nationwide general strike on Wednesday
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece's largest trade union organizations, spearheaded by the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) and the civil servants' union ADEDY, have called a 24-hour nationwide general strike on Wednesday seeking substantial pay rises, while protesting against government measures that they say roll back worker rights and gains.
Among the most visible participants in Wednesday's strike, which technically includes both the public and private sectors, will be public transport workers and hospital staff, with the latter only accepting emergency cases.
Also participating in Wednesday's strike action are journalists, who will not put out news between the hours of 8:00 until 12:00.
GSEE and ADEDY urged workers to attend a rally that will be held at Pedio tou Areos in central Athens at noon, while the Communist Party-affiliated trade union bloc PAME will hold a separate rally at Syntagma Square at 11:00.
Central to the demands made by unions is protection of the institution of collective agreements, while several classes of employees are demanding higher wage increases than those offered by employers. The finance ministry has announced 3 percent pay rises for the public sector, while employers have proposed a 2.8 percent pay rise on basic wages during negotiations for a general collective agreement.
A key source of contention is the refusal of bank managements to enter into negotiations with the bank workers' union OTOE concerning a collective agreement for the sector, which unions view as the harbinger of a general policy of questioning sector agreements.
They also object to the different labor and insurance rights enjoyed by older employees and those now entering the workforce, as well as issues arising through government reforms for state utilities, measures undermining the eight-hour day and reduced pay for overtime work that unions say has substantially decreased the income of workers.
Trade unionists are also concerned by the government's plans to open dialogue on social insurance reform, fearing that fundamental pension rights will be targeted. GSEE president Christos Polyzogopoulos and ADEDY president Spyros Papaspyrou have made it clear that trade unions will not participate in any dialogue on social insurance unless their terms concerning collective agreements and pay rises are met.
Public transport strikes, work stoppages on Wednesday: Commuters will have problems getting to work on Wednesday as a result of strikes and work stoppages in nearly all Athens public transport in support of a 24-hour nationwide strike declared by the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE). Major delays are also in store for Olympic Airlines passengers due to strikes by the Federation of Civil Aviation Unions OSPA.
Participating in the labor action are workers on the ETHEL buses, who will not be working from the start of their shift until 7:30 and from 22:30 until the end of their shift. ILPAP trolleys will also stay off the roads between 11:00 and 15:00 in the middle of the day.
The tram, Proastiako suburban railway, the overland electric railway and the metro will be closed throughout the day, with their staff on 24-hour strike.
Also on 24-hour strike are staff at the Greek Railways Organization, who will only carry out "social needs" services.
Olympic Airlines has been forced to make major changes to its flight schedule, cutting flights down to one a day per destination for domestic routes and one per country for international routes due to the strike. This had led to the cancellation of 47 flights on Wednesday and two on Tuesday and Thursday, while departure times have been changed for another four.
The airline has expressed regret for the inconvenience to its passengers, stressing that the company is not responsible.
Aegean Airlines flights will be carried out as normal.
SYN leader on strike, social security reform: Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) President Alekos Alavanos called on all workers to participate in Wednesday's strike organized by trade union GSEE and the civil servants' union ADEDY.
Alavanos said that for SYN, the priority is unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, as well as issues regarding a social state, labor agreements by sector and working hours.
As for social security reform, Alavanos said that the government has no intention of engaging in dialogue, but rather "a monologue of intimidation which aims at extending the time to retirement, smaller pensions and replacing social security with private insurers."
 Bank employee unionists call for government initiative for dialogue on collective labor agreement
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Bank employee unionists called for a government initiative for banks to be pressured to attend dialogue with the Federation of Bank Employee Unions (OTOE) for the signing of a collective labor agreement, in a meeting with Employment Minister Savvas Tsitouridis on Tuesday.
According to OTOE President Dimitris Tsoukalas, a relevant development might be taking place next week. Speaking after the meeting, Tsoukalas said that "bankers' excesses" regarding labor legislation, such as in the case of unpaid overtime work, have cost the sector at least 5.5 thousand jobs.
Unionists said that there was concern during the discussion with Tsitouridis on the way of implementing legislation on the Unified Bank Employee Insurance Fund, but no specific proposals and commitments were made.
Tsitouridis made no statements on these issues after the meeting.
 Pan-Hellenic Seamen's Federation recourses to Council of State
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Pan-Hellenic Seamen's Federation (PNO) has recoursed to the Council of State and asked for the suspension and the annulment of the decisions of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and of Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyannis, with which on February 22 a general civil mobilization of seamen was imposed.
The PNO said that through the civil mobilization of seamen, the international and European legislative framework, and the Greek Constitution as well, was violated.
 PM's message for International Consumer Rights Day
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)In a message for International Consumer Rights Day on Wednesday, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday stressed that the battle to protect consumer rights was constant.
"We are constantly intensifying the rate of political intervention to boost consumer consciousness, the continual upgrading of the role of consumers, the operation of a modern and friendly market," he said.
Karamanlis stressed that important steps with visible results had been made in the two years of New Democracy's "new governance".
"Existing institutions were strengthened and new ones created. All public utilities are now drawing up, as demanded by a recent law, a Charter of Obligations Toward Consumers. Inspections to ensure the quality of products and services and avert adulteration, profiteering and fraud are continuing at an undiminished rate," he said.
The premier also pointed to the government's support of consumer organizations and said that legislation was in the wings that would give them greater powers, responsibilities and a role in informing and mobilizing consumers.
 Consumer Service Sector receives about 20,000 complaints in three years
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Consumer Service Sector (TEK), created by the National Telecommunications and Post Offices Committee (EETT) to enable consumers to make their complaints on issues related to the telecommunications and post office market, has received about 20,000 complaints during the three-year period it has been functioning.
According to data provided by EETT on the occasion of Wednesday's World Consumer Day, a considerable increase in complaints received by TEK takes place every year in the region of 130 percent, which shows the contribution of EETT towards solving consumers' problems.
Most issues regarding mobile and fixed-line telephony concerned the questioning of bills, service commitments and the quality and availability of specific services.
 Main opposition spokesman on rising prices, re-establishing the state
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Main opposition PASOK Spokesman Nikos Athanassakis on Tuesday slammed the government, commenting on statements made by the Development Ministry and Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos.
"Soothing words will neither reduce prices nor make wages grow," he said, referring to the rising cost of living.
He noted that according to recent surveys, only 2.8% of those surveyed believe that prices fell during New Democracy's term in office.
Regarding statements made by Pavlopoulos during the inner cabinet meeting earlier on Tuesday, Athanassakis said that "the minister has announced 10 times that the state will be re-established, which in practice means re-establishing the 'partisan state', while programs such as Information Society remain stagnant."
PASOK deputy slams gov't on high cost of living: Main opposition Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) deputy Anna Diamantopoulou, speaking during a visit on Tuesday to the Association of Greek Food Industries, said that "the Greek government is obliged to look to the future and this future is Greek businesses and their role in the Balkans."
Diamantopoulou, who headed a PASOK delegation, added that "only two years was enough for the Development Ministry and the ministers to lose the sense of reality and attempt to convince the Greek people that there is no high cost of living."
She said the state is obliged not only to deal with the issue of the protection of the consumer, but also to support Greek businesses.
 Tsitouridis says Social Security Foundation will be impressively upgraded
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Employment and Social Protection Minister Savvas Tsitouridis said on Tuesday that the Social Security Foundation (IKA) is being impressively improved, noting that "the results will soon be visible."
Tsitouridis made the statement during the presentation, along with IKA Governor Ioannis Vartholomeos, of the foundation's housing program for the five year-period 2006-2011.
Tsitouridis underlined that "IKA is building its future without loans" because as assured by Vartholomeos, IKA does not owe any money to the banks.
Tsitouridis said that during the next five years, 47 of the foundation's builings will be erected or completed at the cost of 232 million euros and the result of these projects will be a qualitative upgrading of IKA's services to the more than five million people insured at the foundation.
 Real estate market vital to Greek economic growth, report
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The real estate market is vital to the development of the Greek economy, a report by the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) stated on Tuesday.
The report said housing prices more than doubled in the period 1995-2004, recording a 134-percent rise in the last decade, with the highest increases recorded in the period 1999-2002, a development attributed both to a stock market boom and to a significant decline in domestic interest rates. Home prices rose 164 percent in Athens in the period 1999-2002, and by 111 percent in other urban regions around the country.
The annual growth rate in home prices, however, slowed to 2.2 pct in the first nine months of 2004, from 6.2 pct in 2003, with Athens recording a 0.9-pct fall in the corresponding period.
Rental prices showed wide variations, depending on the quality characteristics of each region, with squares, streets, parks, easier access pushing prices higher. The average rental price in Attica ranged from 6 euros per square meter to 16.5 euros per square meter.
IOBE said rising real estate prices did not reflect a similar increase in construction costs, with the latter recording a 4.4 percent rise in the period 1997-2001, leaving home builders with higher profit margins. In 1998 and 1999, the number of available homes increased by 13.4 pct and 23.9 pct, respectively, a development that put a lid on price increases. On the other hand, the number of available homes fell by 37 percent in 2001 pushing prices higher again.
The report said Athens offered an office space reserve of around 3.1 million sq, although a large part of this space was either up to 250 sq or of lower quality inadequate for certain users.
The most expensive retail commerce areas in Athens are Ermou St, Panepistimiou St, Stadiou St and Tsakalov in Kolonaki, with the upscale Kifissia (north) and Glyfada (southeast) districts reporting strong demand.
Leasing prices rose slightly in the period 2001-2002 at around 2,460 euros per sq. meter. IOBE added that the Greek market lacked modern shopping malls, compared with the rest of Western Europe.
 Papandreou criticizes what he calls excessive bonuses for OTE executives
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Main opposition PASOK president George Papandreou on Tuesday turned his attention to bonuses paid out to several executives at the state-run and listed Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE), charging that exorbitant benefits are being given to the few while paltry wages are handed to the many employees at the telephony utility.
Papandreou, who spoke to the coordinating body of PASOK's Parliament group, said the action was indicative of the government's choices, while citing what he called the "fraudulent" fiscal audit, the mobile phone tapping affair, efforts to manipulate the justice system and to abolish collective bargaining agreements.
In an unrelated development, Papandreou announced that a PASOK delegation will tour flood-ravaged Evros prefecture.
 Purchasing power of four-member Greek family down 350 euros last year, report
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The purchasing power of a four-member Greek family shrank by 350 euros in the period from January 2005 to January 2006, the Greek Consumer Centre said on Tuesday.
The consumers' organization, in an announcement to the press, stressed that Greek consumers were worried over defective goods, a sign that the domestic market needed more inspections.
Meanwhile, the political leadership of the Development ministry jointly rejected main opposition PASOK party's criticism over increasing prices in domestic markets. Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said the ministry cared about quality and prices 365 days a year and urged the services, commerce and manufacturing sectors to follow the road to quality and low prices. He underlined the significance of intensifying inspections in the market.
 Greek delegation to participate in AGRITECH exhibition in Israel
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)A big Greek mission is being organized by the Israeli embassy in Athens, in cooperation with the Greek-Israeli Chamber of Commerce and Technology and Israel's Export Institute, to participate in the AGRITECH exhibition, one of the most important farming technology exhibitions in the world that will be taking place in Tel Aviv between May 9-11.
Israel's latest achievements in the agricultural sector will be presented at the exhbition, including biological cultivations, poultry farming, greenhouse cultivations, dairy produce, biotechnology, irrigation systems, floriculture and the management of water resources.
The AGRITECH exhibition is organized in Israel every three years. The latest exhibition took place with the participation of 263 exhibitors and drew 65,000 visitors from all over the world.
 Greek stocks end 1.24 pct lower
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greek stocks ended sharply lower on Tuesday as sellers took the upper hand of the market, pushing the composite index 1.24 pct lower in the Athens Stock Exchange. The index ended at 4,026.02 points finding support at the 4,000 level.
Turnover was a moderate 323 million euros. Sector indices suffered losses with the Travel and Leisure (2.80 pct), Media (2.54 pct), Constructions (2.44 pct) and Technology (2.28 pct) recording the biggest percentage losses of the day. The Chemicals (1.46 pct), Food-Beverage (0.91 pct), Personal and Home Products (0.66 pct) and Financial Services (0.53 pct) scored gains.
The Big Cap index fell 1.46 pct, the Mid Cap eased 0.73 pct and the Small Cap index dropped 2.56 pct.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 219 to 67 with another 35 issues unchanged.
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank of Greece, Hellenic Petroleum, Piraeus Bank, Alpha Bank and OPAP.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index
closed in euros as follows:
Derivatives Market Close: DEH top in stock futures trade
Equity Index Futures:
Bond Market Close: Buyers outpace sellers
Foreign Exchange Rates: Wednesday
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.204
 Evros flooding at 'unprecedented' level, government says
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Water levels on the Evros River were unprecedentedly high, topping the six-meter mark due to massive quantities of water flowing down from Bulgaria, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros told reporters on Tuesday.
"There is full coordination of all state services: Macedonia-Thrace Minister George Kalantzis is on the scene, the regional authority head and the Civil Protection General Secretary, while the prime minister is constantly being informed by interior minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos," he said.
Antonaros said the problem was the result of a rapid thaw of large quantities of ice, bringing large volumes of water down the river.
He also noted that the Greek government had asked Bulgaria to take steps beforehand to reduce the flow of water toward Greece.
The government's first priority at this time was to protect local residents and their property, Antonaros said, while talks were underway with Bulgaria and Turkey for a more permanent solution of the problem but required "very delicate handling".
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.
Greek, Bulgarian FMs discuss flooding problem along Evros: Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Tuesday spoke by phone with her Bulgarian counterpart Ivaylo Kalfin regarding the situation in the flood-stricken region of Evros prefecture, which borders with southeastern Bulgaria.
Both countries also share the currently overflowing Evros (Maritsa) River.
Meanwhile, the state of emergency declared in the northern Greek prefecture of Evros continued for a second day, with water levels on the Evros, Ardas and Erythropotamos rivers still above danger levels.
The water level increased sharply, threatening to break through flood banks, after large quantities of water were released by Bulgarian dams and the heavy rains falling in the area over the past days.
Interior Minister visits Evros: Minister of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Deputy Minister of Agricultural Development and Foods Alexandros Kontos visited the Evros prefecture in northern Greece on Tuesday, which continues to be in a state of emergency due to dangerously high water levels of the Evros, Ardas and Erythropotamos rivers.
"The state mechanism has been on alert from the very beginning. The top priority is citizens' safety; any damages will be compensated for immediately," Pavlopoulos said.
Macedonia-Thrace Minister Yiorgos Kalatzis presided over a meeting of local authorities from Evros, Bulgaria and Turkey - Greece and Bulgaria share the currently overflowing Evros (Maritsa) River - and discussed all the parameters involved in the situation which affects Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey.
Kalatzis, who arrived in Evros on Monday, said: "We are here on the orders of the Prime Minister to try and solve this major problem. The situation is difficult and our first priority is ensuring residents' safety."
On his part, Michalis Angelopoulos, head of the Eastern Macedonia-Thrace Region said that the Region's General Secretariat has proposed implementing a relevant EU directive concerning flood hazards through joint plans and the compulsory cooperation among Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey.
Secretary General for Civil Protection Panagiotis Fourlas, said that the Fire Brigade, the police and volunteer rescuers are on stand-by in the event that residents need to be evacuated.
He added that, just as last year, the state has promised to compensate farmers for damages to their products.
Main opposition delegation visits Evros: A delegation of the main opposition PASOK party visited the Evros Prefecture on Tuesday due to the state of emergency declared upon the region as a result of dangerously high water levels in the Evros, Ardas and Erythropotamos Rivers.
Anna Diamantopoulou, head of PASOK's Development, Competition and Consumer Policy Division, said that the delegation is visiting the northern Greek prefecture to support the region's residents.
"The bad weather has heavily damaged homes, villages but has also created serious problems in the agricultural sector. There is a solution to each problem and the state is obliged to provide them as soon as possible," she said.
Costas Spiliopoulos, deputy coordinator of the Financial Affairs division of PASOK's parliamentary group and G. Koutsounis, Secretary General of the party's section for Agricultural Development accompanied Diamantopoulou.
 Supreme Court rejects appeal by former appeals court president for passive bribery
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Supreme Court's Penal Department has rejected an appeal by former appeals court president L. Stathis against an order ordering his trial for the repeated passive bribery of a judge and the legalization of income obtained by a criminal act.
The Department also rejected appeals by lawyers A. Dafnis, G. Fikiris, G. Apergis and St. Hoursoglou. The first two are charged with bribery of a judge and the legalization of income obtained by a criminal act and the remaining two for complicity in the bribery of a judge and providing assistance for the legalization of income by a criminal act.
Six other lawyers are faced with similar charges.
 Briton charged in parents' murder to face prosecutor on Wednesday
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The 32-year-old British man arrested in Crete this week for the murder of his parents is expected to face a local prosecutor in Hania on Wednesday.
According to reports, Ryan Johnson maintains his innocence.
He was arrested on Monday and charged with the murder of his father Roger, 53, and mother Josephine, 52. The bodies of the two victims were found Saturday night in the residence that all three family members shared, in Hania's Almyrida district.
 Icons from Albania on display at Thessaloniki's Byzantine Museum
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)An exhibit featuring icons from the Chistian Orthodox communities of Albania dating back to the Byzantine and post-Byzantine era was inaugurated by the Culture Ministry's Secretary General Christos Zachopoulos and Armando Bora, General Director of the Albanian Ministry of Culture and Sport, at the Thessaloniki Museum of Byzantine Civilization on Tuesday.
The exhibit, which is the first of its kind to be on display in Greece, concludes a five-year program of cooperation between the Thessaloniki Museum, the European Centre for Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Monuments and the National Museum of Medieval Art of Korytsa which has lent the icons for this exhibit.
The program, begun in 2000, involved restoration, education, research and the transfer of know-how.
The exhibit, which will run until June 12, will feature 72 icons that have been restored and date back from the 14th through the 19th century.
 Leonardo Da Vinci exhibit opens in Athens on Wednesday
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)An exhibit dedicated to the art and work of Leondardo da Vinci will open at the Athens Concert Hall (Megaron Mousikis) on Wednesday.
The exhibit, whose objective is to present da Vinci's work in art, science, technology and drawing, is organized by the Italian Embassy in Greece in cooperation with the Athens Concert Hall and under the aegis of the President of the Italian Republic. It is also supported by the Tuscany Region and the Italian museum Museo Ideale Leonardo Da Vinci.
Works on display include "Maddalena," "Nodo vinciano", and others.
 Documentary Festival organizes conference on Africa
ATHENS, 15/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The 8th Documentary Festival was held in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, on Tuesday with rapporteurs referring to the "false aid provided by the countries of the North to Africa, frequently combined with gunrunning in the region, and to the corruption of African leaderships".
"Africa will be able to find its pace in 20 to 50 years," said Pastor Jimo Adebayo, the representative of Africans in Greece, who pointed out that Africa's problems began in 1880 when the European colonialists divided Africa in accordance with their political and economic interests.
Gerasimos Kouvaras, director of Amnesty International's Greek Department, said that "eight million conventional weapons are produced every year, 80 percent of which are destined for Africa. The amount spent every year for this purpose is estimated at about 22 billion euros, half the amount of which would be enough to provide first-stage education all over the world and 12 billion for the effective handling of children and maternal mortality."
 Cypriot President: G/C side relies on Annan for the preparation of talks
NICOSIA, 15/3/2006 (CNA/ANA)UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's position is explicit and outlined in the joint communiqué issued after the Paris meeting, Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos said on Tuesday, adding that the Greek Cypriot side relies on Annan to make every effort so that talks on Cyprus are well prepared.
Invited to comment information that Ankara is reacting negatively to the outcome of the Paris meeting between Annan and Papadopoulos, the president said that ''obviously (they are reacting) because they don't like the outcome''.
''We rely on the Secretary-General that he will make every effort so that the talks will be well prepared,'' he added.
The joint communiqué issued after the meeting on February 28 noted that ''the leaders of both communities have agreed that bicommunal discussions on a series of issues, agreement on which is needed for the benefit of all Cypriots, will be undertaken at the technical level''.
The communiqué also noted that ''the Secretary General and Mr. Papadopoulos also agreed that it would be beneficial for all concerned and would greatly improve the atmosphere for further talks if progress could be achieved on further disengagement of forces and demilitarization of the island, on the complete de-mining of Cyprus and on the issue of Famagusta.''
Asked if it is possible that Annan changes his position due to pressures by Ankara, Papadopoulos said that ''the Secretary General's position is clear'' and outlined in the joint communiqué.
''Without Turkey's consent and cooperation he (the UN SG) cannot go on,'' Papadopoulos concluded.
 Cypriot President briefs National Council
NICOSIA, 15/3/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos gave the members of the National Council on Tuesday a full briefing on developments regarding the EU regulations for the Turkish Cypriots, the results of his meeting in Paris with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and his talks in Athens with the Prime Minister and political leadership of Greece.
Replying to questions after the meeting of the National Council, top advisory body to the President on the handling of the Cyprus problem comprising parliamentary parties, Government Spokesman George Lillikas said the Council's view is that ''we must work, help in any possible way so that the UN Secretary General's efforts are successful,'' adding that the aim was not for the Cyprus problem to turn into a matter of ''public relations'' on the international scene.
Reading a statement issued after the meeting, Lillikas said the president replied to National Council members' questions and that all members, apart from the United Democrats, expressed satisfaction for the results of the Paris meeting and expressed their support to efforts to resume the process for the preparation of negotiations to solve the Cyprus problem.
Lillikas said the United Democrats disagreed with the last part of the statement, meaning that the party did not share the satisfaction of the other parties regarding the Paris meeting and did not express support to the efforts to resume the process for the preparation of talks.
Asked if the president intended to brief the Democratic Rally (DISY), which is currently abstaining from the National Council meetings, Lillikas said the place to be briefed was the Council and expressed regret that DISY was not present.
Replying to questions on the Turkish stance regarding the Paris meeting, Lillikas said the Turkish side has not given the green light to Annan to start a process leading to talks.
''We should keep in mind that it is Turkey that is responsible for the non solution of the Cyprus problem,'' he said, adding that ''we want the process agreed in Paris to be implemented.''
Lillikas noted that ''for us it is important that this initiative will be undertaken, to provide a continuity for the mobility that has begun for the setting up of committees with representatives of the leaders of the two communities in order to begin an effort to bridge differences, so that a new process of talks will have real prospects and potential to reach an agreed solution, and it is in this direction that we are working.''
 PACE new rapporteur on Cyprus elected
NICOSIA, 15/3/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)Joachim Horster, chairman of the German delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe was elected Tuesday rapporteur on Cyprus by the Political Committee of PACE which met in Paris.
He replaces Hungarian MP Mattias Eorsi and according to reports, he was clearly ahead of his rival, Lithuanian delegation chairperson Birute Vesaite.
Cyprus was represented at the committee by Cypriot delegation chairperson Doros Christodoulides and member Christos Pourgourides.
The same reports said that the voting took place, despite the objections of the Turkish delegation and the Turkish Cypriot observers who wanted a postponement of the voting until April to give them enough time to study the biographies of the two candidates.
However, the voting took place following the insistence of the Cypriot delegation.
 British MPs express concern over Turkish proposals in Early Day Motion
NICOSIA, 15/3/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)British MPs have submitted before the House of Commons an Early Day Motion on Cyprus, saying that the purpose of recent Turkish proposals on Cyprus is to evade Turkey's legal obligations towards the EU in respect of the extension of the additional Protocol of its Customs Union Agreement to the 10 new EU members including Cyprus.
The Motion also calls upon Turkey to commit itself to a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement in Cyprus in accordance with UN resolutions, the founding principles of the EU and its obligations to the EU as an applicant member.
In an Early Day Motion tabled last week, before the House of Commons, MP's Edward O' Hara, Alan Meale, Rudi Vis and David Lepper say that the House "takes note of the set of proposals on Cyprus submitted by the Turkish government to the Secretary General of the United Nations on 20 January 2006, shares the stated wish of the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs for priority to be given to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement in Cyprus and his gratification at the continued engagement of the Secretary-General with the matter".
The Motion "notes with concern however the proposals for a quadripartite meeting between Turkey, Greece, the Greek-Cypriot side and the Turkish Cypriot side, the outcome of which would subsequently be endorsed by the Security Council of the UN".
The MPs note that "this as an attempt to elevate the secessionist Turkish Cypriot administration to the same status as the legitimate Government of the Republic of Cyprus as an attempt to involve the UN in what is properly a matter of Turkey's responsibilities to the EU as an applicant member".
The MPs further note in the motion "with concern the proposal to render legitimacy to the secessionist entity by granting it governmental functions in contravention of international legality and successive UN resolutions".
The Motion says the House "regretfully concludes that the purpose of these proposals is to evade Turkey's legal obligations towards the EU
in respect of the extension of the additional Protocol of its Customs Union Agreement to the 10 new EU members including Cyprus and calls upon Turkey to commit itself to a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement in Cyprus in accordance with UN resolutions, the founding principles of the EU and its obligations to the EU as an applicant member".
 Finnish Premier to pay official visit to Cyprus
NICOSIA, 15/3/2006 (CNA/ANA)Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen arrives in Cyprus on Wednesday for a two-day official visit.
Vanhanen begins his meetings on Thursday where he will be received by President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos. After an official welcoming ceremony and a meeting of the two, there will be official talks.
The Finnish premier will then depart for a meeting with House of Representatives President Demetris Christofias. He will then meet the chairman and members of the House Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and then he will depart for the Presidential Palace for a working lunch. Statements to the press will follow.
Vanhanen, whose country assumes the EU presidency at the end of the Austrian term, will visit the UNFICYP headquarters and meet the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and Chief of Mission Michael Moller.
He will go on a guided tour in the buffer zone and then attend a reception in his honor hosted by Finland's ambassador to Cyprus Risto Piipponen.
He departs from Cyprus Thursday evening.