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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-03-16
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 16, 2006
 Karamanlis-Verhofstadt meeting on EU issues, Cyprus
ATHENS, 16/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met visiting Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt on Wednesday for talks that focused on European Union issues and the Cyprus problem.
Karamanlis said that Greece and Belgium both supported European integration and had similar views on this issue, stressing the need for faster progress in political unification and active promotion of deepening within the EU, which has lagged behind enlargement.
Noting that Euro-zone countries might have a special role in this process, Karamanlis also reiterated that the concerns of Europe's citizens must be taken into account as regards the European Constitutional Treaty.
According to the Greek premier, his talks with Verhofstadt covered issues such as EU enlargement, the Lisbon strategy, the situation in the Balkans and the Cyprus issue, as well as Turkey's EU accession prospects.
Verhofstadt confirmed that the two countries approached the idea of European integration in the same way. Speaking about economic and social governance, meanwhile, he underlined that the countries with a common monetary policy could contribute to integration and the future of Europe.
The Belgian premier said that the meeting had been an opportunity to discuss issues that will be considered at the EU summit next week, as well as the Cyprus issue.
Verhoftstadt underlined Belgium's great interest in the Cyprus problem and said that it was time to seek a solution within the framework of the United Nations, while referring to the need for cooperation and understanding between the two communities on the island.
President meets visiting Belgian premier, minister: President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday received Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, who is in Athens for a working visit, and Tourism Development Minister Fani Palli-Petralia.
 Greece and Libya to begin talks on marine exploitation zones
ATHENS, 16/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece and Libya have agreed to begin bilateral talks to clarify the extent of the marine area in which Libya can grant oil exploration and exploitation rights, the Greek foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
Responding to questions, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said the matter had arisen after the Libya National Oil Corporation (NOC) had included an area in seas south of Crete, including the islet of Gavdos, within its own marine economic exploitation zone, as shown in a map published on the NOC's website.
According to Koumoutsakos, the map shows territory and marine zones in Libya and, more generally, areas where the NOC considered that it could concede oil exploration and drilling rights.
The size of the map was such as to suggest that Libya might have rights to the economic exploitation of areas south of Crete and the islet of Gavdos, he added.
The foreign ministry had therefore immediately taken action on a ministry and political level to clarify these points on the map.
As a result, given the friendly relations between Greece and Libya that were further cemented during a recent visit by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, the two sides had agreed to talks between experts from both countries to clarify the issue, Koumoutsakos said.
 Greece decides against purchase of additional F-16s
ATHENS, 16/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA) on Wednesday decided against the purchase 10 additional F-16 Block 52+ fighter planes, available as an option under a previous agreement for the procurement of 30 aircraft of the same type.
Following the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, Defense Minister Vangelis Meimarakis announced that KYSEA had decided against the additional purchase "with respect for the money of the Greek people and Greek taxpayers and a sense of responsibility, so as not to disrupt the balance of power and the fighting capacity of the Greek Airforce."
At the same time, the Council had voted to continue the implementation of its 2005 decision for the purchase of the original 30 fourth-generation F-16s.
Meimarakis said that a committee will be set up to assess the operational aspects and the cost factors and would make its recommendation to the next KYSEA so that it could decide the next moves concerning the procurement.
The defense ministry stressed, meanwhile, that the decision to waive the option for the 10 additional F-16 Block 52+ planes would in no way affect the approved future structure of the Greek Airforce, which calls for the acquisition of 60 modern fighter jets.
Commenting on the decision, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said the purchase of the 30 original F-16s preserved the balance of power, which remained unchanged in the region over the long term.
"There is also the economic aspect of the issue. Given that there is no change to the balance of power in the Aegean, it was judged that we should respect the money of Greek taxpayers," he said.
Responding to questions about a possible Eurofighter aircraft purchase, the spokesman stressed that KYSEA had decided on the purchase of "a specific number of 60 aircraft" and that the F-16 deal had begun the process for acquiring the first 30.
There now remained the task of deciding on the purchase of the additional 30, which must be fourth-generation planes. The specific type of plane would be decided at the next KYSEA meeting, the spokesman said.
Roussopoulos also pointed out that there had been no change to the total number of aircraft that Greece would purchase, only a decision not to use an option to purchase an additional 10 F-16s.
According to the spokesman, the number 60 preserved the balance of power and, in fact, slightly improved on the 7:10 ratio of the past in Greece's favor. The government had therefore decided against using the option, he added.
Main opposition's reaction: Christos Papoutsis, head of the Foreign Policy, Security and Defense Division of the main opposition PASOK's Political Council, accused the government on Wednesday of running the country 'without a plan', commenting on the government's decision to not purchase 10 additional F-16 Block 52+ fighter planes.
"First they [the government] made the decision to proceed with the purchase of the F-16s with a process that was direct and not transparent, undermining the country's economy and the future funding of the social state, now they speak of respect for Greek taxpayers' money," Papoutsis said, commenting on the decision reached by the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defense (KYSEA) earlier on Wednesday and comments made by Defense Minister Vangelis Meimarakis.
He accused the government of "unreliable policies, lack of planning and irresponsible choices that hurt the country's prestige and interests."
 PM Karamanlis to meet development minister, ND Parl't Group Sec.
ATHENS, 16/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will meet in succession on Thursday morning with the Parliamentary Group Secretary of the ruling New Democracy (ND) party, Apostolos Stavrou, and Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas.
The premier will then meet at noon with Piraeus Mayor Christos Agrapidis and shortly afterwards with the Consultative Committee of the "Niarchos Foundation".
 Former Greek premier George Rallis dies of heart failure
ATHENS, 16/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Former Greek Prime Minister George Rallis died of heart failure on Wednesday at the age of 88.
He was a scion of one of Greece's great political families, whose father and grandfather had both served as Greek prime ministers in their time.
Rallis was first elected into Parliament in 1950, as an MP for Athens with the Peoples Party, and the last time he ran for election was in April 1990.
He was given a ministerial post for the first time in 1954 and served at various times as minister of state, transport and public works, interior affairs, public order, minister to the Prime Minister's Office, education and religious affairs, Coordination and the foreign ministry, before taking over as prime minister at the head of a New Democracy government on May 10, 1980 until October 21, 1981.
As foreign minister of Greece, he had handled the process for the country's accession to the then European Economic Community.
Condolences: Messages of condolences over the death due to heart failure of former Prime Minister George Rallis on Wednesday were extended by President Karolos Papoulias, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and party leaders.
President Papoulias said in his message "we are all mourning today the loss of a politician who played a leading role at a time when Greece was facing great challenges. The political and personal course of George Rallis is sealed by his love for the motherland and his faith in a Greece with a better future."
Karamanlis characterized Rallis "a consistent fighter for democracy, an indefatigable servant of public interest and of political wisdom, measure and moderation, who linked his long course in public life with great and historic moments of our motherland."
Parliament President Anna Benaki-Psarouda said "his splendid career has been sealed by his adherence to democratic institutions, honesty in managing public affairs, boldness in implementing political innovations, outspokenness and a high sense of responsibility in whatever post he was summoned to serve."
Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou said Rallis was a political personality "who contributed decisively to the shaping of a smooth transitional political life, having the experience of the troubled pre-dictatorship years and their repercussions for the country and the Greek people."
Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party leader Alekos Alavanos said Rallis was "one of the central political personalities during the first years of the transition from dictatorship to Parliamentarism", adding that "despite the political differences that existed, the Left has appreciated his sincerity."
Former prime minister and ruling New Democracy Honorary President Constantine Mitsotakis said "George Rallis served the country's public life for over 50 years with morality, consistency, absolute unselfishness and faith in his principles. We found ourselves side-by-side in common struggles, we cooperated closely and we gave battles for the country and our great liberal-democratic party."
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga on Wednesday addressed a message to ruling New Democracy party Central Committee secretary Lefteris Zagoritis, expressing warm condolences over the death of former Prime Minister George Rallis to his family and to ND's Central Committee.
 Ericsson exec: Complex, intruder and 'non-Ericsson' software behind Vodafone buggings
ATHENS, 16/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Parliament's investigation of an unprecedented mobile phone-tapping plot focused squarely on telecoms giant Ericsson on Wednesday, as the head of the Swedish multinational's subsidiary in Greece flatly denied that his company had any involvement in the creation, installation or use of "rogue" surveillance software detected in Vodafone Greece's network.
The statement by Ericsson Hellas Managing Director Bill Zikou was included in a written memorandum submitted to members of Parliament's institutions and transparency committee, as the panel of MPs, a top-priority judicial probe and a parallel investigation by an independent telecommunications authority continue to hunt for the persons that bugged scores of Vodafone mobile phone numbers, including one used by the Greek prime minister himself, among others.
"Ericsson first detected the phone tapping and immediately informed its client, Vodafone," Zikou's written statement began.
He added that Ericsson began delivering a new version of its software on Jan. 20, 2003, including "essential components" of software for low-phone interception (LI), which he identified as "RES in non-operative mode", while at the same time fully briefing Vodafone technicians of the components and all information included in the software.
Zikou, who later proceeded to answer questions, said Vodafone Greece ordered the full LI software for legal surveillance on Oct. 31, 2005, whereas Ericsson delivered it on Nov. 18, 2005. In explaining the procedure for activating the LI software's capability, the Ericsson executive said additional hardware was also needed along with the activation of password-driven access.
"When Vodafone Greece ordered the LI software on Oct. 31, 2005, none of the aforementioned actions had been performed by Ericsson, nor had the necessary hardware and software been delivered to Vodafone, something only done on Nov. 18, 2005," Zikou said, while offering his opinion on the methods in which the surveillance was accomplished:
"What occurred with the phone-tapping incident is that a complex, complicated, alien, non-Ericsson software was imbedded in Vodafone Greece's network. The non-Ericsson and intruder software used the essential components of the LI software, RES in a non-operative mode, as well as using other general usage components of the system. This complex and alien non-Ericsson software bypassed the need for using access passwords, while also bypassing the requirement of using additional software, hardware and other security modes. That's why we say that this intruder software created an illegal surveillance system and allowed the ability for illegal phone-tapping," Zikou explained, while noting that the software also had the ability to hide its existence, its record logs and surveillance operation.
Finally, he stressed that Ericsson "has nothing to hide", inviting both the Authority for the Protection of Communications Privacy (ADAE) and Vodafone to inspect the company's facilities in Greece.
Zikou's testimony -- which was continuing in the early afternoon -- comes days after the CEO of Vodafone Greece, George Koronias, told the same Parliament panel that Vodafone had at no time purchased the suspect software used to carry out the illegal phone taps.
In partially mirroring his Ericsson counterpart's view days earlier, Koronias stressed that the individuals responsible for the bugging had to have extremely high technical expertise, before adding "a deep knowledge of Ericsson's programming environment" as well. In contradiction, however, to Zikou's statements on Wednesday, Koronias had told the committee last week that Vodafone Greece had "not requested, ordered and not received" the legal low-phone interception program developed by Ericsson.
Koronias merely noted that the low-phone interception program was added to Ericsson's systems at the request of its customers after the September 11 attacks, while he underlined that the costly service had not been purchased by Vodafone.
Koronias also emphasized that the Greek mobile-phone provider had never been officially aware of the inactive low-phone interception software's presence in its systems, but that supplier Ericsson did know of its presence.
During the second day of Koronias' testimony, New Democracy MP for Larissa Christos Zois said he was unconvinced that Ericsson had supplied Vodafone with upgraded software without having informed the company, or that Vodafone had not found out from other sources.
Koronias, however, insisted that the company's leadership -- himself and the technical director -- had been unaware of the surveillance software's existence.
He was unable to definitely say whether system supplier Ericsson had thoroughly checked both centers where the 'rogue' software was found, nor whether Ericsson was able to remotely detect phone-taps.
The unprecedented mobile phone-tapping affair was revealed by the government early last month, after almost a year-long covert investigation by authorities failed to find those responsible. The government said the roughly 100 mobile numbers that were tapped included those of ministers, high-ranking police and armed forces officers, journalists, business people, anti-war and anti-state activists, a handful of Arab men in Athens and even one US embassy employee.
 Yiannakou to attend informal meeting of EU education ministers in Vienna
ATHENS, 16/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)National Education and Religious Affairs Minister Marietta Yiannakou departs on Thursday for Vienna to take part in a two-day informal meeting of the European Union's Education Ministers Council, which will take place on Thursday and Friday in the context of the Austrian EU presidency.
On the sidelines of the informal meeting, Yiannakou is expected to have meetings with counterparts from the other 24 member-countries of the EU, as well as with those from the countries of the Western Balkans, who are taking part for the first time at an informal meeting of EU education ministers.
In Vienna on Wednesday, presenting the topics of the informal meeting, the presiding Austrian education minister stressed that the aim of the meeting is a decision for an Education Pact with the Balkans.
 Greece reiterates support for Afghanistan's reconstruction
NEW YORK, 16/3/2006 (ANA-MPA)Greece's permanent representative to the United Nations, Amb. Adamantios Vassilakis, on Tuesday reiterated Athens' commitment to continuing its political, military and financial assistance towards Afghanistan.
Vassilakis, who was speaking before a session of the UN's Security Council focusing on the situation in Afghanistan, said Athens has offered five million dollars to the country as developmental aid, as well as assuming the reconstruction of Kabul's museum.
"Afghanistan and its people deserve a future in an environment of peace and prosperity, and they will have our full support in the long road that awaits them," he said.
Greece is a non-permanent member of the current UN Security Council.
 Foreign Affairs Committee promoting draft resolution on enlargement at European Parliament
STRASBOURG, 16/3/2006 (ANA-MPA)The Foreign Affairs Committee, with its German president, Eurodeputy Elmar Brok, as rapporteur is promoting a draft resolution at the European Parliament stressing that "the EU's capacity to absorb must now be a precondition for whatever new enlargement."
The proposal, which will be brought before the Plenum for voting on Thursday, specifically concerns the Commission's strategy on enlargement.
The report's individual chapters make special reference to Turkey, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and other countries in the western Balkans.
Addressing the Plenum, Brok said "the situation is very difficult" due to the fact that the European Constitution has not been ratified. He added that the meaning of absorption until now has the character of a mere statement, but believes that the meaning of absorption must now be clarified.
Consequently, the resolution calls on the Commission to submit a report by December 31, 2006, with which it will "present the principles supporting and determining the absorption capacity."
 Eastern Macedonia-Thrace Region opens representation office in Brussels
BRUSSELS, 16/3/2006 (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)The Region of Eastern Macedonia-Thrace announced on Wednesday that it will soon be opening its representation office in Brussels.
With the opening of the representation office, the Region hopes to tighten relations with the European Commission and the Committee of Regions and to capitalize on its participation in the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe (CPMR).
"What is becoming increasingly clear to all parties participating in programs co-funded by the European Commission is the importance of networking - the creation of alliances and steady cooperation with the related agencies of other member-states, participation in international organizations, and a physical presence through presentations, events and delegations at the European Commission's headquarters, where decision-making centers are based," Secretary General for the Eastern Macedonia-Thrace Region Michalis Angelopoulos said.
The office will open on March 22, while representatives from the region are also scheduled to meet with Commission officials and eurodeputies on the same day.
 Gov't spokesman on religious symbols in public services
ATHENS, 16/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Minister of State and Government Spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, asked by reporters on Wednesday to comment on a proposal by the main opposition Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) for the abolition of the oath and of all religious symbols from public services, said "for the government there is no issue of such changes."
The spokesman added that as he has been informed, "there are disagreements" on the issue within in PASOK.
 Greece to continue structural reform program until 2008, FinMin says
ATHENS, 16/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Greek government will continue its structural reform program in the economy until 2008 with the aim to cut the country's fiscal deficit to 1.7 pct of GDP, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister said the government would reduce the fiscal deficit to 2.6 pct in 2006 and 2.3 pct in 2007, after a 4.3 percent ratio in 2005.
Alogoskoufis said there some pending issues with Eurostat on the methodology used to measure data by pension funds and municipal authorities and stressed that a positive evaluation of the country's Stability and Growth Program by the European Union, and a positive recommendation by an ECOFIN council on Tuesday justified the government's policy and proved that a Stability and Growth Program for the Greek economy was reliable.
He added that EU Finance ministers did not ask for new measures but to reduce fiscal deficits in the process of the four-year program.
Alogoskoufis said tax revenues rose 6.4 percent last year, exceeding a budget target of a 5.0 percent growth rate, while tax revenues grew by 17 percent in the first two months of the year. The Greek minister acknowledged it was difficult to maintain similar growth rates throughout the year, but efforts would continue towards this direction. Higher tax revenues reflected effective tax inspections, mainly to large enterprises, Alogoskoufis said.
The Greek minister met earlier with representatives of the two largest trade unions in the country, GSEE -Greece's largest trade union umbrella- and ADEDY -civil servants' union- and reiterated that pay increases included in a government's incomes policy for 2006 were the maximum the budget could afford and was compatible with a government policy of reducing the fiscal deficit below 3.0 percent of GDP this year.
Alogoskoufis noted that the government would not take part in collective pay talks but it was supporting the institution of collective pay negotiations.
The Greek minister announced that the unemployment rate fell to 9.7 pct of the workforce in the fourth quarter of 2005. Alogoskoufis predicted that the unemployment rate would end below 10.0 percent last year.
Gov't spokesman on the economy: The government's economic policy will succeed in reducing the public deficit to below 3% of GDP thus leading to a future that is based on stability, responsibility and strategy, Government Spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said on Wednesday when asked to interpret the prime minister's televised message on Tuesday after the Ecofin Council meeting in Brussels.
"We were called upon to 'clean up' the economy, this will in turn lead to an economy that is more competitive, more outward-looking, and which will create better prospects for the future of all citizens," he said, noting that the course of public finances is related to the course of the public's individual finances.
Regarding the European Union finance ministers' observation relating to the implementation of agreed upon social security reforms, Roussopoulos replied that "nothing has been done secretly."
"The government has declared that it is beginning a dialogue so that we can prevent problems rather than treat them. If previous governments had shown the same daring we wouldn't have as many economic problems as we discovered in 2004," he said.
PASOK party spokesman criticizes government economic policy
Main opposition PASOK party spokesman Nikos Athanassakis on Wednesday criticized the government spokesman, the finance minister and the government for "continuing to jubilate over the supposedly great success concerning the decision taken by ECOFIN", adding that "working people, farmers, small and medium-size businesses, pensioners and the unemployed are not jubilating."
Athanassakis also said that "they want to sell hope once again and the same lies" and pointed out that "they are confirming their unreliability and concealing their real policy with which they are placing burdens on the many every day and reserving gifts for the few."
The PASOK spokesman went on to say that "the economy, the country and the working people are paying on a daily basis for the so-called fiscal audit of Alogoskoufis-Karamanlis, the supervision and deadlocked one-way path of ND."
Lastly, Athanassakis said that "the government, the prime minister and the finance minister, instead of jubilating for no reason, must give an account to the Greek people."
 Government on 24-hour strike called by trade unions
ATHENS, 16/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The government did not ignore or overlook the everyday problems of Greek citizens, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos stressed on Wednesday, when asked to comment on a 24-hour general strike that had gripped almost the entire country, affecting public transport, hospitals, schools and many state services.
"Knowing the problems, we have looked Greece citizens in the eye and told them how we intend to deal with them," he said regarding the strike's "message" to the government.
"Already, in the past two years (of ND's government) there have been results and, at the end of 2006, the effort will have borne its fruit, which many did not expect. The 'Cassandras' will not be vindicated and the government assures the Greek people that their sacrifices have not been in vain," the spokesman added.
The strike was called by the two largest trade union organizations in the country, the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) representing two million workers and the civil servants' union ADEDY, to seek pay rises and protest about measures seen as undermining labor rights, especially collective agreements.
Trade unionists reported a very large turnout for the strike, which much higher participation than in past labor action, as well as for two rallies organized in the centre of Athens and other large cities.
In their address to the Pedio tou Areos rally, GSEE President Christos Polyzogopoulos and ADEDY president Spyros Papaspyrou said that workers were sending a clear message to the government and employers.
Polyzogopoulos stressed that workers had reached the end of their tether, while unions had no more tolerance for the policies being followed. Slamming what he called the government's neoliberal policies and a "brutal redistribution of wealth" in favor of the rich, he also warned banks to begin negotiations with the bank workers' union OTOE as soon as possible and the government to change a policy of forcing striking seamen back to work and to solve their problems by the end of March.
The rally, which was large in spite of heavy rain in the morning, was followed by a march, in which many trade union organizations participated, as well as a delegation from main opposition PASOK.
Minor scuffles with riot police at the end of the march in Syntagma were quickly broken up after the intervention of trade unionists led by Polyzogopoulos and Papaspyrou.
A separate rally and march was held earlier by the trade union bloc PAME, affiliated to the Communist Party of Greece. This also included thousands of workers, pensioners and young people that gathered at Syntagma Square at 11:00 and then marched to the U.S. Embassy.
Those venturing out in Athens on Wednesday faced huge traffic jams as most of the city's public transport was either on strike or running reduced services, forcing Athenians to use their cars.
 European Commissioner on World Consumer Day
BRUSSELS, 16/3/2006 (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)European Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou stessed the Commission's role in ensuring that consumers' right are respected across the EU, on occasion of World Consumer Day on Wednesday.
"There are now 450 million consumers in Europe. Their expenditure represents over half of EU GDP. They are key to economic growth and creating jobs. And yet there is an EU-wide lack of consumer confidence when it comes to cross-border transactions," he said.
"A solid legislative framework has to be complemented with enhanced consumer information and education at EU level, to shift from consumer protection to consumer empowerment," he added.
"My vision of EU consumer policy combines legislative action with a long-term commitment to consumer education and empowerment," Kyprianou said.
He referred to initiatives the Commission has taken thus far to this end, which include European training courses for personnel of consumer organizations, the development of interactive web-based education tools for adults, the distribution of the European Consumer Diary to schools in all EU member states and the future launch of European Masters degrees in consumer issues.
On the legislative front, Kyprianou said that over the past 15 years, the Commission has pushed through a large number of sector-specific pieces of legislation, citing the General Product Safety directive as an example.
"It [general product safety directive] puts in place the RAPE× notification system for unsafe products and is the basis of further decisions on specific products, such as child-resistant lighters. Dangerous substances such as the use of phtalates in certain toys and children's products have been banned thanks to EU legislation," he explained.
"Measures guaranteeing increased cooperation between national authorities to enforce EU consumer protection laws on behalf of all European consumers will be operational at the end of this year to help combat cross-border scams," he added.
Finally, he also referred to the network of European Consumer Centers which are available for consumers who wish to file a complaint against a company in another member state.
"The centers assist citizens in the exercise of their rights as consumers and provide for easy access to redress in cases where the consumer has purchased an item in a different country. There are now European Consumer Centers in 24 countries across Europe, with another three planned to open before the end of this year, to then cover all member states plus Norway and Iceland," he said.
Papandreou on Consumer Rights Day: Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Wednesday stressed the important part played by consumer movements and citizens, in his message for International Consumer Rights Day.
He said that PASOK's actions and systematic work were building "relations of trust" with consumer movements and the general public, so that "we can win this difficult battle".
"In a global society and economy, the consumer movement has an important role to play in public health issues, product safety, food quality and the setting of prices," he noted.
"Today, when the policies of (ruling) New Democracy are allowing anarchy and profiteering in the market while at the same time shrinking the income of Greek citizens, the role of the consumer movement acquires additional significance, as does the more general participation of citizens in matters that concern their daily lives," Papandreou underlined.
 ENAE president says Greek consumers 'feel more secure'
ATHENS, 16/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)On the occasion of World Consumers' Day, Union of Prefecture Administrations of Greeece (ENAE) President Fofi Gennimata said on Wednesday that "in an era when matters concerning the nutrition chain have developed into issues of top priority for the consumers, the growth of consumers' awareness in Greece constitutes a hopeful development."
Gennimata stressed that the prefecture local governments throughout the country "give a great struggle for the protection of consumers, something which is recognized by the citizens who feel more secure."
 Cabinet ministers seek better coordination in tourism policy
ATHENS, 16/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Tourism minister Fani Palli-Petralia on Wednesday met with Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas and discussed tourism development through a better coordination of policies.
Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, Sioufas said the talks focused on sides of a new development law covering the tourism sector and joint actions by the two ministries.
Mrs Palli-Petralia stressed that the goal was not to lose not one penny this year from a Competitiveness Business Program and reiterated that tourism was a foundation for the regional development of the country and the economy.
The two ministers announced a new meeting soon, to include Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Evangelos Basiakos.
Mrs Palli-Petralia, earlier, had visited the President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.
 Deal signed for road construction project in Patra
ATHENS, 16/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Ministry on Wednesday signed an agreement for road construction in the region of Patra, Pelopponnese with the company "Michaniki S.A.". The project is at the cost of 80 million euros.
Environment Minister George Souflias in statements said that the road construction project, which will start immediately, "is the third, very important, major project which we are starting in Achaia prefecture," noting that "the citizens of Achaia have been waiting for this for ten years."
He said the total budget of the three projects (road network, water supply and the covering up of the Diakoniari Torrent) amounts to 270 million euros.
Souflias emphasized that the three projects "constitute the biggest public works construction program which the Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Ministry has ever undertaken in Achaia prefecture."
 Greek employment index up 1.1 pct in 4th quarter 2005, yr/yr
ATHENS, 16/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece's employment composite index rose 1.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2005, compared with the corresponding period in 2004, the National Statistics Service said on Wednesday.
NSS said the index rose 1.1 percent in the October-December period from the previous quarter.
Unemployment reaches 9.7 pc in fourth quarter of 2005, finance minister says: Unemployment registered in the fourth quarter of 2005 amounted to 9.7 percent, according to Finance and Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis, who added that during the year 2005, in general, unemployment will be below 10 percent.
The minister made special reference to the issue of unemployment at the ECOFIN council in Brussels on Tuesday and told the country's partners that all necessary measures were taken after the 2004 Athens Olympic Games to avoid the recession of the economy and an increase in unemployment.
"The economic policy was a success," Alogoskoufis told the partners.
 Resignation of DEPA president rejected
ATHENS, 16/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas on Wednesday turned down the resignation of Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) President Rafael Moysis.
Moysis had submitted his resignation to DEPA's board on Wednesday, for personal reasons.
The development minister, who contacted Moysis, told him that he rejects his resignation and called on him to continue being DEPA president and offer his services. something which Moysis accepted.
 Greek stocks rebound on Wednesday
ATHENS, 16/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greek stocks rebounded on Wednesday, after Tuesday's sharp fall, pushing the composite index 0.53 percent higher to end at 4,047.48 points in the Athens Stock Exchange.
Turnover was an improved 320.9 million euros. Most sector indices ended higher with the Raw Materials (4.60 pct), Financial Services (3.37 pct), Technology (3.0 pct) and Oil and Gas (2.79 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day. On the other hand the Travel and Leisure (0.81 pct), Chemicals (0.54 pct) and Commerce (0.19 pct) suffered losses.
The Big Cap index rose 0.10 pct, the Mid Cap index soared 2.23 pct and the Small Cap index ended 1.55 pct higher.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 203 to 63 with another 55 issues unchanged.
The stocks with the highest turnover were Hellenic Petroleum, National Bank of Greece, OPAP, Alpha Bank and OTE.
Foreign Exchange Rates: Thursday
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.212
Derivatives Market Close: Intracom top in stock futures trade
Equity Index Futures:
Bond Market Close: Buyers lag sellers
 Authorities remain on alert for Evros flooding
ATHENS, 16/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Evros River's water level fell to 6.58 meters, well above the 5.70 meter emergency level, keeping local authorities in the northeastern Greek prefecture on alert and residents worried.
"Today the situation remains crucial with some encouraging developments, such as the reduction in the volume of water coming to us from Bulgaria," Evros' Deputy Prefect Michalis Kougioumtzis told the ANA/MPA.
"There is an improvement, but levels remain above the emergency level," he said.
"There are many problems from Vissa down to southern Evros and at this time, efforts are being made to prevent further flooding of fields," he continued.
Great efforts are also being made by rescue teams, the fire brigade, the police and the army to save 1,000 lambs and goats which are trapped in the region of Sofiko.
 Greek demarche to Bulgaria over Evros flooding
SOFIA, 16/3/2006 (ANA/MPA - B. Borisov)The Greek Ambassador in Sofia Prokopios Mantzouranis on Wednesday lodged a demarche with the government of Bulgaria, asking them to take all measures in their power to limit the volume of water flowing into Greece from the rivers Ardas, Evros and Erythropotamos.
Acting on instructions from Greek Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, the ambassador informed the Bulgarian foreign ministry of the extensive flooding caused in the prefecture of Evros by the huge quantities of water released on the Bulgarian side of the border.
On Tuesday Greece had asked that Bulgaria stop releasing water from its dams to Greece for at least 24 hours.
The Bulgarian side stressed that it fully sympathized concerning the seriousness of the situation and was doing everything in its power to satisfy the Greek request. Bulgarian officials also underlined their country's desire for a more permanent solution to the problem, which had devastating consequences for the populations of the area, and that this had been discussed in talks between Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and her Bulgarian counterpart Ivaylo Kalfin.
 Public transport covering 50 pc of travel in Athens target over next two years, transport minister says
ATHENS, 16/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Transport and Communications Minister Mihalis Liapis, addressing an event organized by the Greek-French Chamber on "Urban transport systems and improving the citizen's day-to-day life" on Wednesday, made a review of work achieved in the public transport sector in the Attica region over the past two years.
Liapis also referred to targets set over the next two years, during which the effort will be continued on the firm foundations set during the past two years.
The minister said that the main pylon of government policy is "public transport as an option and not a need", with the aim of discouraging the use of private-owned cars in downtown Athens.
Liapis revealed that about 2.7 million people are currently using public transport in Athens, a figure that corresponds to 41 percent of total travel on a daily basis, compared to about 33 percent in 2004. The target is to increase this percentage to 50 percent over the next two years.
Liapis to meet with municipalities union on Thursday: Funding of regional public transport, the inappropriate placing of antennae and traffic violation fines are the three issues that Transport and Communications Minister Michalis Liapis will discuss when he meets with the leadership of the Central Union of the Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE) on Thursday.
Regarding funding of regional mass transport, KEDKE said that it is a serious issue which mainly involves putting an end to the injustice done to a large part of the Greek population living in the provinces.
As for the inappropriate installation of antennae, KEDKE said that it will ask for the ministry's cooperation to address this issue which can pose a health hazard to residents.
Finally, on the issue of traffic violation fines, KEDKE will ask the ministry for access into its vehicles' database and a reduction of the parking violation fine which currently stands at ¬ 65 and which KEDKE - and the public - considers excessively high.
 The song 'Everything' to represent Greece at 51st Eurovision Song Contest in Athens on May 20
ATHENS, 16/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece will be represented at the 51st Eurovision Song Contest, due to take place at the Athens Olympic Stadium on May 20, with the song "Everything", sung by Anna Vissi. She also wrote the lyrics of the song, while the music was composed by Nikos Karvelas.
The song was chosen with a ballot and garnered 47.79 percent of preferences of the public and the critics committee after Vissi sang all four songs shortlisted for the final.
The songs heard received the following percentages of votes:Everything 47.79 percent, Welcome to the party, with music by Dimitris Kontopoulos and lyrics by Dimitris S., 26.32, Who cares about love, by Nikos Karvelas, 13.72 and The beautiful night, with lyrics and music by Pigasos, 12.6.
The national "Feel the Party" final was held at the "Votanikos" music hall on Tuesday night in a spectacular setting. The presentation was made by actress Zeta Makrypoulia and actor George Kapoutzidis who, with guidance by Fokas Evangelinos, reminded the public of previous Eurovision song contests.
Vissi expressed her enthusiasm over the choice of the song, characterising it a ballad that "overturns the usual rhythm of Eurovision songs", adding that "it is a quiet song but one with great internal strength."
Greece is hosting this year's Eurovision Song Contest after winning last year's contest with the song "My number one", sang by Elena Paparizou.
 UN special envoy cannot always have Turkey's liking, says Pashiardis
NICOSIA, 16/3/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)Undersecretary to the President Christodoulos Pashiardis on Wednesday said he wondered whether Turkey's reaction to Special Representative of the UN Secretary General and Chief of Mission Michael Moller was a reaction to what was agreed in Paris last month between Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos and UN SG Kofi Annan.
Replying to questions after Wednesday's cabinet meeting chaired by President Papadopoulos, Pashiardis said that every UN special representative cannot always have the approval and be liked by Ankara.
"I truly do not know whether Ankara is reacting to the specific person or possible it has reasons to react, maybe due to what was agreed during the recent meeting of the President of the Republic and the UN SG in Paris", he added.
In any case, Pashiardis said, "every special representative cannot have the partiality and approval of Ankara, unless Ankara wants the Special Representative to the UN to exclusively serve its interests".
 Annan speaks with Turkish FM about Paris meetings
NICOSIA, 16/3/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)UN Secretary General Kofi Annan spoke with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul on 5 March to discuss the Paris
meetings, UN Secretary General's spokesman Stephane Dujarric has said.
Annan met Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos in Paris, February 28, to review the situation in Cyprus and discuss ways of moving forward the process of reuniting the island.
Asked whether the Secretary-General recently spoke to the Prime Minister of Turkey, as reported in the Turkish media, Dujarric said "I have not been made aware of any conversation with the Prime Minister since the return from Paris. The Secretary-General, however, did speak with Foreign Minister Gul on Sunday, which I believe was 5 March, in the afternoon".
Asked what Annan and Gul discussed, Dujarric replied "they discussed the Paris meetings."
A joint statement issued after the meeting in Paris said ''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 Secretary General and President Papadopoulos expressed their common hope that these discussions would help restore trust between the two communities as well as prepare the way for the earliest full resumption of the negotiating process,'' the statement added.
 Ereli: We welcome steps that will lead to Cyprus negotiations
16/3/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)US State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli has said the US welcomes steps by both sides that would lead to more intensified negotiations and discussions on the basis of the Annan plan.
Replying to a question regarding a statement by US Senator Olympia Snowe, who applauded the steps that the government of Cyprus and President Tassos Papadopoulos have taken to encourage a just and lasting solution to the Cyprus division, Ereli replied "we certainly welcome steps by both sides that would lead to more intensified negotiations and discussions on the basis of the Annan plan".
 Ambassador says US support Cyprus process
LIMASSOL, 16/3/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)US Ambassador to Cyprus Ronald Schlicher said Wednesday that the United States will support the UN and the parties in the process that they agreed on towards a Cyprus settlement, adding that ''what the United States supports is a solution that is going to result in the reunification of the island in a bizonal bicommunal arrangement that the majority on each side agrees with.''
Speaking during a visit to Limassol Municipality, Schlicher said ''the engagement of the parties in the UN, in the process on which they have agreed, is of course a very dramatically positive event and we very much look forward to the UN getting the parties together and starting to work in the technical committees as soon as they can.''
''We, as the United States, intend to support that effort in any way that the UN and the parties seem fit. I expressed to the UN as well our willingness to lean forward in that regard, so we very much hope that the parties will get down to business and start working as soon as possible,'' he added.
Schlicher said ''we are not going to interfere in any process, what we are going to do is support the UN and the parties in the process that they agreed on and the essential thing is to get that process underway as soon as possible and then we will see what request for support the USA gets,'' adding that ''we are very eager to accommodate the request that we receive in that regard.''
He also expressed certainty that officials from Washington will be visiting Cyprus in the next few months.
''If there are any clarifications that have yet to be made from one side to the other, I hope that the people who have questions will sit down with (Special Representative of the UN Secretary General and Chief of Mission Michael) Mr. Moller and the UN and get the clarifications that they need so we can get to work in the committees,'' he said.
Schlicher noted that ''what the United States supports is a solution that is going to result in the reunification of the island in a bizonal bicommunal arrangement that the majority on each side agrees with, that is what we support and we want to find the quickest possible ways to get there.''
Referring to his visit to Limassol, he said he met with Mayor Demetris Kontides, the town's business community and the Cypriot-American community, ''to get an idea of what the major issues are.''