|Tuesday, 25 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-03-21
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 21, 2006
 PM, transport minister discuss OA
ATHENS, 21/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Monday received Transport Minister Mihalis Liapis at his office for talks focusing directly on the issue of debt-ridden national carrier Olympic Airways (OA) and implementation of recent legislation aimed at reforming several state-run utilities and enterprises (DEKO) under the transport ministry's jurisdiction.
Afterwards, Liapis told reporters that the government is again considering the creation of a new company for beleaguered OA, a new company able to operate under private sector criteria and management. He added that a draft proposal will soon be tabled with the European Commission.
The European Court of Justice in February 2005 ruled that Greece had not taken all measures necessary to secure repayment of aid granted to Olympic Airways over several years in the 1990s, while also noting that such aid was incompatible with the common market -- a ruling that concluded a case brought by the European Commission against Athens. The ruling subsequently added urgency to efforts by the new Karamanlis government to end years of loss-making performances by the bloated national carrier.
The case stemmed from a European Commission decision in 1998 approving aid granted by a PASOK government under Costas Simitis for OA's restructuring between 1998-2002.
In 2002 the Commission initiated a further procedure on grounds that the restructuring plan had been applied and that certain conditions envisaged in the decision approving the aid had not been met. As the information supplied by Greece was judged as inadequate, the Commission then pointed to an infringement, claiming, furthermore, that more aid being pumped into the state-run airline company.
Regarding the DEKO law, Liapis said the government will soon begin talks with relevant employees' unions in order to begin reforms, while he stressed that whatever changes aren't aimed chipping away at employees' rights or benefits but at improving conditions and especially state-run companies' often dire finances.
Finally, he said a report by an ad hoc committee of university professors regarding telecoms security will be released this week.
 Justice minister briefs premier
ATHENS, 21/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Justice Minister Anastasis Papaligouras on Monday told reporters that a fugitive felon initially wanted for a drug smuggling conviction, but also implicated in the shadowy election and subsequent dealings of former Jerusalem patriarch Irineos, will be returned from Italy in the next few days.
Papaligouras referred to the extradition of Apostolos Vavylis, a convicted drug smuggler that later surfaced in 2000 in Jerusalem as an aide and supporter of Irineos. The latter was deposed in June 2005, following serious charges of financial mismanagement, particularly the alleged covert long-term leasing of several Patriarchate properties in east Jerusalem to Israeli interests.
The minister made the statement after exiting a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
Papaligouras also noted that a cashiered former judicial magistrate implicated in an unprecedented trial-fixing scheme cannot remain in hiding forever. His comments referred to fugitive Antonia Ilia.
Regarding another former fugitive charged in the same more-or-less case, Constantina Bourboulia, the minister said he believed the latter would soon realize that it was in her best interests to cooperate with judicial investigators.
Bourboulia, cashiered as a judicial magistrate following charges that she accepted bribes to scuttle numerous probes into millions of euros worth of illegal stock market transactions during the heyday of the Athens Stock Exchange's bubble in the late 1990s, fled to France, from where she was extradited to Greece earlier in the month. She currently remains jailed without bond pending trial.
Regarding his meeting with the premier, Papaligouras said he briefed Karamanlis on a draft bill aimed at combating domestic violence, a draft bill on speeding up the judicial process in administrative courts as well as a draft bill envisioning the creation of a judicial law enforcement corps.
36 judges face possibility of suspension: The Supreme Court's Highest Judiciary Council will decide on Thursday whether or not to suspend 36 judges and officials of the prosecutor's office for either failing to submit means statements or for their involvement in judiciary corruption.
 Bakoyannis calls for 'cautious targets' at upcoming EU summit
BRUSSELS, 21/3/2006 (ANA/MPA )Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Monday said that EU leaders should be cautious in setting targets for implementing the Lisbon Strategy when they meet for the EU summit later this week. Bakoyannis is currently in Brussels to represent Greece at the EU Council of Foreign Ministers.
Specifically, Bakoyannis said that it would be better not to set "quantitative targets" which might be difficult to implement immediately.
She also noted that there was currently no agreement between EU member-states on this issue, while expressing hope that a "golden mean" for achieving agreement might be found at the Summit.
Regarding the European prospects of the western Balkans, which were discussed by EU foreign ministers on Monday, Bakoyannis stressed that the message sent by the EU must be clear:
"Serbia needs the support of the EU, so that positive messages for the future will be written in the new page that is now turning," the Greek minister told the Council, while underlining that there could be no stability in the Balkans if Serbia was unstable.
Regarding the situation in Kosovo, Bakoyannis stressed the need for a policy that provided protection for minorities.
She also noted Greece's support for the liberalization of EU visa policies for western Balkan countries that is supported by EU enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn.
Stressing that this was more a political than technical issue, Bakoyannis said that the EU should open avenues of communication with the people of western Balkan states.
On the sidelines of the ministers' council, Bakoyannis held meetings with EU Commissioner for the environment Stavros Dimas and the Commissioner for Administrative Affairs, Audit and Anti-Fraud Siim Kallas, in order to discuss the promotion of Greek candidates to the higher echelons of Community hierarchy.
"The Greek presence in the EU is excellent from the point of view of quality," Bakoyannis noted, while stressing that the Greek foreign ministry will do its utmost to support the chances of able Greeks to take over higher positions within the EU.
 OECD-DAC chairman briefed on Greek aid program
ATHENS, 21/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The chairman of the OECD's Development Assistance Committee (DAC) Richard Manning visited the Greek foreign ministry in Athens on Monday for a mutual briefing on developmental aid programs being carried out by Greece and the DAC.
Meeting Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis, Manning noted that Greece had notable developmental activity in its immediate neighborhood, the Balkans and the Black Sea that is viewed positively by the DAC.
Stylianidis said that Greece has granted developmental aid to 46 countries, with the associated spending approaching 0.23 percent of GDP - which was the European rate - or ¬ 464 million per year.
"The meeting with Mr. Manning gave us the opportunity to present the Greek contribution and plan new initiatives with the DAC, which will allow us to express our humanity to countries in need," Stylianidis later told reporters.
After meeting Stylianidis, Manning had a meeting with ministry staff and representatives of non-governmental organizations. The meeting was also attended by the foreign ministry's newly appointed General Secretary for International Economic Relations and Developmental Cooperation Theodoros Skylakakis, who made his first official appearance in his new post.
Manning, on his part, stressed the need for effective management of international developmental aid, stressing the special role that can be played by the local institutions within the aid-receiving country and calling for best possible coordination between aid donors and receivers.
Monday's briefing was part of a procedure to monitor Greece's implementation of the commitments it undertook in the developmental aid sector leading up to November, when Greece will be subjected to a Peer Review in 2004 and 2005 in Paris, which this year will be carried out by New Zealand and Luxembourg. This is the second Peer Review for Greece since it joined the DAC.
 DM gives joint press conference with Bulgarian counterpart
SOFIA, 21/3/2006 (ANA-MPA)Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis, speaking at a joint press conference with his Bulgarian counterpart Veselin Bliznakov at the end of their talks here on Monday, said the creation of the Regular Combat Formation is a very important issue and that, apart from its operational dimension, this European Union formation also has great political significance.
The Bulgarian minister stressed the importance given by his country in participating in the European formation. Bliznakov said it is a new considerable direction in traditional defense cooperation between the two countries which has been continuing successfully for 20 years.
Bliznakov also expressed his country's appreciation for Greece's steadfast support for Bulgaria's accession to NATO and the European Union, pointing out that Greece was among the first member-states to ratify the Accession Treaty of Bulgaria and Romania.
Meimarakis said he was pleased with the very good level of bilateral relations and with dynamic defense cooperation, adding that the bilateral program being carried out by the two ministries this year is the widest that Greece is implementing with another country.
Replying to a question on the plan to purchase 30 new combat aircraft, Meimarakis said the government will be examining both the defense and economic parameters before taking its final decision.
"According to the laws of our country and serving our defense potential and after we examine all parameters and following the proposal by the air force general staff, we will hold discussions at the collective government bodies and take the final decision. Always with national interest as the criterion, as every country does," Meimarakis said.
 Public Order Minister on the Balkans
SOFIA, 21/3/2006 (ANA-MPA)Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras discussed Balkan countries' fight against terrorism and organized crime as well as their EU candidacy during an interview on Bulgaria's state television network on Monday.
Polydoras, who is currently in Bulgaria on occasion of the informal regional meeting of southeast European ministers of the interior, security and public order, said he was pleased that Bulgaria and Romania will soon become equal EU partners, adding that Greece has ratified their accession treaties.
He noted that the EU fully encourages coordination of action among Balkan countries in the fight against terrorism and organized crime.
Referring to the informal ministerial meeting, Polydoras said that both issues - terrorism and organized crime - were discussed, as was the political volition of southeast European countries to solve these problems in order to secure economic development, peace, citizens' prosperity and their EU accession prospects.
Finally, the minister also referred to the strengthening of relations both on a bilateral and regional level, strengthening commercial cooperation, and harmonizing national legislation with EU laws and furthering cooperation in police training issues.
 Government replies to Papandreou on youth unemployment
ATHENS, 21/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)In a reply on Monday to main opposition PASOK's leader George Papandreou - who on Sunday had called on Greece's youth to follow the example of protesting young people in France and become "rebels with a cause" - government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos reminded reporters of Papandreou's proposals in the run-up to the 2004 elections that young people should work without social insurance.
"To dispel all attempts to distort the truth, Papandreou in Lavrio on January 20, 2004 had said that all young people aged up to 25, that were high-school or technical school graduates, should be able to be hired by any sort of business, without either the businesses or the young people themselves having to pay social insurance contributions. For university and technical college leavers, the age limit could be 29 years," Roussopoulos said.
"These things were not said by Mr. De Villepin (the French premier backing the unpopular youth employment bill in France) nor the president of the Union of Greek Industry (SEB). They were said by the president of PASOK, who in a display of political surrealism is now calling on young people to rebel against him," the spokesman added.
Noting that the government "was telling the Greek people the truth, tidying up fiscal indices with the smallest possible cost and had reduced unemployment below 10 percent while maintaining steadily high rates of growth and establishing conditions for a true increase in the income of Greeks," Roussopoulos drew unfavorable comparisons with PASOK, "which as government for 20 years had vastly exacerbated the current crucial problems of the economy and society and systematically lied to the voters and the country's European partners".
In response to questions, the spokesman said that Papandreou was trying to "remove inalienable rights" that had been won with hard battles in previous centuries and could not just be scrubbed out in the 21st century.
"I realize that PASOK is trying to correct its pre-election gaffe, which Papandreou recently repeated in Parliament. I do not think it can be corrected. He must come out and plainly state that he was wrong," Roussopoulos noted.
He also referred to government measures to alleviate the plight of debtors who had fallen behind with loans saddled with very high interest payments, noting that the measures had benefited 63,220 debtors, of which 54,000 were farmers.
Of these, debt write-offs came to ¬ 1.8 billion, of which ¬ 1.1 billion were farmers' debts, and the percentage of debts written off came to 70 per cent of the total, on average, the spokesman said.
 Papandreou: Next elections will bring PASOK to power
ATHENS, 21/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Addressing a gathering near the town of Amfilochia in western Greece on Monday, main opposition leader George Papandreou said that the next elections would bring PASOK to power because of a voter backlash against what he called New Democracy's "assistance to parasitic Greece, oligarchy and middlemen".
Papandreou also referred to the problems faced by tobacco-growers - a key crop in the area - and accused the government of not having carried out any negotiations to support tobacco growers at the European Union, , thus losing ¬ 150 million "overnight".
More generally, he accused Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis of not making any effort to boost the agricultural sector during negotiations for the 4th Community Support Framework, unlike Portugal, so that Greece ended up losing funds for agriculture.
Government spokesman: Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, commenting on Monday on the speech made by main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou in Amfilohia, central Greece, said that "they are mistaken in PASOK if they think that inaccuracies, the distortion of the truth and black propaganda, to which they are resorting to lately, will remain without a reply."
The spokesman added that "Mr. Papandreou must realize that those who linked 20 years of governance to the lack of transparency and to serving interests, those who nursed the parasitical economy, the oligarchy and middlemen will not succeed in transferring the historic responsibilities placed on them elsewhere."
Roussopoulos concluded by saying that "Mr. Papandreou and his party must realize, at last, that you can deceive some for a short while but you cannot deceive everyone continuously."
 Cyprus House of Representatives Speaker in Athens on Tuesday
ATHENS, 21/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Cyprus' House of Representatives Speaker Dimitris Christofias will be arriving in Athens on Tuesday to meet with Greek political leaders.
Christofias is scheduled to meet with President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, Parliament President Anna Psarouda Benaki, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and opposition leaders.
He will also be addressing Cypriot students of the University of Athens, while on Thursday he will travel to Thessaloniki where he will give a lecture at the University of Macedonia.
 Doctors of the World protest building of West Bank wall
ATHENS, 21/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The "Doctors of the World" organization organized a protest event at the Pantio University in Athens on Monday night concerning the social and political repercussions of the wall being built by the Israelis on the occupied West Bank of the Jordan River.
The "Doctors of the World" said they were voicing their sensitivity, resulting from their experience, and highlighting problems arising from the wall the Israelis began to build in 2002.
The length of the wall is expected to exceed 622 kilometers, while 308 kilometers have been completed so far and it has been estimated that its length will be double that of the "green line" separating the West Bank from the state of Israel.
 European Commission responds to request for support of poultry markets
BRUSSELS, 21/3/2006 (ANA-MPA)The European Commission responded positively to requests re-introduced by Greece and other EU member states for the adoption of measures to support poultry markets in light of the avian influenza threat, during the Agricultural and Fisheries Council meeting held here on Monday.
According to Minister of Agricultural Development and Foods Evangelos Bassiakos, European Commissioner responsible for Agriculture and Rural Development Mariann Fischer Boel said during the meeting that she will be able to propose specific measures when the Council next convenes in April.
The support measures Greece requested also include an awareness campaign to help consumers regain their confidence in the poultry sector. Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos has made a related request to Margot Wallstrom, the European Commission's Vice President for Institutional Relations and Communication Strategy.
Bassiakos met with Boel, at which time he discussed issues related to the implementation of the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
During his meetings with EU counterparts, the Greek minister discussed addressing the crisis currently facing the poultry sector.
 Gov't ministers discuss port improvement projects
ATHENS, 21/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Monday met with Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis and discussed plans to improve Greek port facilities through the promotion of joint ventures between public and private sector companies.
 Greek statistical data significantly improved, Commission spokeswoman says
21/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greek authorities have largely covered any gaps and shortfalls in a system of collecting statistical data for the Greek economy, Amelia Torres, a spokeswoman for EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, said on Monday.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Mrs Torres said she did not wish to be involved in a political confrontation in Greece on whether the country fulfilled the necessary economic criteria to enter the euro currency, but stressed that everyone knew the significant reviews of Greek statistical data made in the past.
"Today, however, the situation has improved significantly," Mrs Torres said, adding that community and Greek authorities were still in consultations over certain statistical data of local authorities and pension funds.
The Commissioners' spokeswoman also reminded that since the first problems with Greek economic data were noticed, the European Union has adopted a wide strategy both in European and national level, such as higher authorities to Eurostat -the EU executive's statistics agency- so to be in a position to identify faster and more effectively any such problems in the future, along with decisions taken by an EU Ministers' Council to boost the credibility of national statistics services.
Mrs Torres said Greece's accession in the euro currency was agreed by EU heads of state on the recommendations made by the European Central Bank and the European Commission. These recommendations were based on economic data submitted by the Greek authorities.
"What is important now, is that Greek statistical data's quality has improved significantly," the Commission's spokeswoman said, adding that the foundations have been placed to prevent any similar problems in the future.
 Poll shows Greek workers disapprove of govt, employers' moves
ATHENS, 21/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)A clear message of disapproval of employers' pay offers and of the government's labor policy was sent by GSEE -the country's largest trade union umbrella- with a poll presented by GSEE's president Christos Polyzogopoulos on Monday.
The poll, conducted by Metron Analysis, showed that 61.9 pct of workers disapproved of the government's offer to raise pensions, 64.5 pct were negative on pay offers for wages, 64.3 pct disapproved measures to combat price increases in domestic markets, 66.5 pct were against measures to combat unemployment and 59.3 pct disapproved measures to reform the pension system.
The poll showed that 67.8 pct of workers said the government's new legislation favored mainly employers, and only 6.4 pct said they favored workers.
Only 4.1 pct of responding people said employers' proposals to abolish a national collective labor agreement was a positive move while only 6.9 pct said they were in favor of abolishing sector labor agreements.
A 83.7 pct of respondents said the best policy to combat unemployment in crisis-hit regions was the raise public and private investments, while only 2.3 pct said an employers' proposal to freeze wages and to abolish collective labor agreements were positive moves.
Commenting on a recent massive wave of mobilizations in France, Polyzogopoulos reiterated that Greek workers' unions supported French workers' demands and stressed that Greek workers would not accept any negative moves on the labor, economic and pension rights of young workers.
Polyzogopoulos said that if employers adopted the proposals made by SEB's president Odyseas Kyriakopoulos at the two sides' next meeting on Wednesday, then a clash would be inevitable.
 Rise in French tourists to Greece
PARIS, 21/3/2006 (ANA/O Tsipiras)The number of French tourists to visit Greece has risen in recent years, the head of the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) in France, Stephanos Mavrokordatos, said.
In 2005, 730,000 French visitors came to Greece, up from 650,000 in 2004, and the target for 2006 was 800,000, Mavrokordatos noted.
A key target was to show Greece as a holiday destination for all seasons, not merely the summer, he added.
On Sunday, an international tourism trade fair directed at the public ended in Paris. Greece participated with about 300 square meters.
 Greek chemicals sector rapidly growing, report
ATHENS, 21/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The chemical product sector is one of the more rapidly growing sectors of Greek manufacturing, with production indexes -compiled by the National Statistics Service- rising by 18.2 pct in the period 2000-2004, while Greek exports rose by 12.8 pct in the first 10 months of 2005 to 11.24 billion euros, a report by Hellastat said on Monday.
Exports of chemical products totaled 1.68 billion euros in the first 10 months of 2005, up 23.92 pct from the same period in 2004, contributing a 15 percent to the final value of Greek exports, Hellas tat said in its report.
The Greek chemical product market's value grew by 14.3 pct in 2004 and 12.8 pct in 2003, based on an analysis of the results by the sector's 294 enterprises. Concentration in the sector is limited, with the top 10 enterprises accounting for 29.5 pct of total revenues, while enterprises with revenues above 3.0 million euros recording strong growth rates in the period 2002-2004.
The year 2004 was a period of strong growth for the sector. Hellastat said the 294 companies reported revenues totaling 1.5 billion euros, up 14.34 percent from 2003. Earnings totaled 78.24 million euros, up 14.3 pct, with 85 pct of companies in the sector reporting profits, 40.5 pct reporting improved results, and 33 pct lower results.
 Intralot signs new contract in Moldova
21/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Loteria Moldovei, a subsidiary of Intralot in Moldova, on Monday announced the signing of a contract with Moldcell, a subsidiary of Turkcell in the country.
The contract envisages offering of Lotto game services using SMS in mobile telephony in Moldova.
Intralot said it has successfully operated a similar project with Voxtel, Moldova's leading mobile telephony operator owing 64 percent of the market. The number of mobile telephony subscribers in Moldova reached 900,000.
 Exports promotion board to focus on quality
ATHENS, 21/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Hellenic Exports Promotion Organization said on Monday that it would focus on quality rather than price in its action strategy for 2006.
The move was to attract interest in Greek products abroad, the export board's deputy director in Thessaloniki, George Papasteryiopoulos, said in the northern port city.
A key issue was packaging, which needed to be upgraded to compete with similar foreign products, Papasteryiopoulos noted.
Other priorities were participation in trade fair and business delegations, accompanied by a program named Kerasma to link Greek foods through the country's cuisine and tourism, he added.
 Athens Bourse Close: Stocks rise on smaller cap buying
ATHENS, 21/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Athens share index closed at 4,174.53 points, showing a rise of 0.63%. Turnover was 271.0 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.27% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 3.02% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 3.55% up.
Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 216 to 61 with 48 remaining unchanged.
The stocks with the highest turnover were Alpha Bank, Piraeus Bank, OPAP, Emboriki Bank, and National Bank of Greece.
Derivatives Market Close: Intracom top in stock futures trade
Equity Index Futures:
Bond Market Close: Buyers match sellers
Foreign Exchange Rates: Tuesday
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.227
 U.S. President George W. Bush issues proclamation on Greece's March 25 national anniversary
WASHINGTON, 21/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)A proclamation by U.S. President George W. Bush concerning the celebration of Greece's March 25 national anniversary was issued by the White House on Monday, as has been customary in past years in the framework of the recognition by the United States of the contribution made by Greek Americans and Greece.
"On Greek Independence Day, we are celebrating the proud heritage of the Greek Americans, we are recognizing the longstanding friendship existing between Greece and the United States and we are reconfirming our common desire to spread freedom all over the world," the proclamation said.
"Greece is the birthplace of democratic principles and the history of modern Greek independence proves the strength of freedom. On March 25, 1821, the Greek rebels proclaimed their independence from the Ottoman Empire after centuries of imperial governance. This courageous act began an 11-year war to secure the freedom of the Greeks and their recognition as a sovereign state," it added.
The proclamation further noted that "strong cooperation and friendship has developed between Greece and America and our nation has benefited from the contribution of Greek immigrants. The hard work of Greek Americans has made our country stronger and has affected our literature, arts, businesses, politics, education and entertainment."
 Asylum applications to Greece on the rise, UN reports
21/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Asylum applications to Greece increased significantly in 2005, bucking international trends showing a slowdown of asylum applications to industrially developed countries, according to figures released by the UN High Commission for Refugees.
These were contained in a report issued by the UNHCR on Friday.
Citing figures from the Greek public order ministry, the report said that Greece received 9,050 applications for asylum in 2005, representing an increase of 102 percent relative to the 4,469 such applications received in 2004.
The increase was attributed to the faster recording to asylum applications by authorities and improved procedures toward individuals who had expressed a desire to apply for asylum but were still waiting for their request to be registered officially.
The majority of those requesting political asylum in Greece in 2005 came from Eastern Europe, chiefly from Georgia, the Russian Federation and the Ukraine. These represented 3,184 applications or 35.2 per cent of the total.
Applications submitted by Iraqis and Afghan nationals fell as a percentage of the total, accounting for 10.71 percent and 5.06 percent, respectively, of all applications received in 2005. In absolute numbers, however, they remained roughly level. Applications from Iraqis and Afghans accounted for 20.94 percent and 8.55 percent of total applications received in 2004.
Worldwide, the UN reported a steady drop in total asylum applications to 50 industrially developed countries over the past five years, which in 2005 reached the lowest point in two decades and was 49 percent lower than in 2001.
The largest group of asylum-seekers in 2005 came from Serbia and Montenegro, including Kosovo, followed by the Russian Federation, including Chechnya. China is in third place, followed by Iraq and Turkey. The largest increase in asylum-seekers among the top 10 countries generating political refugees were Iraq (27 percent) and Haiti, while the numbers of Turks and Afghans seeking asylum has continued to decrease.
 President Karolos Papoulias visits dam in central Greece
21/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)President Karolos Papoulias visited the dam in Plastiras Lake at Itamos municipality at noon on Monday and was given a guided tour by local authorities. President Papoulias was welcomed by the mayor of Itamos Thomas Skambarthonis who made an analytical presentation of the region's basic characteristics.
The mayor also commented on the dam, referring to details concerning its construction, its potential and the benefits it will provide for local inhabitants.
"I feel amazement, not surprise by the beauty of the landscape. Indeed, it has nothing to envy central Europe for. It is a place of unique beauty. It can only be compared with another region in our country: Ipiros. It looks very similar but you are more advanced with the dam here," President Papoulias said.
President Papoulias further said that "this progress is continuing with politicians who have the desire to push Greece ahead. This project shows the prospects of progress that our country has. Without education there can be no development and without development there can be no progress."
 Thessaloniki prefecture to close in protest on Wednesday
ATHENS, 21/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Thessaloniki prefecture authority will be closed on Wednesday in protest over the region's problems and to demand a cash injection of at least ¬ 40 million.
Thessaloniki Prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis said that the prefecture needed ¬ 20 million urgently in order to cover its debts for schools that have been built and are in use, while the remainder is needed to cover short-term needs in both the school-building program and other areas of the prefecture's responsibility.
All prefecture services will be closed on Wednesday except the motor vehicles testing service KTEO and the Citizens Service Centers, but a skeleton staff will be in place to cover emergency needs.
Psomiadis, who was elected on a ruling-party ticket, said the prefecture was dissatisfied by the state of schools in the Thessaloniki area, traffic problems, unemployment and poor infrastructure but stressed that the closure was not a form of censure of the present government, which could not be held responsible for the mistakes of the previous governments and administrations.
 Less educated people threatened by poverty, report
ATHENS, 21/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Less educated citizens faced more risk of becoming poor, a report by the National Statistics Service, based on a sample of family budgets for the period February 2004-January 2005, showed on Monday.
The report said education played a vital role in reducing poverty, with 83.7 pct of poor Greeks reported as illiterate or having finished high school, while the relative rate for non-poor Greeks was 47.3 pct.
Non-poor citizens that have finished high school are 0.70 times more than the relative rate for poor, while non-poor with a doctorate degree are 24 time more than poor.
These figures show that the higher the education level by household members, the less danger they faced in becoming poor.
The survey was conducted on a sample of 6,555 private households with 17,386 members around the country.
 New CAT scan unveiled at Church-run medical centre in Tirana
TIRANA, 21/3/2006 (ANA-MPA)A new cutting-edge computer tomography unit (CAT scan) has begun operation in Albania, and specifically at the Orthodox Medical Diagnostics Centre here, a non-denominational institution founded and operated by the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania.
The unit was presented during a brief ceremony on Saturday attended by the Archbishop of Tirana and All Albania Anastasios, as well as Albanian Health Minister Maksim Cikuli, Labor Minister Kosta Barka and Greek ambassador to Tirana P. Karkabatsis.
 Red Cross program again to host children from former Yugoslavia
ATHENS, 21/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Greek Red Cross will again host children from the former Yugoslavia, aged eight to 16, during the summer vacation season this year, and specifically from July 7 to Aug. 7.
The program marks the third year in a row that the Greek Red Cross will cooperate with the Serbian Red Cross in hosting the youths.
Municipalities from around the country are participating as are dozens of host families.
 Visitors throng to Kastellorizo for total solar eclipse
ATHENS, 21/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Hordes of visitors, among them notable scientists, are expected to arrive in Kastellorizo this month in order to view the total eclipse of the sun on March 29. According to experts, the island will offer the best views of the eclipse throughout Europe.
According to the local mayor Pavlos Panigyris, all lodgings on the island have been booked and ferry companies are planning additional routes to cope with the increased traffic.
 Another Turkish migrant smuggler nabbed on Samos
ATHENS, 21/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)A third arrest of a Turkish migrant smuggler since the beginning of the year was reported on Sunday by authorities on the eastern Aegean island of Samos, one of the closest Greek isles to the Turkish coast in western Asia Minor.
According to reports, the Turkish man was arrested as he was dropping off nine illegal immigrants -- Afghans and Iranians -- on a remote beach located on the isle's northwest.
The suspect was identified as one Ilian Yanai. He is due to face a local prosecutor. The illegals were taken to a reception centre on the isle.
 Event to mark World Water Day at Syntagma Square
ATHENS, 21/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The General Secretariat for the New Generation and the National Youth Council have organized a series of artistic events at Syntagma Square on Wednesday, March 22, to celebrate World Water Day.
These will include a concert where musicians will simulate the sounds of water, rain and the ocean, film screenings, visual art and slide shows, a photography exhibition, group painting and theatre workshops, all using water as their central theme.
All the events will take place between 11:00 and 14:00.
 Soccer: Greek soccer results
ATHENS, 21/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Matches played over the weekend for the Greek first division soccer championship had the following results:
Xanthi - Olympiakos Piraeus 1-0
Kallithea Athens - AEK Athens 1-4
Akratitos Athens - Levadiakos Livadia 0-0
Apollon Kalamaria - Ionikos Piraeus 2-1
Iraklis Thessaloniki - Egaleo Athens 4-2
Panathinaikos Athens - OFI Crete 3-1
Atromitos Athens - Larissa 0-0
Panionios Athens - PAOK Thessaloniki 0-1
The standings after 24 weeks of play:
Apollon Kalamaria 31
 Cypriot government ready to implement Paris agreement
NICOSIA, 21/3/2006 (CNA/ANA)Cypriot Government Spokesman George Lillikas said on Monday unfortunately Turkey has not given the go ahead to implement the decisions agreed during the Paris meeting between Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Lillikas added that the Greek Cypriot side insists that it is ready to implement everything that was agreed any time, noting "we are not worried that Turkey will gain something, provided that we will not be damaged by it."
Replying to questions, Lillikas said that it is "important for us that Turkey gives its consent to enable the UN Secretary-General put into effect everything that was agreed and to start the procedure that was agreed upon in Paris."
For us it is not so important whether this takes place today or after the meeting Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul will have with UN SG Kofi Annan or his counterpart Condoleezza Rice, Lillikas remarked.
"We insist on everything that was agreed and we are ready to put them into effect any time that the SG invites us," the Spokesman added.
Asked if he has any information from the UN on the forthco-ming meetings of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to Cyprus and UNFICYP Chief of Mission Michael Moller, Lillikas said "in order for an agreement to proceed it demands good will and political readiness from both sides."
"We do not have any information, and I do not want to turn this into a 'blame-game' and start apportioning responsibilities," said Lillikas.
"What we are interested in is to give a real chance to this procedure, to allow time and the ability to the UN and all other countries which want to play a positive and constructive role to address Turkey and persuade the country to consent to starting the procedure," the Spokesman concluded.
 US not to recognize illegal regime, says Cyprus Spokesman
NICOSIA, 21/3/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)Washington has given Nicosia firm assurances that it will not, under any circumstances, recognize the self-styled Turkish Cypriot regime, in occupied Cyprus, Government Spokesman George Lillikas said here on Monday.
He also said that the US administration has said that they recognize only one government in the Republic of Cyprus, that of President Tassos Papadopoulos.
Commenting on a letter by eight Congressmen to the US Secretary of State expressing their deep concern for the administration's plans to promote direct trade with the occupied north of Cyprus, Lillikas said he was aware of these efforts by the members of Congress.
Lillikas said there are American products as well as products from other countries in the market in the occupied areas. "Direct trade in the sense of direct flights to the occupied part of the island or docking of ships does not exist," he added.
Answering a question, Lillikas said "we have formal assurances from US administration officials that the US will not recognize, under any circumstances, the illegal regime. They also assure us that they recognize only one government in the Republic of Cyprus."
 Cypriot government questions Soyer's motives during enclaved visit
NICOSIA, 21/3/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)Government Spokesman George Lillikas said on Monday the symbolism given by the various moves such as that of the visit to the occupied areas of United Democrats leader Michalis Papapetrou and his meeting with the enclaved, accompanied by so called prime minister and leader of the Republican Turkish Party Ferdi Sabit Soyer, is very important.
He also expressed concern that the picture sent out by such meetings might be exploited by the regime, in the framework of its efforts to upgrade its status and wondered in what capacity Soyer noted down the enclaved people's problems and how he intends to solve them.
Answering questions, Lillikas said the "government was not informed" on Papapetrou's trip to the occupied areas, noting that political leaders do not usually inform the government and that it is up to them to let the government know on their trip to the occupied areas.
Noting that he is aware of Papapetrou's statements, Lillikas said "what is very important is the picture which emanates as well as the symbolism from the various moves and how these may be exploited by the illegal regime."
"The government is handling and promoting a solution of the problems of the enclaved through the right procedure, the UN. It is hard for me to understand under which capacity he (Soyer) can note down problems and under which capacity he will solve them," the Spokesman stressed.
 Spokesman: EU aid regulation defines way to channel money to TCs
NICOSIA, 21/3/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)The EU financial regulation for Turkish Cypriots defines the way the funds will be made available in the occupied areas and the provisions of the regulation concerning the control and procedures to channel the financial assistance will be implemented said here Monday government Spokesman George Lillikas.
Commenting on reports that the head of the European Parliament-Turkey Contact Group conveyed a demand by the Turkish Cypriots to the European Parliament for the EU to establish an office in the occupied areas that will handle the 139 million euros, Lillikas said the EU has an office in the Republic of Cyprus in Nicosia.
He added that based on the "Accession Treaty of the Republic of Cyprus with the EU, the whole of the Republic of Cyprus territory has acceded, and the implementation of the acquis has been suspended in the occupied areas."
Asked if the financial regulation defines how the money will be made available, Lillikas said "surely it defines them. The regulation's provisions for both the control and procedures to channel the economic assistance will be implemented, as well as the preconditions set, meaning that no euro will be spent on Greek Cypriot property."
The EU Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) reached a decision on the financial regulation for the Turkish Cypriots in February, as well as the terms under which the regulation for direct trade with the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus could be achieved.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory.