|Friday, 28 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-03-27
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 27, 2006
 Reforms will continue, PM says after EU summit
BRUSSELS, 27/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Reforms in Greece will continue and the government would neither back down nor back out, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis stressed on Friday, underlining that this was a top priority so that the country might make up for lost ground.
Speaking after a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels that discussed the Lisbon strategy, Karamanlis said the summit had pledged to make greater investment in knowledge and innovation, to ease the way of small and middle-sized businesses, unlocking their potential, and to increase job opportunities for vulnerable groups, like women and older people.
He said the target was to preserve the European social model and environmental quality through an improvement in competitiveness and by boosting European economies.
For Greece, in particular, he noted that the reform effort had "started from a relatively low position recently" so that Greece had more ground to cover than its other EU partners.
"For this reason, the efforts of the present government as outlined in the National Reforms Program are for all us Greeks a top priority issue. The reforms we have already carried out and are carrying out are the cornerstone of government policy," Karamanlis underlined.
Asked if the government might "water down" planned reforms for loss-making public utilities burdening the state sector, the premier said there would be no compromise:
"The program will be implemented because, above all, it serves the interests of Greek citizens," he said.
Pointing to a meeting by government ministers on Thursday, meanwhile, he said this sent a clear message regarding the commitment to carrying out reforms and stressed that much had been achieved in two years.
The Greek premier was careful to separate his position on labor issues from that of his French counterpart Dominique de Villepin:
"We should not necessarily adopt ideas that exist in other countries. The initiatives taken by the government on labor issues are satisfactory and are being implemented. The key is how to make Greece more attractive for investments, how to overcome bureaucratic obstacles that remain after the steps already taken, how to make it produce more and export more without disrupting social peace and cohesion. Even the most ambitious reforms program cannot work if it is not supported by society," Karamanlis stressed.
He made it clear that the conclusions of the spring Summit did not contain views concerning employment for young people like those being promoted in France, saying only that young people that fail to complete their education should be assisted by specific policies.
Regarding a summit reference to measures for discouraging early retirement, Karamanlis said the government did not intend to take immediate measures for the social insurance and pensions system but was seeking to initiate dialogue on this issue, so that all aspects of the problem might be laid out "mathematically" and not questioned by anyone.
He said that social insurance reform was not a pressing issue at this time, though a well-organized state had an obligation to plan ahead.
Questioned on the government's 'fiscal audit' policy and statements made by Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis concerning the conditions of Greece's entry into Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), the prime minister urged reporters to look up the views of the EU finance ministers' council held in December 2004:
"There is no doubt that the country had very acute fiscal problems. It did not deal with this in the way it should have done but by sweeping debts under the carpet. The problem must be resolved once and for all. The effort we are making is a serious one and has had notable results," he told reporters.
Karamanlis referred to the goal to reduce the deficit to below 3 per cent of GDP and said that the National Reforms Program submitted to the EU was accepted with relative satisfaction and was now in 7th place.
 Greek PM backs common EU energy policy
BRUSSELS, 27/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis backed the common energy policy agreed by European Union leaders during the spring European summit held in Brussels on Friday and said that "economic nationalism" should not be allowed to sabotage efforts for European unification.
In statements after the summit, the Greek premier underlined the need for the "balanced coexistence of security, energy supply, efficiency and viable growth".
He also noted that recent developments in a "fluid international environment" made a common European strategy for energy even more imperative.
Karamanlis said that the summit had given him an opportunity to stress the importance of creating regional energy markets, while he referred to the example implemented in the Balkans, with the energy community of Southeastern Europe and the treaty that was recently signed in Athens.
While backing a common European energy policy in general lines, however, he also stressed the need to respect the particularities of each country.
Karamanlis said that Europe had to move faster and more efficiently, while adding that the 25-member EU was a mechanism operating on consensus and cohesive processes that often ran up against conflicting views and interests.
Asked if he was satisfied with the decisions made by EU leaders on Friday concerning revisions to the Lisbon strategy and the delays that have occurred, Karamanlis said that he might have had higher expectations but pointed out the many different angles existing within Europe.
Commenting on recent efforts by EU member-states to protect their state utilities from cross-border takeover bids, the Greek premier stressed that this 'protectionism' should not interfere with the course of European unification.
Asked if Greece intended to take similar measures to prevent the sale of state companies like Olympic Airlines or the Public Power Corporation (PPC) to foreign interests, the premier said that the position of the government known, adding that public utilities were often a "funnel for wasting public money".
Regarding OA, in particular, he said that it was common knowledge that a process was underway to create a new company in which private interests would have the majority share, while the PPC would be reformed but the government will continue to control a majority share.
Opposition parties displeased with EU spring summit outcome: Greek opposition parties expressed their displeasure with the outcome of the EU informal spring summit held in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.
Main opposition PASOK Spokesman Nikos Athanassakis called the summit's results "less than expected for both Greece and Europe" regarding the Lisbon Strategy.
On the issue of the government's reforms, which Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis referred to during his press conference, Athanassakis said that they "create insecurity among citizens, undermine labor rights and benefit the few at the expense of the many."
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) described the summit's decisions as "an acceleration and an intensifying attack against the working class, young adults, and lower economic classes in general," in a statement it released on Friday.
KKE stressed that the changes agreed upon during the EU summit, such as an increase in retirement age, the change in labor law and drastic changes in the social security system, are for the benefit of profitability and competitiveness.
On its part, the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party accused the EU of "neoliberal policies" which translate into lower wages, a reduction in pension benefits, an increase in retirement age, and less job security particularly for the young.
In a statement, issued by Nikos Hountis, Secretary of SYN's Central Political Committee, also accused Karamanlis of siding with other EU leaders "who are trying to generalize the rationale of [French Prime Minister Dominic] de Villepin."
Hountis said that his party, as well as the European Left and other social movements are working hard to defeat these policies in Greece and in Europe.
Vision of 'social Europe' fading, GSEE claims: "Visions of social cohesion and 'Social Europe' were fading from year to year and summit to summit," the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) said in an announcement commenting on the results of the European summit in Brussels on Friday.
According to Greece's largest umbrella trade union group, the Lisbon strategy was being converted more and more into a European lever for imposing anti-labor measures on a national level.
"Five years on, the decisions for social cohesion, economic growth, full employment and reduction of unemployment remain simple proclamations," GSEE said.
 PM meets FYROM premier in Brussels
BRUSSELS, 27/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met his counterpart from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Vlado Buckovski on Friday morning in Brussels, while in the city to attend the EU leaders' summit.
The meeting was requested by Buckovski and lasted 20 minutes, covering bilateral relations and the difference between Athens and Skopje over FYROM's name.
In statements afterwards, Buckovski said that this was the first friendly meeting between prime ministers of their two countries and that Greece was among the staunchest supporters of FYROM's efforts to become an EU candidate-member.
"We will continue to promote our candidacy for NATO entry, so that we finally become a full member in 2008," he added.
Buckovski also underlined his belief in the need for close political ties between Greece and FYROM.
Referring to the dispute with Greece over the republic's adopted name of Macedonia - which Greece objects to as historically misleading and a potential lever for expansionist claims against its own northern province of the same name - Buckovski said the two countries would continue to build mutual understanding on the sole open difference between them.
He also noted that "new challenges" in this direction would arise after the general elections held in Greece's tiny northern neighbor.
According to diplomatic sources, Karamanlis underlined that Greece considers finding a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue to be one of the conditions for FYROM's prospects of joining the EU.
The same sources said the talks between the two men covered the situation in Kosovo and Balkan affairs and that their positions on this issue are quite close. They also noted that Greece is FYROM's top partner for trade and foreign investments and wishes to continue improving relations between the two countries.
Regarding the country's accession to NATO, there will be no problem if this is done with the name FYROM, diplomats said.
In statements to reporters later on Friday, Karamanlis repeated Greece's support for FYROM's European prospects but said that this was inseparably linked with fulfilling specific criteria and prerequisites demanded by the EU, among them that of finding of a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue.
The Greek prime minister said that Greece was unquestionably in favor of establishing the stability of security and prosperity in the Balkan region.
He pointed out that bilateral relations with FYROM were already extremely close in the economic sector, that Greek investments in that country represented the most important group of foreign investments and that important opportunities for the future were emerging.
 FM Bakoyannis meets with UN envoy on FYROM name issue, Matthew Nimetz
NEW YORK, 27/3/2006 (ANA-MPA)Greece's foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis met Saturday in New York with the UN secretary general's special envoy on the FYROM name issue, Mathew Nimetz, whom she told that
"Greece is expecting the response of the other side", according to foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, who was speaking to reporters after the meeting.
Nimetz, in turn, told reporters that he did not plan to submit new ideas at the present stage, and he also said that he would continue his contacts with the sides considered, while he further referred to his recent meeting in Bucharest with the FYROM president.
On his meeting with Bakoyannis, Nimetz said that they had reviewed the situation, reiterating that he would continue to provide his services in order to assist the two sides, aiming at finding an opportunity for a solution of the problem "at the right time".
Asked whether he would submit a new proposal to the two sides, Nimetz replied that he has not had a good experience up to now regarding the issue of proposals.
According a statement by Koumoutsakos, Bakoyannis met Saturday with Nimetz, for a getting-acquainted meeting, during which the foreign minister reiterated Greece's firm position on the need for finding a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue, and stressing that, in this effort, Greece has shown a constructive stance and that "we are awaiting the response of the other side".
After her meeting with Nimetz, Bakoyannis went to the Church of the Annunciation of the Virgin (Evangelismos) in Manhattan, where she attended a doxology officiated by Archbishop Demetrios of America.
Bakoyannis, who is currently in the US on a visit, was due to attend a reception marking the March 25 Greek Independence Day anniversary, to be held at the Greek General Consulate in New York.
 US president praises Greece's contribution to democracy, liberty, at special event marking March 25 anniversary
WASHINGTON, 27/3/2006 (ANA/T. Ellis)US president George Bush on Friday praised Greece's contribution to democracy and liberty, and spoke of the historic bonds uniting the American and the Greek people, during a special celebration organized at the White House in honor of the March 25 Greek national Independence Day, which celebrates the start of the Greek revolution against Ottoman rule in 1821.
Bush also praised Greece's new foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis, who is currently on a visit to the US, and who also attended the event.
The US president said that the Americans had been among the strongest supporters of the Greek revolution, adding that their common struggles continued in the 20th century.
Bush also described as "wise" every government that has placed a woman in the post of minister of foreign affairs and relied on her advice, inferring the Greek government with Bakoyannis at the helm of the foreign ministry, and his own government with Condeleezza Rice as secretary of state.
The US president said he was enthusiastic at having met with Bakoyannis, whom he said was a powerful and optimistic figure and was serving her country with dignity.
Bush spoke of Greece's contribution not only historically but also in the modern age, adding that it was involved in confronting international terrorism and was playing an active role in development in Afghanistan.
He further placed strong emphasis on the role played by the Greek American community in the political, cultural and economic fields, and praised the contribution of Democrat Senator Paul Sarbanes and the Greek Americans serving in the US government, adding also that the presence of the Greek Orthodox Church in America reflected the religious wealth of the US.
Archbishop Demetrios of America, who attended the event, stressed that although Greece was a small country, it was situated in an important geographical position, with great contribution to the principles embraced today by the civilized world.
 Greek foreign minister meets U.S. President at White House
WASHINGTON, 27/3/2006 (ANA/MPA - T. Ellis)In statements after a brief meeting with United States President George Bush on Friday, just before an event in honor of Greek Independence Day at the White House, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said the meeting wrapped up her visit to Washington and stressed the significance of the U.S. decision to honor the Greek holiday.
"It is very important that America honors Greece and the Greek revolution, and through the Greek revolution honors the principles and values that this revolution served. This was also the content of my private talks with President Bush, the recognition of Greece as a symbol, as a country that honors democratic values and civilization. It is, of course, the birthplace of democracy but it is also today an example of a modern European country that acts as a model for democracy for an entire region," Bakoyannis said.
She said her trip to Washington had "gone exceptionally well" and had given her an opportunity to outline the full range of Greek positions and views to her U.S. counterparts, noting that she would continue her efforts in New York.
A little earlier, Bakoyannis had a meeting at the White House with the president's Assistant for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Frances Fragos Townsend.
Bakoyannis will represent the Greek government at the special White House ceremony for the Greek Independence Day holiday, also attended by U.S. President George Bush and will then depart for New York, where she is due to meet the U.N. mediator for the Macedonia issue Matthew Nimetz, Archbishop Demetrios and celebrate the March 25 Independence Day holiday with the Greek-American community over the weekend.
On Monday she will take part in a Security Council debate on Haiti organized by Argentina and will then be received by UN
 Bakoyannis press conference after meetings with Rice, Burns
WASHINGTON, 27/3/2006 (ANA/MPA - A. Ellis)Clarifying points raised during her earlier meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Friday denied that the Annan plan was "history", saying that the U.N. Secretary-General's proposals should form part of new initiatives for Cyprus.
"A new initiative for the Cyprus issue must be based on the ideas of the U.N. Secretary-General, on the European reality in which Cyprus has been living for the past two years and which has created an entirely different dynamic and, of course, the decisions of the United Nations over the past years," she told Greek journalists at a press conference held in the Greek Embassy.
She was responding to questions that noted the lack of references to the Annan plan by either herself or Rice during their joint statements.
In opening remarks to reporters, Bakoyannis said her U.S. visit was an opportunity to renew and update the "historic relationship" between Greece and the United States, while noting that a number of important developments had occurred since the last visit by her predecessor Petros Molyviatis, such as the start of talks on the future of Kosovo or EU decisions regarding the western Balkans.
She said the talks had also covered more general world affairs, including Iran and Iraq and relations between Islam and the West, which were also of concern to Europe.
The minister, as Rice had done in their earlier joint statements, pointed out that Greece has traditionally good relations with the Moslem world that were the oldest in Europe.
On this issue, Bakoyannis refuted that references to Greece's relationship with the Moslem world during the meeting were linked to a future U.S. request to step up Greece's contribution to the forces in Afghanistan.
"The issue was not put in this way....I told you earlier that Greece has traditionally good ties with the Arab world but also a deep understanding of the Arab world," Bakoyannis said.
The minister pointed out that in a recent opinion poll concerning the Prophet Mohammed cartoons, Greece was the only European country where 75 per cent had said that press freedom must be combined with respect for the symbols of other religions, and that the country's strength lay in its ability to understand and talk to Islamic public opinion.
"This is, if you like, our comparative advantage relative to other countries that have difficulty exactly understanding the way Moslem societies think," she said.
Regarding the "strategic partnership" referred to by Rice and the areas where the views of Greece and the United States converged or disagreed, Bakoyannis said there were many points in common but also issues on which Athens and Washington did not agree.
She spoke about a 'widespread concern' regarding the future of Kosovo and developments there, noting that Greece supported the talks being mediated by UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari.
"There are questions, however, regarding what prospects this will have for the Balkans overall, what influence this will have on Serbia and what situation is arising in the region. There is an open discussion, where we had the opportunity to present our views," Bakoyannis said, while she underscored that Greece was an important country in the area as the sole member of both the NATO and the EU in the region, as well as having significant economic interests.
As an example of areas where the two countries did not agree, the Greek minister pointed to the issue of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which Washington had recognized with the name 'Macedonia' in spite of Greek objections.
"As you can see, on this we disagree. From there on, in a mature relationship there are always issues that we see differently and matters on which we cooperate," she said.
Asked if she had raised issues concerning Greece's relations with Turkey and Turkish hostility, Bakoyannis reiterated that Greece supported Turkey's European prospects, on condition that Turkey met its obligations as a candidate-member of the EU.
"I don't think I am in a position to tell you the American position but our position is clear. Turkey's European prospects pass through the requirements and commitments it has undertaken toward the EU," the minister stressed.
Bakoyannis said the issues of scrapping visa requirements for Greeks visiting the U.S. had also been raised, though she did not expect immediate results on this issue.
 Greece a 'strategic partner', US Secretary of State says
WASHINGTON, 27/3/2006 (ANA-MPA/A. Ellis)Greece is a strategic partner for the United States, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters after a half-hour meeting with Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis here on Thursday, the first meeting between the two since Bakoyannis assumed her current post.
Rice noted that both countries wish to solve many international problems, without this necessarily meaning that they agree on all issues, and referred to Greece's good relations with the Muslim world, noting that they could be useful in promoting peace.
On her part, Bakoyannis referred to the need to solve problems in various parts of the world, referring in particular to the West Balkans, whose future - according to the Greek minister - is in Europe. She underscored Greece's strong political and economic presence in the western Balkans, saying that their future lay in their European orientation.
As for Kosovo and defining its status, Bakoyannis said that the positions and views of all involved parties should be taken into consideration.
Bakoyannis stressed the need to arrive at a unified, bi-communal Cyprus and said that a viable solution would arise only if it were based on UN Security Council's decisions, the proposals of the UN Secretary-General and the principles that characterize the European Union, of which Cyprus was a member.
Also referring to Cyprus, Rice said that the island's reunification must be achieved based on democratic values. She did not refer to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's plan.
On the issue of Greek-Turkish relations, Rice stressed that the US supports the steady improvement in relations which began after the two countries came to each others' aid following the 1999 earthquakes.
Bakoyannis, on her part, repeated Greece's support for Turkey's European prospects but pointed out that the country's future rested on its following European principles, both domestically and in its relations with its neighbours such as Greece and Cyprus.
The Greek minister raised the issue of the re-opening of the Halki Greek Orthodox Seminary in Turkey, while Rice responded that this is an issue the US repeatedly raises with the Turkish government.
Furthermore, Rice congratulated Bakoyannis on her work as Athens Mayor and accepted the Greek minister's invitation to visit Greece, saying she looked forward to many meetings with her Greek counterpart in the future.
 FM to meet with UN Sec't General on Monday
NEW YORK, 27/3/2006 (ANA-MPA)Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis is expected to discuss developments and prospects regarding the Cyprus issue when she meets with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan here on Monday.
According to diplomatic sources, the UN General Secretariat is still waiting for a reply from the Turkish side regarding the agreement reached in Paris last month between Kofi Annan and Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos on the operation of technical committees.
Bakoyannis will also be discussing the situation in the Balkans and particularly Kosovo with Annan.
Regarding the minister's meeting on Saturday with UN special mediator Matthew Nimetz on the issue of the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Foreign Ministry Spokesman George Koumoutsakos said that "the foreign minister reiterated Greece's permanent position for the need to find a mutually-acceptable solution to the name issue, underscoring the fact that Greece has shown a constructive stance in this effort. We are waiting for the other side to respond."
Nimetz said that he will continue talking with all involved parties and will continue discussing the issue to see whether an opportunity will present itself "at the right time."
Asked whether he would be presenting a new proposal, Nimetz said that he didn't believe he would, adding that the proposals he has submitted are simply ideas that he informally presents to both sides in the hope that they might prove useful in settling the issue.
 Greek Independence Day anniversary celebrated throughout the country
ATHENS, 27/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The 185th anniversary of the March 25 Greek national Independence Day, which celebrates the start of the Greek revolution against Ottoman rule in 1821, was celebrated with pomp throughout Greece on Saturday, culminating with a parade by the Armed Forces in central Syntagma Square in Athens in the presence of President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias. March 25 is a dual holiday, as the Assumption of the Virgin Mary is also celebrated on that day.
"Today we celebrate the biggest historical event of modern Greece. A people almost unarmed, but with a flame in its heart and with a passion for freedom, rose up against an empire and gained its freedom," Papoulias said after the parade.
"This gives us the message that freedom is not given, it is conquered. Today, the people and the Armed Forces are the guarantee for the progress of Greece, for its peaceful coexistence with all the peoples of the region, for peace in the region, which is necessary," the President continued.
He also expressed conviction that the Greek people, with their patriotism, and the Armed Forces, with their preparedness, would do their duty.
Prime minister Costas Karamanlis, in a statement, said that the March 25 holiday found the Greeks "determined to make reality their visions for a strong and prospering Greece, for a Greece that was a factor of peace and stability in the wider region, for a society of cohesion and solidarity".
The premier added that "we are in the middle of as great collective effort. A difficult effort which, however, we must complete".
Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou said that the March 25 anniversary was always timely, as it "embodies the struggles and visions of so many generations of Hellenes...Visions for social justice, freedom, democracy, for a society of solidarity. We hold this vision today, too, and are dedicated to those goals".
Before the parade, a doxology was held at the Athens Metropolitan Cathedral, officiated by Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece, and attended by the President, the country's political leadership, the Armed Forces leadership, and the leadership of the Security Corps.
The doxology was attended by President Papoulias, premier Karamanlis, main opposition leader Papandreou, representatives of the political parties and the local administrations, former Presidents Costis Stephanopoulos and Christos Sartzetakis, the Armed Forces and Security Corps leaderships, and the leadersnip of the country's higher and supreme courts.
President Papoulias was greeted with full military honors at Syntagma Square after the doxology, where he laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside the parliament building.
Similar celebrations were also held throughout the free areas of Cyprus, where students, pupils, scouts and war veterans in the capital Nicosia paraded in the presence of President Tassos Papadopoulos.
After the parade, Cyprus defense minister Kyriakos Mavronikolas said that it did not suffice only to refer to the events, "but it is also necessary that we receive the corresponding messages and are able to achieve the liberation of the occupied land and the reunification of our homeland".
Mavronikolas said that the Cypriot Hellenism would work for a solution to the Cyprus issue on the basis of international and EU law, adding that two years after the referendum, the Cyprus issue had once again entered a phase of mobility, in the sense of a search for those elements that would lead to essential progress resulting in a lasting solution of the problem.
Greek Independence Day was also celebrated this year, for the second time, by the ethnic Greek minority in Albania, with two parades by pupils, some dressed in traditional Greek costumes, at Leivadia and at Dervitsani.
The dual March 25 holiday had been celebrated by ethnic Greeks in Albania up until 1967, when the communist regime prohibited such religious manifestations. The custom, however, was not revived after the change of regime in Albania, nor were other traditional customs of the Greeks revived.
In Turkey, Greek ambassador in Ankara George Yennimatas hosted a large reception to mark the Independence Day anniversary, which was attended by some 1,000 guests comprising academic, social and economic personalities, and a large number of journalists, while the Turkish government was represented by minister of state Besir Atalay. The reception was also attended by Turkish MPs, political party representatives, the Turkish foreign ministry leadership, representatives of the Armed Forces, and diplomats.
 March 25 Independence Day holiday celebrated by Greeks worldwide
27/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Greek diaspora in countries throughout the world celebrated the anniversary of Greek Independence Day on March 25 with events, parades and Church services to mark the coinciding feast of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary.
Among the largest were those organized by the Greek-American community in New York, which were also attended by several Greek government officials that are currently visiting the United States, twin events organized by Greek-Australian communities in Sydney and Adelaide, as well as in Toronto and Montreal in Canada, which also coincided with the 100th anniversary since the foundation of Montreal's Greek Community. In Melbourne, where there is also a very large Greek community, the parade and celebration for Independence Day have been postponed until April 2.
Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, who had been in the United States since Thursday on an official visit, was the key speaker after the service held at the Church of the Annunciation of the Virgin in west Manhattan on Saturday, stressing that the anniversary would always carry special symbolism for the historic course of the Greek nation and that the same unity and solidarity was still needed today.
Noting that March 25 was the anniversary of the "foremost event in Greek history", as well as a major religious holiday, Bakoyannis said that Greeks honored those who sacrificed themselves for freedom, justice and respect for humanitarian values - the values that define modern civilization - as well as the friends of Greece, who inspired by the same ideals fought for the freedom and independence of the Greeks.
The Greek minister also underlined the major role played by Greeks abroad in this independence struggle, helping to cultivate the philhellenic movement that supported Greece fight for independence and the modern Greek State, while noting that the Greek-American community had always been one of the most important sections of the Greek diaspora.
Finally, she conveyed the best wishes of Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis for the community's "health, prosperity and strength".
The service was carried out by Archbishop of America Demetrios and was attended by Greek Deputy Economy Minister Christos Folias, who is also on a visit to America, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, who accompanied Bakoyannis on her trip, in addition to Greek officials stationed in New York.
 Bakoyannis on Greek-US relations, Greek diaspora
NEW YORK, 27/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis underlined that Greece and the United States were "strategic and ideological partners" in comments made during a reception at the Greek General Consulate in New York to mark the anniversary of the Greek Independence Day holiday.
Speaking late on Saturday, Bakoyannis also referred to the vital contribution of Greeks living abroad and conveyed the regards of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and the Greek government to New York's thriving Greek-American community:
"One more time I will stress the warm love and pride that Greeks back home feel for you. You can be certain that Greece will do well. It is cleaning up its finances, making its democracy even stronger and playing an ever more important role, economically and politically, in its region. We are proud of you and you can be proud of Greece," she said.
Regarding Greek-U.S. relations, she noted that the "founders of this nation were inspired by Greek ideals and the ideals of the American revolution inspired the Greek revolution a few years later."
The two countries also stood together for freedom, she added, noting that Greece was one of the three countries of the world, apart from the British Empire, that was an ally of the U.S. in every major international crisis of the 20th century.
"Today, we are working together closely for a stable and progressive southeast Europe and we cooperate in every major
international challenge, from Afghanistan to natural disasters," she said.
One such area of Greek-U.S. cooperation was the economic sector, Bakoyannis noted and emphasized Greece's economic activity in the strategic region of southeastern Europe.
Referring to her first official trip to the U.S. as foreign minister, she said her talks with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had been "fruitful" and underlined that it had been an honor to meet with U.S. President George Bush at a White House ceremony for Greek Independence Day.
The minister was received at the consulate by General Consul Aikaterini Boura and Consul George Alexopoulos. Also attending the reception was Greek Deputy Finance Minister Christos Folias, who is in the U.S. for a series of contacts seeking to attract foreign investment to Greece.
 President, PASOK leader mark Independence Day holiday
ATHENS, 27/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Members of Greece's state and political leadership on Friday issued messages for the national Independence Day holiday on March 25, which celebrates the start of the Greek revolution against Ottoman rule in 1821.
President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias said that Greeks today should recapture the unity of those times to deal with the challenges of today:
"The effort and struggle must be intensified, since we are faced with major challenges on both a national and international level. Dealing with these effectively demands, above all, the unity of Greeks everywhere".
Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou said the struggle for Greece's freedom "will always be a symbol of dignity for every person that is fighting for his freedom, for every people fighting for self-determination, for every society that envisions a better future."
Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis, on his part, stressed that the government was securing the defense and security interests of Greeks in the best possible way, while support the state machinery in actions for the public benefit and protection, while displaying Greece's flag with pride on every corner of the planet in the framework of fulfilling the country's international obligations.
 President attends schools' Independence Day Parade
ATHENS, 27/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The schools' Independence Day parade to mark the March 25 national holiday was held in the presence of President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Friday in Athens.
This was the first time in the annals of the parade that it was attended by the president of the country, in a move seen to give powerful symbolism to the parade by Greece's young people.
"We must surround youth with confidence and love and give strength to their vision to change the world," Papoulias said.
The parade was also attended by Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou.
 FYROM President, FM, good wishes on Greek Independence Day anniversary
SKOPJE, 27/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)FYROM president Branko Crvenkovski on Saturday sent a letter to Greece's President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on the occasion of the March 25 Greek national Independence Day holiday, marking the 185th anniversary of the start of the Greek revolution against Ottoman rule in 1821.
In his letter, Crvenkovski expresses his wishes for the further development and progress of Greece and its citizens, as well as his conviction for the deepening of the cooperation between the two countries at bilateral, regional as well as multilateral level.
"Allow me, Mr. President, to also express my conviction that Greece, as a member state of the EU and NATO, and as a neighboring country, will continue to play a constructive role for the incorporation of my country in the Euro-Atlantic structures, which would be in the interests of both our countries," Crvenkovski said in his letter to Papoulias.
A congratulatory message on the Independence Day anniversary was also sent by FYROM foreign minister Ilinka Mitreva to her Greek counterpart Dora Bakoyannis.
"It is my conviction that the friendship and cooperation between our countries will continue and grow, on the principle of the European values and good neighborhood," the letter said.
 Greek ambassador holds March 25 reception in Skopje
SKOPJE, 27/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The head of Greece's Association Bureau in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), ambassador Dora Grosomanidou, has organized a reception to celebrate the March 25 Greek Independence Day holiday at a central hotel in Skopje on Friday.
It was attended by two deputy prime ministers of FYROM's government, Radmila Sekerinska and Musa Xhaferi, as well as government ministers, representatives of the main political parties, the U.S. ambassador, the head of the EU mission to FYROM, diplomats and others.
 Defense minister meets Russian ambassador in Athens
ATHENS, 27/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis had a meeting with Russian Ambassador to Athens Andrei Vdovin on Friday, a ministry announcement said.
It said the meeting represented one of the defense minister's routine courtesy contacts with the ambassadors of foreign countries in Athens and was used to discuss issues related to cooperation in military and technical defense issues.
Plans for an upcoming visit by Russia's defense minister in the second half of 2006 were also announced, while Russia's Armed Forces Chief of General Staff Yuri Baluyevsky will begin an official visit to Athens on Saturday.
 PM to meet with university professors on telecoms data protection
ATHENS, 27/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will be meeting with several university professors at Maximos Mansion on Monday, who will submit their proposals regarding telecommunications data protection legislation.
Dimitris Tsatsos, Antonis Manitakis, Christos Kapsalis, Panagio-tis Tsanakas, Nikos Androulakis and Yiannis Manoledakis had met with the prime minister on February 13, at which time he had requested they prepare their relevant proposals.
 Main opposition leader congratulates Spain on ETA ceasefire
ATHENS, 27/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Main opposition PASOK President George Papandreou on Sunday congratulated Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero and his government for "successful negotiations with the Basque organization ETA that led to the latter declaring a permanent ceasefire".
Papandreou, who is also President of Socialist International, expressed hope that "this great success" will serve as a positive example all over the world so that violence is denounced as a means for achieving political objectives.
He also assured Zapatero of full support in the latter's efforts for the promotion of peace.
 Tsohatzopoulos on Greek-Turkish relations, Cyprus
NICOSIA, 27/3/2006 (ANA/MPA - A. Viketos)In an interview published on Sunday by the Cypriot newspaper "Simerini", PASOK MP and former Greek defense minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos roundly criticized the Greek government for its attitude toward Turkey.
Greece was "generously postponing the settlement of Greek-Turkish issues to the unknown future and equally generously giving Turkey a European passport," Tsohatzopoulos stressed, saying that Athens had to make it clear to Turkey that its time was up at the end of 2006 and that Greece "will be obliged to adopt a negative stance to its further EU prospects if it does not carry out its obligations."
Tsohatzopoulos also referred to Greece-Cyprus joint defense, saying that it was important for this to remain strong in order for the two countries to withstand the "undermining plans" promoted in the region from various quarters.
Regarding a solution for the Cyprus problem, Tsohatzopoulos called for new conditions that will "go beyond the constraints of the Annan plan and create the conditions that will make "a new just solution possible and realistic".
 Standard & Poor's on Greek economy
27/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The reforms in the Greek economy are continuing to be realized at a slow pace, despite the government's comfortable parliamentary majority, while the official forecasts for the economic indicators are founded on optimistic appraisals on the growth rate, according to an analysis of the Greek economy released Friday by Standard & Poor's.
The report said that the government intends to contain the fiscal deficit to below 3 percent in 2006, but added that this would not be a maintainable figure on the long-term horizon if emphasis was not placed on discipline with respect to expenditures.
According to the international firm's analysts, the public sector debt was expected to remain at 105 percentage points of GDP in 2006, without marking a substantial improvement from the 114 percentage points at which it was fluctuating before Greece's membership in the EMU.
 PASOK's Xenoyiannakopoulou criticizes government on employment
ATHENS, 27/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)In an attack on the government on Sunday, the chairwoman of main opposition PASOK's National Council Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou said the government's policies for employment were the "same recipe and the same impasses" that had led to the explosive situation in France, where young people were rioting over unpopular youth employment reforms.
Speaking at a PASOK event in Kozani, Xenoyiannakopoulou asserted that the government's policies had established a framework that "undermines collective autonomy and collective negotiations, meritocracy, undermines equal opportunities of employment and working conditions for newly-hired employees, as we see in the law for public utilities."
Calling ruling New Democracy's policy a "fake reform", she slammed it as "socially unjust, leading nowhere economically and ineffective".
 OTOE announces bank strikes
ATHENS, 27/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Emporiki Bank will go on a 48-hour strike beginning Monday, while all other banks will be striking on Tuesday, the union of bank employees OTOE announced on Sunday.
In addition to the strikes, OTOE is planning a demonstration at Emporiki Bank on Monday, and another on Tuesday outside the Labor and Finance ministries.
OTOE's leaders will try to meet with Labor Minister Savvas Tsitouridis and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, while they have already scheduled a meeting on Tuesday with ruling New Democracy Secretary Lefteris Zagoritis.
The union's demands are that legislation regarding Emporiki Bank and changes to the bank employees' pension system be repealed; the government's intervention so that bankers come to the negotiating table regarding collective labor agreements; and that no state banks are privatized.
 Farmers can expect quick compensation following Evros floods, gov't says
ATHENS, 27/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Farmers in Northern Greece who saw their products being destroyed by massive flooding can expect to be compensated within three months of the assessment of damages, Minister of Agricultural Development and Foods Evangelos Basiakos said on Sunday.
Basiakos, who visited Tychero in Evros, assured farmers' representatives that compensation will be paid to farmers quickly once flooding recedes and assessment of damages is carried out.
As for infrastructure that was damaged by the floods, Basiakos said that all responsible ministries are working together to repair damages.
He also referred to the first-time cooperation between responsible agencies and the Foreign Ministry with Bulgaria, noting that "the Bulgarians must understand that the problem is very intense and that unless rules of cooperation, understanding and communication are in place then such phenomena will not be averted."
Finally, Basiakos congratulated the authorities of Thrace Prefecture for complying fully with measures regarding avian flu, which in combination with increased human and material resources has prevented the virus from spreading to poultry farms and home-bred poultry.
 Athens Bourse Close. Stocks inch up on mixed trade
ATHENS, 27/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Athens share index closed at 4,158.19 points, showing a rise of 0.24%. Turnover was 250.0 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.33% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 0.42% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 1.26% up.
Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 140 to 117 with 63 remaining unchanged.
 Unknown ode by Greek poet Andreas Kalvos discovered
NICOSIA, 27/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)A previously unknown ode by the Greek poet Andreas Kalvos (or Calvos) has been discovered in Glasgow University Library by Cypriot literary researcher Lefkios Vassiliou, the Cypriot newspaper 'Fileleftheros' reported on Sunday.
According to the newspaper, the ode is entitled 'Elpis Patridos' (Hope of the Homeland) and is the first work attempted by Kalvos in Greek, as he admits in the first verse. It was published in London in 1819, while a small extract had been discovered and published by Italian scholar Mario Vitti in 1960.
The 19th-century poet from Zakynthos is among the most highly regarded Greek writers, whose works were mainly inspired by Greece's struggle for independence.
Justice minister on corruption of judiciary
The independent judicial system is called upon to ensure that the truth is revealed, Justice Minister Anastassios Papaligouras said on Sunday in response to questions whether there was a "conflict between vested interests" after the arrest of former investigating magistrate Constantina Bourboulia .
"Everyone must realize that neither the government, nor justice will be influenced by business interests," he added.
 Int'l conference on mass media and culture opens in Patra
27/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)An international conference focusing on the mass media and culture opened in Patra on Sunday and was inaugurated by the city's mayor Andreas Karavolas.
"The choice to have the mass media and culture conference as the first in a three-part series in 2006, was not by chance," he said.
"It's due to our belief that the mass media have a role in shaping messages," he added.
The conference is being organized by the "Patra 2006 Cultural Capital Organization."
 Greek boxer dies in hospital
27/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)A 21-year-old Greek boxer died in a Patras hospital on Friday due to head injuries sustained in a boxing bout in a Patras boxing venue.
Dimitris Livadas had been in a coma since last Saturday, following his collapse shortly after winning the match. Tests showed the boxer had a brain hemorrhage and his condition continued to deteriorate throughout the week.
The amateur boxer's last match was in a local championship in the 75-kg division. His death follows that of another boxer Thanassis Miliordos after a fight at the same Patras venue in September 2000.
 Three Pakistanis arrested for abducting fellow immigrant
ATHENS, 27/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Police have arrested three Pakistani nationals in connection with the abduction, robbery and severe physical abuse of a fellow immigrant, while they are seeking another three believed to be connected to the affair.
The three suspects, aged 31, 33 and 23 respectively, were arrested by Alimos police on Saturday.
Authorities said the abduction was probably a "settling of accounts" within the Pakistani immigrant community.
The 30-year-old victim was abducted by six men posing as police officers who led him at gunpoint to an apartment in Alimos, where they beat him severely and stole 700 euros, three credit cards and the keys to his car, which is still missing.
The man was then handcuffed and gagged, bundled into the boot of a car and abandoned on the coast in Porto Rafti.
 Three Albanians arrested for smuggling illegal immigrants
ATHENS, 27/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Three Albanian nationals were arrested by Kozani police for attempting to smuggle illegal immigrants from Albania into the country.
The first of the three men was arrested on Saturday in Vatero, Kozani and the other two in the early hours of Sunday morning.
 Sports: Greek soccer results
ATHENS, 27/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Matches played over the weekend for the Greek first division soccer championship had the following results:
Larissa - Iraklis Thessaloniki 0-0
PAOK Thessaloniki - Kallithea Athens 2-1
Levadiakos Livadia - Egaleo Athens 2-1
OFI Crete - Panionios Athens 1-1
Ionikos Piraeus - Xanthi 0-0
AEK Athens - Akratitos Athens 2-0
Apollon Kalamaria - Panathinaikos Athens 0-1
Olympiakos Piraeus - Atromitos Athens
(Match to be played on Monday, March 27)
The standings after 25 weeks of play:
Olympiakos 63 (24 matches played)
Atromitos 33 (24 matches played)
Apollon Kalamaria 31
 Cyprus president on meeting Talat, Bakoyannis visit to US
NICOSIA, 27/3/2006 (ANA/MPA)Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos on Sunday told reporters that he was willing to meet Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat to discuss humanitarian issues, especially the fate of Cyprus' missing.
He also rejected various pessimistic headlines concerning a reply sent to Talat from U.N. Under-Secretary-General Ibrahim Gambari concerning the meeting between Papadopoulos and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Paris, saying that the news reports were incorrect.
"The things agreed in Paris have not been negated and the talks will be held both on day-to-day issues and issues of substance, otherwise they will not take place at all," Papadopoulos stressed, adding that he was satisfied with the contents of the letter.
Commenting on a visit to the United States by Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, meanwhile, the Cyprus president said this seemed to have been "positive and satisfactory". He said that he had spoken with Bakoyannis both on the eve of her departure for Washington and on Saturday night.
 President says nothing in exchange for Turkey meeting obligations
LARNACA, 27/3/2006 (CNA/ANA)Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos said on Friday that Turkey could not demand anything in return for meeting its obligations.
On his return from Brussels and commenting on remarks by Serdar Denktash, so-called minister of foreign affairs of the pseudostate in Turkish occupied Cyprus, that Ankara and the occupation regime had agreed to open Turkey's air passages to the Greek Cypriots as a goodwill gesture, President Papadopoulos said he heard the statement and noted that Denktash had clarified that this would happen only if the ports of Cyprus opened.
''I will reiterate the well known position of the government. Turkey's obligation to open its ports and airspace to Cypriot ships and airplanes is an obligation towards the EU,'' he said, adding that ''Turkey cannot demand anything in return to fulfill that which it is obliged to do.''
President Papadopoulos said that Turkey is under pressure and is being criticized for not meeting its obligations.
He added that Turkey's course in 2006 is being scrutinized and that its non-compliance is taken into serious consideration.
 Slovenia's president to pay state visit to Cyprus
NICOSIA, 27/3/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)President of the Republic of Slovenia Dr Janez Drnovsek arrives here Monday for a two-day state visit.
Drnovsek will be received on Monday by President of the Republic Tassos Papadopoulos at the Presidential Palace. After an official welcoming ceremony, the Slovenian president will lay a wreath at the statue of the late president of the Republic Archbishop Makarios III.
The two presidents will have a brief meeting and then there will be official talks.
A ceremony of decoration will follow. President Papadopoulos will decorate the Slovenian president with the Grand Collar of the Order of Makarios III and the Slovenian president will decorate President Papadopoulos with the Order for Exceptional Services.
The Slovenian president will then depart for a meeting with House of Representatives President Demetris Christofias.
Nicosia Mayor Michalakis Zambelas will present Drnovsek with the golden key of the city. Drnovsek will visit the old city of Nicosia and the cease-fire line.
The Slovenian president will also attend a state banquet given by President Papadopoulos in his honor.
On Tuesday, the Slovenian president will have a brief meeting with President Papadopoulos at the Presidential Palace.
Drnovsek will visit the Archaeological Museum and archeological sites at Kourion and Limassol.
He departs from Cyprus later Tuesday at 17:00.