|Sunday, 16 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-05-04
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>May 4, 2006
 Bakoyannis cites significant progress within SEECP framework; Croatia assumes helm
THESSALONIKI, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)"Impressive progress was made within the South East European Co-operation Process (SEECP) framework while the ongoing summit constitutes a qualitative and quantitative leap," Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis told a press conference after member-states' foreign ministers met in Thessaloniki on Wednesday.
Athens' SEECP chairmanship was characterized as very positive, and in passing the chairmanship to Croatia, Bakoyannis said that during its six-month presidency the Greek government moved along two interdependent axes: the strengthening of good-neighborly relations and regional cooperation as well as the European prospect of the southeast European countries.
Bakoyannis said a decision on the signing of a free trade agreement concerning the non-EU members was reached in the foreign ministers' meeting to replace a complex network of 31 bilateral free trade agreements.
The foreign ministers also concluded that implementation of the "Thessaloniki Agenda", adopted in the EU Summit in Halkidiki in June 2003 on the European prospect of Western Balkans, should become more productive.
Bakoyannis stressed that the institutional upgrading of the SEECP is necessary and underlined that the European Union and the European Commission should offer this opportunity to the SEECP, given the imminent changes in the Stability Pact for Southeast Europe. The establishment of a SEECP Secretariat is placed within this framework.
According to the Declaration signed by the foreign ministers, a formal liaison is established between the SEECP and the EU, while the Croatian presidency will undertake to define its responsibilities.
The foreign ministers also discussed the development of energy and road networks in southeast Europe, as member-states' transport ministers will sign an agreement on Thursday to upgrade rail networks.
Bakoyannis also stated that terrorism, violence and extremism were condemned regardless of their motives, adding that democratic principles should prevail, civil rights should be respected and corruption and organized crime should have no place whatsoever in the region.
On the Kosovo issue, Bakoyannis said that the SEECP troika (Greece, Romania, and Croatia) visited Belgrade and Pristina, whereas Greece was the host of a Contact Group meeting at an Athens seaside resort. The foreign minister stated that efforts will continue during the Croatian presidency so that the SEECP positions and views will be taken under serious consideration by the international community when decision time arrives. Bakoyannis added that this a necessary condition in the effort for a viable and functional solution in Kosovo adding that the desirable solution should be one that will promote regional stability and security.
Asked about the "name issue" with FYROM and a statement by the Albanian foreign minister over a possible "re-examination of borders" with Kosovo and FYROM in case of independence of the former, Bakoyannis said:
"These problems are well known, not all of the problems in SE Europe have been solved, we have a great deal of road to travel down, and there needs to be a greater effort and good cooperation," she said, adding that both Athens' and Skopje's positions are crystal clear, while Albanian FM Besnik Mustafaj's comments during an earlier meeting of foreign ministers were solidly in favor of stability and regional development based on the rules of international law.
In a related development, Athens' positive contribution was praised in a joint press conference by the other two SEECP troika members, Croatian Foreign Minister Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and Romania's Mihai Razvan Ungureanu.
The foreign minister of Croatia pledged that her country will continue the efforts of the Greek presidency and focus on the strengthening of good neighborly relations, offer political support to the region's countries wishing to become part of the Euro-Atlantic structures, boost economic cooperation, establish action groups and the strengthen inter-parliamentary cooperation.
SEECP assembly opens in Thessaloniki:
The two-day sessions of the South East Europe Cooperation Process (SEECP) annual assembly, marking the end of Greece's chairmanship of the group, formally opened in Thessaloniki on Wednesday morning, with a private meeting between Greek foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis and her FYROM counterpart Ilinka Mitreva, ahead of the meeting of the SEECP foreign ministers, while the heads of state and government of the group's member countries will hold their summit meeting on Thursday.
Also, SEECP transport ministers are expected to sign an agreement envisioning improvements in the region's rail networks.
The guest speaker at Wednesday's meeting was Japanese vice-minister for foreign affairs Akiko Yamanaka.
The SEECP assembly's agenda contains such issues as: The role of regional cooperation in the SE European countries' course to full membership in the EU and the strengthening of the political dialogue; Cooperation for the development of regional infrastructure; The prospects of the Thessaloniki Agenda on the Western Balkans; The role of the Inter-Balkan cooperation in view of the future modification of the Stability Pact for SE Europe and the need for its institutional reinforcement, as well as current affairs of particular importance to the region.
Greece's prime minister Costas Karamanlis will chair the closed-door summit of SEECP leaders on Thursday. He is also due to have sideline meetings with Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Bakoyannis-Mitreva meeting: The meeting between Greek foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis and her FYROM counterpart Ilinka Mitreva on Wednesday morning -- the first meeting between the two women since Bakoyannis' assumption of the Greek foreign ministry -- took place in a "very good climate", according to Greek foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos.
The two foreign ministers made no statements to the press after their meeting, but Koumoutsakos told reporters later that the two ministers had discussed further development of bilateral relations between their countries, and more particularly in the economic sector.
He said the presence of Greek business concerns in FYRM was acknowledged, while the need was stressed for strengthening bilateral relations.
Bakoyannis reiterated Greece's backing of FYROM's European prospect, while Mitreva noted that FYROM has assumed the commitment to proceed towards Europe, adding that it would institute the necessary reforms, Koumoutsakos said.
He said the issue of Kosovo was not discussed, while the FYROM name issue was "briefly touched on", adding that the positions of the two sides were well-known, while UN-sponsored deliberations on the issue were ongoing.
Koumoutsakos also said that Mitreva raised the issue of a special duty levied by the prefecture of Kilkis on cars entering Greece from FYROM, adding that the two ministers had agreed that the duty should be rescinded.
Thursday's summit: Apart from Greece's prime minister Costas Karamanlis, who arrived in Thessaloniki on Wednesday afternoon, Chairman of the tripartite Presidency of the national (central) government of Bosnia and Herzegovina Sulejman Tihic, State Union of Serbia and Montenegro President Svetozar Marovic, Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev, FYROM President Branko Crvenkovski, Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan were due to arrive Wednesday on special flights from their countries, while Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha was due to arrive Wednesday afternoon by road. Moldova Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev and Croatia Prime Minister Ivo Sanader will also take part in the summit.
The SEECP summit is due to discuss boosting regional cooperation and dialogue as an element of European integration, cooperation in the development of regional infrastructure, the prospects of the Western Balkan countries and the role of the SEECP in view of the future modification of the Stability Pact.
 PM meets with Balkan leaders ahead of SEECP summit
THESSALONIKI, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met with the leaders of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Bosnia & Herzegovina and Albania in Thessaloniki on Wednesday, ahead of the South East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) summit that will be held on Thursday.
President of Bosnia & Herzegovina Sulejman Tihic thanked Karamanlis for Greece's funding of the Frienship building in Sarajevo which will be completed in 18 months.
The two leaders also agreed to set up a business forum in order to strengthen bilateral, commercial ties.
On his part, Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha thanked Karamanlis for Greece's support of Albania's EU aspirations.
The Greek prime minister also met with FYROM President Branko Cervenkovski.
On Wednesday evening, Karamanlis hosted a dinner for all the leaders participating in the SEECP summit.
 Bulgarian PM to attend SEECP summit in Thessaloniki
SOFIA, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev is to represent Bulgaria at a South East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) summit that will take place in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki on Thursday.
Stanishev is due in the city on Wednesday evening in order to attend a working dinner held by Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in honor of South East European leaders attending the summit.
 Greek, Bulgarian FMs discuss Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline
THESSALONIKI, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The issue of a reported withdrawal of the Bulgarian state's participation in the consortium for the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline was discussed in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, on Wednesday evening between Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and her Bulgarian counterpart Ivaylo Kalfin, on the sidelines on the South East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) summit.
The meeting took place at the initiative of Bakoyannis as soon as she was informed of the reported Bulgarian state's action. Kalfin assured Bakoyannis that the Bulgarian side's interest for the oil pipeline remains "steadfast and undiminishing."
In a related development, a diplomatic source said that there was a restructuring of the Bulgarian consortium which is participating in the company which will construct the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline and the timeframe will not be affected and the agreement is valid.
The source was speaking following a meeting between Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev and Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis, but also the contacts which Bakoyannis had with her Bulgarian counterpart Kalfin.
Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis stressed in Thessaloniki on Wednesday that "what is being broadcast by the Bulgarian media is groundless", referring to reports on the Bulgarian government's withdrawal from the joint venture representing the country in the construction and exploitation of the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline.
"The Bulgarian government, whose prime minister and foreign minister are in Thessaloniki tonight, reassured us that the share composition of the company handling the pipeline only changed and that it is continuing to be interested in its construction just as Greece is," the foreign minister pointed out.
Deputy FM Stylianidis says Bulgarian PM Stanishev assures him about oil pipeline: The course of the project for the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline will not be affected, Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis said in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, on Wednesday night, commenting on developments in Sofia around this issue.
Stylianidis said that Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev, who is taking part in the sessions of the South East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) summit in Thessaloniki, assured him on his country's will to remain in the project and that the move that was made only concerned the reformation of the way of the state's participation in the consortium.
 Transport minister, FYROM counterpart discuss European Corridor X
THESSALONIKI, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Transport and Communications Minister Michalis Liapis invited Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) counterpart Xhemali Mehazi to the island of Corfu in June in order to sign a protocol facilitating cross-border passage on the PanEuropean Corridor X, during their meeting held in Thessaloniki on Wednesday.
The two officials met behind closed doors ahead of the meeting of transport ministers that will be held in Thessaloniki on Thursday within the context of the South East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) summit.
Liapis and Mehazi also discussed the construction of the corridor's road network and particularly those segments that will be located in FYROM and to which Greece will contribute.
They also discussed the corridor's rail network, noting the need to improve existing infrastructure based on a specific plan that can be formulated by both countries' rail organizations.
Additionally, the issue of Greece sharing its know-how on transport-related issues with FYROM, as well as procedures for EU funding were also discussed.
 Draskovic: Change in Kosovo borders a 'preamble' to new Balkan catastrophe
THESSALONIKI, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Serbia and Montenegro cannot be forced to recognize an Albanian state within its territory, while a change in the country's borders would be a preamble of a new Balkan catastrophe, Serbia and Montenegro's Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic warned in an interview with the ANA-MPA on Wednesday.
Draskovic gave the interview in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, where he is attending a meeting of South East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) member-state foreign ministers that will lead up to an SEECP summit on Thursday.
He also stressed that stability in the region will never be achieved unless both Serbia and Kosovo ultimately became part of Europe.
"I hope that in the end the Contact Group for Kosovo and the UN Security Council will understand this," he added.
Asked about an EU decision to suspend negotiations for closer ties between the EU and Serbia and Montenegro on the grounds that Belgrade had failed to arrest former general Ratko Mladic, who is wanted to stand trial for war crimes in Bosnia, Draskovic stressed that the decision was holding the entire Serb nation "hostage".
"The fact that general Ratko Mladic has not been arrested has generated another event; in a paradoxical way, the entire Serb nation has been arrested and its European future is threatened. This means that we must fulfill our obligation toward the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague and this obligation is primarily one of a moral nature," Draskovic said.
He also underlined the Serb government's determination to arrest Mladic, noting that the only victim of failing to do so would be the Serb state and its people:
"We are in a tragic state, since the fate of the negotiations for an association and stabilization agreement with the EU depends on those charged as war criminals that are still at large, as is the outcome of the Montenegro referendum and, in a specific way, the outcome of negotiations for the future status of Kosovo," the Serb official said.
Regarding Belgrade's positions on the Kosovo status talks and the prospect of partitioning the province, Draskovic stressed that Belgrade's proposals were a compromise to the maximum degree and in no way called for a partition of Kosovo:
"First, all the legal rights of the Albanian majority in Kosovo must be implemented. Second, the rights of Serbs and other peoples must be protected to the greatest degree. Third, the UN Charter must be respected. In practice, this means that Serbia asks only two things: that Serbs in Kosovo should not be treated as slaves and that Serb churches and monasteries be protected and, secondly, that there be no change or re-naming of the present state borders of Serbia and Montenegro, of Serbia and Montenegro's international borders".
At this point, the Serb foreign minister pointed out that the four changes to borders in the Balkans that occurred during the past century had all resulted in wars and conflict.
"It must be made clear that Serbia cannot through punishment or extortion be forced to recognize the creation of one more Albanian state on its territory. Serbia will never accept this," he stressed.
Conversely, the minister said that a vote by Montenegrins for independence in an upcoming referendum will not be destabilizing for the region.
"I wish a joint state of Serbia and Montenegro to be preserved. But if Montenegrins decide by majority vote on independence, then that decision will be respected and nothing can cloud relations between Serbs and Montenegrins, relations between Serbia and Montenegro, as we are and will be a family," Draskovic said.
He also expressed optimism about the future prospects of South East European cooperation, provided the problem of Kosovo was resolved through a compromise in which no side felt humiliated or defeated and in which every party walked away a winner. Otherwise, he said, the region's European prospects will be placed at grave risk.
"The forced declaration of an Albanian state on Serbia's territory will leave Serbs throughout the world feeling humiliated - in Serbia, in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, in Bosnia, in Croatia and in the United States. That sense of humiliation of an old European nation will dampen enthusiasm for EU accession. Without a European prospect for Serbia, there can be no European prospect for the region," he said.
 Romania wants explicit stipulation of 1/1/07 EU accession date at EU summit
THESSALONIKI, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Romanian foreign minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu on Wednesday said his country wanted a clear stipulation of Romania's accession to the European Union as of January 1, 2007 to be forthcoming at the EU summit next month in Brussels, in statements to ANA-MPA, on the sidelines of the South East Europe Cooperation Process (SEECP) assembly that opened in Thessaloniki on Wednesday.
SEECP foreign ministers were holding their annual meeting on Wednesday, while the group's heads of state and government will hold their summit on Thursday.
"We want a paragraph in the text (of the EU summit) that clearly stipulates that Romania and Bulgaria will accede the EU on January 1, 2007", he said, adding that "this paragraph must not be open to any other political interpretation".
For Romania, Ungureanu said, "there is no alternative accession date other than this".
Ungureanu stressed that Romania has made great strides towards harmonisation with the EU's acquis, although noting that much still remained to be dome.
He stressed, however, that his country will continue on the path of reforms even after its EU accession -- wherever and whenever reforms were necessary -- so that its cooperation with the EU would improve year by year.
Ungureanu assured that "Romania has no intention of importing whatever problems it may have into the European Union" when it became a full member, adding that the necessary political volition existed in his country for their resolution the soonest possible.
The Romanian foreign minister expressed his conviction that Romania and Bulgaria would join the EU "hand-in-hand" on January 1, 2007.
"The nature of the two countries' accession must be preserved, and the duo (Sofia-Bucharest) must jointly accede the EU. Nothing must come between us," Ungureanu said.
 Cypriots to protest Turkish PM visit to Thessaloniki for SEECP summit
THESSALONIKI, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Cypriot organizations will stage a rally in Thessaloniki on Thursday afternoon in protest of the visit by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the city, who is scheduled to arrive late Wednesday evening to attend the Southeast European Cooperation Process (SEECP) summit on Thursday.
According to a statement by the Cypriot Community in Thessaloniki, the protesters will gather at the Syndrivani Square and march to the Turkish Consulate to deliver a protest petition.
The Cypriots of Thessaloniki call on the Balkan leaders and the people of Thessaloniki to demand Turkey's compliance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, the withdrawal of the (Turkish) occupation forces (from the northern part of Cyprus) and the fulfillment of its commitments to the European Union.
 President Papoulias 'completely satisfied' from trip to the Arabian Peninsula
THESSALONIKI, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias, who returned to Athens on Wednesday following a tour of the Arabian Peniinsula, said he was "completely satisfied" from the results of his visits to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain.
Speaking to reporters during his flight back to Athens, Papoulias, referring to the results of his visit to the three countries, said "Greece is again present in the region, after many years of absence," adding that "Greece's past policy in the Arab world has been rejuvenated."
He said the climate of his meetings with the leaders of the countries he visited was "excellent" and the results "positive."
Papoulias noted that in his meetings with the leaders, he ascertained that "there is great willingness and acceptance on their part," stressing that "it is a great opportunity for Greece to return to the region."
He said the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain "want to help in the progress of relations of their countries with Greece."
The Greek president said that he has promised himself to visit all the countries of the region "to rekindle our country's relations with them," and for this reason, he is "planning a new trip, around October, to Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates."
The reporters also discussed with Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis and Deputy National Economy and Finance Minister Petros Doukas, who accompanied the president on his tour.
Sioufas termed it "an historic trip," which had "positive results." He said that "after this trip, a wind is blowing of creation and rejuvenation."
The minister said that the countries which the Greek delegation visited "are ahead and planning for the next decades," adding that "all that the delegation saw show the need for reforms to proceed in Greece, which will have depth and great speed, so that we will not be left behind."
 Bakoyannis on Mladic extradition issue
THESSALONIKI, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Serbia must fulfill its obligations to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague but at the same time the European Union's message to the people of Serbia should be clear, stated Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Wednesday.
She was responding to a question by a reporter on the stance Serbia should adopt regarding the extradition of former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic, wanted for war crimes.
Serbia has a significant place in the Europe of tomorrow and an equally significant place for peace and stability in our own region, added Bakoyannis during a press conference on the Southeast European Cooperation Process (SEECP) foreign ministers' summit in Thessaloniki.
 Education minister comments on cooperation with Bulgaria
SOFIA, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou, speaking to the ANA-MPA on Wednesday, expressed her conviction that, apart from positive prospects for a substantive enlargement of Greek-Bulgarian relations in the strategic sector of education.
"I think that we can work together to strengthen the regions of Europe. For new regional initiatives through universities, through science so that we can help the Western Balkans as well for the benefit of stability in the wider region," she said.
Commenting on the outcome of her two-day visit to Bulgaria, the education minister confirmed Greece's support for Bulgaria's speediest possible accession to united Europe in early 2007 and expressed the hope that this will contribute to closer cooperation between the two countries in all three stages of education.
Yannakou pointed out that this will result in a growing number of Bulgarian students at Greek universities and of Greek students in the universities of Bulgaria.
 Gov't steadfast in fight against corruption, Interior Minister says
ATHENS, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The government has not backed down in any of its pre-election promises to combat graft and corruption, Minister of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Prokopis Pavlopoulos told Sky radio during an interview on Wednesday.
He also referred to the government's planned revision of the Constitution, saying that the process is on track.
Asked about proposals that have been publicized concerning extending the governmental term from four to five years and the presidential term from five to six, as well as doing away with early elections, Pavlopoulos said that the revision of the Constitution is a purely parliamentary procedure, noting that all proposals are welcome and should not be construed as conflicts.
Commenting on the Constitutional Court, Pavlopoulos said: "We are not trying to create a centralized system of checks and controls regarding the constitutionality of laws," but noted that in a fast-paced world, the government must be able to make quick decisions and thus cannot afford to have cases pending for several years.
He also said that "there is no question of doing away with civil servants' life tenure."
 Papandreou lashes gov't 'inability to assess developments'
ATHENS, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Main opposition PASOK party president George Papandreou on Wednesday accused the government of being unable to assess correctly crucial developments at a domestic, regional or global level.
Speaking at the party's Parliamentary Group Coordinators' meeting, Papandreou expressed concern over the outcome of a meeting between Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Thessaloniki on Thursday and stressed that Greek-Turkish and EU-Turkey relations have deteriorated over the past two years.
According to PASOK's leader, the prime minister and his government have missed two major historic opportunities to lay strong foundations for Turkey's European course. Within this framework, Papandreou added, Greece could have raised important national interest issues, such as the Cyprus issue and bilateral relations, in a correct and binding way.
"We expected from this government and Karamanlis himself to continue our successful Helsinki policy. We had managed to turn these issues into European issues. Today, the government and Karamanlis managed to turn them into bilateral issues and recently brought back the United States in the role of the main mediator in our relations with Turkey," he said.
Referring to the crisis over Iran's nuclear program, the president of PASOK said that his party, since the days of its founder Andreas Papandreou, had adopted a clear position against the proliferation of nuclear weapons and in favor of limiting the existing nuclear arsenal characterizing the spread of weapons of mass destruction as one of the major threats for states and peoples.
"We support a diplomatic and peaceful solution to the problem through multilateral consultation based on international law", said Papandreou, adding that the issue is part of an ambient confrontational atmosphere existing between the West and Islam.
Greece can play a very important role in this emerging conflict because of its age-long relations with the countries in the region and can build a bridge of understanding linking the West with the Arab and Muslim countries, he said.
The PASOK leader also said that international events affect the everyday life of Greek citizens and stressed that everybody is currently watching their income shrink and becoming witnesses of unlawful profiteering.
Gov't replies to main opposition PASOK party leader's criticism: Government Spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, replying on Wednesday to statements made earlier in the day by main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou during a meeting of PASOK's coordinators, said that "Mr. Papandreou attempted today to declare himself 'present', resorting yet again to distortion, denial, danger-mongering and populism."
Roussopulos added that the PASOK leader "yet again attempted to attribute to others problems which are identifiable with PASOK: the lost opportunities for the country bear the seal of PASOK, the absence of responsible political word, clear positions, realistic proposals, bear the PASOK seal, the hidden agenda, as are daily being revealed, bear the PASOK seal."
On his part, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, in reply to criticism by Papandreou that the government is a "shadow theatre", said that "Mr. Papandreou should deal with his own party."
 Kefaloyannis denies 'clown' statement; says comments were altered
ATHENS, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The latest mini furor involving a minister's alleged comments centered on Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis this week, with the latter categorically stressing, however, that his statements, made during an informal talk with journalists, were altered and misrepresented.
A handful of newspapers and television stations on Tuesday and Wednesday claimed that Kefaloyannis referred to politicians as "clowns" because they have failed to curb corruption and fight vested interests.
"Statements I made during a discussion focusing on corruption and vested interests were changed ... the current government has made a tremendous effort on this matter. It's self-evident that this effort is an obligation we all have: parties, politicians, journalists, and in the end, citizens as well," Kefaloyannis said in reference to the comments he made while accompanying the Greek president during an official visit to Qatar.
"This is what I stressed, in my discussion with certain journalists, as being the only way leading to a high-quality democracy. Those who interpret and misinterpret phrases and concepts taken out of context simply generate impressions that are far from the truth of what I said," he added.
Meanwhile, when asked about the same issue, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros stressed that the minister has clearly underlined that his statements were misinterpreted and taken out of context.
 Austrian EU presidency hosts meeting on internal security in Vienna
VIENNA, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)A ministerial conference organized by the Austrian EU Presidency, will be held in Vienna on Thursday and Friday and will focus on internal security within the European Union.
The international conference is designed to contribute to the implementation of the Justice and Home Affairs external strategy, agreed by EU ministers in December 2005, with the involvement of third countries as partners.
At the conference, titled "The role of internal security in relations between the EU and its neighbors", the Police Cooperation Convention for Southeast Europe will be signed by the interior ministers of the convention's partners - Albania, Bosnia&Herzegovina, FYROM, Moldova, Romania, Serbia&Montenegro, Germany and Austria.
The Public Order Ministry's Secretary General, Ambassador Constantinos Elianos, will represent Greece at the conference.
Additionally, the EU ministers for justice and home affairs will be meeting with their counterparts from the Russian Federation and the United States, on the sidelines of the conference, in order to discuss the future collaboration in the area of justice and home affairs; and the fight against terrorism, organized crime, and illegal immigration.
Austrian Council President Liese Prokop, Vice President of the European Commission Franco Frattini and the interior ministers of the four upcoming EU presidencies - Finland, Germany, Slovenia and Portugal - will be participating from the European Union.
 Ecumenical Patriarch addresses NATO Med dialogue seminar
ISTANBUL, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I on Wednesday welcomed the presence of more Orthodox Christians in NATO, while addressing the NATO Parliamentary Assembly's 12th Mediterranean Dialogue Seminar, held in Istanbul.
NATO has more Orthodox Christians in southeast Europe after the accession of Bulgaria and Romania, he said.
The Ecumenical Patriarch challenged the position that a "clash of civilizations" was unavoidable: "We who live at a crossroads are living proof that different religions and cultures can coexist in peace," he said.
Bartholomew stressed that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has a special responsibility to help in the mutual understanding of East and West.
"We also have a presence in both worlds. We have witnessed great pain on both sides, like in Baghdad today, but we have also witnessed some of the most extraordinary acts of tolerance, like the reception of the persecuted Jews in 1492 by a Muslim Sultan."
 Daughter of Che Guevara gives press conference
ATHENS, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The daughter of Che Guevara, Aleida, speaking in an interview at the Athens Bar Association on Wednesday, in the presence of Cuban Ambassador Hermes Herrera, called for the "strengthening of the Greek people's solidarity for the people of Cuba and the need to defend the achievements of the socialist government of Fidel Castro".
She also called for the "breaking" of the island's blockade by the embargo imposed by the United States. She further appealed for the closure of the American base of Guantanamo and the release of the five Cuban detainees from prisons in the United States.
Aleida said that the charges for which they are being detained (espionage) are false and forged, while on the question of the base she said that maintaining it is illegal since it took place by the "subservient" to the U.S. government of the dictator Batista.
Referring to the role of the mass media regarding the image they are presenting for the countries of Latin America, Asia and Africa, she said that "they are being pressured and are not presenting reality which, as she herself has ascertained as a doctor in many missions, is terrible".
Aleida further said that the moral and material support and solidarity of peoples towards the people of Cuba is important. Given the embargo and the ban on the import of even the simplest of medicines by pharmaceutical industries, the economic support received by the country by the mobilization and sensitization of peoples is invaluable.
She arrived in the country at the head of a 15-member Cuban delegation to sensitize Greek public opinion and to achieve its active support for the people of Cuba.
 Greek economic prospects remain positive, FinMin says
ATHENS, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Greek government is promoting "integrated interventions" to prefectures suffering from de-industrialization, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis noted on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister said he was in close cooperation with Labor Minister Savvas Tsitouridis in drafting integrated programs to support regions suffering from the problem and noted that policy interventions announced for the prefect of Imathia (with an unemployment rate of more than 20 percent) could be used as pilot guides for other regions.
Alogoskoufis said that an early retirement measure announced for certain cases around the country were the not the general rule, rather it was an urgent measure to deal with certain problems.
The minister said economic prospects were positive and noted that under the government policy, the situation has improved significantly over the last two years despite uncertainties over rising oil prices and rising interest rates.
"Economic growth will remain strong at 3.8 pct of GDP in 2006. Unemployment fell below 10 percent and is expected to fall further, while employment rose by 1.3 percent," he said.
Alogoskoufis said Greek citizens' real available income rose by 4.0 percent in the last two years and said Greek per capita GDP rose to 77.1 percent of the EU's average last year and predicted it would rise to 80 percent in 2007. Greek exports grew strongly accounting for one-fifth of economic growth, while private investments rose 1.5 percent last year and the inflation rate, despite rising to 3.5 pct in 2005, core prices were lower compared with the Eurozone.
He also reiterated that a goal of reducing the country's fiscal deficit below 3.0 percent of GDP was feasible without the need for new measures and said a fiscal restructuring effort would continue. Alogoskoufis noted that a privatization program was progressing smoothly and said that an OECD ministerial meeting in Paris, on May 21, would discuss national reforms, innovation and coordination of economic policies.
Greece chairs the ministerial summit.
SYN's Lafazanis on FinMin Alogoskoufis' statements: Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) Political Bureau member Panagiotis Lafazanis, responsible for the party's economic and social policy department, said on Wednesday that National Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis "in his effort to refurbish the situation of the Greek economy, the position of the working people and the government's economic policy, with what he said in today's press conference, looked as if he came from another planet and that he was speaking about a third fictitious country and not about Greece of increased unemployment, high cost of living, the downgrading of salaries and pensions and of the new poverty."
He added that "Greece of the New Democracy government, which continues and intensifies the neo-liberal policies of the PASOK governments, is being converted even more into a new paradise of asylum, impunity and of excessive profits for the big business groups, first of all the banks, at a time when the working people and families see their lives becoming daily more difficult and worsening."
 FM addresses Federation of Northern Greece Industries event
4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis addressed an event organized in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, by the Federation of Industries of Northern Greece (SBBE) on Wednesday night, stressing that the situation in the Balkans has improved considerably but in the Western Balkans it is still fluid, citing as examples the issue of Kosovo, the possible independence of Montenegro and Serbia's problems with the European Union due to its pending issues with the Hague Court.
Referring to the great progress achieved in cooperation between the countries of southeastern Europe, she said "never in the past, here in the Balkans, did leaders meet so frequently. Neither did they have the opportunity of exchanging views on all the basic issues concerning them, nor was there the phenomenon of issuing proclamations, jointly agreed on."
The foreign minister pointed out that this great progress at political level is of particular interest to the business world of northern Greece.
"I am well aware that, while the expansion of Greek business activity in the Balkans is great, the lack until recently of close political cooperation procedures had certain unfavorable results for businesses as well," she said.
Bakoyannis noted that very often when tendering occurs for projects in such countries they are undertaken by companies and joint ventures from countries which have contributed very little, compared to us, to the economic development of the Balkans.
"I am determined to handle this situation, both I and my deputy minister associates. The foreign ministry, with this government, has now made economic diplomacy a main axis of our foreign policy," the minister said, calling for continuous cooperation regarding every existing project or opportunity in which Greek business initiative can participate.
 Greece, Bahrain sign shipping agreement
ATHENS, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece and Bahrain on Wednesday signed a bilateral shipping agreement aimed to facilitate shipping between the two states.
The agreement was signed by Greek Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyannis and Bahrain's National Economy and Finance Minister Sheikh Ahmad bin Muhammed Al Khalifa, in the presence of Greek President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and Bahrain Monarch Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa.
The agreement envisions favoured state status, free access to international cargo, abolition of all obstacles to sea trade, along with easy access and docking of ships.
The agreement also provides to facilitate entry and stay of merchant seamen in both countries, while offering national assistance in cases of maritime accidents in either country's territorial waters.
 Greek, Syrian tourism enterprises to meet May 12-14
4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Exporters' Association of Northern Greece (SEBE) on Wednesday announced it was organizing a business meeting between Greek and Syrian enterprises in the tourism sector on May 12-14 in Aleppo, Syria.
The meetings are organized in cooperation with the Association of Commerce Chambers of Syria, Syria's European Business Centre and Syria's Euro Info.
Syria is a country was many historical monuments, tourist attractions and has a dynamic tourism sector.
 EETT conference on broadband technology continues
ATHENS, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The second day of the three-day international conference held by the Hellenic Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT) focused on the marketplace and its contribution to promoting broadband technologies.
Deputy Development Minister Anastassios Neratzis said that Greece - which has one of the highest growth rates in Europe - aspires to and is capable of becoming an economic hub in the eastern Mediterranean and must play a leading role in promoting broadband technologies.
On his part, EETT Vice President Nicholas Koulouris noted that the conference highlights the central role Greece can play in the region and in promoting this technology.
Socrates Kominakis, Managing Director of mobile phone operator TIM, referred to the reasons why Greece lags behind its European peers in developing broadband networks and services, but noted the major contribution mobile telephony has played within the country on a socio-economic level.
The conference concludes on Thursday.
 Greek exports jumped 21.2 pct in Jan-Feb, yr/yr
ATHENS, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greek exports jumped 21.2 percent in the first two months of 2006, compared with the same period in 2005, exceeding a 19.05 percent target set by the government, according to figures released by the Hellenic Export Promotion Organization.
The organization's report, based on figures by the National Statistics Service, said exports totaled 2.365 billion euros in the January-February period, from 1.951 billion euros last year, reflecting higher exports in oil products, foods and industrial products.
Export activity to the EU rose 10.4 percent in the first two months of 2006 to 1.224 billion euros, with Italy recording a 31.6 percent increase (mainly olive oil exports), followed by Germany in second place. Exports to Turkey jumped 4 percent (fourth place) with the UK in third.
Exports to third countries totaled 1.141 billion euros, up 35.5 percent, with Bulgaria (fifth), Romania (seventh), Albania (13th) and FYROM (14th) ranking in the top 15 export destination countries.
Exports to Egypt soared 137 percent, while exports to Romania rose 46.18 pct, Russia 38.33 pct, Poland 28 pct and Japan 14.21 (reversing a three-year decline).
Iron and copper pipe exports rose 255.8 pct, followed by heating and cooling equipment (113.7 pct), virgin olive oil (107.1 pct), cotton (74.6 pct), milk and dairy products (70.4 pct), clothing (78 pct) and building materials (37 pct).
 OA categorically denies reports on flight safety of leased aircrafts
ATHENS, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Olympic Airlines on Wednesday categorically dismissed press reports citing problems with flight safety of its leased aircraft, saying it was reserving the right to seek legal compensation to defend the company's interests.
An OA announcement said press reports were inaccurate and were aimed to hurt Olympic Airlines' credibility at a time when the government and the OA board are seeking a restructuring of the ailing company.
The national carrier's board re-assured passengers that it has taken all necessary measures to ensure proper maintenance, safety and flight services for two leased aircraft from a European carrier by adhering to international, community and national standards.
 Sato subsidiary in 2.5 mln euro contract in Turkey
ATHENS, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Chair Company (TCC), a subsidiary of Greek-listed Sato Group in Turkey, on Wednesday announced the signing of a contract, worth 2.5 million euros, for the supply of Turkey's HalkBank with office chairs.
The project has a five-year duration.
TCC will supply 110 of HalkBank's branches on an annual basis.
HalkBank owns the largest branch network in Turkey, with 564 units servicing more than six million customers.
Sato is a leader in the Greek office furniture market and has production units in Greece, Germany and Turkey.
 Agricultural development ministry taking measures to support pharmaceutical herbs in Greece
ATHENS, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The agricultural development and food ministry is taking six measures to support the sector of aromatic and pharmaceutical herbs in the country with the purpose of making aromatic herbs a dynamic alternative crop.
Following a meeting chaired by Deputy Minister Alexandros Kontos, it was decided that training seminars should take place for agriculturalists and cultivators in the cultivation technique, all the state's potential should be activated for the promotion of aromatic and pharmaceutical herbs in the local and international market and local multiplying material must be produced to limit imports and reduce production costs.
It was also decided that legislation in the sector should be modernized, investment plans concerning the sector's processing units should be strengthened and a change in the relevant European Union regulation should be requested.
 Greek stocks end 0.68 pct higher
ATHENS, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greek stocks ended higher in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday with buyers maintaining the upper hand, particularly for blue chip stocks.
The composite index ended 0.68 percent higher at 4,231.43 points with turnover a moderate 322.7 million euros.
Shares in Public Power Corporation jumped 4.38 percent, while strong gains recorded also Viohalco, Intracom, Alpha Bank, Emporiki Bank and Hellenic Telecoms.
The Big Cap index rose 0.64 pct, the Mid Cap index ended 0.52 pct higher and the Small Cap index rose 0.67 pct.
The Utilities, Chemicals and Media indices scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while the Food-Beverage, Insurance and Commerce indices the biggest losses.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 161 to 105 with another 52 issues unchanged.
Derivatives Market Close: Intracom top in stock futures trade
Bond Market Close: Buyers outstrip sellers
Foreign Exchange Rates: Thursday
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.272
 Finance and culture ministers hold talks; Voulgarakis to meet Getty Museum's director
ATHENS, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)National Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and Culture Minister George Voulgarakis met on Wednesday and examined the course of the implementation of the culture ministry's budget, aimed at effectively advancing the culture ministry's activities.
In this context, decision was reached for the two ministries' secretary generals to meet next week so as to route the implementation of the necessary actions.
As stated by a finance ministry announcement, "culture constitutes the basic priority of the government, which makes use of all of its potential to support it.
Voulgarakis said that he will meet with the director of Los Angeles' Getty Museum in Athens on May 16, stressing that "it is extremely important for our country for the discussion to continue concerning the return of stolen antiquities."
Voulgarakis said he was "extremely pleased" with his meeting with Alogoskoufis, and expressed his conviction that the culture ministry's current financial matters "will be settled in the best possible way."
 Eleftheria 2006 cultural events in Alexandroupolis
4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Municipality of Alexandroupolis, northeast Greece, will be organizing a series of cultural events titled "Eleftheria 2006" from May 5 to June 10, in collaboration with the municipality's Cultural Development Society, it was announced on Wednesday.
The scheduled events include music concerts, theater performances, painting exhibitions, astrophotography exhibitions, and shadow theatre shows.
The Sacred Belt, or cincture, of the Theotokos (Mother of Christ) from the Mount Athos Monastery of Vatopedi will also be on display for worship at the Alexandroupolis Cathedral for the duration of the Eleftheria events.
 President Papoulias to open 52nd university rectors' meeting
ATHENS, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The 52nd meeting of Greek University Rectors and Managing Committee Chairmen will be launched in Mitilini, on the Aegean island of Lesvos, on Friday, May 5.
The two-day meeting will be formally opened by President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias in the presence of Education Minister Marietta Giannakou and education ministry officials.
 Memorial Day for Battle of Gallipoli on Wednesday
4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Events on the occasion of the annual ANZAC Day celebrations, a national holiday in Australia, get underway on the north Aegean island of Lemnos on Wednesday.
The Lemnos Province has declared a Day in Honor and Memory of those killed in the Battle of Gallipoli (Kallipolis) in northwestern Turkey during WWI. In April 1915, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) troops landed at the Gallipoli peninsula. Hundreds of Australians, New Zealanders and many soldiers from today's British Commonwealth were killed and many of them were buried in the Mudros and Portianos allied cemeteries on Lemnos.
The main event will take place at Mudros Allied Cemetery on Wednesday afternoon and Metropolitan Bishop Ierotheos of Lemnos will officiate at a memorial service.
 Permanent Greek EU Delegation to participate in 'Europe Day' celebrations
BRUSSELS, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece's Permanent Delegation at the European Union will participate this year as well in the "Day of Europe" celebrations with a series of cultural events.
The events, due to be held on May 6, include a piano recital by composer Stefanos Korkolis with works by Manos Hadzidakis and well-known French composers and a pavilion dedicated to the promotion of Greek literature with translated texts by Greek writers.
Also to be included will be a pavilion dedicated to the tourist promotion of Greece with a presentation of the Greek Tourist Organization and a pavilion dedicated to modern Greek art with an exhibition of works by Greek painters of the "Theorima" gallery.
 PM briefed on sports funding issues; new football 'super league'
ATHENS, 4/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis was briefed by Deputy Sports Minister George Orfanos on Wednesday, with issues ranging from efforts to curb fan hooliganism to funding for sports and athletic facilities around the country.
Asked about ongoing talks with FIFA, the world football body, Orfanos merely noted that "we'll find a solution. Our proposals will be the subject of discussions with FIFA".
Meanwhile, in response to ongoing preparations for a new and more advanced professional football championship -- the so-called "super league" -- in place of the current professional league, Orfanos cited what he called the prime minister's support for the creation of the new league.
"What I inferred was his (Karamanlis) particular interest in the fact that participating teams will themselves assume part of the burden, so that Greek football gains a role that befits its place in Greek society," he said.
Additionally, when asked if the premier had any message to convey to team managements and investors, given that a draft law allowing the establishment of the super league will be tabled in late May, Orfanos said the message is that the state has the volition to back professional football. "However, the paramount factor is investors' intentions; to show that they can claim a better role."