|Saturday, 31 October 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-05-05
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>May 5, 2006
 Greek PM Karamanlis points to 'tangible steps forward and significant successes', in SEECP address
THESSALONIKI, 5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The heads of state and government of the South East Europe Cooperation Process (SEECP) member countries commenced their summit meeting Thursday morning in Thessaloniki, with an opening address by Greek prime minister Costas Karamanlis who outlined the progress and significant successes achieved during Greece's year-long chairmanship of the group, which was coming to a close.
Addressing the summit, Karamanlis stressed that the cooperation among the countries in the framework of the Inter-Balkan cooperation has played an important role in achieving a new environment, in contrast with the past in which the atmosphere was "poisoned" by suspicion, lack of trust, and even wars.
He said that during the Greek chairmanship-in-office (CiO), tangible steps forward and significant successes were achieved.
Greece, he said, continued to fully back the European prospect of the region's countries, and was working consistently in that direction. He warned, however, that "The European principles and values must be respected, and all the criteria and prerequisites that have been put forward by the EU must be fully implemented".
Karamanlis noted that there were two SEECP countries currently in the process of EU accession (Romania and Bulgaria), three candidate countries (Turkey, Croatia and FYROM), one country that has signed a stability and association agreement with the EU, while two others were currently in the process of negotiations for concluding such an agreement.
Regional cooperation and good neighborhood relations are considered by the EU as a prerequisite for accession, he continued.
Karamanlis further said that a uniform free trade agreement among the SEECP countries would give new impetus to trade and attract new investments, referring to a proposal adopted Wednesday at the SEECP foreign ministers' assembly in Thessaloniki, which was submitted by Greek foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis. He also made note of the European road axes and the rail links, as well as cooperation in the energy sector.
The Greek premier welcomed the imminent signing, later in the day -- by the SEECP transport ministers -- of an agreement for the creation of a high-yield rail network in SE Europe, as this entailed modernization of the railways, reduction of travel time, and improvement of the quality of the region's rail services.
Regarding Kosovo, Karamanlis stressed that "the negotiations process for the future status of Kosovo must contribute to the stability and security in SE Europe".
"Our countries, as neighbors, are those that will be mainly affected by the solution reached. The involvement of the countries of the region in the efforts for a Kosovo solution contributes both to the success of the negotiations process and to stability in the region," the premier continued.
"The partners in the South East Europe Cooperation Process understand that in order to ensure stability and security in the region, it is important that we achieve a solution that is mutually acceptable to all sides involved on the future of a multi-ethnic and multicultural Kosovo. Whatever solution is reached must be the result of negotiations, and reached through peaceful means, ruling out all forms of violence, with respect for the inviolability of the borders, and which will contribute to the stability and security in the region," he added.
"It is my conviction that whatever arrangement (is decided) should be fully in line with the European criteria and values that we all share," Karamanlis said.
Turning to other issues, Karamanlis said that the issue of organized crime and corruption "remains a challenge for democracy and development". Whether involving trafficking of all forms, or money laundering, or other illegal activities, organized crime can be effectively dealt with only if the national efforts were supplemented by a collective regional action. "Inter-Balkan cooperation has played, and must continue to play, an important role in uprooting corruption practices in our region," the premier added.
Karamanlis stressed the need for creating efficient structures and bodies for Inter-Balkan cooperation, noting that any form of an institutional background was lacking. He disagreed with the view that the creation of institutions could potentially destroy the purely political nature of the Inter-Balkan cooperation, stressing that, on the contrary, the establishment of such structures would render the cooperation more credible in the eyes of the international community and the EU.
The Greek premier said that an action plan has been distributed pertaining to the institutional strengthening of the SE Europe cooperation process, and expressed satisfaction with the progress achieved in January regarding the appointment of an SEECP official as a liaison with the EU. "We are advancing this idea even further in our Declaration today, since the appointment of such a personality, by joint decision, would be of exceptional importance."
Karamanlis also referred to the implementation of the Thessaloniki Agenda, noting that the text prepared by the Greek chairmanship-in-office would be conveyed to the EU representative.
The Greek prime minister was slated to meet separately Thursday with Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Romanian prime minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu, and other SEECP leaders, on the sidelines of the summit.
On Wednesday night, Karamanlis hosted a banquet in honor of the visiting heads of state and government while, earlier in the day, he had separate talks with FYROM president Branko Crvenkovski, Chairman of the tripartite Presidency of the national (central) government of Bosnia and Herzegovina Sulejman Tihic, and Albanian prime minister Sali Berisha.
Karamanlis on Balkan issues, Kosovo: Greece supports the European prospects of all southeast European countries and this is a steadfast position, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis pointed out on Thursday during a press conference with the prime ministers of Croatia and Romania, Ivo Sanader and Calin Popescu Tariceanu respectively, after the South East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) summit meeting in Thessaloniki.
The prime minister did not comment on the government crisis in Serbia that erupted after an EU decision to suspend negotiations with the country on customs union, saying that he does not comment on domestic developments in a neighboring and friendly country.
Karamanlis stressed that Greece's position is firm, pointing out that "definitely all countries must meet the obligations they have undertaken but the vision and European prospect should stay alive".
He also reiterated Greece's support to the EU accession of Bulgaria and Romania on Jan.1, 2007 and underlined that Greece supports the European prospects of all southeast European countries, adding that this is a principle Athens supports firmly.
On the issue of Kosovo, Karamanlis stated that the solution to the problem should be mutually acceptable to all interested parties and the product of a peaceful settlement ruling out any form of violence. It should respect the inviolability of the borders and promote regional stability and security. In addition, it should ensure that Kosovo will remain multiethnic and multicultural and, in all cases, it should be a solution in compliance with the European principles and criteria, the prime minister said.
Karamanlis also welcomed the unanimous approval of Moldova's request to be upgraded from an observer to a full SEECP member.
Karamanlis on Iran crisis: The issue of Iran's nuclear program is one of global concern, stated Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday in Thessaloniki, adding that everybody in the world agrees on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons and on the fact that nuclear technology should not be used for anything other than peaceful purposes.
The prime minister added that there is intense debate within the UN Security Council, in which Greece participates (as a non permanent member), and that Greek positions were in line with those of its European partners. At the same time, he stressed that the issue should be solved via diplomacy.
 Greek, Turkish PMs review bilateral relations, focus on boosting trade
THESSALONIKI, 5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday made a general review of Greek-Turkish relations, during a 50-minute meeting held on the sidelines of the South East Europe Co-operation Process (SEECP) summit in Thessaloniki, while both men expressed a desire for a further improvement of relations between the two countries.
An emphasis was placed on the development of economic relations between the two countries, which is already considered to be growing in leaps and bounds, given that trade exchanges have exceeded the two-billion dollar target mark, resulting in a new target of five billion dollars being set. Political leaderships of the two countries have been encouraging entrepreneurship and the strengthening of trade and business relations, in the framework of economic diplomacy.
With respect to Turkey's EU prospect, which Greece backs, Karamanlis said that EU membership was dependent on the specific commitments set out by the EU. Greece's position in favor of Turkey's EU prospect is well known, but Ankara needs to proceed in fulfilling the commitments it has undertaken towards the EU, such as matters concerning religious freedoms.
The two prime ministers also exchanged views on the Cyprus issue, with both sides expressing hope for an auspicious end.
The Greek side once again stressed its support for the UN secretary general's efforts and the technical committees, adding that the "auspicious end" should be a very well-prepared process leading to a just and viable resolution of the Cyprus problem.
However, the Greek prime minister noted that "impressions that specific things will come out of such meetings should not be created. These contacts are held to create the necessary climate, to exchange views and to continue the momentum. The current momentum is towards improving Greek-Turkish relations. As you know very well, and this is something I have made crystal clear, a comprehensive normalization of relations is the goal, a strategic goal, for Greece and my government," Karamanlis added.
In response to press questions, Karamanlis said there were obviously differences of opinion on certain issues, "and, of course, the issues of you mentioned (religious freedoms, Halki, the Ecumenical Patriarchate) were brought up ... But I want to avoid any reasoning that a winner or loser emerges from such meetings; what did you win, get, lose? It is not like that. We live in a contemporary Europe and we must cultivate a constant momentum for communication and contacts. It is self-evident that there is a difference of opinion with Mr. Erdogan on a number of issues. That, however, does not mean that Greek-Turkish relations today are not at their best level in comparison with the past and that there exists a volition and intent to proceed to an even better situation," he stressed.
Regarding Karamanlis' pending visit to Turkey, diplomatic sources said that the contacts between the Greek and Turkish foreign ministries would continue in order to find a mutually convenient time for the Greek premier's visit to the Turkish capital.
Turkish PM visits Kemal Ataturk's home in Thessaloniki: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the home of the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, after the end of the SEECP summit on Thursday and stressed that Turkey is determined to continue the friendship process with Greece.
"We have started a friendship process between Greece and Turkey and we are determined to continue it. We are not a country focusing on acquiring enemies. On the contrary, we are a country focusing on acquiring friends and we have this sensitivity towards all neighboring countries," Erdogan said.
Asked whether the issue of the Patriarchate and the Halki School of Theology was discussed during his meeting with his Greek counterpart Costas Karamanlis, the Turkish prime minister said that "these are issues for which a decision cannot be taken with one simple meeting. We have proposed solutions in the past as well for these issues. I am saying this clearly. We have not proposed a non-solution. We are standing by these solutions again and, of course, we also have some expectations on this issue."
He further said that Turkey has taken considerable steps in the framework of the political criteria of Copenhagen which, as he said, no one can disregard and reassured that his country will continue this course.
Erdogan also said that the mosque restoration program was amended and made a church restoration program and in this framework a restoration of Orthodox churches has taken place.
"We have given permission for the restoration of Orthodox churches and we are waiting for reciprocation," he said, stressing that there are two historic mosques in Athens and a solution must be found for their restoration.
The Turkish prime minister further said that these are positive steps and noted that those who have a negative approach towards them are marginal circles or people who want to make them an object of politics.
Asked to comment on those in Turkey who claim that the European Union is a Christian club, Erdogan said that if Turkey's accession to the EU is secured then it will stand to gain because then it will cease to be such a thing.
"We are at a phase of negotiations with the EU and those who are creating obstacles for Turkey's accession to the EU are those who want the EU to remain a Christian club," he said.
Referring to his talks with Karamanlis, Erdogan said that they had the opportunity of discussing issues concerning Greek-Turkish relations, as well as political, social, economic and cultural issues.
"We had the opportunity to look at the future from the point where we are and to talk," the Turkish prime minister said, adding that he discussed the accession course of Turkey with Karamanlis and that the Greek prime minister stressed that Greece supports and will continue to support his country's European prospect.
As regards trade relations between the two countries, Erdogan said that the volume of trade transactions exceeded two billion dollars and that the target is for them to reach five billion soon. He also said that an identity of views exists with Karamanlis on the development of tourism with joint tourist package programs.
Commenting on the issue of Cyprus and the beginning of a new procedure for the resolution of the problem, he mentioned that Karamanlis told him that Greece is ready to do what corresponds to it and that Turkey will move accordingly as well.
Lastly, asked when Karamanlis will visit Ankara, the Turkish prime minister said that diplomacy will address this issue.
Erdogan stayed on the premises of the Turkish consulate, where the home of Kemal Ataturk is also located, for an hour and a half and at the end of his visit to Thessaloniki he left for the airport with Azrbaidjan as his next destination.
 Ankara determined to carry on reforms aimed at EU accession, PM Erdogan tells SEECP summit
THESSALONIKI, 5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Ankara government is determined to carry on with reforms, aimed at the country's accession to the European Union, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday, addressing a summit meeting of the South East Europe Cooperation Process (SEECP) in Thessaloniki, adding that a fair and viable negotiations process was a condition for achieving this mutual target.
On the Kosovo issue, Erdogan said Kosovo was one of the issues of the region of SE Europe that required great caution. He said that Turkey had historical and cultural ties with Kosovo, given the Turkish minority there, as well as the citizens of Kosovo origin residing in his own country.
Erdogan stressed that there could be no return to the situation prevailing in Kosovo before 1999, and expressed satisfaction with the talks that commenced in February on the future status of Kosovo.
Turkey's main hope, he said, was that the negotiations on Kosovo's future status would result in a solution acceptable to all the peoples living in Kosovo.
With respect to the referendum to be held May 21 in Montenegro to determine whether it will remain in the union with Serbia or become an independent state, Erdogan said that the outcome of the referendum must be accepted both by the sides involved and by the international community, in order to avert tension in the region.
At another point in his address, Erdogan referred to the SE Europe Energy Community agreement, which he noted Tukrey had not been able to sign due to "technical reasons", and expressed hope that Ankara would sign the treaty as soon as the relevant contacts with the European Commission were completed.
The EU and eight Balkan countries last October signed a landmark treaty in Athens establishing a unified Energy Community in SE Europe in line with EU energy legislation, but Turkey, whose energy minister was present at the ceremony, did not sign the accord reportedly due to disagreements on environmental issues.
 Bulgarian FM dismisses concerns over collapse of pipeline consortium; cites ownership issue
THESSALONIKI, 5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Bulgaria's foreign minister on Thursday appeared reassuring over the priority assigned by his government towards finally completing the long-delayed Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline, days after a consortium of Bulgarian firms participating in the three-nation project unexpectedly collapsed.
According to Foreign Minister and Deputy Premier Ivaylo Kalfin, the development will not delay but "accelerate work to complete the project". Kalfin made the statements from the northern port city of Thessaloniki, where leaders and foreign ministers of South East Europe Co-operation Process (SEECP) member-states gathered this week for a summit, as the organization's rotating chairmanship is passed from Greece to Croatia.
The development generated a series of press articles in the local media and raised questions about the timing and expediency of the consortium's disbanding, with Kalfin, in fact, denying that the pipeline was discussed with an American delegation during a recent visit to Sofia by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
He added that the decision was clearly practical, as certain firms in the scheme no longer show an interest to invest in the project, resulting in the establishment of a new consortium by the Bulgarian side.
Furthermore, he said the Athens was not officially informed of the development because Sofia's position vis-à-vis the project has not changed, while opining that "Bulgaria's enthusiasm for participation in the project is simply improved."
"Beyond that the date for when the project begins is determined, in large part, by the discussions we will have with the Russian side. I believe that Bulgaria's and Greece's positions on the matter are similar," he said, adding that Moscow's interest in the project remains active if judged by recent statements by Russian officials.
Conversely, he declined to comment on any deadlines for the project, saying germane issues dealing with the pipeline's ownership and must first be resolved.
The dissolved consortium, Trans Balkan Oil Pipeline Bulgaria", was established in 2003 by seven companies, whereas press reports out of Sofia cite interest by the state-run natural gas utility, Bulgargaz, in the project.
The next meeting by all three sides, Russian, Bulgarian and Greek, is due this month in Moscow, although no fixed date has been assigned.
The pipeline is designed to run from the Black Sea port of Burgas to the northeastern Aegean port of Alexandroupoli, thereby bypassing the busy Bosporus strait.
Karamanlis statement: Meanwhile, in a related development, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis reiterated during a separate press conference that the political agreement governing the project still stands.
He also noted that although the Bulgarian side has every right to define its own participation, the political agreement has been signed -- after 13 years of delays and difficulties -- and continues to be in force.
"This is a significant project that will upgrade the country as an energy hub, with significant benefits," he added.
Finally, he said this view was reiterated during talks he had with his Bulgarian counterpart and by the Bulgarian foreign minister.
 Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline a priority, Bulgarian PM tells ANA-MPA
THESSALONIKI, 5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Ensuring that the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline stayed on schedule was a priority for the Bulgarian government, as it was for Greece, Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev told an ANA-MPA correspondent in Thessaloniki on Thursday.
"Yesterday, I had an opportunity to talk to [Greek] Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on this issue. Both the government of Bulgaria and the Greek government want an international company that will undertake construction of the project to be set up as soon as possible, and also that the final clarifications concerning the structure of the company, its participants from the various countries, be made so that it can work efficiently," he said.
Stanishev also stressed the importance of the project for both countries, both economically and politically.
"Both our countries have a direct interest in the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline. It is important in terms of infrastructure and economically. Also, if you like, for energy security. But, personally, I consider that it is also important politically," the Bulgarian premier said.
Regarding concerns over a possible accident at Bulgaria's ageing Kozluduy nuclear power plant, Stanishev stroved to reassure public opinion that the plant was safe, pointing to agreements signed between Bulgaria and the European Union and stressing that Sofia intended to honor these.
"Have no misgivings regarding the safety of facilities at Kozloduy, since it is a concern and an important moment for Bulgaria's government and Bulgarian society first of all. We are monitoring the procedure with the utmost care and there is no reason for our neighbors to be concerned," he emphasized.
The Bulgarian prime minister also commenting on the European Commission's report on Bulgaria's and Romania's accession, that is due to be released in the next few days:
"We hope that we will have an objective assessment from the European Commission. This is a very important phase with great responsibility. But we have a lot of work to do. After the report things will be absolutely clear but we must not become complacent. We must work right up to accession but also afterwards," he said.
Stanishev was in Thessaloniki for a meeting of South East European Co-operation Process (SEECP) member-states, whose leaders and foreign ministers gathered in the northern Greek port city this week for a summit, as the organization's rotating chairmanship is passed from Greece to Croatia.
The pipeline project was also commented on by Bulgaria's foreign minister and Deputy Premier Ivaylo Kalfin, who reassured that Bulgaria's enthusiasm for the long-delayed project remained undiminished in spite of the unexpected collapse of a consortium of Bulgarian firms participating in the three-nation project a few days earlier.
According to Kalfin, the development will not delay but "accelerate work to complete the project" and the decision was clearly practical, as certain firms in the scheme were no longer an interested in investing in the project, resulting in the establishment of a new consortium by the Bulgarian side.
The next meeting by all three sides involved in the project, Russian, Bulgarian and Greek, is due to be held this month in Moscow, although no fixed date has been assigned.
The pipeline is designed to run from the Black Sea port of Burgas to the northeastern Aegean port of Alexandroupolis, thereby bypassing the busy Bosporus strait.
 Minority rights will be protected in independent Kosovo, Sejdiu tells ANA-MPA
5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The rights of Kosovo's minorities would be fully protected if the province were to become independent, the president of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority Fatmir Sejdiu underlined in an interview with the ANA-MPA on Thursday.
"We have focused our efforts on this and our commitment is clear. When we speak about protection of minority rights, this concerns many levels. The first and most important is that minorities will receive equal treatment and not be treated as second-class citizens - a type of behavior that [ethnic Albanians] have experienced in the past," Sejdiu said.
Highlighting his recent, unprecedented gesture toward Kosovo's Serb minority when he visited the Ducani monastery over the Orthodox Easter, the Kosovo Albanian president also pledged to protect Serb community monuments and places of worship.
"We will introduce laws for the protection of the cultural and religious heritage of minorities and Orthodox monuments, which we see as the common cultural heritage of Kosovo, in any case," he said.
Commenting on the progress of talks for the future of Kosovo, meanwhile, Sejdiu said the Albanian side's proposal emphasized the issue of local authorities that would allow all Kosovo communities, including its minorities, to feel part of the process.
He rejected alternative positions for a "third way" in decentralization talks that were midway between central and local government, as well as proposals calling for the segregation of minorities. The Serb side has called for clearly defined division between Serb communities and Kosovo Albanians in certain areas, which Pristina fears might lead to a future partitioning of the province.
He also countered objections to Kosovo's independence on the grounds that it was a dangerous precedent for other areas:
"Kosovo is a unique case and because of this requires special handling. We are in favor of a stable Kosovo that will contribute to establishing stability in the wider region," he said.
Responding to question about the province's natural resources, such as mines in which Serbia had invested heavily over the past decades, the Kosovo Albanian leader simply stressed his "conviction" that Kosovo could become independent.
"Independence will give us access to international financial organizations, which translates into international funding and investments," he said, noting that the ultimate goal was to revive Kosovo's economy.
"We also want to continue economic cooperation with the other countries of the region, including Serbia," he added.
Asked about the Kosovo status talks in the context of events in the surrounding region, such as the cessation of negotiations between the EU and Serbia over Belgrade's failure to apprehend fugitive general Ratko Mladic for war crimes in Bosnia, the referendum in Montenegro and a disputed border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Sejdiu stressed the need to keep these issues separate from talks on Kosovo's future and to avoid additional complications, so that the Kosovo issue might be resolved in a calm atmosphere without tensions.
He additionally underlined Pristina's 100 percent commitment to implementing the international community's criteria for Kosovo, including protection and respect for minority rights, in order to improve the standards of living, create a stable and viable state and, ultimately as a means to Kosovo's eventual European accession prospects.
Sejdiu gave the interview to the ANA-MPA on the sidelines of a meeting of South East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) leaders that is taking place in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki.
 'Greece has done maximum regarding name dispute' Karamanlis tells FYROM president
SKOPJE, 5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said that Greece has done all it can in trying to settle the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, FYROM President Branko Crvenkovsky told the media in Skopje on Thursday referring to his meeting with the Greek premier in Thessaloniki on the sidelines of the South East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) summit.
Crvenkovsky said that he and Karamanlis agreed that talks for a settlement to the dispute must take place at UN headquarters in New York.
However, the FYROM president noted that it is difficult for the two sides to reach an agreement since both have opposite views on the issue.
During their meeting, Karamanlis told FYROM's president that Greece has shown as much flexibility on the matter as possible and that Greece will not be able to strongly support FYROM's EU and NATO membership efforts if the issue remains pending, according to Crvenkovsky.
The FYROM president also noted that after elections are held in his country efforts for a settlement will be intensified in New York.
 Serbia-Montenegro President Marovic concerned over halt in negotiations with the EU
5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Serbia-Montenegro President Svetozar Marovic on Thursday expressed concern over the halting of negotiations between his country and the European Union because former Serb Bosnian army commander Ratko Mladic, wanted for war crimes, has not been arrested.
Speaking on the sidelines of the South Eastern Europe Cooperation Process (SEECP) summit held in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, Marovic said that the Mladic case has delayed or placed in doubt the rapprochement process between Serbia-Montenegro and the EU and expressed fear that the halt in negotiations is harming all those in Serbia-Montenegro who believe sincerely in European values.
"I am sad and concerned that the Mladic case has not been finally removed from the agenda. I think that all who had worked for its solution wanted the issue to come to an end," he said.
He stressed that the government of Serbia did a great deal regarding fulfilling criteria towards the International Penal Court of The Hague for former Yugoslavia and expressed the hope that the obstacle will be removed to enable the negotiating process to be normalized.
Referring to the upcoming referendum in Montenegro, he said that regardless of its outcome the implementation of European targets will be a priority in relations between Serbia and Montenegro and their future cooperation with the countries in the region.
As regards the issue of Kosovo, Marovic said that a hasty solution could be one-sided and warned that in such a case the problem will remain unsolved.
 Greek PM declines comment on government crisis in Serbia
THESSALONIKI, 5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday declined to comment on the government crisis that has erupted in Serbia, following the decision taken by the European Union to stop negotiations with the country on its customs union, saying that he does not comment on internal developments in a neighboring and friendly country.
Karamanlis said that Greece insists on its own position, adding that "of course, all countries must fulfill the commitments they have undertaken, but the vision and the European prospect must be alive."
The prime minister reiterated Greece's support for the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU as of January 1, 2007, and stressed that Greece supports the European prospect of all the countries of southeastern Europe, while adding that it is a steadfast principle "from which it will not move."
 Cypriots protest visit to Thessaloniki by Turkish PM
THESSALONIKI, 5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Members of the Cypriot community in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, held a rally and march on Thursday afternoon to protest the visit to the city by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the framework of the SEECP summit.
Gathering in a square in the centre of the city, they called for the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions and the reunification of the island in a viable and workable solution.
Holding Greek and Cypriot flags and shouting slogans, they started to march towards the Turkish consulate but were prevented by police from approaching the building, which had been visited by Erdogan earlier in the day.
A protest resolution was read at a short distance away from the consulate and, after singing the Greek national anthem, the protesters dispersed peacefully.
 Washington event focuses on western Balkans, Greece's role
WASHINGTON, 5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The western Balkans' European prospects were the focus of an event here on Tuesday morning at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, entitled "EU - Balkan Relations: The Greek Factor".
Speakers included the deputy head of the European Delegation to the United States, Angelos Pangratis, as well as Greece's ambassador to Washington, Alexandros Mallias.
Among others, the Greek envoy reiterated that Greek investments throughout the Balkans now total more than US$10 billion, having created some 200,000 jobs in a region plagued with very high unemployment. He also outlined Athens' vigorous policy over several years in favor of regional stability, development and inclusion of the western Balkan states into Euro-Atlantic institutions.
 PASOK leader addresses party's Parliamentary Group
5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou, addressing the party's Parliamentary Group on Thursday, made a surprise announcement ahead of October's local elections in the country in naming Gul Karahasan, a woman member of the Moslem community, as the party's candidate for the Drama-Xanthi-Kavala supraprefecture.
Karahasan is the alternate secretary of PASOK's municipal organization in Miki in the Xanthi prefecture.
Justifying his choice, Papandreou said that "it symbolizes the essence of PASOK's policy on the cohabitation of religions and cultures, the work it did when in power for the minority, relations between Christians and Moslems, open and democratic Greece and Greece of PASOK in which no citizen will be marginalized."
Papandreou said that in the upcoming elections PASOK will not be judged by whether New Democracy is worse or by whether PASOK is slightly better than New Democracy. It will be judged by whether PASOK is better than ever.
The PASOK leader, criticizing the government and the prime minister, referred to the issues of phone tapping, justice, the revision of the constitution and social insurance, for which he presented a 10-point proposal by his party.
Papandreou rejected the prime minister's invitations for dialogue, saying that "Karamanlis is not looking for interlocutors but for accomplices in his policy" and accused the prime minister of "lacking the courage to say that he is unable to implement what he had promised".
He spoke of an "unspeakable plan" and a "secret government program" which, as he said, "is harsh and anti-popular".
Referring to the revision of the constitution, Papandreou accused the government of "opening the issue with communication terms and of continuing it with communication handling". Addressing the prime minister, he called on him "not to hide behind the new hiding place of the constitution".
Commenting on the social insurance issue, the PASOK leader presented PASOK's 10-point proposal and accused the government of undermining the social insurance system.
Papandreou expressed opposition to voluntary withdrawal, speaking of "many such provocative cases", adding that the social insurance issue "took on explosive dimensions with the Karamanlis government which, for two years, made no effort to unify main insurance funds".
Outlining the 10-point proposal on the social insurance issue, Papandreou mentioned, among other things, the gradual unification of funds in three main insurance funds, the enactment of a minimum national pension for all, the reassessment of the heavy duty and unhygienic profession list, the discouragement of early retirement from work and, at the same time, the encouragement of a further stay at work.
Papandreou also strongly criticized the government and the prime minister for its foreign policy, as well as Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis for her position when U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke of "Northern Cyprus".
He said that a "dangerous change in strategy exists" regarding Greek-Turkish relations and expressed fears that Greece might "become again the cover for those countries that do not want Turkey in the EU".
 Papandreou has phone conversation with IAEA director general on Iran crisis
ATHENS, 5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader and Socialist International (SI) George Papandreou on Thursday had a telephone conversation with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei and discussed the Iran crisis.
As stated by Papandreou in his speech at PASOK's Parliamentary Group meeting on Thursday evening, ElBaradei informed him that if there was the necessary political will, the clash could be avoided.
Papandreou criticized the government which "is observing the events and is not undertaking any initiative." He added that if Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis "continues not to take any initiatives, he will be compelled to handle the situation from a disadvantageous position for Greece."
Papandreou noted that "PASOK's position is a clear no to a new Iraq" and that "the solution to the problem is only diplomatic." He also stood in favor of the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, but also in support of the restriction of nuclear arsenals in the United States and in all countries which possess nuclear weapons.
Referring to the European Social Forum which began its sessions in Athens on Thursday, Papandreou proposed for "the progressive forces of Socialist International to meet in a joint initiative with the forces which are expressed by the Social Forum to revitalize the world peace movement."
 4th European Social Forum kicks off in Athens
ATHENS, 5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The sessions of the 4th European Social Forum got under way in Athens on Thursday and will conclude on Sunday with the movements' assembly.
According to the organizers, about 10,000 people from all European countries arrived at the former Western Airport to take part in the Forum's events.
The organizers said that the number of participants at the Forum exceeded all expectations.
The issue which prevailed in Thursday's discussions was the threat of military intervention in Iran and was also the topic of a press conference which was given early afternoon by three leading activists. The speakers claimed that the U.S. and the European Union have launched threats against Iran with the sole objective of securing their sources of energy, under the guise of so-called world peace and the combating of terrorism.
The speakers claimed that what the U.S and the EU are interested in is to control Iran's oil deposits and to determine themselves which countries can have nuclear power. At the same time, doubt was expressed on whether there would finally be a war in Iran, because, as the speakers said, the U.S. military leadership does not desire this.
The speakers also noted the resistance of peoples against the eventuality of a war and the stance which the Social Movement will maintain and called on pacifists and activists from all over the world to be on the alert.
According to senior officials, 8,000 police officers will be on duty during the Forum, which will also include a march from Pedion tou Areos park to the parliament building on Saturday at 3 p.m.
More than 3,500 police officers will be sent to cover the march.
Police have already stepped up protective measures for possible targets, such as embassies and businesses, and are in continuous communication with European police authorities and Interpol.
 Seminar titled 'Stop embargo on Cuba' held in presence of Che Guevara's daughter
ATHENS, 5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)A seminar was held in Athens on Thursday titled "Stop the embargo on Cuba", in the framework of the 4th European Social Forum, in the presence of the daughter of Che Guevara, Aleida, while speakers at the event termed the embargo on Cuba "a crime of an international scale".
Addressing the seminar, Aleida said that "one cannot speak of an embargo on Cuba but of its complete blockading, aimed at the impoverishment and eradication of the Cuban people."
She also said that Cuba's move to nationalize nickel deposits became an example for other countries in Latin America as well to proceed with the nationalization of their mineral wealth.
Aleida further said that the "people of Cuba are determined to continue to struggle" and called for the "assistance and solidarity of other peoples for this struggle".
Referring to the position observed by the European Union, she said that the peoples of Europe "are isolated from information on what exactly is taking place in Cuba" an isolation which, in her view, "has been imposed by the United States".
 ADAE presents new evidence on phone-tap scandal
ATHENS, 5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)New evidence concerning a phone-tapping scandal involving Greece's top mobile phone provider Vodafone was presented by Greece's independent communications privacy authority ADAE on Thursday, during an ongoing Parliamentary investigation into the affair.
Testifying before Parliament's Institutions and Transparency Committee regarding the 'intruder' software that made the phone-taps possible, the head of the Authority of Assurance of Information and Communication Privacy and Security (ADAE) Andreas Lambrinopoulos also asserted that Ericsson, which had provided the systems used by Vodafone, must have at least some idea of who was behind the surveillance.
Noting that the illegal software was "remarkably ingenious" and had all the parameters and codes that allowed it to interact seamlessly with the entire Ericsson system, Lambrinopoulos claimed that it had come to Greece "already tested".
"Such tests cannot be carried out except in specific 'testing centers'. It is not possible that the parent company Ericsson does not know who has this extraordinary capability," he said, adding that Greek authorities should ask Sweden to press the company to divulge what it knows.
In response to a question by main opposition PASOK MP Evangelos Venizelos, meanwhile, the ADAE chief ventured the opinion that Greece's intelligence service EYP had also discovered the same evidence uncovered in the ADAE investigation.
Presenting the evidence gathered so far by his agency, Lambrinopoulos said that ADAE had traced two outgoing calls made from the card phones eavesdropping on the tapped mobile phones. These had been made to a TIM company card phone that "behaved" in the same way as a 'low-phone interceptor' card phone but had also made calls to the United States.
Phone records showed that the TIM card phone in question had made 11 calls and sent one SMS message to two numbers in the U.S. city of Laurel in Maryland, while it had also made and received calls from other TIM numbers. The ADAE head told the committee that he knew the two U.S. numbers but did not want to call them, in case they belonged to a company or U.S. service and the call was recorded.
According to Lambrinopoulos, all these numbers were activated on the same day in June 2004, their final digits all ended in -90, -91 or -92 and they all expired between July 2 and July 5 that year.
Careful investigation of phone records also revealed that six SMS messages from abroad had been sent to the 'interceptor' card phones, including one from Australia, two from Britain, one from Sweden and three from the United States, he said. Finding the caller in these cases involved records from the SMS centers of the countries involved and the effort was still underway, he added.
A further three suspect numbers belonging to the company KAXY ATE had placed three calls to the 'interceptor' card phones, one of which lasted for 15 minutes, while one phone subscriber had forwarded calls to one of the interception-system card phones, Lambrinopoulos told the parliamentary committee.
He estimated that ADAE will have fully concluded its investigation into the affair in about six weeks time.
The phone-tapping plot involving Greece's top mobile phone provider Vodafone was revealed by the government in February, after a nearly year-long covert investigation by the authorities had failed to find those responsible. It said the roughly 100 phones that were tapped included those of the prime minister, members of the government, high-ranking police and armed forces personnel, activists, journalists, business people and even one U.S. Embassy employee.
It was first brought to the government's attention in March 2005 by Vodafone chief executive George Koronias, who said it operated through a piece of sophisticated intruder software that had activated a legal "low-phone interception" system developed by Ericsson to allow legal phone surveillance but was able to mask its presence when inactive.
 Turkish politicians visit Lesvos, try to reverse negative climate
ATHENS, 5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Members of Turkey's main opposition party CHP visited the island of Lesvos on Thursday in an attempt to reverse the negative climate created in recent days when they co-signed a letter objecting to the Ecumenical Patriarch's visit to the region of Pergamos.
Members of Turkey's six opposition parties in their letter had objected to Vartholomeos' visit and to his officiating service as has been done regularly in recent years.
Speaking to the mass media in Lesvos, Kemal Anadol, who headed the delegation and who is MP of Izmir and secretary of the party's parliamentary group, said that it would be an honor for CHP and the region if Vartholomeos were to visit Pergamos and officiate service there.
He added that the purpose of the delegation's visit was also to ensure the patriarch's and visitors' safety to the region and a guarantee to contribute to the improvement of Greek-Turkish relations.
 Defense minister meets new Ukrainian ambassador
ATHENS, 5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis on Thursday received the Ukraine's new ambassador to Athens Valerii Tsybukh for a routine courtesy visit with new ambassadors. They discussed matters related to defense and military cooperation between Greece and the Ukraine, while both sides expressed a desire to overcome problems that have arisen with the supply of Ukrainian Zubr-type hovercrafts purchased by Greece.
 SEECP member-states sign rail agreement
5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Transport ministers from South East Europe Co-operation Process (SEECP) member-states on Thursday signed a rail agreement in Thessaloniki laying out a framework that will allow the creation of a regional network in a quadrant of Europe notorious for substandard rail services.
In signing the agreement, Greek Transport Minister Mihalis Liapis emphasized that Athens alone is finalizing a one-billion-euro budget for upgrading the country's rail lines and rolling stock.
Broadly, the agreement foresees the development of a total of 16 rail axes in the Balkans, cutting travel times and speeding up border checks via hi-tech on-board police and customs screening.
The most recent regional rail agreements in the region inaugurated a Thessaloniki-Istanbul and Thessaloniki-Sofia route.
 Government welcomes rise in farm exports
ATHENS, 5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Agriculture and Foods Minister Evangelos Basiakos on Thursday welcomed a rise in farm exports in the first two months of 2006.
"These positive developments are due to our planning for the farm sector, which we have been steadily implementing for about two years," Basiakos said.
According to provisional data from the Greek National Statistics Service, exports of agricultural products in January-February totaled 562.2 million euros, up 23% from the same period of 2005.
Citing the HEPO exports board, the minister reported that the farm export bringing the highest revenue out of 150 products was virgin olive oil, up 107.1%, followed by cotton, which rose by 74.6% against the first two months of 2005.
 Greek budget revenues up 12 pct in Jan-April, gov't says
ATHENS, 5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greek budget revenues rose 1.0 percent in April due to lower working days in the month and lower revenues from a stamp duty tax, the finance ministry said on Thursday.
Budget revenues, however, rose 12 percent in the first four months of 2006, exceeding a budget target for an annual growth rate of 6.5 percent. Finance Deputy Minister Antonis Bezas expressed his optimism over this year's budget revenues saying April was the most difficult month of the year, while he reiterated the ministry's will to intensify tax inspections during the summer tourist season.
Working days in April were down 20 percent from April 2005. Tax agencies reported a 1.0-percent fall in revenues in April, the same as customs agencies, while VAT revenues were up 6.0 percent and other categories of revenues jumped 17 percent in the month.
 Greece deregulates ferry fares
ATHENS, 5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The government on Thursday announced the deregulation of passenger and car ferry fares as part of moves to spur fair competition and improve services.
In addition, deregulation will allow ferry operators evolve their investment and business plans for coming years, the merchant marine ministry said in a statement.
The government would guarantee uninterrupted operation of ferry routes to benefit the country's islands, the statement added.
Later, the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology criticized the move.
"Deregulating ferry fares will definitely cause prices to skyrocket, striking a blow at the public, the economy of the islands and tourism for the sake of the profits of a handful of ship-owners," the party's economic and social policy spokesman, Panayiotis Lafazanis, said in a statement.
The Association of Tourism and Travel Bureaus (HATTA) welcomed the move, saying deregulation would be of immediate and long-term benefit to operators and passengers - both tourists and island residents.
 Athens Bourse Close: Stocks rise
ATHENS, 5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Athens share index closed at 4,266.56 points, showing a rise of 0.83%. Turnover was 335.9 million euros.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalization shares ended 0.77% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks closed 1.35% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 1.36% up.
Of stocks traded, advances led declines at 164 to 106 with 50 remaining unchanged.
Derivatives Market Close: OTE top in stock futures trade
Bond Market Close: Buyers outstrip sellers
Day's Total Market Turnover: 1.9 bln euros
Foreign Exchange Rates: Friday
Reference buying rates per euro released
by the European Central Bank:
 Four Greek officers missing after bulk carrier sinks off S. Africa
ATHENS, 5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Four Greek merchant marine officers were missing following the sinking of a St. Vincent-flagged bulk carrier late Wednesday night off the eastern coast of S. Africa, the merchant marine ministry said Thursday, adding that no sighting had yet been reported of the four Greeks and 21 other missing crew members of the "Alexandros T", despite a massive ongoing search and rescue operation mounted by the S. African coastguard.
Only 8 of the vessel's 33 crew members have been rescued.
The Alexandros T. was sailing from Brazil to China, loaded with iron ore, when it ran into strong winds of 7-beaufort velocity and high seas some 300 nautical miles off the coast of S. Africa. The vessel developed a list and took on water, sinking shortly afterwards.
Among the 25 missing crew members were bulk carrier's four Greek officers: captain Panayotis Vlismas, first mate Yannis Karaminas, first engineer Nearchos Boukouvalas, and second engineer Elias Efstratiou.
 Hellenism will honor on Sunday the memory of its dead in Mauthausen
VIENNA, 5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)With speeches, the laying of wreaths but also with a performance of the work of Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis, "Mauthausen", Hellenism on Sunday will honor, at the former installations of the Nazi concentration camp in Mauthausen, in Upper Austria, the memory of the 3,700 Greeks who fell victims of the Nazi monstrosity during World War Two.
At the ceremony at the Greek monument in Mauthausen, on the occasion of the 61st anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp, attending will be representatives of the Greek state, headed by Greek Ambassador in Austria Theodoros Sotiropoulos, and members of the Greek community in Austria, while the four songs of "Mauthausen" will be performed by Vienna's musical group "The Greeks".
At the major joint ceremony at the central monument of Mauthausen, which will follow those at the Greek monument and at the national monuments of the other countries and at which official delegations from all over Europe are expected, present will be Austrian President Heinz Fischer, representatives of the political leadership and resistance organizations of Austria.
 Archbishop of America Demetrios attends National Day of Prayer ceremony
NEW YORK, 5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Archbishop of America Demetrios, following an invitation by U.S. President George W. Bush, on Thursday attended the 55th National Day of Prayer, as this annual event is named and which is held in Washington.
Taking part in the National Day of Prayer are political and religious personalities and "is an opportunity for prayer in support of the American Nation and of its leaders," as is noted.
Thursday's ceremony was held in the presence of President Bush, who had a brief talk with the Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church in America.
 Aleida Guevara meets composer Theodorakis
ATHENS, 5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Aleida Guevara, eldest daughter of legendary revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara, on Thursday met with world renowned Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis who spoke with warmth about Che whom he had personally met.
According to an announcement by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), also present at the meeting was KKE Secretary General Aleka Papariga. Keen interest was expressed in the life and struggles of Che and in the developments in Cuba as well as throughout Latin America.
The KKE announcement said that Aleida Guevara, a 46-year-old doctor working in Havana, expressed her gratitude to Theodorakis' artistic work and for his particular contribution to the solidarity movement with the people of Cuba "in the struggle against the exclusion and the imperialistic interventions".
 ESHEA expresses solidarity to Turkish Cypriot journalist
ATHENS, 5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)The board of the Athens Journalists Union (ESHEA), in an announcement on Thursday, expressed its solidarity and support to Turkish Cypriot journalist Serhat Incirli.
ESHEA, jointly with the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Journalists Union of Cyprus, "denounce the Turkish authorities, which with unprecedented persecutions against our colleague, attempt to manipulate the independent functioning of the Press," the ESHEA announcement said.
The ESHEA announcement added:" Colleague Serhat Incirli, lives in London and writes in the (Turkish Cypriot) newspaper 'AFRIKA', which is published in the Turkish military occupied north of Cyprus. The journalist faces serious charges regarding 'insult of the Turkish nation' for articles which are printed in the newspaper. The relevant authorities of the pseudo-state are seeking him so that the General Public Prosecutor of Turkey sue him and are exerting pressure on his family."
 Film director A. Damianos dies, political leaders express condolences
ATHENS, 5/5/2006 (ANA/MPA)Avant-garde film director Alexis Damianos died at the age of 85 on Thursday.
Damianos, whose films included The Charioteer, Evdokia and To the Ship, will be buried on Saturday at 11 a.m.
"His deep knowledge of Greek culture, his love of the country and his social awareness characterize his work; a work that placed its stamp on Greek cinema," President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias said referring to the director and expressed his condolences to Damianos' family.
On her part, Secretary General of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), Aleka Papariga, expressed her condolences to Damianos' wife, noting that: "Through his work, Alexis Damianos emerged as one of the most important Greek directors. He created and expressed a truly popular cinema."
The Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party described Damianos as "a significant man and artist."
"He left behind an important work, bold and radical in tone and particularly sharp in terms of its social content," SYN's statement said.
"We express our sincere condolences to his family," it concluded.
 Cyprus and Egypt sign five interstate agreements
CAIRO, 5/5/2006 (CNA/ANA/MPA)Five interstate agreements on research and the co-exploitation of hydrocarbon deposits in the line between the exclusive economic zones of Cyprus and Egypt were signed on Thursday during the official visit of Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos to Egypt.
The signing of the agreements took place at the presence of President Papadopoulos and Prime Minister of Egypt Ahmed Nazif. Three of the agreements were signed by Cypriot Foreign Minister George Iacovou with his Egyptian counterpart, the Egyptian Minister of International Cooperation and the Minister of Education and Scientific Research.
Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism George Lillikas signed two agreements with Egyptian Minister of Electricity and Energy and Minister of Petroleum.
The agreements cover the co-exploitation of hydrocarbon deposits in the line between the two countries' exclusive economic zones, the cooperation of the two countries in the production of electricity and renewable sources, a special program on cultural, scientific and technological cooperation, scientific cooperation on research and development and a memorandum of understanding for cooperation in development.
President Papadopoulos and Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif expressed satisfaction with the signing of the agreements.
''This is a very historic day in our bilateral relations because it opens up avenues, new types of cooperation'', President Papadopoulos said.
Asked if a committee is going to be set up for monitoring the implementation of these agreements, the Egyptian prime minister said there is such a committee, but it needs to be re-activated.
President Papadopoulos also had meetings Thursday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Speaker of the Egyptian People's Assembly Ahmed Fathy Sorour and the General Secretary of the Arab League Amr Moussa.
During his contacts President Papadopoulos expressed his gratitude for Egypt's consistent support to the cause of Cyprus.
Foreign Minister Iacovou also met Thursday in Cairo with his Egyptian counterpart with whom he discussed the Cyprus question and other international issues.