|Wednesday, 22 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-05-17
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 17 May 2007 Issue No: 2595
 PM Karamanlis says Commission's decision for lifting EDP 'decisive development'Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday termed an EU Commission's recommendation earlier in the day to end disciplinary budget action against Greece for its excessive fiscal deficit, a "decisive development" for the country's course towards real convergence.
"In an indisputable manner, the European Union confirms the correctness as well as the efficiency of the economic policy we jointly decided three-and-a-half years ago and which we have since then followed without deviation, decisively and responsibly," the prime minister said addressing a special press conference at Maximos Mansion on Wednesday evening.
Karamanlis said the country entered the excessive deficit disciplinary procedure "because of the irresponsibility of past governments", underlining that "Greece exits from this procedure because it had the right to, because it achieved its targets and because it made important steps towards fiscal stability in a way which guarantees that what we have achieved will long last."
The premier said that due to the policy followed, the fiscal deficit fell from 7.8 per cent of the GDP to 2.6 per cent and within three-and-a-half years and for the first time since the country's accession to the European Monetary Union (EMU), the deficit moved to a lower level than the one set by the EU.
"This important success is the result of reforms we are implementing in the economy, that is, the restriction of public waste, the efficient handling of tax evasion, the decrease in tax scales for households and businesses, the privatisations and the new investment law, the faster absorption and more efficient utilisation of Community Support Framework funds," Karamanlis said, adding "all these results are important and satisfactory. But I want to emphasise, yet again, that this is not the end of the road, the country's fiscal problem has not been dealt yet in its entirety, fiscal adjustment continues at a milder pace and the new target is to have balanced budgets by 2010. This is indispensable in order for us to handle the plague of public debt we have inherited."
He said that reforms were "continuing to reinforce even more the economy's competitiveness, to reduce unemployment even more, to have a more efficient, fairer and really social state."
"Fiscal cleansing allows us to gradually but steadfastly focus our actions on the further improvement of the standard of living of all citizens, but mainly of the economically weaker groups, it permits us to liberate funds in order to implement policies against poverty and social exclusion, for education and health, for employment, for safe and sanitary conditions at the workplace, for the environment and the quality of life of all of us. Having as our steadfast target the building of a truly strong Greece, a society of cohesion, solidarity and humanity," Karamanlis added.
Concluding, the premier said that reforms and changes implemented by his government will continue.
 Commission requests lifting of EDP against Greece; cites 'significantly improved structural budget balance' (adds Almunia)BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA)
The European Commission on Wednesday issued its mostly expected recommendation that the Council lift an excessive deficit procedure (EDP) against Greece, Germany and Malta.
In a particularly positive statement for Athens and the other two governments, the EU's executive emphasised that "in 2006 their budget deficit fell below the 3 percent of GDP ceiling on the back of a significantly improved structural budget balance reflecting permanent measures, and is projected to decrease further in 2007 and 2008."
The Commission added that the favourable developments in the "public debt ratio in 2006 and the projection for all three countries of a decreasing trend in 2007 and 2008. This achievement indicates a credible and sustainable correction of the excessive."
Specifically regarding Greece, the Commission said it considers that the excessive deficit situation has been corrected in a "credible and sustainable way."
The general government deficit was reduced to 2.6 percent of GDP in 2006 from 5.5 percent in 2005, whereas the structural adjustment between 2004 and 2006, i.e. the improvement in the cyclically-adjusted balance net of one-off and other temporary measures, amounted to 4Ż percentage points of GDP, the Commission noted.
According to the Commission's spring forecast, the headline deficit is expected to narrow to 2.4 percent of GDP in 2007 (still including one-off measures of 0.5 percent of GDP) and, on a no-policy-change basis, slightly increase to 2.7 percent of GDP in 2008, but without further recourse to one-off measures. This suggests that the deficit has been brought below the Treaty reference value in a credible and sustainable manner.
In a press release, the Commission stated:
"Greece's general gross government debt declined from 108Ż percent of GDP in 2004 to 104Ż percent in 2006 and is expected to fall further to around 97Ż percent of GDP by 2008, according to the Commission's forecasts and on a no-policy change basis. Hence the debt-to-GDP ratio can be considered to be sufficiently diminishing. Greece presently has the second biggest debt in the euro area after Italy.
"Greece, nevertheless, needs to take advantage of the strong economic growth that it has been enjoying (4.3 percent in 2006 and an expected 3.7 percent in 2007) to reduce its structural deficit which, despite the significant reduction in the last two years, is still above 3 percent, and to progress towards its medium-term objective of a budget on balance. This is of the utmost importance to reduce the public debt rapidly and to improve the long-term sustainability of its public finances currently put at high risk by the expected increase in pensions and other age-related expenditure.
"Greece was put in the excessive deficit procedure in May 2004 on the basis of a deficit of 3.2 percent of GDP in 2003. In February 2005, the Council decided, in accordance with Article 104(9), to give notice to Greece to correct the excessive deficit by 2006 at the latest. The Council also required Greece to improve the collection and processing of general government data. The Greek statistical authorities have improved their procedures, which led to an overall higher quality of the data. As a result, the Commission (Eurostat) has withdrawn its reservations on the quality of the actual reported data."
On his part, EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said the Commission's recommendation to ECOFIN to terminate disciplinary procedures against Greece was a "positive development".
Speaking to reporters, Almunia underlined the need for vigilance on sustaining fiscal discipline in the future and reiterated the Commission's preference in taking measures of a permanent nature in fiscal consolidation efforts.
The EU Commission said a correction of Greece's fiscal deficit was "clear" and noted that exiting the procedure was a good first step, but not the last in fiscal consolidation efforts. He insisted that Greek authorities emphasise reducing structural deficit and avoid taking temporary measures.
Commenting on the medium-term and long-term sustainability of public finances in Greece, Almunia said reform of the social security system must become the primary commitment of Greek leadership in the coming years.
 A significant day for Greek economic policy, FinMin saysPARIS (ANA-MPA/O.Tsipira)
"This is a significant day for Greek economic policy," Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis told reporters on Wednesday commenting on a decision by the European Commission to recommend the end of disciplinary budget action against Grece for its excessive fiscal deficit, while it also underlined the necessity for continuing economic reforms.
The Greek minister, currently in Paris for the two-day annual ministerial meeting of OECD, added the Commission's recommendation was very significant since it justified efforts made by the Greek government and the people to cut its deficit. Alogoskoufis stressed that the Commission said the deficit cut was "sustainable and credible", but noted that the most important thing was the fact that the reduction was made through a policy mixture that maintained high growth rates, cut tax factors and reduced unemployment in the country. "This makes us more optimistic for the future," he said.
"We must continue efforts to present balanced budgets in the next few years. We must continue with a way to combine growth, strengthening the social state and dealing with unemployment. We significant reforms needed in the wider public sector to have a competitive and strong Greek economy," he told reporters.
Alogoskoufis said Greece supported the role of Southeastern European countries in an expanded OECD and the world economy and said decisions to expand the Organisation would facilitate towards this direction. "We support a more fair distribution of financial funding of the Organisation and the accession of Russia, Chile, Israel, Estonia and Slovenia in OECD," he said. The Greek minister said the ministerial meeting focused on global trade and developments in world economy. "There is a strong global growth rate," he said, "particularly in Europe thanks to reforms made and a successful implementation of policies to cut deficits," he noted.
"This is a great day for France. It has a new president with a specific programme to deal with the country's problems. His course, his character, dynamism and his programme guarantee a new day for France," Alogoskoufis said.
PASOK spokesman comments on PM's statements
Main opposition PASOK spokesman Petros Efthymiou commenting on Wednesday night on Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' statement on the EU Commission's recommendation to end disciplinary budget action against Greece for its excessive fiscal deficit, claimed that his party's leader George Papandreou "during his recent meeting with Monetary Commissioner Joaquin Almunia emphasised that Greece should exit immediately from surveillance, in which in any case should have never entered."
Efthymiou further charged that the prime minister "has conscientiously committed the crime of the fiscal 'audit' in order to back-track on his pre-election promises to the Greek people, to slander PASOK for its own lagging and options and to use the 'audit' as a vehicle for an anti-popular policy".
KKE comments on PM Karamanlis' statements
The Press Office of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) in an announcement on Wednesday evening commented on statements made by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis earlier in the day regarding the European Union's decision for Greece's exit from the procedure of the excessive deficit.
"The people will continue to be under the supervision of the anti-popular policy, therefore, there is no reason for them to rejoice. What is needed is for political conclusions to be drawn in the direction of the weakening of the agencies of the anti-popular policy, of the New Democracy (ND) and of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK)," the KKE announcement said.
 PASOK and Synaspismos comment on EU recommendation for Greece's exit from EDPVasso Papandreou, main opposition PASOK party's head on economic and financial affairs and Panagiotis Lafazanis, Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party political secretariat member, commented on Wednesday on the EU Commission's recommendation that the Council lift an excessive deficit procedure (EDP) against Greece, Germany and Malta.
"It is positive that the European Commission proposes the exit of Greece from the supervision in which we entered at the initiative and the responsibility of the government for petty partisan reasons," Papandreou said.
"Mr. (Finance Minister George) Alogoskoufis must now brief the Greek people on the committments he has undertaken for the coming years," she added.
On his part, Lafazanis said that Greece's exit from the EU supervision "will have no positive impact on Greek working people because the country will exit from one EU supervision only to enter a new and worse one, since the government has committed itself to balance the budget until the year 2010."
 Deputy FM Valynakis addresses 'EU 27' representatives' meeting in BerlinBERLIN (ANA-MPA/P. Stagos)
Representatives of the European Union's 27 member states, with deputy foreign minister Yannis Valyankis representing Greece, ended a meeting in Berlin on Tuesday night during which they evaluated the results of deliberations to date on how to salvage the substance of the existing text of the draft EU Constitutional Treaty, winding up an important stage in preparation of the EU summit scheduled for June 21-22.
Although the draft has already been ratified by 18 member states, the text cannot remain as is given that it has been rejected in referenda in France and the Netherlands.
The efforts enter a new stage on Wednesday, with the arrival in Berlin of newly-elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his imminent talks with German chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country currently chairs the rotating EU presidency. The focus of the deliberations is to find a compromise solution that, on the one hand, will not 'betray" the 18-country majority that have ratified the draft, while on the other hand will also provide a "way out" from the French and Dutch rejection, as well as "after-the-fact" disagreements by other memre countries, such as Poland and the Czech Republic.
Speaking to reporters after Tuesday's meeting, Valyanakis stressed that Greece was among the member states that was working toward preserving the substance of the Constitutional Treaty, adding that any "concessions" made in the wording or structure of the text in order to facilitate those countries facing difficulties in ratifying the Constitutional Treaty "must be counter-balanced by the result", meaning that the "essence" must be preserved.
For Greece, he said, "it is a matter of the European Union's credibility and a matter of respect of the citizens -- which are expressed from within these two-thirds of the member states that have already ratified the Treaty -- that the discussions proceed, but on the basis of this Treaty...This is the basis of the agreement, and it must serve as the basis for agreement up to the end".
The German EU presidency intends to hold deliberations at top political level, introducing, for practical reasons, a procedural innovation under which the Chancellor's (and current EU chair's) meetings with the other 26 leaders in Berlin will be 'grouped', although all the procedural details have yet to be clarified. In previous years, the practice was that the leader of the presiding country made the traditiona "tour of EU capitals", just ahead of the summit, for the final deliberations. Recently, following the recent enlargement, however, the customary "tour of capitals" has been replaced by consecutive visits by the political leaders to the capital of the presiding member state.
According to Valynakis, it was made clear during the representatives' meeting in Berlin that the German EU presidency's political goal is for the EU leaders, at the summit, to decide on the convening of a new Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC) which, on the basis of the political agreement that will be achieved at the June summit, will have to complete its work before the expiry of the Portuguese EU presidency -- which takes over from Germany -- in December 2007, so as to allow the necessary time for ratification of the Constitutional Treaty by the member states ahead of the June 2009 European Parliament elections, in order that the elections take place with the new Treaty in effect.
Valynakis described the Constitutional Treay issue a "difficult and complex" one, noting that Greece, "on our side, wants to contribute to resolving this matter, and we are developing initiatives -- bilaterally, with the EU Presidency, and in smaller or larger groups -- in order to exit from the difficulty in this issue".
Greece's position, he continued, is that "we want more, and not less, Europe, we want a stronger, not a weaker, Europe, we want a Europe that is more efficient, closer to the citizens, and we want Europe to be able to take decisions", adding that "these are the positions we maintain in the context of the discussion taking place...".
 Australia prepares for Prime Minister Karamanlis' visitMELBOURNE (ANA-MPA/S. Hadjimanolis)
Deputy foreign minister Theodoros Kassimis is currently in Australia in preparation of an official visit by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who is due to arrive in Sydney on Monday following a visit to New Zealand.
Australia and Greece are expected to sign a mutual social insurance agreement guaranteeing the pension rights of Greek Australians and allowing the transfer of retirement pensions to Greece. The agreement will be signed on behalf of Greece by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, who will be accompanying the prime minister.
Karamanlis will arrive in Sydney, Australia on Monday, May 21 and, before visiting Adelaide, will meet with his Australian counterpart John Howard in Canberra.
Karamanlis is expected in Melbourne on Thursday, May 24, for talks with the political leadership of the state of Victoria and representatives of the Greek Australian community.
On Friday, May 25, the Greek prime minister will address a public gathering at Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne Park.
 PM to meet ND party secretary, health minister on ThursdayPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis is to have successive meetings with ruling New Democracy's Central Committee Secretary Lefteris Zagoritis and Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Thursday morning, according to alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros.
At noon the same day, Karamanlis will meet the newly elected presidium of the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE), followed by a meeting at 13:30 with the presidency of the nationwide prefecture authorities union ENAE.
 Papoulias, Fischer tour Mount Athos on TuesdayGreek President Karolos Papoulias and visiting Austrian President Heinz Fischer were received by Mount Athos authorities during their informal visit to the all-male monastic community in Halkidiki peninsula, northern Greece, on Tuesday.
The two heads of state had the opportunity to admire several priceless relics on display in the Mount Athos capital of Karyes, including the first founding charter of the autonomous monastic community bearing the signature of Byzantine Emperor Ioannis Tsimiskis -- an artifact shown only to dignitaries.
The two presidents also toured the Mount Athos Protato Cathedral and the monasteries of Iviron and Stavronikita.
 PM welcomes formation of new government in SerbiaIn a message on Wednesday, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis expressed his satisfaction with the formation of a coalition government in Serbia, saying that it was made possible through the "long and labourious efforts of President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica".
Congratulating the two men, Karamanlis said the formation of a government in Serbia would now open the way "for the country to marshal all its forces and progress down the European path more rapidly and with greater confidence".
Greece, as a country with close, historic ties to Serbia, had worked toward this end and would steadfastly continue to do so, Karamanlis added.
"I would like to wish Mr. Kostunica and his government every success and to assure him that cooperation with him will be one of the priorities of the Greek government," the Greek premier concluded.
 PASOK leader on formation of new gov't in SerbiaMain opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader George Papandreou made a statement on Wednesday night regarding the formation of a new government in Serbia.
"I express to President of Serbia, Boris Tadic, and to the Prime Minister, Voislav Kostunica, my congratulations over the formation of the new government in Serbia. I wish every success in its work and to the confrontation of all the challenges, particularly to Serbia's course towards the European Union. As I have repeatedly stressed, Serbia, and all the Balkans, are an inseparable part of Europe, they belong to the European family," Papandreou said.
 FYROM name issue discussed anew in New YorkNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
The name issue of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) was discussed anew in New York on Wednesday, at the initiative of the special representative of the United Nations' Secretary-General, Matthew Nimetz.
Greece's Permanent Representative at the United Nations, Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis and FYROM's Ambassador Nicola Dimitrov took part in the talks.
According to a statement by UN special representative Nimetz, "the sides continued the exchange of views within the framework of article five of the interim agreement and decided to meet again at a date which they will decide."
 Papandreou criticism over gov't policies in justice systemMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Wednesday aimed his criticism at the government's policies in the justice system, charging that the Karamanlis government is attempting to manipulate the judicial system "with illegal persecutions and illegal cover-ups."
Among others, he centred on the fact that a full-scale investigation has not been launched into press allegations concerning the son of Supreme Court president Romylos Kedikoglou, while also referring to delays in the investigation into the unprecedented Vodafone mobile phone tapping affair.
He also called for an acceleration of judicial investigations into a handful of cases that his party has termed as "scandals" - i.e. claims by a dozen or so Pakistani guest workers in Athens of illegal detention and interrogations by intelligence services following the London underground terror acts; state-controlled mobile phone provider Cosmote's purchase of the Germanos retailer, as well as National Bank of Greece's purchases of the Turkey-based Finansbank and a local brokerage firm, P&K.
He also called on the government and the prime minister to "open the file" into 1999-2000 Athens Stock Exchange "bubble", asking why this has not happened in three years of a New Democracy government.
Finally, he again reiterated his demand for early elections.
Papandreou spoke to his party's Parliamentary council.
 PASOK opposes change to election lawPASOK spokesman Petros Efthymiou on Wednesday stressed that the main opposition party was not prepared to consider any change to election law.
The next general elections must be carried out based on the election law that was passed five years ago, he underlined.
He said the ruling New Democracy government was "afraid of elections" and accused it of "panic and lack of leadership", adding that the only "immediate resort to the popular mandate was the only healthy way out".
 PASOK spokesman on FYROM references in websiteA main opposition PASOK party spokesman on Wednesday responded to press questions referring to PASOK leader George Papandreou's website, and specifically, references to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as only "Macedonia".
"If you will refer to the website, even at this moment ... there is an open collection containing foreign articles and foreign sources, which are reprinted verbatim, in other words, we are essentially talking about an archive and not a political page," PASOK spokesman and former minister Petros Efthymiou said.
 Government condemns attack on newspaperAlternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Wednesday stressed the government's condemnation of a violent attack on the newspaper "Apogevmatini" by a group of hooded youths wielding fire bombs.
He stressed that Monday's attack did not target just the newspaper itself but also freedom of speech and the freedom of the press.
"Violence is the resort of those who lack arguments and attempt through actions that are condemnable - I am sure by all - to impose on others their so-called views. In our society, however, the overwhelming majority condemns these methods and isolates them," Antonaros said.
 KKE proposes ban on investments in stocks by state-run funds; lower retirement agesThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Wednesday unveiled its proposals for reform and safeguarding of state-run pension funds' reserves, calling for, among others, the return -- via state coffers -- of whatever losses dating back to 1950.
The communist party also proposes a ban on the purchase of stocks and other capital market products by funds, with investment placements to be allowed only in fixed-rate state securities with a guaranteed performance above the inflation rate, and without the involvement of third parties in transactions, i.e. commissions.
Additionally, KKE repeated its demands for lower retirement age limits across the board.
 SYN unveils proposal for Parliament investigation of bonds issueThe Coalition of the Left, of Movements and Ecology (SYN) party on Wednesday unveiled its proposal for a Parliamentary investigative committee to examine investments using pension fund reserves - especially the controversial bond placements that recently made the headlines.
The proposal was outlined by SYN parliamentary spokesman Fotis Kouvelis, in the presence of the party's leader Alekos Alavanos. He stressed that the "looting of fund reserves was a huge political issue that concerns Greek society and the major issue of social insurance system".
Kouvelis also criticised the government for failing to release crucial figures linked to fund reserves and how this "social wealth" had been administrated.
The proposal calls for "an examination of investments using Fund reserves in the past decade, whether through the purchase of bonds or through the purchase of shares on the stock market, but also in a historical context since the '50s, through the mandatory deposits in bank accounts paying no or nominal interest."
 Education minister speaks at City University in LondonGreek Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou on Wednesday spoke before a large number of academics from the UK's top universities at the City University in London, where she is on a visit in order to attend a meeting of European education ministers.
According to an education ministry announcement, she outlined the reforms to higher education being carried out in Greece, emphasising a shift to quality and ongoing evaluation, to excellence, attempts to put universities on an international level and make optimal use of human resources.
 Development minister attends International Sustainable Energy Organisation meetingPARIS (ANA-MPA/O. Tsipira)
Greece's Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas attended the ministerial meeting of the International Sustainable Energy Organisation, whose sessions ended in Paris on Wednesday.
The theme of the meeting was "the bridging of the energy rift", the promotion of new energy technologies and the securing of the short-term and long-term energy supply of the organisation's member-countries.
In his address at the meeting, Sioufas referred to the measures which the organisation's member-countries are obliged to take for the reduction of their dependence on oil and for the achievement of the diversity of energy sources, suppliers and energy supply routes.
The Greek development minister expounded on Greece's energy policy and its initiatives in this direction.
He underlined the need for strengthening dialogue with the producer countries of northern Africa and proposed the founding of a new regional energy market with the countries of the Mediterranean (Energy Community of Mediterranean Countries).
Sioufas also proposed the establishment of a safety reserves limit for natural gas as well, according to the model which is valid for oil.
He noted Greece's policy on the importance of upgrading the liquefied natural gas plant at Revythousa and the creation of a second liquefied natural gas reserves plant.
On the sidelines of the meeting, Sioufas, accompanied by ministry Secretary General Nikos Stefanou, met with the president of the French Pasteur Institute, Francois Ailleret, to discuss cooperation with the Hellenic Pasteur Institute and the prospects of reaching a new ratified agreement for cooperation between the two Insitutes.
The Greek development minister also met with his Italian counterpart Pierluigi Bersani and EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.
 Sioufas briefs PM on IEA ministerial, Piebalgs meetingPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis met with Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas on Wednesday and was briefed on the conclusions reached during the International Energy Agency, IEA, ministerial meeting held in Paris on May 14-15.
Sioufas also briefed the prime minister on his meetings with European Commissioner for energy Andris Piebalgs and the talks on energy issues held with his counterparts. The overall conclusion is that energy issues occupy the top place on state government agendas, said Sioufas.
Energy constitutes the basis for development while the top issue is that measures need to be taken at state level to tackle climate change, underlined the minister of development.
Sioufas stated that energy saving and other issues related to Greece, which is set to become an international energy hub after recent developments on oil and natural gas pipelines issues, were also under discussion.
Responding to a relevant question, Sioufas stated that all necessary measures are being taken as always at this time of year to prevent electricity shortages during the summer months.
 Greece and Indonesia sign tourism cooperation memorandumGreece and Indonesia have signed a memorandum for bilateral cooperation in tourism, during a visit to the southeast Asian country by Greek Tourism Development Minister Fani Palli-Petralia.
The agreement was signed on Tuesday by Petralia and Indonesia's Deputy Minister for Culture and Tourism Sapta Nirwaydar.
In statements to the Indonesian press, Petralia noted that Greece and Indonesia "had several things in common". Among these she listed the large numbers of islands in the two countries and the proverbial hospitality of both their peoples.
She stressed that people, as well as quality and high standards of service, were the "key" for the tourist industry in Greece.
"From a 'popular' destination, Greece has become a 'preferred' destination. We respect our visitors, which is something that also marks your country. I am sure that we will have a very good and constructive cooperation in the tourism sector," the Greek minister added.
 Holiday homes hold promise for tourist industry, Petralia notesGreek Tourism Minister Fani Palli-Petralia on Wednesday stressed the potential of holiday homes as a factor for promoting tourism all year round in Greece. She was speaking during the first international conference organised by Realtravel on "Holiday homes in Greece - opportunities for tourism development and investments".
According to the minister, the growth of holiday homes would undoubtedly be a factor adding a powerful boost to the rapid differentiation of the tourist product, a sharp increase in the supply but also the demand for high-quality tourism services throughout the year, rather than just the summer.
Demand for holiday homes within organised tourist complexes offering a wide range of services - such as spas or golf, was continually increasing, she added.
 Hydroplane flights from Lavrio to islands beginThe operation began on Wednesday at the port at Lavrio, western Greece, for hydroplane flights to the islands of Paros, Santorini, Mykonos, Kalymnos and Kos.
A Merchant Marine Ministry announcement said that the use of hydroplanes is to utilise the potential offered by modern technology for the linking of island destinations with the major centres so as to cover the needs of all Greek islands.
 GDP up 4.6% in 1Q 2007, y/yGross Domestic Product recorded a 4.6-percent rise in the first quarter of 2007 compared to the same period in 2006, primarily due to a 6.4-percent hike in final demand, according to the National Statistical Service (NSS) announcement on Wednesday.
Investments increased by 15 percent, contributing 3.4 percentage points to the final demand figure.
In the first quarter of 2007, exports rose 9.4 percent, contributing 1.3 percentage points to final demand, while imports rose 14.4 percent.
Total consumption spending rose 2.7 percent, the lowest percentage recorded since 2003.
The total consumption increase contributed with 1.7 percentage points to the consumer demand hike.
 EFG Eurobank to issue Lower Tier II bond loanEFG Eurobank Ergasias on Wednesday said it planned to issue a Lower Tier II bond loan through its subsidiary in London, EFG Hellas Plc, as part of an EMTN financing programme.
The bond issue will carry the guarantee of Eurobank EFG.
Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, Eurobank EFG and Goldman Sachs International will act as main underwriters of the deal. Eurobank EFG enjoys an Aa3 credit rating by Moody's, an A- rating by S&P and A by Fitch, while the Lower Tier II bond issue is expected to be rated at A1/BB+/A-.
 Greek consumers increase use of credit cards, surveyMost Greek consumers prefer cash in their shopping and particularly for low-valued purchases, despite the fact that almost half of Greek consumers (44%) are credit or debit card holders, a survey by Visa Europe said on Wednesday.
The survey showed that seven in 10 Greek consumers use cash in supermarkets, while 92 pct also used cash in entertainment purchases
The survey on Greek consumers' daily habits in 2006, also showed that payment cards were used for shopping of clothes (71 pct), electrical appliances and home accessories (49 pct), while they accompanied Greeks in their travel abroad (53 pct) offering greater flexibility and security.
The survey said that the time of using less cash was not far away. Greek consumers acknowledged greatly the benefits of "plastic money", saying they offered speed and simpler procedures in transactions and security. Almost one in two consumers said they expected the use of cash to fall significantly in a few years, while a 39 percent of respondents said they expected cards to prevail totally in the future.
A similar survey in England showed a gradual decline in the use of cash (from 74 pct to 63 pct in the last 10 years) with projections that more than 50 pct of transactions will be made via cards in eight years from now.
The boom in e-commerce and the use of Internet is also a major contributor to the expanded use of credit cards.
The survey by Visa said that 29 pct of respondents said they felt less safe when carrying cash in their wallets, while 55 pct of credit and debit card holders are men, with 90 pct of them belonging at the age group of 30+.
 ICAP report on Greek processed fruit sectorDomestic production of canned fruits was volatile in the period 1996-2006, reflecting volatility in primary production over the same period, a report by ICAP said on Wednesday.
Canned peaches accounted for 84 pct of total production in the sector, with apricots (6.0 pct) and pears (3.0 pct). The majority of domestic production is exported, mainly to countries with low domestic primary fruit production, with foreign demand dependant on consumer habits, the quality of products and the price.
Canned fruits are destined mainly for professional use in Greece and less for home consumption because of a high level of production in fresh fruit in the country.
The sector is highly consolidated and geographically focused in the regions of Central Macedonia, Thessaly and the Peloponnese. Distribution of products is made mainly through supermarkets, while sales abroad are made through discount supermarkets.
The report by ICAP said high consolidation in the sector, increasing international competition and a high level of domestic production capacity are creating an environment of intense competition in the sector. The report also said that average gross profit in the five-year period 2001-2005 was 11.30 pct, while average operating margin was 0.42 pct and average net profit margin at 0.03 pct.
Average return on capital was -0.99 pct, while the average cash flow index was 0.73 in the five-year period.
Companies in the sector reported an equity capital of 76 million euros in 2005, from 72.4 mln in 2004 (up 4.95 pct), while long-term and medium-term debt fell by 11.56 pct over the last year of the reporting period. Net, pre-tax profits jumped 95.54 pct to 4.5 million euros in 2005.
 S&B reports improved Q1 resultsS&B, a Greek-listed mining company, on Wednesday reported a 10.6-pct increase in consolidated sales and an 11.8-pct rise in operating profits in the first quarter of 2007, compared with the same period last year.
Consolidated turnover totaled 115.53 million euros in the January-March period, from 104.49 million euros last year, while operating profits rose to 11.06 million from 9.89 million euros. Net profits totaled 6.35 million euros, up 4.2 pct from 2006.
Mining activities (accounting for 78 pct of group turnover) reported an 11.4 pct increase in first quarter sales to 94.67 miollion euros and an 8.8-pct rise in operating earnings to 10.75 million euros.
Commercial activities reported a 7.0-pct increase in sales to 20.92 million euros and operating profits of 228,000 euros, after a loss of 8,000 euros in the first quarter of 2006.
 Farm export prices down 5.5 pct in March, yr/yrThe Greek farm export price index fell 5.5 pct in March 2007, compared with the same month last year, the National Statistical Service said on Wednesday.
The service, in a monthly report, said the farm import price index, however, rose 4.6 pct in March from the corresponding month in 2006.
 Software piracy in Greece fell significantly last year, reportSoftware piracy in Greece fell by three percentage points last year to 61 pct, with the value of illegally installed software estimated at around 128 million euros, a report by IDC for Business Software Alliance (BSA) said on Wednesday.
The report attributed the improvement to more coordinated efforts made by Greek authorities to combat software piracy in the country.
The report, covering 102 countries, said only eight countries managed to produce a significant decline in software piracy last year, including Greece, although the country still reported the highest piracy rate in Western Europe and the EU, which reported average software piracy rates of 34 pct and 36 pct, respectively, last year. Software piracy rates also fell in Central and Eastern Europe to 68 pct, from 69 pct in 2005, although the value of illegally installed software in the region rose to 3.2 billion euros.
 Buyout of energy companyThe buyout of 80 per cent of Evroenergiaki S.A. by Deutsche Erneuerbare Energien GmbH, subsidiary company of Deutsche Bank, and of Messrs. N. Jung and G. Voulgarakis, was announced on Wednesday by Mytilineos S.A, in cooperation with Endesa Hellas.
According to the announcement, the buyout took place within the framework of the implementation of the common strategic target for the dynamic growth of the Greek energy market.
 EETT president meets EU competition commissionerThe president of Greece's National Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT) Nikitas Alexandridis on Wednesday met EU Commissioner for competition Neelie Kroes and briefed her on the conditions of competition in the Greek telecoms market.
He also outlined the problems and dysfunctions that undermined competition and discouraged new investments in digital technology, as well as efforts being made by the EETT to boost competition on the Greek market.
Alexandridis was in Brussels in order to attend an international conference on broadband organised by the Commission.
 Event held by Athens Federation of Commercial RepresentativesDeputy Development Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou on Wednesday opened the sessions of a one-day meeting organised by the Athens Federation of Commercial Representatives (SEAA). Addressing the event, which was held at the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA), the deputy development minister referred to the importance of SEAA's sector in the Greek economy's attempt to grow.
On his part, SEAA president I. Papageorgakis called on the political leadership to proceed to a series of structural reforms which would give an impetus to the market and also the economic improvement of low income earners and pensioners.
 Greek stocks end 0.37% up on Wed.Greek stocks ended Wednesday's session higher, with the composite index rising 0.37 pct to end at 4,868.25 points. Turnover in the Athens Stock Exchange was a heavy 379.1 million euros.
Sector indices moved upwards, with the Insurance (2.42 pct), Food/Beverage (1.86 pct) and Commerce (1.24 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while the Technology (1.12 pct), Travel (0.51 pct) and Financial Services (0.50 pct) suffered losses.
The Big Cap index rose 0.82 pct, the Mid Cap index fell 0.17 pct and the Small Cap index ended 0.79 pct higher.
GEBKA (19.35 pct), Vivere (17.71 pct) and United Textiles (15.63 pct) were top gainers, while Global Invest (7.83 pct), Atermon (7.32 pct) and Yalco (6.10 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 168 to 85 with another 51 issues unchanged.
 ASE closing reportThe composite index ended at new year and seven-year highs on Wednesday, extending its rally for the third consecutive session this week. Buying activity focused on blue chip stocks (Cyprus Bank, ATEbank, Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling and Eurobank), while small capitalization stocks also gained ground.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Insurance: 6,010.56 +2.42%
Industrial Products: 8,409.05 +0.50%
Commerce: 7,417.60 +1.24%
Construction: 7,277.49 -0.09%
╠edia: 5,165.41 +0.63%
Oil/Natural Gas: 4,995.54 +0.18%
Personal/Home Products : 7,403.26 +0.39%
Raw Materials: 9,457.97 -0.45%
ďravel: 5,515.16 -0.51%
ďechnology: 4,459.32 -1.12%
ďelecommunications: 6,041.40 +1.03%
Banks: 7,123.97 +1.05%
Food/Beverage: 7,569.03 +1.86%
Healthcare: 13,587.52 +0.83%
Utilities: 5,458.09 -0.05%
Chemicals: 14,177.20 +0.95%
Financial Services: 10,485.04 -0.50%
General Trade (19.35 pct), Vivere (17.71 pct), Naoussa Spin Mills (15.63 pct) and Plias (11.11 pct) were top gainers, while Global (7.83 pct), Atermon (7.32 pct) and Yalco (6.10 pct) were top losers.
Cyprus Bank, ATEbank, NEL and Marfin Popular were the most heavily traded stocks. ASE's capitalization totaled 176.023 billion euros.
Blue chip stocks ended as follows (prices in euros):
ALPHA BANK: 22.70
COCA COLA: 34.38
HELLENIC PETROLEUM: 11.28
NATIONAL BANK: 42.80
CYPRUS BANK: 13.20
POSTAL SAVINGS BANK: 18.08
MOTOR OIL: 21.38
PIRAEUS BANK: 28.10
ď╔ď┴═ CEMENT: 41.50
FOLLI FOLLIE: 29.00
 ADEX closing reportTurnover in Athens Derivatives Exchange totaled 125.58 million euros on Wednesday, with the June contract on the FTSE 20 index trading at a discount of 1.66 pct and on the FTSE 40 index at a premium of 0.14 pct.
Volume in futures contracts on the FTSE 20 index totaled 7,452 contracts worth 95.310 million euros, with 36,710 open positions in the market, while on the FTSE 40 index volume was 742 contracts worth 22.648 million euros, with 1,624 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 7,125 contracts worth 7.622 million euros, with investment interest focusing on ATEbank's contracts (2,875), followed Eurobank (389), PPC (255), National Bank (398), Alpha Bank (262), Intracom (927), Cyprus Bank (377) and Motor Oil (277).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 3.976 billion euros on Wednesday, of which 1.943 billion were bid orders and 2.033 billion were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 1.465 billion euros. The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 0.23 percent, with the Greek bond yielding 4.53 pct and the German Bund 4.30 pct.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates were largely unchanged. National Bank's overnight rate was 3.84 pct, the two-day rate was 3.84 pct and one-month rate 3.89 pct and the 12-month rate 4.36 pct.
 No problems with power over the summer, energy authority chief saysNo particular problems with the power supply are anticipated during the summer, the head of Greece' Energy Regulatory Authority (RAE) Mihalis Karamanis told a Parliamentary committee on Wednesday.
He said that efforts were currently underway to conserve water in Greece's reservoirs.
The shutting down of the Kozloduy nuclear power plant in Bulgaria was also not expected to affect imports of electricity from the neighbouring country, though he admitted that the cost would be higher relative to last year.
Regarding a photovoltaics programme for the Greek islands, Karamanis said that this was expected to be ready on June 10.
He left open the possibility of an amendment to the photovoltaics programme in 2008 to give precedence to at-risk regions, such as Kozani where local residents suffered from an increase in health problems linked to the operation of local power plants.
This issue had earlier been raised by former Macedonia-Thrace minister Nikos Tsiartsionis, who had highlighted the problem and stressed that the present situation should not become fixed.
 Hellenic Foundation for Culture mulling Office in Australia, HFC president Babiniotis says in MelbourneMELBOURNE (ANA-MPA/S. Hatzimanolis)
The Hellenic Foundation for Culture (HFC) is looking into the prospect of opening up an Office in Australia, HFC president and Athens University former rector, Professor George Babiniotis, currently on a to Australia, announced during an interview with ANA-MPA.
Babiniotis began a two-week visit to Australia on Friday, that will run through May 23, as a Visiting Professor of the La Trobe University's National Centre for Hellenic Studies and Research (NCHSR).
Babionitis, on his fifth visit to Australia in recent years, told ANA that he has come to "love this country", and has developed a special relationship with its people.
During his stay, Babiniotis will give three public lectures and hold two seminars, while he will also attend to seminars for educators, one organised by the Centre in cooperation with the Education Coordinator's Office for Greek-language teachers on teaching Greek to non-Greeks, and one organised by the Centre in cooperation with the government of Victoria State.
He will further visit schools, give interviews, and meet with Australian academics.
Babiniotis explained that the main purpose of his visit is to explore -- in discussions with the Greek ambassador to Australia and with Australian officials -- the prospect of establishing an HFC Hellenic Culture Office or Centre in Australia.
"As president of the Hellenic Foundation for Culture, I wish to say that our goal, always, is the projection of Hellenic culture to non-Greeks, and in this case to Australians. This is not directed at the Greek community of Australia. The Greek community, as well as the mass media, the diplomatic authorities and all those who love Greece, will assist in our efforts for the projection of Greece, through events focusing on Hellenic culture. I have begun these exploratory talks, and am speaking with university officials and foundations, and will also discuss with the Greek ambassador. I believe that the prospect will be created for proceeding with the establishment of an Office or Centre for the projection of Hellenic culture. The climate is positive, everyone wants to help, and I believe that what we are doing in other countries, such as Germany -- where an association, a kind of society of friends of Hellenic culture is being set up -- can very easily be done in Australia as well," Babiniotis said.
Babiniotis continued that he could not yet say where the bureau headquarters would be, but noted that "Melbourne is always a first choice city".
"I am certain that the Greek authorities, meaning the ministry of culture which supervises the Foundation for Hellenic Culture, will agree with such an option, and I am pleased because this effort coincides with the Greek prime minister's (Costas Karamanlis) official visit to Australia, the first, as I hear, Greek prime minister in office to come here. I consider this a good sign, and it would be very pleasant if, among the other agreements that may potentially be achieved, that an emphasis may be given, via the Hellenic Foundation for Culture, on Hellenism's main weapon, which is our culture," the HFC president said, referring to Karamanlis' official visit to Australia that begins on Monday, May 21.
Explaining the Foundation's role, Babioniotis said: "The purpose of the HFC is the projection of Hellenic culture abroad, and to foreign nationals. This is not addressed to the Greeks, nor the Greek communities abroad. The Foundation was established in 1993, and already has three large Branches -- one in Berlin, one in Odessa, and one in Alexandria. It has a Hellenic Culture Centre in Trieste, which opened up since I undertook the presidency, and a series of Hellenic Culture Offices in Berlin, Washington, Beijing, Vienna and Brussels, and it would be very important if the next Office or Centre is in Australia. At the moment, we are focussing our efforts on establishing a series of Hellenic Culture Centres in the Balkans. We are currently in talks, which have progresses substantially, on establishing Centres in Belgrade, Bucharest, Tirana and Sofia".
 President Papoulias visits Byzantine Culture MuseumPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday visited the Byzantine Culture Museum in Thessaloniki, central Macedonia.
The president arrived in Thessaloniki at noon from Mount Athos, which he visited on Tuesday with his Austrian counterpart Heinz Fischer.
Papoulias was given a tour of the museum by its director Anastasia Tourta.
 Hungary's Nobel literature prize laureate cancels visit due to illnessHungarian Nobel Prize laureate for literature Imre Kertesz has sent a message of apology over his inability to travel to Athens on May 14-15 to participate in the opening of the Hungarian Cultural Festival in the Greek capital, due to a sudden illness.
In a message addressed to the Greek audience, Kertesz expressed his deepest regret over his inability to represent Hungary in the comprehensive programme in Athens. Kertesz suffered a sudden illness on May 11, forcing him to cancel his participation in the Hungarian Cultural and Culinary Festival activites.
Kertesz expressed his "vivid interest and expectations" in Greece concerning his works -- many of which have been published in Greek -- and expressed his hope to visit Athens at a later date.
 Athens Mayor Kaklamanis elected as new KEDKE presidentAthens Mayor and former minister Nikitas Kaklamanis was elected as the new president of the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE) - the umbrella group representing local governments - on Tuesday evening after receiving 17 out of 30 possible board members' votes.
Incumbent and Kozani Mayor Paris Koukoulopoulos, who is affiliated with the main opposition PASOK party, received 12 votes, while one ballot was blank.
Thessaloniki Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos was elected as the organisation's first vice-president.
 West Attica local authorities to seek meeting with PMWest Attica local authorities and bodies are to demand a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis over the region's accumulated environmental problems, according to a unanimous resolution on Wednesday by the West Attica prefecture council.
Voting in favour of a proposal by Prefect Aristidis Arkoudaris, they said they wanted to alert the prime minister to the "continuing attack on the region's environment". The resolution stresses that all sides, while acknowledging the problems and citing them when applying for funds from the European Union, continued to add to the area's environmental burden.
One of the perennial complaints of west Attica local authorities centre on the government's inaction over the Ano Liossia landfill, which is reaching its saturation point. This is the only legal landfill in the city and receives the vast bulk of the Greek capital's rubbish, in addition, most recently, to partially treated sewage sludge from the Psyttalia water treatment plant.
 Turkish mayor of Ayvalik visits MytiliniTurkish mayor of Ayvalik, Hasan Bulent Turkozen, on Wednesday visited the eastern Aegean island of Mytilini. The aim of the visit was to host events titled "Days of Mytilini at Ayvalik".
Turkozen visited the offices of Lesvos Prefect Pavlos Vogiatzis and Mytilini Mayor Nassos Yiakalis and discussed with them "Co-existence and Communication in the Aegean".
 Villagers want relocation due to adjacent PPC plantResidents of a northwest Greece village in Kozani prefecture again announced mobilisations on Wednesday -- this time for June 4 -- to block the Public Power Corp.-owned Aghios Dimitrios power plant in the area.
Residents are again demanding that their village, Akrini, be relocated due to heightened pollution in the area from the plant.
 Fundamentalist Orthodox group attempts to enter Mt. Athos without permitCalm was gradually being restored in Ouranoupolis, Halkidiki prefecture of northern Greece, after three busloads of worshippers from throughout Greece attempted to visit neighboring Mount Athos without the necessary documents allowing them entrance into the all-male monastic community.
The group attempted to board a ferry to Mount Athos on Tuesday evening in order to visit the Esfigmenou Monastery, which is controlled by monks who do not recognise the Ecumenical Patriarchate's jurisdiction. Tension erupted when local port authorities informed group members that they can visit the monastery only with necessary documents.
Earlier on Wednesday morning, another group of worshippers attempted to board local ferries to Mount Athos but were blocked by port officials.
Mount Athos is a semi-autonomous all-male monastic community over which the Ecumenical Patriarchate has supreme spiritual authority under the Greek Constitution. The peninsula is administered by an official appointed by the Greek foreign ministry.
Considered as the most radical in their opposition to the Vatican, monks at Esfigmenou also refuse to recognise the authority of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece and have refused to accept funds from the European Union to restore their monastery, unlike most of the 20 official monasteries on Mount Athos.
 Monk arrested on drug-dealing chargeA monk living on the island of Symi is to appear before a Rhodes magistrate on Thursday to answer to criminal charges of drug-trafficking.
The 37-year-old monk was arrested during an operation by Rhodes police to dismantle a drug-trafficking ring. Searching in the monk's house on Symi, police found three cannabis cigarettes and two packets containing two grammes of cannabis each.
Under questioning, he apparently told police that he was a drug user and had recently bought 300 grammes of heroin in Athens for 2,500 euros for another man implicated in the case, which he brought to Symi hidden in his habit.
Another four individuals face criminal charges in connection with this case.
 Fire causes extensive damage to Thessaloniki department storeA fire that broke out in the FENA department store in the district of Finikas, Thessaloniki on Tuesday morning has caused damages estimated at 1 million euros, fire department officials said Wednesday.
The fire that started in the store's clothing section was put out in a few hours by a strong firefighting force made up of 65 firemen and 30 fire engines.
An investigation is underway to determine the causes of the fire.
 Drug arrests in ThessalonikiTwo young Albanians and a 36-year-old Greek have been arrested in Thessaloniki on drug trafficking charges after police found in their possession over 1 kilo of cocaine.
The Greek was arrested first with a total of 100 grams of cocaine in his posession. This was followed by the arrest of the two Albanians after police discovered 1 kilo and 131 grams of cocaine, a gun and 2,500 euros in drug money in their apartment in the district of Stavroupolis.
 Spanish serviceman killed in traffic accident, female collegue injuredA 22-year-old Spanish serviceman was killed and a 21-year-old female colleague, also from Spain, was seriously injured when their motorcycle collided with a private car in Kifisia, Athens on Tuesday afternoon.
The two were serving in Kosovo and were in Greece on vacation.
The young motorcycle driver was rushed to KAT Hospital in Athens where he died a few hours later, while the female passenger remains hospitalized.
An investigation is underway by Traffic Police to determine the cause of the accident.
 Athens airport gears up for Champions League finalAthens International Airport on Wednesday said that it was fully prepared for the extra demands that will arise when Athens hosts Europe's premier sporting event, the UEFA Champions League final, in a week's time on May 23.
Airport authorities said that a comprehensive operational plan has been worked out with the assistance of the Greek Police (ELAS), the civil aviation authority, the transport ministry and the Greek Football Federation EPO, which is adapted to the special factors related to the specific match.
It is designed to allow the airport to deal efficiently with the increased passenger traffic, the successful management of fans as they arrive and depart, processing VIP passengers and guests and, at the same time, ensure the smooth and undisturbed running of the airport for other passengers.
The airport said that traffic through the airport will hit an all-time high on the day after the final, on May 24, which will be 20 percent higher than the previous record set on the day after the end of the Athens Olympic Games at the end of August 2004.
At least 800 arrivals and departures of planes are scheduled on that day, or roughly one every 75 seconds.
In the period between 21-24 May there will be roughly 380 charter flights that will bring 34,000 fans of the two teams, of which 20,000 are Britons and 14,000 are Italians, who will start departing immediately after the end of the match.
About 60 percent of these fans will come to Athens for just one day, without an overnight stay.
The plan worked out by Greek authorities will seek to keep fans of the two teams separate during their arrival and departure, with Liverpool F.C. fans going through the express terminal and rival Milan fans using the airport's satellite terminal.
The two groups of supporters will also travel from the airport to Athens using different means of public transport, with Milan fans on the Proastiako railway and Liverpool fans on board a fleet of ETHEL buses.
On their arrival, fans will be issued a special coloured bracelet that will operate as a "time-band" for their controlled and gradual departure from the OAKA stadium, where the match is being held, to the airport for their return home. This is a measure that is being used in Europe for the first time. They will also be issued with special cards of instructions for their arrival and departure from the airport.
Special booths will be set up by both the British and Italian consulates to assist fans on their arrival and departure.
The airport has hired 300 additional security staff to cover the increased demand for the event and set up a volunteer programme among its staff. Volunteers in specially-issued green tops will offer valuable services in the airport, the Proastiako railway and OAKA.
 Athletics forum on Peace and Olympic TruceA "World Athletics Forum for Peace and the Olympic Truce" will be held at the initiative of the Greek Culture Ministry, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) and the International Olympic Truce Foundation (IOTF), on May 18-21 at the premises of the International Olympics Academy, in Ancient Olympia, in western Peloponnese.
World personalities of sports, politics, diplomacy and culture, Olympic champions as well as representatives from former and currently war-torn areas who lived through the ideal of Olympic Truce or are active in the effort for its permanent application, will be participating in the forum.
Culture Minister George Voulgarakis, IOC and IOTF President Jacques Rogge, Greek Olympics Committee President Minos Kyriakou and Tourism Minister and IOTF vice-president Fani Palli Petralia will address the forum.
 Mostly fair on ThursdayMostly fair weather is forecast in most parts Greece on Thursday. Scattered showers in central Macedonia, Ipiros and the northern Ionian. Temperatures ranging from 10C and 33C. Winds southerly, southwesterly, light to moderate.
Sunny in Athens, with temperatures ranging between 17C and 33C. Overcast in Thessaloniki and temperatures ranging from 12C to 29C.
 EU Commission proposes Cyprus adopts euro in 2008NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The European Commission proposes that Cyprus can join the euro area, on January 1 next year, having fulfilled all the necessary criteria, Commissioner for economic and monetary affairs Joaquin Almunia said in Brussels on Wednesday.
Announcing the decision at a press conference, he said he expects the European Council and the ECOFIN to endorse it, making Cyprus and Malta the two new members to join the euro area.
"I am convinced that the EU Council will endorse today's decision. There is no question about it, as far as I am concerned," he told the press conference when asked about the possible political dimensions of having the Commission proposal ratified by the EU heads of state at the June summit.
The Commissioner called on the Cypriot authorities to strengthen their preparatory arrangements ahead of January 2008 in order to better inform the public and the local business community about the euro and its impact on the economy, saying that the authorities have to work hard to avoid any kind of abuse or price increase.
Replying to questions about the adoption of the euro in the southern government controlled part of Cyprus and not in the northern Turkish occupied areas of the Republic, he explained that the acquis communautaire applies only in the areas under the control of the government of the Republic of Cyprus and not in the northern part of the country where the government does not exercise its control (because of the continuing Turkish occupation).
He also said that he has no legal doubts as to the Commission proposal regarding the adoption of the euro in the government controlled part of the island and expressed his clear objection to what he described as "unilateral eurolisation in Cyprus", namely possible adoption of the euro by the Turkish Cypriot community in the non government controlled part of the country.
He explained that the Commission assessment focused on the government controlled part of Cyprus and at present it is not possible to take into account any possible fallout from the reunification of the country, when that happens.
Almunia acknowledged however that the Commission has in mind different scenarios and is aware of possible consequences of reunification but at this stage it is not rational to include any such thoughts in the convergence report, which suggests that Cyprus can join the euro area.
Questioned further on the political implications of a divided Cyprus joining the euro area, he stressed that Cyprus is an EU member and has the right to equal treatment.
"We are implementing the European legal framework, we are not making any exception for Cyprus," he told the press conference, adding that when the country is reunited the Commission will examine the fallout.
The Commissioner called on the Cypriot authorities to continue to implement stability-orientated policies in order to safeguard its external competitiveness and must also speed up and finalise the practical preparations to ensure that the changeover from the Cyprus pound to the euro takes place smoothly.
In his remarks, Almunia repeated the criteria which Cyprus has met to be eligible to adopt the euro, which relate to inflation, the budgetary situation, the exchange rate, long term interest rates and the legal convergence.
Meanwhile in Cyprus, the Commission Representation head Themis Themistocleous outline Wednesday's proposal, saying that the final and official decision will be taken on 10 July by the EU Finance Ministers.
Juergen Kroeger, Director of the Directorate General of Economic and Financial Affairs, congratulated Cyprus on this proposal and said it will bring economic advantages to the country, including low interest rates, price stability, job creation, low inflation, reduction in the cost for travelers.
He suggested that Cyprus should examine carefully the experience of other countries that have adopted the euro and expressed some concern about the level of consumer awareness regarding the introduction of the euro.
On the possible introduction of the euro in the Turkish occupied areas, he echoed Almunia's remarks, saying that unilateral introduction of the euro does not mean joining the euro area.
He also pointed out that the areas not controlled by the government of Cyprus are economically dependent on Turkey and any devaluation of the Turkish lira is bound to have an impact on these areas.
Themistocleous said, in reply to a question, that there will be efforts directed towards the Turkish Cypriots in order to inform them about the euro.
 Cyprus welcomes Commission's decision for Cyprus accession to EMUNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus Finance Minister Michalis Sarris expressed here Wednesday satisfaction over the European Commission's decision to recommend the accession of Cyprus to the European Monetary Union (EMU) on January 1 2008.
Sarris was speaking after EU Commissioner for economic and monetary affairs Joaquin Almunia announced that he would recommend to the European Council and the ECOFIN, the accession of Cyprus and Malta in the euro area.
''Today is a very important day,'' Sarris said, adding that the Commission's decision represents the culmination of a long effort.
In statements after a meeting with Juergen Kroeger, Director of the Directorate General of Economic and Financial Affairs, Sarris pledged that his Ministry will work for the smooth introduction of the Euro in Cyprus.
Kroeger congratulated Cyprus for fulfilling all the convergence criteria in a sustainable way.
He added Cyprus entry to the Eurozone will help the further integration of Cyprus' economy, adding however that the adoption of the Euro does not mean that discipline for fiscal policy is alleviated.
 President: Commission's decision for Cyprus EMU accession important achievementNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos described here Wednesday the Green light given by the European Commission for Cyprus' accession to the European Monetary Union as ''a very important achievement.''
Describing this development as a ''very important achievement,'' Papadopoulos expressed hope that the EU Summit of next June will endorse the Commission's recommendation.
Speaking in a Trade Union Conference, Papadopoulos praised the working people for the self-constrain they showed after the island's accession to the EU so that Cyprus can fulfill the Copenhagen criteria and achieve the convergence of Cyprus with the Eurozone and noted that the government will reward the working people with a social benefits package which will be announced soon.
''I reiterate my gratitude to all of you for this so important achievement and I note that the sacrifices you made will not go unrewarded. Today we have achieved our second national goal the accession of Cyprus to the Euroze,'' Papadopoulos, concluded.
 Cabinet approves measures to boost cooperation between G/C and T/CsNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus Council of Ministers approved on Wednesday a set of measures aiming at boosting economic cooperation between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Government Spokesman Vasilis Palmas announced here on Wednesday.
In statements after the meeting, Palmas did not give further details, noting that Finance Minister Michalis Sarris will present the measures in depth in a press conference this week.
For three years now the government provides free medical and pharmaceutical care as well as other social benefits for Turkish Cypriots and has taken several other steps towards promoting trust and cooperation between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory.
 Merkel stresses need for respect of religious sites in occupied CyprusBRUSSELS (CNA/ANA-MPA)
European Union current president, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, has stressed that the Union cannot turn a blind eye to the destruction of churches and other religious sites in the northern, Turkish occupied, part of Cyprus.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pettering echoed her comments, saying that EU principles and values provide for respect of freedom, justice, peace and solidarity, while the head of the Cyprus church Archbishop Chrysostomos II welcomed their position on the pillage of Greek Orthodox churches, ongoing since the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus' northern areas.
Speaking at a press conference, after a meeting of the three monotheistic religions (Christian, Islam, Judaism) here Tuesday, Merkel said that everybody agrees that people's dignity must not be violated.
"We cannot turn a blind eye to the destruction of churches or other religious sites in some countries, as we see it happening in the northern part of Cyprus," she said, pointing out that such meetings as the one on Tuesday must continue.
She said all factors should be taken into consideration, given the principles on which the EU has been founded, and said religion is one such factor that is important for society.
Barroso pointed out that the principle of human dignity is at the core of EU values and recalled the Berlin declaration by the 27 EU leaders which stipulates exactly that the EU is a Union of values and human dignity governs all common values within Europe, freedom, justice, peace and solidarity.
He said the next such meeting will take place in the first half of 2008 under the Slovenian EU presidency.
European Parliament President described as "very important" Tuesday's religious meeting.
In his intervention at the meeting, Cyprus Archbihshop stressed that there have never been any religious difference in Cyprus, saying that Greek and Turkish Cypriots lived peacefully when he was a child.
"While no religious differences existed, as Turkish troops invaded in 1974 and with the encouragement of the Turkish military, some 500 churches have been pillaged and destroyed, in addition to the theft of precious icons and frescoes, which are now being sold in the European and US black markets," he said.
The Brussels meeting was attended by 20 representatives of the three religions.
 Cyprus President confirms his intention to stand for re-electionNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos confirmed here Wednesday his intention to stand for re-election in the February 2008 presidential elections, stressing that his candidacy is not conditioned upon the support of the parties that backed his 2003 election.
In statements to the press Papadopoulos referred to Tuesday's lunch he hosted, to left-wing AKEL, Democratic Party (DIKO) and the Social
Democrats Movement which participate in his government, noting that he informed the party leaders of his intention to stand for re-election.
''I expressed my intention to run for re-election with the support of the three parties. I will announce my decision to the people soon,'' Papadopoulos noted.
Replying to a question whether the support of the three parties is a precondition to his decision to stand for re-election, Papadopoulos answered negatively, noting that the decision is solely up to him.
36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana-mpa.gr * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: GEORGE TAMBAKOPOULOS