NEWS

In Brief

CIVIL SERVANTS STRIKE

Public offices, schools, hospitals, courts face disruption tomorrow Public services, including all government offices, are expected to be severely disrupted tomorrow when civil servants hold a 24-hour strike to protest against the draft 2003 budget, which they say will erode their income. Hospitals will be operating on skeleton staff as doctors and National First Aid Center workers join the action. Schools are likely to be understaffed, and court cases scheduled for tomorrow could be suspended. ROYAL COMPENSATION Gov’t plunders ‘natural disaster’ funds to raise 13.7 million euros The Finance Ministry yesterday approved payment of 13.7 million euros in compensation for expropriated property to Greece’s former king, Constantine, and his family, complying with a European Court of Human Rights ruling. The compensation will be taken from the «natural disaster» fund. «The government has actively expressed its respect for the decision of the European Court and hopes the matter is now closed… The Greek people have paid enough to the royal institution and we hope this will be the final payment,» said Deputy Finance Minister Giorgos Floridis. UNHEALTHY Lower ranking in anticipated life span Greece is the only EU country which has shown a rise, over the past decade, in the number of deaths from heart disease, cancer and accidents, according to statistics to be presented at a health conference in Athens tomorrow. The new data also shows that last year Greece fell to 7th place among EU countries as regards the longest anticipated life span (currently 78.1 years). In 1990 (when Greece ranked second), the average Greek could expect to live 77 years. Christmas tree Outgoing Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos yesterday evening switched on the 100,000 lights of one of his more memorable contributions to the capital, a 40-meter-high artificial Christmas tree – once billed as the tallest in Europe – on central Syntagma Square. Pop singer Tolis Voskopoulos performed a Christmas song. Uxoricide A 50-year-old pensioner fatally shot his 36-year-old wife in front of the couple’s three children in their Kypseli flat following an argument early yesterday morning. Constantinos Panos admitted killing his wife Georgia with a shotgun, but did not say why. Police, who were called by neighbors, found the couple’s three children, aged 6, 8 and 10, weeping over their mother’s body, while Panos – who had been pensioned off from his job on health grounds – sat on a chair holding the gun. Steep bill A 50-year-old Thessaloniki woman, who faces a 9,554-euro telephone bill, has threatened to bring legal proceedings against the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE), claiming that someone set up a phone account using her particulars and ran up the bill in her name. Evfrosini Sidiropoulou says OTE should not have issued the telephone line in her name as she did not request it in person. Gambling cop Interior affairs officers yesterday arrested a mid-ranking police officer from Halkidiki after catching him playing dice for money in a gambling establishment in Katerini, northern Greece. The unnamed policeman was arrested along with another 11 gamblers by officers who confiscated more than 10,000 euros. Internet cafes The European Commission has sent an official warning to the Greek government over a controversial new law banning the use of electronic games in public places which goes against the EU laws, according to Euro MP Costas Hadjidakis who questioned the Commission on aspects of the new law. The restrictions go against EC laws governing the free movement of goods, according to European Commissioner Fritz Bolkestein. Last month Thessaloniki Internet cafe-owners threatened to appeal to the European Court if the new law is not amended. US visas The Public Order Ministry yesterday denied reports that Greek citizens would no longer require a visa to travel to the USA. The reports were mere rumors, the ministry said.