Less than 1 percent of Greek beaches checked last year were found to be unfit for swimming, the government announced yesterday. Environment Minister Vasso Papandreou told a press conference that inspectors working on the annual EU report on the quality of bathing water in the Union found that 99.4 percent of beaches checked in Greece in 2001 complied with both Greek and EU quality regulations and were deemed suitable for swimming. All but 2.3 percent of the above were found to have exceptionally clean water. «This is an advantage that should be made use of and highlighted, as it can greatly help to attract foreign tourists to Greece and promote the country in view of the 2004 Olympics,» Papandreou said. She said samples were taken from 1,887 beaches last year and 1,875 were found to be suitable for swimming, while 1,833 were deemed to have exceptionally clean water. According to Environment Ministry figures, 12 beaches all over the country are too polluted to swim off. Papandreou said five of the beaches have the same problem every year, while seven present fluctuating levels of pollution. The first five were named as three beaches in the industrial town of Elefsina, some 20 kilometers west of Athens – referring to which Papandreou promised to step up inspections of local industries – one near the northern Peloponnesian town of Aigion (where, the minister said, the problem will soon be overcome as a waste treatment plant has been built) and one in the southern Athens area of Voula, where a large drain ends in the sea. The other seven are Alikanas on the island of Zakynthos, Mon Repos on Corfu, Eptalio and Palaiochori in the western Peloponnese, the second beach at Voula and two beaches at Loutsa (Archaia and opposite the old bus terminal), in eastern Attica.