|Monday, 29 November 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-09-29
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>September 29, 2006
 FinMin briefs PM on 2007 budget to be tabled on Monday
ATHENS, 29/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime minister Costas Karamanlis met Thursday with national economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis, who briefed him on the draft 2007 budget the minister will be tabling in parliament on Monday. The budget to be tabled is based on the existing figures for GNP, and not the revised figures recently forwarded to the EU statistical service.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Alogoskoufis stressed that the target of containing the 2006 deficit at 2.6 percentage points of GNP have been met, while the target for 2007 was to further contain the deficit at 2.4 percentage points of GNP.
Alogoskoufis stressed that the fiscal adjustment applied by the present government was a success, given the substantial reduction of the deficit from the 7 percentage points of GNP inherited from the preceding government.
Contributing to the decline in the deficit were the high growth rates and the increase in real revenues, Alogoskoufis explained.
Replying to questions, he said that the revision of the GNP and its increase by 25 percent was due to the tertiary sector, in other words, the increase in trade, services, construction and tourism. Alogoskoufis further clarified that the original figures had been calculated with 1988 as the base year, while in the revised figures the base year was 2000.
Questioned on the black economy, Alogoskoufis said that it accounted for 0.7 percentage points of the 25 percent increase in GNP.
 Revision of Greek GDP "necessary", FinMin says
ATHENS, 29/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)An upward revision of the country's Gross Domestic Product will not limit efforts made towards restructuring next year's budget, a draft plan of which will be tabled to parliament on Monday, Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister said with next year's budget, the country's fiscal deficit would be within targets set by EMU, at 2.6 pct this year and 2.4 pct in 2007.
Commenting on an upward revision of GDP, Alogoskoufis said this was not integrated with 2007 budget figures and stressed the procedure was based on European Union rules allowing EU member-states to revise the base of measuring GDP every five years. "Therefore, a revision of GDP was necessary," he noted.
A survey by the National Statistics Service included more figures related with the country's wholesale and retail commerce, constructions, hotels, non-profit institutions and illegal activities (with the latter accounting only for 0.7 pct of a 25 percent upward revision of GDP).
"A procedure to revise GDP was asked by Eurostat in 2002 and covers all member-states," Alogoskoufis said, adding that the revision procedure showed that tax-evasion was larger than official estimates and needed greater efforts to combat this activity. The Greek minister reminded that the government has asked all social agencies to a dialogue over ways to effectively combat tax-evasion. "It is a large social problem that needs to be resolve in cooperation with citizens," he said, adding that resolving the issue would take more than one or two years.
The Greek minister said other EU member-states have done the same with revising their GDP, such as the Netherlands in 2005.
He underlined that an upward revision of GDP would not change the Greek economy's character and stressed that the fiscal problem remained equally serious.
"Revising our GDP will not offer more tax revenues, we have not reached the end of a tax restructuring. This will happen when we will have balanced or slightly surplused budgets, most probably in 2010," Alogoskoufis said.
GDP revision won't affect deficit process, government spokesman clarifies: A revision of indicators used to calculate Greece's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures was required by the European Union but would not affect the deficit process for Greece, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos clarified on Thursday, in response to press questions.
He also referred reporters to the press conference given by Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on the issue earlier the same day for more details on the planned revision.
"According to Eurostat, every EU country is obliged to re-examine its macroeconomic indicators at five-year intervals, setting a base year for any further measurements. This only occurred in 1994, using 1988 as a base year. The increase in GDP at that time was of the order of 20 percent and it was not repeated."
"From the first days of our governance, the European Commission had pointed out that this process must begin and dialogue with Eurostat began," Roussopoulos added.
The revision would not have any effect on the deficit process for Greece, however, Roussopoulos underlined.
"The assessment measure is that used by the previous government. Even if we look at the deficit using the new GDP figure, this would be smaller by half a point but would still be more than 3 percent and therefore it would be necessary to do what was done," he told reporters.
The draft budget for 2007, drawn up using the existing measurements, would be presented by Alogoskoufis on Monday, Roussopoulos added.
The spokesman underlined that the Greek economy was still in the midst of a "difficult phase" and that tidying up the economy was not something that ended on the first day that economic indicators were seen to improve.
"For things to get better, the effort must continue," Roussopoulos said, while noting that workers were receiving their "social dividends".
Regarding Greece's low position in the EU with respect to competitiveness, the spokesman said that this was true overall but that Greece's position had improved for specific indicators, such as education where Greece occupied the 11th position.
Opposition parties criticise revision of GDP: Main opposition PASOK party economy sector chief Vasso Papandreou said during a press conference on Thursday that "with the statements made by the government today on the revision of GDP by 25 percent, the government is confessing that, for petty partisan reasons, it placed the country under supervision with the revision of data, it defamed the country abroad, followed a class-oriented economic policy at the expense of working people and pensioners and undermined the course of Greece."
Referring to the same issue, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) spoke of the mockery of the Greek people by the government and PASOK on the question of the way GDP is recorded, adding that "with whatever accounting system the GDP is recorded, the facts do not change. The wealth produced by the working people is huge, it becomes profits for capital and is being gathered in fewer and fewer hands. On the other hand, the lives of those producing the wealth are getting worse and worse."
Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) Political Bureau member Panayiotis Lafazanis said on his part that "the secret, without any public dialogue, and in conditions of complete darkness, preparation by the government of the revision of the GDP upwards constitutes a major political scandal. The government's declared intention to suddenly increase, artificially and at an unprecedented height, the country's GDP with the arbitrary inclusion of part of the paraeconomy, deifies creative accounting and serves obvious political and election expediencies."
 Revision of GDP figures regular procedure, EU spokeswoman says
BRUSSELS, 29/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greek authorities sent new revised figures over the country's Gross Domestic Product - based on the year 2000 - to Eurostat last Friday, Amelia Torres, EU Monetary Commissioner Joaquin Almunia's spokeswoman, said on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels, the EU spokeswoman said new figures would be verified in the next few weeks by the EU's statistics agency and stressed that this was a regular procedure for all EU member-states. Mrs Torres noted that several member-states revised their figures for 2005, while Greece chose to revise its figures this year.
A verification procedure of each country's GDP was a very important procedure for the EU, to have a full image of the economic condition and performance of each member-state, Torres said.
A spokeswoman for EU Regional Policy Commissioner, Danuta Hubner, said the revised GDP would have any affect on funding from a European Regional Fund, to the extent of agreed funds in the period 2007-2013. She stressed, however, that funding from a Cohesion Fund would depend on the level of per capita GDP of each member. The EU executive's spokeswoman said the Commission would re-evaluate economic figures of member-states included in a Cohesion Fund in 2010. If average per capita GDP in Greece was higher than 90 percent of the average EU rate, then the country would be no more eligible for funding in the years 2011, 2012 and 2013.
 FM Bakoyannis holds talks with UN special mediator Matthew Nimetz
NEW YORK, 29/9/2006 (ANA-MPA - P. Panagiotou)Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis held talks on Thursday afternoon, Greek time, with the UN's special mediator on the issue of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Matthew Nimetz.
Foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, speaking to reporters after the meeting, held at the "Waldorf Astoria Hotel", said that "a review was made" of the situation on the name issue, stressing that "our known and steadfast position that the only exit is the finding of a mutually acceptable solution was underlined on the part of Greece. Greece has taken specific constructive steps. The issue, from now on, is up to the other side. This was the message sent during the meeting by Greece."
Asked by the ANA whether certain moves are expected from Nimetz in the near future, Koumoutsakos said "at the moment, as you are aware, Mr. Nimetz is continuing to have his mandate, which is in operation, but at the same time there are no indications that on his part we shall have something new in the near future."
Also asked whether the issue of FYROM's name was discussed during Wednesday's meeting between Bakoyannis and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and whether there is any new element on the part of the United States, the foreign ministry spokesman said that "yes, the issue was raised during the meeting with Mrs. Rice. No, there is nothing else. We are also stressing our will for a mutually acceptable solution to be found, but we are also reminding of the very constructive stance we have observed. Otherwise, you are aware of the statement by the foreign minister that with the issue of the name pending one cannot imagine the Greek Parliament, with whatever composition, ratifying an agreement for the accession of the neighbouring country to the European Union or NATO."
Bakoyannis, who is back in New York as of Wednesday night, following her contacts in Washington, was to address a reception on Thursday night, organised by Greece's general consul in New York Ekaterini Boura.
After her meeting with Nimetz, the foreign minister visited the offices of the Greek community's daily newspaper "Ethnikos Kyrikas" (National Herald) and talked with its publisher Antonis Diamataris and the editing staff.
 FM lectures on evolution of cross-Atlantic relations at Georgetown University
WASHINGTON, 29/9/2006 (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)The development of cross-Atlantic relations was analysed by Greece's foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis during a lecture at Georgetown University in Washington on Wednesday on the theme "The Evolution of Europe and the US: Synthesis or Antithesis?", with the foreign minister assessing that a Europe that has a synthesis of views internally could better determine its relationship with the US and develop it more effectively.
Speaking at the University's Gaston Hall in an event organised by the BMW Center for German and European Studies and the Greek Embassy in Washington, Bakoyannis first referred to the prejudices, dysfunctions, lack of understanding as well as lack of knowledge that often divides the peoples and the politicians on the two sides of the Atlantic, citing Henry Kissinger who had once asked "If I want to speak to Europe, what number do I call?".
The European Union, despite the difficulties it faces in its integration, nevertheless constitutes a major achievement, since it has succeeded in uniting countries that were once enemies and in averting clashes throughout the world, Bakoyannis said, adding that the EU also assisting in cementing democracy and prosperity in Spain, Portugal and Greece.
The EU created the largest economy in the world with a GDP that exceeded 12 trillion dollars in 2005, and constitutes the biggest commercial power in the world, Bakoyannis said, adding that the EU of 25 (currently) or 27 (after the expected accession of Bulgaria and Romania as of January 1, 2007) countries was trying to face the challenges of its enlargement, in which Greece was a protagonist, and to eliminate the democratic deficit in the function of its institutions. The European Constitution and its rejection (in referenda) in France and the Netherlands was another outstanding issue in the course towards EU integration, so that Europe can one day speak with one voice to the entire world, she said.
The prospect of Turkey's accession to the EU has divided the Europeans, given that its 75 million Muslim population is considered by many a threat to the social and, chiefly, the cultural substance of Europe, Bakoyannis said, adding that she did not know what the outcome would be of the dialogue on the future nature of the EU, but expressed hope that it would achieve a synthesis of the views for a new institutional framework that will allow the Union to be at the same time more democratic and more efficient.
Greece, she said, was at the core of the countries waging the battle for greater incorporation. It was already a participant in the euro-zone, the Schengen Treaty, and the common European Defence and Security Policy, while Greece was also one of the countries that have ratified the proposed Euro-Constitution, the foreign minister continued.
On US-Europe relations, Bakoyannis stressed the common effort against Nazism and for freedom and human rights throughout the world, despite their occasional disagreements. Whether within or outside NATO, the US and Europe faced together the challenges of World War II, the Cold War, and every other crisis, securing the stability and economic prosperity of their peoples, she said.
Europe and the US could, together, effectively face the regional challenges, Bakoyannis said, and for this reason Europe must develop its own military potential. This necessity was of vital importance for the regions in which Europe was more easily accepted as an intermediary force, she said, adding that this had become crystal clear during the recent crisis in the Middle East.
The US and Europe could also guarantee, together, safe access to energy sources and manage crises such as the development of nuclear weapons by Iran, Bakoyannis continued.
A Europe that has achieved synthesis of views internally can better determine its relationship with the US and develop it more effectively, Bakoyannis concluded.
 Level of Greek-American relations excellent, U.S. State Department spokesman says
WASHINGTON, 29/9/2006 (ANA-MPA/T. Ellis)U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, replying to a question on Wednesday's meeting between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, said that the level of Greek-American relations is excellent, while also referring to the personal relation between the two ministers.
"They have a good personal and professional relation," the spokesman said of the two ministers, adding that "relations between Greece and the United States are excellent."
McCormack further said that "a good exchange of views" took place and referred to the content of the meeting, saying that "they discussed quite a few regional, as well as bilateral issues. They spoke a little about Cyprus and about Greek-Turkish relations. They also spoke a little about Kosovo."
Lastly, the American official said that the Greek minister "raised the issue of passport visas."
 'Reforms in education will go ahead', PM Karamanlis tells ND deputies
ATHENS, 29/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday evening underlined his determination for reforms in education to go ahead.
"We have committed ourselves for changes in education and we are going ahead with them," the prime minister, who hosted a dinner for New Democracy (ND) party deputies, said.
"In an economy with specific endurances, the government has secured the subsidy which it committed itself in giving to teachers, thus satisfying a long-term demand of theirs," Karamanlis noted.
"What is important is for the reforms, which are supported by the overwhelming majority of Greek citizens, to proceed," Karamanlis concluded.
Government on teachers' strike: Commenting on an ongoing teachers' strike now nearing its second week, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Thursday said that there were no plans for a meeting between Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and striking teachers.
"Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou has already met with teachers and it is known to all that the government intends to pay out the €105 benefit," Roussopoulos said.
Primary school and kindergarten teachers are now in the midst of a second five-week strike held to demand an increase in the pay of newly appointed teachers to €1450 from €950 at present and the immediate payment of the €105 benefit, which the government has promised to pay out in half-year instalments over the next three years.
PASOK spokesman on teachers' strike: Main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) spokesman Nikos Athanassakis on Thursday night referred to the ongoing strike by teachers.
"Tomorrow sees the completion of the second week of schools shut, with pupils inconvenienced, with thousands of families inconvenienced, with the education process being in suspension, with responsibility of the government which had undertaken specific commitments, had given specific promises which it did not keep," Athanassakis said.
 Gov't on minister's high-profile comments regarding electoral reform
ATHENS, 29/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)The government spokesman on Thursday was called on to comment on high-profile statements made a day earlier by Public Works and Town Planning Minister George Souflias backing significant reforms to Greece's electoral system, more-or-less along the lines of the current German model.
During his regular briefing, spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos reminded that Souflias - one of the government's highest-ranking members - has made similar statements as far back as 1993, whereas related positions have also been voiced by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis himself on occasion.
Roussopoulos especially focused on one of Souflias' criticisms of the current system, namely, "that petty political partisanship in the public administration is damaging".
Moreover, he echoed the minister's statements by noting that "trade unions must be independent of party control".
 PASOK leader critical of gov't during visit to Lesvos
29/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Thursday said that the marina in Mytilene, capital of the island of Lesvos, was proof of the very serous investment over the past 10-15 years for the upgrading of its tourism product.
Speaking on the second day of his visit to Lesvos, Papandreou said that the infrastructures have helped the island enter the field of specialised tourism, adding that the marina could be instrumental in developing quality tourism, while he also accused the current local government on the island of leaving a section of the marina unexploited, thus leaving the marina infrastructure incomplete.
He described the marina as a very important project for the entire northern Aegean, at the least.
The PASOK leader also accused the government of displaying indifference regarding the periphery, despite its big campaign pledges, and of being indifferent to the reality, preferring instead to concentrate on the political friends and holding the citizens captive for vote-grabbing reasons.
Papandreou said he was in Lesvos to manifest his party's support to the island's inhabitants who, during the summer, like the inhabitants of the other islands, witnessed the lack of policy and indifference of the government with respect to transport means and coastal shipping, "another indication of the rationale of the current government, which naturally has negative effects on tourism".
 Competition Commission president testifies on milk cartel, blackmail case
ATHENS, 29/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)Hellenic Competition Commission President Spiros Zisimopoulos gave additional testimony regarding the Mevgal blackmail case to an examining magistrate on Thursday.
Zisimopoulos testified for a full hour and a half, providing further clarifications deemed necessary by the investigating magistrate after the statements given by the three suspects in the case.
The head of the Competition Commission also reported that hackers had broken into its systems and attempted to remove evidence from its files. He said that the Commission had back up files of the specific information and that its inspection would continue normally.
The Competition Commission had informed the development ministry about the hacking attempt, Zisimopoulos added. According to sources, the information that had been deleted concerned the Commission's investigation into the Greek milk market.
During testimony in Parliament on Wednesday, meanwhile, Zisimopoulos had taken full responsibility for choosing the staff and members of the Competition Commission.
"At no time was I under pressure or the target of any other political intervention," he told a joint session of the Parliamentary committees on Production and Trade and on Institutions and Transparency.
Regarding criticism levelled against Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas over the appointment of the Commission's general director Panagiotis Adamopoulos, who is now the key suspect in the Mevgal blackmail investigation involving the Commission, Zisimopoulos stressed that Adamopoulos' CV had been significantly better than that of the other candidates and that the decision to appoint him was unanimous.
PASOK had accused Sioufas of tailoring the requirements for the position to Adamopoulos by removing a standard clause that candidates must have fulfilled their mandatory military service, which would otherwise disqualify him from consideration.
"The Competition Commission did its duty immediately and in full and the guilty will answer to justice," Zisimopoulos said, while asking that the Commission be supported during a nebulous time when there was a grave risk that its role would be undermined.
The joint session of the two committees was also addressed by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, who attacked main opposition PASOK for its stance on the issue, accusing the party and its leader George Papandreou of stooping to "slander and misrepresentation".
"Criticism is one thing but irresponsible slander and distortion of the facts is another. That is woeful, irresponsible and damages institutions, undermining the political system," Sioufas stressed.
"We became the targets of an orchestrated slanderous attack and some people took the opportunity to strike against the prestige of the Commission," Sioufas added.
Deputy Development Minister Giannis Papathanasiou pointed out that cartels had not emerged in Greece overnight or just in the last two years and that the opposition was essentially attacking the government for trying to fight them. He stressed that the attacks on the Competition Commission should stop because its authority would be undermined.
PASOK MPs, on their part, insisted that there was clearly political responsibility for the entire affair, for the existence of numerous cartels in Greek markets and for the widespread graft and corruption in Greek society, while several of them called for a ministerial resignation.
The Mevgal blackmail scandal erupted on September 12 when Adamopoulos and two men with highly-placed connections within the ruling New Democracy were arrested and charged with attempting to extort €2.5 million from the northern Greek dairy industry in order to write off a much larger fine of €25 million imposed on the company by the Competition Commission.
Adamopoulos' accomplices, merchant Constantinos Constantinidis and customs broker Panagiotis Anagnostopoulos, were both active within ruling ND and subsequent press reports linked them to high-ranking party officials, among them Thessaloniki Prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis and people surrounding Employment Minister Savvas Tsitouridis.
 Deputy development minister to sue 'Proto Thema' daily for libel
ATHENS, 29/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)Deputy Development Minister Giannis Papathanasiou on Thursday announced that he intends to sue the Greek daily "Proto Thema" for libel, seeking one million euros compensation.
The suit is over the paper's front-page article on September 17 regarding Papathanasiou, which the minister denied as inaccurate, and a subsequent article linking Papathanasiou to Greek cartels that appeared on September 24.
 NATO DMs informal meeting kicks off in Slovenia
29/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)The NATO defence ministers' informal meeting began in Portoroz, Slovenia, on Thursday with the participation of National Defence Minister Evangelos Maimarakis.
The first session of the meeting focused on security matters in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as on NATO operations in Kosovo and Darfur.
On the sidelines of the meeting, Meimarakis met with his Russian counterpart Sergei Ivanov. The two ministers reconfirmed the very good level of bilateral relations and discussed issues of mutual interest.
 Archbishop Christodoulos meets archbishops from Finland
ATHENS, 29/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos met in Athens on Thursday with Orthodox Archbishop of Karelia And All Finland Leo Makkonen and Lutheran Archbishop of Finland Jukka Paarma.
According to an announcement by the archbishopric, the Archbishop of Karelia referred to Christodoulos' recent visit to Finland, when the archbishop of Athens invited him and the Lutheran archbishop to visit Greece "to see at close-hand, the Greek way of life."
The Lutheran archbishop noted that "our mission is ecumenical," adding that the Lutheran Church 'has excellent cooperation with the Orthodox Christians."
On his part, archbishop Christodoulos stressed "the importance of the fact that the two archbishops travel together, a fact which shows the cooperation and love and the willingness for cooperation in all sectors."
 PNoWB to hold conference in Athens
ATHENS, 29/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Parliamentary Network of the World Bank (PNoWB), with the support of the Greek Parliament and the cooperation of the World Bank and the Greek Foundation of European and Foreign Policy, will hold a conference in Athens for members of the parliaments from South East Europe on the theme "Towards a common economic environment in South East Europe".
Invited at the conference, which will be held at Athens' coastal area of Sounio from Friday to Saturday, are deputies from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Turkey.
 Bulgarian president: 'Serious' private firms the key to pipeline; Sioufas remarks from Russia
SOFIA, 29/9/2006 (ANA-MPA)Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov on Thursday told reporters here that the key to finally completing and operating the long-delayed Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline project lies in selecting the "right" private business partners.
Parvanov's comments, made during a press conference on the sidelines of an international assembly of news agencies taking place in the Bulgarian capital, come less than a month after he travelled to Athens to meet with Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Russian President Vladimir Putin, a trilateral meeting focusing almost exclusively on jumpstarting the pipeline project.
"...this entire process is defined by market rules, that is why the deciding feature for implementing the project is to find serious and responsible companies that will assume the project," he said.
In a related development, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, who holds the energy portfolio, expressed his satisfaction over preparations for a final political agreement on the pipeline, following his meetings on Thursday in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi with Russian Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Borisovich Khristenko and Bulgarian Economy and Energy Minister Roumen Ovcharov.
According to a ministry press release, talks focused on the next steps in the tri-nation process towards a final inter-state agreement regarding the project’s construction by the end of the year.
Also discussed was an extension of an ongoing deal between Moscow and Athens for the supply of natural gas beyond 2026, an issue that also came up during the recent Karamanlis-Putin meeting in Athens.
 Greek unemployment down to 8.8 pct in 2nd qtr, yr/yr
ATHENS, 29/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greek unemployment rate fell to 8.8 percent of the workforce in the second quarter of 2006 from 9.6 pct in the corresponding period last year, the National Statistics Service said on Thursday.
NSS, in its regular report, said the 8.8 percent figure was the lowest recorded in the country since 1998. The statistics service said young people, aged 15-29, recorded the highest unemployment rate in the country (17.8 pct). The number of unemployed Greeks totalled 427,410 of which 39.4 pct said they sought exclusively a full-time job, while 88 percent said they could accept part-time jobs if necessary.
The percentage of new unemployed totalled 36.7 percent of total unemployment in Greece, while long-term unemployed (more than 12 months without a job) accounted for 57.5 pct of total.
The statistics service said unemployment among foreigners living in the country was lower (7.5 pct) compared with the national average rate (8.8 pct), while the Western Macedonia (14.8 pct), Ionian Islands (11.8 pct), and Eastern Macedonia and Thrace (11.3 pct) recorded the highest unemployment rates in the country. The lowest rates were recorded in Crete (5.8 pct) and Southern Aegean (7.5 pct).
A total of 115,000 people found a job in the second quarter of 2006. The statistics service announced declines of 1.5 pct and 0.2 pct, respectively, in employment in the primary and secondary economic sectors, and a 2.9 pct increase in the third sector.
Unions question gov't jobless data: The General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) on Thursday questioned unemployment data released earlier in the day by the government.
"The reality in the labour market is totally different from the data released today that show a drop in joblessness," the country's largest trade union umbrella group said in a statement.
"This statistics are the result of alchemy...In reality, unemployment is rising," the statement noted.
"Long-term joblessness remains an exceptionally serious problem, with Greece showing the highest rate in the EU. This does not appear in the statistics," GSEE added.
Coalition of the Left on unemployment statistics: Commenting on unemployment statistics announced on Thursday by the Natonal Statistics Service ESYE, Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party member Dimitris Stratoulis said that unemployment could not be tackled by "the falsification of official statistics by the government of New Democracy" nor by the hypocritical anxiety of main opposition PASOK, which bore serious political responsibility for the increase of unemployment during its years in government.
"True unemployment is much higher than the percentages announced by the previous government and which continue to be produced by the present government, because they do not take into account the 30,000-odd unemployed placed in work experience programmes nor the 100,000 'hidden' unemployed, the ones that are not registered anywhere because they have been out of a job for more than two years and are not recorded," he said.
 Deputy interior minister inaugurates 20th International Informatics Exhibition
29/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)Deputy Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation Minister Apostolos Andreoulakos inaugurated the 20th International Informatics, Telecommunications and Digital Infosystem Technology Exhibition and the 12th conference "Digital-Electronic Pylons of a Modern Electronic Greece" in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, on Thursday night.
"Unfortunately, Greece is lagging behind in the introduction of new technologies in the public sector and delayed in developing necessary electronic governance infrastructures," the deputy minister said.
"The degree of Internet's infiltration in Greece is considerably lower than other countries, while services provided online are few", he added, noting that the time delay gives us the possibility of learning from the experience of developed countries and of applying tested solutions in Greek public administration.
 Tax bureau's IT network system set for upgrade next month
ATHENS, 29/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)The tax-bureau's wide-ranging but oft-maligned computer and Internet system "Taxis" will finally be upgraded next month, the head of the economy and finance ministry's IT systems department, Prof. Demosthenes Anagnostopoulos, said on Thursday, speaking at the first-ever conference of European observatories of national Information Society programmes, which convened in Athens.
Anagnostopoulos told European delegates that the Taxis system had not been upgraded over the past decade, since it first went on-line, whereas a portion of the IT infrastructure used during the 2004 Olympic Games of Athens was employed in the much-needed upgrade.
He added that the goal is for 90 percent of tax bureau transactions in Greece to be conducted electronically over the next few years.
 Greek exports' value up 20.4 pct in Jan-July, yr/yr
ATHENS, 29/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)The value of Greek exports rose 20.4 percent in the first seven months of the year to 9.493 billion euros, compared with the same period in 2005, Hellenic Export Promotion Organisation said on Thursday.
A report, based on an analysis of official figures by the National Statistics Service, said the value of exports rose 11.11 percent in July to 1.424 billion euros, compared with the same month last year while it noted that from an increase of 1.607 billion euros recorded in January-July, 596 million euros were the increase in exports of oil products, 301.5 million an increase in exports of food and beverage and 301.3 million euros an increase in exports of industrial goods.
Excluding oil products, the country's trade deficit rose 5.3 pct in the seven-month period, while including oil the trade deficit rose by 10.8 percent over the same period.
Italy remained the top destination for Greek exports with an increase of 27.8 percent, while exports to Romania jumped 49.2 pct. Balkan states continued enjoying high rankings, with Bulgaria the 3rd largest export destination, Romania 10th, Albania 12th and FYROM 13th.
Exports to third countries rose 24.3 percent to 4.442 billion euros, compared with a 5.1 percent increase in the same period last year, with exports to India and China rising by 47.7 pct and 24.8 pct, respectively.
Exports to Japan surged by 69.7 percent, helped by a coordinated effort to promote Greek products in the country.
 Bulgarian parliament approves extension of development cooperation accord with Greece
29/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)A five-year extension, to 2011, of the intergovernmental agreement on developmental cooperation between Greece and Bulgaria signed in August 2002 has been approved by Bulgaria’s National Assembly, the Bulgarian BTA news agency reported on Thursday.
Under the initial agreement signed within the framework of the Hellenic Plan for the Economic Reconstruction of the Balkans (HiPERB), Bulgaria will receive the sum of 54.29 million euro by the Greek government for the improvement of transportation and energy infrastructures and regional development.
An estimated 43 million euros will be allocated for public works’ projects while 10.8 million euro will be used to co-finance private investments in the production sector. In addition, the Greek embassy in Sofia will receive an estimated 500,000 euros to finance small investment plans.
 Analyst: Greek banks well sold
ATHENS, 29/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greek banks have been sold at a fair price, on average at 2.2 times their book value and much higher than equivalent sales in countries including Spain, Italy and Portugal, Eurobank EFG said in a market report on privatisation.
A comparison of Greek banks with credit institutions in remaining countries of the EU12 showed that privatisation resulted in a greater improvement in capital adequacy, liquidity, quality of loans portfolio, and efficiency, according to the report released on Thursday.
 Public order minister announces measures to boost tourism in Halkidiki
29/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras on Thursday announced in Parliament a series of measures aimed at boosting tourism in the region of Halkidiki, in areas affected by the forest fires in the summer.
The minister was speaking during a question put by the main opposition PASOK party in Parliament, accusing the government of failing to react in time during the extensive forest fires.
Polydoras submitted a report by the tourist development minister on measures for tourism in the areas affected that, apart from the payment of compensation to inhabitants (estimated to amount to two million euros) will include "the immediate promotion of the implementation of a 'New Generation' programme with activities and participation in work aimed at environmental restoration destined for Halkidiki, the granting of special backing amounting to 100,000 euros for advertising the region and the invitation of foreign reporters to Greece, who will be guests of the Greek Tourist Organisation (EOT), aimed at the international promotion of Halkidiki."
Referring to the handling of the fires, Polydoras said that the land-based firefighting forces only delayed for 36 minutes to mobilise, while aircraft had been immobilised for a longer period due to weather conditions and maintenance.
 Large number of Russian tourists visited Greece this summer
29/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)Thessaloniki Prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis on Thursday noted the large number of Russian tourists who visited Greece this summer, after a meeting with Russia's new Consul General to Greece Mikhail Hatkevich and outgoing Russian consul general Aleksander Prosvirkin.
The meeting focused on the further improvement of bilateral tourism relations, while prefect Psomiadis expressed certainty that the number of Russian tourists visiting Greece and particularly northern Greece will increase in the next few years.
The new consul general of Russia referred to the high level of bilateral economic, cultural and diplomatic relations while the outgoing consul general thanked the Thessaloniki prefecture for its assistance to the repatriated Greeks from the former Soviet Union.
Meanwhile, a delegation of Russian journalists that visited Thessaloniki a few days ago also examined the potential of the northern Greece tourism market.
 Chania was a top tourist destination this year
29/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)The number of tourists in the prefecture of Chania, on the south Aegean island of Crete, increased 20-22 percent this year compared to last year while profits rose 12 percent, according to figures provided on the sidelines of events held at the old port of Chania on the occasion of the end of the tourist season.
The increased tourist flow recorded on Crete was the result of a fine tourist promotion campaign, the 24-hour operation of the Chania Airport and to a lesser degree, the favourable turn of events that caused tourist problems to competitor countries, like Turkey.
For the record, Chania was this year’s top vacation destination for Greek tourists as well.
 Producer price index up 6.7 pct in August, yr/yr
ATHENS, 29/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece's producer price composite index (measuring both the domestic and foreign markets) rose 6.7 percent in August, compared with the same month last year, the National Statistics Service said on Thurdsay.
The statistics service, in a report, said the producer price index rose 0.4 pct in August from the previous month, while the average index in the 12-month period from September 2005 to August 2006 rose 7.6 pct compared with the corresponding period last year.
 EU: Greece ranks high in oil dependence
29/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)Greece ranks high in the European Union in dependence on oil, despite progress in the use of renewable sources, energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs was quoted as saying on Thursday.
The commissioner was replying to a question by a eurodeputy of the ruling New Democracy party, Kostis Hatzidakis.
According to EU data for 2004, Greece accounted for the lion's share of energy consumption at 57% against an EU25 average of 37%.
Use of renewable energy in Greece was 5.0% against an EU average of 6.0%.
 Athens Bourse Close: Stocks drop
ATHENS, 29/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)The Athens share index closed at 3,952.96 points, showing a decline of 0.40%. Turnover was 322.6 million euros, including 124.2 million euros in block trades.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index for high capitalisation shares ended 0.97% up; the FTSE/ASE-40 for medium cap stocks 0.60% higher; and the FTSE/ASE-80 for small cap shares finished 0.07% down.
Of stocks traded, declines led advances at 162 to 78 with 64 remaining unchanged.
Bond Market Close: 10-yr benchmark at 3.98 pct
Foreign Exchange Rates
Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.281
 World News Agencies Council begins in Bulgaria
SOFIA, 29/9/2006 (ANA-MPA)The World Council of News Agencies began its two-day session here on Thursday, focusing on what news agencies must do to consolidate their role as leaders of information in the era of the information society and the omnipotence of the Internet.
The general director of the official Bulgarian News Agency (BTA), Maxim Minchev, welcomed in his inaugural address 36 leading administrative members and editors from international agencies and national news agencies from 25 countries, including general directors and chief editors from Reuters, the French Agency, the Russian ITAR-Tass and the Chinese Xinhua.
The ANA-MPA is being represented at the world forum by the general director of its Thessaloniki division and general secretary of the Federation of Balkan News Agencies (ABNA), Spyros Kouzinopoulos, who expressed the congratulations and satisfaction of the Greeks over the recent proposal by the European Commission, according to which Bulgaria will join the European Union on January 1, 2007, reminding that Greece was a steadfast supporter and advocate of Bulgaria throughout the years of the accession course towards a united Europe.
In an interview with Bulgaria's state-run television on Thursday, Kouzinopoulos expressed the conviction that "this historic event will give a new strong impetus for the qualitative upgrading of friendly relations and cooperation between Athens and Sofia as equal partners and members of the great European family in three months from now."
 Interior minister addresses International Francophony Organisation (ADDS)
BUCHAREST, 29/9/2006 (ANA-MPA)Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos addressed the 11th summit of the International Francophony Organisation that began here on Thursday, expressing the satisfaction of Athens over the proclamation of Greece as a full member of the Organisation.
Pavlopoulos said that the Organisation "was created by the pen of geographer Onesime Reclus, to describe the lingual and cultural community that France had created with its colonies at that time. Consequently, the International Francophony Organisation has followed an impressive and positive course until our days."
He further said that "today, it constitutes a permanent International Organisation whose dimensions and future promise a privileged interlocutor with prestige for all international organisations, particularly the UN and the European Union."
The minister also said that "Greece is working for a strong dialogue between cultures and traditions. Thanks to its geographical position and our historic experience, we are placing particular attention on the sensitivities of all countries with which we come into contact."
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of summit, the interior minister underlined the significance of Greece's accession to the International Francophony Organisation, and to the "most important role which the organisation can play in this troubled world we live in."
"The International Francophony Organization has henceforth acquired great dimensions, it constitutes a particularly reliable interlocutor in all the international fora and to all international organisations and particularly in the United Nations and the European Union. This is why it can play another role. The role, henceforth, of an organisation which can help, so that the safeguarding of democracy, the protection of human rights and in parallel the consolidation of international peace, can exist," Pavlopoulos added.
 President visits Acropolis as replica Ionic capital is put in place
ATHENS, 29/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Thursday visited the Athens Acropolis, where he was briefed on the restoration work being carried out on the archaeological site's monuments.
Papoulias, who was accompanied by culture minister George Voulgarakis, was briefed in detail on the Acropolis restoration project by archaeologists, described the restoration as "a national project of exceptional importance".
He congratulated all those involved in the project, and sent a message to "all those who are obliged to return some of the masterpieces back to their home", expressing the hope that "very soon we will be able to enjoy this aesthetic masterpiece in its entirety".
"We are proud, as Greeks, that these beautiful monuments are in our capital, our lovely Athens," he added.
The visit coincided with the placement of a replica of an Ionic capital atop the second Ionic column of the western hall of the Propylae monumental gate to the Parthenon temple.
The 2.2 ton marble replica is an exact copy of a 5th century BC Ionic capital, and took more than two years to carve by hand, using ancient techniques.
Decorated with graceful spirals and moldings, the Ionic capital replaces one of the original six in the Propylae, which also contained a group of six capitals in the more austere Doric style.
 Nanotechnology in treating diseases to be discussed at international medical conference in Thessaloniki
ATHENS, 29/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)Potentially lethal diseases such as cancer, AIDS and diabetes will be treated in the near future through the use of nanoparticles and nanobots (nanorobots). Through nanotechnology, physicians will be able to locate the sick human cells and destroy them or fix their abnormalities, meaning that drugs will be selectively administered to the problematic human cells.
The recent breakthroughs in nanotechnology will be presented during a four-day international conference on Quality in Clinical Practice that opened in Thessaloniki on Thursday.
A 2-nanometer (one nanometer=one billionth of a meter) nanoparticle is about 100,000 times thinner than a human hair, allowing it to enter the bloodstream without affecting the blood vessels. Nanoparticles can be used in the treatment of a number of diseases such as cardiovascular problems, neuro-deteriorative disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, and blood and orthopedic dysfunctions. They can also make molecular diagnoses and replace the harmful x-rays.
The specific nanotechnology is at an experimental phase internationally and soon will be tested on humans.
 Thessaloniki Prefect sends letter to Greek-American members of Congress on genocide of Greeks from Pontos
29/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)Thessaloniki Prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis called on the 64 Greek American members of the US Congress to take all necessary actions for recognition of the genocide of the Greeks from Pontos by the US government, it was announced on Thursday.
In a letter to the Congressional members, referring to the issue of the genocide, Psomiadis said that the Greek and the Christian population suffered systematic extermination, adding that the US Congress could contribute to forming the necessary conditions that would allow the language and culture of the Greeks from Pontos to bloom.
He also said that, by recognizing the genocide of the Greeks from Pontos, the United States would help Turkey become a state that respects human rights and human life.
 Justice minister inaugurates exhibition of inmates' handicrafts
ATHENS, 29/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)The 28th exhibition of handicrafts made by inmates at correctional facilities throughout Greece was inaugurated in Athens on Thursday by Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras.
The minister commented that the correctional facilities’ inmates, through their personal work, are able to express themselves and prove that they still have hope in them.
A total of 19 monetary prizes from 200 to 2,000 euro were awarded to individual and collective works.
 Photography exhibition at Athens Int'l Airport
ATHENS, 29/9/2006 (ANA/MPA)A photography exhibition will be held at Athens International Airport "Elefherios Venizelos" from October 2-November 30.
Embracing art once again in its premises, the airport, in cooperation with the Hellenic Centre for Photography, this autumn invites the airport's passengers and visitors to enjoy a "photo panorama" of the 13th International Month of Photography, which is the oldest institution in Greece for collective photographic events in Greece (Arrivals Level/Entrance 1). The event will be open round-the clock.
Thirty four black and white and colour photographs of Greek and foreign photographers, of different aesthetics and techniques, will be welcoming for two months the airport's visitors, aiming to acquaint the public with the contemporary Greek and international photographic culture, as well as with the International Month of Photography institution, this year presenting 47 personal and group exhibitions of Greek and foreign photographers, and a series of events, under the title "On Faces".
 EU Presidency seeking a solution on direct trade and opening of ports
NICOSIA, 29/9/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)The EU Finnish Presidency is actively working ''to reach a solution which would enable direct trade between the EU and Northern Cyprus'', said Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, adding that ''our aim is a solution that would also ensure that Turkey proceeds with the opening of ports to Cypriot vessels''.
In a speech before the Finnish Parliament, Vahnanen noted that ''a positive outcome would help us to avert difficulties with Turkey's EU accession negotiations.''
"We continue," he pointed out, ''to hold intensive and constructive talks with the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey to see whether a solution can be found.''
''The following weeks will be crucially important for these efforts as the European Commission has announced that it will issue its progress report on Turkey on 8 November'', Vanhanen concluded.
Cyprus, an EU member state since 1st May 2004, has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied 37% of its territory.
 Green Paper on EU Maritime Policy presented
LIMASSOL, 29/9/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)A Green Paper entitled "Towards a Future Maritime Policy for the Union: A European vision for the oceans and the seas" which aims to achieve a better and more effective use of the oceans and the seas in a sustainable manner, was presented during a workshop in Limassol on Thursday.
During a press conference before the workshop, John Richardson, Head of Maritime Policy Task Force of the European Commission said his department is "interested in listening to the views of the Cyprus government and stakeholders interested in the sea in Cyprus, because Cyprus is a very special country with respect to the sea".
"Every Cypriot lives within less than 50 km of the sea, so it is a country which can tell us a lot which policies ought to be followed" since it has a lot of experience in shipping and fisheries and dealing with constant tourism and maintaining the quality of life in the seas and oceans and around the coast of the island, he noted.
Richardson said "we are trying to develop a new policy for the EU by listening to our citizens and by gathering expertise where we can", noting that this trip to Cyprus will be particularly useful in doing that.
Asked about the pollution of the Lebanese coast caused by an oil spill during the Israeli bombing of Lebanon, Richardson said his department is very concerned since Lebanon is in the Mediterranean Sea as well and Cyprus shares the sea with Lebanon and other countries.
He stressed that the ability of the EU to enter the Lebanese coast is very limited but expressed the opinion that "we need to move towards a system in the Mediterranean where we can cooperate with our neighbors" to plan maritime developments, to preserve the marine ecosystem and be able to intervene very quickly when these kind of accidents occur to prevent pollution wherever it occurs.
Addressing the workshop, Cypriot Minister of Communications and Works Harris Thrace said the government has welcomed the European Commission's decision to draw up a Green Paper on maritime policy and has contributed positively to this process.
"The Green Paper, through a series of questions, seeks to identify the best method to approach the matter holistically", the minister said, noting that Cyprus, being an island state, whose economy depends greatly on the supply of services, with a merchant fleet in excess of 21 million GRT, is the outermost border of the EU in the eastern part of the Mediterranean sea.
The minister said that Cyprus is neighbored only by third countries and its long standing cooperation with developing countries can undoubtedly play an important role within the EU when it comes to striking a balance between various and sometimes conflicting interests. At the same time, he stressed that any interaction with third countries requires the area of interaction to be clearly delimitated.
Thrasou also said that any European rules that might be adopted in line with the maritime policy, "must not create unnecessary disadvantages to European enterprises, due to its regional character, making Europe less attractive for business".
 Cyprus joins OIF as an associate member
NICOSIA, 29/9/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)Cyprus joined Thursday the International Organization of Francophony (OIF), as an associate member during the Organisation's XI Summit in Bucharest.
Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos is represented at the Summit by Foreign Minister George Lillikas, who expressed Cyprus' wish to support the activities of the International Organization of Francophone, at the linguistic, cultural, and political level.
Addressing the Summit, Lillikas noted that Cyprus is committed to working closely with its new partners at the international fora for cultural pluralism and development of the countries suffering from injustice and follow along with them a policy of peace and promotion of democracy in the world.
In a world of many conflicts, he said, francophony is a carrier of the message of tolerance and solidarity, cooperation and emancipation, dialogue and understanding.
He further expressed his sincere thanks to the heads of states and governments of the International Organization of Francophony, who showed their support to the people of Cyprus, by accepting them in their family.
Lillikas stressed that history has created ties between Cyprus and the French culture and language which is the second obligatory foreign language taught in Cyprus' schools.
Concluding, Lillikas expressed the belief that if the values uniting the states of the International Organization of Francophone turn into will and joint political action, they can contribute to peace, stability and development in the whole modern world.