|Tuesday, 20 August 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-07-06
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Friday, 6 July 2007 Issue No: 2637
 FinMin: Two bills on adaptation of Greek legislation to Community Law to be tabled in parliament on FridayTwo draft laws on adaptation of Greek legislation to Community Law with respect to the assumption and exercise of activities by credit institutions and the EU's New Financial Instruments, will be tabled in parliament on Friday, national economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis announced on Thursday, adding that their enactment will strengthen transparency and competitiveness in the financial system.
The provisions of the two bills will enter into force on January 1, 2008, thus completing the institutional framework for the financial system, the minister said.
The adoption of the directives will facilitate the supervisory authorities and supervised enterprises, the capital adequacy of the credit institutions will be monitored, new methods of audit and supervision are introduced, internal control is instituted, and transparency is safeguarded.
An important aspect of the provisions is the introduction of risk gradation for each individual loan, while sanctions are also foreseen, to be imposed by the Bank of Greece on credit institutions that contravene the legislation.
It is clear that the supervisory system is being made stricter, Alogoskoufis noted, adding that the stockmarket will continue to play the primary role and give opportunities to citizens to take part in the benefits of economic development.
Through the implementation of the directives, "mini stockmarkets" will be able to operation on the basis of specific rules, Alogoskoufis said, clarifying, hower, that the operation of an organised market would not be an easy matter, and consequently immense changes should not be expected.
There will, however, be a reduction in the cost of transactions, while punctually paying customers will have more auspicious borrowing terms, Alogoskoufis said, adding that the customer will also have the right to request detailed information on the reasons for his placement in a specific risk category.
Further, the adoption of the directives will strenghten the supervisory role of the Capital Market Committee, while at the same time reinforcing its cooperation with the Bank of Greece, Alogoskoufis said, adding that the two sides will sign a memorandum of cooperation detailing what each supervisory authority will be doing in each instance. The memorandum of cooperation will exclusively concern the provision of investment services.
Finally, Alogoskoufis said, all the market agencies will be given an adjustment period for adapting to the new regulations.
 PM confers with development minister on energy issuesPrime minister Costas Karamanlis conferred Thursday morning with development minister Dimitris Sioufas.
Sioufas told reporters after the two-hour meeting that he briefed the prime minister "on all the energy-related issues and the various pipelines".
 Foreign minister briefs Parliament on EU's Reform TreatyForeign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Thursday briefed the Parliamentary Committees for Foreign Affairs and European Affairs on the impact of a European Union's Reform Treaty decided by EU leaders at the June 21-22 summit. She noted that the new treaty was the result of a difficult compromise in which the fundamental provisions of the European Constitutional Treaty had been preserved.
"The leaders essentially agreed to abandon the Constitution. We tried to avert this but we accepted it on condition that the essence of the treaty was preserved. The compromise incorporates the greater part of the reforms. It may not have incorporated the charter of fundamental rights, but it ensured that this was binding. The title of EU foreign minister may have been lost but the powers remained," Bakoyannis told MPs.
She also noted that the reform treaty preserved substantial possibilities for specific actions in specific areas, such as island regions and tourism, that Europe had made ground-breaking decisions on climate change and had ensured solidarity between the member-states on energy issues.
The minister additionally stressed Greece's role in this result, saying that it had taken the lead in forming a group of countries that undertook initiatives in order to achieve agreement with the fewest possible obstacles.
"We are committed Europeanists, the majority of the people wants more Europe; we cannot be compared to other countries that have their own reservations and reactions. Greece took a lead role in forming a group of countries under the German presidency that systematically processed proposals and undertook initiatives to ensure as little reaction as possible. This core of countries gave the German presidency the impetus required by the occasion, in order to reach an acceptable compromise that put an end to the vicious cycle of uncertainty," Bakoyannis noted.
Main opposition PASOK MPs, as well as PASOK MEP Panagiotis Beglitis, argued that, with this latest decision, the EU may already have progressed as far as was possible through a process of compromise and consensus.
"How long will Euro-sceptics obstruct deepening? Perhaps the time has come to choose a Europe of 'multiple speeds'? I am afraid that this must happen," PASOK MP Socrates Kosmidis said.
Beglitis also stressed that a decision to not discuss EU enlargement for 10 years ran counter to Athens' current policies for Turkey and the Balkans, making a new national strategy for the Balkans an urgent necessity.
In her reply, Bakoyannis spoke in favour of "enhanced cooperation without conditions" between the countries that desired further political convergence.
"Nine countries, whether big or small, can proceed along the lines of enhanced cooperation. We have earned our right to be in the core," she stressed.
Regarding the Reform Treaty's provisions for an upgraded role for national Parliaments, meanwhile, the minister said it was an opportunity to change Parliament regulations, which were overdue for an overhaul.
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) MPs criticized the Reform Treaty, saying that EU leaders had simply renamed the Constitutional Treaty so that they would not have to hold referendums. They also objected to changes such as the abolition of veto power, greater weight for larger countries in decision-making and abolition of the principle of unanimity in penal and terrorism issues. They said it would accelerate the creation of a unifying framework that violating individual rights and freedoms.
Former Coalition of the Left, of Movements and Ecology leader Nikos Constantopoulos, meanwhile, said there should be a reorientation of EU policies if the EU failed to inspire its peoples, while noting that "European strategy has also not been emancipated from the United States".
 First figures on damage to Parnitha presented in ParliamentThe first figures showing the extent of the damage from last week's fire on Mount Parnitha were presented in Parliament on Thursday by Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras, who disputed initial claims concerning the number of hectares burnt.
He attributed the extensive damage to both the extremely hot weather at that time and the inability to properly range fire-fighting forces against it because of the 350 simultaneous blazes that had broken out throughout the country.
The minister said that a final and accurate picture will exist after the aerial photographs of the area have been taken but that an initial assessment and count showed that the disaster on Parnitha was not absolute.
"The total mass of forest on Parnitha is 30,000 hectares and of these, 2,500 hectares were burnt; in terms of the National Forest about 1,000 out of 3,800 hectares were burnt," Polydoras said in response to a question by PASOK MP Dinos Vrettos.
"We have to appreciate the meaning of an act of God. We had record temperatures of 46.5 degrees Celsius in the shade and winds measuring 6-7 Beaufort. These caused the disaster on Parnitha. The State gave its battle using an updated plan and coordinated action. It was impossible to avoid the catastrophe because of an act of God," the minister stressed.
Vrettos accused the minister of once again failing to admit to his responsibility for the disaster.
"Why are you still minister? If I was in your place I would have resigned," the MP said.
Polydoras responded angrily, accusing the main opposition of lacking arguments:
"In 1998, 3,900 hectares were burnt on Parnitha and I didn't see anyone from PASOK shed tears or resign at the time. Protection of the environment requires collaboration and not wordplay," he countered, accusing the main opposition party of acting like "back-seat drivers" and handing out advice that cost them nothing while the government was fighting and giving a battle with self-denial and self-sacrifice.
"We don't allow denunciation over the ashes of Parnitha. We must reach an understanding on how to join our forces to protect the environment," he said.
 Deputy FinMin on restoration of National Forest on ParnithaDeputy Finance and Economy Minister Petros Doukas said on Thursday that the state and the finance ministry in particular will provide all the necessary means, both technical and financial, for the restoration of the National Forest on Parnitha, referring to the issue and to the participation of private individuals in the task of restoring the Forest.
Doukas proposed that the reforestation of Parnitha be "sponsored" by the 25 biggest companies and banks in Greece. Each of the companies and banks will undertake the reforestation of about 250 acres, under the supervision of the environment ministry and of forestry services.
Lastly, Doukas said that initial contacts with leading representatives of the business world have revealed that the issue is being faced on their part with warmth and enthusiasm.
 PASOK demands Parliament committee meeting on ParnithaMain opposition PASOK MP Andreas Loverdos, in charge of environment issues on PASOK's Parliamentary Council, on Thursday sent a letter to Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki demanding that she immediately convene Parliament's Special Permanent Committee for the Environment in order to discuss the "ecological disaster on Parnitha".
Loverdos noted that he had not received any specific replies to questions that he put to the appropriate minister last Tuesday, during a meeting of Parliament's Economic Affairs Committee, concerning the government's plans for dealing with the repercussions of last week's devastating fires on Parnitha, which cut a swathe through thousands of hectares of forest, including large sections of the National Park. A meeting of Parliament's environment committee originally scheduled for Friday had also been "inexplicably postponed," the main opposition MP noted.
"I consider, given the importance of the issue, that it is absolutely necessary to convene the Special Permanent Committee for the Environment, even though the present Parliamentary session ends on Friday," he said.
 Bill on broadcast outlets' concentration, licensing ratifiedA draft bill on the concentration and licensing of broadcasters in the country, radio and television, was ratified - along party lines - by Parliament on Thursday, with the government stressing that the state broadcaster, ERT S.A., can finally break into the digital television sector whereas a framework is finally established for the often chaotic sector in the country.
Conversely, opposition parties strenuously objected to the provision allowing for 49 percent of a new ERT digital television subsidiary to be granted to private interests, with one speaker referring to a "Trojan Horse" for the complete privatization of ERT, while other opposition speakers again railing against provisions allowing the merger of local television stations with regional broadcasters.
 WWF Hellas outlines various measures for Parnitha destructionWWF Hellas officials on Thursday announced a series of measures to rehabilitate and restore the forestland burned during a devastating wildfire in the Parnitha National Park, including an exact delineation of the park's boundaries and a scientifically based reforestation study.
Additionally, WWF Hellas called for the removal of all abandoned or insignificant structures in the park, demolition of all illegal structures at its foothills, transformation of the paved road leading up to the summit into a secondary roadway, along with prohibition of all vehicles after sunset in the area.
Finally, the environmental advocacy group called for the recording of burned areas via satellite.
 ND sec't holds press con'f on upcoming party congressRuling New Democracy party secretary and top MP Lefteris Zagoritis on Thursday unveiled the party's slogan for its upcoming nationwide congress, scheduled in Athens over the weekend.
Speaking to reporters during a press conference, Zagoritis said the catchphrase "Together we achieve much, together we will build the future" will be the dominate theme at the congress, to be held at the coastal Faliro district's Peace & Friendship Stadium.
Some 4,500 ND cadres are expected to participate, whereas thematic discussions are planned along with roundtable discussions on policy positions and the party's charter.
Official guests at the congress will include, among others, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and European Peoples Party (EPP) President Wilfried Martens.
 PASOK leader in Lisbon on Friday for talksMain opposition PASOK leader and Socialist International (SI) President George Papandreou will be in Lisbon on Friday for talks with Portuguese Prime Minister and current European Union President Jose Socrates.
Before his talks with Socrates, Papandreou will be meeting with Portuguese Parliament President Jaime Gama, a party press release said on Thursday.
 Prosecutor eyes probe into top PASOK cadre's actions while nat'l road fund headThe chief prosecutor of the Athens appeals courts is expected to order a preliminary investigation into the activity of former National Road Fund president Ioannis Papaconstantinou, the current general director of main opposition PASOK party, following a barrage of recent press articles alleging questionable transactions by the fund during the latter's tenure.
Papaconstantinou's name, in fact, was brought up in Parliament earlier in the week by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis himself as testament to the government charges of PASOK mismanagement and graft while in power.
Following an initial report, chief prosecutor George Koliokostas will decide whether the investigation will be merge with an ongoing criminal probe involving all bond purchases by state-run pension funds.
"It's very interesting that PASOK's president continues to be silent. He continues to be silent even though he claims that he is a so-called preacher against corruption and collusion. He continues to be silent even though amongst his immediate associates there are individuals, such as the current general director of PASOK, for whom incriminating evidence has been disclosed. Mr. (George) Papandreou continues to be silent for a fourth straight day, maintaining PASOK's general director in his position," alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros told reporters at his regular press briefing.
 PASOK National Council secretary accepts resignation of General Director PapaconstantinouMain opposition PASOK party National Council Secretary Nikos Athanasakis on Thursday accepted the resignation submitted by PASOK's General Director Ioannis Papaconstantinou.
Athanasakis said in a statement that "I have accepted the resignation submitted today by the General Director of PASOK, Ioannis Papaconstantinou, so that he can resort unsobstructed to all legal means to confront the defamatory attack he is experiencing, an attack that is not only being made against him personally, but against PASOK as well."
The chief prosecutor of the Athens appeals courts was expected on Thursday to order a preliminary investigation into the activity of former National Road Fund president Ioannis Papaconstantinou and current general director of PASOK party, following a barrage of recent press articles alleging questionable transactions by the fund during the latter's tenure.
Papaconstantinou's name, in fact, was brought up in Parliament earlier in the week by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis himself as testament to the government charges of PASOK mismanagement and graft while in power.
On Thursday evening, Papaconstantinou announced his resignation in a written statement so that, as he said, "to wage the battle unobstructed and with whatever moves are necessary to protect my own reputation and the party of PASOK."
Papaconstantinou said in his statement that "the target of the defamatory attack by prime minister Mr. Karamanlis is not me, but PASOK," adding that "the aim of the New Democracy (ND) party and of the prime minister is to cover up their own political deadlocks and to turn the attention of the people far from the grave repercussions of their own policy and of their own actions."
He also said that he will not allow "Mr. Karamanlis and ND to conceal the crime of burnt Parnitha and of Pilio behind the attack on me (as well as) the government's responsibility for the looting of the social insurance funds, the great ploy of the complex structured bonds, as well as their policy, that is unfair for the average citizen and widens social inequalities, behind the attack on me."
 KKE leader addresses gathering of industrial workersCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga addressed a gathering of industrial workers on Thursday evening, saying "it is possible that something new can happen and the two mainstream parties will emerge as the great losers in the elections."
Papariga criticised the policy of both the ruling New Democracy party and of the main opposition PASOK party, stressing that the high election percentages of the two mainstream parties do not reflect the acceptance of their policies and practices.
She added that the two leaderships "are aware of this and have shaped a programme of supposed benefits appealing to 200-300 thousand people who live a wretched life, while for all the working people they are preparing new drawbacks in incomes, pensions and social benefits."
Papariga also stressed that popular dissatisfaction must not disappear before the ballot boxes and the two mainstream parties sustain their first great losses in the past 20 years, combined with a considerable increase in KKE's election strength.
 President Karolos Papoulias inaugurates neuromuscular ailments unit at AHEPA hospitalPresident Karolos Papoulias inaugurated the special Neuromuscular Ailments Unit at the AHEPA hospital in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, on Thursday that is the only one operating in northern Greece. The ceremony was attended by Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos.
Speaking during the event, Avramopoulos said that the Unit will contribute considerably to the relief of people suffering from neuromuscular ailments who, as he said, are waging a struggle for life and dignity.
The initiative for the creation of the Unit belongs to the MDA Hellas society for caring for people suffering from neuromuscular ailments and it cost 650,000 euros, a donation by Dimitris Kallitsantsis and the "AB Vassilopoulos" company.
Avramopoulos also referred to the significance of social partnership responsibility and of volunteerism and stressed that "the National Health System (ESY) will open its arms to welcome the unit."
 Greek budget revenues up 7.1 pct in JuneGreek regular budget revenues rose by 7.1 percent in June, surpassing a budget target for an annual growth rate of 5.5 percent, the Economy and Finance ministry said on Thursday.
A ministry statement said budget revenues totaled 23.471 billion euros in the January-June period, from 22.613 billion euros in the corresponding period last year, for an increase of 3.8 pct.
Budget revenues from custom and tax agencies grew by 3.1 percent, while VAT revenues rose 7.5 percent.
The ministry said budget income grew by 1.268 billion euros in the January-June period, or by 5.7 percent, down from a 7.2 percent budget target for the year.
 PASOK party comments on budget revenuesThe main opposition PASOK party commented on Thursday on budget revenues for the first half of the current year, saying that the government is unable to implement it.
"Following yesterday's (Wednesday) data by the Bank of Greece on the increase in the cash deficit of the Central Governmet to 2.9 percent of GDP in May, the publication of the revenues of the first six months of 2007 comes today to highlight the government's inability to implement the budget," a relevant announcement by PASOK said, referring to the publication of revenues for June 2007.
"The revenues and expenditures are moving outside targets, with the deficit increasing. For this reason, the finance and economy ministry is deliberately delaying the announcement of the data on the implementation of the budget for the five-month period that it should have publicised already. This action is also part of the government's streadfast option of selective information for citizens to facilitate the finance and economy minister in his effort to present a fictitious reality," the announcement added.
 Greek inflation unchanged at 2.6 pct in June, yr/yrGreece's annual inflation rate was 2.6 percent in June, unchanged from May, the National Statistics Service said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in a monthly report, said the inflation rate -measured by the consumer price index- was down 0.1 pct in June from May, while the country's harmonized inflation rate rose to 2.6 percent in June compared with the same month last year.
Commenting on the figures, Manolis Kontopyrakis, NSS's secretary-general said he expected the inflation rate to fall in July since a sharp rise in petrol prices (6.1 pct) recorded in July 2006 was not expected to be repeated this year.
Kontopyrakis also said the average inflation rate in the first six months of 2007 was 2.62 pct, compared with a 3.22 pct figure in the corresponding period last year.
 Greek economic sentiment index eased in JuneGreece's economic sentiment index eased to 108.9 points in June, from 110.7 in May, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said on Thursday.
IOBE, in its latest economic conjucture report, said the economic sentiment index, despite its fall in June, remained above its long-term average rate (2000-2006) and up compared with last year's levels. IOBE attributed the decline to a weakening of all business indices, while consumer confidence remained unchanged in June.
Business expectations in the manufacturing sector weakened in June, both for production and new orders. In the service sector, business expectations were mildly positive with businesses cautiously optimistic over sales and demand prospects. In the retail sector, business expectations fell slightly because of a slight increase in inventory, while in the construction sector business expectations remained negative, affecting forecasts over employment.
Consumer confidence remained unchanged in June, the Greek consumers slightly less pessimistic over economic developments in the country, but negative over Greek households' financial situation.
 Building activity up in permits, down in volume in Jan-April, yr/yrBuilding activity (measuring both private and public activity) rose by 2.0 pct in permits but fell by 2.8 pct in volume in the first four months of 2007 compared with the corresponding period last year, the National Statistics Service said on Thursday.
The statistics service, in a report, said Central Greece (16.1 pct) and Thessaly (13.2 pct) recorded the biggest percentage increases in the January-April period, while South Aegean (16.4 pct) and the Ionian islands (5.2 pct) recorded the biggest percentage declines.
 Greek business delegation in BrazilA business delegation, organized by the Federation of Hellenic Industries and Enterprises, the Greek-Latin America Business Council and the Hellenic Export Promotion Organisation, completed the first ever visit to the Brazilian market, with a visit to Sao Paolo July 3-4.
The delegation included 15 enterprises from the food/beverage, iron industry, electronics, IT, energy and shipping sectors. After completing a round of more than 100 business meetings, the Greek enterprises acknowledged that the Brazilian market offered significant possibilities and opportunities in various sector, since the country is the biggest economic power in Latin America and the ninth biggest economy around the world.
Addressing a conference in Sao Paolo, Constantinos Antonopoulos, a member of the Greek employers' union, said Greek enterprises should turn their interest towards the Brazilian market to benefit from its size, a very favourable currency rate, a strong economic growth (4.5 pct) which was supported by large infrastructure projects and increasing trade with European countries.
Antonopoulos also urged Brazilian companies to invest in Greece.
 FinMin meets with Orascom Telecom chairmanNational economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis met Thursday with Orascom Telecom Holding SAE chairman and CEO Naguib Sawiris, with whom he discussed matters related to investments in Greece.
Sawiris said after the meeting that he had a "very good cooperation" with the Greek minister, with whom he discussed investments in the sectors of the mass media, communications and banking.
"We are looking for investments. We are already in with respect to telecoms," Sawiris said.
Orascom Telecom Holding, a member of the Egypt-based Orascom Group, is managed by Weather Investments S.P.a. which also holds 50% plus one share of it. Weather Investments also owns Wind Telecomunicazioni S.P.a. (bought on May 2005) which is the third largest mobile operator in Italy. It also owns WIND Hellas (formerly TIM Hellas, acquired in April 2007), the third largest mobile operator in Greece, and 50% plus one share of Tellas , a large fixed telephony provider in Greece.
 State, OAS-TH economic accord extended to 2017The economic agreement between the Greek state and the Thessaloniki Urban Transport Organisation (OAS-TH), which originally expired end-2009, has been extended to at least 2017, under a contract signed on Thursday in Thessaloniki by transport and communications minister Michalis Liapis and OAS-TH president Haralambos Papadopoulos.
The extention of the original agreement regulates issues concerning the construction and operation of the Thessaloniki Metro -- which is the reason why the duration is extended to two years beyond the target date for completion of the main body of the Metro, which is slated to begin operation in 2015, while it also paves the way for the addition of 64 new buses to the OAS-TH fleet and the establishment of new bus lines.
At the same time, on the basis of the terms of the agreement, two fundamental innovations are introduced: The organisation's employees will acquire, for the first time, shares in OAS-TH (22 shares at the price of 1/4th their book value), while the organisation's board of directors is expanded by two new members (a representative of the Municipality of Thessaloniki, who will be appointed by the mayor, and a representative of the public sector, to be appointed by the transport minister).
Liapis said that major changes were taken place in Thessaloniki with respect to transports, given that the Metro works were progressing, the urban railway would begin operation in the next few months, and OAS-TH would acquire 64 new buses by the end of the year.
Over the coming years, he said, Thessaloniki would acquire a mutually-supplying and mutually-supplementing network of transportation "that will have nothing to envy of the networks of other major cities".
Papadopoulos, in turn, said that with the purchase of the 64 new buses, OAS-TH will be able to initiative a direct bus line to the Papageorgiou hospital, and also improve service on the existing lines with more frequent service on lines showing increased demand. At the same time, four of the new vehicles will be 25-seat mini-buses will be routed in the Ano Poli (Upper City) by the end of the year.
Thursday's agreement was the third to be signed between the state and OAS-TH and coincides with the 50th anniversary of the founding of the organisation, which has 2,000 shareholders, employees 2,500 people, and serves more than 170 million commuters annually.
 Development minister congratulates Senior Business Executives CompanyDevelopment Minister Dimitris Sioufas on Thursday congratulated the Senior Business Executives Company (EASE) for its great contribution to the improvement of the competitiveness of Greek businesses and for efforts being made by all its associates in the same direction.
Sioufas, who was addressing an event organised by EASE on the theme of "Leadership and competitiveness", assured the people present of the government's interest both in the work of EASE and in the course of the country's businesses.
Sioufas said that there are three kinds of businesses:those that make things happen, those watching what is going on and those wondering what happened.
"Surely, the first are the only ones possessing a competitive and innovative product. We want all Greek businesses to join this category. This is our aim," the minister said.
 Development minister attends closing ceremony of science, technology and innovation exhibitionDevelopment Minister Dimitris Sioufas, Deputy Development Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou and Research and Technology secretary general Ioannis Tsoukalas on Thursday attended the closing ceremony of the Science, Technology and Innovation Exhibition, held at the Zapion Mansion and organised by the Research and Technology General Secretariat.
Sioufas gave honourary awards to businesses that have showed an improvement in their performances in research and technological development, according to data by the European Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard.
Addressing the event, Sioufas said that the Science, Technology and Innovation Exhibition was held for the third consecutive year, and was organised by the development ministry's Research and Technology General Secretariat.
"We gave awards to Greek companies that are included in the European Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard, that is issued every year by the European Commission," the minister said, adding that these companies are among the 1,000 best European companies which invest in research and technological development activities.
 Joint ministerial decisions signed on micro-medium size business reinforcementsNational economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis, development minister Dimitris Sioufas, and deputy economy minister Christos Folias on Thursday signed the joint ministerial decisions providing for implementation of the Investment Law on regional reinforcements.
The joint ministerial decisions determine the percentages of reinforcements for micro, small and medium size enterprises, the supporting documents that the enterprises are required to submit in order to receive the reinforcements, the specifications that must be adhered to, the assessment data, etc.
The joint ministerial decisions will be published in the Government Gazette, after which the enterprises will be able to submit the relevant applications.
 Tourist development minister visits CorfuTourist Development Minister Fani Palli-Petralia held talks with prefectural and local administration officials, as well as with tourist agencies in Corfu, on issues concerning the island's tourist development, as well as of the entire region of the Ionian Sea on Thursday in the framework of her visit to the island.
"We had a constructive discussion with the representatives of the island, that is presenting an increase of 7 percent in tourist arrivals in June this year. However, we are here to handle the tourist movement of Corfu and of the region of the Ionian in its entirety, that is showing a certain stagnation," she said.
Petralia further stressed that her ministry will carry out a special advertising campaign for Corfu and the other islands of the Ionian, amounting to about 500,000 euros, that will be focused on the British market.
She also announced that Corfu's Prefectural Administration will also be backed financially with a bigger amount that had initially been anticipated.
 European Commission on taxation of foreign companies by GreeceBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)
The European Commission decided on Thursday to refer Greece to the European Court because, according to its national law, the country excludes from income tax the dividends that are distributed by Greek companies to private individuals, while taxing dividends distributed by companies that are established in other member-states.
Since this different treatment is being implemented for dividends of companies headquartered in the European Union or in countries of the Free Economic Zone and the Free Transactions Zone, the Commission believes that it is a question of discriminatory treatment that contravenes the EU's treaty that guarantees the free movement of capital.
 Businesses producing farm products can be subsidisedAlmost all businesses producing and processing farm products (agricultural and stockbreeding firms) can be subject to investments law 3299/04 and be subsidised.
Finance and economy minister George Alogoskoufis and Agricultural Development and Food minister Evangelos Basiakos have signed a joint ministerial decision arranging issues concerning the inclusion and implementation of investments plans that are subject to the investments law.
Consequently, all businesses will benefit now, while previously businesses considered as being "small or medium-sized" were assisted.
 PASOK leader slams gov't policy for PPCMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou criticised the government's policies for the Public Power Corp. (PPC) on Thursday as "frivolous and without prospects". He made the statement during a visit to the facilities of the Manager of the Hellenic System for the Transfer of Electrical Power DESMHE.
He asserted that the government had taken over the PPC as a utility with good prospects and that it was now in financial trouble.
"We are now talking about marginal situations in terms of power load, while there should be provision for tomorrow," Papandreou added, while raising an issue of energy security.
He also accused the government of talking big about making Greece an energy junction while not paying attention to the fundamentals, like electricity pylons.
PASOK's leader also stressed that his party was not opposed to cooperation with the private sector but that this must serve the public interest and not the other way round, accusing ruling New Democracy of using public utilities to "curry political clientele" and of failing to introduce rules to control private interests.
According to the chief of the PPC trade union GENOP-DEH, Nikos Fotopoulos, the government failed to increase the system's installed capacity by the required amount in order to serve these private interests. He noted that there was an "unwritten rule" that the installed capacity of a power grid should be 20 percent more than the peak power load expected. During the past week this peak load had reached 10,500MW so that installed capacity should be 13,500 MW instead of the 11.649 MW that it was at present.
Earlier, Papandreou met with the board president of the Foreign Policy Association, Gonzalo de las Heras. No comments were made afterwards.
 SYN leader slams government over Alpha Bank measuresCoalition of the Left, of Movements and Ecology (SYN) party leader Alekos Alavanos on Thursday accused the government of passing unconstitutional laws that forced bank employees into the Unified Bank Employees Insurance Fund (ETAT) and subsequently flouting even these unjust laws in favour of employers and to the detriment of those working at private-sector Alpha Bank. He made the statement during a meeting with the board of the Alpha Bank staff union.
According to Alavanos, the government had ignored its own law, which was in any case condemned by the International Labour Bureau, by failing to hold a tender in order to commission a study regarding Alpha Bank's debts to ETAT, which was instead directly assigned, and by failing to inform employees or granting them rights to intervene in the process.
"There is a series of illegalities carried out by the government," he added, noting that SYN would address a question on this issue to the finance minister in Parliament and do its utmost to prevent the measure being passed during Parliament's summer session but before the full plenum, as well as raising it before the European Parliament.
Commenting on the measures to restore the fire-ravaged Parnitha Forest, meanwhile, SYN's leader noted that the entire issue of forest fires was an "absolute mayhem" at present.
"We have the Agricultural Development Ministry, which has jurisdiction over the forests. We have the Public Order Ministry that is responsible for the fire department. We have the Interior Ministry, which is responsible for civil protection. And now we are adding the Public Works Ministry in order to carry out reforestation and flood protection projects, which are actually the job of the agricultural development ministry. And this at a time when the public works ministry has earned a 'gold medal' in violations of EU environmental directives. These are the results that the Environment and Public Works Minister should look at, instead of attacking the press, which based on exactly these facts is directly well-founded criticism about the ministry's action," Alavanos stressed, repeating his party's demand for a single body to coordinate the state's response to forest fires.
 Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling buys Russia's Aquavision for 191.5 mln eurosCoca-Cola Hellenic Bottling on Thursday said it has reached an agreement for the acquisition of Aquavision, a new production unit in Russia, for 191.5 million euros.
Aquavision's facilities, based in Moscow, cover an area of 35 hectares and include four production lines, logistics and offices.
A Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling statement said the acquisition would immediately strengthen its production capacity, while offering the possibility of additional production lines in the future. Aquavision is capable of producing a full range of non-alcohol drinks, beverages, juices, bottled water, tea and sports drinks.
Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling said the purchase will be paid in cash and with short-term borrowing, and noted that the acquisition would strengthen the Group's profitability in 2008.
Commenting on the deal, Doros Constantinou, Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling's chief executive said:
"The expanded and quality portfolio of our products, combined with our commercial capabilities create the right conditions to continue benefiting from a relatively low per capita consumption in Russia, an increasing income and interest by Russian consumers in health issues."
 Greek stocks end higher for fourth consecutive sessionGreek stocks moved higher for the fourth consecutive session this week in the Athens Stock Exchange. The composite index rose 0.65 percent to end at 4,954.13 points with turnover a massive 612.94 million euros.
Most sectors scored gains, with the Media (4.40 pct), Industrial Products (1.73 pct) and Food/Beverage (1.63 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while the Technology (0.96 pct), Travel (0.28 pct) and Insurance (0.26 pct) suffered losses.
The Big Cap index ended 0.60 pct higher, the Mid Cap index rose 0.27 pct and the Small Cap index ended 0.53 pct.
Neorion (18.83 pct), Imako (12.35 pct) and Vivere (11.89 pct) were top gainers, while Euroholdings (6.58 pct), Allatini Ceramics (6.04 pct) and Texapret (5.95 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 155 to 122 with another 30 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: +0.23%
Personal & Household: +0.40%
Raw Materials: +0.30%
Travel & Leisure: -0.28%
Food & Beverages: +1.63%
Financial Services: -0.11%
The stocks with the highest turnover were Marfin Popular Bank, OTE, Eurobank and National Bank.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 24.20
Public Power Corp (PPC): 20.86
HBC Coca Cola: 34.30
Hellenic Petroleum: 12.00
Emporiki Bank: 21.12
National Bank of Greece: 43.56
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 25.30
Titan Cement Company: 43.26
 ADEX closing reportTurnover in the Athens Derivatives Exchange jumped to 198.288 million euros on Thursday, with futures contract prices maintaining their discount.
The September contract on the FTSE 20 index was traded at a discount of 0.63 pct, while on the FTSE 40 index at a discount of 0.23 percent.
Volume in the futures contracts on the FTSE 20 index totaled 12,714 contracts worth 165.474 million euros, with 38,392 open positions in the market, while on the FTSE 40 index volume was 374 contracts worth 12.080 million euros, with 1,314 open positions.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 12,208 contracts worth 20.733 million euros, with investment interest focusing on ATEbank's contracts (2,439), followed by Eurobank (389), PPC (173), Piraeus Bank (1,304), National Bank (505), Alpha Bank (786), Intracom (1,675), Attica Bank (327) and Marfin Popular Bank (1,044).
 Greek bond market closing reportTurnover in the Greek electronic secondary bond market totaled 2.725 billion euros on Thursday, of which 1.362 billion were buy orders and the remaining 1.363 billion were sell orders.
The 10-year benchmark bond (July 20, 2017) was the most heavily traded securities with a turnover of 1.205 billion euros, while the yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German bonds was 0.22 percent. The Greek bond yielded 4.87 pct and the German Bund 4.65 percent.
In the domestic interbank market, interest rates moved higher. National Bank's overnight rate rose to 4.06 pct from 4.03 pct on Wednesday, the two-day rate rose to 4.06 pct from 4.03 pct, the one-month rate eased to 4.09 pct from 4.10 pct and the 12-month rate rose to 4.55 pct from 4.53 pct.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - FridayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.374
Pound sterling 0.681
Danish kroner 7.501
Swedish kroner 9.230
Japanese yen 168.44
Swiss franc 1.668
Norwegian kroner 7.987
Cyprus pound 0.588
Canadian dollar 1.454
Australian dollar 1.598
 Immigrant smugglers arrested by Samos Coast GuardTwo Turkish nationals were arrested by Samos Coast Guard officers after a lengthy manhunt at Akrotiri Prasso on Thursday on suspicion of being immigrant smugglers.
Authorities on Samos had located 21 Afghan illegal immigrants and the boat that transported them to the island from the Turkish coast on Thursday morning. Also found in the same area were another six illegal immigrants without identification documents who claimed they were from Afghanistan, as well as the rubber dinghy that they travelled in.
Both boats were confiscated and the 27 illegal immigrants were transported to the immigrant reception centre for a precautionary medical inspection. The two suspected immigrant-smugglers are being held at the Samos Coast Guard headquarters for questioning and will be led before a public prosecutor later in the day to be charged.
 Cooler on FridayCooler temperatures are expected in the country, as well as very strong northerly winds. Temperatures in Athens ranging between 22C and 32C and in Thessaloniki from 22C to 30C.
 Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe clash between government and main opposition PASOK over scandals, press claims of tension within the government over the appointment of Environment Minister George Souflias as coordinator of the Mt. Parnitha reforestation project and construction of anti-flooding works as well as speculated changes in the social insurance system and the retirement age were the main front-page items in Thursday's dailies.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Scandals drowning PASOK - Party's general director up to his neck in the bonds affair".
APOGEVMATINI: "No to labels - Right, Centre, Left - Historic interview with KKE (Communist Party of Greece) leader Aleka Papariga".
AVGHI: "Casino prohibits concert on forest! - Government hides and tolerates".
AVRIANI: "The prosecutors begin work - Burning report on the looting that took place with the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that were reinforced with hundreds of billions (of drachma) by the foreign ministry (during PASOK governments)".
CHORA: "Women (employees) leaving the public sector - Applications for retirement double before retirement age raised to 65".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Seniority list in hirings with points via ASEP (public sector hiring examinations board) - Access to public sector simplified for 900,000 candidates".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "SOS: Let's save what's left - Eleftherotypia campaign for free spaces in Attica".
ESTIA: "Hastening of elections necessary - The fourth year (in office, of the current term) is essentially going to waste".
ETHNOS: "Men, too, to be pensioned earlier - Justice opens up the road for...reduction of the retirement ages".
KATHIMERINI: "Souflias' new role sparks tension - Criticism against him voiced by top members of the government".
NIKI: "Slander campaign - PASOK charges ND of disorientation plan".
RIZOSPASTIS: "These are the politicians responsible for destruction of forests - Presidential Decrees and ND and PASOK laws".
TA NEA: "Stone-throwing over wives and secretaries - Generalised clash over scandals".
VIMA: "There are 12.5 million slaves today (in the world) - Overwhelming majority women and children".
VRADYNI: "Pensions - What is changing for the military, public sector - The new pension system as of January 1, 2008".
 Moller urges two leaders to fulfill 8 July expectationsNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Cyprus Michael Moller called on here Thursday President Papadopoulos and T/C Mechmet Ali Talat to proceed with the implementation of the July 8 Agreement.
"With almost a year having passed since the 8 July agreement, it is time to fulfill the expectations raised when the leaders of the two communities signed their first agreement since the late seventies", Special Representative of the Secretary-General Michael Moller said at a medal ceremony for UN peacekeepers near UNFICYP Headquarters in Nicosia this evening.
Moller pointed out that "now more than ever, the island needs a renewal of confidence and mutual trust in a joint commitment to resolve the Cyprus problem once and for all".
In his speech, Moller noted that the Secretary-General has urged the two leaders to build on progress achieved to date and "to move from discussions on procedures to real engagement on substance".
"Also", he added, "the Security Council has urged all parties to move to full-fledged negotiations, saying the status quo is unacceptable and that time is not on the side of a final Cyprus settlement".
The SRSG said everyone agrees the Cyprus problem must have a Cypriot solution and that it is essential Cypriots feel their voices are heard in helping shape a solution.
"For this to happen", Moller said, "Civil society must be allowed to freely engage and express itself within and between their communities".
On July 8, 2006, Papadopoulos and Talat at the presence of the then UN Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrabim Gambari reached an agreement providing for the concurrent establishment of working groups to address substantive aspects of the Cyprus problem and technical committees to deal with the day-to-day problems that affect the people, as well as Confidence Building Measures.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third.
 Spokesman: President to announce his intentions for elections ''very soon''NICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
The President of the Republic of Cyprus, Tassos Papadopoulos, will announce his final decision on his intentions for the presidential elections of February 2008, after the conclusion of the procedures inside the AKEL left wing party, said Thursday Government Spokesman Vasilis Palmas.
In statements during his daily briefing, Palmas expressed the view that President Papadopoulos would announce his intentions "very soon".
At the same time, Palmas did not exclude the possibility of a meeting next week between the three government coalition parties (main government partner left wing AKEL, centre right
Democratic Party (DIKO) and EDEK Socialist Party) with President Papadopoulos.
On Wednesday night, AKEL voted by an overwhelming majority to propose its General Secretary Demetris Christofias, President of the House of Representatives, to the party extraordinary congress on Sunday as its candidate for the presidency. The congress will take the party's final decision on the matter.
Asked whether the government considers AKEL to be still part of the coalition, the spokesman said:
"Of course we consider AKEL to be part of the government until it concludes its internal procedures on Sunday and depending on the outcome of those procedures we will see how to continue this cooperation on governmental level".
The spokesman was also asked whether AKEL would be considered to be outside the governmental coalition, in case it finalises its decision to back Demetris Christofias for the presidential elections of February.
"If AKEL decides independently to run for the elections having as its candidate Demetris Christofias, then, it becomes self evident that AKEL would have to withdraw from the government with its Ministers", Palmas clarified.
AKEL participates in the government with four ministers (Foreign Affairs, Interior, Communications and Works, and Health).
On Wednesday, DIKO, formerly headed by President Papadopoulos, decided unanimously to back Papadopoulos in his bid for re-election, which he has not announced yet.
Invited to comment on DIKO's decision, Palmas said that through this decision, DIKO "basically expresses its content for the continuation of the cooperation as well as its support towards President Papadopoulos".
"It is a decision that satisfies both the President of the Republic as well as the government", Palmas concluded.
The other coalition partner, Social Democrats Movement EDEK, ratified on Wednesday a Central Committee decision to back Papadopoulos in February's election next year.
 EEP President says failure of Annan plan does not pardon TurkeyNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
European People's Party President Wilfried Martens on Thursday sent a clear message on Thursday that the failure of the 2004 referendum on the Annan plan did not mean that Turkey has been pardoned from its continued military occupation of Cypriot territory.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Democratic Rally President Nicos Anastasiades, Martens noted that ''our common objective is none other than a unified Cyprus in a united Europe.''
''The continuing division of the island is a tragic anachronism and one which we are unwilling to accept,'' he pointed out.
He reassured of ''EPP's unwavering support'' and noted ''our very clear position that the failure of the 2004 referendum does not mean that Turkey has been pardoned from its continued military occupation of Cypriot territory.''
''This was expressed in the resolution on Cyprus, presented by the Democratic Rally and adopted by the EPP Congress in Rome in March 2006, which inter alia calls on the Turkish authorities to effect an early withdrawal, pursuant to the relevant UN resolutions, of its forces within a specific timetable, and calls on the Turkish authorities to show their constructive attitude in finding a settlement of the Cyprus question, leading to an equitable solution, based on the relevant UN resolutions and on the principles upon which the EU is founded,'' Martens said.
He furthermore praised the ''catalytic role'' of the Democratic Rally in efforts to reach a peaceful and lasting settlement of the Cyprus issue.
Anastasiades praised the role of EPP in efforts to solve the Cyprus problem and the adoption of the Democratic Rally's positions on the Cyprus problem.
''When others, after 2004, kept silent, the EPP and President Martens never ceased to deplore the occupation of northern Cyprus by the Turkish army. They never ceased to be the most steadfast supporters of a just and viable solution of the Cyprus problem. And we will continue to depend on the support of EPP until we achieve our aim for a reunited Cyprus, without troops, a common homeland for all Cypriots,'' he concluded.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. In 2004, the Greek Cypriot community rejected a solution plan proposed by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, as it did not address their main concerns.
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